Aug 04

July News: Mental Health Days and More

Another sampling of top mental health news from July:

I. Woman Takes Mental Health Day, the Internet Explodes (and Her Boss Had the Perfect 3-Sentence Response). Peter Economy, Inc.

Jena McGregor, Washington Post, called this “The Mental Health Email Shared ‘Round the World.”

A boss actually applauded an employee who informed colleagues she was taking some mental health days. Further explanation from McGregor:

Surveys by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence show that less than half of Americans (44 percent) say they believe the climate in their organization supports well-being, and that nearly 20 percent of employees say the challenges of their jobs were harder to handle in the past month due to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. For employers, says the center’s director, David Ballard, ‘the costs of untreated mental health issues, the lost productivity, is actually more costly than the treatment side because people are there at work but not functioning to full capacity.’

II. What We Finally Got Around to Learning at the Procrastination Research Conference. Heather Murphy, New York Times

A few of the things: numbers, a definition, and how to change.

One out of five people, researchers have found, fall into a category they call chronic procrastinators or procs (rhymes with crocs). The proc consistently procrastinates consistently in multiple areas of his or her life — work, personal, financial, social — in ways that attendees describe as wreaking havoc, undermining goals and producing perpetual shame….
It is more complicated than ‘if you do it X number of times a week you’re a proc.’ But if you procrastinate ‘almost every day, at least half of the time you have work tasks,’ that is a solid hint that you qualify, said Julia Elen Haferkamp, a psychologist at the University of Münster in Germany…
Asked to summarize their advice to the procs of the world, most attendees offered a version of the following: Accept that changing will require learning to manage your thoughts and emotions more than figuring out how to manage your time. If it is a severe problem, consider working with a professional who understands procrastination. And for those who have A.D.H.D., the cycle of procrastination may operate differently than for those who do not.

III. Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s. Clay Routledge, New York Times

On an apparent need for many to have something to believe in:

…People who do not frequently attend church are twice as likely to believe in ghosts as those who are regular churchgoers. The less religious people are, the more likely they are to endorse empirically unsupported ideas about U.F.O.s, intelligent aliens monitoring the lives of humans and related conspiracies about a government cover-up of these phenomena.
An emerging body of research supports the thesis that these interests in nontraditional supernatural and paranormal phenomena are driven by the same cognitive processes and motives that inspire religion.

IV. The life-changing science of photographing your clutter, CNN

A take-off on Marie Kondo‘s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, the title of this article has to do with our collective resistance to unloading stuff. “We have an average of at least 50 unused items in our homes, including clothing, electronic devices and toys.”

What might help:

…In studies conducted online and in person, we found that participants reported that they would experience less identity loss from donating a cherished item if they had photographed it or preserved the memory of it some other way.
Initially, in an online study, we let our subjects choose how to handle this. Nearly two out of three opted for photography, by far the most popular method. The other most common techniques included creating a scrapbook page or making a video about it — the approach taken by 22 percent of our participants — and writing a note or making a journal entry — selected by 13 percent.

V. Eating Too Much Sugar Is Linked to Depression in Men, Poor Things. Lisa Ryan, Science of Us

Brief excerpt:

Good news for women: While added sugar is arguably unhealthy for everyone, and puts your physical health at risk, it turns out women can at least consume it without getting depressed. Tiny victories! But unfortunately for men, that’s not the case; a new study found that ingesting high quantities of added sugar makes men more likely to become depressed.

May 20

Decluttering: Can This New Method Really Be Magical?

Imagine yourself living in a space that contains only things that spark joy. Isn’t this the lifestyle you dream of? Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle. Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, about decluttering

She made it this year into Time‘s “top 100” of influential people. And why wouldn’t she? The promises of Marie Kondo‘s 2014 bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing are impressive. From the publisher:

Once you have your house in order you will find that your whole life will change. You can feel more confident, you can become more successful, and you can have the energy and motivation to create the life you want. You will also have the courage to move on from the negative aspects of your life: you can recognise and finish a bad relationship; you can stop feeling anxious; you can finally lose weight…

Noting that “to kondo” has actually now become a thing, Ron Charles, The Washington Post, adds:

Kondo speaks of people being ‘led by fate’ to read her book. And she guarantees that her method, the KonMari Method, ‘will change your life forever.’ Like every successful self-help book, this one promises that the method is easy and simple and that everyone who sincerely applies it will succeed.

Simplicity is indeed considered one of the book’s assets. But also perhaps a liability—more than one reader has stated that to read only the jacket copy is to read the essence of the book.

What exactly is “The Life-Changing Magic…”?

Kondo: “Effective tidying involves only two essential actions, discarding and deciding where to store things.”

Penelope Green, New York Times: “…Discard everything that does not ‘spark joy,’ after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment — your home already has all the storage you need.”

J.J. O’Donoghue, Japan Times: “For Kondo, cleaning is not just an aesthetic improvement; it reflects psychological issues. You know the saying tidy house, tidy mind. Conversely, the mess about you is symptomatic of ‘larger issues’.”

Psychiatrist Emily Deans, Psychology Today, elaborates: “…Kondo tells us to purge first, all at once (or at least over a sustained period of a few months), and her method is different from nearly every other one I’ve heard of because instead of focusing on what you throw out, it tells you to focus on what you should keep.”

If you’re interested in a summary of Kondo’s decluttering tips, Psychologies lists 10 of the main ones. (Click on the link for more info.)

1. DO IT ALL AT ONCE, AND DO IT NOW 

2. DISCARD FIRST, SORT AND TIDY LATER 

3. START WITH THE EASY STUFF 

4. PUT EVERYTHING IN EACH CATEGORY IN ONE PLACE FIRST 

5. THROW AWAY EVERYTHING YOU DON’T LOVE 

6. DITCH YOUR PAPERWORK 

7. LET GO WITH LOVE (GIFTS AND KEEPSAKES) 

8. DON’T BUY EXPENSIVE OR COMPLICATED STORAGE EQUIPMENT

9. LEARN HOW TO FOLD CLOTHES – THEN STORE THEM ‘STANDING UP’ 

10. TREAT YOUR POSSESSIONS LIKE PEOPLE 

Does KonMari work? Millions of books sold and lots of consumer and critical praise seems indicative at the very least that Kondo’s decluttering method is ultra-catchy and hope-inducing.

Does everyone agree on KonMari’s awesomeness? Of course not. Just as some never endorsed the wildly popular, Oprah-supported The Secret (to name one example of another “magical” intervention) some also haven’t bought into this tidying-up book du jour.

It isn’t hard, for instance, to find reader reviews such as this one (Barnes and Noble website):

…The first chapter was mildly interesting and then the book switched to how to have OCD. The way she talks about socks was crazy (she thinks they have feelings). She had an episode when she was young and she broke down crying about dirty shampoo bottles in the shower and now she dries each bottle and puts it away after her shower. The author also obsessively talks about that we must strive for perfection. She has very unhealthy attitudes and it makes me cringe that this is listed under self-help books…Her attitudes come off as judging and naïve…I will be getting rid of this book promptly because it does not bring me any joy…

That’s one point for effective tossing.

But in order to lose weight and/or become less anxious and/or solve a thorny relationship issue, someone is going to have to do better than that.