Oct 02

Recent Headlines You May Have Missed

Recent headlines in mental health you may have missed. Click on headline links for full scoops.

I. Want to Live Longer? Find Your Ikigai. Hector Garcia, The Guardian

“Ikigai can be translated as ‘a reason for being’ – the thing that gets you out of bed each morning. Finding your ikigai is felt to be crucial to longevity and a life full of meaning. The people of Japan keep doing what they love, what they are good at, and what the world needs even after they have left the office for the last time.”

II. Relationship Problems? Try Getting More Sleep. Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times

One more reason to work on improving your sleep.

An excerpt: “’When people have slept less, it’s a little like looking at the world through dark glasses,’ said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a longtime relationship scientist and director of the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. ‘Their moods are poorer. We’re grumpier. Lack of sleep hurts the relationship’.”

III. AI can tell Republicans from Democrats – but can you? Take our quiz. Adam Gabbatt and Sam Morris, The Guardian

Researchers say artificial intelligence will soon be able to detect a person’s political allegiance – just by looking at photos of their face.

We’ve put together a quiz to see if you can beat the algorithms and work out, from someone’s face, their political allegiance. We’ve chosen 15 pictures of city councillors from Bristol, Connecticut and San Diego – eight Democrats, seven Republicans. Can you figure out which is which?

IV. Gaydar Goes AI and Populism Comes to Science. Robert D. Mather, PhD, Psychology Today

An upcoming study entitled “Deep Neural Networks Are More Accurate than Humans at Detecting Sexual Orientation from Facial Images,” authored by Yilun Wang and Michal Kosinski, has raised a great deal of controversy…

The main findings of their series of studies was that the computer program could correctly classify between gay and heterosexual men at a higher rate of accuracy than humans could, and that key indicators were facial morphology, expression, and grooming styles…

V. How often do you lie? Personality quiz. Ben Ambridge, The Guardian

Do you ever lie? No? Liar! Even if we tend to avoid black lies, most of us tell white lies, either the altruistic or Pareto kind (the former are good for the hearer, the latter are good for both the liar and the hearer). But who lies most, and what type of lies do they tell? There’s only one way to find out. Answer these simple questions.

1) Are you male or female?
2) How much formal education do you have? (a) High school/GCSEs only (b) A levels or equivalent (c) university degree.
3) How old are you? (a) under 30 (b) 31-60 or (c) 61+

Read the article for the findings relevant to your responses.

VI. Teddy Blanks and Ray from ‘Girls’ made a film series about psychotherapy. Tyler Woods, Technical.ly

“Shrink,” the series of brief videos that includes Sarah Silverman, Natasha Lyonne, Lena Dunham, and others offering therapy testimonials, can be seen here.

Mar 14

Work On Your Sleep Now: How to Finally Rest Up


The CDC now says that more than one-third of Americans lack sufficient sleep. As if that’s not bad enough, some of us lost one more precious hour over the weekend in order to “spring forward.” How can you work on your sleep?

Certain medications can help, but what if this alternative isn’t right for you or doesn’t do the trick? Several experts weigh in below.

Professor Richard Wiseman, author of Night School: Wake Up to the Power of Sleep (2014), believes the following 12 techniques are the best to help you work on your sleep (The Guardian):

  1. Avoid the blues–As in the type of light emitted from your screens. Stop using your devices two hours before bedtime. Alternatively, “turn down the brightness or wear amber-tinted glasses designed to block blue light.”
  2. Tub time–A bath or shower right before bed raises your body temperature, which then drops in a way that helps your body sleep.
  3. Steer clear of the nightcap–Which is likely to decrease your deep sleep, increase snoring, and disrupt dreaming.
  4. Follow the 90-minute rule–You can actually figure out how to wake up at the optimal time (when you’ll feel better), which is at the end of a 90-minute cycle. “…(D)ecide when you want to wake up and then count back in 90 minutes blocks to discover the best time to fall asleep.”
  5. Distract your brain–Do something to tire your brain, e.g., counting backwards from 100 in threes. “Or, if you’re not good with numbers, think of a category (countries or fruit and vegetables) and then come up with an example of that category for each letter of the alphabet. A is for Albania, B is for Bulgaria, or A is for apple, B is for banana, etc.”
  6. Make a list–Things that worry you or that you’re anticipating—then leave it be til morning.
  7. Try the magic yawn–“Fool your body into thinking that you are tired by letting your eyes droop, your arms and legs feel heavy, and even faking a yawn or two.”
  8. Fool yourself–“Oddly, attempting to stay awake is surprisingly tiring and helps you fall asleep. But remember that you have to use the power of your mind – you must try to keep your eyes open (you are allowed to blink), but are not allowed to read, watch television, or move about.”
  9. Condition yourself–“Choose a soporific piece of music that you like, and fall asleep with it quietly playing. Over time, your brain will associate the music with sleep, and simply listening to it will help you nod off.”
  10. Don’t just lie there–Don’t stay in bed longer than 20 minutes if you’re awake. Get up and do something non-stimulating.
  11. Relax, don’t worry–Anxiety about not sleeping will just make it worse. Even though you’re not yet sleeping, relaxing in bed is a good thing too.
  12. Consider segmented sleep–It’s okay to sleep for a period, then get up and do things for a while, then go back to bed. Lots of people slept this way, in fact, in pre-industrial times.

Michael J. Breus, otherwise known as “The Sleep Doctor,” also advises “How to Sleep Better,” noting that the first tip is the most important. For more details, click on the link.


In addition, some things mentioned by The National Sleep Foundation (“Healthy Sleep Tips“) include practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual, eliminating afternoon napping if you’re not sleeping well at night, getting daily exercise, having a comfortable mattress and pillows, avoiding cigarettes and big meals in the evening, not using your bed for activities other than sleep or sex, and making sure your bedroom is both cool enough (60 to 67 degrees) and quiet.

Jul 30

John Medina’s Brain Rules–And His “Brain Rules” Too

John Medina. His brain rules. And, his Brain Rules.

Last week I did a post about this brainy guy’s view of multitasking. But there’s so much more he knows about the brain as well. Below Medina introduces himself and his 2008 book.

The 12 “brain rules” for “surviving and thriving at work, home, and school” Medina delineates are listed below in the order he gives them in the book:

  1. Exercise boosts brain power.
  2. The human brain evolved too.
  3. Every brain is wired differently.
  4. We don’t pay attention to boring things.
  5. Repeat to remember.
  6. Remember to repeat.
  7. Sleep well, think well.
  8. Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
  9. Stimulate more of the senses.
  10. Vision trumps all other senses.
  11. Male and female brains are different.
  12. We are powerful and natural explorers.

Brain Rules, of course, goes into great detail about each of these. In addition, the book is accompanied by a DVD, and there’s also a website chock full of related info. Reviews from the site:

Douglas Stone, co-author of Difficult Conversations: “Medina has taken what may be the most complex thing we know — the human mind — and explained it in a way that even the human mind can understand. Brain Rules is THE book on how neuroscience can help you at work and at home.”

John Ratey, MD, author of Spark and A User’s Guide to the Brain: “A marvelous job in simplifying the best ways to get the most out of our brains. He is funny, tender, and completely engaging. Everyone should read this book.”

Psychiatric Times“A self-designated ‘grumpy scientist,’ Medina cites only research that has appeared in peer-reviewed journals and that has been successfully replicated. Remarkably, this molecular biologist is a gifted communicator who is able to write for both the scientist and the layperson.”

Guess which of the 12 rules Medina thinks “are most important to the average person?” Asked this by brainworldmagazine.com, Medina readily said exercise, stress, and sleep.

And, of those three, which two does he say particularly affect our emotional well-being (more than the excluded one)? Exercise and stress. Although lost sleep also does a number on us, Medina places more emphasis on its possible effects on learning.

Tomorrow’s post will look further at the importance of exercise…

Mar 12

Sleep Issues: Daylight Saving Doesn’t Have to Be Such a Drag

Sleep issues are such a drag. Getting a good amount of sleep is not. As humorist Fran Lebowitz has stated:

I love sleep because it is both pleasant and safe to use. Pleasant because one is in the best possible company and safe because sleep is the consummate protection against the unseemliness that is the invariable consequence of being awake. What you don’t know won’t hurt you. Sleep is death without the responsibility.

Daylight saving time is here. Many of us lost an hour of sleep this past weekend. Not a real big deal unless you’re already sleep-deprived or have other sleep issues, but still, it does affect most of us on different levels. It’s not just about feeling sleepier than usual and having difficulty adjusting our rhythms. Some people get headaches; some have mood changes. And possibly there’s a higher risk of heart attacks as well as male suicides right after this particular time switch (and not after gaining an hour in fall). Other things happen too, like increased accidents, decreased work productivity.

I’ve done extensive research on how to handle this, and, frankly—it’s probably pretty much too late. It was last week that we were supposed to do things—things such as making mealtimes and bedtimes occur a tad earlier. And making changes regarding caffeine, alcohol, and exercise.

How many of you wish you’d known sooner? How many are relieved you didn’t?

So, all we’ve got is the present. Many experts advise we just stick as much as possible to our usual routines now, and, basically, suck it up. Our bodily systems should adapt by the end of the week. No biggie—just be careful.

And if Fran Lebowitz is right, a byproduct of all this adjusting is that maybe we’ll actually get a little more out of life than usual:

“Life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep.”

While you’re up, here’s a little something else to read. I can’t vouch for the data given about sleep issues in the following graphic (for the source, scroll to the bottom), but isn’t it pretty?

16 Things You Didn’t Know About Sleep

Source: Psychology Degree website