Catattude – Can being messy calm you down?

Declutter! Focus! Do one-thing-at-a-time! Plan! Schedule!

There are thousands of books and articles teaching us how to be organized.   I’ve read them.  I understand them.  I don’t follow them.

I rarely keep a things-to-do list except when I’m overwhelmed or feel lethargic.  I’m a fly-by-the-seat of my pants kinda person.  My  process is divergent, I am a piler not a filer, not logical and I used to think there was something wrong with me.

AND NOW I’m vindicated!  Read this excerpt* (emphasis is mine):

“Sometimes, we place too much faith in the idea that if something looks well-organized, then we’ve got our lives under control.”
“It’s all too easy to fall into this trap. Many of us feel embarrassed about our cluttered desks, for example, assuming that they are an externalization of our internal chaos. Yet emptying your desk may, ironically, clutter your mind more than ever. All those tasks—read that book, reply to that letter, pay that bill—still exist. But lacking physical reminders that you trust, you may be forced to rely on your subconscious to remind you of all these incomplete tasks. Your subconscious will do a pretty good job of that: it will remind you every few minutes. An empty desk can mean an anxious mind.

Piler Cat by Peggy

“Nor are empty-deskers necessarily better organized in their work lives. In 2001, Steve Whittaker and Julia Hirschberg, then researchers at AT&T Labs, studied the behavior (pdf) of “filers”, who scrupulously file away their paperwork, and “pilers” who let it accumulate on their desk and any other convenient horizontal surface.”
“. . .  the researchers discovered that the “filers” accumulated bloated archives full of useless chaff. Whittaker has a term for this: “premature filing.” That’s what happens when we take a new document and promptly file it in a fit of tidy-mindedness before we really understand what it means, how it fits into our ongoing commitments, and whether we need to keep it at all. The result: duplicate folders, folders within folders, folders holding just a single document, and filing cabinets that serve as highly-structured trash cans.”

“Meanwhile, the “pilers” flourished. They were much more likely to throw paperwork away—after all, it was in plain sight on their desks—and when they did file something, they were more likely to understand it. Paradoxically, the messy workers had lean, practical and well-used archives. Their organizational system was messy, but it worked.”
“It’s possible to over-structure your life in other ways, too. As the psychologist Marc Wittman told Quartz in August, a partly or wholly unplanned holiday tends to feel longer and fuller than a holiday in which every decision has been made in advance. Critical decisions have to be made in the moment, which means you pay more attention to what’s happening and have richer memories after the fact. But to carry out Wittman’s advice, of course, means letting go and taking a risk. Switching off autopilot always carries an element of danger. That’s why it works.”

“One fascinating study conducted in the early 1980s examined the well-worn question of how structured one should make a calendar. Some people think that if you want to get something done, you should block out a time to do it on the calendar. Others think that the calendar should be reserved only for fixed appointments, and that everything else should be a movable feast”
“The study, run by the psychologists, Daniel Kirschenbaum, Laura Humphrey and Sheldon Malett explored this question, asked undergraduates to participate in a study-skills course. Some were advised to set out monthly goals and study activities; others were told to plan activities and goals in much more detail, day by day.”
 “The researchers, assuming daily plans would work better than months were wrong: “The daily plans were catastrophically demotivating, while the monthly plans worked very nicely. The effect was still in evidence a year later. The likely explanation is that the daily plans simply became derailed by unexpected events. A rigid structure is inherently fragile. Better for both your peace of mind and your productivity to improvise a little more often.”

I believe our brains are hard-wired to be logical or creatively divergent.  What works for one person, one situation, will not work for another.   If I could learn to stop berating myself when piles and projects surround me you can stop berating yourself for being overly organized.

(jw)

*Source:  Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives (Riverbed) by Tim Harford, Financial Times columnist.

How to teach an old dog new tricks – Cognitive Science of Habits

Research shows our brains are plastic, moldable and easy to please and despite sayings to the contrary, you can, in fact, teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks. But you have to give your brain a reason to get started.  

Here are excerpts from the article:

On the Mind: How Habits Work and How to Make Them

“Our brains like treats, MRI scans are clear about that. The reward pathway involves several parts of the brain, including areas such as the prefrontal cortex. Food, water, sex and pleasurable activity light up these areas and travel around the brain. If you want to build a habit, make it fun.

“Overall, recent brain scans show that certain areas of the brain light up when a new behavior is started, and the most effective way to keep the areas lit and happy is through rewards. Otherwise, we’re programmed to be lazy and efficient.”

section_break.gif

“In the past year, neuroscientists and psychologists have teamed up to study habit learning and how the brain reacts to new behaviors. They’ve found that some neurons, the cells that fire information across our brain and tell us what to do, are linked to motivation, reward association and habit learning.

Rewarding Right Behavior by Peggy

“When we like a new action, our brain pumps out feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, and we’re more likely to repeat the action to get the same pleasurable response.”

“Just like Pavlov’s dog, if we can motivate ourselves to repeat an action with a reward several times, we can potentially make it stick. And if we lump two or three of those habits together, they can cascade in the brain and lead to the likelihood of sticking with several good habits at once. Hey, even monkeys can learn how to build habits through repetition without much instruction, Brown University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers reported.”

Key Takeaways

1.  Make a Plan for 2 months . . . or longer!

Figure out what works for you, and don’t get discouraged by what seems to be common knowledge. Pop culture has promulgated the idea that it only takes 21 days, or 3 weeks, to form a new habit, but research shows that, depending on the person and habit, changes can take two months or longer.

“To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards,” which may take days or weeks, Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit. “During that period, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to make a real change … think of yourself as a scientist in the data collection stage.”

2.  Be Realistic

Don’t set yourself up for failure or place your expectations too high.

“ . . .   it’s common for people to set their sights cripplingly high in a moment of ambition, only to feel crushed when they fail to live up to those unrealistic goals.”

“That crushed feeling sends negative pulses rushing through your neurons, which destroys good associations with the habits you’re building. Try the smallest steps possible . . .  to feel happy about the smallest success you can accomplish.”

3.  Reward Yourself

“If you want to be motivated, you have to do something you enjoy and feel comfortable doing.”

Read entire article: Habits and How to Make Them

 

Eat your way to happy? (parenthetically speaking)

(There are three major symptoms for fibromyalgia:  depression, fatigue and whole body pain.  I have all three and then some . . .  The worst for me is fatigue, with depression coming in second and whole body pain third.  I follow the research, always hoping something new will be discovered in its treatment.)

scan-6

New research on treatments for depression presents an intriguing finding: a healthy diet may help depressed patients.

New Research on Treating Depression With Diet
by Sumathi Reddy, The Wall Street Journal

It is part of the nascent field of nutritional psychiatry which uses changes in diet to help treat mood disorders.
“The study in the journal BMC Medicine, found that a third of patients assigned to a group that followed a modified Mediterranean diet met the criteria for remission in 12 weeks, compared with just 8% in a control group.”

“There is a large body of evidence, both observational studies and animal studies, that links diet to the risk of developing depression and the prevalence of depression, said Felice Jacka, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology and nutritional psychiatry at Deakin University in Australia and senior researcher on the study. Dr. Jacka is also president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research.”

“Psychiatrists cautioned that the study provides no evidence that diet changes could replace traditional treatments for depression; but it could be beneficial as an add-on treatment.”

(Here’s where it becomes problematic for people with major depression and people like me who are too lazy to cook) 

“It may also be an impractical prescription: cooking healthy meals requires motivation and planning, a big demand for depressed patients. Depressed patients have difficulty putting plans into action so would likely require assistance, experts said.”  (Assistance in the form of a personal chef . . .)
“They have this sense of fatigue and inability to get up and go, and any mental effort they feel is overwhelming and exhaustive,” said Robert Shulman, associate chairman of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “(YUP, I’ll eat to that)

“The study, the first randomized controlled one, consisted of 67 people diagnosed and already being treated for a major depressive disorder. The mean age was 40 and most were overweight.
About half were in a dietary-intervention group. They received help planning a diet which included a lot of fruits, vegetables, beans, fish, whole grains, lean red meat, olive oil and nuts, and cut back on sweets, (OUCH) processed foods, soft drinks and other unhealthy items.” 

‘”Dietary changes may be especially helpful for people who are mildly depressed and don’t want to go on medication, said Joshua Weiner, a psychiatrist in McLean, Va. “If you have a motivated patient I’m all for this,” he said. “The problem is many kinds of patients aren’t motivated.”’
Results may be better for people who have poor eating habits to begin with, he said.”

Read the entire article click HERE

(Alas . . . the indicators for healthy eating are piling up.  It’s so much easier to pop a pill.)

(jw)

My Will Power vs My Won’t Power

I admit it –  My will power is puny.  The more I try to eat healthy foods the more I scarf down sugar laden carbs.  About 3-4 days is my limit for exerting will power.  Finally!  Research has confirmed I’m normal (sort of).

It turns out that everyone has will power, but only a limited amount to use each day. 

Research shows that just the act of resisting temptation wears out will power and we are more likely to lose the ability to discipline ourselves later. This includes not only stopping oneself from dong something unhealthy or unhelpful, but also depletes the ability to concentrate on doing something you want to do.

Rather than depend on will power, it is easier to put ourselves in situations where little or no will power is needed: Easier not to buy ice cream, than to have it at home and not eat it;   Easier to put a loud alarm clock far from bed so you have to get up than to have the snooze button next to the bed that you can tap (over and over) with your eyes shut and your head on the pillow. 

Reference:  Switch, How to change Things When Change is Hard Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Maui’s “Mini-Tail” of Will Power

Scratch by Peggy

by Peggy

There it sat, in the middle of Maui’s path, taunting him with texture. Maui knew his human would be upset if he scratched this BIG, TEMPTING scratching post called couch.  

” Don’t scratch the couch.  Don’t scratch the couch.  Don’t scratch the couch” 

He had lost count of how many times he heard this.  But every time he passed by that couch, his brain remembered how great the rough fabric felt and directed his claws to come out, longing for a manicure. 

Did Maui scratch?  Yup.  Just like humans, the stress of resisting continual temptation wore out his will power.  I can’t blame him.  Maui can’t remove the couch, he can’t go outside where he would be free to scratch whatever and where ever he wanted . . .

. . . unlike me who could throw out all the junk food and not buy anymore . . . if I had the will power . . .

 

 

 

Your Microbiome is Invisibly Spewing YOU onto Others!

 They call us “home”

our microbiome.

Our body spews 

a cloud no one can see

Bacteria, viruses, fungi

intermingling you and me

Releasing microbes in the air

from head to toe where ever we go

Because they’re here to stay

Don’t waste your money

on bug spray

If you don’t believe me read: wherever-you-go-your-personal-cloud-of-microbes-follows

images-1

An excerpt to perk your interest:

“Each of us carries around millions of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and viruses — on the inner and outer surfaces of our bodies. Most of them aren’t dangerous. In fact, growing evidence indicates that they help us in lots of ways. Scientists call this collection of organisms our microbiome.”

‘”A lot of the recent work on the human microbiome has revealed that we’re kind of spilling our microbial companions all over our houses and our offices and the people around us,” Meadow says.”

“Meadow says the findings raise a number of possibilities, including, maybe, one day being able to identify a criminal by analyzing the microbial cloud he or she leaves behind at the scene.”

We know that if you live with people, and even if you just work with people, your microbial communities come to resemble theirs over time, Knight says. “And in the past we used to think that was due to touch. It may be just that you’re releasing microbes into the air and some of those microbes are colonizing the people you’re with.”

April Fools’ Day is EVERYDAY – no joke

April Fools’ Day is EVERYDAY – no joke

Need proof of human gullibility?

How about  the attack of the flesh-eating bananas.

Excerpted from Why are People so Incredibly Gullible by David Robson, BBC Future’s feature writer. 

(This was such a fascinating article I had trouble editing it down.  For the entire article click on the Title.)

“In January 2000, a series of chain emails began reporting that imported bananas were infecting people with “necrotizing fasciitis” – a rare disease in which the skin erupts into livid purple boils before disintegrating and peeling away from muscle and bone.”

Cat-eating Bananas, by Peggy

“According to the email chain, the FDA was trying to cover up the epidemic to avoid panic. Faced with the threat, readers were encouraged to spread the word to their friends and family.”

“The threat was pure nonsense, of course. But by 28 January, the concern was great enough for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a statement decrying the rumor.”

” . . . Rather than quelling the rumour, they had only poured fuel on its flames. Within weeks, the CDC was hearing from so many distressed callers it had to set up a banana hotline. The facts became so distorted that people eventually started to quote the CDC as the source of the rumour. Even today, new variants of the myth have occasionally reignited those old fears.”

“One, somewhat humbling, explanation is that we are all “cognitive misers” – to save time and energy, our brains use intuition rather than analysis.”

As a simple example, quickly answer the following questions:

“How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?”

“Between 10 and 50% of study participants presented with these questions fail to notice that it was Noah, not Moses, who built the Ark, . . . even when they have been explicitly asked to note inaccuracies.”

“Known as the “Moses illusion”, this absent-mindedness illustrates just how easily we miss the details of a statement, favouring the general gist in place of the specifics. Instead, we normally just judge whether it “feels” right or wrong before accepting or rejecting its message. “Even when we ‘know’ we should be drawing on facts and evidence, we just draw on feelings,” says Eryn Newman at the University of Southern California, whose forthcoming paper summarises the latest research on misinformation.”

“Based on the research to date, Newman suggests our gut reactions swivel around just five simple questions:”

  • Does a fact come from a credible source?
  • Do others believe it?
  • Is there plenty of evidence to support it?
  • Is it compatible with what I believe?
  • Does it tell a good story?

“Crucially, our responses to each of these points can be swayed by frivolous, extraneous, details that have nothing to do with the truth.”

Then there’s the “cognitive fluency” of a statement – essentially, whether it tells a good, coherent story that is simple to imagine. “If something feels smooth and easy to process, then our default is to expect things to be true,” says Newman. This is particularly true if a myth easily fits with our expectations. “It has to be sticky – a nugget or soundbite that links to what you know, and reaffirms your beliefs,” agrees Stephan Lewandowsky at the University of Bristol in the UK, whose work has examined the psychology of climate change deniers.”

“In light of these discoveries, you can begin to understand why the fear of the flesh-eating bananas was so infectious. For one thing, the chain emails were coming from people you inherently trust – your friends – increasing the credibility of the claim, and making it appear more popular. The concept itself was vivid and easy to picture – it had high cognitive fluency. If you happened to distrust the FDA and the government, the thought of a cover-up would have fitted neatly into your worldview.”

(Credit: Getty Images)

“It’s true: we would rather hide our heads in the sand than listen to evidence questioning our beliefs, even if the facts are solid “(Credit: Getty Images)

“That cognitive miserliness can also help explain why those attempts to correct a myth have backfired so spectacularly, as the CDC found to their cost. Lab experiments confirm that offering counter-evidence only strengthens someone’s conviction. “In as little as 30 minutes, you can see a bounce-back effect where people are even more likely to believe the statement is true,” says Newman.”

“As a result of these frailties, we are instantly drawn to the juicier details of a story – the original myth – while forgetting the piddling little fact that it’s been proven false. Worse still, by repeating the original myth, the correction will have increased the familiarity of the claim – and as we’ve seen, familiarity breeds believability. Rather than uprooting the myth, the well-intentioned correction has only pushed it deeper.”

Banana-eating Monkey, by Peggy

“It’s always worth asking whether you have thought carefully about the things you are reading and hearing. Or are you just being a cognitive miser, persuaded by biased feelings rather than facts?

Some of your dearest opinions may have no more substance than the great banana hoax of the year 2000.”

Click here to read about a few other classic hoaxes – like spaghetti growing on trees . . .

 

 

Bet you’ve had an Emotional Hangover and not known it

I have little, VERY little, memories of my childhood or adolescence – or adulthood for that matter.  It concerned me when a therapist colleague said that was an indication of repressed memory of probably horrible childhood trauma.  Ai yiiii yiiiiii.  Maybe I was beaten, or worse, and all these years believing I had nice parents.

I told a psychiatrist friend about my memory “affliction” thinking he would suggest decades of psycho-analysis at best and in-patient treatment at worst.  He looked passively at me and without the slightest hesitation said, “All that indicates is your childhood was boring.”

This is one of my aha moments that I DO remember and spurred me to investigate the neuro-biology of emotion.  What does that have to do with hang-over?  Read on!

Hung Over by Peggy

Excerpts from:

You already know without a doubt that most of your memories are ones that were highly emotional experiences.

“Emotional experiences can induce physiological and internal brain states that persist for long periods of time after the emotional events have ended, a team of New York University scientists has found. This study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also shows that this emotional “hangover” influences how we attend to and remember future experiences.”

“How we remember events is not just a consequence of the external world we experience, but is also strongly influenced by our internal states–and these internal states can persist and color future experiences,” explains Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and senior author of the study.”

“‘Emotion’ is a state of mind, . . . findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time.”’

” . . . data showed that the brain states associated with emotional experiences carried over for 20 to 30 minutes and influenced the way the subjects processed and remembered future experiences that are not emotional.”

“We see that memory for non-emotional experiences is better if they are encountered after an emotional event,” observes Davachi.

I’m so relieved!  Not only wasn’t I beaten . . . or worse . . .  the biggest hang-over I’ve experienced was the news I’ve led an exceptionally boring life.

(jw)

To read the entire article, who the author are and the research behind it click HERE.