Senior Moments or Vast Library?

This NY Times article says that our thinking may not be slower as we age, but rather, we have more data to sort through now than we did when we were younger.

Read the entire article here: goo.gl/GlTLHB

The Psychological Toll of Income Inequality

The NY Times as a new piece on the psychological toll of income inequality and our relentless pursuit of “more”. We are making ourselves sick…and for what?

Here’s an excerpt:

“Ms. Johnson concludes that psychiatric conditions like mania and narcissism are related to our striving for status and dominance, while disorders such as anxiety and depression may involve responses to the experience of subordination. Similarly, she suggests that the pressures of coping with social hierarchies may contribute to other conditions such as antisocial personality disorder and bipolarism.     ….

“If mental illness is related to dominance and subordination, you might assume that disorders like narcissism would be more common at the top of the social hierarchy while others, like depression, would occur more frequently at the bottom. The full picture, however, is more complicated.

It is true that depression is much more common lower down the social ladder, but it does exists at all levels: Few are immune to feelings of defeat or failure. Similarly, people can be narcissistic or strive for dominance anywhere in the hierarchy — although Paul Piff, also a psychologist at Berkeley, has shown that higher status is indeed associated with more unethical and narcissistic behavior.

“So how does increasing inequality factor in? One of the important effects of wider income differences between rich and poor is to intensify the issues of dominance and subordination, and feelings of superiority and inferiority. Two sociologists at the University of Toronto, Robert Andersen and Josh Curtis, found that although there is always some connection between people’s income and the social class to which they feel they belong, the match between the two is closer in societies with bigger income differences between rich and poor.

Inequality not only intensifies the problem, but also makes it more extensive. A new study by Dublin-based researchers of 34,000 people in 31 countries found that in countries with bigger income differences, status anxiety was more common at all levels in the social hierarchy. Another international study, from 2011, found in particular that self-enhancement or self-aggrandizement — the tendency to present an inflated view of oneself — occurred much more frequently in more unequal societies.”

Read the full article here: http://goo.gl/O6NCkw

An Atheist Walks Into an AA Meeting

Many people who need the support of AA complain that it requires faith in a God, or Higher Power, that they don’t believe in. Sometimes this is an excuse to avoid confronting their drinking problem. Sometimes it’s a legitimate existential crisis. Here’s an interesting blog post from an Atheist that made AA work for her. Food for thought. Read the entire story here: http://goo.gl/VYKp9

My Faithlessness: The atheist way through AA

 

The Changing America Family

American households have never been more diverse, more surprising, more baffling. In this special issue of the NY Time / Science Times, NATALIE ANGIER takes stock of our changing definition of family.

“Families, they say, are becoming more socially egalitarian over all, even as economic disparities widen. Families are more ethnically, racially, religiously and stylistically diverse than half a generation ago — than even half a year ago.

In increasing numbers, blacks marry whites, atheists marry Baptists, men marry men and women women, Democrats marry Republicans and start talk shows. Good friends join forces as part of the “voluntary kin” movement, sharing medical directives, wills, even adopting one another legally.

Single people live alone and proudly consider themselves families of one — more generous and civic-minded than so-called “greedy marrieds.”

“There are really good studies showing that single people are more likely than married couples to be in touch with friends, neighbors, siblings and parents,” said Bella DePaulo, author of “Singled Out” and a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll be single forever. “There are not just more types of families and living arrangements than there used to be,” said Stephanie Coontz, author of the coming book “Intimate Revolutions,” and a social historian at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. “Most people will move through several different types over the course of their lives.”

At the same time, the old-fashioned family plan of stably married parents residing with their children remains a source of considerable power in America — but one that is increasingly seen as out of reach to all but the educated elite.”

See the entire article here: goo.gl/t2BJvN

How Exercise Can Help Us Sleep Better

Regular exercise can help us sleep better. But it takes time..

” But, Dr. Baron pointed out, most of these other studies employed volunteers without existing sleep problems. For them, exercise and sleep seem to have a relatively uncomplicated relationship. You work out, fatigue your body and mind, and sleep more soundly that night.

But people with insomnia and other sleep disturbances tend to be “neurologically different,” Dr. Baron said. “They have what we characterize as a hyper-arousal of the stress system,” she said. A single bout of exercise on any given day “is probably not enough to overcome that arousal,” she explained. It could potentially even exacerbate it, since exercise is itself a physical stressor.

Eventually, however, if the exercise program is maintained, Dr. Baron said, the workouts seem to start muting a person’s stress response. Her or his underlying physiological arousal is dialed down enough for sleep to arrive more readily, as it did in the 2010 experiment.”

See the full article here: goo.gl/xEdfy3

The Mindful Revolution

Time magazine has a cover story about the power of mindfulness. It’s a good read. Check out the full version here: http://goo.gl/RKQPsd

 

Do Brain Training Games Really Work?

Here’s a interesting article from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine. It seems that brain training games like Brain Age actually do have some benefit. no word on the value of Candy Crush marathons, though. Read the full article here: goo.gl/GfQDDJ

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The Challenges of Modern Parenting

The NY Times has a book review today of an interesting new book that explores how radically parenting has changed in the last 70 years. Kids are no longer seen as property, or workers for the farm, but rather precious little beings that rule the household like royalty. This creates a huge shift in how we interact as families, and the expectations the next generation of adults will have about how the world should regard them. Interesting food for thought.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Children alter the adult relationships into which they obtrude. Indeed, Senior says, they provoke a couple’s most frequent arguments — “more than money, more than work, more than in-laws, more than annoying personal habits, communication styles, leisure activities, commitment issues, bothersome friends, sex.” Mothers are frequently overwhelmed by their attempts to excel both at their paid jobs and at child care. In 1965, when most American women didn’t work outside the home, mothers nonetheless spent almost four fewer hours a week than today’s mothers do providing child care. Fathers, on the other hand, spend three times as many hours with their children now as they did then, but do better at keeping some downtime reserved for themselves; they do not judge themselves the way mothers do, and experience few of the pressures that make women feel so guilty about being away from home during the workday.

Taking care of — and indeed loving — one’s children changes as they reach adolescence. Senior notes that parents often do homework with their children; “homework,” she writes aphoristically, “is the new family dinner.” It is the locus around which affection is played out. Parents struggle through their children’s teenage years both because of their changed relationship with their children and because of their changed relationship to themselves. It is not easy to have much of your purpose shattered by your child’s independence. This loss can throw parents back on their own inner lives, and self-examination can be painful. “The mere presence of adolescents in the house, still brimming with potential, their futures still an unclaimed colony . . . sets off a fantastical reverie of what-ifs,” Senior writes.”

Read the full story here: http://goo.gl/opyyYI

ALL JOY AND NO FUN
The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
By Jennifer Senior
308 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $26.99

The Search for Self in a Brain Scan

Interesting article from the NY Times on brain science and our sense of self. It’s part of a series of articles about new findings from brain research. See the full article here: goo.gl/DCTSf0

“Once the 10 hours of scans and tests are finished, and 10 hours more of processing and analysis done, the data for each of the volunteers — all anonymous — becomes part of adatabase to help scientists develop tools so that one day such an individual report might be possible.

Besides, I was just going through a portion of the process, to see what it was like.

Even so, I do have this sense of myself as an individual, different from others in ways good, bad and inconsequential, and the pretty reasonable feeling that whatever a “self” is, it lies behind my eyes and between my ears. That’s where I feel that “I” live.”

How to Comfort Someone in Pain

We all get our share of pain and loss in life. Some seem to get more than their fair share.

When someone you love is hurting, it’s normal to want to help but sometimes it’s hard to know how to help. Here are a few pointers from people that have had their fair share of suffering and support.

“I’d say that what these experiences call for is a sort of passive activism. We have a tendency, especially in an achievement-oriented culture, to want to solve problems and repair brokenness — to propose, plan, fix, interpret, explain and solve. But what seems to be needed here is the art of presence — to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the elemental situation. Allow nature to take its course. Grant the sufferers the dignity of their own process. Let them define meaning. Sit simply through moments of pain and uncomfortable darkness. Be practical, mundane, simple and direct.”

See the full NY Times article here: goo.gl/0124W8