9 Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth

Empathy can be best defined as the trait or skill of understanding, sharing, recognizing, and even feeling the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those around you or those who you see. It is often a crucial skill in developing healthy relationships, moral or ethical decision-making, prosocial behavior, and compassionate attitudes.

Simply put, empathy denotes an ability to walk in the shoes of another person. It can be a complex trait to develop, and some people may believe that empathy is harmful. After all, feeling the pain of others can become tiring. But in moderation, this skill is a fantastic way to improve yourself while helping others. Here are nine ways empathy helps with inner growth.

1.    Empathy Reduces Stress

You may have noticed people who are empathetic seem to experience less stress. Considering how research has shown that stress accuses all sorts of diseases, it raises the question – how does empathy help?

  • It teaches emotional regulation skills.
  • Relating to others in positive ways teaches
  • It engages in our ability to control and handle our emotions in a healthy manner.
  • It helps us recognize where and when we may be feeling stressed or emotional, thanks to observing and empathizing with our loved ones.

Empathy can be best defined as the trait or skill of understanding, sharing, recognizing, and even feeling the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of those around you or those who you see. It is often a crucial skill in developing healthy relationships, moral or ethical decision-making, prosocial behavior, and compassionate attitudes.

Simply put, empathy denotes an ability to walk in the shoes of another person. It can be a complex trait to develop, and some people may believe that empathy is harmful. After all, feeling the pain of others can become tiring. But in moderation, this skill is a fantastic way to improve yourself while helping others. Here are nine ways empathy helps with inner growth.

As you can imagine, this helps you become an emotionally more stable person in the long run – indeed a fundamental thing to any future growth and maturation you wish to experience!

2.    It Improves Your Ability To Communicate

Communication isn’t as simple as an exchange of words. After all, think about the many times you find yourself constantly misunderstood, no matter how hard you try. As it turns out, empathy can teach you how to express yourself better! This outcome is because:

  • You learn how to see, feel, and think from the other person’s perspective.
  • You’ll better understand how your words and thoughts may be interpreted by others.
  • You can tailor your expression of your thoughts and emotions to the individual you’re communicating with, so they can understand you better.
  • You can limit misunderstandings and miscommunications by seeing how the other person would process information from their point of view.

Indeed, you may notice that all of these positive benefits first require you to listen better and understand the other person before you can explain yourself in a way that truly resonates with them. This is why empathy is so important!

3.    It’s Good For General Survival

Historically speaking, being social creatures is the critical reason for our species’ continued survival – and despite how much has changed socially, this hasn’t changed on a fundamental level! Empathy allows us to:

  • Pick up on nonverbal cues that indicate something is amiss
  • Tune in immediately to a situation the second someone starts acting strangely
  • React appropriately to a life-threatening situation you haven’t seen yet, just from the behavior of others in the area
  • Pay attention to abnormal atmospheres or facial features that suggest something is wrong

These examples may sound dramatic, but they can be applicable in all sorts of places – from recognizing when a bar fight is about to erupt to paying attention to a loved one who seems to be quieter than usual.

No matter which way you slice it, empathy may be the critical thing that saves you or your loved one’s life.

4.    It’s Good For Your Health

How are empathy and your physical health related to each other? They’re more intimately intertwined than you might think. Various studies have shown a positive correlation between the ability to handle stress – a source of many health issues – and high levels of empathy.

This is because of empathy:

  • It encourages us to form close bonds that form the basis of our support network.
  • Teaches us how to form healthy coping mechanisms when trying to manage stress.
  • It assists us in paying attention to our bodies as an extension of learning how to observe those around us.
  • Reduces depression and anxiety levels as we communicate and empathize with our loved ones.
  • It helps us create healthy boundaries so we can avoid picking up second-hand stress and negative emotions.
  • Encourages positive thinking and mindsets via reconnecting to the world around us.

This ultimately leads to a better psychological and physiological state, resulting in a much better health and immune system. Not to mention, it’s easier to take care of yourself when you’re mentally and emotionally more stable and healthy!

5.    It Can Guide Your Moral Compass

Normally, we learn empathy and emotional regulation in childhood – something that research has shown is important for our development. But that doesn’t mean our journey stops there!

As we grow older and meet new people, we must continue to learn and adapt to the changing world around us – and in this aspect, empathy is an essential tool. For example, it:

  • It helps us re-evaluate our core values and morals
  • Shapes and guides how we care for others and how we expect to be cared for
  • It shows us how to take care of those around us
  • Encourages us to strive for a better understanding of those we love

In other words, empathy can actually help us reshape our foundational understanding of the world and our relationship with it. This is important, as it can lead to us growing both mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as we strive to meet the needs of our loved ones!

6.    It Connects You To Others

Ever found yourself just sitting there, unsure as to how to respond to someone else? Empathy is actually a vital and helpful tool in this regard!

How so? Research has shown that empathy is responsible for helping us better understand and respond to a loved one’s actions – both in the present and for potential future actions. Here are a few ways how it mentally preps you and encourages you to form positive relationships:

  • It helps us feel and better understand what the other person is experiencing.
  • Teaches us how to reciprocate and make the other person feel seen and heard.
  • It assists us in forming and nurturing intimate bonds where both sides can feel safe and vulnerable.
  • It encourages us to listen to those around us truly and really take the time to be there for them.

The final result? We end up learning not just about experiences we couldn’t otherwise have possibly gotten on our own, but also will likely end up with a close and personal relationship with the other person!

Over time, you will likely find that this sort of behavior cultivates deep, intimate connections that can bring you a sense of peace and stability – an incredibly vital foundation for any further inner growth you wish to achieve.

7.    It Helps Prosocial Behavior

We are only human, so it’s natural to want close, intimate, and meaningful bonds. In fact, it is hardwired into our very DNA – we wouldn’t have gotten this far without that desire to bond with those around us, after all. As you can imagine, this means that the ability to empathize is crucial. This is because it:

  • It teaches us how to become more compassionate and caring
  • It’s crucial to our ability to communicate and connect with others
  • It encourages us to care for and help each other
  • Assists us in being kind and understanding to others around us
  • It tries to make us see things from a different point of view

From there, we then learn how to adjust our behavior and actions to ensure we are doing our best to love and care for those around us. This can then ultimately lead us to create the relationships so fundamental to our emotional and mental wellbeing!

8.    It Fights Burnout

There is some irony in how, in an increasingly connected world, we feel even more lonely. And with that loneliness comes all sorts of mental health struggles and burnout as we struggle with work on our own. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A study has shown that those workers who are empathetic actually deal with less burnout – something you might find interesting! Here’s how empathy can help you achieve these outcomes:

  • It guides us in how we can communicate with those around us.
  • Assists in the development of soft skills that are crucial to handling conflicts with others.
  • It teaches us how to ensure both sides feel seen and heard.
  • It helps us connect and form meaningful relationships with others.
  • Encourages us to create social networks that can inversely support us in our times of need.
  • Promotes positive thinking as we pull from the experiences of others around us.

With the development of better communication and conflict-management skills, you may find yourself becoming a more emotionally mature and understanding person as you rise against the challenges life throws at you. And it’s all thanks to empathy!

9.    It Improves Your Work

With just how helpful it is when you’re trying to both listen and to be heard, it’s no wonder that empathy forms a core aspect of communication – a vital skill in any team-based work. But there’s more to this than just better communication. Empathy also helps:

  • Negotiating with others to create a solution that meets everyone’s needs and desires
  • Encourages teamwork when trouble-shooting issues
  • Creates an environment of respect and trust
  • It makes people feel valued and involved in any project
  • It makes for a smoother transition and workflow, as you are already paying attention and anticipating the quirks and workstyles of those around you

As you can imagine, these aspects are all super helpful when you’re working on any team-based project. And these skills are transferable too! You can just as easily apply these positive benefits to both your work and your personal life and watch your relationships become better for it! Final Thoughts On Some Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth

Empathy is a valuable trait, yet it may seem like it is rapidly declining in today’s world. This can seem discouraging, and some may even worry that being empathetic may open them up to feelings of pain and discomfort.

The lucky truth is that this is not the case. Empathy is crucial for your inner growth and can actually make you stronger, healthier, and more resilient. If you struggle with developing empathy for others, you can speak to a mental health professional for help.

By:

Source: 9 Ways Empathy Helps With Inner Growth | Power of Positivity

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Critics:

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional (or affective) empathy, somatic, and spiritual empathy.

Empathy is generally divided into two major components:

Affective empathy

Affective empathy, also called emotional empathy: the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental states. Our ability to empathize emotionally is based on emotional contagion: being affected by another’s emotional or arousal state.

Cognitive empathy

Cognitive empathy: the capacity to understand another’s perspective or mental state. The terms social cognition, perspective-taking, theory of mind, and mentalizing are often used synonymously, but due to a lack of studies comparing theory of mind with types of empathy, it is unclear whether these are equivalent.

Although measures of cognitive empathy include self-report questionnaires and behavioral measures, a 2019 meta analysis found only a negligible association between self report and behavioral measures, suggesting that people are generally not able to accurately assess their own cognitive empathy abilities.

Somatic empathy

How To Stop Overthinking

Need to know

If you’re an over-thinker, you’ll know exactly how it goes. A problem keeps popping up in your mind – for instance, a health worry or a dilemma at work – and you just can’t stop dwelling on it, as you desperately try to find some meaning or solution. Round and round the thoughts go but, unfortunately, the solutions rarely arrive.

In my daily work as a meta cognitive clinical psychologist, I encounter many people who, in trying to find answers or meaning, or in attempting to make the right decision, spend most of their waking hours scrutinizing their minds for solutions. Ironically, in this process of trying to figure out how to proceed in life, they come to a standstill.

When we spend too much time analyzing our problems and dilemmas, we often end up more at a loss than we were to begin with. On top of that, persistent overthinking can result in a wide range of symptoms such as insomnia, trouble concentrating and loss of energy which, in turn, often leads to further worries regarding one’s symptoms, thereby creating a vicious cycle of overthinking. In some cases, this eventually leads to chronic anxiety or depression.

When overthinking and the associated symptoms spiral and become unbearable, it’s usual for us to look for ways to calm down. Many common strategies sound reasonable or useful, but research shows that they can inadvertently cause more harm than good and typically lead to even more overthinking. You might recognize some of them in your own behavior:

Constantly looking out for threats: there’s nothing wrong with this strategy if you feel in control, but it can quickly backfire. Take health concerns. If, as a way to calm your worries, you start to excessively scan yourself or the people you care about for signs of illness, this threat monitoring will lead only to a heightened sense of danger and more health-related worries.

Another example is constantly keeping an eye out for whether people like you, trying to figure out what they think of you, which inadvertently results in you becoming more distant, non-participatory and worried, and not being able to enjoy their company.

Seeking answers and reassurance: it’s completely natural to seek reassurance from people close to you, and to look for answers as to how to cope better. However, if you come to a point where you depend on these strategies to calm you down and reduce your worries, you’re on a slippery slope.

For instance, some of my clients spend several hours a day Googling, hoping to find reassurance or, at least, an explanation as to why they’re feeling down. Yet this strategy often leads to even more worries, since Googling relatively common symptoms typically yields a wide range of search results, including diagnoses that you hadn’t even thought of.

Excessive planning: of course, there’s nothing wrong with moderate levels of planning. It’s perfectly healthy to keep a calendar or to leave notes for yourself. However, some people plan their lives down to the tiniest detail and this can become problematic. In addition to being rather time-consuming, excessive planning can have other negative effects including exacerbating worries.

For instance, when planning carefully, it’s tempting to try to predict all the things that could possibly interfere with a plan and how to potentially handle such events should they occur, thereby initiating a process of worry. Others plan meticulously because they believe that they won’t be able to cope otherwise, which can lead to excessive worries when planning isn’t possible or unexpected events arise.

Aside from these unhelpful strategies, another key factor that can perpetuate overthinking is your beliefs about thinking (the term ‘meta cognitive’ in ‘meta cognitive therapy’ – the clinical approach I use – actually refers to thinking about thinking). When my clients start meta cognitive therapy, many of them are convinced that they have no control of their thought processes.

They believe that their thoughts just appear and automatically attract attention – and that they can’t control whether these thoughts develop into hour-long ruminations about how bad things are now, or into catastrophic worries about what could go wrong in the future.

I have some good news: you don’t have to live with excessive worry. It’s an enduring myth that overthinking is an innate trait, like eye color or crooked toes, meaning that it can’t be changed and you simply have to live with it.

Adrian Wells, the clinical psychologist at the University of Manchester who founded meta cognitive therapy, discovered that overthinking – that is, worrying and rumination – is a learned strategy that we choose, consciously or unconsciously, as a way to try to deal with our difficult thoughts and feelings. It’s not a fixed trait, but a habit that we fall into, and we can learn to change it if we want.

In my first 10 years practicing as a clinical psychologist, I worked in traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT teaches us that we need to spend time on our thoughts and beliefs in order to challenge them and transform them into more realistic or compassionate versions. When I was introduced to meta cognitive therapy, in which the focus is on simply letting go of your thoughts (Wells jokingly calls it ‘lazy therapy’), it radically changed my understanding of mental illnesses.

In 2020, together with Wells and other colleagues, we published the results of a large randomized trial involving 174 clients with depression. We found that those who participated in meta cognitive therapy benefited more than others allocated to receive CBT (74 per cent met the formal criteria for recovery at post-treatment, versus 52 per cent of those in the CBT group, and this was largely maintained at follow-up).

Together with my own client work and the experiences of other therapists using metacognitive therapy, this finding has convinced me that the cause of mental illnesses isn’t our negative thoughts per se, and therefore the solution is not to spend yet more time on them. On the contrary, the cause of mental illnesses is too much time spent dwelling on our negative thoughts, and so the solution is to spend less time on them.

This realization created a tsunami of thoughts within my own mind. For years, through CBT, I have helped my clients spend more time on their negative thoughts, but what if there were better ways I could have helped them? True, many of my clients felt CBT had helped them (and it certainly is beneficial to many), but I no longer believe it’s the optimal approach. For the past 10 years I have completely changed my methods and I exclusively use meta cognitive therapy to help people think less and, in so doing, cope better with their mental health problems.

Whether you just worry a little more than you’d like to, or you suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression, metacognitive strategies can help you reduce the overthinking that contributes to your symptoms. Metacognitive therapy is about discovering that you can choose whether or not you engage in a thought regardless of its content or the feelings it gives rise to.

In the following section, I’ll take you through some of the steps I use in metacognitive therapy to help my clients reduce their overthinking and learn that overthinking isn’t something that happens to us – it’s within our control.

What to do

Get to know your trigger thoughts and let them be

It is estimated that the human brain produces thousands of separate thoughts, associations and memories every single day. Most of these thoughts are without significance; they come and go without us noticing. Some thoughts, however, attract our attention. In metacognitive therapy, these thoughts are referred to as ‘trigger thoughts’. If you pay them enough attention, these thoughts can trigger an explosion of bodily sensations and feelings, and a myriad of associations.

Some trigger thoughts can activate warmth and joy about an exciting upcoming project, meeting a friend, or a holiday you’re looking forward to. These kinds of trigger thoughts are, of course, unproblematic. Other trigger thoughts, however, might activate a long series of further thoughts that can develop into worries or ruminations.

Worries typically form around hypothetical scenarios and start with ‘What if…’ statements such as: ‘What if I make the wrong decision?’ ‘What if they won’t like me?’ ‘What if I get ill?’ and so on. Typical rumination, on the other hand, starts with thoughts about what, why and how: ‘What is wrong with me?’ ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ ‘How do I get better?’

You can compare these thoughts to trains at a busy railway station. There are departures all the time to a wide array of different destinations. Each train can represent a thought or a sequence of thoughts. For instance, a thought such as ‘What if they won’t like me?’ could arrive at the mental railway platform.

You could ‘catch’ the thought and you’ll likely soon notice several other thoughts join in: ‘I won’t be able to handle it if they dislike me.’ ‘Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t go.’ Or you could dismiss the thought, similar to letting the train pass by, and turn your attention back to whatever you were doing. When you don’t expend energy on a thought, you’ll find it will either stay on the platform for later or simply pass you by.

So, it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that will overwhelm you and lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms; nor is it the amount of trigger thoughts you have (everyone has them). The problems arise if you continuously jump on to each train – that is, if you begin to analyze the thought and engage in extensive worry or rumination – then it’s like you’re adding more and more carriages to the train, one after another; the train gets heavier and slower, and will eventually have trouble passing even the slightest hill. The same goes for your trigger thoughts: the more time you spend engaging in these thoughts, the slower and heavier you will feel.

Recognise what you can and can’t control

If you’re used to boarding most trains rather uncritically – that is, continuously engaging in trigger thoughts and starting to worry and ruminate for long periods of time – then, unfortunately, you’re well on your way to developing an unhealthy pattern. If you repeat this pattern over and over again, it might begin to feel as if it happens automatically. You might, understandably, come to believe that it’s outside your control.

It’s true, the trigger thoughts themselves are completely automatic – you don’t have any say as to what trains will arrive at your mental railway station. However, you do have a choice over which trains to board. You can choose whether or not to engage in a trigger thought. You can control whether you ‘answer’ the thought or follow it up with more questions.

In trying to understand this differently, instead of in terms of trains, you might picture your thoughts as someone calling you on the phone. Of course, you don’t decide whether the phone rings, who calls or when it rings. (Unfortunately, in this case it’s not the kind of phone you can just turn off!) But you do choose whether to answer the phone or just let it ring and turn your attention back to whatever you were doing.

The sound of the phone might be loud, annoying and attract your attention, but what happens if you just leave it be? Eventually it stops ringing. While thoughts and phones are, of course, different things, this metaphor carries a key message in metacognitive therapy: While trigger thoughts are beyond your control, you can control whether you engage with them.

Thoughts are, in principle, ephemeral, although you might not see them this way. Try asking yourself how many of the thoughts you had yesterday you can remember today. To be honest, out of the several thousand I had, I’m not sure I can recall even 10 thoughts. Why is that? Most of the thoughts we have come and go almost instantly because we don’t grant them any special attention but leave them and return to whatever we were doing. Even though you might not be aware of it, you’re already capable of choosing not to engage in a conversation with your thoughts, just as you can ignore the phone that keeps calling.

Postpone and reduce your worries and ruminations

Many chronic overthinkers struggle to change their belief that their thoughts can be brought under control, and perhaps you’re still not convinced. One way of challenging your belief further is to explore whether you’re able to postpone worries and ruminations. I recommend that my clients introduce a so-called ‘worry/rumination time’. It has to be a set time of the day, for instance 7.30pm to 8pm, where you allow yourself to worry and ruminate freely.

That way, when trigger thoughts or feelings occur during the day – for instance, you feel the need to evaluate your health or reflect upon what your friends think of you – try postponing these thoughts to your scheduled worry/rumination time (you might tell yourself: ‘I’ll deal with this later’). This set time is also useful for any planning or reassurance-seeking for which you feel the need. One note of caution: you might want to avoid scheduling your worry time within one or two hours of when you plan to go to bed, especially if you’re prone to insomnia or other sleep difficulties.

Introducing a set worry/rumination time serves several functions. First, it’s an experiment that challenges the belief that worries and ruminations are uncontrollable. When dedicating themselves to this experiment, most of my clients find that it is indeed possible to postpone worries or ruminations. While this might seem a hard goal, in fact it’s something you already do on a daily basis without realizing.

For instance, any time you notice an alarming newspaper headline on your way to work and start worrying, but then remember that you’re in a hurry and so turn your attention back to getting to work – that’s you controlling your thoughts. Or maybe you’re sitting in a café with a friend and you overhear a conversation at another table that triggers unpleasant memories, but instead of dwelling on them, you decide to redirect your attention back to the conversation with your friend.

Again, that’s you controlling your thoughts. In the same way, you can learn to consciously ignore your own internal trigger thoughts, thereby experiencing that you really do have a choice in whether you choose to engage in them or not.

A second function of setting worry/rumination time is that it’s a way of discovering that trigger thoughts are ephemeral and ever-changing. For instance, the thoughts that seemed highly relevant and important in the morning will often seem less important when you arrive at your worry/rumination time later in the day. You might even discover that you’re not able to recall some of the thoughts that triggered you.

All feelings, whether positive or negative, are usually ephemeral if we tolerate them and let them be. Of course, not all thoughts disappear forever when you postpone processing them – some thoughts might be about important issues that you really need to address. Regardless, as most of my clients find, it’s much more constructive to deal with these issues within a defined time of the day instead of endlessly problem-solving while you’re trying to go about your daily responsibilities.

Finally, while this might seem obvious, the worry/rumination time is a way of reducing and containing the amount of time you spend worrying and ruminating. As I explained earlier, it’s not the trigger thought in and of itself that causes unpleasant symptoms, nor is it the amount of trigger thoughts. It’s the time spent engaging in these thoughts, ruminating and worrying, that weighs us down. By allocating a set period of time for worry and rumination, you’re more likely to feel in control and prevent yourself becoming overwhelmed.

Avoid avoidance and train your attention

For people struggling under the burden of overthinking, it’s all too easy to develop a fear of one’s own trigger thoughts. After all, if you feel at their mercy, you might be tempted to avoid them occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, not only is this largely futile, it’s also counterproductive – avoidance of triggering situations will hamper your life and, moreover, to the extent that you’re at all successful in avoiding situations that prompt trigger thoughts, you won’t get the chance to practice letting go of these thoughts. After all, you can’t learn to ride a bike without a bike.

Inspired by the above, and if you feel ready, I recommend that you give yourself daily challenges that involve trigger thoughts, and that you practice instructing yourself to leave them alone until a designated worry-time. This will help you become more adept at leaving your trigger thoughts alone and to realize that you’re in control of your worries and ruminations. You won’t succeed every time but, just like learning to ride a bike, you need to get up again every time you fall and keep biking until you get the hang of it.

Some people struggle to develop this skill. In that case, in metacognitive therapy we use attention training to help clients realize that they can shift their attention regardless of inner inputs, such as trigger thoughts, and outer input, such as external stressors. I usually ask my clients to do the following 10-minute exercise. Maybe reading this will inspire you to try it out yourself:

  • Tune in to three or more environmental sounds, such as: traffic; birdsong; chatter from a nearby radio or TV; children playing; building work, or whatever. You need to find somewhere where these ambient sounds are going on. It’s helpful if some of the noises you select are nearer and louder, while others are further away and quieter.
  • Of the three or more sounds you’ve selected, practise tuning in to just one at a time for approximately 10 seconds each (you could use a digital timer to help you) and let the others fade into the background. After the 10 seconds is up, switch your focus to another of your chosen sounds.
  • After two minutes, repeat the exercise, but switching more quickly between the sounds – now focusing on each one for just two to four seconds each.
  • The aim of the exercise is to become familiar with, and adept at, shifting your attention. When you’re feeling more confident you could introduce a recording of a trigger thought into the exercise, and practise switching your attention away from and back to the sound of that thought.

Another exercise you could try that I use in my clinic is the windowpane exercise – this will further illustrate that your attention is under your control, independent of the existence of trigger thoughts in your head. I write one or two trigger thoughts in washable ink on a window (such as: ‘What if I fail my driving test?’ or ‘What if she finds me boring?’), then I ask my client to practise looking through the words to notice the scene beyond – the trees, the sky, the buildings, whatever the view is from the window.

Then I ask them to switch their attention back to the words again, now back to the details of the view. The purpose here is to familiarise clients with the sensation that we can control our attention. If you give it a try, you’ll find that, while the written thoughts remain in view, you can control whether you focus on them or whether you let them fade and enjoy the world outside instead. Please note, if you find this exercise at all difficult, I recommend that you wait and try it with a professional metacognitive clinician (see the ‘Learn More’ section to find out how)…..

By: Pia Callesen

Source: How to stop overthinking | Psyche Guides

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Blood Pressure

Long Working Hours Killing 745,000 People a Year, Study Finds

 

The first global study of its kind showed 745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to long hours.The report found that people living in South East Asia and the Western Pacific region were the most affected.

The WHO also said the trend may worsen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The research found that working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with a working week of 35 to 40 hours.

The study, conducted with the International Labour Organization (ILO), also showed almost three quarters of those that died as a result of working long hours were middle-aged or older men.

Often, the deaths occurred much later in life, sometimes decades later, than the long hours were worked.Five weeks ago, a post on LinkedIn from 45-year-old Jonathan Frostick gained widespread publicity as he described how he’d had a wake-up call over long working hours.

The regulatory program manager working for HSBC had just sat down on a Sunday afternoon to prepare for the working week ahead when he felt a tightness in his chest, a throbbing in his throat, jawline and arm, and difficulty breathing.

“I got to the bedroom so I could lie down, and got the attention of my wife who phoned 999,” he said.While recovering from his heart-attack, Mr Frostick decided to restructure his approach to work. “I’m not spending all day on Zoom anymore,” he said.

His post struck a chord with hundreds of readers, who shared their experiences of overwork and the impact on their health.Mr Frostick doesn’t blame his employer for the long hours he was putting in, but one respondent said: “Companies continue to push people to their limits without concern for your personal well-being.”

HSBC said everyone at the bank wished Mr Frostick a full and speedy recovery.”We also recognise the importance of personal health and wellbeing and a good work-life balance. Over the last year we have redoubled our efforts on health and wellbeing.

“The response to this topic shows how much this is on people’s minds and we are encouraging everyone to make their health and wellbeing a top priority.”

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While the WHO study did not cover the period of the pandemic, WHO officials said the recent jump in remote working and the economic slowdown may have increased the risks associated with long working hours.

“We have some evidence that shows that when countries go into national lockdown, the number of hours worked increase by about 10%,” WHO technical officer Frank Pega said.

The report said working long hours was estimated to be responsible for about a third of all work-related disease, making it the largest occupational disease burden.

The researchers said that there were two ways longer working hours led to poor health outcomes: firstly through direct physiological responses to stress, and secondly because longer hours meant workers were more likely to adopt health-harming behaviours such as tobacco and alcohol use, less sleep and exercise, and an unhealthy diet.

Andrew Falls, 32, a service engineer based in Leeds, says the long hours at his previous employer took a toll on his mental and physical health.”Fifty to 55 hour weeks were the norm. I was also away from home for weeks on end.”

“Stress, depression, anxiety, it was a cauldron of bad feedback loops,” he says. “I was in a constant state of being run down.”After five years he left the job to retrain as a software engineer. The number of people working long hours was increasing before the pandemic struck, according to the WHO, and was around 9% of the total global population.

In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that people working from home during the pandemic were putting in an average of six hours of unpaid overtime a week. People who did not work from home put in an average of 3.6 hours a week overtime, the ONS said.

The WHO suggests that employers should now take this into account when assessing the occupational health risks of their workers. Capping hours would be beneficial for employers as that had been shown to increase productivity, Mr Pega said. “It’s really a smart choice to not increase long working hours in an economic crisis.”

Source: Long working hours killing 745,000 people a year, study finds – BBC News

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References

“Spain introduces new working hours law requiring employees to clock in and out”. Idealista. Retrieved 30 April 2020.

Brain Fog: How Trauma, Uncertainty and Isolation Have Affected Our Minds and Memory

After a year of lockdown, many of us are finding it hard to think clearly, or remember what happened when. Neuroscientists and behavioural experts explain why

Before the pandemic, psychoanalyst Josh Cohen’s patients might come into his consulting room, lie down on the couch and talk about the traffic or the weather, or the rude person on the tube. Now they appear on his computer screen and tell him about brain fog. They talk with urgency of feeling unable to concentrate in meetings, to read, to follow intricately plotted television programms.

“There’s this sense of debilitation, of losing ordinary facility with everyday life; a forgetfulness and a kind of deskilling,” says Cohen, author of the self-help book How to Live. What to Do. Although restrictions are now easing across the UK, with greater freedom to circulate and socialize, he says lockdown for many of us has been “a contraction of life, and an almost parallel contraction of mental capacity”.

This dulled, useless state of mind – epitomized by the act of going into a room and then forgetting why we are there – is so boring, so lifeless. But researchers believe it is far more interesting than it feels: even that this common experience can be explained by cutting-edge neuroscience theories, and that studying it could further scientific understanding of the brain and how it changes.

I ask Jon Simons, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, could it really be something “science”? “Yes, it’s definitely something science – and it’s helpful to understand that this feeling isn’t unusual or weird,” he says. “There isn’t something wrong with us. It’s a completely normal reaction to this quite traumatic experience we’ve collectively had over the last 12 months or so.”

What we call brain fog, Catherine Loveday, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Westminster, calls poor “cognitive function”. That covers “everything from our memory, our attention and our ability to problem-solve to our capacity to be creative. Essentially, it’s thinking.” And recently, she’s heard a lot of complaints about it: “Because I’m a memory scientist, so many people are telling me their memory is really poor, and reporting this cognitive fog,” she says.

She knows of only two studies exploring the phenomenon as it relates to lockdown (as opposed to what some people report as a symptom of Covid-19, or long Covid): one from Italy, in which participants subjectively reported these sorts of problems with attention, time perception and organisation; another in Scotland which objectively measured participants’ cognitive function across a range of tasks at particular times during the first lockdown and into the summer. Results showed that people performed worse when lockdown started, but improved as restrictions loosened, with those who continued shielding improving more slowly than those who went out more.

Loveday and Simons are not surprised. Given the isolation and stasis we have had to endure until very recently, these complaints are exactly what they expected – and they provide the opportunity to test their theories as to why such brain fog might come about. There is no one explanation, no single source, Simons says: “There are bound to be a lot of different factors that are coming together, interacting with each other, to cause these memory impairments, attentional deficits and other processing difficulties.”

One powerful factor could be the fact that everything is so samey. Loveday explains that the brain is stimulated by the new, the different, and this is known as the orienting response: “From the minute we’re born – in fact, from before we’re born – when there is a new stimulus, a baby will turn its head towards it. And if as adults we are watching a boring lecture and someone walks into the room, it will stir our brain back into action.”

Most of us are likely to feel that nobody new has walked into our room for quite some time, which might help to explain this sluggish feeling neurologically: “We have effectively evolved to stop paying attention when nothing changes, but to pay particular attention when things do change,” she says.

Loveday suggests that if we can attend a work meeting by phone while walking in a park, we might find we are more awake and better able to concentrate, thanks to the changing scenery and the exercise; she is recording some lectures as podcasts, rather than videos, so students can walk while listening.

She also suggests spending time in different rooms at home – or if you only have one room, try “changing what the room looks like. I’m not saying redecorate – but you could change the pictures on the walls or move things around for variety, even in the smallest space.”

The blending of one day into the next with no commute, no change of scene, no change of cast, could also have an important impact on the way the brain processes memories, Simons explains. Experiences under lockdown lack “distinctiveness” – a crucial factor in “pattern separation”. This process, which takes place in the hippocampus, at the centre of the brain, allows individual memories to be successfully encoded, ensuring there are few overlapping features, so we can distinguish one memory from another and retrieve them efficiently.

The fuggy, confused sensation that many of us will recognize, of not being able to remember whether something happened last week or last month, may well be with us for a while, Simons says: “Our memories are going to be so difficult to differentiate. It’s highly likely that in a year or two, we’re still going to look back on some particular event from this last year and say, when on earth did that happen?”

Perhaps one of the most important features of this period for brain fog has been what Loveday calls the “degraded social interaction” we have endured. “It’s not the same as natural social interaction that we would have,” she says. “Our brains wake up in the presence of other people – being with others is stimulating.”

We each have our own optimum level of stimulation – some might feel better able to function in lockdown with less socialising; others are left feeling dozy, deadened. Loveday is investigating the science of how levels of social interaction, among other factors, have affected memory function in lockdown. She also wonders if our alternative to face-to-face communication – platforms such as Zoom – could have an impact on concentration and attention.

She theorises – and is conducting a study to explore this – that the lower audio-visual quality could “create a bigger cognitive load for the brain, which has to fill in the gaps, so you have to concentrate much harder.” If this is more cognitively demanding, as she thinks, we could be left feeling foggier, with “less brain space available to actually listen to what people are saying and process it, or to concentrate on anything else.”

Carmine Pariante, professor of biological psychiatry at King’s College London, is also intrigued by brain fog. “It’s a common experience, but it’s very complex,” he says. “I think it is the cognitive equivalent of feeling emotionally distressed; it’s almost the way the brain expresses sadness, beyond the emotion.” He takes a psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinological approach to the phenomenon – which is even more fascinating than it is difficult to say. He believes we need to think about the mind, the brain, the immune and the hormonal systems to understand the various mental and physical processes that might underlie this lockdown haze, which he sees as a consequence of stress.

We might all agree that the uncertainty of the last year has been quite stressful – more so for some than for others. When our mind appraises a situation as stressful, Pariante explains, our brain immediately transmits the message to our immune and endocrine systems. These systems respond in exactly the same way they did in early humans two million years ago on the African savannah, when stress did not relate to home schooling, but to fear of being eaten by a large animal.

The heart beats faster so we can run away, inflammation is initiated by the immune system to protect against bacterial infection in case we are bitten, the hormone cortisol is released to focus our attention on the predator in front of us and nothing else. Studies have demonstrated that a dose of cortisol will lower a person’s attention, concentration and memory for their immediate environment. Pariante explains: “This fog that people feel is just one manifestation of this mechanism. We’ve lost the function of these mechanisms, but they are still there.” Useful for fighting a lion – not for remembering where we put our glasses.

When I have experienced brain fog, I have seen it as a distraction, a kind of laziness, and tried to push through, to force myself to concentrate. But listening to Loveday, Simons and Pariante, I’m starting to think about it differently; perhaps brain fog is a signal we should listen to. “Absolutely, I think it’s exactly that,” says Pariante. “It’s our body and our brain telling us that we’re pushing it too much at the moment. It’s definitely a signal – an alarm bell.” When we hear this alarm, he says, we should stop and ask ourselves, “Why is my brain fog worse today than yesterday?” – and take as much time off as we can, rather than pushing ourselves harder and risking further emotional suffering, and even burnout.

For Cohen, the phenomenon of brain fog is an experience of one of the most disturbing aspects of the unconscious. He talks of Freud’s theory of drives – the idea that we have one force inside us that propels us towards life; another that pulls us towards death. The life drive, Cohen explains, impels us to create, make connections with others, seek “the expansion of life”. The death drive, by contrast, urges “a kind of contraction. It’s a move away from life and into a kind of stasis or entropy”. Lockdown – which, paradoxically, has done so much to preserve life – is like the death drive made lifestyle.

With brain fog, he says, we are seeing “an atrophy of liveliness. People are finding themselves to be more sluggish, that their physical and mental weight is somehow heavier, it’s hard to carry around – to drag.” Freud has a word for this: trägheit – translated as a “sluggishness”, but which Cohen says literally translates as “draggyness”. We could understand brain fog as an encounter with our death drive – with the part of us which, in Cohen’s words, is “going in the opposite direction of awareness and sparkiness, and in the direction of inanimacy and shutting down”.

This brings to mind another psychoanalyst: Wilfred Bion. He theorised that we have – at some moments – a will to know something about ourselves and our lives, even when that knowledge is profoundly painful. This, he called being in “K”. But there is also a powerful will not to know, a wish to defend against this awareness so that we can continue to live cosseted by lies; this is to be in “–K” (spoken as “minus K”).

I wonder if the pandemic has been a reality some of us feel is too horrific to bear. The uncertainty, the deaths, the trauma, the precarity; perhaps we have unconsciously chosen to live in the misty, murky brain fog of –K rather than to face, to suffer, the true pain and horror of our situation. Perhaps we are having problems with our thinking because the truth of the experience, for many of us, is simply unthinkable.

I ask Simons if, after the pandemic, he thinks the structure of our brains will look different on a brain scan: “Probably not,” he says. For some of us, brain fog will be a temporary state, and will clear as we begin to live more varied lives. But, he says, “It’s possible for some people – and we are particularly concerned about older adults – that where there is natural neurological decline, it will be accelerated.”

Simons and a team of colleagues are running a study to investigate the impact of lockdown on memory in people aged over 65 – participants from a memory study that took place shortly before the pandemic, who have now agreed to sit the same tests a year on, and answer questions about life in the interim.

One aim of this study is to test the hypothesis of cognitive reserve – the idea that having a rich and varied social life, filled with intellectual stimulation, challenging, novel experiences and fulfilling relationships, might help to keep the brain stimulated and protect against age-related cognitive decline. Simons’ advice to us all is to get out into the world, to have as rich and varied experiences and interactions as we can, to maximize our cognitive reserve within the remaining restrictions.

The more we do, the more the brain fog should clear, he says: “We all experience grief, times in our lives where we feel like we can’t function at all,” he says. “These things are mercifully temporary, and we do recover.”

By:

Source: Brain fog: how trauma, uncertainty and isolation have affected our minds and memory | Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

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Loneliness Is a Public Health Problem: This Low-Tech Intervention Can Help

Loneliness is not just a feeling; it is also a public health problem that has been linked to increased risk of mental health issues, heart disease and even death. With rates of loneliness on the rise in the U. S. and around the world, people are addressing this crisis using everything from companion robots to social networking sites and apps. A new study in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that a better solution may lie in a much older, more ubiquitous form of technology: phone calls.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced people into isolation, separating them from friends, co-workers and loved ones, experts were beginning to consider loneliness an epidemic—one affecting an estimated three out of five Americans. A study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), published last year, recognizes the health risks social isolation and loneliness present—and the limited interventions available to address them.

“There is a lot of variability in terms of the types of interventions, the level of evidence to support them and the rigor of evidence,” says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, who was a member of the NASEM committee that published the report.

Some potential solutions, such as grassroots-based pen-pal programs for socially isolated adults, sound promising based on anecdotal evidence, but researchers have not adequately studied them. Other experiments are still ongoing: Holt-Lunstad, in collaboration with the social-networking service Nextdoor and researchers in the U.K. and Australia, conducted a study (currently being prepared for publication) that suggests that performing small acts of kindness for neighbors reduced the likelihood of feeling lonely and socially isolated.

Now a new paper published in JAMA Psychiatry shows that a program of phone calls focused on empathetic conversation can help. Over the course of four weeks, the experiment saw an overall reduction in symptoms of loneliness, depression and anxiety in at-risk adults aged 27 to 101. “It makes sense,” says Linda Fried, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study. “In an emergency time like the pandemic, phone calls can make a big difference in allaying feelings of fright and anxiety.”

“A lot of care went into designing the protocol so that it was all about the person at the other end,” says Maninder Kahlon, lead author of the study and executive director of Factor Health, an organization for developing health care programs at the University of Texas at Austin. For example, the experiment customized each person’s program depending on how frequently they wanted to receive calls—from two to five times per week—and the best time of day for them to talk.

The researchers also considered how to make the phone conversations more empathetic. Steven Tomlinson, co-author of the study and an associate professor of leadership and administration at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Tex., drew on his experiences reviewing successful sales calls to identify which variables could be applied to the intervention to help callers connect with other people.

These characteristics included asking open questions, making one point at a time to allow the call receiver to talk and following up on “clues” in the conversation to demonstrate understanding. Instead of writing a script, the researchers trained 16 callers, aged 17 to 23, in these techniques and instructed them to discuss any topic the call receiver wanted to talk about, such as an ongoing home-improvement project. “It’s not just calling up on people to check in,” Kahlon says. “It’s the deliberate thinking about how you build trust.”

Although it remains unclear if the effects last beyond the four-week study period, the researchers hope the study serves as a model for an ongoing program. If health care systems and public health agencies start building a workforce of empathetic callers, it could do more than alleviate loneliness, Kahlon suggests. Similar programs might help people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety and complement patients’ management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

A phone-based intervention involving layperson callers would be accessible and scalable, but it would still require callers to undergo training and take on a lot of work. “It’s important that [the intervention] is simple and intuitive,” Kahlon says, but “simple does not mean easy.” Holt-Lunstad, who was not involved in the new study, also points out that loneliness has different sources and thus may need varying solutions. “One approach may not be appropriate for all, particularly if it’s not sensitive to the underlying causes,” Holt-Lunstad says. “Getting a phone call may work for one person, but participating in a group activity may be better for others.”

COVID has emphasized the need to address growing feelings of loneliness and isolation. For instance, Japan recently appointed a minister of loneliness in the wake of increasing rates of suicide in the country; the U.K. created a similar official position in 2018. “It may take some time to understand the long-term effects of the pandemic [on loneliness and social isolation],” Holt-Lunstad says. “One of the key takeaways from this past year is there is greater awareness of how important social connection is for our well-being.”

By Kasra Zarei

Source: Loneliness Is a Public Health Problem: This Low-Tech Intervention Can Help – Scientific American

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Why Comparing Feelings Isn’t Helpful

A woman with a sad expression looking out the window.

When you are coping with something difficult in your life, it isn’t uncommon for someone else to say “it could be worse.” You might even find yourself thinking, “Well, at least I don’t have it as bad as that person does.” Comparing your own pain and other emotions to others is common, but that doesn’t mean that it is always helpful.

Comparisons are often natural and can, in some instances, even be helpful. They can serve as a way to gauge our progress or determine what might be appropriate in a certain situation. In other cases, comparisons can stifle growth, prevent self-compassion, and even make it more difficult to empathize with other people.

Some ways that comparing feelings might be harmful are listed below.

People Experience Things Differently

Each individual has different resources and experiences that play a role in how they are affected by different emotions. Just as not all people feel joy in the same way, not everyone feels pain in the same way. There is not a hierarchy of emotion that says that one person’s feelings are better or worse, stronger or weaker than someone else’s.

For example, if you are going through an emotionally painful loss, you might be tempted to compare what you are feeling to someone else who has gone through something that seems objectively worse. It is important to remember that hurt is hurt. Comparing your pain to someone else who seems to be suffering more only serves to minimize what you are feeling.

Comparison Often Leads to Minimization

The focus of comparing your emotions is often to minimize either what you are feeling or what they are feeling. Some examples include:

  • You might think that you don’t have the right to be upset about something because someone else is going through something worse.
  • You might feel like you don’t have the right to feel lonely because you have more friends and family than another person does.

But someone else’s experiences do not negate your own. In such cases, comparing feelings is a way of minimizing your own experiences.

This is something that you might do to avoid feeling a negative emotion. Rather than face it, it is easier to dismiss it as being “not as bad as it could be.” It is a form of toxic positivity, in which people feel that they have to hide or reject any negative feelings in order to focus on a false sense of optimism.

It Keeps You From Facing Your Feelings

Even if someone else’s situation is objectively “worse” than yours, it doesn’t mean that you are not experiencing very real, very valid emotions. You are allowed to feel upset when someone hurts you or disappointed when something doesn’t work out the way that you wanted it to.

Yes, other people also have their own pain and disappointments to face, but those experiences don’t diminish or eclipse yours.

Negative feelings can increase stress when they aren’t dealt with properly.1 But even difficult emotions can be important sources of information. They can tell you that something needs to change and help motivate you to make positive changes in your life.

Everyone Deserves Help

Comparisons often lead people to think that they can just deal with problems on their own. Rather than reach out for help and support, people are often left feeling that their issues aren’t serious enough to warrant attention.

A person who is experiencing symptoms of depression, for example, might not seek out help because they think that they don’t have any “reason” to feel depressed, especially when they compare their life and experiences to other people who seem to have it worse. This means that they won’t seek out the help that they need, whether it is therapy, medication, or support.

In such cases, comparisons can lead to avoiding your problems rather than finding ways to address them. Even if you feel like your problems “aren’t that bad,” you still deserve support and help.

How to Respond Instead

The next time you are tempted to compare your feelings to someone else’s, take a step back. Will it be helpful? Or are you using it as a way to dismiss your emotions? Instead of comparing:

  • Allow yourself to sit with your emotions without judgment.
  • Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and remind yourself that your emotions are valid.
  • Lean on others but don’t feel the need to minimize your struggles or compare your problems to theirs.
  • Avoid judging other people’s emotions. Instead, focus on valuing the fact that they are willing to share what they are feeling with you.
  • Listen to what people are saying. Acknowledge what they are feeling. Simply saying that you can see how hard it must be and that you are there to listen can be a crucial way of offering validation and support.

Remember that when someone is in a vulnerable place, it is not the time to make judgments or comparisons. And that applies to your own emotions as well.

Dealing with those emotions, even when they are difficult, is what allows people the chance to learn, grow, and heal from their experiences. Sometimes sharing your emotions can help. Research also suggests that just talking about what you are feeling can help reduce the intensity of those emotions.2

When Comparison Might Be Helpful

The reality is that some degree of comparison is inevitable. People are simply wired to notice what other people are experiencing and then consider how it compares to their own situation. And in some cases, it can actually have a positive effect, including:

  • Comparisons may help you feel gratitude for your own life.
  • It may help you consider options and think about what you want.
  • It can lead to observational learning where you gain knowledge without actually having to go through that experience yourself.
  • It can help you see what you need to do in order to achieve what you want in life.
  • It may help you feel more compassion for others, which can help compel you to volunteer to help.

It is important to remember, however, that minimizing your pain is not a part of gratitude. You can be grateful for the good things in your life and still feel disappointed, sad, or upset.

A Word From Verywell

The next time you find yourself thinking “it could be worse,” think about what those types of thoughts are actually accomplishing. If it’s a way to minimize or deny your feelings, focus on your emotions without judging or shaming yourself for feeling such things.

And before you tell someone else that at least they don’t have it as bad as someone else, pause and remind yourself that such statements are rarely helpful. Instead, focus on being a supportive listener.

Kendra Cherry

 

 

Source: Why Comparing Feelings Isn’t Helpful

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Beauty Is In The Brain: AI Reads Brain Data, Generates Personally Attractive Images

Researchers have succeeded in making an AI understand our subjective notions of what makes faces attractive. The device demonstrated this knowledge by its ability to create new portraits on its own that were tailored to be found personally attractive to individuals. The results can be utilised, for example, in modelling preferences and decision-making as well as potentially identifying unconscious attitudes.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and University of Copenhagen investigated whether a computer would be able to identify the facial features we consider attractive and, based on this, create new images matching our criteria. The researchers used artificial intelligence to interpret brain signals and combined the resulting brain-computer interface with a generative model of artificial faces. This enabled the computer to create facial images that appealed to individual preferences.

“In our previous studies, we designed models that could identify and control simple portrait features, such as hair color and emotion. However, people largely agree on who is blond and who smiles. Attractiveness is a more challenging subject of study, as it is associated with cultural and psychological factors that likely play unconscious roles in our individual preferences. Indeed, we often find it very hard to explain what it is exactly that makes something, or someone, beautiful: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” says Senior Researcher and Docent Michiel Spapé from the Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki.

The study, which combines computer science and psychology, was published in February in the IEEE Transactions in Affective Computing journal.

Preferences exposed by the brain

Initially, the researchers gave a generative adversarial neural network (GAN) the task of creating hundreds of artificial portraits. The images were shown, one at a time, to 30 volunteers who were asked to pay attention to faces they found attractive while their brain responses were recorded via electroencephalography (EEG).

“It worked a bit like the dating app Tinder: the participants ‘swiped right’ when coming across an attractive face. Here, however, they did not have to do anything but look at the images. We measured their immediate brain response to the images,” Spapé explains.

The researchers analysed the EEG data with machine learning techniques, connecting individual EEG data through a brain-computer interface to a generative neural network.

“A brain-computer interface such as this is able to interpret users’ opinions on the attractiveness of a range of images. By interpreting their views, the AI model interpreting brain responses and the generative neural network modelling the face images can together produce an entirely new face image by combining what a particular person finds attractive,” says Academy Research Fellow and Associate Professor Tuukka Ruotsalo, who heads the project.

To test the validity of their modelling, the researchers generated new portraits for each participant, predicting they would find them personally attractive. Testing them in a double-blind procedure against matched controls, they found that the new images matched the preferences of the subjects with an accuracy of over 80%.

“The study demonstrates that we are capable of generating images that match personal preference by connecting an artificial neural network to brain responses. Succeeding in assessing attractiveness is especially significant, as this is such a poignant, psychological property of the stimuli.

Computer vision has thus far been very successful at categorising images based on objective patterns. By bringing in brain responses to the mix, we show it is possible to detect and generate images based on psychological properties, like personal taste,” Spapé explains.

Potential for exposing unconscious attitudes

Ultimately, the study may benefit society by advancing the capacity for computers to learn and increasingly understand subjective preferences, through interaction between AI solutions and brain-computer interfaces.

“If this is possible in something that is as personal and subjective as attractiveness, we may also be able to look into other cognitive functions such as perception and decision-making. Potentially, we might gear the device towards identifying stereotypes or implicit bias and better understand individual differences,” says Spapé.

By: University of Helsinki

Source: Beauty is in the brain: AI reads brain data, generates personally attractive images — ScienceDaily

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Anjan Chatterjee uses tools from evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience to study one of nature’s most captivating concepts: beauty. Learn more about the science behind why certain configurations of line, color and form excite us in this fascinating, deep look inside your brain. Check out more TED talks: http://www.ted.com The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. Follow TED on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TEDTalks Like TED on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TED Subscribe to our channel: https://www.youtube.com/TED
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Journal Reference:

  1. Michiel Spape, Keith Davis, Lauri Kangassalo, Niklas Ravaja, Zania Sovijarvi-Spape, Tuukka Ruotsalo. Brain-computer interface for generating personally attractive images. IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, 2021; 1 DOI: 10.1109/TAFFC.2021.3059043
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5 Workplace Behaviors That Impact Employee Mental Health

Even companies with the best intentions can sometimes take a wrong turn when trying to do right by their employees. Damaging habits and behaviors can inadvertently get absorbed into company culture; and when this happens, it can send the wrong signal about a company’s priorities and values. One of the biggest challenges lies in finding the sweet spot between business needs and employee welfare and happiness. Naturally, you want a high-performing team; but not at the expense of employee well-being and mental health.

Here, we take a closer look at some common workplace conventions—and the ways that they might be inadvertently undermining your mental health objectives.

    1. Having a “hustle” culture

It’s great to be productive, but over-emphasizing hard work and profitability can be a slippery slope to toxic productivity. It can lead to individuals attaching their feelings of self-worth to the amount of work they’re doing, and feeling like performance metrics are more important than their mental well-being.

Similarly, celebrating employees who stay late—or even lightly teasing those who start late and leave (or log-off) early (or on time)—can subtly contribute to a culture of overwork and performative busy-ness. Left unchecked, this can result in resentment and burnout among other employees who feel compelled to prove their own commitment to work .

A small fix:

Instead of celebrating regular overtime, try opening up communication about ways to include breaks and downtime throughout the day. You can support this with anecdotes about the healthy mental habits of people in the team (assuming they are open to sharing). For example: “Hey guys, Dave’s found a clever way to schedule regular breaks into his day around meetings!”

Also be sure to address long hours and overwork if you see a rising trend in the company, as it could be an indicator of unachievable work expectations.

2. Sending work emails or messages after hours

It happens to us all: maybe you only received a response on something late in the day, or you had an out-of-hours brainwave.

Sending the occasional evening or weekend message is fine, but doing it regularly implies that after-hours work is expected—which could pressure people into feeling they have to respond immediately.

The same goes for emails sent at the end of a working day with next-day deadlines (or, for example, Monday morning deadlines for work given out on Friday). These practices put a hefty burden on the recipient, which adds to stress and can contribute to burnout.

Now, it gets a bit harder to draw a line when you take into account the increasingly globalized world of work, which necessitates out-of-hours communications due to different time zones. But even in these cases, it helps to be explicit about expectations when sending messages, especially when you know the recipient is either about to log off or has signed off for the day.

A small fix:

If you need to send emails after hours or on weekends, be sure to add a note about how the email can be read or dealt with on the next working day. This takes pressure off the recipient and assures them that they won’t be penalized for not responding on the spot.

If you have a global team, it also helps to establish clear working hours for different countries, and to be clear about the fact that nobody is expected to read or respond to emails out of hours.

Also, no matter where in the world you or your recipient are, be sure to schedule enough time for them to deal with the task during their office hours! And remember—they may have other pre-existing work on their plate that might need to take precedence.

3. Only engaging in “shop-talk”

It’s easy to find things to talk about around the water cooler in the office. But take those organic run-ins out of the equation, and what you’re left with is often work chat and little else.

Working from home has made it harder to bond with colleagues. The natural tendency is to get work done and to only chat about the process, rarely (if ever) about other things.

This removes a big social aspect from work, which can take a significant mental toll on employees and affect their enjoyment of work. This is especially apparent for employees who don’t already have solid work friend groups, either because they’re new or because their friends have since left the company.

A small fix:

There’s so much more to people than just who they are at work. To get some non-work conversations going, design interactions that aren’t work related.

You could set up a monthly ‘coffee roulette’ to group random employees up for a chat. This can help to break the ice a bit and link up individuals who might not otherwise speak during work hours. Or you could arrange sharing sessions where people are encouraged to talk about their challenges and triumphs from life outside the workplace.

Another alternative is to set up interest groups in the company, to help like-minded employees find each other and bond over a shared interest in certain hobbies or things.

4. Only having group chats and check-ins

Big group check-ins and catch-up meetings are important. But group settings can pressure people to put a good spin on things, or cause them to feel like they’re being irrational or weak for struggling when everyone else seems to be doing well. 

This could result in problems being missed and getting out of hand, which in turn can take a big toll on mental health and well-being.

A small fix:

Some people may not be willing to speak candidly to a large group, so be sure to set aside time for employees to speak one-to-one to a manager who can  address any problems that may arise. It’s also important to make sure everyone understands that they won’t be penalized or looked down on for speaking up about any issues they may be having.

5. Not talking about mental wellness

Perhaps the biggest way your company might be undermining mental health is simply by… not talking about it.

Some managers may not feel equipped to have these conversations, or may not be sure about the etiquette or convention around holding these conversations. But by not broaching these topics at all, employees may feel like they can’t speak out about things they’re struggling with.

The result is a rose-tinted veneer that may be hiding deeper problems under the surface. And studies show there likely are problems. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 employed adults in the U.S. experienced a mental health issue back in the previous year, with 71% of adults reporting at least one symptom of stress. That number has likely shot up now.

A small fix:

Be candid about mental health and encourage people to share their burdens and struggles—especially leaders. You can help by actively promoting good habits like mindfulness and meditation, proper work-life balance, and reaching out for help when necessary.

By being more honest about struggles and mental wellness challenges, managers can reduce the stigma and create a more open culture where people feel able to admit they’re struggling.

As a company, it’s important to be careful about the ripple effects that even small actions—or, in some cases, inaction—may have on employees. The simple fact is that the signals you send may be reinforcing unhealthy habits.

That’s why it’s so important to be aware of deeper currents that run in your organization and to proactively address any harmful behaviors.

By staying aware and making a few small tweaks and behavioral changes, you can hit the reset button when necessary and encourage good habits that protect employee mental wellness.

For more tips on how to build a more inclusive workplace culture that supports your employees’ mental well-being and happiness, check out:

By: https://www.calm.com/

.

TEDx Talks

Is Mental Health important​ in the workplace? Tom explores all things related to workplace mental health, including mental health in school workplaces, in this insightful video. Tom helps employers figure out mental health at work. He reviews workplaces, trains managers and writes plans. Since 2012 he has interviewed more than 130 people, surveyed thousands and worked across the UK with corporations, civil service, charities, the public sector, schools and small business. Tom has worked with national mental health charities Mind and Time to Change and consults widely across the UK. He lives in Norfolk and is mildly obsessed with cricket and camping.

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Secrets That Your Glasses Reveal About Your Personality

If you know anything about the history of glasses, you would know that they weren’t always viewed as a popular fashion accessory. Glasses for fashion used to be a remote idea that was only feasible in the galaxy far far away.

Specs were only used as a means for vision correction and anybody who wore them was either considered a nerd or a bookworm. 

As portrayed in hollywood movies and shows, glasses represented shy or reserved souls who couldn’t do no wrong. Or they were used to portray insecure bespectacled ladies in rom-coms who removed their glasses to unleash the sexy diva within. 

But, this negative reputation of glasses was soon refuted with the arrival of designer glasses frames that were everything from cute, stylish, nerdy to sexy. 

It’s a different story now. People with 20/20 vision wear frames like transparent glasses or tortoiseshells to make a strong fashion statement. 

The psychology behind glasses 

Glasses shifted from being a vision necessity to being a staple fashion accessory. Today, the choices are abundant with different styles of frames in different designs and colours. 

No matter if you wear glasses for fashion or specs with a prescription, they are saying a lot about you while sitting quietly on your face. Your eyewear holds the power to make you look trustworthy, honest, intelligent, or sophisticated.

Apart from sending cues about your personality, your designer glasses also help others to form a perception of you. They open the door for subconscious evaluation and here is what people might think of you.

You are easy to approach

Did we mention that glasses make you look more intelligent? So you better not act all surprised when people come to you to seek your valuable opinion on something. Especially if you are sporting transparent glasses or hipster frames. 

Your eyeglasses help forming people’s perception of you. It is easier to strike up a conversation with someone who appears smart and trustworthy due to their specs than a non glasses wearer whose personality can’t be predicted.

It’s almost as if your glasses yield some kind of special powers. Also, wearing glasses is a way to tell the world that you are not embarrassed by your flaws (in this case, your imperfect vision). Instead, you are rocking your glasses with pride to let out your human side. What more does a person need to be approachable?

That becomes your signature look

We all have a signature look. It is described around the way we usually style ourselves. For instance, if you like to go bold on accessories, that becomes your signature style. 

Whether you wear designer glasses in chunky frames or specs in thin titanium frames, they are making a statement about your style.

When you sport glasses every day, they kind of become your signature look. We are not saying that they define the type of person you are. But, they become an inseparable part of your overall appearance.

The signature look is not only for people coming from creative or artistic fields. You can be a student with transparent glasses or wooden frames and they become your signature look. 

It is not a secret that glasses give a powerful boost of self-confidence. So, if you used to shy away from wearing them before, just bear in mind what wonders they could have done for your self-confidence and esteem. 

They highlight your best features 

What glasses you choose to wear is a matter of personal choice and style preference. We all want our individuality to reflect in our appearance. 

Another good thing that comes along with wearing designer glasses is that they help you put your best features forward. If you have blue eyes, you can emphasize the colour with frames in blue shades or muted tones. And if there is a facial feature you would like to hide, glasses can do that as well. 

In case you want your eyeglasses to just sit there without interfering with your overall look, transparent glasses or clear frames will do just that.

There are so many different types of frames out there. It all comes down to your features, skin tone, and lifestyle to choose the right one for you. If you fancy a rather minimalistic look, rimless frames are the best choice. Picking subtle frames when buying reading glasses online can be great too. 

People identify you by your glasses

Eyeglass wearers have the advantage to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Thanks to their glasses, their individuality is far more prominent than those who don’t wear any.

If you like to wear those big chunky frames in weird patterns and unique designs, people will recognize you in a second no matter where you go.

Just like tattoos and lip piercings create a unique look, glasses are made to do just that, even more so, when you wear statement glasses. Transparent glasses might not be a smart choice when you are looking to distinguish yourself from other people. 

For a unique look, don’t hesitate to go for intimidating frames like oversized glasses or quirky geometric specs. You can do that to your readers as well. You will find a variety of frame styles when you search for reading glasses online. Pick out a unique and bold style to stand out from the crowd.

They help you in your career

Since your glasses give out an intellectual vibe, they help you in situations like job interviews and things like that. Sounds a bit silly, right?

Wearing glasses makes people think that you are one of those intelligent people who will be the right fit for the job. If you are a man, stick to rectangular or square frames in neutral shades to do the interview right. If you are a lady, designer glasses cat-eye frames with modest curves and black colour will bode well with your career progression. 

Now that you know what glasses are capable of, do you need any more reason to wear them? Even if your eyes are doing just fine, there are countless glasses for fashion out there for you. 

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By Jannet on February 2, 2021 in NEWS

Recent Posts

Meetology#psychology#humaninteraction#socialskills

If you wear glasses, have you ever wondered how they might affect how people perceive you? It seems the old fashioned stereotypes are, well, old fashioned. Studying Meetology® will equip you with the behavioral skills to create those vital human connections that power a successful career and fulfilling life. Start today by subscribing to my channel here on YouTube. Website… https://meetology.com​ Twitter… https://twitter.com/Meetology​ Facebook… https://www.facebook.com/StudyMeetology/​ LinkedIn… https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathane…

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Anxiety In Product Development

Last year I stumbled across an article about anxiety in men. It highlighted how it can surface in atypical symptoms such as anger. I learned to recognise and work on my own anxiety. It also lead me to recognise anxiety in others. Soon I realised this does not only affect other people but also organisations and processes. Let me introduce you to anxiety driven development.

We already have fear driven development

Fear and anxiety produce similar responses. Fear is based on a concrete threat. Whereas anxiety is fuzzier and more vague. Fear driven development is graspable which makes it easier to talk about it.

As an engineer it could look like this: You’re afraid of pushing your code because you could break the build. Or you shy away of touching a method because you fear shipping a bug.

If you are a product manager you might try to squeeze that extra feature into a release because you fear that you won’t be able to close a new customer otherwise.

Patterns of anxiety in product development

But anxiety runs deeper than this. Anxiety becomes more of an underlying current. Here are the most common anxiety driven development patterns I have observed,

Play not to lose

Your product is driven by the fear of losing. Losing market share, customers or ratings. You are driven to keep up with whatever the competition does. So you go out of your way to get every feature built that your competitors ship.

As a product manager you might push a feature request to the top of the backlog with every release announcements of your competitors. You can even call that agile because you’re adapting to change quickly, right? Unfortunately what you’re doing is destabilising your development flow and hinder the long term success of your product. You will always be at least one step behind, always trying to close the gap. This will choke all innovation because who has time to take additional risks when you’re barely keeping pace?

Play to win

Play to win instead. The treatment for this form of anxiety is to develop a strong unique selling proposition (USP). If you can differentiate yourself from your competition you will not be reeled into the fruitless thought pattern of playing not to lose. Do not try to differentiate yourself by price alone. This is a very weak USP, just waiting for the next competitor to undercut you, speeding up the race to the bottom. Also it creates almost no customer loyality.

All that glitters is not gold

If you’re anxious your business is falling behind but you can’t quite pinpoint why you will act in a continued state of emergency. You will chase quick wins. This might calm the the anxiety for a moment but it won’t last long. It’s possible to make a team stay late or rally the whole company behind you for an initiative. Once. But the more often you cry wolf the less likely it is you get the desired response. If your body is being continuously flooded with stress hormones it will render it incapable of responding to stressful situations adequately. The same goes for your organisation.

If you push your team every quarter to add a last minute feature for the opportunity of a featuring in a prominent partner store your team will anticipate this and instead already create buffers beforehand. The emergency response will create a fatigue which will appear in the form of demotivation, inflated estimates and non-commitment. All of this hurts the true output, fuelling your anxiety even more.

Steering the ship

To break out of such a vicious circle practice saying no. Take a step back and craft an inspiring, authentic vision. Let this vision influence an actionable strategy. You can then break your strategy down into a rolling wave plan with more details of the near future. This gives you clarity on the current work while not losing the bigger picture. Ultimately you will be less swayed to jump onto every potential quick win.

Permit A 38

Anxiety can make you feel out of control. What’s a natural response to this? You try everything to regain control. But that perceived control can in truth be an overly bureaucratic process which slows down your product development, once again feeding your anxiety.

How could that look like? You might be creating or working on tickets that resemble a full-blown requirements sheet, specified to the very last detail. At the same time every idea has to go through various stages of approval (until it’s rejected). This is extremely damaging for motivation.

Cutting the red tape

To get out of such anxiety driven behaviours you need trust. Trust your own market research and strategy. And most of all trust your team. Empower the team to be the experts to achieve the product’s vision and let them self organise.

Awareness is the first step

Anxiety is widespread and on the rise, not just during a pandemic. It would be naive to believe that this does not also affect your workplace. Anxiety driven product development is hard to crack because it sustains itself. Take a step back and reflect on what you’re doing to break out of this Catch-22. Once you recognise your destructive behaviours it is much easier to change them.

Other articles:

  1. What’s wrong with traditional product ownership – Part 1 of 3
  2. Good intentions make bad roadmaps
  3. 5 steps to craft a vision for an established team
  4. Crafting a lean roadmap

By: andre.schweighofer

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Philip VanDusen

The number of people afflicted with anxiety has been steadily growing in recent years. For solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, creative professionals and consultants who work for themselves the negative affects of anxiety can be particularly acute. Here are some effective methods for reducing these emotional and psychological strains that can help you feel happier, more fulfilled and successful in your work and your business. _______________________ This video is targeted to my channel’s audience of entrepreneurs, designers, creative professionals and anyone interested in brand strategy, business planning, design, trend, marketing and communications. Philip VanDusen is the owner of Verhaal Brand Design, a brand strategy and design agency. Philip is a highly accomplished creative executive and expert in brand strategy, graphic design, marketing and creative management. Philip gives design, branding, marketing, career and business advice to creative professionals, entrepreneurs and companies on how to build successful brands for themselves or for the clients they serve. ——————————— WEBSITE: http://www.philipvandusen.com​ JOIN THE BRAND•MUSE NEWSLETTER: http://www.philipvandusen.com/muse​ FREE MINI-EBOOK DOWNLOAD: “9 Design Elements Your Brand Absolutely, Positively Needs” http://www.philipvandusen.com/direct-…​ TWITTER: https://twitter.com/philipvandusen​ YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/c/PhilipVanDusen​ PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/philipvandu…​ LIKE ME ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Verhaal-Bran…​ GET TUBEBUDDY – THE BEST TOOL FOR YOUTUBERS: https://www.tubebuddy.com/philipvandusen​ RECOMMENDED BOOKS: “Change By Design”, Tim Brown http://amzn.to/2mTFDrz​ “Imagine: How Creativity Works”, Jonah Lehrer http://amzn.to/2mJpQe9​ “Free Agent Nation” by Daniel Pink http://amzn.to/2mWlbpR​ “Orbiting the Giant Hairball” by Gordon MacKenzie http://amzn.to/2noTnIL​ “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work” by Kevin Carroll http://amzn.to/2moisCu​ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, Al Ries + Laura Ries http://amzn.to/2noZGwd​ “Change By Design”, by Tim Brown http://amzn.to/2uaXYjX​ “How To” by Michael Beirut http://amzn.to/2u9lnnh​ “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier http://amzn.to/2CAbYZk​ “Good Design Is A Tough Job” by Kirsten Dietz, Jochen Rädeker http://amzn.to/2CAIH0r​ “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley http://amzn.to/2wtAevL​ “The Edge: 50 Tips from Brands That Lead” by Allen Adamson http://amzn.to/2Ef6fse​ “Art + Design” by Rex Ray http://amzn.to/2yLMRRT​ “Expert Secrets” by Russel Brunson http://amzn.to/2zEDOBT​ “Shift Ahead” by Allen Adamson + Joel Steckel – http://amzn.to/2xLrEX4​ MY GEAR: Canon EOS 80D DLSR Camera: http://amzn.to/2nn4y4q​ Canon EOS 80D 18-55mm kit lens: http://amzn.to/2mnAAws​ Canon EOS 80D Yongnuo 35mm lens: http://amzn.to/2nniETh​ RODE NT2000 Condenser Mic: http://amzn.to/2mFoNvG​ Shure SM58 Dynamic Mic https://amzn.to/2B4CQkT​ ART Tube MP: Tube Mic PreAmp: http://amzn.to/2mFoVeE​ Rode Mic Boom: http://amzn.to/2nxNFmJ​ Sony MDR 7506 Headphones: http://amzn.to/2mFpsxa​ Screenflow 6.2: video editing software: http://amzn.to/2nxFLK3​ Neewer 2 Packs Dimmable Bi-color 480 LED Video Light http://amzn.to/2Cz8INK​ Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920: http://amzn.to/2nmX4hZ​ Rode smartLav+ Lavalier Microphone: http://amzn.to/2n2xL7B​ HP 27er 27-in IPS LED Backlit Monitor http://amzn.to/2w29u1S​ Anker 2.4G Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse http://amzn.to/2iZHKts​ TubeBuddy: https://www.tubebuddy.com/philipvandusen​ Adobe Creative Suite (2019 CC)

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