Where Loneliness Comes From

Loneliness is a poetic feeling, as agreeably melancholic to behold from a distance as it is terrible to experience up close. By one account, it is even the first feeling—and the first thing, in the entire universe, to be deemed bad. Adam’s loneliness prompts God to create Eve: “it is not good for man to be alone.”

When Milton picks up the story, in “Paradise Lost,” Satan tempts the pair after he is cast out of Heaven. (Loneliness correlates with aggression, some studies show.) And yet, for all the shame of being lonely—the scars of exclusion at school or rejection in love—other people’s solitude is often beautiful to us. This may be because most people don’t usually imagine loneliness to be deserved. Or perhaps it’s just that, by marking loneliness in others, we feel a little less alone ourselves.

After the pandemic hit, the yearning for connection registered more as an emergency than as an inducement to lyrical reflection. “Isolation was imposed on all of us at once,” Kristen Radtke writes in “Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness,” her new work of graphic nonfiction. The condition—“like being underwater,” Radtke writes, “fumbling against a muted world in which the sound of your own body is loud against the quiet of everything else”—was suddenly collective, synchronous.

Even our shared desire to be together was not enough to surmount it. “Seek You” was mostly composed before COVID, but quarantine may have exposed something for Radtke. She portrays loneliness not as innate or natural so much as socialized, filtered through and irradiated by culture, politics, and media. For her, the feeling is shaped by the imperfect conditions in which we live. Perhaps there was loneliness in Eden, but Radtke’s version is postlapsarian, partially cracked. Like a weed, it sprouts in gaps.

Radtke’s previous book, “Imagine Wanting Only This,” wove text and image, memoir and criticism, into a reverie on the theme of abandoned physical spaces. Something about the quality of her attention—a quickness to light on metaphors—seemed to sublime even concrete into longing. “Seek You,” which Radtke began in 2016, is swathed in a similar atmosphere. It wants to synthesize various evocative strands—loneliness’s tropes and ambassadors, relevant research, and her own and others’ memories—into a mood, an aesthetic.

(The comic could be compared to other art, such as “Inside,” by Bo Burnham, that tries to represent quarantine less as a historical phenomenon than as a vibe.) In both of her books, Radtke integrates disparate materials, and yet the structures that result aren’t solid or sharply defined. “Seek You” is full of ghostly hatch marks, thin lines, and muffled scenes washed in shadowy reds, blues, and purples. There are empty classrooms, bars with the stools upside down, and vacant lots. The human figures, many of them unnamed, hunch their shoulders and thrust their hands into pockets; they seem to be waiting to be told what to do.

Text describing the author's descriptions of loneliness alongside illustrations of a woman floating in greenishblue water.

Radtke grew up in rural Wisconsin. She writes that her town’s sparse geography inspired in her “a basic sense of unbelonging that many children are prone to feeling.” As an adult, she moved to New York and confronted “my childhood’s opposite: the inescapability of other people.” (Commuters, wallflowers, bodies maintaining their privacy in public—the book is lonelier for their presence.)

Often, tensions are raised by the idea of proximity. Radtke writes, for instance, about the history of the laugh track, which was first inserted into radio shows, offering solitary listeners the illusion of company. Yet, as the recordings closed one type of distance, they opened up another. The rise of radio and television, which also adopted laugh tracks, allowed families to retreat further—Radtke renders a TV dinner in closeup, its components perfectly atomized on the tray—from their neighbors. “Creating defined spaces around oneself was so foundational to the twentieth century American dream,” Radtke argues, “that separation was part of its formula.”

Loneliness may be built into the country’s story, but it has also amassed its own myths. One is that the dangers associated with isolation—shorter lifespans and higher rates of disease—can be wholly explained by a purported tendency to engage in riskier behaviors on our own. (They cannot.) Other misconceptions run deeper. “Loneliness implies a flaw in us like no other longing or sadness does,” Radtke suggests. “

‘I’m lonely’ translates to ‘I’m unlovable’ or ‘Nobody likes me.’ ” A perception that “everyone else is connected” often aggravates the matter, inflaming our anger and eroding trust. The book winds from Hannah Arendt, who described loneliness as “the common ground for terror,” to Trump (pithily conjured with a MAGA poster) to the parade of “loners” who have opened fire on sites of community life: schools and shopping centers, places of worship and work.

As attuned as Radtke is to the tragedy of isolation, she is suspicious of the archetype of the murderous reject. She writes that this “collective branding” of killers may not be accurate so much as it “offers some relief: if the shooter is a loner, he is not one of us.”Loneliness can be used to demonize, but it just as often imparts glamour, invoking notions of heroic individualism. Another section of “Seek You” studies the American cowboy, who “doesn’t need to rely on the inconvenient confines of government”—and doesn’t need the women who keep falling in love with him, either.

The cowboy, Radtke writes, aspires to “a commitment-free life.” (A page earlier, the words “Reagan Country” appear beneath a lasso-throwing silhouette. The book stops short of explicitly connecting the “commitment-free” ideal to Republican policy, but the parallel—and the sense of predation—is clear.) Elsewhere, Radtke considers the antiheroes of prestige TV: Don Draper, Walter White, Jimmy McNulty.

This terrain is well-trodden, but, by emphasizing the characters’ misery, Radtke finds a fresh angle. Her tone is neither reluctantly charmed nor righteously angry. The antihero must telegraph “disinterest in others,” she points out, because “it implies superiority, and only when a man is superior to others is his loneliness meaningful instead of pathetic.”

Characters like Don Draper from Mad Men and Elliot from Mr. Robot cover a spread describing their attributes.

In another chapter, we meet the cowboy’s female counterpart: the princess, trapped in a castle and cut off from the world. Here solitude signals weakness rather than power, and it’s possible to map Radtke’s characters onto a broader argument about gender and media. The cowboy section of the book is called “Watch”; the next section, which wanders from anonymous chat rooms to Instagram, stars mostly female figures, and is titled “Click.”

Radtke seems to imply that the lonely man is a creature of television, whereas the lonely woman belongs to the Internet. This framing hinges on the idea that online life is full of mediations, which resemble a fairy tale’s enchantments, and which alienate users from themselves and from one another. The problem of digital existence, in other words, is the problem of the false front—or magic mirror. Yet Radtke herself isn’t satisfied with the axiom that Internet relationships are fake.

Sometimes, she notes, one’s physical location fails to offer the community that a Web site can provide, and even a “carefully edited” post can express a genuine desire to connect. “Is display a form of dilution,” Radtke wonders, “or is the broadcast part of what makes it real?”

The book’s penultimate section, “Touch,” discusses the experimental psychologist Harry Harlow, who studied the effects of social deprivation on baby monkeys. Harlow’s cruelty, which extended to tossing his subjects into a “pit of despair,” is juxtaposed with his spiralling depression, the collapse of his first marriage, and the death of his second wife. Radtke doesn’t defend animal torture, but she does credit Harlow with illuminating the importance of care by dispensing its opposite.

Harlow proved “that love is not a distraction or a pedestrian label slapped onto action, but that love is the action itself,” she writes. On this point, I wished for more: What relationship is being proposed between love and loneliness? Radtke prefers to present her examples, her totems of disconnection, straightforwardly; it’s possible to wring from them surprising analyses, but this work is left largely to the reader.

Such restraint can be frustrating when the material—canonical psych results, a meditation on social-media mourning, an inquiry into the Trumpist mind-set—feels so familiar. And yet, paging through Radtke’s book, I was again pulled in by the deserted streets and darkened rooms, and by the anonymous, sifting crowds. Ambience can go where words cannot. One can sink deep into the images of “Seek You” without realizing that one is looking at anything at all.


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Source: Where Loneliness Comes From | The New Yorker

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Contents:

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6 Psychologically Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids Without Realizing It

Parents don’t set out to say hurtful or harmful things to their children, but it happens. You’re tired, they’re pushing your buttons, and you’re frustrated after asking them for the 600th time to clear their plates or get out the door on time. You could also be inadvertently repeating things you heard in your own childhood that your parents (and maybe even you) didn’t realize took an emotional toll.

We parents are trying our best, but sometimes — a lot of times — we fall short. That’s why it can be helpful to know some of the potentially damaging phrases parents often resort to without realizing their impact. It’s not about beating ourselves up. It’s about doing better by being a bit more conscious of our language.

So HuffPost Parents spoke with several experts who shared some harmful phrases you should try to erase from your vocabulary — and what to say instead.

1. “It’s not a big deal.”

Kids often cry or melt down over stuff that seems really silly. (Recall the delightful “reasons my kid is crying” meme that had a real moment a few years back.) But while kids’ crying and whining can definitely get under their parents’ skin — particularly when it’s over something you think they should be able to cope with — it’s harmful to diminish their very real feelings by basically telling them to buck up.

“These little problems — and the emotions that come with them — are actually huge to our kids,” said Amy McCready, a parenting educator, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of “If I Have to Tell You One More Time.” “When we discount their emotional responses to very real challenges, we tell them, ‘How you feel doesn’t matter,’ or ‘It’s silly to be afraid or disappointed.’”

Instead, try this:

Take a moment and try to understand things from their perspective. McCready recommended saying something like: “You seem really scared or frustrated or disappointed right now. Should we talk about it and figure out what to do?” Ultimately, you’re helping them label their emotions (an important part of developing emotional intelligence) and making it clear that you’re there for them.

2. “You never” or “You always do XYZ.”

Children have their patterns, but saying your kid “always” or “never” does something simply isn’t true. (That’s why marriage counselors advise clients to avoid the word “never” with their partners altogether.)

Using broad statements is a red flag that you’ve stopped being curious about what’s happening in this particular moment with your child, according to Robbin McManne, founder of Parenting for Connection.

“It misses opportunity for you to teach them what they should and what they can do next time,” McManne said.

Instead, try this:

Remind yourself to be curious about why your child is engaging in a particular behavior at a particular time. It really helps to connect by getting physically close to your child in that moment, McManne said, so that you’re not shouting at them from across the house, but you’re right there with them to make sure they’re not distracted by something else.

3. “You make me sad when you do that.”

Sure, it might really bum you out when your child doesn’t listen, but it is important to set (and hold) boundaries without throwing your emotions into the mix. Those feelings are yours, not theirs. Plus, you’re setting a precedent by potentially giving them a lot of negative power.

“When kids feel like they get to decide if you’re happy, sad or enraged, they may happily take the opportunity to continue to push your buttons down the road,” McCready said. “And even when they’re out of your house, this mindset can damage future relationships and set the stage for them to manipulate others to get what they want.”

Instead, try this:

Set whatever boundary you need to set, like, “It’s not OK to jump on couches,” McCready offered by way of example. Then, give some choices such as, “Would you rather play quietly in here or go outside?”

4. “You should know better.”

When you say something like “you should know better,” what you’re ultimately trying to do is guilt or shame your child into changing. But that puts kids on the defensive, which makes them even less likely to listen, McCready said. It also undermines their confidence.

“If we tell our kids they should know better — yet clearly they didn’t — we’re sending the message, ‘You’re too dumb/immature to make a good decision.’ Not exactly what we intended,” she added.

Instead, try this:

McCready suggested saying something like “Hmm, looks like we’ve got a situation here! What can we do to fix it?” The goal is to focus on solutions — not the problem — so children practice problem-solving and fixing their own mistakes, and think about ways to make better choices in the first place.

5. “Just let me do it.”

When you’re rushing out the door or waiting for your child to complete a simple task that is seemingly taking forever, your instinct might be to just take over. But try to avoid doing that if you can.

“You’re telling your child, ‘You’re not capable of this, so I need to get involved.’ This is both discouraging and really frustrating,” McCready said. “Imagine if you were super close to being able to do your own zipper and just needed a few more tries, but then Dad swoops in and stops you in your tracks.”

Instead, try this:

Slow down and give your child the time they need to complete their task. Or at the very least, be clearer about why you have to rush. Say something like, “I’ll help you just this once since we’re running so late, but let’s work on this together later!”

6. “You’re a [insert label here].”

One of the most valuable things parents can do for their children is simply avoid labeling them, McManne said. Labels hurt the parent-child relationship because they get in the way of parents seeing their children as struggling and needing help. Parents start to link certain behaviors with whatever label they’ve given to their child, rather than digging in and really trying to understand what’s happening developmentally.

“Labels take us further out of compassion and curiosity,” McManne said.

Labels also have the potential to become self-fulfilling. If children hear from parents that they’re a certain way, they might come to accept that as true — even if it doesn’t feel true to them.

Even labels that seem positive like “You’re smart!” can actually be harmful, McCready said.

“When we say ‘you’re smart’ or ‘you’re athletic,’ we’re telling our child, ‘The only reason you did well on that test is because you were born brainy,’ or, ‘You wouldn’t have made that goal if it weren’t for your natural ability.’ What’s more, if our child bombs the test next time, they’ll be left confused and discouraged, questioning their own ability. If they’re so smart, why did they fail?”

Instead, try this:

Notice and applaud effort, not outcomes. And do whatever you can to avoid labeling your kiddo as anything, good or bad.

Catherine Pearson - HuffPost

Source: 6 Psychologically Damaging Things Parents Say To Their Kids Without Realizing It | HuffPost UK Parenting

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Critics:

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continuously and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such a situation is normal.

Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of two adults, one typically overtly abusive and the other codependent, and may also be affected by addictions (such as substance abuse, such drugs including alcohol), or sometimes by an untreated mental illness. Dysfunctional parents may emulate or over-correct from their own dysfunctional parents. In some cases, the dominant parent will abuse or neglect their children and the other parent will not object, misleading a child to assume blame.

Some features are common to most dysfunctional families:

  • Lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members, while expressing extreme empathy or appeasement towards one or more members who have real or perceived “special needs”. In other words, one family member continuously receives far more than they deserve, while another is marginalized.
  • Denial (refusal to acknowledge abusive behavior, possibly believing that the situation is normal or even beneficial; also known as the “elephant in the room“.)
  • Inadequate or missing boundaries for self (e.g. tolerating inappropriate treatment from others, failing to express what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment, tolerance of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.)
  • Disrespect of others’ boundaries (e.g. physical contact that other person dislikes; breaking important promises without just cause; purposefully violating a boundary another person has expressed.)
  • Extremes in conflict (either too much fighting or insufficient peaceful arguing between family members.)
  • Unequal or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their birth order, gender, age, family role (mother, etc.), abilities, race, caste, etc. (may include frequent appeasement of one member at the expense of others, or an uneven/inconsistent enforcement of rules.)

References

How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain

Imagine shining a flashlight at a wall in a dark, empty room. If you walk toward the wall, the light will contract. The closer you get to the wall, the smaller and more concentrated the beam of light becomes. By the time the flashlight is an inch from the wall, you’ll see a tight, bright circle of light surrounded by shadow and darkness.

Your attention is a lot like the beam of that flashlight. You can focus it closely and intensely on something, or you can relax it — allowing it to grow soft and diffuse.

A lot of research — much of it recent — has examined the different types and qualities of attention and their associations with mental health and cognitive functioning. This work has revealed that certain types of attention may tire out your brain and contribute to stress, willpower failures, and other problems.

Meanwhile, activities that broaden and soften your attention may reinvigorate your brain and promote psychological and cognitive wellbeing.

Whenever you train your attention on something — an act that cognitive scientists sometimes call “directed attention” — this requires effort. More effort is needed when other things (i.e. distractions) are vying for your attention, or if the thing you’re trying to focus on is boring.

According to a 2016 review from researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K, your ability to effortfully focus your attention is finite. Just as an overworked muscle grows weak, overworking your attention seems to wear it out. When that happens, a lot can go wrong.

For one thing, your ability to concentrate plummets. Your willpower and decision-making abilities also take a hit. According to a 2019 study in the journal Occupational Health Science, attention fatigue may also contribute to stress and burnout.

There’s even some work linking attention fatigue to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “The symptoms of ADHD and ‘attention fatigue’ so closely mirror each other that the Attention Deficit Disorders Evaluation Scale has been used as a measure of attention fatigue,” wrote the authors of a 2004 study in the American Journal of Public Health.

Certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that support directed attention and self-regulation.

Experts are still trying to figure out exactly what resource in your brain is drained by effortful directed-attention tasks. They haven’t nailed that down yet. But there’s evidence that directed attention involves frontal and parietal regions of the brain that are also involved in other “cognitive-control” processes. These are the activities that take you out of autopilot and steer you toward goal-directed thoughts and actions — the stuff that isn’t necessarily fun or engaging, but that supports your career, your relationships, and your health.

Distractions, multitasking behaviors, loud noises, bustling urban environments, poor sleep, and many other features of modern life seem to promote attention fatigue. On the other hand, certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that support directed attention and self-regulation processes. And one of the most studied and effective of these — as you’ve probably heard — is spending time in nature.

“Getting out in nature seems to relax the brain’s frontal lobes and relieve this attention fatigue,” says Phil Stieg, MD, PhD, chairman of neurological surgery and neurosurgeon-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Exactly how nature does this is tricky. Stieg says that several overlapping mechanisms of benefit are likely at play.

But one that has garnered a lot of expert attention is termed “soft fascination.” The gist is that natural environments are just stimulating enough to gently engage the brain’s attention without unhelpfully concentrating it.

“[W]hat makes an environment restorative is the combination of attracting involuntary attention softly while at the same time limiting the need for directing attention,” wrote the authors of a 2010 study in Perspectives on Psychological Sciences. Nature, they added, seems to hit that sweet spot.

On the other hand, activities that grab and hold our attention too forcefully — books, social interactions, pretty much anything on a screen — entertaining through they may be, are unlikely to recharge our brain’s batteries. “Unlike soft fascination, hard fascination precludes thinking about anything else, thus making it less restorative,” the study authors added.

A lot of the work on soft fascination is folded into a psychological concept known as Attention Restoration Theory, or ART. While a lot of the ART research highlights time in nature as the optimal route to cognitive replenishment, it’s not the only route.

“If you’re on a cell phone for eight hours a day, your attention never gets a rest.”

Mindfulness also promotes attention restoration.

In many ways, it’s a kind of soft-fascination training. Mindfulness attempts to loosen the mind’s preoccupation with self-focused thoughts and judgments while also broadening awareness of your surroundings. This seems a lot like what spending time in nature does automatically, and there’s evidence that moving mindfulness training into natural outdoor settings may augment the practice’s benefits.

Stieg, the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell neurosurgeon, recently discussed the benefits of nature on his podcast This Is Your Brain. He agrees that mindfulness may be a helpful alternative for those who don’t have access to nature (or the time to get lost in it). He also says that avoiding things that fatigue attention — loud noises, multitasking, technology — could reduce your need to escape to the outdoors.

“If you’re on a cell phone for eight hours a day, your attention never gets a rest,” he says. “I don’t think spending time in nature provides all the answers, but there’s good evidence that it support a longer, healthier, emotionally stable life.”

The bigger takeaway may be that your brain needs idle time to rest and recharge. Deprived of that time and the soft-fascination experiences that support it, your psychological and cognitive health may pay a price.

Markham Heid

By: Markham Heid

Source: How ‘Soft Fascination’ Helps Restore Your Tired Brain | by Markham Heid | Jun, 2021 | Elemental

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Why We Procrastinate & How To Stop It

There are days when procrastination comes for us all. You wake up, thinking about a project at work or the life admin you can no longer put off and feel a swell of dread fill your chest. You know you have to deal with it today but you start puttering around and somehow end up deep-cleaning the bin instead of replying to emails or watching sitcom bloopers rather than putting on your running shoes. The putting off of tasks is time-wasting and mindless but sometimes it feels inevitable.

The word ‘procrastination’ has deep historical roots. It derives from the Latin ‘procrastinare’ – meaning ‘to put off until tomorrow’ – but is also derived from the ancient Greek word ‘akrasia’, which means ‘acting against one’s better judgement’. The etymology says that when we procrastinate, we are well aware of what we are doing, which implies that the negative consequences of this delay rest solely on our shoulders. And yet…we do it anyway.

Why procrastination happens – and why it can feel like an inevitable part of our day – is a question that has plagued people for centuries. It’s generally assumed that this behaviour is down to a failure to self-regulate in some way: that a combination of poor time management, laziness and a lack of self-control leads us to procrastinate. In other words, it is because an individual isn’t trying hard enough. This is not just a cultural assumption but one explored by many researchers and institutions too, with studies such as this one from the University of Valencia which found that no matter how long students are given to do their work, procrastination will likely occur.

However there is a growing number of researchers countering this view. Dr Tim Pychyl is the author of popular self-help book The Procrastinator’s Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle and the writer behind the Psychology Today column Don’t Delay. He believes that procrastination runs far deeper – that it is influenced by biology, our perception of time and our ability to manage our emotions.

On the biological front, procrastination comes down to ongoing tension in our brains between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex, according to the neurosurgery department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.The limbic system is a major primordial brain network and one of the oldest and most dominant parts of the brain. It supports a variety of functions, including emotions – particularly those which evolved early and play an important role in survival. This includes feelings of motivation and reward, learning, memory, the fight-or-flight response, hunger, thirst and production of hormones that help regulate the autonomic nervous system.

On the other hand, your prefrontal cortex is linked to planning complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision-making and moderating social behaviour. This is where decisions, forward-planning and the rationalising of the impulsive, stimulus-based behaviour of the limbic system is centred. As the prefrontal cortex is the newer, less developed (and therefore somewhat weaker) portion of the brain, the instinctual limbic response will often win over rationalising.

This all feeds into the psychology at the heart of procrastination: what makes us feel good now (such as avoiding or delaying tasks) has a stronger hold over us than what makes us feel good in the long run. As Dr Pychyl told The New York Times: “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem.”

This is an example of ‘present bias‘, the NYT article goes on to explain: our tendency to prioritise short-term wants and needs over long-term ones, even if the short-term reward is far smaller. This feeds into a larger disconnect between the present and future self and our perception of time. We struggle to connect to our future self (aka the one who would benefit from us taking the bins out in a timely fashion) or see them as ‘us’ when the ‘us’ of today has far more immediate and pressing concerns.

At its core, procrastination is thought by Pychyl and his collaborator Dr Fuschia Sirois to be linked to an inability to regulate our emotions, which can be seen in how we prioritise short-term relief over long-term satisfaction. Putting off a task makes you feel good in the short term because it provides relief from largely negative emotions: stress, panic, disgust, anxiety, self-doubt and so on. The long-term consequences have little bearing on how good it can feel to be distracted or absorbed in something that has nothing to do with the big assignment that is making you panic. However, as all procrastinators can attest, that relief is short-lived, leading to the cycle repeating itself.

So what can you do if you’re prone to procrastination? As with anything, especially actions that regulate your emotions, you can’t just stop and expect that to work. Without learning how to regulate your emotions in other, less destructive ways, the temptation to procrastinate will once again rear its head.

Recognising that procrastination is not an act of laziness but a tool for emotional regulation can be hugely helpful, says Pychyl. It is a step towards forgiving ourselves and having self-compassion for procrastinating, both of which have been found to help procrastinators: in a 2010 study, researchers found that students who forgave themselves for procrastinating on studying for an exam were able to procrastinate less for subsequent exams. Another study, from 2012, looked at the links between procrastination, stress and self-compassion. It found that lower levels of self-compassion (aka treating ourselves with kindness and understanding when we make mistakes) may explain some of the stress that procrastinators experience. You can start to harness self-compassion by following guided meditations such as these by the founder of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, Dr Kristin Neff, or simply by committing to meeting challenges with kindness and understanding.

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Seeing procrastination this way can also help with the impulse towards waiting until you feel ‘ready’ to perform a certain task, as Pychyl told The Washington Post. Once we can see how our emotions have shaped how we respond to a task, it makes it easier not to let how we feel dictate whether or not we can get started. You do not need to be in the right frame of mind to start working or cleaning or studying. Instead of focusing on feelings, Pychyl recommended breaking down a task into small, component parts which can actually be accomplished. It could be as simple as writing the first sentence, dusting one surface or closing all the distracting links you have open.

Procrastination is part of life. Its impact can range from mildly irritating to life-changing but the main thing to remember is that it can’t be countered by self-flagellation. By finding ways to forgive yourself in the moment and be kind to your future self, you can slowly chip away at the habit.

By: Sadhbh O’Sullivan

Source: Why We Procrastinate & How To Stop It

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References

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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More Contents:

How To Use Psychology To Stop Your Impulsive Online Shopping

Combine a pandemic that’s kept us cooped up indoors with an unusually cold winter and what do you get? A perfect recipe for some highly questionable online impulse purchases. Maybe you can’t stop hunting for a cocktail dress to wear at those summer weddings you may-or-may-not attend.

Or maybe you suddenly find your AmazonBasics kitchenware lacking in comparison to the celebrity chefs you’ve taken recipe inspiration from. Either way, if you feel like your online shopping has been more out of control than usual, you’re not alone: Consumer spending on e-commerce platforms shot up 44% over the past year, according to information from the U.S. Commerce Department.

Financial experts will tell you that if you want to curb unnecessary spending, you need to unsubscribe from marketing emails, block websites, and delete your credit card information from your browser. It’s sound advice that does the trick for many — but sometimes these tips can backfire or simply not go far enough. (Not to point any fingers, but this author may or may not have accidentally memorized her own credit card number from manually typing it in too many times.)

So if you’re a fellow member of the credit card memorization club who’s still spending more online than you’d like to, then you may need to replace easy hacks with more long-lasting habits rooted in behavioral psychology.

“I don’t think [easy hacks] are nearly as helpful as understanding why you’re doing it in the first place,” says Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and certified financial planner. Here’s what to know about the psychology behind impulsive shopping and how to use that knowledge to create better habits.

Be conscious of your decision-making process

Most people would like to consider themselves rational beings, making decisions without letting their emotions get in the way. But behavioral economists have some harsh truth: that simply isn’t true. And when it comes to shopping, external players are actually encouraging you to act irrationally.

“Marketers are experts at triggering you emotionally to get you to spend your money,” Klontz says. In the digital age, where everywhere you click is seemingly a never-ending maze of email alerts and carousel ads, it can be downright impossible to avoid getting wound up, worrying you might miss out on a great deal.

“When we become emotionally charged, we become rationally challenged,” Klontz says. “Our prefrontal cortex becomes impaired.”

The prefrontal cortex is the area of your brain responsible for decision-making, and engaging it to get ahead of what triggers you to spend requires vigilance. Luckily, while the prevalence of online shopping can hinder peoples’ ability to think rationally, it also offers benefits that you can’t take advantage of in-store. Tricks like letting your cart sit for 24 hours or disabling alerts from stores can force us to reflect on whether or not it’s a good spending decision.

But managing your decision-making works best when you can individualize the experience. One way to do this is to take stock of what tends to be your go-to categories for impulsive spending and create specific parameters for what makes a purchase justifiable. For example, if shoes are your vice you might ask yourself: Can I wear them with X amount of outfits? Do I already have a similar pair that serve a similar function? Will they last for more than one season? And so on.

If you can honestly answer whatever questions you decide are important with qualifications that make spending the money worthwhile, then you’ll be less likely to cave when presented with the opportunity to make an impulsive purchase.

Train your brain to prioritize long-term gains…

What does buying a brand new KitchenAid mixer have to do with your ancestors foraging for berries to keep from starving? A lot, actually.

“So much of what we do around money and life relates back to what I call our ‘cave person’ brain,” Klontz says.

No, we don’t need to stockpile months’ worth of resources to protect our clan from outside threats, but the biological drive that motivates these survival behaviors appears to have a hand in the way people make shopping decisions.

Animals — including humans — have reward centers in their brains that respond to the “feel good” hormone dopamine when they acquire something they want or achieve a goal. Using that heightened sense of reward to your advantage by reorienting your priorities from buying something new to meeting more essential long-term financial goals could be the key to curbing unnecessary spending.

Klontz suggests those who find themselves overspending take stock of their overall financial health first and set goals from there: “Most people aren’t paying themselves first. That’s where the problem arises.”

Many financial advisors encourage people to follow the 50-30-20 breakdown: put 50% of your net income toward living expenses, 30% toward discretionary spending (aka fun money), and 20% into savings. If that last category isn’t up to par or you aren’t contributing a substantial amount to a retirement plan, Klontz says it should be your top priority before any unnecessary lifestyle upgrades.

But working to build a strong savings can still satisfy our natural inclinations to gather and protect — it just requires training. According to research from Santa Clara University, while a small portion of people have a genetic predisposition to save more due to a stronger link between their short-term and long-term thinking processes, the majority of us can get there by gradually rewiring our brain to prioritize long-term outcomes over short-term gains. The researchers found, for example, that when people were given tools to help them pre-commit to put more money in their savings accounts months in advance, they were more likely to accomplish the task and feel more positive about saving rather than spending.

Financial goal-setting apps that track your saving progress like YNAB, Mint or a good old-fashioned spreadsheet can help you start to change the way you think about saving from a chore-like must-do to a goal you can continually look forward to.

… And earn your present-day rewards

If your financial house is in order, you’re meeting that 20% savings threshold and you still have money leftover, then “frankly, I don’t care what you do with the rest,” Klontz says.

But if you want to avoid accumulating a bunch of junk you won’t actually use — even if you have the money for it — then connecting the goal of saving for a big purchase to meeting goals in your personal or work life can deliver a powerful dopamine response more satisfying than making daily “trips” to Amazon.

Here’s how it works: Say you want to buy a $250 memory foam mattress topper, an upgrade to your current set-up that will get plenty of use. At the same time, you have to give a major presentation at work in two weeks that requires extra attention each day to prepare for it. If you set aside $25 every day you work on the project, you can time an exciting purchase alongside the completion of the presentation. The delayed gratification and association between a higher level of effort with a higher reward can train you to prioritize long-term satisfaction over a short-term thrill.

Another option is to keep a list of spending ideas that come to you throughout the day — but don’t go browsing for them yet. When you browse or even let something sit in your cart for a few days, Klontz says you’re more likely to be blasted with advertisements and price change alerts specifically designed to trigger feelings of scarcity, which can influence people to make choices they usually wouldn’t.

Instead, jot down every potential purchase that comes up throughout the week and pick a dedicated day to comb through them to decide if you want to fork over the cash. Putting some distance between when the idea strikes you and when you actually hit ‘buy’ allows you the time to think through spending decisions and compare which items on your list will be most valuable to you.

If your finances are secure, there’s no need to deprive yourself of a fun splurge every now and then. It’s just about knowing how to keep yourself in check when faced with tempting offers.

By Kenadi Silcox

Source: How to Use Psychology to Stop Your Impulsive Online Shopping | Money

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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:

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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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A Look at Mental Health and Wellbeing in Construction http://www.amaresearch.co.uk – February 16[…]   Wind forward just a handful of years and employee mental health and wellbeing is beginning to get the attention it clearly deserves, with organisations starting to […]1

SilverCloud Health Study: Employees Want More Mental Health Support and Resources from their Employer | Business Wire http://www.businesswire.com – February 16[…] WIRE)–SilverCloud Health, a leading digital mental health platform, today released its 2021 Employee Mental Health and Well-being Report, an up-to-date wide-ranging study examining the role of employers i […] The data highlights a chronic, ongoing issue of employee mental health challenges being unmet, leading to absenteeism and lost productivity, which have been exacerbate […]N/A

COVID-19 Vaccine | HRExecutive.com hrexecutive.com – February 16[…] 1-5 From a serious decline in employee mental health to why employers need to make a COVID-19 vaccine strategy now, here are some of the week’s to […]N/A

The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health | Lyra Health | Resource get.lyrahealth.com – February 16[…] pandemic has dramatically changed the way we work, and it’s clear that the changes are impacting employee mental health, well-being, and productivity […]N/A

Understanding Employee Mental Health in Unprecedented Times | Lyra Health | Resource get.lyrahealth.com – February 16From the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to the racial justice movement sweeping across America, the uncertainty and upheaval of the past several months has challenged American workers in unparalleled ways.

8 Human Resource Tech Trends That Will Influence Your Business in 2021 http://www.monterail.com – February 16[…] gamification and wearables will continue to grow, but there is a notable shift of focus towards employee mental health […]N/A

5 Qualities of Great HR Leaders in 2021 blog.clearcompany.com – February 16[…] HR leaders placed a larger emphasis on employee mental health and well-being, and many workers shifted toward a purpose-driven approach to work […]1

5 Workplace Behaviors That Impact Employee Mental Health (and How To Fix Them) http://www.calm.com – February 16Explore the inadvertent ways company culture may be undermining your mental health objectives.22

Timothy P. on LinkedIn: #mentalflexibility #employeementalhealth #workplacewellbeing http://www.linkedin.com – February 16[…] How are you empowering interpersonal confidence? Have you linked this to employee mental health, workplace wellbeing and building high-performance cultures? #mentalflexibilit […]0

eQuoo – The Game Changer for Mental Health by Richard Cronin http://www.linkedin.com – February 16[…] What can you do for Employee Mental Health? EAP programmes are often used as a tick box exercise; With just 2-5% utilising these services, w […]0

Managing productivity, team dynamics, and employee mental health during a crisis http://www.ceridian.com – February 16Supporting workforce mental health has long been on the radar of many business leaders. But now, during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s a top priority for organizations across the world. In fact, mental health support is needed more than ever for all employees – from executives to remote employees – and…2

Impairment – National Safety Council nsc.org – February 15[…] MENTAL HEALTH AND SOCIAL FACTORS Prioritize Mental Health See how you can promote employee mental health and wellbeing […]N/A

Robin Sacks on LinkedIn: 5 Workplace Behaviors That Impact Employee Mental Health (and How http://www.linkedin.com – February 15As 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…

Scientists Show What Loneliness Looks Like In The Brain

This holiday season will be a lonely one for many people as social distancing due to COVID-19 continues, and it is important to understand how isolation affects our health. A new study shows a sort of signature in the brains of lonely people that make them distinct in fundamental ways, based on variations in the volume of different brain regions as well as based on how those regions communicate with one another across brain networks.

A team of researchers examined the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, genetics and psychological self-assessments of approximately 40,000 middle-aged and older adults who volunteered to have their information included in the UK Biobank: an open-access database available to health scientists around the world. They then compared the MRI data of participants who reported often feeling lonely with those who did not.

The researchers found several differences in the brains of lonely people. These brain manifestations were centered on what is called the default network: a set of brain regions involved in inner thoughts such as reminiscing, future planning, imagining and thinking about others.

Researchers found the default networks of lonely people were more strongly wired together and surprisingly, their grey matter volume in regions of the default network was greater. Loneliness also correlated with differences in the fornix: a bundle of nerve fibers that carries signals from the hippocampus to the default network. In lonely people, the structure of this fibre tract was better preserved.

We use the default network when remembering the past, envisioning the future or thinking about a hypothetical present. The fact the structure and function of this network is positively associated with loneliness may be because lonely people are more likely to use imagination, memories of the past or hopes for the future to overcome their social isolation.

“In the absence of desired social experiences, lonely individuals may be biased towards internally-directed thoughts such as reminiscing or imagining social experiences. We know these cognitive abilities are mediated by the default network brain regions,” says Nathan Spreng from The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) of McGill University, and the study’s lead author. “So this heightened focus on self-reflection, and possibly imagined social experiences, would naturally engage the memory-based functions of the default network.”

Loneliness is increasingly being recognized as a major health problem, and previous studies have shown older people who experience loneliness have a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Understanding how loneliness manifests itself in the brain could be key to preventing neurological disease and developing better treatments.

“We are just beginning to understand the impact of loneliness on the brain. Expanding our knowledge in this area will help us to better appreciate the urgency of reducing loneliness in today’s society,” says Danilo Bzdok, a researcher at The Neuro and the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, and the study’s senior author.

This study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Dec. 15, 2020. It was partially funded by a grant to Spreng and Bzdok from the U.S. National Institute on Aging.


Story Source:

Materials provided by McGill University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. Nathan Spreng, Emile Dimas, Laetitia Mwilambwe-Tshilobo, Alain Dagher, Philipp Koellinger, Gideon Nave, Anthony Ong, Julius M. Kernbach, Thomas V. Wiecki, Tian Ge, Yue Li, Avram J. Holmes, B. T. Thomas Yeo, Gary R. Turner, Robin I. M. Dunbar, Danilo Bzdok. The default network of the human brain is associated with perceived social isolation. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20039-w

Cite This Page:

McGill University. “Scientists show what loneliness looks like in the brain: Neural ‘signature’ may reflect how we respond to feelings of social isolation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201215082059.htm>.

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Trinity Growth

If you’re sick of feeling lonely and you want to know how to get rid of it, you’ve come to the right place! In this video, we will talk about the 7 steps you can take to overcome loneliness and to prevent it in the future. Check out the whole mini course here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… – – – – – – – – – Join us on Patreon and get access to our Exclusive Newsfeed, our Naturalist Lifestyle Data Bank, more Mindful Moments, Coaching Sessions and much more. Patreon is a website that allows you to join our community and support our work directly. https://bit.ly/33939FC – – – – – – – – – Click the links below to check out our other videos about loneliness: Video #1: Why do we feel lonely? – Understanding Loneliness https://youtu.be/M74gIRMSMPI Video #3: 5 Traps Of Loneliness You Must Avoid! https://youtu.be/VoL_21lM4fQ Video #4: Guided Meditation To Connect To Your Powerful Source https://youtu.be/xjxtFCPV8EA Video #5: Guided Meditation For Loneliness – Feeling Connected https://youtu.be/poRk_yJSomI Video #6: How Loneliness Impacts Your Health https://youtu.be/z34RRUkTUFk – – – – – – – – – – Subscribe To Our Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw1e… WATCH NEXT: our YouTube Shorts: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… Mindful Moments meditation playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… How To Overcome Loneliness playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

Empathy & Perspective Taking: How Social Skills Are Built

Understanding what other people want, how they feel, and how they see the world is becoming increasingly important in our complex, globalized society. Social skills enable us to make friends and create a network of people who support us. But not everyone finds it easy to interact with other people. One of the main reasons is that two of the most important social skills — empathy, i.e. being able to empathize with the other person’s emotions, and the ability to take a perspective, i.e. being able to gain an information by adopting another person’s point of view — are developed to different degrees.

Researchers have long been trying to find out what helps one to understand others. The more you know about these two social skills, the better you can help people to form social relationships. However, it still not exactly clear what empathy and perspective taking are (the latter is also known as “theory of mind”).

Being able to read a person’s emotions through their eyes, understand a funny story, or interpret the action of another person — in everyday life there are always social situations that require these two important abilities. However, they each require a combination of different individual subordinate skills. If it is necessary to interpret looks and facial expressions in one situation, in another it may be necessary to think along with the cultural background of the narrator or to know his or her current needs.

To date, countless studies have been conducted that examine empathy and perspective taking as a whole. However, it has not yet been clarified what constitutes the core of both competencies and where in the brain their bases lie. Philipp Kanske, former MPI CBS research group leader and currently professor at the TU Dresden, together with Matthias Schurz from the Donders Institute in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and an international team of researchers, have now developed a comprehensive explanatory model.

“Both of these abilities are processed in the brain by a ‘main network’ specialised in empathy or changing perspective, which is activated in every social situation. But, depending on the situation, it also involves additional networks,” Kanske explains, referring to the results of the study, which has just been published in the journal Psychological Bulletin. If we read the thoughts and feelings of others, for example, from their eyes, other additional regions are involved than if we deduce them from their actions or from a narrative. “The brain is thus able to react very flexibly to individual requirements.”

For empathy, a main network that can recognise acutely significant situations, for example, by processing fear, works together with additional specialised regions, for example, for face or speech recognition. When changing perspective, in turn, the regions that are also used for remembering the past or fantasising about the future, i.e., for thoughts that deal with things that cannot be observed at the moment, are active as the core network. Here too, additional brain regions are switched on in each concrete situation.

Through their analyses, the researchers have also found out that particularly complex social problems require a combination of empathy and a change of perspective. People who are particularly competent socially seem to view the other person in both ways — on the basis of feelings and on the basis of thoughts. In their judgement, they then find the right balance between the two.

“Our analysis also shows, however, that a lack of one of the two social skills can also mean that not this skill as a whole is limited. It may be that only a certain factor is affected, such as understanding facial expressions or speech melody,” adds Kanske. A single test is therefore not sufficient to certify a person’s lack of social skills. Rather, there must be a series of tests to actually assess them as having little empathy, or as being unable to take the other person’s point of view.

The scientists have investigated these relationships by means of a large-scale meta-analysis. They identified, on the one hand, commonalities in the MRI pattern of the 188 individual studies examined when the participants used empathy or perspective taking. This allowed the localisation of the core regions in the brain for each of the two social skills. However, results also indicated how the MRI patterns differed depending on the specific task and, therefore, which additional brain regions were used.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matthias Schurz, Joaquim Radua, Matthias G. Tholen, Lara Maliske, Daniel S. Margulies, Rogier B. Mars, Jerome Sallet, Philipp Kanske. Toward a hierarchical model of social cognition: A neuroimaging meta-analysis and integrative review of empathy and theory of mind.. Psychological Bulletin, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000303

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. “Empathy and perspective taking: How social skills are built.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201110090427.htm>.

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