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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Why Your Most Important Relationship Is With Your Inner Voice

As Ethan Kross, an American experimental psychologist and neuroscientist, will cheerfully testify, the person who doesn’t sometimes find themselves listening to an unhelpful voice in their head probably doesn’t exist. Ten years ago, Kross found himself sitting up late at night with a baseball bat in his hand, waiting for an imaginary assailant he was convinced was about to break into his house – a figure conjured by his frantic mind after he received a threatening letter from a stranger who’d seen him on TV. Kross, whose area of research is the science of introspection, knew that he was overreacting; that he had fallen victim to what he calls “chatter”. But telling himself this did no good at all. At the peak of his anxiety, his negative thoughts running wildly on a loop, he found himself, somewhat comically, Googling “bodyguards for academics”.

Kross runs the wonderfully named Emotion and Self Control Lab at Michigan University, an institution he founded and where he has devoted the greater part of his career to studying the silent conversations people have with themselves: internal dialogues that powerfully influence how they live their lives. Why, he and his colleagues want to know, do some people benefit from turning inwards to understand their feelings, while others are apt to fall apart when they engage in precisely the same behavior? Are there right and wrong ways to communicate with yourself, and if so, are there techniques that might usefully be employed by those with inner voices that are just a little too loud?

The psychologist and neuroscientist Ethan Kross: ‘Avoiding our emotions across the board is not a good thing, but let’s think about distance instead.’

Down the years, Kross has found answers to some, if not all, of these questions, and now he has collected these findings in a new book – a manual he hopes will improve the lives of those who read it. “We’re not going to rid the world of anxiety and depression,” he says, of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It. “This is not a happy pill, and negative emotions are good in small doses. But it is possible to turn down the temperature a bit when it’s running too high, and doing this can help all of us manage our experiences more effectively.”

According to Kross, who talks to me on Zoom from his home in a snowy Ann Arbor, there now exists a robust body of research to show that when we experience distress – something MRI scans suggest has a physical component as well as an emotional one – engaging in introspection can do “significantly” more harm than good. Our thoughts, he says, don’t save us from ourselves. Rather, they give rise to something insidious: the kind of negative cycles that turn the singular capacity of human beings for introspection into a curse rather than a blessing, with potentially grave consequences both for our mental and physical health (introspection of the wrong sort can even contribute to faster ageing).

Does this mean that it’s not, after all, good to talk? That those in therapy should immediately cancel their next appointment? Not exactly. “Avoiding our emotions across the board is not a good thing,” he says. “But let’s think about distance instead. Some people equate this word with avoidance and repression. But I think of it as the ability to step back and reflect, to widen the lens, to get some perspective. We’re not avoiding something by doing this, we’re just not getting overwhelmed.”

Those who are able to quieten their inner voice are happier; their sense of relief can be palpable

According to one study, we talk to ourselves at a rate equivalent to speaking 4,000 words per minute (by way of comparison, the American president’s State of the Union address, which usually runs to about 6,000 words, lasts more than an hour). No wonder, then, that listening to it can be exhausting, whether it takes the form of a rambling soliloquy, or a compulsive rehashing of events, a free-associative pinballing from one thought to another or a furious internal dialogue.

But if such noise can be paralysing, it can also be self-sabotaging. What we experience on the inside can blot out almost everything else if we let it. A study published in 2010, for instance, shows that inner experiences consistently dwarf outer ones – something that, as Kross notes, speaks to the fact that once a “ruminative” thought takes hold of us, it can ruin even the best party, the most longed-for new job.

Why do some people have a louder or more troubling inner voice than others? “That’s harder to answer,” he says. “There are so many ways it can be activated, some genetic, some environmental.” What is certain is that these experiences cannot be discounted: “The data is overwhelming when it comes to the connection between anxiety and physical health conditions.” Those who are able to quieten their inner voice are happier; their sense of relief can be palpable.

‘Our thoughts don’t save us from ourselves,’ says Ethan Kross.

What is interesting about the science involved in all this is how it both backs up, and goes against, intuition. Much of Kross’s book is devoted to what he calls the “toolbox” of techniques that can be used to dial down chatter, and while some of these seem to contradict all that we think and feel – “venting”, for instance, can do a person more harm than good, because talking about negative experiences with friends can often work as a repellent, pushing away those you need most – others confirm that when we act on certain instincts, we’re right to do so.

To take one example, if you are the kind of person who slips into the second or third person when you are in a flap (“Rachel, you should calm down; this is not the end of the world”), you really are doing yourself some good. What Kross calls “distanced self-talk” is, according to experiments he has run, one of the fastest and most straightforward ways of gaining emotional perspective: a “psychological hack” that is embedded in “the fabric of human language”. Talking to yourself like this – as if you were another person altogether – isn’t only calming. Kross’s work shows that it can help you make a better impression, or improve your performance in, say, a job interview. It may also enable you to reframe what seems like an impossibility as a challenge, one to which, with your own encouragement, you may be able to rise.

Some of his other techniques are already well known: the power of touch (put your arms around someone); the power of nature (put your arms around a tree). Activities that induce “awe” – a walk in the mountains, say, or time spent in front of a magnificent work of art – are also useful, helping with that sense of perspective. Writing a daily journal can prove efficacious for some (something that felt terrible one day physically becoming old news the next), while neat freaks like me will be thrilled to discover that what he calls “compensatory control” – the creation of exterior order, better known as tidying up – really does have an impact on interior order. Reorganise your sock drawer, and you may find that your voice quietens.

Research shows, too, that superstitions, rituals and lucky charms can be useful, though most of us will draw the line at, say, taking our milk teeth with us when we fly, as the model Heidi Klum is said to (she keeps hers in a tiny bag, which she clutches during turbulence). Placebos have been found to work on chatter, just as they do in the case of some physical illnesses. In one study in which Kross was involved, a saline nasal spray acted as a kind of painkiller for the inner voice: data from brain scans showed that those who’d inhaled it, having believed they were inhaling a painkiller, displayed significantly less activity in their brain’s social-pain circuitry compared with those who knew they had inhaled only a saline solution.

No wonder, then, that Kross believes children should be taught the science behind all of these ideas, and in the US he has already begun working with teachers to make this happen: “We want to find out if knowing this stuff influences how they regulate themselves.” Does he make use of the toolbox? (Physician, heal thyself.) “We should probably ask my wife,” he laughs. “But yes, I do, absolutely. I’m human, too.” In particular, he is “very selective” when it comes to friends from whom he seeks “chatter support”.

Everyday feelings of sadness are elevated for many, but there is also a lot of resilience – we often underestimate that

Kross finished his book long before the outbreak of the pandemic, let alone the storming of the Capitol. But as he observes, it could hardly be published at a more opportune moment. “This is the perfect chatter episode for society: a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, political uncertainty, widespread groupthink.” His most cited paper to date looked at the harmful implications of social media, often “a giant megaphone” for the inner voice – Facebook expressly asks its users: “What’s on your mind?” – and an environment that he thinks we need to learn to navigate with more care.

As for the pandemic, though, he is less pessimistic than some about the effects it is likely to have long-term on mental health. “We are already seeing signs that depression and anxiety are spiking,” he says. “Everyday feelings of sadness are elevated for many, and then there are more full-blown episodes. But there is also a lot of resilience, and we often underestimate that. A lot of people are doing quite well. They’re managing this hardship in an adaptive way. I am an optimist. We will return, I think, to a nicer place, though how quickly that will happen, I only wish I could say.”

Which technique should the pandemic-anxious deploy? “Well, one that I personally rely on is temporal distancing,” he says. This requires a person to look ahead: to see themselves determinedly in the future. Studies show that if you ask those going through a difficult experience how they will feel about it in 10 years’ time, rather than tomorrow, their troubles immediately seem more temporary. Does this really help him? “Yes, it does. I ask myself how I am going to feel a year from now, when I’m back in the office, and I’m seeing my colleagues, and travelling again, and taking my kids to soccer – and it gives me hope.”

It is, as he says in his book, a form of time travel: a mental Tardis that, if only we can manage to board it, may make everything from a bereavement right down to a silly argument seem less brutal, just a little easier to bear.

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross is published by Vermilion (£20). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

Rachel Cooke

By: Rachel Cooke

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if you ask those going through a difficult experience how they will feel about it in 10 years’ time, rather than tomorrow, their troubles immediately seem more temporary

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One of the mistakes humans often make is to assume all thoughts are words. A person without access to or knowledge of any kind of language will not be without thought. Nor will that lack of language make them unintelligent. Words form a paper thin layer on top a complex set of emotional networks. Some of our most powerful and enduring responses to stimuli have no need of any kind of language.
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How Artificial Intelligence Could Save Psychiatry

Five years from now, the U.S.’ already overburdened mental health system may be short as many as 15,600 psychiatrists as the growth in demand for their services outpaces supply, according to a 2017 report from the National Council for Behavioral Health. But some proponents say that, by then, an unlikely tool—artificial intelligence—may be ready to help mental health practitioners mitigate the impact of the deficit.

Medicine is already a fruitful area for artificial intelligence; it has shown promise in diagnosing disease, interpreting images and zeroing in on treatment plans. Though psychiatry is in many ways a uniquely human field, requiring emotional intelligence and perception that computers can’t simulate, even here, experts say, AI could have an impact. The field, they argue, could benefit from artificial intelligence’s ability to analyze data and pick up on patterns and warning signs so subtle humans might never notice them.

“Clinicians actually get very little time to interact with patients,” says Peter Foltz, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who this month published a paper about AI’s promise in psychiatry. “Patients tend to be remote, it’s very hard to get appointments and oftentimes they may be seen by a clinician [only] once every three months or six months.”

AI could be an effective way for clinicians to both make the best of the time they do have with patients, and bridge any gaps in access, Foltz says. AI-aided data analysis could help clinicians make diagnoses more quickly and accurately, getting patients on the right course of treatment faster—but perhaps more excitingly, Foltz says, apps or other programs that incorporate AI could allow clinicians to monitor their patients remotely, alerting them to issues or changes that arise between appointments and helping them incorporate that knowledge into treatment plans. That information could be lifesaving, since research has shown that regularly checking in with patients who are suicidal or in mental distress can keep them safe.

Some mental-health apps and programs already incorporate AI—like Woebot, an app-based mood tracker and chatbot that combines AI and principles from cognitive behavioral therapy—but it’ll probably be some five to 10 years before algorithms are routinely used in clinics, according to psychiatrists interviewed by TIME.

Even then, Dr. John Torous, director of digital psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Mental Health Information Technology, cautions that “artificial intelligence is only as strong as the data it’s trained on,” and, he says, mental health diagnostics have not been quantified well enough to program an algorithm. It’s possible that will happen in the future, with more and larger psychological studies, but, Torous says “it’s going to be an uphill challenge.”

Not everyone shares that position. Speech and language have emerged as two of the clearest applications for AI in psychiatry, says Dr. Henry Nasrallah, a psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who has written about AI’s place in the field. Speech and mental health are closely linked, he explains.

Talking in a monotone can be a sign of depression; fast speech can point to mania; and disjointed word choice can be connected to schizophrenia. When these traits are pronounced enough, a human clinician might pick up on them—but AI algorithms, Nasrallah says, could be trained to flag signals and patterns too subtle for humans to detect.

Foltz and his team in Boulder are working in this space, as are big-name companies like IBM. Foltz and his colleagues designed a mobile app that takes patients through a series of repeatable verbal exercises, like telling a story and answering questions about their emotional state. An AI system then assesses those soundbites for signs of mental distress, both by analyzing how they compare to the individual’s previous responses, and by measuring the clips against responses from a larger patient population.

The team tested the system on 225 people living in either Northern Norway or rural Louisiana—two places with inadequate access to mental health care—and found that the app was at least as accurate as clinicians at picking up on speech-based signs of mental distress.

Foltz and his team in Boulder are working in this space, as are big-name companies like IBM. Foltz and his colleagues designed a mobile app that takes patients through a series of repeatable verbal exercises, like telling a story and answering questions about their emotional state. An AI system then assesses those soundbites for signs of mental distress, both by analyzing how they compare to the individual’s previous responses, and by measuring the clips against responses from a larger patient population. The team tested the system on 225 people living in either Northern Norway or rural Louisiana—two places with inadequate access to mental health care—and found that the app was at least as accurate as clinicians at picking up on speech-based signs of mental distress.

Written language is also a promising area for AI-assisted mental health care, Nasrallah says. Studies have shown that machine learning algorithms trained to assess word choice and order are better than clinicians at distinguishing between real and fake suicide notes, meaning they’re good at picking up on signs of distress. Using these systems to regularly monitor a patient’s writing, perhaps through an app or periodic remote check-in with mental health professionals, could feasibly offer a way to assess their risk of self-harm.

Even if these applications do pan out, Torous cautions that “nothing has ever been a panacea.” On one hand, he says, it’s exciting that technology is being pitched as a solution to problems that have long plagued the mental health field; but, on the other hand, “in some ways there’s so much desperation to make improvements to mental health that perhaps the tools are getting overvalued.”

Nasrallah and Foltz emphasize that AI isn’t meant to replace human psychiatrists or completely reinvent the wheel. (“Our brain is a better computer than any AI,” Nasrallah says.) Instead, they say, it can provide data and insights that will streamline treatment.

Alastair Denniston, an ophthalmologist and honorary professor at the U.K.’s University of Birmingham who this year published a research review about AI’s ability to diagnose disease, argues that, if anything, technology can help doctors focus on the human elements of medicine, rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of diagnosis and data collection.

Artificial intelligence “may allow us to have more time in our day to spend actually communicating effectively and being more human,” Denniston says. “Rather than being diagnostic machines… [doctors can] provide some of that empathy that can get swallowed up by the business of what we do.”

By Jamie Ducharme

November 20, 2019

Source: How Artificial Intelligence Could Save Psychiatry | Time

44 subscribers
Hi! I’m Chris Lovejoy, a doctor working in London and a clinical data scientist working to bring AI to healthcare. Timestamps: 0:13 – Some general thoughts on artificial intelligence in healthcare 1:41 – AI in diagnosing psychiatric conditions 2:19 – AI in monitoring mental health 3:00 – AI in treatment of psychiatric conditions 4:38 – AI for increasing efficiency for clinicians 5:38 – Important considerations and concerns 6:17 – Good things about AI for healthcare in general 6:38 – Closing thoughts To download my article on the subject, visit: https://chrislovejoy.me/psychiatry/ Papers referenced in video: (1) Jaiswal S, Valstar M, Gillott A, Daley D. Automatic detection of ADHD and ASD from expressive behaviour in RGBD data. December 7 2016, ArXiv161202374 Cs. Available from: http://arxiv.org/abs/1612.02374. (2) Corcoran CM, Carrillo F, Fernández-Slezak D, Bedi G, Klim C, Javitt DC, et al. Prediction of psychosis across protocols and risk cohorts using automated language analysis. World Psychiatry 2018;17(February (1)):67–75. (3) Place S, Blanch-Hartigan D, Rubin C, Gorrostieta C, Mead C, Kane J, et al. Behavioral indicators on a mobile sensing platform predict clinically validated psychiatric symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders. J Med Internet Res 2017;19(March (3)):e75. (4) Fitzpatrick KK, Darcy A, Vierhile M. Delivering cognitive behavior therapy to young adults with symptoms of depression and anxiety using a fully automated conversational agent (Woebot): a randomized controlled trial. JMIR Ment Health 2017;4(June (2)):e19. (5) Standalone effects of a cognitive behavioral intervention using a mobile phone app on psychological distress and alcohol consumption among Japanese workers: pilot nonrandomized controlled trial | Hamamura | JMIR Mental Health. Available from: http://mental.jmir.org/2018/1/e24/. (6) Lovejoy CA, Buch V, Maruthappu M. Technology and mental health: The role of artificial intelligence. Eur Psychiatry. 2019 Jan;55:1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2018.08.004. Epub 2018 Oct 28.

Memory & Attention Difficulties are Often Part of a Normal Life

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From young adults to people in their 60s, everyday functioning in today’s world can place high demands on our attention and memory skills.

Memory lapses such as forgetting an appointment, losing our keys, forgetting a distant relative’s name or not remembering why you opened the fridge can leave us believing our thinking skills are impaired.

But you might be too hard on yourself. Tiredness, stress and worry, and feeling down or depressed are all common reasons adults experience attention and memory difficulties.


Read more: What is ‘cognitive reserve’? How we can protect our brains from memory loss and dementia


Attention and memory systems

Attention and memory skills are closely connected. Whether we can learn and remember something partly depends on our ability to concentrate on the information at the time.

It also depends on our ability to focus our attention on retrieving that information when it’s being recalled at a later time.

This attention system, which is so important for successful memory function, has a limited capacity – we can only make sense of, and learn, a limited amount of information in any given moment.

Being able to learn, and later successfully remember something, also depends on our memory system, which stores the information.

Changes in attention and memory skills

In people who are ageing normally, both attention and memory systems gradually decline. This decline starts in our early 20s and continues slowly until our 60s, when it tends to speed up.

During normal ageing, the number of connections between brain cells slowly reduce and some areas of the brain progressively work less efficiently. These changes particularly occur in the areas of the brain that are important for memory and attention systems.

This normal ageing decline is different from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which cause progressive changes in thinking skills, emotions and behaviour that are not typical of the normal ageing process. Dementia comes from a group of diseases that affect brain tissue and cause abnormal changes in the way the brain works.


Read more: Why people with dementia don’t all behave the same


If you’re concerned your memory difficulties may be a symptom of dementia, talk to your GP, who can refer you to a specialist, if needed, to determine whether these changes are due to normal ageing, dementia or some other cause.

If you experience persistent changes in your thinking skills, which are clearly greater than your friends and acquaintances who are of a similar age and in similar life circumstances, see your GP.

Normal attention and memory difficulties

Broadly, there are two main reasons healthy adults experience difficulties with their memory and/or attention: highly demanding lives and normal age-related changes.

A person can be consistently using their attention and memory skills at high levels without sufficient mental relaxation time and/or sleep to keep their brain working at its best.

Young adults who are working, studying and then consistently using attention-demanding devices as “relaxation” techniques, such as computer games and social media interaction, fall into this group.

Adults juggling the demands of work or study, family and social requirements also fall into this group.

Most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep per night for their brain to work at its best, with older adults needing seven to eight hours.

Most of us need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

The second common reason is a combination of ageing-related brain changes and highly demanding work requirements.

For people in jobs that place a high load on thinking skills, the thinking changes that occur with normal ageing can become noticeable at some point around 55 to 70 years of age. It’s around this time age-related changes in the ability to carry out complex thinking tasks become large enough to be noticeable. People who are retired or don’t have the same mentally demanding jobs generally experience the same changes, but may not notice them as much.

This is also the age many people become more aware of the potential risk of dementia. Consequently, these normal changes can result in high levels of stress and concern, which can result in a person experiencing even greater difficulties day to day.

Emotional distress can take its toll

Feeling down and sad can affect memory and concentration. When a person is feeling worried and/or down regularly, they may become consumed by their thoughts.

It’s important to recognise how you’re feeling, to make changes or seek help if needed. But thinking a lot about how you’re feeling can also take a person’s attention away from the task at hand and make it difficult for them to concentrate on what is happening, or remember it clearly in the future.

So feeling worried or down can make it seem there is something wrong with their memory and concentration.

Boosting your attention and memory skills

There are a number of things that can be done to help your day-to-day memory and attention skills.

First, it’s important to properly rest your mind on a regular basis. This involves routinely doing something you enjoy that doesn’t demand high levels of attention or memory, such as exercising, reading for pleasure, walking the dog, listening to music, relaxed socialising with friends, and so on.

Playing computer games, or having a lengthy and focused session on social media, requires high levels of attention and other thinking skills, so these are not good mental relaxation techniques when you are already mentally tired.


Read more: Why two people see the same thing but have different memories


It’s also important to get enough sleep, so you are not consistently tired – undertaking exercise on a regular basis often helps with getting good quality sleep, as does keeping alcohol consumption within recommended limits.

Looking after your mental health is also important. Noticing how you are feeling and getting support (social and/or professional) during longer periods of high stress or lowered mood will help ensure these things are not affecting your memory or concentration.

Finally, be fair to yourself if you notice difficulties with your thinking. Are the changes you notice any different to those of other people your own age and in similar circumstances, or are you comparing yourself to someone younger or with less demands in their life?

If you have ongoing concerns about your attention and memory, speak with your GP, who can refer you to a specialist, such as a clinical neuropsychologist, if needed.

Senior Lecturer in Clinical Neuropsychology, University of Melbourne

 

Source: Memory and attention difficulties are often part of a normal life

New Psychological Studies: How The Wealthy Really Are Different From Everyone Else

"The rich don’t go with the flow"

The author F. Scott Fitzgerald is credited with saying: “The rich are different from you and me.” And Ernest Hemingway is supposed to have responded: “Yes, they have more money.” In fact, the actual words Fitzgerald used in his short story “The Rich Boy” (1926) are: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.”

People have always suspected that the rich are somehow ‘different,’ not only in terms of what they possess, but in their personalities. However, there are not many scientific studies that can either confirm or refute this thesis – neither in the United States, nor in Europe. Now, a team of six German economists and psychologists has conducted a large-scale study: They interviewed 130 wealthy individuals and used the results to derive a psychological profile, which they compared with the population as a whole.

Big Five Test

Of the various models developed by psychological researchers to describe personality types, it is the Big Five model that has largely come to dominate over the past few decades. This latest wealth study used a condensed version of the Big Five test to distinguish between five core personality traits:

Conscientious: Describes people who are thorough, meticulous, diligent, efficient, well organized,  punctual, ambitious and persevering.

Neuroticism: Individuals with a high degree of Neuroticism tend to be nervous and frequently worry about everything and anything that could possibly go wrong. They tend to react impulsively and, overall, are not particularly psychologically stable.

Agreeableness: Individuals with high levels of Agreeableness have a pronounced desire for harmony; they have a tendency to back down too quickly and are frequently too trusting.

Extraversion: Individuals with high Extraversion are talkative, determined, enterprising, energetic, and courageous.

Openness to Experience: Individuals with high Openness to Experience are imaginative, creative, and curious.

When you compare the personality traits of the general population with those of the researchers’ wealthy interviewees, the following patterns emerge:

  • The rich are emotionally more stable, and therefore less neurotic
  • The rich are especially extraverted
  • The rich are more open to new experiences
  • The rich are less agreeable, which means they less likely to shy away from conflicts
  • The rich are more conscientious.

In addition to the Big Five test, the researchers also investigated two other personality traits: narcissism and internal locus of control. Their findings:

  • The rich are more narcissistic
  • The rich exhibit a stronger internal locus of control. This means that they are more likely to agree with statements such as “I determine how my life turns out” than they are with statements like “What you achieve in life is mainly a question of luck or fate.”

What Makes the Superrich Tick

The results of this latest wealth study are consistent with those of my doctoral dissertation on “The Wealth Elite,” which was based on interviews with 45 wealthy individuals. With only a few exceptions, most of the interviewees were self-made millionaires, and the ‘poorest’ were worth between 10 million and 30 million euros. Most, however, were worth significantly more, between 30 million and one billion euros, and some even more.

This study on the psychology of the superrich also came to the conclusion that the rich are psychologically very stable (i.e. not very neurotic). It also showed that they are particularly open to new experiences, more extraverted, more conscientious – but not necessarily agreeable.

In contrast to the recent survey of 130 wealthy individuals mentioned above, the study of the superrich involved in-depth interviews of between one and two hours each. In addition, the superrich interviewees not only completed a condensed version of the Big Five test, they took the detailed version with 50 questions.

One of the key findings was that the superrich are frequently nonconformists. They enjoy swimming against the prevailing current and have no problem contradicting prevailing opinion. Another result: the superrich are more likely than others to make decisions based on gut feeling. They tend to rely more on intuition than on detailed analysis.

And, most importantly, they have a completely different approach to dealing with defeats and setbacks than most people. Across the population at large, people like to take credit for their successes while looking to assign the blame to others for defeats and setbacks. In this, the superrich are quite different, as the interviews showed: They seek to identify the causes of setbacks in themselves, not in external circumstances or other people. This gives them a feeling of power: “If the fault lies with me, I can change it. I am in control of my own life.” There are many reasons why some people succeed in becoming rich and others don’t, but the specific combination of personality traits that both studies identified is certainly one of the reasons. Rich people become rich because they act differently from others. And they act differently because they think, make decisions and react differently than most people. Apparently, Fitzgerald was right: “The rich are different from you and me.”

I was awarded my first doctorate in history in 1986 and my second, this time in sociology, in 2016.

Source: New Psychological Studies: How The Wealthy Really Are Different From Everyone Else

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