How Cultural Forces Shape Parenting Around the World

So much parenting advice focuses on the slog of the early years: How to manage sleep, feeding, tantrums, and the like. And while much of these efforts are in service of a long-term goal—raising an adult human you can be proud of—there’s much less out there that addresses life with that human as they come into their own.

Novelist Yang Huang explores that space in her latest book, My Good Son, allowing the reader to observe how parenting has shaped father and son, especially as some of the more complex, even morally questionable questions arise in the son’s burgeoning adulthood. Add in the setting—post-Tiananmen China—and a cleverly-positioned American father-son relationship to serve as the foil, and it’s a loving and intricate study of what it means to be a good Chinese parent.

Here, Huang turns her gaze to how different cultures approach the measure of being a “good parent,” sharing her research on how geography and traditions inform the many ways families grow and thrive. She explains:

“Although all of my fiction talks about parenting from both the parents’ and children’s perspectives, I have not read a book on parenting before! Finding parenting stories around the world opens my eyes and also affirms my values in many ways.”

A Lost Secret: How to Get Kids to Pay Attention

Yang Huang: “Don’t just blame a child’s short attention span on video games. Perhaps we can learn from Maya parenting—they motivate children to pay attention by giving them autonomy. When a child is setting the goal, they also learn to manage their own attention, rather than relying on adults to tell them what to do.”

I Spent 7 Years Studying Dutch Parenting—Here Are 6 Secrets to Raising the Happiest Kids in the World

YH: “Dutch parents raise the happiest children, in no small part helped by the government policies. Still, there are many things Americans can learn from, such as the family eating breakfast together, and children biking in all weathers. The Dutch have high ambitions for their children and see happiness as a means to success, the gateway to self-awareness, intrinsic motivation, independence, and positive ties with their communities.”

The Peril of Surplus Safety: Giving Kids Room to Become Adults [WATCH]

YH: “Children are drawn to things that we adults fear. We want to protect them and childproof their lives away. But does it work? People in Norway, Japan, and many other cultures, believe that the greatest safety precaution you can give a child is to let them take risks, so they can hone their judgement about what is safe and what is not, physically, emotionally, and socially.”

L’éducation “à la Française” [WATCH]

YH: “Here, an American journalist and mother speaks about what she learned from French parenting. (She’s speaking French, but the subtitles are in English.) She appeals to a French audience without pandering to them, and admits that American parenting aims to speed up the stages of our children’s development, calling it ‘a giant race from the cradle.’ Fortunately, she learns to parent with conventional French wisdom, which she summarizes into eight phrases: Hello, wait, be wise, you have to try it, balance, autonomy, it’s my decision, and poop sausage. Simple, right? Hear how she interprets them with glee and humility.”

Toilet Training at 2 Is Normal in U.S. But Very Late in China and Other Countries

YH: “Toilet training is a milestone in child-rearing. Compare the practices in first vs. third world countries, and gain a sobering perspective on nature vs. nurture, economics, and politics.”

A Chinese-Canadian to His Parents: ‘Privately, I Yearned for Your Love’

YH: “Before becoming Marvel’s first Asian superhero, Canadian actor Simu Liu had a childhood strikingly similar to mine, although we are not the same generation and grew up in different continents. His teenage angst mirrors my character Feng in my novel My Good Son. In broad strokes, Liu tells a timeless Chinese parenting story where a child learns to transform their anger and resentment into understanding and admiration for their parents. And that is a superhero feat.”

Letter From Africa: Parenting Culture Clash

YH: “In Ghana, children are taught to call an elder person with a title of respect like uncle or auntie. A teenager can enjoy being coddled, while their parents make the big decisions for them. What an indulgence! But with a price. It is similar in China, which led me to explore a clash of generations in My Good Son.”

What American Parents Can Learn From Chinese Philosophy

YH: “More Christine Gross-Loh here, this time about how kids relate to each other and the world. The Chinese philosophers saw the world as one of endless, shifting relationships—we have influence over the trajectory of our lives when we focus on learning how to relate well to others. Caring for one another is hard, albeit rewarding work. This is not just how our children will become better people and live better lives—it is how they can create a better world.”

Motherhood Around the World

YH: “This series on Cup of Jo features firsthand accounts of Americans parenting abroad as well as locals sharing how their home country approaches different aspects of raising children. I especially liked reading how one South African mother raises her mixed-raced child to be trilingual and specifically not colorblind in a culturally diverse environment with a wide socioeconomic gap. Also, this Colorado mom, now in Jordan, who shares her experience getting to know local Muslim women and their approach to food, soothing babies, and friendship.”

By: Yang Huang

Source: How Cultural Forces Shape Parenting Around the World

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5 Pieces of Essential Life Advice From Seniors

It’s hard to feel a sweeping sense of perspective when you’re stuck in traffic, or feeling buried by work, or overwhelmed by family demands. But those are exactly the moments when some words of wisdom from your elders — the people who’ve been there, like the ones below — can come in handy.

Each of these insights comes from a conversation conducted during the Great Thanksgiving Listen, an annual initiative from TED Prize winner Dave Isay and his team at StoryCorps that asks people to interview an older family member or friend during the US holiday weekend. By participating, you could unlock new stories about your family or gain a different perspective on historical events, while ensuring your loved one’s story is preserved in the StoryCorps Archive at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center. And you might just hear a piece of useful advice that will get you through a difficult moment.

Think of hard times like bad weather — they too will pass.

Arden Fleming, 15, calls her grandmother Agneta Vulliet her “biggest role model.” Vulliet, the daughter of French immigrants, grew up in New York City, and she says she first learned about independence when she went to boarding school. Vulliet left school before graduation to get married, and ended up getting her high school degree at night school — while raising two kids. She studied art in college, where a professor was impressed with her determination and recommended her for a scholarship. Toward the end of their interview, recorded in October 2017 in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, Fleming asked her grandmother for advice.

“What I want you to know and keep in mind is that your 20s are very turbulent and that it does get better,” Vulliet says. “You want so much for yourself, you have such expectations, you have so many wishes to succeed, and there’s a lot of anxiety that goes with how all that will take shape. I never want you to get carried away with how hard it seems.” She adds, “Growing up is a lot like the weather. Every time you hit the big storms that seem like they’re going to snow you under, it will change and get better — and the sun will come out.”

Draw inspiration from all the people you meet.

Bill Janz traveled the world as a journalist, and wrote a column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about ordinary people who’d shown remarkable courage. In a 2015 interview with his 14-year-old grandson, Jasper Kashou in Freedonia, Wisconsin, the now-retired Janz shared memorable stories from his days as a reporter — of almost falling off an elephant into tall grass where a tiger was hiding while in India, and of crawling on his belly to avoid sniper fire in Croatia during the Bosnian War.

But when Kashou asked him about the person who’d impacted him the most, Janz spoke of someone closer to home. “A boy named Eddy helped me see a little bit about what life is all about,” says Janz. Eddy was a 10-year-old he’d written about whose leg was amputated due to cancer. “No matter what happened to him, he never gave up,” he recalls. “I called Eddy once at home, and the phone rang and rang and rang. Finally, he picked up the phone.

I said, ‘Eddy. I was just about to hang up. Where were you?’ And he said, ‘Bill, I was in another room. My crutches weren’t near, so I crawled to the phone.’” Janz often finds himself thinking about that conversation. “He was only a young man, but he was teaching an old man to never give up,” Janz said. “I sometimes tend to give up and go do something else, and [he helps me] remember not to do that.”

Love your work — for the salary and for the people.

Bennie Stewart, 80, got his first job at age 7 — he’d run errands for his neighbors and get paid in chicken eggs. In a 2015 interview with grandaughter Vanyce Grant, 17, in Chicago, he talked through his many jobs. Stewart chopped cotton for $3 a day in 115 degree heat; bused dishes; cleaned buildings as a janitor; sold insurance; and eventually found his passion as a social worker and, later, as a pastor.

Grant asked his grandfather about what led him to these different occupations. “I love talking to people,” Stewart says. “I’ve been told I have the gift of gab, so I can talk and I can grasp things real fast. I always took pride in being able to listen to instructions and pick them up quick.” What lessons did he learn from his work experience? “It taught me that I can have something of my own and provide for my family and get some of the things in life that I couldn’t,” he says.

These themes echo those in an interview that Torri Noakes, 16, recorded with her grandmother Evelyn Trouser, 59, in 2016 in Flint, Michigan. Trouser worked in auto factories, first on the line and then as a welder. “My advice to everybody in my family: learn to take care of yourself. Don’t depend on anyone to provide you with anything,” Trouser says. She refuted any notion that her jobs were dreary. “I used to love going to work,” she said. “It’s the people you’re with that makes a job fun or not. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the people you’re with that make things different.”

Find mentors who can guide you and challenge you.

Allen Ebert, 73, reminisced about his working days in an interview with grandson Isaiah Ebert, 15, also recorded in 2016 in Flint. Ebert first worked as a welder in an auto factory when he was young and said the experience helped him once he entered medical school. “If you understand how something works, when it breaks you know what to look for and how to fix it,” he said. “Even the body is mechanical.”

When Ebert spoke about his experiences as a doctor, he impressed one thing upon his grandson: look for mentors. “The stuff you’re doing right now in school, you’re learning from people who know something you don’t know. Continue that throughout your life,” he says.

To find mentors, you should look beyond your bosses and teachers. “Just develop relationships with people whom you can observe, even from a distance, and see how they accomplish things,” Ebert says. “The way I look at it: in life, we probably make 95 percent good decisions and about 5 percent messed-up decisions. A large part of our lives as adults is fixing the mess of those few wrong decisions, and you can minimize them by just having people in your life who will challenge you and make you think twice, who will say, ‘Well, that doesn’t sound right to me.’”

Make the most of less.

According to StoryCorps, many people use the Great Thanksgiving Listen as a time to ask about family recipes. Along with step-by-step instructions, they receive a slice of family history, as well as life advice.

Some of the stories highlight one of the secrets to a life well-lived: learning to make the most of what you have. Kiefer Inson, 28, talked to his grandmother Patricia Smith, 80, about her classic tuna noodle casserole made with canned tuna. “When I was 18, I was married and had a child and did not have an outside job, so I’d go to the library, bring home cookbooks, and try the recipes,” Smith says. “Back then, we were on a very limited budget.

A pound of fish cost 69 cents, so I learned to cook a lot of things with that.” Jaxton Bloemhard, 16, interviewed his mother, Bethany Bloemhard, 38, about Ukranian pierogies. She told him how her own grandmother would make hundreds at a time. “She’d tell stories about how they kept the Ukranian people alive,” says Bethany Bloemhard. “The Ukrainians grew potatoes like nobody’s business, and as long as you had flour, water and some oil, you could make the dough.”

Other stories point to the need to keep trying until you succeed. June Maggard, 87, spoke to her granddaughter Emily Sprouse, 33, about the recipe book that she’s kept for 30 years. “People say they can’t make bread or biscuits, or anything really, but you just have to learn the feel,” Maggard says. “That comes by doing.”

Learn more about participating in the Great Thanksgiving Listen.

For more on what we get when we listen to people’s stories, watch Dave Isay’s TED Prize talk.

By: Kate Torgovnick May

Source: 5 Pieces of Essential Life Advice From Seniors

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You May Have Always Known Women Are Good With Money , Now Research Confirms It

A growing number of women are increasing their investing prowess and financial education, research shows. The ladies are stepping it up. I love this kind of news.

I admit I am a sucker for a study that shines the light on women and money in a positive way. And the key findings from Fidelity Investments “2021 Women and Investing Study” do just that.

I know, I just did this happy dance with the MIT “Freak Out” report, but more to enjoy here.

The bold headline: two-thirds (67%) of women are now investing savings they have outside of retirement accounts and emergency funds in the stock market, which represents a 50% increase from 2018, according to the research. What’s more, 52% are planning to create a financial plan to help them reach their goals within the next year.

This is noteworthy since women typically get the bad rap of being nervous and cautious investors, who probably would find investing in stocks uncomfortable. Women are also notorious for saying financial planning is boring, or they aren’t good with numbers. Neither which is true, but an excuse for not understanding investing terminology perhaps and being intimidated by the seemingly macho world of Wall Street.

Where are they putting those extra savings funds besides individual stocks and bonds? The study found that women also socked money away in mutual funds and ETFs (63%) and money-market funds or CDs (50%): ESG/sustainable investments (24%) and get this: 23% in cryptocurrencies. I had to look at that last statistic twice, but that’s what the report says.

The age brackets by generation for those investing outside of retirement account–a whopping 71% of female millennials—ages 25 to 40; 67% of Generation X—ages 41 to 56 and 62% of boomer women ages 57 to 75. All good numbers.

But as anyone who has been reading my column knows, this is the nugget that made a smile spread across my face: When women do invest, they see results: new scrutiny of more than 5 million Fidelity customers over the last 10 years finds that, on average, women outperformed their male counterparts by 40 basis points, or 0.4%. That’s not a heap mind you, but a win is a win.

I’ll take it.

“Over the last few years, we were already seeing an increasing number of women investing outside of retirement to grow their savings, but the pandemic really lit a fire under that momentum,” Kathleen Murphy, president of Personal Investing at Fidelity Investments, told me.

“It’s driven many to reflect and re-prioritize what’s most important and focus on making greater progress toward those goals. We’re seeing that motivation in the record numbers of women reaching out for financial planning help and opening new brokerage accounts, as well as advisory accounts.”

The data was drawn from a nationwide survey of 2,400 American adults (1,200 women and 1,200 men). All respondents were 21 years of age or older, had a personal income of at least $50,000 and were actively contributing to a workplace retirement savings plan, like a 401(k) or 403b. This survey was conducted in July 2021 by CMI Research, an independent research firm.

The overall findings are certainly promising.

Yet when you get into the weeds you find that only a third of women canvassed see themselves as investors, according to the study. Only 42% feel confident in their ability to save for retirement and a mere 33% say they feel confident in their ability to make investment decisions.

Most women (64%) say they would like to be “more active in their financial life, including making investing decisions,” but 70% believe they would have to learn about “picking individual stocks” to get started.

I like that awareness of the need to get educated. (One of my favorite authors for this topic is Jonathan Clements, the founder and editor of HumbleDollar and the author of many personal finance books, including From Here to Financial Happiness and How to Think About Money.)

As Fidelity’s Murphy mentioned: Half of the women say they are more interested in investing than they were at the start of the pandemic and want to learn more — not just about how to start investing — but how to evaluate and select different types of investments to align with specific goals, and how to manage an existing portfolio to ensure they are on track.

These findings are in step with what Catherine Collinson, chief executive and president of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies told me when I interviewed her for this column: What’s Behind the Surprising Gender Split for Boomers’ Retirement Saving?

Her firm also found that “early indicators are that the pandemic has prompted both men and women to engage in their finances and pore over their financial situation to a degree that they may not have previously.”

Finally, here’s the nagging fear many of us (me too) can relate to: 32% of women say not earning enough money keeps them up at night, according to the research. For 37%, it’s managing debt that’s their night sweat. And more than half of women say it’s worries about long-term finances that has them tossing and turning.

Age is an indicator of whether money woes keep us up at night, but not the way you might expect, or at least what I did. Overall, it’s the millennial women who are the most troubled when the light goes out: 77% say finances have kept them up at night as compared to 73% of Generation X and 59% of boomers.

Here’s to sweeter dreams ahead.

By: Kerry Hannon

Kerry Hannon is a leading expert and strategist on work and jobs, entrepreneurship, personal finance and retirement. Kerry is the author of more than a dozen books, including “Never Too Old to Get Rich,” “Great Jobs for Everyone 50+,” and “Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home.” Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

Source: You may have always known women are good with money — now research confirms it – MarketWatch

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When The Pandemic Forced Young Adults To Move Back Home, They Got a Financial Education

“When we face a stressor, we tend to think more about the future,” says Brad Koontz, a financial psychologist and professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Young adults’ growing openness to discuss finances with their parents and peers, they say, reflects a kind of tribal response among people to the stress of the pandemic.

Here’s a look at what the adult children and parents of three families learned about money — and themselves — in their time of pandemic together. When the pandemic forced 23-year-old Hannah Froling to move into her parents’ townhouse in Southampton, NY in March 2020 to remotely finish her final semester of college, the financial clock began to tick.

Ms Frohling’s parents, Jennifer Schlueter and Matthew Froehling, set to move to their winter home in Florida during the fall of 2020, told her they would need to begin helping support the household in their absence. That means monthly payments of $500 for rent and $250 for family car use. They also set a deadline for Memorial Day 2022 for her to be out of the house. Ms Schlueter says she wanted to provide her daughter with a “soft landing” after the shocking experience of graduating in the middle of a pandemic. But she also wanted Ms Froling to transition to living independently, so the transfer deadline passed.

So, Ms. Froling got two waitress jobs and eventually began to rely on the savings lessons her parents took as they grew up. She has two income streams—cash tips and a regular paycheck that includes her hourly rate and credit card tips. She keeps the cash tips in a savings account and splits the paycheck between a checking account and an investment account linked to an S&P 500 index fund. She has saved about $10,000 since moving back home and started looking for apartments to rent on Long Island.

Saving and managing money doesn’t always come easily to Ms. Froling. While in college, he received an allowance from his parents at the beginning of each semester. “As a freshman, I’ll blow it in the first two months,” she says. So her parents, who both work in finance, seated her and helped her budget by outlining the necessities and luxuries in her spending habits.

But it’s been the past 18 months at home, and the closeness to her parents, which has allowed Ms Froling to be more proactive about her savings and investments, and to put all those lessons into practice. She says many of her money talks happen on family road trips. Her father helps her stay on top of the latest trends in investing and her mother shares strategies for how Ms. Froling can increase her savings and continue to build a foundation for moving out of the family home. Ms. Froling is taking it further by sharing these tips with her coworkers and encouraging some of them to open their own investment accounts.

“The lesson we want to teach her is that she can do this,” says Ms Schlueter, referencing the financial wisdom she is sharing with her daughter rather than just talking to her from being together during the pandemic. got the opportunity to do. via phone or text. That includes discussing expenses such as health and car insurance after Ms. Froling leaves home again.

Ms Froling says, while she often feels like her parents bother her about how much she’s saving, in the end she knows it’s best: “They don’t want me when I If I get out of here, it will fall flat on my face.”

breaking the money taboo

In November 2020, 27-year-old Rogelio Meza left his $1,500-a-month apartment in Austin, Texas, to move into his parents’ home in Laredo.

The move helped him work towards his goal of saving money and becoming a homeowner, says Mr. Meja, who works as a customer-experience manager for a solar-power company. It also allowed him to help his parents, who were battling the financial stress of the pandemic.

When the pandemic struck, her mother, Eudoxia Meja, who works as a cook, noticed that her hours had been cut in half. His father Juan Meja is handicapped and unable to work. Since living with his parents, little Mr. Majora has helped with grocery and utility bills, paying about $700 a month, which still allows him to take out money for a home down-payment. Is.

When he was growing up, Mr. Meja says, his family never talked about money. “Nobody really taught me how to save, nobody taught me about stock options or investment accounts, good versus bad debt.” He relied on friends who worked in finance to teach him about these things, and the conversation helped him understand where his money was going. Now, he says, he has passed on some of this knowledge to his parents.

One day, when an unusually large and overdue utility bill arrived in the mail, Mr. Majora turned it into an opportunity to start sharing his financial wisdom with his family.

“I was like, ‘Okay, let’s talk about it,’” he says, describing what led to several candid conversations about money with his parents. Indeed, after that initial exchange, he basically became the family financial advisor. Mr. Meja helped his parents calculate how much they were spending on groceries and how much they actually needed each month. He also discovered that he had $3,000 in credit-card debt and advised him to use his stimulus money to aggressively pay it off. Using a combination of direct payments from their mother’s wages, incentives and unemployment benefits, they were able to pay off their utility bills and credit-card debt in just a few weeks.

Thereafter, Mr. Meja set up a savings account for her mother and advised her to put forward 20% of her salary into the account. He also plans to help his parents open an investment account and teach them how to grow their money over time. He says being able to pay off his debt gave his parents a new starting point.

Mr. Meja has learned a few things during his stint at home as well. He says that the time he spent with his parents opened his eyes to how little he needed to be happy. For example, before reuniting with his mother and father, he often ordered takeout for lunch and dinner. But the home-cooked food he eats at home, he says, especially his mother’s enchiladas has inspired him to start cooking for himself.

As far as his parents are concerned, they say that talking about money is no longer a taboo in their family, and they will continue to seek financial advice from their son. He plans to move back to Austin in November and complete the purchase of an apartment in the city at that time.

a new perspective

Edgar Mendoza was living the high life in Chicago. The 41-year-old was paying about $3,000 a month for a downtown apartment. He often dined out and had courtside seats at basketball games.

But when the lockdown began, he began to re-evaluate his habits, limiting his activities and his spending. “What Covid taught me is no, I don’t need all that,” says Mr. Mendoza, who deals in sales and invests in startups. In January, he packed his belongings and moved to McAllister, Mont., to be with his mother and stepfather. And he doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.

Living in Montana with his family, Mr. Mendoza says, he has reinforced the frugal lifestyle he grew up with. When he was young, he says, his mother, Maria Platt, used to tell him to “watch his money.” Now, he saves his money and invests it in places where it can grow.

Ms Platt says she is proud of the progress she has seen in her son and how she has embraced the lessons she has taught him. The family cooks together and they rarely eat out. Mr Mendoza says he is not being asked to pay the rent, but he buys all the groceries.

“He’s changed a lot,” Ms Pratt says of her son. “He used to spend money like crazy. I would talk to him and he’s like, ‘Mom, you’re right about this and you’re right about that.’ Now, in his view, he is motivated to support the family in the long run, and this has prompted him to refocus on his spending habits.

Mr. Mendoza says seeing his mother come home exhausted from work and budgeting his Social Security benefits has made him see his financial future in a new light. It has forced him to think more realistically about what retirement can be like. “When you see that you love someone… it hits you really hard,” he says. “I don’t want it to be me.”

Ms Pratt says her son still has to work on his financial habits. They sometimes forget to buy their groceries and eat food already in the family’s fridge, she says. She would also like to watch him learn to cook.

“I told him that if you make good money, save it,” she says. “I’m not going to live forever…….

By: Taylor Nakagawa

Taylor Nakagawa hails from Chicago, Illinois and earned a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2017. As part of the Audience Voice team, Taylor is focused on experimenting with new story formats to create a healthy environment for community engagement.

Source: When the Pandemic Forced Young Adults to Move Back Home, They Got a Financial Education – WSJ

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Use The 4-7-8 Method To Fall Asleep Almost Instantly

If you’re looking for motivation to get more sleep, there are plenty of studies I could point you to, like this recent one showing that insufficient sleep causes toxic gunk to build up in your brain. Or how about this one that found sleep deprivation impacts your performance as much as being drunk. Or this unexpected finding that too little sleep makes you paranoid.

But while the research on the need to get enough sleep is as convincing as it is terrifying, I’m pretty sure that the reason so many busy professionals don’t get the recommended amount of shut-eye isn’t lack of motivation to sleep. Instead, if a newborn baby or a frantic deadline isn’t involved, I suspect psychology is often to blame.

We stay up too late because those dark, quiet hours after both the boss and the kids have quieted down for the night are the only ones that are truly ours. Or we behave and go to bed only to find pandemic stress means our minds are whirring too fast to drift off. A great many of us want to get to bed earlier, it’s just that our bodies and minds fight back against our good intentions.

A new find for my grab bag of sleep solutions

Finally getting to sleep at a reasonable hour will require different interventions depending on your particular circumstances. Which is why I always keep an eye out for tips and tricks to help sleep deprived professionals calm down and actually get the rest they crave, from essential sleep hygiene advice to mind tricks to shut off your whirring brain. Hopefully, if I round up enough of these tips, some combination of them can help every reader improve their sleep at least a little bit.

Today I’d like to add one more idea to this grab bag of better sleep advice that seems particularly well suited to our anxious times. It comes from Dr. Andrew Weil, the director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine via Vogue, and all it requires is a few seconds and a set of lungs.

The trick is known as the “4-7-8 Method,” and while its origins lay in ancient traditions of yoga, Weil says it’s thoroughly scientifically vetted. The simple breathing technique works to calm stress by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, also known as “rest and digest mode.” Here’s all you have to do, according to Vogue:

  1. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four seconds.
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  3. Exhale for eight seconds, making a “whoosh” sound through pursed lips.
  4. Repeat up to four times.

The 4-7-8 method can be used to kill stress and calm your body any time of the day, not just at bedtime. And the more consistently you use the technique, the better it works. So give it a try and see if this might be the answer to your sleep challenges.

Source: Use the 4-7-8 Method to Fall Asleep Almost Instantly | Inc.com

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Colour Psychology: How To Use Colour To Boost Your Mood

It’s easy to feel down when it’s dark and cold outside but there are lots of ways you can bring colour into your life. Here, an expert explains how to use colour psychology to help boost your mood.

Colours can also help us express and understand emotions, making them a powerful communication tool. This is a discovery people have made on TikTok recently. Creators have been taking to the platform to explain the meaning of each colour and how it can help them understand themselves and the people around them better, with the tag #colourpsychology reaching over 4 million views.

As we head into the autumn and winter months and the nights get darker, many people will find this negatively impacts their mood. But although the skies might not be blue, there are plenty of ways you can bring more colour into your life and use it to help improve your mindset.

In fact, you can even use colour as a self-help method. Karen Haller, a behavioural colour psychologist, has spent years researching this and has found an array of methods to help you do so. Although it’s not necessarily as simple as TikTok would have you think.

“Colour psychology is a study of how we can use colour to positively influence how we think, feel and behave,” Karen says. “It’s one of the most underestimated resources we have to change how we act.”

“When you decide whether or not you like a colour, that’s an emotional experience,” Karen says. “It makes you feel something, even if you’re not consciously aware of it.”

Building a personal relationship with colour psychology is an ongoing process but there are a few things you can do to start to use colour to positively influence your life, and maybe even help you deal with issues like self-doubt and social anxiety.

What is the meaning behind each colour?

Karen explains that each colour has a traditional psychological meaning. However this can vary depending on the shade of the colour, so it’s not necessarily important to learn them all. It can be useful to understand what the primary colours represent, though.

“Each colour has positive and adverse effects,” Karen says, explaining that both of these things need to be taken into account when you’re thinking about how to use these colours to your benefit.

Red

“Red is a very physical colour. Red physically stimulates us – it encourages motivation and energy,” Karen explains. “Because of this, however, red can also cause overwhelm, as it represents speed, and it can sometimes make you feel like you are moving too quickly.”

Yellow

“Yellow has a direct effect on the nervous system. Yellow is an optimistic colour that encourages positivity,” Karen says. “However, the adverse effects are that yellow can be quite irritating and anxiety-inducing.”

Blue

“Blue is the colour that aligns with the mind. Dark blue is mentally stimulating and it can help with focus; soft blue is a colour that allows your mind to dream,” Karen explains. “Often, blue can keep the mind overly-stimulated, which is something to look out for as an adverse effect.”

How to figure out which colours work for you

Although there are traditional meanings that can be assigned to each colour, as people do on TikTok, Karen explains that colours are actually very personal, and the colours that help you feel better will be different to the colours that help a friend or family member feel good.

Karen recommends going through your wardrobe and pulling out clothes in an array of colours and then holding each of them up to your face, in order to figure out what your relationship is with each colour. “Without any make-up on, stand in front of a mirror and hold the different colours up to your face,” Karen says. “Take note of what happens to your face – does it light up or does it create shadows?”

If you know one colour suits your complexion, you can use this to compare to the other colours. This method isn’t only about your appearance, however. Consider how your facial expressions and other reactions differ with each colour, as this will help you to understand how you connect with different colours.

How to establish an emotional connection with colour

You’re constantly coming into contact with different colours in your day-to-day life and it’s not possible to consciously understand your reaction to every single one of them. But in order to become more in touch with your relationship with colours, Karen recommends keeping a diary for a period of a week to take note of how you respond to any colours that stand out to you or that you have to make decisions about.

“Write down what you are wearing each day and how the colours in your outfit make you feel,” she explains. “You should also take note of other decisions about colour you make, like choosing a red glass instead of a yellow glass.”

You don’t have to acknowledge your decisions in this way for very long but by doing so for a short period of time, you’ll come to better understand your relationships with specific colours, which will help you make better colour decisions in the future.

How to incorporate colour psychology into your life moving forward

Once you have established your relationship with particular colours, you can start to incorporate them into your life more, whether that’s through decorating your home with them or buying clothes in that colour. You can then also follow the same process Karen explains above to figure out which colour combinations work for you.

“The most important thing is that you think consciously about the decisions you make about colour,” Karen says, adding that by making intentional decisions, you will become more conscious of which colours you like and dislike, which will help keep you in touch with your emotions.

By:

Source: Colour psychology: how to use colour to boost your mood

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What’s The Difference Between Sympathy & Empathy? Psychologists Explain

The suffix -pathy comes from the Greek word for “suffering,” pathos. The U.S. medical system is built around pathology, which simply means diagnosing suffering and treating disease. Similarly, mental health professionals find social connections critically important to the ways that people cope with and overcome suffering, grief, and trauma. Words like sympathy, empathy, and even apathy describe the nuanced differences between the very complex social connections and reactions humans display when we are suffering or when we witness others in pain.

While subtle behavioral differences might seem obvious to therapists, counselors, and psychologists, it’s not so easy for everyone else. So we spoke to Atlanta-based therapist Habiba Zaman, LPC, NCC, Pepperdine University professor of psychology Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D., and licensed clinical psychologist Bruce L. Thiessen, Ph.D., about simple ways to define sympathy and empathy—and their relationship to compassion.

Defining sympathy.

“Sympathy is when you understand someone else’s suffering and feel sorrow or pity for the experience they are facing,” Zaman explains. “It involves having a value judgment on someone else’s experience.”

While often well intentioned, this value-judgment-centered response often creates a palpable distance between the person in pain and the person who is listening. So, Zaman says, sympathy is often extended when a person doesn’t necessarily relate to, fully comprehend, or appreciate the circumstances of suffering facing someone they know or love.

“The emotion of sympathy is my experience of (reaction to) your situation. Sympathy lacks understanding,” Sultanoff adds. “When you are sympathetic, you get caught up in your own emotional reaction to how you are experiencing the world. This, for the most part, does not demonstrate any understanding of the person in distress.”

He notes that sympathy can create a barrier to understanding that can be activated because a sympathetic person may shift focus away from the person in distress to focus on themselves instead. Sympathy is the emotional reaction of the listener, who might say things like “I feel so sorry that this is happening to you,” or “I get so angry just listening to your story.” Other common ways it can show up are as pity (e.g., “I feel so bad for you”) or even as envy (e.g., “I’m sorry for your loss, but I sure wish I had as much time with my loved ones as you did”).

Defining empathy.

“When one expresses empathy, one draws upon personal experience, in relating to another person in the midst of a similar experience or hardship,” Thiessen explains. “An example of an empathetic statement might be, ‘I also have recently lost a loved one and know what it feels like to experience that deep sense of sorrow and grief.”

He says that this sense of commonality is a key differentiator between empathy and sympathy.

“Empathy is the ability to feel intimately and see the other person’s perspective. It is not just to understand what they are going through but rather, being able to walk in the other person’s shoes,” Zaman explains. “It is being able to say, ‘I am here to feel with you’ and let you know you are not alone.”

She adds that empathy is best defined by how the listener connects with the person in pain. Without judgment, an empathetic person would try to create and hold space for a person’s feelings and experiences. Empathy, which can be taught and honed over time, involves honoring how a person in pain sees their own situation, even if that is not how others might view it.

Understanding the key differences.

When it comes to understanding the key differences between empathy and sympathy, there are both internal and external factors to keep in mind. Sympathy and empathy are largely distinguished by external behavioral and performative aspects, which most people believe are a reflection of how the listener internally feels about the person who is suffering. Instead, the experts say that the difference is more about the relationship between the listener and the sufferer.

On the outside, sympathy often appears socially distant, like a one-off message of condolences, with no follow-up. Zaman says this is because sympathy lacks intimacy, but there may be situational reasons why that might be the case. In certain corporate settings or power structures, it might be appropriate to emotionally withhold to maintain decorum or to preserve group dynamics that extend beyond just the listener and the person in pain. Social dynamics and the appropriateness of displaying curiosity toward a person in pain might make a listener moderate their naturally emotive behavior.

“Sympathy is used in social situations where there isn’t an intimate connection between two people. It would be perfectly appropriate in a corporate environment to experience sympathy from coworkers or a boss. A card or flowers that share in acknowledging grief is perfectly acceptable and is expected in those environments because anything more could be perceived as inauthentic, unless that initial and genuine connection is there,” Zaman says.

Meanwhile, she says, that very same gesture of sending a card and flowers might be wholly inadequate for lifelong friends. Thus, the relationship and social context between the people involved is very important.

Also, no matter how close or distant the relationship, Sultanoff says that empathy is an internal experience of feeling caring, concern, and understanding toward another human being or living creature that is best shown through active and reflective listening.

“Responding by repeating back (but not parroting) what you heard from the other person, while especially attending to their feelings, demonstrates focus on the person and letting go of your own internal distractions,” he says.

In an attempt to be empathetic, a person who genuinely wants to help might share problem-solving advice, but Sultanoff says that this behavior does not necessarily show empathy for the other person’s immediate emotional state. In many ways, the difference between sympathy and empathy is the desire to understand the experience of a person who is suffering, not necessarily the drive to stop their suffering.

What about compassion?

“Both empathy and sympathy, when coming from a place of sincerity, are sensations and open expressions of compassion,” Thiessen says. After all, compassion, which simply means “to suffer together,” is an expression of caring and warmth.

He says that compassion from empathy typically comes from sharing similar experiences with another person, but compassion from sympathy can be just as useful. “For example, the act of researching the types of suffering experienced by an abused child might increase a person’s sympathy for abused children, regardless of whether or not the researching party had ever been a victim of child abuse,” offers Thiessen.

And this ability to extend emotions beyond one’s own personal experience is good because compassion allows humans to be motivated to alleviate harms they, personally, have never experienced.

“Expressions of compassion, be they in the form of empathy, or sympathy, or some palpable act of kindness, can be experienced as a healing balm on the psyche and the soul,” Thiessen says.

Moreover, that emotional inspiration can spark activism, philanthropy, or public advocacy in the service of moral causes that are far-reaching and socially impactful. In this way, actively cultivating compassion can allow an observer in one situation to be a force for change in many others.

The bottom line.

In the simplest of terms, empathy is an internal emotion that is directed outward toward another person, Sultanoff says. It demonstrates a true understanding of the other person, without any personal biases interfering with that understanding. Sympathy, however, is internally directed.

If you are watching someone in mourning or grief, empathy is focused on understanding the person in pain, while sympathy is focused on your reaction to watching that person deal with their pain. “From a mental health perspective, empathy is very healing, and sympathy is not,” Sultanoff says.

“Generally, it feels better to be the recipient of empathy than simply sympathy, because it allows for a point of connection and intimacy. Also, an expression of sympathy may be more difficult to trust unless it is coming from a genuine relationship and a place of genuine concern,” Thiessen summarizes.

All that said, both feelings can serve socially positivity purposes when tied with compassion and action.

Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D.

By :  Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D.

Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D., is an American writer and independent researcher with a particular interest in migration, literature, gender identity, and diaspora studies within the global

Source: Sympathy vs. Empathy: The Key Differences & Social Uses

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The Facts About Fat Burning and Running

If you’re reading this while sitting down, congratulations—you’re primarily burning fat. However, if you get up and start moving around your home, you won’t burn as much fat. And if you felt really active and broke into a sprint outside, you’ll be burning almost no fat.

While everything we just said is true, it doesn’t mean all you have to do is sit tight and watch your fat stores melt away. The common presentation of how to exercise to lose fat—presented in admittedly exaggerated form above—is misleading.

There’s no special “fat-burning zone” that’s key to getting lean. Here’s what you need to know about burning fat through exercise.

What Fuels Your Running?

Look at wall charts or cardio equipment in the gym, or listen to many personal trainers, and you’ll encounter the fat-burning zone. The standard advice for getting in this zone is to work out at about 60 percent of your maximum heart rate.

That level of exertion is relatively low-intensity. Runners can usually talk in complete sentences at this effort, which is an easy pace like you might run the day before a race or the day after a hard interval workout. Working in this zone, it’s said, will burn more fat, and therefore result in greater long-term weight loss, than doing the same exercise at higher intensities.

On the surface, there’s some substance to part of this claim, according to decades of research. At all times, your body fuels itself primarily by burning a mix of fat and glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrate in your muscles). The less active you are at a given moment, the greater the percentage of that fuel mix comes from fat. At rest, fat constitutes as much as 85 percent of calories burned. That figure shifts to about 70 percent at an easy walking pace. If you transition to a moderate-effort run, the mix becomes about 50 percent fat and 50 percent carbohydrate, and moves increasingly toward carbohydrate the faster you go.

One reason your body goes through this shift is because your brain runs almost entirely on carbohydrates, and it wants to preserve its limited carbohydrate stores. Although burning fat requires a lot more oxygen than does burning carbohydrate, there’s plenty of oxygen available when you’re at rest or working at a low intensity. As you start exercising harder, however, your body needs fuel more quickly, and turns more to carbohydrates.

This change in the fuel-burned ratio is why you might hit “The Wall” when trying to run a marathon as fast as possible, but you might not during an ultramarathon. A marathon run at faster than your normal training pace can use up all of the glycogen stored in your muscles. When that happens—usually in the final 10K—your muscles turn to fat to fuel your stubborn insistence on reaching the finish line. But burning fat requires a lot more oxygen than burning carbohydrate, so to meet that demand for more oxygen, you have to slow considerably, usually by a minute per mile or more.

In contrast, if you’ve ever run an ultramarathon, it was likely at a much lower intensity, probably slower than your normal easy pace. The percentage of each mile that’s fueled by fat is higher than at the faster pace of racing a marathon. So even though you might be running longer in an ultra, you’re less likely to have that sensation of having to suddenly slow significantly because of depleted glycogen stores. Even the leanest runners have enough body fat to fuel hundreds of miles at a leisurely pace.

There’s Burning Fat, and There’s Losing Weight

So, it’s true that at some workout intensities you’re burning a higher percentage of fat than at other intensities. But running a certain pace so that you burn a higher percentage of fat doesn’t magically melt fat away. And even if it did, the difference in total fat burned in running three miles slowly and doing the same distance faster is perhaps a couple dozen calories. That’s negligible in the grand scheme of things, given that burning a pound of fat entails burning about 3,500 calories.

More important, as Asker Jeukendrup, Ph.D., a leading sport nutrition researcher, puts it, fat burning and weight loss aren’t synonymous. Weight control is a matter of calories in and calories out. Burn more calories than you consume, and you’ll eventually lose weight. Do the opposite, and you’ll eventually gain weight. “If you burn more fat, but you eat more calories than the calories you burn in total, you will not lose weight,” Jeukendrup has written.

Because total calories burned is what matters, perhaps you can see another flaw with the “fat-burning zone” line of thinking: You could spend an hour walking three miles; of the roughly 300 calories you’d burn, a higher percentage would be from fat than if you ran three miles. But in that hour, you might run six miles, burning about twice as many calories.

If you want to get all geeky, the math in the following example (and in the graphic) argues against the fat-burning zone.

Walk three miles in an hour, and of the roughly 300 calories you’ll burn, about 210 of them (70 percent) will be fueled by fat. Run 10-minute miles for that hour, and of the roughly 600 calories you’ll burn, about 300 (50 percent) of them will be fueled by fat. Also, your metabolism stays revved up longer after vigorous workouts than it does after low-intensity exercise. While this postrun burn is likely only a few dozen additional calories, or less than the amount in a banana, every bit helps if weight loss is one of your goals.

The Real Reason to Consider Fat Burning as a Runner

Running at the gentle effort of around 60 percent of your maximum heart rate isn’t the key to weight loss, but there are still many reasons to regularly run at this pace.

Easy runs help you recover before and after harder workouts, they provide great cardiovascular and mental health benefits, and they’re simply enjoyable. Easy running also allows you to accumulate lots of mileage, and thereby burn more calories, if doing so is one of your motivations to run.

As for fat burning and running, perhaps the most important reason to care about the topic has to do with training performance, not weight loss. As we noted above, at sustained higher-effort levels, such as half marathon to marathon pace, your running is fueled by a higher percentage of carbohydrates than at slower paces. Run far enough at these paces, and you’ll start to deplete your muscle’s glycogen stores, and you’ll have to slow.

One of the main goals of marathon training is to become more efficient at burning fat when running these faster paces. If you can train your muscles to burn a little more fat per mile when running at marathon pace, then your glycogen stores will last longer, and your chances of holding a strong pace to the finish will increase.

The best way to accomplish that is by running not at a gentle jog, but at close to your marathon pace, with wiggle room of about 5 percent per mile faster or slower. For example, if your marathon race pace is 8:00 per mile, then run between roughly 7:36 and 8:24 per mile.

You can do these runs as stand-alone workouts, such as 6 to 10 miles at marathon pace after a 1- or 2-mile warm-up. You can also incorporate them into the latter part of your long runs, such as running easy for an hour and then running another hour at around marathon pace. When done a few times a month, sustained runs at these effort levels will improve your muscle’s fat-burning efficiency.

Starting some medium-length to long runs on an empty stomach, such as soon after waking up, and taking in no fuel during those runs, can also train your body to burn more fat at a given pace. It’s best to save these “fasted” runs for easy to medium-effort sessions. (Learn more about the good and bad of fasted cardio workouts here.)

All of this might seem like a lot to remember about fat burning. The key takeaway: Ignore claims you’ll lose more weight by running in a special “fat-burning zone.” Follow a good training plan, eat a well-balanced diet, and stay healthy enough to run the amount you want to, and you’ll likely settle at what for you is a good running weight.

By: Runner’s World / Runner’s World Editors

Source: The Facts About Fat Burning and Running

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References

  1. Shira Tsvi. Personal Trainer & Fitness Instructor. Expert Interview. 7 January 2020.
  2. http://www.active.com/running/articles/3-ways-to-burn-fat-effectively-while-running
  3. http://www.runnersworld.com/run-nonstop/how-and-why-you-should-warm-up-before-a-run
  4. http://www.fitbodyhq.com/cardio/running-tips-to-boost-fat-loss/
  5. http://www.runnersworld.com/ask-coach-jenny/three-mind-games-to-get-you-through-tough-runs
  6. http://www.active.com/articles/running-for-weight-loss-prepare-to-be-patient
  7. http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/your-perfect-running-pace
  8. https://www.runtastic.com/blog/en/veras-viewpoint/how-to-burn-fat-while-running/
  9. http://www.runnersworld.com/hydration-dehydration/prevent-dehydration-while-running
  10. 1 Running Distances for Fat Burning
  11. 2 Incorporating Alternative Components to Boost Fat Burning

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The Invisible Addiction: Is It Time To Give Up Caffeine?

After years of starting the day with a tall morning coffee, followed by several glasses of green tea at intervals, and the occasional cappuccino after lunch, I quit caffeine, cold turkey. It was not something that I particularly wanted to do, but I had come to the reluctant conclusion that the story I was writing demanded it. Several of the experts I was interviewing had suggested that I really couldn’t understand the role of caffeine in my life – its invisible yet pervasive power – without getting off it and then, presumably, getting back on.

Roland Griffiths, one of the world’s leading researchers of mood-altering drugs, and the man most responsible for getting the diagnosis of “caffeine withdrawal” included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the bible of psychiatric diagnoses, told me he hadn’t begun to understand his own relationship with caffeine until he stopped using it and conducted a series of self-experiments. He urged me to do the same.

For most of us, to be caffeinated to one degree or another has simply become baseline human consciousness. Something like 90% of humans ingest caffeine regularly, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, and the only one we routinely give to children (commonly in the form of fizzy drinks). Few of us even think of it as a drug, much less our daily use of it as an addiction. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to overlook the fact that to be caffeinated is not baseline consciousness but, in fact, an altered state. It just happens to be a state that virtually all of us share, rendering it invisible.

The scientists have spelled out, and I had duly noted, the predictable symptoms of caffeine withdrawal: headache, fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, decreased motivation, irritability, intense distress, loss of confidence and dysphoria. But beneath that deceptively mild rubric of “difficulty concentrating” hides nothing short of an existential threat to the work of the writer. How can you possibly expect to write anything when you can’t concentrate?

I postponed it as long as I could, but finally the dark day arrived. According to the researchers I’d interviewed, the process of withdrawal had actually begun overnight, while I was sleeping, during the “trough” in the graph of caffeine’s diurnal effects. The day’s first cup of tea or coffee acquires most of its power – its joy! – not so much from its euphoric and stimulating properties than from the fact that it is suppressing the emerging symptoms of withdrawal.

This is part of the insidiousness of caffeine. Its mode of action, or “pharmacodynamics”, mesh so perfectly with the rhythms of the human body that the morning cup of coffee arrives just in time to head off the looming mental distress set in motion by yesterday’s cup of coffee. Daily, caffeine proposes itself as the optimal solution to the problem caffeine creates.

At the coffee shop, instead of my usual “half caff”, I ordered a cup of mint tea. And on this morning, that lovely dispersal of the mental fog that the first hit of caffeine ushers into consciousness never arrived. The fog settled over me and would not budge. It’s not that I felt terrible – I never got a serious headache – but all day long I felt a certain muzziness, as if a veil had descended in the space between me and reality, a kind of filter that absorbed certain wavelengths of light and sound.

I was able to do some work, but distractedly. “I feel like an unsharpened pencil,” I wrote in my notebook. “Things on the periphery intrude, and won’t be ignored. I can’t focus for more than a minute.”

Over the course of the next few days, I began to feel better, the veil lifted, yet I was still not quite myself, and neither, quite, was the world. In this new normal, the world seemed duller to me. I seemed duller, too. Mornings were the worst. I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep. That reconsolidation of self took much longer than usual, and never quite felt complete.


Humanity’s acquaintance with caffeine is surprisingly recent. But it is hardly an exaggeration to say that this molecule remade the world. The changes wrought by coffee and tea occurred at a fundamental level – the level of the human mind. Coffee and tea ushered in a shift in the mental weather, sharpening minds that had been fogged by alcohol, freeing people from the natural rhythms of the body and the sun, thus making possible whole new kinds of work and, arguably, new kinds of thought, too.

By the 15th century, coffee was being cultivated in east Africa and traded across the Arabian peninsula. Initially, the new drink was regarded as an aide to concentration and used by Sufis in Yemen to keep them from dozing off during their religious observances. (Tea, too, started out as a little helper for Buddhist monks striving to stay awake through long stretches of meditation.) Within a century, coffeehouses had sprung up in cities across the Arab world. In 1570 there were more than 600 of them in Constantinople alone, and they spread north and west with the Ottoman empire.

The Islamic world at this time was in many respects more advanced than Europe, in science and technology, and in learning. Whether this mental flourishing had anything to do with the prevalence of coffee (and prohibition of alcohol) is difficult to prove, but as the German historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch has argued, the beverage “seemed to be tailor-​made for a culture that forbade alcohol consumption and gave birth to modern mathematics”.

In 1629 the first coffeehouses in Europe, styled on Arab and Turkish models, popped up in Venice, and the first such establishment in England was opened in Oxford in 1650 by a Jewish immigrant. They arrived in London shortly thereafter, and proliferated: within a few decades there were thousands of coffeehouses in London; at their peak, one for every 200 Londoners.

To call the English coffeehouse a new kind of public space doesn’t quite do it justice. You paid a penny for the coffee, but the information – in the form of newspapers, books, magazines and conversation – was free. (Coffeehouses were often referred to as “penny universities”.) After visiting London coffeehouses, a French writer named Maximilien Misson wrote, “You have all Manner of News there; You have a good fire, which you may sit by as long as you please: You have a Dish of Coffee; you meet your Friends for the Transaction of Business, and all for a Penny, if you don’t care to spend more.”

London’s coffeehouses were distinguished one from another by the professional or intellectual interests of their patrons, which eventually gave them specific institutional identities. So, for example, merchants and men with interests in shipping gathered at Lloyd’s Coffee House. Here you could learn what ships were arriving and departing, and buy an insurance policy on your cargo. Lloyd’s Coffee House eventually became the insurance brokerage Lloyd’s of London. Learned types and scientists – known then as “natural philosophers” – gathered at the Grecian, which became closely associated with the Royal Society; Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley debated physics and mathematics here, and supposedly once dissected a dolphin on the premises.

The conversation in London’s coffee houses frequently turned to politics, in vigorous exercises of free speech that drew the ire of the government, especially after the monarchy was restored in 1660. Charles II, worried that plots were being hatched in coffeehouses, decided that the places were dangerous fomenters of rebellion that the crown needed to suppress. In 1675 the king moved to close down the coffeehouses, on the grounds that the “false, malicious and scandalous Reports” emanating therefrom were a “Disturbance of the Quiet and Peace of the Realm”. Like so many other compounds that change the qualities of consciousness in individuals, caffeine was regarded as a threat to institutional power, which moved to suppress it, in a foreshadowing of the wars against drugs to come.

But the king’s war against coffee lasted only 11 days. Charles discovered that it was too late to turn back the tide of caffeine. By then the coffeehouse was such a fixture of English culture and daily life – and so many eminent Londoners had become addicted to caffeine – that everyone simply ignored the king’s order and blithely went on drinking coffee. Afraid to test his authority and find it lacking, the king quietly backed down, issuing a second proclamation rolling back the first “out of princely consideration and royal compassion”.

It’s hard to imagine that the sort of political, cultural and intellectual ferment that bubbled up in the coffeehouses of both France and England in the 17th century would ever have developed in a tavern. The kind of magical thinking that alcohol sponsored in the medieval mind began to yield to a new spirit of rationalism and, a bit later, Enlightenment thinking.

French historian Jules Michelet wrote: “Coffee, the sober drink, the mighty nourishment of the brain, which unlike other spirits, heightens purity and lucidity; coffee, which clears the clouds of the imagination and their gloomy weight; which illumines the reality of things suddenly with the flash of truth.”

To see, lucidly, “the reality of things”: this was, in a nutshell, the rationalist project. Coffee became, along with the microscope, telescope and the pen, one of its indispensable tools.


After a few weeks, the mental impairments of withdrawal had subsided, and I could once again think in a straight line, hold an abstraction in my head for more than two minutes, and shut peripheral thoughts out of my field of attention. Yet I continued to feel as though I was mentally just slightly behind the curve, especially when in the company of drinkers of coffee and tea, which, of course, was all the time and everywhere.

Here’s what I was missing: I missed the way caffeine and its rituals used to order my day, especially in the morning. Herbal teas – which are barely, if at all, psychoactive – lack the power of coffee and tea to organize the day into a rhythm of energetic peaks and valleys, as the mental tide of caffeine ebbs and flows. The morning surge is a blessing, obviously, but there is also something comforting in the ebb tide of afternoon, which a cup of tea can gently reverse.

At some point I began to wonder if perhaps it was all in my head, this sense that I had lost a mental step since getting off coffee and tea. So I decided to look at the science, to learn what, if any, cognitive enhancement can actually be attributed to caffeine. I found numerous studies conducted over the years reporting that caffeine improves performance on a range of cognitive measures – of memory, focus, alertness, vigilance, attention and learning.

An experiment done in the 1930s found that chess players on caffeine performed significantly better than players who abstained. In another study, caffeine users completed a variety of mental tasks more quickly, though they made more errors; as one paper put it in its title, people on caffeine are “faster, but not smarter”. In a 2014 experiment, subjects given caffeine immediately after learning new material remembered it better than subjects who received a placebo. Tests of psychomotor abilities also suggest that caffeine gives us an edge: in simulated driving exercises, caffeine improves performance, especially when the subject is tired. It also enhances physical performance on such metrics as time trials, muscle strength and endurance.

True, there is reason to take these findings with a pinch of salt, if only because this kind of research is difficult to do well. The problem is finding a good control group in a society in which virtually everyone is addicted to caffeine. But the consensus seems to be that caffeine does improve mental (and physical) performance to some degree.

Whether caffeine also enhances creativity is a different question, however, and there’s some reason to doubt that it does. Caffeine improves our focus and ability to concentrate, which surely enhances linear and abstract thinking, but creativity works very differently. It may depend on the loss of a certain kind of focus, and the freedom to let the mind off the leash of linear thought.

Cognitive psychologists sometimes talk in terms of two distinct types of consciousness: spotlight consciousness, which illuminates a single focal point of attention, making it very good for reasoning, and lantern consciousness, in which attention is less focused yet illuminates a broader field of attention. Young children tend to exhibit lantern consciousness; so do many people on psychedelics.

This more diffuse form of attention lends itself to mind wandering, free association, and the making of novel connections – all of which can nourish creativity. By comparison, caffeine’s big contribution to human progress has been to intensify spotlight consciousness – the focused, linear, abstract and efficient cognitive processing more closely associated with mental work than play. This, more than anything else, is what made caffeine the perfect drug not only for the age of reason and the Enlightenment, but for the rise of capitalism, too.

The power of caffeine to keep us awake and alert, to stem the natural tide of exhaustion, freed us from the circadian rhythms of our biology and so, along with the advent of artificial light, opened the frontier of night to the possibilities of work.

What coffee did for clerks and intellectuals, tea would soon do for the English working class. Indeed, it was tea from the East Indies – heavily sweetened with sugar from the West Indies – that fuelled the Industrial Revolution. We think of England as a tea culture, but coffee, initially the cheaper beverage by far, dominated at first.

Soon after the British East India Company began trading with China, cheap tea flooded England. A beverage that only the well-to-do could afford to drink in 1700 was by 1800 consumed by virtually everyone, from the society matron to the factory worker.

To supply this demand required an imperialist enterprise of enormous scale and brutality, especially after the British decided it would be more profitable to turn India, its colony, into a tea producer, than to buy tea from the Chinese. This required first stealing the secrets of tea production from the Chinese (a mission accomplished by the renowned Scots botanist and plant explorer Robert Fortune, disguised as a mandarin); seizing land from peasant farmers in Assam (where tea grew wild), and then forcing the farmers into servitude, picking tea leaves from dawn to dusk.

The introduction of tea to the west was all about exploitation – the extraction of surplus value from labor, not only in its production in India, but in its consumption by the British as well. Tea allowed the British working class to endure long shifts, brutal working conditions and more or less constant hunger; the caffeine helped quiet the hunger pangs, and the sugar in it became a crucial source of calories. (From a strictly nutritional standpoint, workers would have been better off sticking with beer.) The caffeine in tea helped create a new kind of worker, one better adapted to the rule of the machine. It is difficult to imagine an Industrial Revolution without it.


So how exactly does coffee, and caffeine more generally, make us more energetic, efficient and faster? How could this little molecule possibly supply the human body energy without calories? Could caffeine be the proverbial free lunch, or do we pay a price for the mental and physical energy – the alertness, focus and stamina – that caffeine gives us?

Alas, there is no free lunch. It turns out that caffeine only appears to give us energy. Caffeine works by blocking the action of adenosine, a molecule that gradually accumulates in the brain over the course of the day, preparing the body to rest. Caffeine molecules interfere with this process, keeping adenosine from doing its job – and keeping us feeling alert. But adenosine levels continue to rise, so that when the caffeine is eventually metabolized, the adenosine floods the body’s receptors and tiredness returns. So the energy that caffeine gives us is borrowed, in effect, and eventually the debt must be paid back.

For as long as people have been drinking coffee and tea, medical authorities have warned about the dangers of caffeine. But until now, caffeine has been cleared of the most serious charges against it. The current scientific consensus is more than reassuring – in fact, the research suggests that coffee and tea, far from being deleterious to our health, may offer some important benefits, as long as they aren’t consumed to excess.

Regular coffee consumption is associated with a decreased risk of several cancers (including breast, prostate, colorectal and endometrial), cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and possibly depression and suicide. (Though high doses can produce nervousness and anxiety, and rates of suicide climb among those who drink eight or more cups a day.)

My review of the medical literature on coffee and tea made me wonder if my abstention might be compromising not only my mental function but my physical health, as well. However, that was before I spoke to Matt Walker.

An English neuroscientist on the faculty at University of California, Berkeley, Walker, author of Why We Sleep, is single-minded in his mission: to alert the world to an invisible public-health crisis, which is that we are not getting nearly enough sleep, the sleep we are getting is of poor quality, and a principal culprit in this crime against body and mind is caffeine. Caffeine itself might not be bad for you, but the sleep it’s stealing from you may have a price.

According to Walker, research suggests that insufficient sleep may be a key factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, arteriosclerosis, stroke, heart failure, depression, anxiety, suicide and obesity. “The shorter you sleep,” he bluntly concludes, “the shorter your lifespan.”

Walker grew up in England drinking copious amounts of black tea, morning, noon and night. He no longer consumes caffeine, save for the small amounts in his occasional cup of decaf. In fact, none of the sleep researchers or experts on circadian rhythms I interviewed for this story use caffeine.

Walker explained that, for most people, the “quarter life” of caffeine is usually about 12 hours, meaning that 25% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee consumed at noon is still circulating in your brain when you go to bed at midnight. That could well be enough to completely wreck your deep sleep.

I thought of myself as a pretty good sleeper before I met Walker. At lunch he probed me about my sleep habits. I told him I usually get a solid seven hours, fall asleep easily, dream most nights. “How many times a night do you wake up?” he asked. I’m up three or four times a night (usually to pee), but I almost always fall right back to sleep.

He nodded gravely. “That’s really not good, all those interruptions. Sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity.” The interruptions were undermining the amount of “deep” or “slow wave” sleep I was getting, something above and beyond the REM sleep I had always thought was the measure of a good night’s rest. But it seems that deep sleep is just as important to our health, and the amount we get tends to decline with age.

Caffeine is not the sole cause of our sleep crisis; screens, alcohol (which is as hard on REM sleep as caffeine is on deep sleep), pharmaceuticals, work schedules, noise and light pollution, and anxiety can all play a role in undermining both the duration and quality of our sleep. But here’s what’s uniquely insidious about caffeine: the drug is not only a leading cause of our sleep deprivation; it is also the principal tool we rely on to remedy the problem. Most of the caffeine consumed today is being used to compensate for the lousy sleep that caffeine causes – which means that caffeine is helping to hide from our awareness the very problem that caffeine creates.


The time came to wrap up my experiment in caffeine deprivation. I was eager to see what a body that had been innocent of caffeine for three months would experience when subjected to a couple of shots of espresso. I had thought long and hard about what kind of coffee I would get, and where. I opted for a “special”, my local coffee shop’s term for a double-​shot espresso made with less steamed milk than a typical cappuccino; it’s more commonly known as a flat white.

My special was unbelievably good, a ringing reminder of what a poor counterfeit decaf is; here were whole dimensions and depths of flavour that I had completely forgotten about. Everything in my visual field seemed pleasantly italicised, filmic, and I wondered if all these people with their cardboard-sleeve-swaddled cups had any idea what a powerful drug they were sipping. But how could they?

They had long ago become habituated to caffeine, and were now using it for another purpose entirely. Baseline maintenance, that is, plus a welcome little lift. I felt lucky that this more powerful experience was available to me. This – along with the stellar sleeps – was the wonderful dividend of my investment in abstention.

And yet in a few days’ time I would be them, caffeine-tolerant and addicted all over again. I wondered: was there any way to preserve the power of this drug? Could I devise a new relationship with caffeine? Maybe treat it more like a psychedelic – say, something to be taken only on occasion, and with a greater degree of ceremony and intention. Maybe just drink coffee on Saturdays? Just the one.

When I got home I tackled my to-do list with unaccustomed fervour, harnessing the surge of energy – of focus! – coursing through me, and put it to good use. I compulsively cleared and decluttered – on the computer, in my closet, in the garden and the shed. I raked, I weeded, I put things in order, as if I were possessed. Whatever I focused on, I focused on zealously and single-mindedly.

Around noon, my compulsiveness began to subside, and I felt ready for a change of scene. I had yanked a few plants out of the vegetable garden that were not pulling their weight, and decided to go to the garden centre to buy some replacements. It was during the drive that I realised the true reason I was heading to this particular garden centre: it had this Airstream trailer parked out front that served really good espresso.

This article was amended on 8 July 2021 to include mention of the Turkish influence on early European coffeehouses.

This is an edited extract from This Is Your Mind on Plants: Opium-Caffeine-Mescaline by Michael Pollan, published by Allen Lane on 8 July and available at guardianbookshop.co.uk

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Source: The invisible addiction: is it time to give up caffeine? | Coffee | The Guardian

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Critics:

Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. There are several known mechanisms of action to explain the effects of caffeine. The most prominent is that it reversibly blocks the action of adenosine on its receptors and consequently prevents the onset of drowsiness induced by adenosine. Caffeine also stimulates certain portions of the autonomic nervous system.

Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid, and is chemically related to the adenine and guanine bases of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). It is found in the seeds, fruits, nuts, or leaves of a number of plants native to Africa, East Asia and South America, and helps to protect them against herbivores and from competition by preventing the germination of nearby seeds, as well as encouraging consumption by select animals such as honey bees. The best-known source of caffeine is the coffee bean, the seed of the Coffea plant.

Caffeine is used in:

  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia in premature infants for both prevention and treatment. It may improve weight gain during therapy and reduce the incidence of cerebral palsy as well as reduce language and cognitive delay. On the other hand, subtle long-term side effects are possible.
  • Apnea of prematurity as a primary treatment, but not prevention.
  • Orthostatic hypotension treatment.
  • Some people use caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee or tea to try to treat their asthma. Evidence to support this practice, however, is poor. It appears that caffeine in low doses improves airway function in people with asthma, increasing forced expiratory volume (FEV1) by 5% to 18%, with this effect lasting for up to four hours.
  • The addition of caffeine (100–130 mg) to commonly prescribed pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen modestly improves the proportion of people who achieve pain relief
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