4 years and 6 days. Self care is critical. Make time to interact with nature and enjoy life.

 

Just looking at nature can help your brain work better, study finds

[T]he psychological benefits of green roofs to busy office workers may also be substantial, according to new research. In a study published in the journal Environmental Psychology, the University of Melbourne’s Kate Lee and a group of colleagues found that interrupting a tedious, attention-demanding task with a 40-second “microbreak” — in which one simply looks at a computerized image of a green roof — improved focus as well as subsequent performance on the task….

Other psychological benefits of nature views have also been captured in recent literature. In one study, research subjects who viewed a 12-minute nature documentary before playing a game that involved managing a fishery resource engaged in more sustainable behavior.

The new study appears to break ground by showing an effect — and a benefit — from a much smaller and shorter-lived nature exposure.

In the research, 150 students were asked to perform a cognitively demanding task called the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART). In the task, respondents view a series of individual numbers, between 1 and 9, on a computer screen. Each number flashes by very rapidly — in under a second — and the research subject has to press a particular keyboard key as rapidly as possible — unless, that is, the number is 3.

In that case, subjects have to catch themselves and not respond — which is difficult to do, given the habit built up of repeatedly and rapidly clicking the key.

This goes on for a large number of trials — 225 of them, requiring about five minutes in total to complete — making the task both difficult and also fairly taxing. No wonder, then, that it is regarded as a test of one’s ability to keep focus and attention over a period of time.

In the current study, students had to complete the SART task not once, but twice. However, they received a 40-second “microbreak” in between the two trials. During that break, their computer screens flashed either to a digital image of a city building roof covered in concrete, or one covered with grass and flowers. Then, they completed the remainder of the SART trial.


The green roof view that half of research subjects observed during their “micro-break.” (University of Melbourne)

Afterward, the students exposed to the green roof scene not only reported that it felt more “restorative,” they performed better on the task. In particular, they showed less fluctuation in response time, and made fewer errors of “omission” — failing to tap the keyboard key when they saw a number other than 3.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/05/26/viewing-nature-can-help-your-brain-work-better-study-finds/?utm_term=.e9487faa71fc

 

 

How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative

We are spending more time indoors and online. But recent studies suggest that nature can help our brains and bodies to stay healthy.

Here are some of the ways that science is showing how being in nature affects our brains and bodies.

1. Being in nature decreases stress

It’s clear that hiking—and any physical activity—can reduce stress and anxiety. But, there’s something about being in nature that may augment those impacts.

In one recent experiment conducted in Japan, participants were assigned to walk either in a forest or in an urban center (taking walks of equal length and difficulty) while having their heart rate variability, heart rate, and blood pressure measured. The participants also filled out questionnaires about their moods, stress levels, and other psychological measures.

Results showed that those who walked in forests had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress), and reported better moods and less anxiety, than those who walked in urban settings. The researchers concluded that there’s something about being in nature that had a beneficial effect on stress reduction, above and beyond what exercise alone might have produced.

In another study, researchers in Finland found that urban dwellers who strolled for as little as 20 minutes through an urban park or woodland reported significantly more stress relief than those who strolled in a city center.

The reasons for this effect are unclear; but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces. In a now-classic laboratory experiment by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and colleagues, participants who first viewed a stress-inducing movie, and were then exposed to color/sound videotapes depicting natural scenes, showed much quicker, more complete recovery from stress than those who’d been exposed to videos of urban settings.

These studies and others provide evidence that being in natural spaces— or even just looking out of a window onto a natural scene—somehow soothes us and relieves stress.

2. Nature makes you happier and less brooding

I’ve always found that hiking in nature makes me feel happier, and of course decreased stress may be a big part of the reason why. But, Gregory Bratman, of Stanford University, has found evidence that nature may impact our mood in other ways, too.

In one 2015 study, he and his colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants to a 50-minute walk in either a natural setting (oak woodlands) or an urban setting (along a four-lane road). Before and after the walk, the participants were assessed on their emotional state and on cognitive measures, such as how well they could perform tasks requiring short-term memory. Results showed that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety, rumination (focused attention on negative aspects of oneself), and negative affect, as well as more positive emotions, in comparison to the urban walkers. They also improved their performance on the memory tasks.

In another study, he and his colleagues extended these findings by zeroing in on how walking in nature affects rumination—which has been associated with the onset of depression and anxiety—while also using fMRI technology to look at brain activity. Participants who took a 90-minute walk in either a natural setting or an urban setting had their brains scanned before and after their walks and were surveyed on self-reported rumination levels (as well as other psychological markers). The researchers controlled for many potential factors that might influence rumination or brain activity—for example, physical exertion levels as measured by heart rates and pulmonary functions.

Even so, participants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety—a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.

Bratman believes results like these need to reach city planners and others whose policies impact our natural spaces. “Ecosystem services are being incorporated into decision making at all levels of public policy, land use planning, and urban design, and it’s very important to be sure to incorporate empirical findings from psychology into these decisions,” he says.

3. Nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity.

Today, we live with ubiquitous technology designed to constantly pull for our attention. But many scientists believe our brains were not made for this kind of information bombardment, and that it can lead to mental fatigue, overwhelm, and burnout, requiring “attention restoration” to get back to a normal, healthy state.

Strayer is one of those researchers. He believes that being in nature restores depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving.

“When you use your cell phone to talk, text, shoot photos, or whatever else you can do with your cell phone, you’re tapping the prefrontal cortex and causing reductions in cognitive resources,” he says.

In a 2012 study, he and his colleagues showed that hikers on a four-day backpacking trip could solve significantly more puzzles requiring creativity when compared to a control group of people waiting to take the same hike—in fact, 47 percent more. Although other factors may account for his results—for example, the exercise or the camaraderie of being out together—prior studies have suggested that nature itself may play an important role. One in Psychological Science found that the impact of nature on attention restoration is what accounted for improved scores on cognitive tests for the study participants.

This phenomenon may be due to differences in brain activation when viewing natural scenes versus more built-up scenes—even for those who normally live in an urban environment. In a recent study conducted by Peter Aspinall at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and colleagues, participants who had their brains monitored continuously using mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) while they walked through an urban green space had brain EEG readings indicating lower frustration, engagement, and arousal, and higher meditation levels while in the green area, and higher engagement levels when moving out of the green area. This lower engagement and arousal may be what allows for attention restoration, encouraging a more open, meditative mindset.

It’s this kind of brain activity—sometimes referred to as “the brain default network”—that is tied to creative thinking, says Strayer. He is currently repeating his earlier 2012 study with a new group of hikers and recording their EEG activity and salivary cortisol levels before, during, and after a three-day hike. Early analyses of EEG readings support the theory that hiking in nature seems to rest people’s attention networks and to engage their default networks.

Strayer and colleagues are also specifically looking at the effects of technology by monitoring people’s EEG readings while they walk in an arboretum, either while talking on their cell phone or not. So far, they’ve found that participants with cell phones appear to have EEG readings consistent with attention overload, and can recall only half as many details of the arboretum they just passed through, compared to those who were not on a cell phone.

Though Strayer’s findings are preliminary, they are consistent with other people’s findings on the importance of nature to attention restoration and creativity.

“If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover,” says Strayer. “And that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving, and feelings of well-being.”

4. Nature may help you to be kind and generous

Whenever I go to places like Yosemite or the Big Sur Coast of California, I seem to return to my home life ready to be more kind and generous to those around me—just ask my husband and kids! Now some new studies may shed light on why that is.

In a series of experiments published in 2014, Juyoung Lee, GGSC director Dacher Keltner, and other researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, studied the potential impact of nature on the willingness to be generous, trusting, and helpful toward others, while considering what factors might influence that relationship.

As part of their study, the researchers exposed participants to more or less subjectively beautiful nature scenes (whose beauty levels were rated independently) and then observed how participants behaved playing two economics games—the Dictator Game and the Trust Game—that measure generosity and trust, respectively. After being exposed to the more beautiful nature scenes, participants acted more generously and more trusting in the games than those who saw less beautiful scenes, and the effects appeared to be due to corresponding increases in positive emotion.

In another part of the study, the researchers asked people to fill out a survey about their emotions while sitting at a table where more or less beautiful plants were placed. Afterwards, the participants were told that the experiment was over and they could leave, but that if they wanted to they could volunteer to make paper cranes for a relief effort program in Japan. The number of cranes they made (or didn’t make) was used as a measure of their “prosociality” or willingness to help.

Results showed that the presence of more beautiful plants significantly increased the number of cranes made by participants, and that this increase was, again, mediated by positive emotion elicited by natural beauty. The researchers concluded that experiencing the beauty of nature increases positive emotion—perhaps by inspiring awe, a feeling akin to wonder, with the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself—which then leads to prosocial behaviors.

Support for this theory comes from an experiment conducted by Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues, in which participants staring up a grove of very tall trees for as little as one minute experienced measurable increases in awe, and demonstrated more helpful behavior and approached moral dilemmas more ethically, than participants who spent the same amount of time looking up at a high building.

5. Nature makes you “feel more alive”

With all of these benefits to being out in nature, it’s probably no surprise that something about nature makes us feel more alive and vital. Being outdoors gives us energy, makes us happier, helps us to relieve the everyday stresses of our overscheduled lives, opens the door to creativity, and helps us to be kind to others.

No one knows if there is an ideal amount of nature exposure, though Strayer says that longtime backpackers suggest a minimum of three days to really unplug from our everyday lives. Nor can anyone say for sure how nature compares to other forms of stress relief or attention restoration, such as sleep or meditation. Both Strayer and Bratman say we need a lot more careful research to tease out these effects before we come to any definitive conclusions.

Still, the research does suggest there’s something about nature that keeps us psychologically healthy, and that’s good to know…especially since nature is a resource that’s free and that many of us can access by just walking outside our door. Results like these should encourage us as a society to consider more carefully how we preserve our wilderness spaces and our urban parks.

And while the research may not be conclusive, Strayer is optimistic that science will eventually catch up to what people like me have intuited all along—that there’s something about nature that renews us, allowing us to feel better, to think better, and to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others.

“You can’t have centuries of people writing about this and not have something going on,” says Strayer. “If you are constantly on a device or in front of a screen, you’re missing out on something that’s pretty spectacular: the real world.”

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Go outside.  Get some fresh air.  Wander among the grass and trees.  I cannot emphasize enough how important being connected to nature is to your mental and physical health.

Do you remember how we used to go to the park or on a walk everyday when you were with me?  Do you recall all the trips we made to the beach, even if it were just for the day?  Why do you suppose we did all that?  Did you enjoy our walks and outings?  Why do you suppose that is?  Do you recall all the games we played and made up?   Remember the draw in the sand game, where we each tried to outdo the other with our sand art creatures and story lines?  Nature is stimulating in many ways, right?

Life is hard enough as it is, my sons.  Don’t make it harder than it has to be?  Exercise self-care: do the things that lifts your spirits and improves your physical and mental health.

Yes, I know you enjoy video games.  Fine.  Play video games.  But, limit your screen time!  You know the sedentary lifestyle (where you spend a lot of time indoors and in front of electronic screens) is bad for you.  For example, Johns Hopkins Medical Center found:

What health risks are linked to physical inactivity?

Lack of physical activity has clearly been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other conditions:

  • Less active and less fit people have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Physical activity can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Studies show that physically active people are less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who are inactive. This is even after researchers accounted for smoking, alcohol use, and diet.
  • Lack of physical activity can add to feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Physical inactivity may increase the risk of certain cancers.
  • Physically active overweight or obese people significantly reduced their risk for disease with regular physical activity.
  • Older adults who are physically active can reduce their risk for falls and improve their ability to do daily activities.

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/risks_of_physical_inactivity_85,P00218

After a short time on video games, turn them off.  Exercise self-control.  Go outside.

Be well, my sons.  Be happy.  Do what you need to make yourself happy.  No one can do that for you, but you.  Miserable people are miserable because they make themselves miserable.  They look for others to cheer them up, but those interactions can only momentary episodes of respite from their misery because they are ultimately miserable within their own skin.

Don’t be like them.  Find joy in every thing you do.  We did that often remember?  We had fun even doing the dishes, setting the table, or cleaning up after dinner, remember?  Why?  We enjoyed ourselves and each other’s company?  Life doesn’t have to be that hard.

Exercise self-care and make yourself feel better.  Do this everyday!

All my love, always,

Dad

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5 years, and 4 days. Why not?

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

If you want to be successful, be insatiably curious.  Ask, “Why NOT?!!!” Do it a lot and often.

Don’t accept the status quo.  Don’t accept when people sell you their limitations.  Let them keep their limitations and let not their limitations define you.

For example, years ago, when I worked for the Enron of Healthcare, lawyers from their Legal, Compliance, and Regulator departments tried and failed repeated over the course of three consecutive years to obtain a new and more expansive insurance license that would enable them to sell additional insurance products.  Instead of listening to the insurance regulators and working to find a common path would both meet the regulator’s interpretations of the law and the organization’s business imperatives, the staff at the Enron of Healthcare chose to disparage the regulators instead.  After being promoted to managing the regulatory function for the organization, I was asked by the Vice President to lead efforts to obtain the new insurance license.  My first step was to meet with the relevant stakeholders both within the company and with the regulators to find out what happened, why the efforts failed, what the legal impediments were, etc.  Repeatedly, the staff from the company told me their efforts failed because the regulators were “idiots”, “morons”, etc.  They blamed their failures on the regulators.  They saw no failings of their own.  They told me my efforts were doomed to fail because the regulators were stupid and would never grant us the new license.

Well, they were wrong.  Within months of my submission, the regulators told me they had approved my application for the new license, but they would not issue the license until my organization fix years-long violations of insurance laws that the regulators had repeatedly told the organization and that the organization had repeatedly promised to fix.  (For example, there were emails and written communications going back FIVE YEARS that the organization was illegally denying contraceptive coverage in violation of federal and state laws.  For years, the organization promised to make the necessary changes to bring their insurance polices and administrative practices into compliance with the law, and for years they failed to do so.)

Had I listened to the “counsel” of my failed predecessors, I would have given up and not try to find a common path that satisfied the requirements of the law and regulators as well as the business requirements of my organization.  In other words, I refused to let others define my strategies and worked to forge my own path to success.

Boys, ask, “Why NOT?!!!” often.  Ask, “So what?” often.  Don’t be satisfied with what you’re fed by others.

Success requires you to make use of the best and most complete information you have at your disposal at the moment of the decision.  Don’t rest on your laurels.  Don’t rely on dated and stale information.  Ask for more and better.

Be more and be better!

All my love, always,

Dad

 

5 years, and 1 day. Have faith in your ability to overcome the unimaginable.

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Today, Ms. L has been away from Little V more days than she had been with her.  For parents who adore their children, that is unimaginable.  The grief of losing our children to racist thugs who collaborated with a known pedophile to take our children overwhelms.  The other day, while watching The Light Between Oceans,” we both broke down and cried inconsolably.  A story of the loss of a child cuts too close to home.  We live it daily and need not be reminded of the immeasurable pain.

Yet, we live on.  We breathe in and out.  We put one foot in front of the other.  We put food in our mouths and force ourselves to swallow the tasteless morsels.  We marshal our energies and live to fight another day.

If I were all powerful, I would have saved you from all of this pain.  But, we are but humans and not all powerful.  Life can be unimaginably cruel for no reason at all.  You must forge your path in life to the best of your abilities, but also accept the vagaries of life as presented.  Wailing about them does nothing.  Deal with the challenges to the best of your abilities, then move on towards your goals.

We are not the only ones to suffer.  Look at the Myanmar refugee crisis for example.

Twelve-year-old Sukhutara said she watched her family’s final moments from a hiding place in the bushes.

She had just finished taking the cows to pasture that morning when soldiers in olive-green uniform stormed her village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. She said her absence saved her life.

“The military shot my father, and then as he lay on the ground a soldier cut his throat,” she said.

In a refugee camp on the border, Sukhutara, who goes by one name, sobbed as she described how troops dragged her mother and several other women into a hut. She heard screams from inside. Then the soldiers came out and set the hut ablaze….

Sukhutara, a 12-year-old Rohingya girl, inside a makeshift camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh. She said the Myanmar army killed eight members of her family in an assault on their village in Rakhine on Aug. 30.
Sukhutara, a 12-year-old Rohingya girl, inside a makeshift camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh. She said the Myanmar army killed eight members of her family in an assault on their village in Rakhine on Aug. 30. Photo: Syed Zain Al-Mahmood for The Wall Street Journal

Tulatoli, the village where Sukhutara lived, was home to between 4,000 and 5,000 people before the massacre. It was victim to among the worst violence in the military’s campaign, with witnesses saying that at least several hundred people were killed.

Sukhutara said she lost eight close relatives: her parents, grandparents and four brothers. Her uncle, Jahur Alam, with whom she now lives in the refugee camp, said there were no militants in Tulatoli when the army swept in on Aug. 30.

“If there were militants in the village, we would have fled as soon as the troops approached,” he said at a camp in Bangladesh, his arm in a sling after he was shot. “The military killed the men, raped the women, they threw little children into the water.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/myanmar-refugees-tell-of-atrocities-a-soldier-cut-his-throat-1506677403.

Her story is not unique.  Having worked with refugees for years, I am aware of countless horror stories from numerous people from countries all over the world.  I have helped a refugee from Asia, who had burns covering more than half of his body, from Africa, whose ear was cut off before her throat was cut.  The stories never get easier to stomach.

The experience of helping other refugees never prepared me for my own experience of dirty prosecutors stealing notes and files of documents and communications between us and our lawyers, of the thugs keeping our lawyers outside so that they could hurriedly finish their dirty deeds, of thugs collaborating with a pedophile to take Ms. L’s son away from her to place with the pedophile as a foster parent.  Being a Constitutional Republic meant nothing.

Thugs are thugs, and they are the same the world over.  When they work for the government, who can you turn to for protection but the international community?  See, e.g., http://time.com/3609811/police-brutality-united-states-un-ferguson-torture/;  https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/police/uspo14.htm;  http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/ngos/usa/USHRN15.pdf; https://www.propublica.org/article/who-polices-prosecutors-who-abuse-their-authority-usually-nobody; and, https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/05/prosecutors-shouldnt-be-hiding-evidence-from-defendants/275754/.

Innocent people are harmed daily by thugs and evil-doers.  That’s part of life.  You take the card you’re dealt and do your best to overcome whatever evil may bring.  We will prevail.  We will clear our names and expose the evil.

Until then, you fight on, my sons!  Breathe in and out.  Put food in your mouths, chew, and swallow.  Put one foot in front of the other, and marshal on.  For now, focus on being the best students you can be, the best person you can be.  Learn all you can from life because, some day, you might be called upon to use your knowledge to fight for the greater good.

All my love, always,

Dad

5 long and excruciating years. Don’t let others control the narrative, especially your narrative.

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Are Lying Children Naturally Smarter?

A new study suggests that how well you lie as a child is a strong indicator of how successful you’ll be as an adult.

Research conducted by the Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto indicates the skills needed to tell a convincing lie, such as quick thinking and the ability to use information to your own advantage, demonstrate a highly functioning brain.  And the younger children demonstrate these skills, the better developed their brains are.

Are Lying Children Naturally Smarter?

 

 

Is Your Child Lying to You? That’s Good

Lying is not only normal; it’s also a sign of intelligence.

Kids discover lying as early as age 2, studies have found. In one experiment, children were asked not to peek at a toy hidden behind them while the researcher withdrew from the room under false pretenses. Minutes later, the researcher returned and asked the child if he or she peeked.

This experiment, designed by the developmental psychologist Michael Lewis in the mid-1980s and performed in one form or another on hundreds of kids, has yielded two consistent findings. The first is that a vast majority of children will peek at the toy within seconds of being left alone. The other is that a significant number of them lie about it. At least a third of 2-year-olds, half of 3-year-olds and 80 percent or more of children 4 and older will deny their transgression, regardless of their gender, race or family’s religion….

Why do some children start lying at an earlier age than others? What separates them from their more honest peers? The short answer is that they are smarter.

Professor Lewis has found that toddlers who lie about peeking at the toy have higher verbal I.Q.s than those who don’t, by as much as 10 points. (Children who don’t peek at the toy in the first place are actually the smartest of all, but they are a rarity.)

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/opinion/sunday/children-lying-intelligence.html

My dearest and most precious Shosh and Jaialai:

I hope 2018 finds you well and joyful.  Choose to be happy, my sons.  Life is suffering (per Buddha), but we don’t have to let the suffering control either us or our lives.  We are the authors of our own fate.

In that vein, recent news stories suggest that kids who lie are smarter than average.  Lying requires higher brain function for a number of reasons:

[K]ids with better cognitive abilities who lie more. That’s because to lie you also have to keep the truth in mind, which involves multiple brain processes, such as integrating several sources of information and manipulating that information … The ability to lie—and lie successfully—is thought to be related to development of brain regions that allow so-called ‘executive functioning,’ or higher order thinking and reasoning abilities. Kids who perform better on tests that involve executive functioning also lie more.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/05/are-kids-who-lie-smarter/340897/

As interesting as that may be, note that neither Time nor The Atlantic mentioned what The New York Times noted in a parenthetical statement — children who exercise self-control and obviated the need to lie in the first place are the smartest children of the bunch!  So, no, the narrative is not that children who lie are smart, but that children who exercise self-control are the smartest.

Other psychological studies have borne this out.  For example, the famous “Marshmallow Experiment” by psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University and his colleagues.  They tempted 4 year-olds with treats, telling them they could eat the one cookie or marshmallow in front of them immediately or wait a little and get two cookies or marshmallows.

“Sometimes experimenters had not even finished talking about the experiment when the kids already ate the marshmallow or cookie,” said cognitive neuroscientist B.J. Casey at Weill Cornell Medical College, who has taken part in follow-up studies on this work. “Other 4-year-olds were able to wait by sitting on their hands and turning away, or creating imaginary friends to distract them.”

Since Mischel’s daughters attended nursery school with many of these children in the study, he began noticing that whether or not the kids delayed gratification appeared linked with many other factors in their lives. Kids who succumbed quickly to temptation often had lower SAT scores, a higher body-mass index and a slightly increased risk of substance abuse later on.

Casey refers to those who quickly gave in as low-delayers and those who can delay gratification high-delayers.

https://www.livescience.com/15821-cookie-test-control.html.

So, the story isn’t really about encouraging your kids to lie or being proud of the fact that their lying is a sign of intelligence.  If you want kids to be among the smartest, teach them self-control.

In fact, even the focus on intelligence may not necessarily be the best approach or benchmark for child-rearing.

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

HINT: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on “process”—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life

A brilliant student, Jonathan sailed through grade school. He completed his assignments easily and routinely earned As. Jonathan puzzled over why some of his classmates struggled, and his parents told him he had a special gift. In the seventh grade, however, Jonathan suddenly lost interest in school, refusing to do homework or study for tests. As a consequence, his grades plummeted. His parents tried to boost their son’s confidence by assuring him that he was very smart. But their attempts failed to motivate Jonathan (who is a composite drawn from several children). Schoolwork, their son maintained, was boring and pointless.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 35 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential. On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on “process” (consisting of personal effort and effective strategies) rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids1/

Thus, as I’ve said before, try your best and try to improve a little each day.  Don’t worry so much about the immediate outcome.  Life is the long play.  Work to succeed in life by striving to better yourself day by day.

Exercise self-control.  Our instant gratification culture is toxic.  Don’t give in to it.

Shosh, as a young child, your mother taught you it was okay to scream until you get what you wanted immediately.  For example, as a two-year-old, while in the car, you’d shout out “Two!” and your mom would immediately change the CD to track 2.  Grandmother used to tell me that when you guys drove by an excavator, you’d scream and cried until your mother had to turn back and let you look more closely at it.  That was bad parenting.  She abdicated her parental duties by letting you call the shots.  That was lazy of her because it was the path of least resistance for her.  She was doing you no favor.  Why?  By telling you that you can get whatever you want whenever you wanted it, she is preparing you for failure.  In life, you cannot do whatever you want whenever you want to.  For example, despite our Freedom of Speech, you could get arrested if you shouted “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater when there was no fire.  I hope you have gained better self-control and are better suited for success in life.

It’s not just about having self-control over your words, but also your every action.  It’s effortful, but success is effortful.  If it were easy, everyone would be successful.  Look at your mom’s side of the family and my side of the family.  Where are they in life and what have they achieved?  It is no mistake that more of our side have doctorates and advanced degrees and are in management at major organizations.

Be successful, my sons.  Try your best.  Try to be better each day.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 11 months, and 21 days. Happy New Year, my sons!

 

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My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

All we want to Christmas is our family.  Alas, we will have to wait another year to make our dream come true.

May the last days of 2017 bring you closure. May 2018 bring you inner peace, good health, and joy.  May your hard work pay off.  May you find true friends who nourish your souls.  May love find you fulfilled.  May a smile grace your lips each day.  May your patience not be tested.  However, if tested, may your graciousness rule.

May you have the courage to make mistakes, and the wisdom to learn from them.  May each day find you better, however slightly, than the preceding day.

Know you are loved … truly loved and truly missed.

All my love always,

Dad

 

4 years, 11 months, and 9 days. Nurture your imagination. Learn to see possibilities and have the courage to pursue them.

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Imagining bodily states, like feeling full, can affect our future preferences and behaviour

Our current bodily states influence our preferences and our behaviour much more than we usually anticipate – as anyone who has gone shopping hungry and come back with bags full of fattening food can attest. “Even when people have previous experience with a powerful visceral state, like pain, they show surprisingly little ability to vividly recall the state or to predict how it affects someone (including themselves) when they are not experiencing it,” write Janina Steinmertz at Utrecht University and her colleagues in their paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The good news is their research suggests we can exploit this phenomenon – we can trick ourselves into thinking we’re feeling differently, thereby influencing our preferences in ways that help us. For instance, one potentially important finding from their paper was that people who thought themselves full went on to choose smaller food portion sizes.

The research builds on earlier work that’s found that getting people to consider a particular experience can have a similar effect as actually doing it. For example, people who looked at pictures of salty, savoury foods and rated how much they’d enjoy them, subsequently enjoyed eating peanuts less than others who’d first looked at images of sweet foods. It’s as if merely considering salty food had led to a degree of satiation.

Steinmertz and her colleagues wanted to investigate whether mentally simulating feeling warm or cold, and also hungry or full, affected people’s subsequent preferences, and even their actual behaviour.

For the first study, 119 participants spent 30 seconds imagining themselves in a picture that either depicted a very cold environment (a snowy landscape or a picture of a glacier) or a hot environment (a desert or a lava lake). Afterwards, people in the cold condition reported feeling colder and were more likely to say they preferred “warming” activities, like a hot bath, to cooling activities, like a “cool, refreshing shower”.

A similar effect occurs based purely on our imagination, without the aid of pictures. For the second study, 300 participants were spent 60 seconds imagining, in detail, feeling very hot – or cold, hungry, or full. They then wrote about how they thought they would feel, and how they would act. This kind of purely mental simulation also influenced their reported preferences for related activities – people who’d imagined being hungry were more likely to say they’d prefer to go on a date to a restaurant than a date to see a movie, for example.

To find out if we can exploit these effects to our advantage, the researchers recruited another 111 people to explore the effects of imagining bodily states on subsequent food choices. Participants spent a minute imagining either being hungry or full. Then they were asked to choose between a variety of rewards, including varying sizes of popcorn, chocolate ice cream and crisps, one of which they were told they would receive. Crucially, the participants who’d imagined being full chose smaller food portion sizes than those who’d imagined being hungry. This showed, the researchers write, that mentally simulating visceral states “can affect real choices with immediate consequences”.

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/12/13/imagining-bodily-states-like-feeling-full-can-affect-our-future-preferences-and-behaviour/

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Remember how I have always told you that the mind is your greatest tool?  As seen above, research continues to bear this out.

You are what think; thus, don’t embrace the suck but do embrace the best possibilities.  Many much greater than I have stated this much better than I.  For example,

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https://i2.wp.com/img.picturequotes.com/2/259/258676/see-it-first-in-your-mind-then-become-it-quote-1.jpg

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https://stevenwebb.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Peace-of-mind-quote-The-World-Exist-As-You-Perceive-It.-It-Is-Not-What-You-See....-Rumi-600x600.jpg

The commonality here is your mind.  That’s the control mechanism for your life.  Don’t let others take control of your mind or your life.

But, the mind is like a garden.  You must tend to it.  You must nourish it and water it daily.  Give your mind healthy things like nutritious food, sleep, literature, music, silence, joy, friendship, etc.  Also, take care to control harmful weed and pests.  Don’t embrace or dwell on pettiness, dark thoughts, negativity, failures, hate, vengeance, etc.  Put only as much thought in each of those negative thing AS IS NECESSARY to deal with it, to learn from it, etc., then MOVE ON!

Focus on the what you must do TODAY to get to your goals for tomorrow and the future.  DON’T waste your life away reliving the past or dreaming of the future.  Deal with TODAY.  Deal with this very moment!

If the moment is filled with negative thoughts, change it.  Refocus.  Don’t give life and energy to what will only harm you. Why would you do that?!!  A friend of mine in college once marveled at the fact that if I don’t want to think about something — like ghosts in the middle of a stormy night when the power is out — I simply won’t.  He, on the other hand, couldn’t help indulging himself.  That’s all it is:  self-indulgence.  Don’t do it.  It’s like having the discipline to not pick at that scab on your wound.  You know it’s the body’s way of healing, but your curiosity can compel you to peel off the scab to see how the wound is faring.  Don’t.  Let it be.  The wound will heal faster if you let it work its magic.

I love you, I miss you, and I want the best for you always.  Be well, my sons  Be happy.  Be good to yourselves and others.  The world really is your oyster.  Let your mind lead you to success.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

4 years, 11 months, and 8 days. Rudeness is contagious. Avoid rude people; they will infect you with their rudeness. Be kind.

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Workplace rudeness is contagious, study says

Rudeness in the workplace isn’t just unpleasant: It’s also contagious.

Encountering rude behavior at work makes people more likely to perceive in later interactions, a University of Florida study shows. That perception makes them more likely to be impolite in return, spreading rudeness like a virus.

“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable,” said lead author Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student in management at UF’s Warrington College of Business Administration. “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”

The findings, published June 29 in the Journal of Applied Psychology, provide the first evidence that everyday impoliteness spreads in the workplace.

“Part of the problem is that we are generally tolerant of these behaviors, but they’re actually really harmful,” Foulk said. “Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace.”

The study tracked 90 graduate students practicing negotiation with classmates. Those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner, showing that they passed along the first partner’s rudeness. The effect continued even when a week elapsed between the first and second negotiations.

Rudeness directed at others can also prime our brains to detect discourtesy. Foulk and his co-authors, fellow doctoral student Andrew Woolum and UF management professor Amir Erez, tested how quickly 47 undergraduate students could identify which words in a list were real and which were nonsense words. Before the exercise began, participants observed one of two staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader. When the leader was rude to the latecomer, the participants identified rude words on the list as real words significantly faster than participants who had observed the neutral interaction.

The impact of secondhand rudeness didn’t stop there, however: Just like those who experience rudeness firsthand, people who witness it were more likely to be rude to others. When study participants watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer email that was neutral in tone, they were more likely to be hostile in their responses than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

“That tells us that rudeness will flavor the way you interpret ambiguous cues,” Foulk said.

Foulk hopes the study will encourage employers to take incivility more seriously.

“You might go your whole career and not experience abuse or aggression in the workplace, but rudeness also has a negative effect on performance,” he said. “It isn’t something you can just turn your back on. It matters.”

https://phys.org/news/2015-07-workplace-rudeness-contagious.html

 

Rudeness At Work: On the Rise, And Coming With A Big Cost

Just because you’ve developed a thick skin for rude, discourteous behavior, doesn’t mean workplace incivility is not hurting you–and your family. A new Baylor University study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that workplace rudeness can follow you home, causing you to unleash “incivil” behavior on your loved ones.

That’s disconcerting news for the 43% of Americans who have experienced incivility at work, according to the report, Civility in America, 2011. To be clear, incivility is different from aggressive bullying, which usually carries the intent to harm someone. With incivility, the intent is ambiguous, and it’s less intense and characterized by demeaning remarks, showing little interest in a worker’s opinion, acting rudely or with poor manners, among other uncivilized behaviors.

The Baylor study found that those who experienced workplace incivility had lower levels of marital satisfaction and greater family/work conflict, particularly for the partner. It also found that stress from incivility was contagious to family members.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/rudeness-at-work-on-the-rise-and-coming-with-a-big-cost/

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Christmas is a difficult time for us, and I’m sure for you guys.  Your absence is felt more strongly during the holidays.  We miss you and love you boys so much!  Do try to enjoy the warmth and joy of Christmas.  It’s such a special season.  It has always been for us, and will be again some day.

For now try to get into the Christmas spirit and be kind to loved ones and others.  Like rudeness, kindness is also contagious.  Be kind.

Kindness is Contagious, New Study Finds

Imerman Angels, a cancer support organization based in Chicago, has “floods of volunteers,” according to John May, chairman of its board of directors and a long-time volunteer himself.

“You can’t help but just get excited to get involved,” he said.

These do-gooders are not alone: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 63 million people volunteered in 2009, 1.6 million more than the year before. But the question of motive remains: Why is being nice so popular these days?

New research may unlock the mystery: Kindness is contagious, according to a study done by researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Cambridge and University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

When we see someone else help another person it gives us a good feeling, which in turn causes us to go out and do something altruistic ourselves, the study found, which was the first of its kind to systematically document this tendency in human nature.

“When you feel this sense of moral ‘elevation’ not only do you say you want to be a better person and help others,” said Simone Schnall, of Cambridge, the lead researcher. “But you actually do when the opportunity presents itself.”

Researchers performed two experiments in which they showed viewers either a nature documentary, a funny TV clip or an uplifting segment from the Oprah Winfrey Show, and then asked them to voluntarily help with another task. In both cases, participants that watched Oprah and subsequently experienced the elevated feeling were more likely to help.

“Elevation,” a term coined by Thomas Jefferson, is different from regular happiness, a specific emotion that we experience only when we see someone else engaged in virtuous acts, Schnall said.

And though previous studies have documented this emotional response before, little research had been done to see if people actually acted on their feelings of being inspired, she said.

“Human nature is essentially good,” she said. “And this study proves that seeing good things actually makes us better.”

https://helix.northwestern.edu/article/kindness-contagious-new-study-finds

Do you remember what Father Dave used to say?  Before you speak, ask yourself: (1) is it kind? (2) is it helpful? (3) is it necessary?  If it doesn’t pass all three of those tests, keep it to yourself.

Sometimes, you will be challenged to be kind when encountering rudeness — which appears to be more pervasive these days.  If that should happen, think of Emily Post’s advice.

Five Ways to Combat Rudeness

Handling other people’s rudeness is tricky. You can’t control someone else’s behavior. So focus on maintaining your own standard of good behavior instead. Here are some tips to help:

  1. Don’t take it personally. Perhaps the offender is having a bad day.
  2. Size up your annoyances. Is it worth it to make a fuss over something small, or is it a waste of your emotional time?
  3. Set a good example. Rudeness begets rudeness. If you speak sharply to the bank teller, don’t be surprised if you get the same treatment in return.
  4. Count to ten. When someone’s behavior makes you angry, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself, “Is it really worth blowing my stack over this?”
  5. Laugh it off. If you can’t come up with a friendly joke, just chuckle and change the subject.

http://emilypost.com/advice/five-ways-to-combat-rudeness/

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My goal for my life is significantly less ambitious than Gandhi’s.  I simply want to leave my little corner of the world a little nicer than how I found it.  That’s it.

In my younger days, I had grandiose goals — to change the world, to teach kids how to be altruistic, to create good laws and good policies that would elevate society, to fight the great injustices inflicted upon the weak by the powerful and greedy, to help the homeless, to protect the abused, etc.  These days, I just want my sons, a clean sidewalk, a patch of grass that is litter-free, hope for the future, etc.

Whatever your goals, try to reach it through kindness rather than rudeness, meanness, and pettiness.  For example, years ago, I thought about applying to law school at Georgetown University.  However, I was disabused of that idea by roommates who attended GU Law.  We agreed GU has a great law school, but it was also a mean one.  Students there were  known to hide reference books that were necessary for class assignments, steal classmates’ notes, and sabotage other students.  No doubt GU Law students are smart people — they gained admission to a top-tier program.  However, their conducts also revealed their insecurities.  They saw the world as a zero sum game, and believed they could only advance by pulling others down.  That’s a pitiful way of looking at the world.

Thankfully, not every one sees the world that way.  In graduate school for a social program at Duke University, for example, during the first week of school, we were given an assignment and the manual for SPSSx — a statistical analysis program used for, among other things, multi-variable programing and data analysis.  None of us were computer programmers.  None of us had programming experience.  The manual was gibberish to us — we might as well be learning Chinese.  In the Computer Lab, some of the girls cried out of frustration.  Others stewed.  (Remember, all of us were used to success and smart enough to gain admission to that top-ranked graduate program at Duke University!)  After a while, someone brought music. Others brought beer.  Slowly, as a group, we worked together to decipher that manual and teach each other SPSSx.

Success doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.  If you help nurture others and surround yourselves with bright and capable people, think how much more you could accomplish as a group versus on your own.  Each of us bring different strengths to the table.  Why not utilize the different skill sets for the good of the group?  Insecure people tear down others.  Secure people understands the value of working together with others and that other’s gifts do not necessarily diminish their own.

Avoid those who tear you down to lift themselves up: work with those who believe it in working together to improve the lot of everyone.

All my love, always,

Dad