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2018-04-25T20:24:40.320Z
0
{"feed":"Barking-Up-The-Wrong-Tree","feedTitle":"Barking Up The Wrong Tree","feedLink":"/feed/Barking-Up-The-Wrong-Tree","catTitle":"Lifestyle","catLink":"/cat/lifestyle"}

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Sometimes it feels like the world is actively conspiring against your happiness. Now before you start folding your tin foil hat, let me say that you might not be paranoid…

Right now there are a record number of people on antidepressants. So many that even if you’re not taking antidepressants, well… you still kinda are.

Enough people in Western nations consume — and then excrete — the medications that they’re at detectable levels in the water supply.

From Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions:

Some one in five U.S. adults is taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem; nearly one in four middle-aged women in the United States is taking antidepressants at any given time… You can’t escape it: when scientists test the water supply of Western countries, they always find it is laced with antidepressants, because so many of us are taking them and excreting them that they simply can’t be filtered out of the water we drink every day.

For the past few decades we’ve lived under the idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in your noggin. And while that is true for some people, more and more research is showing...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

I’ll bet you’re not getting enough sleep. Honestly, I’m kind of cheating — it’s a pretty safe bet.

From Why We Sleep:

Two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep.

And that’s bad. Really bad… Yes, this is the part where I lecture you on how horrific missing sleep is. I promise to make it as quick and terrifying as possible, okay?

From Why We Sleep:

Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Fitting Charlotte Brontë’s prophetic wisdom that “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,” sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality.

So if you’re fond of saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, well, that may be happening a lot faster than...

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Forget pandas. Close friends are the real endangered species these days.

That’s a painful thing. And I don’t mean “sad-painful.” I mean “broken-arm-painful.” At least that’s how your brain sees it. Your grey matter experiences social pain the exact same way it does physical pain. So much so that Tylenol actually relieves feelings of rejection.

From The Neuroscience of Human Relationships:

The overlap of neuroanatomical processes involved in physical and social pain highlights the conservation of preexisting structures for later-evolving functions. The cingulate becomes activated when we, or those we love, experience physical pain as well as when we experience social exclusion (Davis et al., 1997; Koyama et al., 1998; Lenz et al., 1998; Panksepp, 2003b). The common underlying neurobiology of physical and social pain may help us to understand why the quality of our relationships has such a profound effect on our physical health (Robles & Kiecolt-Glaser, 2003). It also helps to explain why painkillers such as acetaminophen decrease anterior cingulate activation as well as the negative emotional impact of social rejection (Petrovic et al., 2002; DeWall et al., 2010).

A hospital noticed that a lot of child patients were dying. So they limited the tykes contact with others to protect the kids from catching...

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Ever get to the point where your brain is just pooped? The ol’ grey matter is waving the white flag. You’re exhausted. You can’t go on. You’ve got no more mental energy…

Well, sorry, but that’s just not true.

In fact, you know it’s not true. When the deadline is in 5 hours, you can work for five hours straight. But when the deadline is next week, suddenly you can’t work for 20 minutes before your eyes are glazing over. What gives?

Oddly enough, we can find an answer in cutting edge research coming out of… Would you believe me if I said “professional sports”? Seriously.

A sprinter breaks a record. The commentators are saying how that competitor gave it his or her all… Really? Did the sprinter use every bit of energy they had? Then why didn’t they die? I’m serious.

Why didn’t their heart stop beating because it had no energy? Why didn’t their brain stop functioning from lack of calories? Why didn’t their thighs muscles snap?

But you’ve never seen an athlete just die from exhaustion, have you? Why not? Something flipped the tired switch before their heart, brain or muscles gave out. Long before.

And that thing is your “governor.” No,...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

The human brain is the most amazing thing in the universe. It got us to the moon, built the pyramids, cured smallpox… And it also can’t seem to go 6 minutes without checking Facebook.

How long can college students focus without switching to something fun like social media or texting?

5 minutes. Tops.

From The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World:

Regardless of age, students were able to stay focused and attend to that important work only for a short period of time—three to five minutes—before most students self-interrupted their studying to switch to another task.

And that was under lab conditions when they were specifically instructed to focus as long as they could on something they were told was important. Yikes.

Our attention spans are evaporating. Focus is a lost art. Research shows we check our phones up to 150 times a day — about every six to seven minutes that we’re awake. In fact, we’re so distracted we’re walking into things.

From The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World:

According to one report in Scientific American, data from a sample of 100 US hospitals found that while in 2004 an estimated nationwide 559 people had hurt themselves by walking...

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Relationships are important. Like, more-important-than-Vitamin-C important. Scurvy is no fun but a lack of relationships might kill you faster.

From The Relationship Cure:

A study of people living in Alameda County, California, for example, showed that people who had close friendships and marriages lived longer than those who didn’t. This was true independent of such factors as diet, smoking, and exercise. Another study, of 2,800 men and women over age sixty-five, showed that those with more friends had a lower risk of health problems and recovered faster when they did develop them. In addition, a study of 10,000 seniors at Yale University showed that loners were twice as likely to die from all causes over a five-year period as those who enjoyed close friendships.

But what makes them work? What makes them fail? What’s the essential building block of a relationship? Why do some spark and others fade? You might have a theory or two but I don’t think we know what really keeps love, friendship, and family going.

And that, frankly, is kinda terrifying. Luckily, there is someone who knows…

Dr. John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at University of Washington, is the guy when it comes to relationships. He’s...

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

“Older and wiser.” You’re on board with that, right? Sure. But what if I said “older and more joyful?”

That probably doesn’t click in the same way. Physically, getting old sucks.

From Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old:

At ages eighty-five and up, one in three people say they have trouble hearing; 31 percent have trouble caring for themselves; half have trouble walking and living independently; and 28 percent say they have cognitive difficulty… Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and other dementias-all increase dramatically by age seventy and accelerate with each additional year.

Youth is all smiles and hope; old age is aches and pains while you count down the days to the end, right?

Wrong.

They did a study at Stanford University tracking the emotions of a group of people ages 18-94. Guess what? Older people are happier.

From Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old:

Older people consistently reported just as many positive emotions as the younger participants, but had fewer negative ones. They also had more mixed emotions, meaning that they didn’t let frustration or anxiety keep them from saying they were happy. Consciously or unconsciously, they...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

What makes a team effective? Is it trust? Cooperation? “Chemistry”?

You have no idea. Don’t worry — neither did I. Kinda terrifying, isn’t it? We’re all part of friendships, work teams, and families and we don’t really know what builds trust, unity, or makes a group effective.

Luckily, one very smart guy went looking for answers…

Bestselling author Dan Coyle spent the past four years studying world class teams to see what makes them great. He reviewed the research, sat down with Pixar, spent time with the Navy SEALs — heck, he even looked at the best crew of jewel thieves out there.

His excellent new book is The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups.

He found there were three key elements they all had in common that boosted trust, cooperation, motivation and overall performance. And they’re going to surprise you.

Let’s get to it…

 

1) Build Safety

Safety is a lot like oxygen — you really don’t think about it unless it’s missing. And by the same token, almost nobody deliberately sets out to create it.

But it’s really hard to create trust or work together effectively when you feel like you’re going to be judged, scolded or fired for saying...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

There’s a voice shouting. Takes a second before you realize it’s yours. You feel energized. Righteous. Driving every point home. It’s like the climax of a courtroom drama and you’re the hero…

Too bad you’re saying a lot of stuff you’re definitely going to regret in twenty minutes. But, hey, at least you’re getting it off your chest, right? Venting the anger. Um, no, actually…

“Venting” just makes anger worse.

From Handbook of Emotion Regulation:

…focusing on a negative emotion will likely intensify the experience of that emotion further and thus make down-regulation more difficult, leading to lower adjustment and well-being.

And as if the short term damage wasn’t enough, the jokes about anger and heart attacks aren’t very far off the mark. At all.

From The DBT Skills Workbook for Anger:

…research on anger has shown that chronic anger and hostility can increase one’s vulnerability to cardiovascular problems (Suls and Bunde 2005), cause problems in relationships, pose barriers to functioning at work, and get in the way of important goals (Kassinove 1995).

So what really reduces anger? Mindfulness. Trendy, I know. Before you go shopping for meditation cushions, perhaps it would be good to have an actual definition of the word.

From...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

“Work smarter, not harder.” Sounds good. But how do you actually do that?

*crickets*

Well, luckily someone finally took up the challenge of finding a clear answer…

UC Berkeley professor Morten Hansen looked at 200 academic papers, interviewed 120 experts, ran a pilot study on 300 subjects, and built a framework which he then tested on 5000 participants from various industries and backgrounds.

He found 7 behaviors that made up 66% of the difference in how people performed. (By comparison, standard metrics like education, age, and hours worked were only responsible for 10% combined.)

His new book is Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More.

We’re gonna look at 3 of his findings so that we can get better work done in less time — and even achieve that mythical “work-life balance” unicorn everyone is always talking about.

Let’s start with the single most effective strategy he uncovered…

 

1) Do Less — Then Obsess

Everyone agrees we need to quit trying to accomplish 9000 things at once and stop multitasking. But when Hansen looked at the data he found that this was only half the solution.

Top performers definitely focus on fewer goals —...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

How should we treat other people? Well, if you look at ancient traditions, they’re very often on the same page. Golden Rule for the win:

  • King James Bible: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.”
  • Hinduism: “Knowing how painful it is to himself, a person should never do to others what he dislikes when done to him by others.”
  • Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”
  • Islam: “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

But there’s another question that gets a lot less attention:

How should you treat you?

On this subject we hear a lot of conflicting stuff. Some say confidence is critical and we should always be pumping ourselves up. Others say humility is key and we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. And some think we should be hard on ourselves in order to become the best we can be.

But I read something recently that really clicked. It actually made me stop and say, “Wow.”

From 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos:

Treat yourself as if you were someone you were responsible for helping.

Sure, you might be indulgent or...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

I read a lot of books. I reference at least one book a week in these blog posts but I have to read a lot more than that — usually 4 to 5 times as many — to find the ones worth citing.

So a lot of people ask me what’s worth their time. And that’s not a simple question. Just because I reference a book in a blog post doesn’t mean it’s “good” — it means it had something good in it. (If you need to know the definition of “smorgasbord” then a dictionary is very useful. That doesn’t mean I’d suggest reading it cover to cover.)

So I’m going to recommend some books that are helpful in navigating this sprawling, lovely mess called life. Very big picture. Books specifically on career or relationships or happiness will have to wait.

While I’m busy caveat-ing over here, let me say that doing a booklist is like painting a bullseye on your forehead. Everybody who ever read so much as “Goodnight Moon” is going to come out and say, “Well, you know, you really should have mentioned…” You can never win with a booklist; you can only do “pretty good.”

So this list isn’t exhaustive....

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Emotional Intelligence. Another “it” theory of the moment. The media’s panacea of the week. Another great thing we all need — that nobody seems to be able to clearly define.

I swear I’m going to do a book of psychology buzzword mad libs (“My mindful grit is emotionally intelligent due to the oxytocin in my mirror neurons”). But I digress…

Here’s the thing: emotional intelligence is real — but that vague 2-sentence summary you read in an inflight magazine isn’t accurate and won’t give you what you need to improve this curious little skill set.

So what is it really? (I’m so glad you asked.) It’s a concept that John Mayer of the University of New Hampshire and Yale professor Peter Salovey came up with in the early 90’s that was subsequently studied and popularized by Daniel Goleman. Here’s Mayer’s definition.

From Harvard Business Review Guide to Emotional Intelligence:

From a scientific standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions.

Now most of the work on emotional intelligence has been done around its effects in the workplace but it’ll quickly become obvious how it can improve most...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Ever feel like you’re not good enough? Something bad happens and your brain plays a YouTube highlight reel of every mistake you’ve ever made. Your confidence crashes and your self-esteem flatlines.

You’re not alone. People have been feeling like this as long as there have been people. It’s an old problem and there are old solutions — old solutions that work pretty darn well, as a matter of fact.

I’ve talked about how psychologists steam-cleaned and science-tized ancient Buddhism into modern mindfulness. Well, some very smart people have also dusted off Stoicism and weaponized it into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — which is the most empirically supported treatment for the majority of psychological conditions.

Mindfulness is the gentle cousin that steps back, examines thoughts, and lets the problematic ones float away. But it’s not for everybody…

CBT, on the other hand, is the aggressive cousin that asks negative thoughts if they’d like to step outside and settle this in the alley behind the bar. Having honed Stoic principles into a martial art called “rationality”, CBT righteously whoops some tuchus on the ideas that bring you down.

So when you’re feeling not-so-large-and-in-charge and need a boost, how do you use the modern version of ancient Stoicism to...

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

A lot of the time you know what the smart thing to do is. But you’re still worried about how it might turn out. Or regrets about a past decision are making you overthink things.

Your brain is telling you all kinds of negative stories about how stuff might go wrong and you end up more focused on alleviating those concerns than making choices based on your values.

So you play it too safe. Or you get reckless and swing for the fences. Or you’re paralyzed and procrastinate. But there’s a way out of this loop. Cue the trumpets:

Mindfulness. That thing everybody these days thinks is so darn cool but nobody can tell you what it means.

Alright, quick definition for our purposes: awareness of your thoughts and feelings without being consumed by them.

(Yeah, I know, that clarifies nothing for you… yet. Well, gimme a second here. We’re just getting started, okay? Jeez.)

A lot of smart psychologists took mindfulness and science-tized it and created ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.) Let’s see how ACT can help you deal with your negative thoughts so you can make smarter decisions based on what’s really important to you.

Mindfulness to the rescue. (And, no, I’m not gonna make you meditate.)

Let’s get to it…

 

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Sometimes we all feel anxious. Sometimes lonely or disconnected. Sometimes unhappy, and maybe even a little crazy. You know what might fix all of this?

Would you believe me if I said… a war?

From Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging:

The positive effects of war on mental health were first noticed by the great sociologist Emile Durkheim, who found that when European countries went to war, suicide rates dropped. Psychiatric wards in Paris were strangely empty during both world wars, and that remained true even as the German army rolled into the city in 1940. Researchers documented a similar phenomenon during civil wars in Spain, Algeria, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland. An Irish psychologist named H. A. Lyons found that suicide rates in Belfast dropped 50 percent during the riots of 1969 and 1970, and homicide and other violent crimes also went down. Depression rates for both men and women declined abruptly during that period, with men experiencing the most extreme drop in the most violent districts. County Derry, on the other hand—which suffered almost no violence at all—saw male depression rates rise rather than fall.

Hold on a second before you send me that angry email. I’m not really suggesting war as a solution...

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Do your friends sometimes disappoint you? Ever feel like there is something missing in your relationships?  You’re not alone.

Tom Rath and the Gallup organization discovered something interesting: the vast majority of the time, no one pal offers you everything you need from your relationships.

Some of your friends are great listeners… but they’re not always there when you need them. Others are intensely loyal… but just not that great at helping you out of a jam. And so on.

We get different things from different friends. And sometimes even with a sizable group you’re still not getting all the things you want in order to feel truly supported in life. Kinda like how to be healthy you need the four different food groups — you can’t just eat cookies for every meal.

“Friendship” is a pretty vague word. You generally don’t even know everything you want from your relationships to feel whole — you just know something’s missing. There’s a gap.

So Rath and Gallup got to work. They surveyed over a thousand people to find out what the types of “vital friends” were — someone who if they vanished, your life satisfaction would noticeably decrease.

What did these types of friends offer? How do they round...

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Your first kiss. Graduation. Your first job. Your wedding day. Birth of your first child.

These are the big memories that we all cherish. But there are other little memories that stick out because they had such a powerful emotional impact on you. Moments that enriched your life, bonded you with others and helped you define who you are.

Well, the latter are just “magic”, right? Serendipity. Can’t engineer that. They just “happen”…

*Writer rolls his eyes so hard he gets a migraine.*

Yeah, and sometimes they don’t. More often that not, one days rolls into the next, one month rolls into the next, you blink your eyes and you’re staring down the barrel of another New Year’s Day saying: where the heck did the time go?

Serendipity can be a bus that never arrives. So why do we leave special moments to chance? And why do we not do more to create those special memories for others — the way we’d like them to make some for us?

We get tired. We get lazy. And them boom — suddenly CVS is loaded with Christmas ornaments and it signals the end of another year. No good. If we want great memories we have to make them.

But how do you do that? What makes...

***

Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

Is that difficult someone driving you up the wall? What’s the best way to handle impossible people?

I’ve broken down the research on how to handle narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths and other “cluster B” troublemakers, and the primary answer is always the same:

Run. Get outta there. No contact.

Personality disorders are notoriously difficult to treat, cluster B’s are notoriously difficult to deal with, and you’re not a therapist. (Though at this point you probably feel like a very frazzled one.)

But I received a lot of responses from readers basically saying: What do I do if I can’t leave? Is there any way to make them change?

It’s their boss and they need this job. It’s their spouse and they have kids together. It’s their best friend and they can’t in good conscience abandon them.

So how do you deal with a narcissist when saying “MEEP-MEEP” and sprinting away Road-Runner-style isn’t an option?

Dr. Craig Malkin is a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and his new book Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad — and Surprising Good — About Feeling Special offers some hope.

A lot of what you know about narcissists is wrong and there are proven ways to not only deal...

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Before we commence with the festivities, I wanted to thank everyone for helping my first book become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. To check it out, click here.

***

You want to get to work but instead you surf the internet. You want to diet but instead you eat enough candy to give an entire 2nd grade classroom type 2 diabetes. Why?

You might think you lack self-control. Or that you make bad decisions. But none of these explanations ever seems to get to the bottom of why what-you-think and what-you-do all too frequently don’t line up.

What the heck is going in your brain that causes these inconsistencies? Sometimes it’s almost like you’re 2 different people. Or 3. Or 19.

There’s a very simple answer: you are 19 different people. Or 4. Or 107. But what you aren’t is one person. Yeah, sounds crazy, I know. Stay with me…

Over 1000 years ago Buddhism — where mindfulness techniques come from — said that there is no singular “you.” The “self” does not exist. Sound like crazy nonsense? I’m with you. (All 27 of you, actually.) But here’s the thing…

Both neuroscience and psychology are starting to agree. Sometimes you don’t act like you because there is no singular “you.”

And this positively perplexing proposition holds the answer to why you do dumb things, procrastinate, can’t follow through on your goals, and why some days it seems...