I want to be alone

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What a relief! A new study indicates social withdrawal isn’t always a bad thing.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo looked at the motivation behind the desire to be alone. They cite three reasons why people avoid others. One is plain old shyness because of fear or anxiety. A second is avoidance, dislike of being with others or social interaction.

The third, however, is that some people just like spending time reading or working on their computers. They call this unsociability. Can I hear an amen from the introverts of the world?

That third category of people may not initiate social opportunities but will accept them if offered, so they are not totally missing out on peer interaction.

The first two categories result in negative outcomes like lack of social skills or support. The third is positively correlated with creativity. This gives me great comfort.

So, if you are like me and really would prefer to keep your distance most of the time, go ahead. Embrace your solitude. You know you want to.

 

 

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Conversing over cocktails

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Once upon a time, I took several semesters of noncredit Spanish classes. I did OK in reading, but in situations where I needed to speak to someone in Spanish I froze up. Maybe I should’ve had a cocktail first.

A study by the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University, and King’s College London found that people who drank a small amount of alcohol were judged to have better pronunciation in a foreign language. Alcohol impairs executive function including the ability to remember things, so it should hamper speaking a second language. But it also lessens social anxiety.

Interestingly, in this study, outside observers rated those who had consumed a low dose of alcohol significantly better speakers than the control group who had non-alcoholic beverages . The actual participants did not rate themselves higher.

So if you try this at home, stick to only one drink and don’t judge yourself. You’re conversing better than you think.

Go ahead and gossip

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A new study says gossiping is not a character flaw. It is instead a highly developed social skill and competitive tactic.

Women tend to comment on each others’ appearance. Men, on the other hand, gossip about each others’ wealth and athleticism.

The study’s author Adam Davis of the University of Ottawa doesn’t seem to regard the men’s gossip in the same light as that of women. He seems to think it is only women whose gossip is designed to undermine rivals for a potential mate’s attention.

Personally, it sounds the same to me. Women assume men are more interested in a more attractive mate, so they try to make other women seem less attractive. Men assume women want a rich partner or at least a physically fit one who can presumably protect them.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

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A new study by Rubin Naiman, PhD, a sleep and dream specialist at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, warns that lack of dreams is leading to many health concerns.

When we fall asleep, we first experience the deep sleep that our bodies prioritize. Dreams, however, occur during REM, rapid eye movement, sleep that typically comes late at night or early morning. Naiman says health concerns are usually attributed to sleep loss might actually be  caused by dream loss.

Personally, I don’t usually remember my dreams. Does this mean I am not dreaming enough? Should I be worried?

Eat more amino acids to lose weight

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If you, like me and millions of others, are overweight, a new study offers a possible solution.

Researchers at the University of Warwick found that tanycytes, cells in the part of the brain that controls energy, detect nutrients in food such as  amino acids. Two amino acids, arginine and lysine, react the most with these tanycytes and thus make you feel more full. Large concentrations of arginine and lysine are found in pork shoulder beef sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocados, lentils, and almonds.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to add more of these foods to my diet ASAP.

What do you say when you talk to yourself?

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One of the facets of emotional intelligence is the ability to control one’s emotions. Researchers at Michigan State College and the University of Michigan have discovered a simple technique.

Talk to yourself in third person. There is a name for this–illeism. Who knew?

For example, when I’m stressed, instead of my thinking “Why am I upset?” I should think “Why is Fran upset?” You know how it’s always easier to think clearly about someone else’s problems? This works the same way. Isn’t that genius? Just that tiny bit of psychological distance apparently does the trick.

This has all sorts of implications. Could it be used to treat those with PTSD? Or what about addictions?

My suggestion: if you try this at home, do the talking silently. Referring to yourself in the third person out loud is a wee bit pretentious.

 

Pay me now or pay me later

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Whether you call it deferred gratification or maximizing, it will make you happier. So say researchers at the University of Connecticut.

Their study refers to the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. The ant toiled all summer laying in provisions for the winter to come while the grasshopper played and had a good time. The human version of that ant behavior is called maximizing; the grasshopper behavior is satisficing.

For Satisficers, good enough is good enough. These are the people who would’ve taken one marshmallow in that classic childhood study instead of waiting so they’d get two.

Because Maximizers are concerned with making the very best choices for the future, they were thought by earlier researchers to be less happy. Having so many options to consider might lead to stress and second guessing themselves. Did all that work and no play make Jack or Jill dull?

It turns out that the maximizers aren’t unhappy after all. They feel good about their forward-thinking ways. As you’d expect, they save more money.

Of course, most people aren’t strictly one or the other. The behaviors are on a continuum. So which end of the scale are you on? Do you identify as an ant or a grasshopper?

 

How big is your pond?

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Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. Researchers at the University of Michigan say it depends on your cultural upbringing.

In three different tests, people with Chinese heritage were twice as likely than those with Western European heritage to choose the small fish option. They preferred having less than mediocre grades at a top ten college over high grades at a top 100 college.

Were the Chinese American students more harmonious and less concerned with standing out while the European Americans more individualistic? Nope. It all came down to prestige.

My roots are showing. I’d definitely go for the high grades at the lower ranked school. The study assures us there is no right or wrong choice, but it’s interesting to ponder how much our upbringing affects what we do.

 

Help the new prof

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For the first time, I will be teaching a class at out local community college for the fall term. It is called Cornerstone here, and is the basic freshman success class that is now mandatory in many schools.

I’m looking for suggestions from experienced teachers on activities and resources I can use besides lectures. I want to keep the students engaged.

Some of the topics I’ll be covering are time management, diversity, critical thinking, financial literacy, and careers.

What about it, fellow educators? Any ideas you’d like to share?

Grow where you’re planted

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I confess it was never my intention to live in Florida. Yet nearly two decades later, I am still here. Moreover, I live on a relatively rural island a good drive away from the nearest city. I grew up and lived my whole life in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. If there was ever a fish out of water, I’m it.

When I spotted Melody Warnick’s book This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, i grabbed it off the shelf. Maybe I could find some helpful advice within.

Warnick’s issue was a little different from my own. She had moved multiple times, never feeling at home in any of her locations. When her professor husband got a job in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech, she resolved to find out what leads people to feel attached to their town or city.

Her extensive research led to some practical suggestions. The first is to walk whenever possible to get a sense of place. That one is only marginally doable for me. I can’t really walk to any destinations, just within my immediate neighborhood. Doing that, however, would accomplish another tactic, getting to know my neighbors. In the time we’ve lived here, people have moved away or died, and we’ve never made the acquaintance of their replacements.

Warnick’s other advice includes volunteering and doing something creative. I do those things  but in the nearby city, not on the island. Doing activities most other residents find pleasurable won’t work for me. I’ve never fished and never will.

My one gold star is that I do try to patronize local businesses.

Is there hope for me? Like Warnick, should I push myself a bit more? Do you feel at home where you live? Why?