Showing posts from November, 2015

Cleaning Out Our Closets Cleans Out Our Souls

What is it with cleaning out our closets?
At the beginning of every season, I do it. But I dread it. At first I feel so great, weeding out all the size 14s – and size 8s – so that I can finally see into the very back of my very tiny closet. I pack them in shopping bags and take them to a charitable donation spot but carrying them in, something else sweeps over me.
I leave, feeling hollow.
Granted, getting rid of baby clothes is very hard. Who doesn't remember when that little head fit inside that bunny hood, instead of headphones now?
But it's not just that. I see slices of my life peeling away, ones that will never come back. His favorite striped shirt I had to cut a hole in so he could fit his head through it in preschool. (My husband's family is known for their big heads.) The shoes he wore when he first started walking (thankfully, I knew enough to grab them back from the garbage when we bought him new sneakers.) And his ghost Halloween costumes. I'll nev…

Want to Kill a Friendship? It Just Takes One Word

So what's the one four-letter word nobody likes to hear?  No, it's not that one.

A new study says it's "busy." 

Probably because that implies that the person who is doesn't really have any time for you.  You're just not that important. 

The study claims this word is a friendship killer.  I'm not so sure.  Telling your best friend not to tell anyone that your husband's having an affair and her repeating it anyway.  That's a friendship killer.  The friend the one having the affair with your husband?  Now that's a friendship killer.  Decorating your family room with neckties and your friend copying you?  Maybe not so much.

These days, says, being busy is being alive.  I suppose so.  But as a Type A personality myself, if I have a free minute, I go running.   Or vacuum.  Or play soccer with my son (hate that).  I can't stand to sit still.  (I suppose I'll live longer.  Other studies say if you sit too much, you die earlier.)

Can a Raisin Predict Your Child's Academic Future? Experts Say Yes

Raisins.  They're sweet, have a lot of vitamins,  and make breads and cookies taste good.  But did you know they can predict how smart your toddler will perform academically at age eight, according to research conducted at the University of Warwick.

It's not quite as ground-breaking as it sounds.  It's simply a test to see how long a 20-month old child can wait to pick up a raisin in front of them.

 In the study toddlers were given a raisin that was placed under an opaque cup within easy reach. After three training runs toddlers were asked to wait until they were told (60 seconds) they could touch and eat the raisin. During the study it was found that those who were born very prematurely were more likely to take the raisin before the allotted time, according to

In a follow on-study the academics found that those who couldn’t inhibit their behavior as toddlers weren’t performing as well in school as their full-term peers seven years later.

 Around age…

Do Self-Help Books Make You Helpless?

Pretty funny.  Did you know that reading self-help books can stress you out?

Really.  Turns out that consumers of self-help books are more sensitive to stress and show higher depressive symptomatology, according to a new study in Montreal.

I think I might know why.  Probably those of us who are drawn to these kinds of publications are already under stress and looking for solutions.  I know when I was an aficionado of these kinds of books, it was only because I was totally stuck in some situation that I couldn't figure how to get out of.

“Initially, we thought we had observed a difference in participants in terms of personality, sense of control, and self-esteem based on their self-help reading habits,” explains Catherine Raymond, first author of the study and a doctoral student at the CSHS of the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, at “In reality, there seems to be no difference between those who read and those who do not read these types of bo…

Have 300 Likes on Facebook? Watch Out, Could Mean Depression Down the Line

Admit it.  Seeing 50 likes on our Facebook post thrills us(I'm lucky to see five!).

But a new study has found that, for kids, liking something is a lot less stressful than being liked.  Huh?

According to, liking on Facebook is good for teens' stress levels, but not so much being liked.

In fact, teens who have more than 300 Facebook friends have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, researchers say.

As we all know, Facebook can have positive and negative effects on us, and teens' levels of the stress hormone, say researchers at the University of Montreal and the Institut universitaire de santé mentale de Montréal.  Too many likes hikes the levels of cortisol.  But teens who act in ways that support their Facebook friends – for example, by liking what they posted or sending them words of encouragement – decreased their levels of cortisol.

 Makes sense.  I've always found that it makes me feel good to help others feel the same way.  This is a ge…

Push Your Kids Academically -- But Not Too Much

We all know them.

The parents who explode if the kid gets a "B."  Maybe we're even them, sometimes.

But a new study has found -- unsurprisingly -- that parents who push their kids too hard inhibit their ability to learn, according to

When parents have high hopes for their children’s academic achievement, the children tend to do better in school, unless those hopes are unrealistic, in which case the children may not perform well in school, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Our research revealed both positive and negative aspects of parents’ aspiration for their children’s academic performance. Although parental aspiration can help improve children’s academic performance, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous,” says lead author Kou Murayama, PhD, of the University of Reading.

When aspirations exceeded expectations, the achievement of the children in the study decreased proportionately, the study found…

Can You Tell Who I Really Am From My Tweets? Experts Say Yes

Do you think you can tell anything about someone by their tweets?

I believe I can.  I have friends who tweet every single thing they do -- what they're eating for dinner, what music they're listening to, even their new running shoes.  (WHO CARES? I often want to tweet back.)  But I know these people are just self-obsessed and desperate for attention.

Then there are those who like to bloviate about what's going on in the world.  Sometimes the opinions are learned (that's when they agree with me), but most of the time it's just people blowing off steam (or hot air).

But now a new study that looked at more than 20 million tweets has uncovered that we tend to tweet more negatively during the week, and more positively on the weekend and that people in urban and rural areas experience situations that are, for the most part, psychologically similar, according to

People frequently tweet about their locations, what they are doing, how they are feeling, or t…

So How Was YOUR Day?

I'm a doom and gloom person.
I always expect the worst. And it usually does.
Take last week. Out running in my neighborhood I was jumped by a huge muzzled (muzzled!) German Shepherd who slashed my bare leg (it was warm then!) with his toenails. He did draw blood, two smallish scratches on my thigh.
When I went online, worried about rabies (a friend who lives nearby says he's always running around with animals in his mouth), it turned out I was at risk only if he'd licked his paw first. Uh,no. Thank goodness for small favors.
Animal Control came and went and nothing seemed to happen (this dog runs loose all the time, but that's a story for another time).
Then my cell and charger (and, most painful of all, my new J.T. Watkins CD) were stolen out of my car (and cost me a fortune, even with insurance, to replace!). Granted. The car was unlocked.
But it was a strange feeling, like being violated. It must have been catching because then I noticed that a small tre…

First-Born Son or Only Child Daughter? Your Parents Will Give More

Now, how about this?

Parents of first-born sons and only-child daughters give more. 

Say what?  Parents’ charitable giving is affected by the sex of their first child, according to a new study as reported at

"The sex of the first-born child affects the likelihood that the parents will give to charity, the amount they give, and the types of causes and organizations they support," says Debra Mesch, the Eileen Lamb O'Gara Chair in Women’s Philanthropy and director of Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, located on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.  
"This is an important factor influencing charitable giving that was previously unknown."

The study provides the first evidence that the sex of the first-born child influences the parents' giving in two-parent families, but not in single-parent families.

Among other key findings of the "Women Give 2015

Feel Good When Looking at Pretty Faces? It's Your Brain, Rewarding You

Who hasn't been there?  We see a pretty -- or handsome -- face and we can't look away.  The reason is pretty obvious.  But there's a new one that may take your breath away.

It's our brain rewarding us for looking.

A quick glimpse of a face provides us with rich information about the person in front of us. Are we acquainted? Man or woman? Happy or angry? Attractive?

Research has shown that our visual system is able to direct attention to the most important information in a face. A new study suggests that evolution has made us experts on faces, according to

“We are very curious about others’ faces, we read stories in them and evaluate their aesthetic value,” says Olga Chelnokova, writing for her Ph.D thesis at the department of psychology, University of Oslo.

Together with colleagues from another research group, she revealed that the brain reward system – a cluster of regions deep in our brain – is involved in our evaluation of other people’s attractivenes…

Step on a Crack, Break Your Mother's Back? It's Not Rational But Still We Believe It

Who hasn't done this?  If the light stays green till I get there, I'll get that raise.  I said nothing bad ever happens to that backstabber and now he broke his leg.  If I'm really nice, my husband will make dinner.  Well, you get the drift.

It's called magical thinking and we all do it. 

When sports fans wear their lucky shirts on game day, they know it is irrational to think clothing can influence a team’s performance. But they do it anyway.

Even smart, educated, emotionally stable adults believe in superstitions that they recognize are unreasonable, according to

Research has found that even when people recognize that their belief does not make sense, they can still allow that irrational belief to influence how they think, feel and behave.

I know when I was waiting for a biopsy report, I tried not stepping on cracks, wishing only good things for people I didn't really like, and seeing if my magic numbers (668) came out in Lotto,all to no avail. …

Who Envies Others the Most?

I just found out my best friend is moving to one of the wealthiest communities in the country.  Not only will she be able to avoid all the rush-hour traffic in our town, she'll also be able to remove her son from his inner city high school and place him in one of the top schools in the state.

The green-eyed monster has reared its ugly head.

Actually, though, I'm a little out of my element.  When it comes to envy, guess who has it most?  Young adults.

I guess that's because they're starting out and it's all ahead of them.  Who wouldn't envy someone who has a good job, the ability to move to a better home in a better town, and to place their kid in a school that doesn't have others pulling guns (OK, so it was a bb gun) on their peers?

A new study has found that young adults are more envious than older adults. They are more envious over looks and for a wider range of other reasons, too. It also appears that both men and women are more likely to envy someone …

Religious? You're Probably a Little Selfish, New Study Says

Now this is a stumper.

Did you know that the more religious an upbringing you have, the less altruistic you turn out to be?

That's so says a new study, reports.

Many families believe religion plays an essential role in childhood moral development. But children of religious parents may not be as altruistic as those parents think, according to a new international study from the University of Chicago.

A team of developmental psychologists led by Prof. Jean Decety examined the perceptions and behavior of children between ages 5 and 12, from Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey and the United States.

The study assessed the children’s tendency to share—a measure of their altruism—and their inclination
to judge and punish others for bad behavior.

Children from religious families were less likely to share with others than were children from non-religious families. A religious upbringing also was associated with more punitive tendencies in response to anti-socia…

Get Your Sleep, or Get Fat

Want to lose weight?

Make sure you get your sleep.

A new study has found that one night of poor sleep could equal six months on a high-fat diet, according to  OMG.

 New research finds that one night of sleep deprivation and six months on a high-fat diet could both impair insulin sensitivity to a similar degree, demonstrating the importance of a good night’s sleep on health.

When the body becomes less sensitive to insulin (i.e., “insulin-resistant”), it needs to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar stable. This may eventually lead to Type 2 diabetes, a disease where the body’s insulin response doesn’t work properly and there is too much sugar in the blood. Diabetes is associated with a number of serious complications, including heart disease. Individuals with obesity are more likely to develop insulin resistance and subsequently, diabetes.

“Research has shown that sleep deficiency and a high-fat diet both lead to impaired insulin sensitivity, but it was previ…

Can Certain Words Make You Eat More? Study Says Maybe

I don't need another reason to overeat but now a new study is saying that I have to be careful what words I read.

Certain words can make us eat more. 

Researchers have identified how food word cues influenced by both stress and genetics can be associated with increased food desire and intake, according to  "Food cues" come in many forms including emotions, images, smells, tastes and even food words. Food words could be considered a relatively minimal food cue compared with images or smells; however, because they are ubiquitous in advertising and other contexts, they have significant potential to impact eating behavior.Who doesn't associate bread baking with mom's kitchen?  Well, maybe not mine, but that's the cozy, comforting feeling many of us get when there's that delicious buttery smell wafting around.  Does seeing the word make us hunger for it?  Some, I suppose.  But the image certainly might.In one study, the research team…

Live Far From Your Lover? Be Glad

How depressing.

A new study shows that the closer people who had been separated by distance get to each other, the more likely they will not be attracted to the other person.

Apparently, distance equals attraction.

Now my husband and I were GU (geographically undesirable) for about 10 years, with him living and working in Queens and me here in Connecticut.  He came up every weekend and on Thursday nights but it wasn't until we started living together that, I won't say he got less attractive.  But some of the mystery was gone, especially when I was picking up his dirty socks off the floor.

According to, what people believe they want and what they might actually prefer are not always the same thing. And the difference between genuine affinity and apparent desirability becomes clearer as the distance between two people gets smaller.

Qualities admired in another person from far away may appear threatening as they get closer, the web site reports.

For example, someo…

Interrupted Sleep? That's Worse Than No Sleep, Study Says

My husband drives me crazy with sleep issues.

Our son (who does get sick a lot) gets sick because he doesn't sleep enough.  Sleep can heal your body of everything.  Oh, and before I forget, don't you dare wake him up unless the house is burning down (we won't mention the time the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night at the hotel we were staying in and he decided to go to the bathroom first).

But that's another story.

Now a new study has found that sleep interruptions are worse for our moods than overall sleep reduction, according to

In other words, awakening several times throughout the night is more detrimental to people’s positive moods than getting the same shortened amount of sleep without interruption.

Who hasn't been there?  You didn't get enough sleep and you're grumpy.  There's that.  But there's also the annoyance of being awakened or jerked from a sound sleep.  I no longer use an alarm clock for just that reason.…

Everything in Moderation? Maybe Not So Much

For a long time diet experts have told us to vary our food choices because eating too much of the same thing supposedly slowed weight loss down.

Well now it turns out you can probably eat just about whatever you want, whether it's toast with jelly four times a day, spinach and kale (as if), or my favorite, pralines and cream.

Of course, you have to eat everything in moderation, but now experts are finding that it's maybe not so important to vary our diets.

Long a directive of Weight Watchers (which believes eating too much of the same thing inhibits your body's ability to drop that weight), now having diversity in your diet may not be so important. Now it seems doing that won't slow down your metabolism, as always thought.

"Eat everything in moderation’ has been a long-standing dietary recommendation, but without much empiric supporting evidence in populations. We wanted to characterize new metrics of diet diversity and evaluate their association with metabolic…