Archive for July 3rd, 2012
There is a lot of talk these days about a fascinating idea called embodied cognition. What is it exactly? In this lively interview I talk with two people who are actively looking into this question. We discuss how the body and mind “talk” to each other when baseball players catch fly balls and what role psychology plays in the design of robots.
“‘No’ may be the most powerful word in the language, but it’s also potentially the most destructive, which is why it’s hard to say,” saysWilliam Ury, director of the Global Negotiations Project at Harvard University, and author of”The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes.
Ury believes that saying no is so difficult because it surfaces the “tension between exercising your power and tending to your relationship.”
In other words, you want to put your foot down and be true to your convictions. But you also don’t want to estrange yourself from friends and family members. You want everyone to like you.
My neighbor often asks me to go on errands with her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, so I often say “Yes,” when what I really want to do is to say, “No.”
That’s why many people choose avoidance (like pulling down the blinds and telling the kids not to answer the door when the neighbor comes calling). Unfortunately, this gets you neither respect of your opinions or warm fuzzies from friends.
A winning solution, says this negotiation specialist, is to sandwich your “no” between two “yeses.” That way you can assert your stance without alienating allies (versus enemies, which you don’t really care about, right?).
Take my wimpy approach to my neighbor dilemma. I suspect Ury would council me to push my double jogger over to my neighbor’s house, invite myself in, and tell her something like this:
- “Your friendship is valuable to me. And I care about you.” (That’s the first “yes.”)
- “However, given all of my demands between the kids and work and all the extras I do, I just don’t have time to run errands with you.” (That was my “no…” which I can’t picture myself saying in a thousand years. I’m way too much of a people pleaser.)
- “But maybe once and awhile I could go to prayer group with you.” (Another “yes.”)
The conflict expert also suggests (and this is especially important in political and business negotiations) that we focus on common interests with a second party, rather than specific positions; that we develop an alternative plan to a negotiated agreement; and that we devise a plan that is easy for people to agree with (use lots of logic).
In a culture so demanding of our time and productivity, Ury claims that it’s more important than ever to say no. Because, according to him, “to say yes to the right things, you have to say no to a lot of other things.”
That’s pretty much Commons Sense 101, but I can surely benefit from a refresher.
When you don’t have depression, a bad day might mean sadness and murky musings. But the gloomy thoughts and feelings tend to dissipate, and you bounce back in a day or two, according to Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and author of Living with Depression.
However, if you’re struggling with depression, a bad day is filled with profoundly “cynical, pessimistic and distorted” thoughts that you just can’t shake, she said.
A bad day leaves you emotionally and physically drained. Serani, who’s experienced depression, described feeling “emotionally wrung out” and “physically limp and bone weary.”
“Depression is an experience of depletion,” she said. “You’re worn down, hollowed out, devoid of enthusiasm or vitality.” You feel like nothing is worth fighting for, she said.
That means that on the days you need it most, soothing yourself can be excruciatingly difficult. But there are ways you can feel better — without having to take big steps.
Research has found that awakening our senses helps to immediately improve depressive symptoms, Serani said. Here, she shared several strategies to stimulate each sense.
Seeing. Natural light is one of the best ways to stimulate your sense of sight. “When even a single photon of light enters the eye, it lights up the entire brain,” Serani said. Light activates the hypothalamus, which regulates mood, sleep and appetite. Not getting enough sunlight causes a disruption in all three, Serani said.
“Light also activates the pineal gland, a tiny pea-shaped brain structure, which essentially runs our circadian rhythm, also known as our body clock,” she said. This gland produces melatonin, which controls our slumber and wake cycles. Darkness leads to an excess of melatonin. “[This] makes us sleepy, fatigued and listless, worsening our already depressed state.”
Serani suggested opening the shades or curtains, and sitting by the window as the light pours in. If you’re able to, venture outside for more sunlight, she said.
Smelling. Breathe in fresh air, spray fragrance or take whiffs of a scented candle, Serani said. Smell the aromas of your favorite dish, which you can cook yourself or ask someone else to make. “When we smell something, its scent takes a direct route to the limbic brain, awakening memories and positive emotions,” Serani said.
Hearing. “Listening to music, sounds and a human voice activates the brain’s reward system that releases the feel-good neurochemical dopamine,” according to Serani. That’s why she suggested listening to upbeat music or soothing sounds or even an audio book.
Open your window and listen to what Serani called “life-affirming sounds,” such as birds chirping, the wind blowing, children laughing or even cars moving.
Touching. Take a shower, which is more like a “medicinal tonic, with its warm water and soapy textures,” Serani said. Feel the warmth of a tea-filled mug, the softness of the couch or the comfort of a loved one’s hug, she said.
If you’re able to move your body, take a walk, meditate, stretch, run an errand or play with your kids, she said.
“When we move our bodies and when we touch, muscles tense and relax, releasing toxins and feel-good hormones and endorphins.”
Tasting. Savor your favorite foods and meals. According to Serani, complex carbohydrates, protein, nuts and leafy greens can boost serotonin synthesis. (Starchy carbohydrates can increase fatigue, she said.)
Drink green tea and coffee, which some research has shown may improve mood. Too much caffeine can heighten anxiety and irritability, however, according to Serani.
If you’re experiencing a bad day, just try to remember that stimulating your senses can help you feel better. Thinking about it might help you actually do it and get you back on the road to wellness.
An issue that will likely come up in the U.S. health care reform debate has already raised its ugly head for our neighbors to the north.
The question, which has been partially reviewed in some progressive states, pertains to end of life care and personal freedoms. Specifically, is it legal for an individual to request medical assistance to die?
The topic is under investigation as a new report from Quebec that recommends medical assistance to die is expected to reignite the debate over euthanasia in Canada, say editors of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Advocates of this approach argue that medically assisted death is a patient’s right. It should therefore be considered as an end-of-life care option rather than a criminal act.
“Many physicians and patients will find this a shocking prospect to consider,” write Drs. Ken Flegel, Senior Associate Editor, CMAJ, and John Fletcher, CMAJ Editor-in-Chief. “Frail, dependent patients often feel a burden to their families or caregivers, and the unspoken possibility of a quick resolution to their predicament may complicate an already stressful situation,” they write.
Experts say that if Quebec decides to adopt the recommendations, legal safeguards must be built in to protect health care workers and patients from potential abuses once the changes are made.
Public consultation in Quebec as well as national discussion and involvement of federal lawmakers are needed if changes are to be made to the criminal code.
“The ethics of euthanasia are a familiar debate in Canada; one that may have been theoretical, until recently, because of the tacit assumption that doctors do not kill people. In Quebec, the debate is moving from theory toward practice. Which way will legislation go? Will the rest of Canada follow? Those who care about the answers to these questions must speak up now, and with conviction,” concluded the authors.
- Choosing when and how to die: Are we ready to perform therapeutic homicide? (eurekalert.org)
- Quebec Government Favors Euthanasia (medicalnewstoday.com)