According to this article, it is not just managing your physical environment (such as putting snacks out of sight, making healthy foods easily accessible, etc.) that impacts the success of one's dieting endeavors. What also matters is the cognitive environment - how accessible the rules of the diet are when confronted with eating choices. Too many rules and variations are likely to catch up with a person who is being confronted with choices, making it easier to give up. From the article:
Dieting is not all in one's head -- environment matters, too, the professors say. The physical environment has to be set up properly, such as putting snack foods out of sight to avoid mindless eating. But the cognitive environment, they say, must also be appropriately constructed, by choosing diet rules that that one finds easy to remember and follow.
For people interested in following a diet plan, Mata suggests they take a look at several diet plans with an eye toward how many rules the plans have and how many things need to be how many things need to be kept in mind.
"If they decide to go with a more complex diet, which could be more attractive for instance if it allows more flexibility, they should evaluate how difficult they find doing the calculations and monitoring their consumption," she said. "If they find it very difficult, the likelihood that they will prematurely give up the diet is higher and they should try to find a different plan."
One thing I think is making it easier to comply with otherwise more complicated diet plans is the ever-increasing availability of technology. Tracking calories, rules, etc. is much easier when one has various electronic gadgets that can provide nutritional info, track data (such as what you ate, caloric amounts, etc.), as well as the very rules one is trying to comply with. The recent improvements in this area have also been seen in tracking exercise data, as GPS technology can easily record pace, distance, and other data. This used to be far more difficult - I remember driving around in my car, measuring out various running routes with the odometer, and being frustrated that one couldn't measure off-road distances, or take improvised routes without sacrificing your knowledge of distance. Still, keeping things simple, especially for people without a lot of previous expereince or success, makes sense in both dieting and exercise, as it increases the prospects of compliance over a longer period of time, and would seem far more likely to increase (rather than decrease) one's sense of efficiacy in their fitness efforts.
This article reviews a new study indicating women are actually more likely to read books in the true crime genre. The research discussed the possibility that women read these books, in part, for educational/preventive reasons, though there is concern of a cycle that develops: women are concerned about being victimized, so they read true crime books to learn how to avoid victimization, which in turn escalates concerns, etc. From the article:
The researchers found that what makes these books appealing to women are relevant in terms of preventing or surviving a crime. For example, by understanding why an individual decides to kill, a woman can learn the warning signs to watch for in a jealous lover or stranger. By learning escape tips women learn survival strategies they can use if actually kidnapped or held captive.
My understanding of the current state of book reading (at least in the United States) is that women read more fiction than men, while men read more non-fiction. It would seem interesting that women read more true crime books, which are non-fiction, though they tend to read more like fiction than most other non-fiction genres. Anyway, I thought this was an interesting finding.
Great article in the NY Times reviewing reseach regarding the possible benefits of being administered morphine or other opiates promptly after a traumatic event, in that the pain killers may interrupt the development of PTSD. From the article:
In a large study of combat casualties in Iraq, Navy researchers reported Wednesday that prompt treatment with morphine cut in half the chances that troops would develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress later on. Other opiates are likely to have similar effects, experts said.
In previous work, researchers had found that larger doses of morphine given to children with severe burns also reduced post-traumatic symptoms, like flashbacks, depression and jumpiness. These symptoms have become lasting in about one in eight service members returning from Iraq.
The article goes on to caution that we are a long way from advocating immediate morphine administration to anyone involved in any difficult event. At the very least, however, it does provide avenues for additional research into the development of PTSD, as well as its prevention and/or treatment. Three possible mechanisms are considered in terms of how opiates interrupt the development of a traumatic response:
The drugs appear to blunt the emotional charge of traumatic memories in several ways. Most obviously, they kill the pain when it is most excruciating; often, they scramble the ability to recall what exactly happened. Opiates also inhibit the production of a chemical messenger called norepinephrine, which is thought to enhance fear signals in the brain.
A very interesting article, I recommend you read the whole thing.
"Schacter (1999, 2001) recently classified the misdeeds of memory into seven basic 'sins:' transience, absent-mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence. The first three sins involve types of forgetting. transience involves decreasing accessibility of information over time; absent-mindedness entails inattentive or shallow processing that contributes to weak memories of ongoing events or forgetting to do things in the future; and blocking refers to the temporary inaccessibility of information that is stored in memory. The next three sins all involve distortion or inaccuracy. Misattribution involves attributing a recollection or idea to the wrong source; suggestibility refers to memories that are implanted at the time of retrieval; and bias involves retrospective distortions and unconscious influences that are related to current knowledge and beliefs. The seventh and final sin, persistence, refers to intrusive memories that we cannot forget, even though we wish that we could."
- From Episodic Memory, Chapter 5 ("Misattribution, false recognition, and the sins of memory"), pages 71-72
According to this article, people tend to report better moods, greater vitality, and less pain/complaints on the weekends. This improvement in functioning results from increased choice in the activities one engages in, as well as the ability to spend more time with family and friends. From the article:
"Workers, even those with interesting, high status jobs, really are happier on the weekend," says author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. "Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual's well-being," Ryan adds. "Far from frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing -- basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork," Ryan cautions.
Of course, I have been running a long-term single-case experimental design that is consistent with these findings. I also believe a certain restaurant chain has marketed itself to these week-end benefits to great financial success.
In all seriousness, the preference for self-determination is an important consideration when it comes to a person's sense of well-being, and the article notes that workplaces should continue to explore ways of increasing the sense of autonomy and choice in their employess. From the article:
The results support self-determination theory, which holds that well-being depends in large part on meeting one's basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This study, conclude the authors, "offers one of the first substantive and theory-based explanations for why wellbeing tends to be more favorable on the weekends: People experience greater autonomy and relatedness, which are, in turn, related to higher wellness." By contrast, write the authors, the work week "is replete with activities involving external controls, time pressures, and demands on behavior related to work, child care and other constraints." Workers also may spend time among colleagues with whom they share limited emotional connections.
Then again, hasn't this already been covered in various media? For example:
This article by Terry Teachout takes a look at the most-produced plays in America, with some interesting results. From the article:
What does this list tell us? To begin with, six of the 11 plays—"Doubt," "I Am My Own Wife," "Intimate Apparel," "The Glass Menagerie," "Proof" and "Wit"—are all distinguished pieces of writing, while the rest are at least respectable. Only one, "The Laramie Project," is an explicitly political play—and none is a musical. ("Crowns" is a play with music, not a musical comedy.) This suggests that, Broadway producers notwithstanding, American theatergoers are not know-nothing neanderthals but intelligent people who are prepared to spend time and money grappling with straight plays that are artful, thoughtful and well written. On the other hand, it should be noted that all but three of these shows, "Crowns," "Wit" and "The Laramie Project," call for no more than four actors. The lesson is clear: If you want to write a smart, serious play that has a halfway decent chance of getting produced, keep the cast as small as possible.
In short, the list is very modern, and has no musicals on it. Teachout's thoughts and observations are worth reading. Theater is a difficult medium to maintain knowledge of, especially for those in positions similar to me: shows tend to cost a fair amount, and when you have kids under the age of ten...anyway, I still like to read about this stuff now and again, even if I don't get out to the theater all that often.
I was able to go out this weekend though, and saw a local performance of Sylvia, which I found very entertaining. Simply put, the show is about a recently empty-nested couple, and a dog that comes between them. Mostly a comedy, but with couples' issues explored (at times with some depth), it made for a great night out. If you love dogs, or if you hate dogs but love someone who loves them, you'll get a kick out of this show (even though the dog, while a great theatrical device, is not the main point). It's currently running at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center.
According to this article, commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has indicated that "debriefing" in response to crisis incidents is not suppoted as an intervention. The commentary specifically notes that there has been no research to document that debriefing prevents the development of PTSD or any other disorders following a crisis in schools. from the article:
Recent systematic reviews indicate that psychological debriefing of adults does not prevent post-traumatic stress disorder and it may even increase the risk of this disorder. While there is little research on the effectiveness and safety of these interventions in schools, "the evidence clearly points to the ineffectiveness of these interventions in preventing post-traumatic stress disorder or any other psychiatric disorder in adults," write Magdalena Szumilas of the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health Team, Dalhousie University and coauthors.
The article goes on to suggest that providing "psychological first aid," which is defined as creating an environment od safety, calmness, and both self- and community-efficacy, shows more promise as an effective intervention technique. In addition, providing cognitive-behavioral support for students who continue to exhibit symptoms of distress in the weeks following a critical incident is also considered (due to empirical findings) to be the more effective procedure.
This is certainly consistent with other data I've seen, which basically holds that while debriefing may be beneficial for some, it may actually exacerbate the traumatic impact in others - and there is no way to predict who is who. More generally, the recommendations regarding psychological first aid and cognitive-behavioral therapy appear consistent with the general process of therapy for an individual with trauma-based symptoms. You simply don't begin therapy with a traumatized client by discussing the traumatic event. A sense of saftey and security must first be established, where the client can feel as if the therapeutic environment will protect the person, and not further traumatize them, is of paramount important in many cases. In addition, before discussing the traumatic event with a client in any manner that might lead to an increase in anxious symptomatology, I frequently work with a client on developing skills and techniques necessary for self-soothing, in order to develop a client's sense of efficacy. In fact, that is one of the primary goals of therapy related to trauma: re-establishing a sense of control over one's symptoms, both physically and mentally. Jump into discussing the actual event too quickly, and you risk exacerbating a client's sense of helplessness. People need to be educated on this, of course, so that they understand the reasoning behind any delay in "getting to the issue, but once this is explained, most people understand.
I like this article simply because, like many others I've linked to, it documents the important role adequate sleep plays in the overall functioning of people. In this case, the researchers examined the rates of depression and suicidal thinking among teens whose bedtimes were set either 10 pm and earlier, or 12 am and later. The two groups differed in both rates of depression and suicidal thinking, with those sleeping more showing better mood functioning. From the article:
Lead author James E. Gangwisch, PhD, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y., said that the results strengthen the argument that short sleep duration could play a role in the etiology of depression.
"Our results are consistent with the theory that inadequate sleep is a risk factor for depression, working with other risk and protective factors through multiple possible causal pathways to the development of this mood disorder," said Gangwisch. "Adequate quality sleep could therefore be a preventative measure against depression and a treatment for depression."
Some other data:
Seven percent of participants (1,050) were found to have depression using the Centers for Epidemiologic Study-Depression Scale, and 13 percent (2,038) reported that they seriously thought about committing suicide during the past 12 months. Depression and suicidal ideation were associated with later parental set bedtime, shorter sleep duration, self-perception of not getting enough sleep, female sex, older age and lower self-perception of how much parents care.
The article does not go into detail regarding whether other variables were controlled, such as whether parents who set earlier bed times (which the article suggested was the primary method ensuring the most sleep) also engaged in other activities that might also reduce the risk of depression. However, the accumulating data seems pretty clear: better sleep means better functioning. I don't doubt this applies to teens who typically require more sleep than an adult anyway (nine hours per night is recommended).
What I've encountered more than a few times since becoming a parent are other parents who indicate they've had difficulty getting their kids to adhere to bed time schedules. These are not adolescents we are talking about; we are talking about kids as young as three or four. In terms of the other variables I wondered about before, this would be one of them. If a parent can't instill (for whatever reason) a habit of going to bed at a healthy, reasonable hour when their kids are young, getting an adolescent to comply with bed time rules will be exponentially more difficult. On the other hand, there may also be variables associated with the compliance on the part of the kids. Lots of fodder for further research!