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How music is changing the way dementia patients think

<p dir="ltr">New research has proven that music truly is the universal language, with experts discovering how the power of music is helping those suffering with dementia. </p> <p dir="ltr">Music therapists have shown that music brings dementia patients back to the present, with some even finding their voice thanks to the nostalgic memories of the past. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to Registered Music Therapist and Managing Director of music therapy company Music Beat, Dr Vicky Abad, the power of music is not to be overlooked when it comes to degenerative diseases.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Music is a window into people’s pasts,” she said. “It builds on strengths and abilities against a disease that can strip a person of their dignity, abilities and quality of life.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The team at <a href="https://www.tricare.com.au/">TriCare Aged Care and Retirement</a>, who see the devastating impact of dementia each and every day,  also experience first-hand the impact music has on residents, with many noticing “unrecognisable” changes in personality when a nostalgic tune is played.</p> <p dir="ltr">Louis Rose, an 80-year-old dementia patient and TriCare resident, was diagnosed with dementia six years ago, and requires assistance with many aspects of day to day life. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, listening to music is one thing he can enjoy on his own.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I grew up in Mauritius and while we didn’t have a lot, we certainly had music. Listening to music has always been an escape for me and a way to relax,” Mr Rose said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“When your brain starts to slow down and you find yourself forgetting things, it can be quite frustrating and confusing. Listening to music has been a way to distract myself from what’s going on in my head, it has helped me so much.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Tamsin Sutherland is a regular live music performer at TriCare facilities across Queensland, and has been able to witness incredible moments with the residents as they come alive as soon as she starts to play. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Watching residents who are often non-verbal sing along to the words is incredible,” she said “It really is like they are coming back to life and reconnecting with who they once were. To be part of that is quite emotional for me.”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Dr Abad, music can help prevent the restless behaviour that often leads to pacing and wandering, especially in the evenings, which are often difficult times for those battling the disease. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Sundowning usually occurs in the late afternoon as dusk approaches, a time that is also associated with what used to be a busy time period in people’s lives,” she noted. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Personalised music is a simple and effective tool to help residents feel validated in their emotions during this time and provides them an opportunity to experience a calmer state of mind”.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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How much stress is too much? A psychiatrist explains the links between toxic stress and poor health − and how to get help

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lawson-r-wulsin-1493655">La<em>wson R. Wulsin</em></a><em>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-cincinnati-1717">University of Cincinnati </a></em></p> <p>COVID-19 taught most people that the line between tolerable and toxic stress – defined as persistent demands that lead to disease – varies widely. But some people will age faster and die younger from toxic stressors than others.</p> <p>So how much stress is too much, and what can you do about it?</p> <p>I’m a <a href="https://researchdirectory.uc.edu/p/wulsinlr">psychiatrist specializing in psychosomatic medicine</a>, which is the study and treatment of people who have physical and mental illnesses. My research is focused on people who have psychological conditions and medical illnesses as well as those whose stress exacerbates their health issues.</p> <p>I’ve spent my career studying mind-body questions and training physicians to treat mental illness in primary care settings. My <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/toxic-stress/677FA62B741540DBDB53E2F0A52A74B1">forthcoming book</a> is titled “Toxic Stress: How Stress is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It.”</p> <p>A 2023 study of stress and aging over the life span – one of the first studies to confirm this piece of common wisdom – found that four measures of stress all speed up the pace of biological aging in midlife. It also found that persistent high stress ages people in a comparable way to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000001197">effects of smoking and low socioeconomic status</a>, two well-established risk factors for accelerated aging.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yiglpsqv5ik?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Children with alcoholic or drug-addicted parents have a greater risk of developing toxic stress.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>The difference between good stress and the toxic kind</h2> <p>Good stress – a demand or challenge you readily cope with – is good for your health. In fact, the rhythm of these daily challenges, including feeding yourself, cleaning up messes, communicating with one another and carrying out your job, helps to regulate your stress response system and keep you fit.</p> <p>Toxic stress, on the other hand, wears down your stress response system in ways that have lasting effects, as psychiatrist and trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk explains in his bestselling book “<a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/313183/the-body-%20keeps-the-score-by-bessel-van-der-kolk-md/">The Body Keeps the Score</a>.”</p> <p>The earliest effects of toxic stress are often persistent symptoms such as headache, fatigue or abdominal pain that interfere with overall functioning. After months of initial symptoms, a full-blown illness with a life of its own – such as migraine headaches, asthma, diabetes or ulcerative colitis – may surface.</p> <p>When we are healthy, our stress response systems are like an orchestra of organs that miraculously tune themselves and play in unison without our conscious effort – a process called self-regulation. But when we are sick, some parts of this orchestra struggle to regulate themselves, which causes a cascade of stress-related dysregulation that contributes to other conditions.</p> <p>For instance, in the case of diabetes, the hormonal system struggles to regulate sugar. With obesity, the metabolic system has a difficult time regulating energy intake and consumption. With depression, the central nervous system develops an imbalance in its circuits and neurotransmitters that makes it difficult to regulate mood, thoughts and behaviors.</p> <h2>‘Treating’ stress</h2> <p>Though stress neuroscience in recent years has given researchers like me <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000001051">new ways to measure and understand stress</a>, you may have noticed that in your doctor’s office, the management of stress isn’t typically part of your treatment plan.</p> <p>Most doctors don’t assess the contribution of stress to a patient’s common chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, partly because stress is complicated to measure and partly because it is difficult to treat. In general, doctors don’t treat what they can’t measure.</p> <p>Stress neuroscience and epidemiology have also taught researchers recently that the chances of developing serious mental and physical illnesses in midlife rise dramatically when people are exposed to trauma or adverse events, especially during <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/ace-brfss.html">vulnerable periods such as childhood</a>.</p> <p>Over the past 40 years in the U.S., the alarming rise in <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/health-equity/diabetes-by-the-numbers.html">rates of diabetes</a>, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity-child-17-18/overweight-obesity-child-H.pdf">obesity</a>, depression, PTSD, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db433.htm">suicide</a> and addictions points to one contributing factor that these different illnesses share: toxic stress.</p> <p>Toxic stress increases the risk for the onset, progression, complications or early death from these illnesses.</p> <h2>Suffering from toxic stress</h2> <p>Because the definition of toxic stress varies from one person to another, it’s hard to know how many people struggle with it. One starting point is the fact that about 16% of adults report having been exposed to <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/fastfact.html">four or more adverse events in childhood</a>. This is the threshold for higher risk for illnesses in adulthood.</p> <p>Research dating back to before the COVID-19 pandemic also shows that about 19% of adults in the U.S. have <a href="https://doi.org/10.7249/TL221">four or more chronic illnesses</a>. If you have even one chronic illness, you can imagine how stressful four must be.</p> <p>And about 12% of the U.S. population <a href="https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/introducing-second-edition-world-banks-global-subnational-atlas-poverty">lives in poverty</a>, the epitome of a life in which demands exceed resources every day. For instance, if a person doesn’t know how they will get to work each day, or doesn’t have a way to fix a leaking water pipe or resolve a conflict with their partner, their stress response system can never rest. One or any combination of threats may keep them on high alert or shut them down in a way that prevents them from trying to cope at all.</p> <p>Add to these overlapping groups all those who struggle with harassing relationships, homelessness, captivity, severe loneliness, living in high-crime neighborhoods or working in or around noise or air pollution. It seems conservative to estimate that about 20% of people in the U.S. live with the effects of toxic stress.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WuyPuH9ojCE?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Exercise, meditation and a healthy diet help fight toxic stress.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Recognizing and managing stress and its associated conditions</h2> <p>The first step to managing stress is to recognize it and talk to your primary care clinician about it. The clinician may do an assessment involving a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000001051">self-reported measure of stress</a>.</p> <p>The next step is treatment. Research shows that it is possible to retrain a dysregulated stress response system. This approach, <a href="https://lifestylemedicine.org/">called “lifestyle medicine</a>,” focuses on improving health outcomes through changing high-risk health behaviors and adopting daily habits that help the stress response system self-regulate.</p> <p>Adopting these lifestyle changes is not quick or easy, but it works.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/index.html">National Diabetes Prevention Program</a>, the <a href="https://www.ornish.com/">Ornish “UnDo” heart disease program</a> and the <a href="https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand_tx/tx_basics.asp">U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs PTSD program</a>, for example, all achieve a slowing or reversal of stress-related chronic conditions through weekly support groups and guided daily practice over six to nine months. These programs help teach people how to practice personal regimens of stress management, diet and exercise in ways that build and sustain their new habits.</p> <p>There is now strong evidence that it is possible to treat toxic stress in ways that improve health outcomes for people with stress-related conditions. The next steps include finding ways to expand the recognition of toxic stress and, for those affected, to expand access to these new and effective approaches to treatment.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222245/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lawson-r-wulsin-1493655"><em>Lawson R. Wulsin</em></a><em>, Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-cincinnati-1717">University of Cincinnati</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-much-stress-is-too-much-a-psychiatrist-explains-the-links-between-toxic-stress-and-poor-health-and-how-to-get-help-222245">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What’s the difference between autism and Asperger’s disorder?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-cashin-458270">Andrew Cashin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p>Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg describes herself as having <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/02/greta-thunberg-responds-to-aspergers-critics-its-a-superpower">Asperger’s</a> while others on the autism spectrum, such as Australian comedian Hannah Gatsby, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2022/mar/19/hannah-gadsby-autism-diagnosis-little-out-of-whack">describe</a> themselves as “autistic”. But what’s the difference?</p> <p>Today, the previous diagnoses of “Asperger’s disorder” and “autistic disorder” both fall within the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.</p> <p>Autism describes a “neurotype” – a person’s thinking and information-processing style. Autism is one of the forms of diversity in human thinking, which comes with strengths and challenges.</p> <p>When these challenges become overwhelming and impact how a person learns, plays, works or socialises, a diagnosis of <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/autism/what-is-autism-spectrum-disorder">autism spectrum disorder</a> is made.</p> <h2>Where do the definitions come from?</h2> <p>The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) outlines the criteria clinicians use to diagnose mental illnesses and behavioural disorders.</p> <p>Between 1994 and 2013, autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder were the two primary diagnoses related to autism in the fourth edition of the manual, the DSM-4.</p> <p>In 2013, the DSM-5 collapsed both diagnoses into one <a href="https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596">autism spectrum disorder</a>.</p> <h2>How did we used to think about autism?</h2> <p>The two thinkers behind the DSM-4 diagnostic categories were Baltimore psychiatrist Leo Kanner and Viennese paediatrician Hans Asperger. They described the challenges faced by people who were later diagnosed with autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder.</p> <p>Kanner and Asperger observed patterns of behaviour that differed to typical thinkers in the domains of communication, social interaction and flexibility of behaviour and thinking. The variance was associated with challenges in adaptation and distress.</p> <p>Between the 1940s and 1994, the majority of those diagnosed with autism also had an intellectual disability. Clinicians became focused on the accompanying intellectual disability as a necessary part of autism.</p> <p>The introduction of Asperger’s disorder shifted this focus and acknowledged the diversity in autism. In the DSM-4 it superficially looked like autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder were different things, with the Asperger’s criteria stating there could be no intellectual disability or delay in the development of speech.</p> <p>Today, as a legacy of the recognition of the autism itself, the <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/autism-in-australia/contents/autism">majority of people</a> diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – the new term from the DSM-5 – don’t a have an accompanying intellectual disability.</p> <h2>What changed with ‘autism spectrum disorder’?</h2> <p>The move to autism spectrum disorder brought the previously diagnosed autistic disorder and Asperger’s disorder under the one new diagnostic umbrella term.</p> <p>It made clear that other diagnostic groups – such as intellectual disability – can co-exist with autism, but are separate things.</p> <p>The other major change was acknowledging communication and social skills are intimately linked and not separable. Rather than separating “impaired communication” and “impaired social skills”, the diagnostic criteria changed to “impaired social communication”.</p> <p>The introduction of the spectrum in the diagnostic term further clarified that people have varied capabilities in the flexibility of their thinking, behaviour and social communication – and this can change in response to the context the person is in.</p> <h2>Why do some people prefer the old terminology?</h2> <p>Some people feel the clinical label of Asperger’s allowed a much more refined understanding of autism. This included recognising the achievements and great societal contributions of people with known or presumed autism.</p> <p>The contraction “Aspie” played an enormous part in the shift to positive identity formation. In the time up to the release of the DSM-5, <a href="https://xminds.org/resources/Documents/Web%20files/Aspie%20Criteria%20by%20Attwood.pdf">Tony Attwood and Carol Gray</a>, two well known thinkers in the area of autism, highlighted the strengths associated with “being Aspie” as something to be proud of. But they also raised awareness of the challenges.</p> <h2>What about identity-based language?</h2> <p>A more recent shift in language has been the reclamation of what was once viewed as a slur – “autistic”. This was a shift from person-first language to identity-based language, from “person with autism spectrum disorder” to “autistic”.</p> <p>The neurodiversity rights movement describes its aim to <a href="https://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/71531/1/JCU_71531_AAM.pdf">push back</a> against a breach of human rights resulting from the wish to cure, or fundamentally change, people with autism.</p> <p>The movement uses a “social model of disability”. This views disability as arising from societies’ response to individuals and the failure to adjust to enable full participation. The inherent challenges in autism are seen as only a problem if not accommodated through reasonable adjustments.</p> <p>However the social model contrasts itself against a very outdated medical or clinical model.</p> <p>Current clinical thinking and practice focuses on <a href="https://www.collegianjournal.com/article/S1322-7696(22)00122-6/fulltext">targeted</a> supports to reduce distress, promote thriving and enable optimum individual participation in school, work, community and social activities. It doesn’t aim to cure or fundamentally change people with autism.</p> <p>A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder signals there are challenges beyond what will be solved by adjustments alone; individual supports are also needed. So it’s important to combine the best of the social model and contemporary clinical model.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223643/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-cashin-458270">Andrew Cashin</a>, Professor of Nursing, School of Health and Human Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-difference-between-autism-and-aspergers-disorder-223643">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How can I stop overthinking everything? A clinical psychologist offers solutions

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kirsty-ross-1513078">Kirsty Ross</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/massey-university-806">Massey University</a></em></p> <p>As a clinical psychologist, I often have clients say they are having trouble with thoughts “on a loop” in their head, which they find difficult to manage.</p> <p>While rumination and overthinking are often considered the same thing, they are slightly different (though linked). <a href="https://www.apa.org/monitor/nov05/cycle">Rumination</a> is having thoughts on repeat in our minds. This can lead to overthinking – analysing those thoughts without finding solutions or solving the problem.</p> <p>It’s like a vinyl record playing the same part of the song over and over. With a record, this is usually because of a scratch. Why we overthink is a little more complicated.</p> <h2>We’re on the lookout for threats</h2> <p>Our brains are hardwired to look for threats, to make a plan to address those threats and keep us safe. Those perceived threats may be based on past experiences, or may be the “what ifs” we imagine could happen in the future.</p> <p>Our “what ifs” are usually negative outcomes. These are what we call “<a href="https://ccbhc.org/hot-thoughts-what-are-they-and-how-can-you-handle-them/">hot thoughts</a>” – they bring up a lot of emotion (particularly sadness, worry or anger), which means we can easily get stuck on those thoughts and keep going over them.</p> <p>However, because they are about things that have either already happened or might happen in the future (but are not happening now), we cannot fix the problem, so we keep going over the same thoughts.</p> <h2>Who overthinks?</h2> <p>Most people find themselves in situations at one time or another when they overthink.</p> <p>Some people are <a href="https://www.apa.org/monitor/nov05/cycle">more likely</a> to ruminate. People who have had prior challenges or experienced trauma may have come to expect threats and look for them more than people who have not had adversities.</p> <p>Deep thinkers, people who are prone to anxiety or low mood, and those who are sensitive or feel emotions deeply are also more likely to ruminate and overthink.</p> <p>Also, when we are stressed, our emotions tend to be stronger and last longer, and our thoughts can be less accurate, which means we can get stuck on thoughts more than we would usually.</p> <p>Being run down or physically unwell can also mean our thoughts are <a href="https://healthify.nz/hauora-wellbeing/m/mental-health-and-your-body/">harder to tackle</a> and manage.</p> <h2>Acknowledge your feelings</h2> <p>When thoughts go on repeat, it is helpful to use both emotion-focused and problem-focused <a href="https://link.springer.com/referencework/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9">strategies</a>.</p> <p>Being emotion-focused means figuring out how we feel about something and addressing those feelings. For example, we might feel regret, anger or sadness about something that has happened, or worry about something that might happen.</p> <p>Acknowledging those emotions, using self-care techniques and accessing social support to talk about and manage your feelings will be helpful.</p> <p>The second part is being problem-focused. Looking at what you would do differently (if the thoughts are about something from your past) and making a plan for dealing with future possibilities your thoughts are raising.</p> <p>But it is difficult to plan for all eventualities, so this strategy has limited usefulness.</p> <p>What is more helpful is to make a plan for one or two of the more likely possibilities and accept there may be things that happen you haven’t thought of.</p> <h2>Think about why these thoughts are showing up</h2> <p>Our feelings and experiences are information; it is important to ask what this information is telling you and why these thoughts are showing up now.</p> <p>For example, university has just started again. Parents of high school leavers might be lying awake at night (which is when rumination and overthinking is common) worrying about their young person.</p> <p>Knowing how you would respond to some more likely possibilities (such as they will need money, they might be lonely or homesick) might be helpful.</p> <p>But overthinking is also a sign of a new stage in both your lives, and needing to accept less control over your child’s choices and lives, while wanting the best for them. Recognising this means you can also talk about those feelings with others.</p> <h2>Let the thoughts go</h2> <p>A useful way to manage rumination or overthinking is “<a href="https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/Options.pdf">change, accept, and let go</a>”.</p> <p>Challenge and change aspects of your thoughts where you can. For example, the chance that your young person will run out of money and have no food and starve (overthinking tends to lead to your brain coming up with catastrophic outcomes!) is not likely.</p> <p>You could plan to check in with your child regularly about how they are coping financially and encourage them to access budgeting support from university services.</p> <p>Your thoughts are just ideas. They are not necessarily true or accurate, but when we overthink and have them on repeat, they can start to feel true because they become familiar. Coming up with a more realistic thought can help stop the loop of the unhelpful thought.</p> <p>Accepting your emotions and finding ways to manage those (good self-care, social support, communication with those close to you) will also be helpful. As will accepting that life inevitably involves a lack of complete control over outcomes and possibilities life may throw at us. What we do have control over is our reactions and behaviours.</p> <p>Remember, you have a 100% success rate of getting through challenges up until this point. You might have wanted to do things differently (and can plan to do that) but nevertheless, you coped and got through.</p> <p>So, the last part is letting go of the need to know exactly how things will turn out, and believing in your ability (and sometimes others’) to cope.</p> <h2>What else can you do?</h2> <p>A stressed out and tired brain will be <a href="https://mentalhealth.org.nz/resources/resource/stress-and-how-to-manage-it">more likely</a> to overthink, leading to more stress and creating a cycle that can affect your wellbeing.</p> <p>So it’s important to manage your stress levels by eating and sleeping well, moving your body, doing things you enjoy, seeing people you care about, and doing things that fuel your soul and spirit.</p> <p>Distraction – with pleasurable activities and people who bring you joy – can also get your thoughts off repeat.</p> <p>If you do find overthinking is affecting your life, and your levels of anxiety are rising or your mood is dropping (your sleep, appetite and enjoyment of life and people is being negatively affected), it might be time to talk to someone and get some strategies to manage.</p> <p>When things become too difficult to manage yourself (or with the help of those close to you), a therapist can provide tools that have been proven to be helpful. Some helpful tools to manage worry and your thoughts can also be found <a href="https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Anxiety">here</a>.</p> <p>When you find yourself overthinking, think about why you are having “hot thoughts”, acknowledge your feelings and do some future-focused problem solving. But also accept life can be unpredictable and focus on having faith in your ability to cope. <img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223973/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kirsty-ross-1513078"><em>Kirsty Ross</em></a><em>, Associate Professor and Senior Clinical Psychologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/massey-university-806">Massey University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-can-i-stop-overthinking-everything-a-clinical-psychologist-offers-solutions-223973">original article</a>.</em></p>

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War in Ukraine affected wellbeing worldwide, but people’s speed of recovery depended on their personality

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/luke-smillie-7502">Luke Smillie</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>The war in Ukraine has had impacts around the world. <a href="https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/ripple-effects-russia-ukraine-war-test-global-economies">Supply chains</a> have been disrupted, the <a href="https://news.un.org/pages/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/GCRG_2nd-Brief_Jun8_2022_FINAL.pdf?utm_source=United+Nations&amp;utm_medium=Brief&amp;utm_campaign=Global+Crisis+Response">cost of living</a> has soared and we’ve seen the <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/hk/en/73141-ukraine-fastest-growing-refugee-crisis-in-europe-since-wwii.html">fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II</a>. All of these are in addition to the devastating humanitarian and economic impacts within Ukraine.</p> <p>Our international team was conducting a global study on wellbeing in the lead up to and after the Russian invasion. This provided a unique opportunity to examine the psychological impact of the outbreak of war.</p> <p>As we explain in a new study published in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-024-44693-6">Nature Communications</a>, we learned the toll on people’s wellbeing was evident across nations, not just <a href="https://ijmhs.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13033-023-00598-3">in Ukraine</a>. These effects appear to have been temporary – at least for the average person.</p> <p>But people with certain psychological vulnerabilities struggled to recover from the shock of the war.</p> <h2>Tracking wellbeing during the outbreak of war</h2> <p>People who took part in our study completed a rigorous “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2773515/">experience-sampling</a>” protocol. Specifically, we asked them to report their momentary wellbeing four times per day for a whole month.</p> <p>Data collection began in October 2021 and continued throughout 2022. So we had been tracking wellbeing around the world during the weeks surrounding the outbreak of war in February 2022.</p> <p>We also collected measures of personality, along with various sociodemographic variables (including age, gender, political views). This enabled us to assess whether different people responded differently to the crisis. We could also compare these effects across countries.</p> <p>Our analyses focused primarily on 1,341 participants living in 17 European countries, excluding Ukraine itself (44,894 experience-sampling reports in total). We also expanded these analyses to capture the experiences of 1,735 people living in 43 countries around the world (54,851 experience-sampling reports) – including in Australia.</p> <h2>A global dip in wellbeing</h2> <p>On February 24 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, there was a sharp decline in wellbeing around the world. There was no decline in the month leading up to the outbreak of war, suggesting the change in wellbeing was not already occurring for some other reason.</p> <p>However, there was a gradual increase in wellbeing during the month <em>after</em> the Russian invasion, suggestive of a “return to baseline” effect. Such effects are commonly reported in psychological research: situations and events that impact our wellbeing often (<a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237535630_Adaptation_and_the_Set-Point_Model_of_Subjective_Well-BeingDoes_Happiness_Change_After_Major_Life_Events">though not always</a>) do so <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7062343_Beyond_the_Hedonic_Treadmill_Revising_the_Adaptation_Theory_of_Well-Being">temporarily</a>.</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, people in Europe experienced a sharper dip in wellbeing compared to people living elsewhere around the world. Presumably the war was much more salient for those closest to the conflict, compared to those living on an entirely different continent.</p> <p>Interestingly, day-to-day fluctuations in wellbeing mirrored the salience of the war on social media as events unfolded. Specifically, wellbeing was lower on days when there were more tweets mentioning Ukraine on Twitter/X.</p> <p>Our results indicate that, on average, it took around two months for people to return to their baseline levels of wellbeing after the invasion.</p> <h2>Different people, different recoveries</h2> <p>There are <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31944795/">strong links</a> between our wellbeing and our individual personalities.</p> <p>However, the dip in wellbeing following the Russian invasion was fairly uniform across individuals. None of the individual factors assessed in our study, including personality and sociodemographic factors, predicted people’s response to the outbreak of war.</p> <p>On the other hand, personality did play a role in how quickly people recovered. Individual differences in people’s recovery were linked to a personality trait called “stability”. Stability is a broad dimension of personality that combines low neuroticism with high agreeableness and conscientiousness (three traits from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/big-five">Big Five</a> personality framework).</p> <p>Stability is so named because it reflects the stability of one’s overall psychological functioning. This can be illustrated by breaking stability down into its three components:</p> <ol> <li> <p>low neuroticism describes <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2212154120">emotional stability</a>. People low in this trait experience less intense negative emotions such as anxiety, fear or anger, in response to negative events</p> </li> <li> <p>high agreeableness describes <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2018-63285-010">social stability</a>. People high in this trait are generally more cooperative, kind, and motivated to maintain social harmony</p> </li> <li> <p>high conscientiousness describes <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2023.112331">motivational stability</a>. People high in this trait show more effective patterns of goal-directed self-regulation.</p> </li> </ol> <p>So, our data show that people with less stable personalities fared worse in terms of recovering from the impact the war in Ukraine had on wellbeing.</p> <p>In a supplementary analysis, we found the effect of stability was driven specifically by neuroticism and agreeableness. The fact that people higher in neuroticism recovered more slowly accords with a wealth of research linking this trait with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10573882/">coping difficulties</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5428182/">poor mental health</a>.</p> <p>These effects of personality on recovery were stronger than those of sociodemographic factors, such as age, gender or political views, which were not statistically significant.</p> <p>Overall, our findings suggest that people with certain psychological vulnerabilities will often struggle to recover from the shock of global events such as the outbreak of war in Ukraine.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/224147/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/luke-smillie-7502">Luke Smillie</a>, Professor in Personality Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/war-in-ukraine-affected-wellbeing-worldwide-but-peoples-speed-of-recovery-depended-on-their-personality-224147">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Mothers’ dieting habits and self-talk have profound impact on daughters − 2 psychologists explain how to cultivate healthy behaviors and body image

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496">Janet J. Boseovski</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p>Weight loss is one of the most common health and appearance-related goals.</p> <p>Women and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db340.htm">teen girls</a> are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm">especially likely to pursue dieting</a> to achieve weight loss goals even though a great deal of research shows that <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-thin-people-dont-understand-about-dieting-86604">dieting doesn’t work over the long term</a>.</p> <p>We are a <a href="https://www.duck-lab.com/people">developmental psychologist</a> and a <a href="https://psy.uncg.edu/directory/ashleigh-gallagher/">social psychologist</a> who together wrote a forthcoming book, “Beyond Body Positive: A Mother’s Evidence-Based Guide for Helping Girls Build a Healthy Body Image.”</p> <p>In the book, we address topics such as the effects of maternal dieting behaviors on daughters’ health and well-being. We provide information on how to build a foundation for healthy body image beginning in girlhood.</p> <h2>Culturally defined body ideals</h2> <p>Given the strong influence of social media and other cultural influences on body ideals, it’s understandable that so many people pursue diets aimed at weight loss. <a href="https://communityhealth.mayoclinic.org/featured-stories/tiktok-diets">TikTok</a>, YouTube, Instagram and celebrity websites feature slim influencers and “how-tos” for achieving those same results in no time.</p> <p>For example, women and teens are engaging in rigid and extreme forms of exercise such as 54D, a program to <a href="https://54d.com/">achieve body transformation in 54 days</a>, or the <a href="https://health.clevelandclinic.org/75-hard-challenge-and-rules">75 Hard Challenge</a>, which is to follow five strict rules for 75 days.</p> <p>For teens, these pursuits are likely fueled by trendy body preoccupations such as the desire for “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/06/well/move/tiktok-legging-legs-eating-disorders.html">legging legs</a>.”</p> <p>Women and teens have also been been inundated with recent messaging around <a href="https://theconversation.com/drugs-that-melt-away-pounds-still-present-more-questions-than-answers-but-ozempic-wegovy-and-mounjaro-could-be-key-tools-in-reducing-the-obesity-epidemic-205549">quick-fix weight loss drugs</a>, which come with a lot of caveats.</p> <p>Dieting and weight loss goals are highly individual, and when people are intensely self-focused, it is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2000.19.1.70">possible to lose sight of the bigger picture</a>. Although women might wonder what the harm is in trying the latest diet, science shows that dieting behavior doesn’t just affect the dieter. In particular, for women who are mothers or who have other girls in their lives, these behaviors affect girls’ emerging body image and their health and well-being.</p> <h2>The profound effect of maternal role models</h2> <p>Research shows that mothers and maternal figures <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.11.001">have a profound influence on their daughters’ body image</a>.</p> <p>The opportunity to influence girls’ body image comes far earlier than adolescence. In fact, research shows that these influences on body image <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-toxic-diet-culture-is-passed-from-moms-to-daughters">begin very early in life</a> – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.acdb.2016.10.006">during the preschool years</a>.</p> <p>Mothers may feel that they are being discreet about their dieting behavior, but little girls are watching and listening, and they are far more observant of us than many might think.</p> <p>For example, one study revealed that compared with daughters of nondieting women, 5-year-old girls whose mothers dieted <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(00)00339-4">were aware of the connection between dieting and thinness</a>.</p> <p>Mothers’ eating behavior does not just affect girls’ ideas about dieting, but also their daughters’ eating behavior. The amount of food that mothers eat <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">predicts how much their daughters will eat</a>. In addition, daughters whose mothers are dieters are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">more likely to become dieters themselves</a> and are also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2007.03.001">more likely to have a negative body image</a>.</p> <p>Negative body image is <a href="https://theconversation.com/mounting-research-documents-the-harmful-effects-of-social-media-use-on-mental-health-including-body-image-and-development-of-eating-disorders-206170">not a trivial matter</a>. It affects girls’ and women’s mental and physical well-being in a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105317710815">host of ways</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2011.06.009">can predict the emergence of eating disorders</a>.</p> <h2>Avoiding ‘fat talk’</h2> <p>What can moms do, then, to serve their daughters’ and their own health?</p> <p>They can focus on small steps. And although it is best to begin these efforts early in life – in girlhood – it is never too late to do so.</p> <p>For example, mothers can consider how they think about and talk about themselves around their daughters. Engaging in “fat talk” may inadvertently send their daughters the message that larger bodies are bad, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.07.004">contributing to weight bias</a> and negative self-image. Mothers’ fat talk also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2021.1908294">predicts later body dissatisfaction in daughters</a>.</p> <p>And negative self-talk isn’t good for mothers, either; it is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318781943">lower motivation and unhealthful eating</a>. Mothers can instead practice and model self-compassion, which involves treating oneself the way <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.003">a loving friend might treat you</a>.</p> <p>In discussions about food and eating behavior, it is important to avoid moralizing certain kinds of food by labeling them as “good” or “bad,” as girls may extend these labels to their personal worth. For example, a young girl may feel that she is being “bad” if she eats dessert, if that is what she has learned from observing the women around her. In contrast, she may feel that she has to eat a salad to be “good.”</p> <p>Moms and other female role models can make sure that the dinner plate sends a healthy message to their daughters by showing instead that all foods can fit into a balanced diet when the time is right. Intuitive eating, which emphasizes paying attention to hunger and satiety and allows flexibility in eating behavior, is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00852-4">better physical and mental health in adolescence</a>.</p> <p>Another way that women and especially moms can buffer girls’ body image is by helping their daughters <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.12.009">to develop media literacy</a> and to think critically about the nature and purpose of media. For example, moms can discuss the misrepresentation and distortion of bodies, such as the use of filters to enhance physical appearance, on social media.</p> <h2>Focusing on healthful behaviors</h2> <p>One way to begin to focus on health behaviors rather than dieting behaviors is to develop respect for the body and to <a href="https://theconversation.com/body-neutrality-what-it-is-and-how-it-can-help-lead-to-more-positive-body-image-191799">consider body neutrality</a>. In other words, prize body function rather than appearance and spend less time thinking about your body’s appearance. Accept that there are times when you may not feel great about your body, and that this is OK.</p> <p>To feel and look their best, mothers can aim to stick to a <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-best-diet-for-healthy-sleep-a-nutritional-epidemiologist-explains-what-food-choices-will-help-you-get-more-restful-zs-219955">healthy sleep schedule</a>, manage their stress levels, <a href="https://theconversation.com/fiber-is-your-bodys-natural-guide-to-weight-management-rather-than-cutting-carbs-out-of-your-diet-eat-them-in-their-original-fiber-packaging-instead-205159">eat a varied diet</a> that includes all of the foods that they enjoy, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-runners-high-may-result-from-molecules-called-cannabinoids-the-bodys-own-version-of-thc-and-cbd-170796">move and exercise their bodies regularly</a> as lifelong practices, rather than engaging in quick-fix trends.</p> <p>Although many of these tips sound familiar, and perhaps even simple, they become effective when we recognize their importance and begin acting on them. Mothers can work toward modeling these behaviors and tailor each of them to their daughter’s developmental level. It’s never too early to start.</p> <h2>Promoting healthy body image</h2> <p>Science shows that several personal characteristics are associated with body image concerns among women.</p> <p>For example, research shows that women who are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.02.001">higher in neuroticism</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/2050-2974-1-2">and perfectionism</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.983534">lower in self-compassion</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.08.001">lower in self-efficacy</a> are all more likely to struggle with negative body image.</p> <p>Personality is frequently defined as a person’s characteristic pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But if they wish, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/per.1945">mothers can change personality characteristics</a> that they feel aren’t serving them well.</p> <p>For example, perfectionist tendencies – such as setting unrealistic, inflexible goals – can be examined, challenged and replaced with more rational thoughts and behaviors. A woman who believes she must work out every day can practice being more flexible in her thinking. One who thinks of dessert as “cheating” can practice resisting moral judgments about food.</p> <p>Changing habitual ways of thinking, feeling and behaving certainly takes effort and time, but it is far more likely than diet trends to bring about sustainable, long-term change. And taking the first steps to modify even a few of these habits can positively affect daughters.</p> <p>In spite of all the noise from media and other cultural influences, mothers can feel empowered knowing that they have a significant influence on their daughters’ feelings about, and treatment of, their bodies.</p> <p>In this way, mothers’ modeling of healthier attitudes and behaviors is a sound investment – for both their own body image and that of the girls they love.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221968/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496"><em>Janet J. Boseovski</em></a><em>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, Senior Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/mothers-dieting-habits-and-self-talk-have-profound-impact-on-daughters-2-psychologists-explain-how-to-cultivate-healthy-behaviors-and-body-image-221968">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How people get sucked into misinformation rabbit holes – and how to get them out

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-booth-715018">Emily Booth</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marian-andrei-rizoiu-850922">Marian-Andrei Rizoiu</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>As misinformation and radicalisation rise, it’s tempting to look for something to blame: the internet, social media personalities, sensationalised political campaigns, religion, or conspiracy theories. And once we’ve settled on a cause, solutions usually follow: do more fact-checking, regulate advertising, ban YouTubers deemed to have “gone too far”.</p> <p>However, if these strategies were the whole answer, we should already be seeing a decrease in people being drawn into fringe communities and beliefs, and less misinformation in the online environment. We’re not.</p> <p>In new research <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/14407833241231756">published in the Journal of Sociology</a>, we and our colleagues found radicalisation is a process of increasingly intense stages, and only a small number of people progress to the point where they commit violent acts.</p> <p>Our work shows the misinformation radicalisation process is a pathway driven by human emotions rather than the information itself – and this understanding may be a first step in finding solutions.</p> <h2>A feeling of control</h2> <p>We analysed dozens of public statements from newspapers and online in which former radicalised people described their experiences. We identified different levels of intensity in misinformation and its online communities, associated with common recurring behaviours.</p> <p>In the early stages, we found people either encountered misinformation about an anxiety-inducing topic through algorithms or friends, or they went looking for an explanation for something that gave them a “bad feeling”.</p> <p>Regardless, they often reported finding the same things: a new sense of certainty, a new community they could talk to, and feeling they had regained some control of their lives.</p> <p>Once people reached the middle stages of our proposed radicalisation pathway, we considered them to be invested in the new community, its goals, and its values.</p> <h2>Growing intensity</h2> <p>It was during these more intense stages that people began to report more negative impacts on their own lives. This could include the loss of friends and family, health issues caused by too much time spent on screens and too little sleep, and feelings of stress and paranoia. To soothe these pains, they turned again to their fringe communities for support.</p> <p>Most people in our dataset didn’t progress past these middle stages. However, their continued activity in these spaces kept the misinformation ecosystem alive.</p> <p>When people did move further and reach the extreme final stages in our model, they were doing active harm.</p> <p>In their recounting of their experiences at these high levels of intensity, individuals spoke of choosing to break ties with loved ones, participating in public acts of disruption and, in some cases, engaging in violence against other people in the name of their cause.</p> <p>Once people reached this stage, it took pretty strong interventions to get them out of it. The challenge, then, is how to intervene safely and effectively when people are in the earlier stages of being drawn into a fringe community.</p> <h2>Respond with empathy, not shame</h2> <p>We have a few suggestions. For people who are still in the earlier stages, friends and trusted advisers, like a doctor or a nurse, can have a big impact by simply responding with empathy.</p> <p>If a loved one starts voicing possible fringe views, like a fear of vaccines, or animosity against women or other marginalised groups, a calm response that seeks to understand the person’s underlying concern can go a long way.</p> <p>The worst response is one that might leave them feeling ashamed or upset. It may drive them back to their fringe community and accelerate their radicalisation.</p> <p>Even if the person’s views intensify, maintaining your connection with them can turn you into a lifeline that will see them get out sooner rather than later.</p> <p>Once people reached the middle stages, we found third-party online content – not produced by government, but regular users – could reach people without backfiring. Considering that many people in our research sample had their radicalisation instigated by social media, we also suggest the private companies behind such platforms should be held responsible for the effects of their automated tools on society.</p> <p>By the middle stages, arguments on the basis of logic or fact are ineffective. It doesn’t matter whether they are delivered by a friend, a news anchor, or a platform-affiliated fact-checking tool.</p> <p>At the most extreme final stages, we found that only heavy-handed interventions worked, such as family members forcibly hospitalising their radicalised relative, or individuals undergoing government-supported deradicalisation programs.</p> <h2>How not to be radicalised</h2> <p>After all this, you might be wondering: how do you protect <em>yourself</em> from being radicalised?</p> <p>As much of society becomes more dependent on digital technologies, we’re going to get exposed to even more misinformation, and our world is likely going to get smaller through online echo chambers.</p> <p>One strategy is to foster your critical thinking skills by <a href="https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/abstract/S1364-6613(23)00198-5">reading long-form texts from paper books</a>.</p> <p>Another is to protect yourself from the emotional manipulation of platform algorithms by <a href="https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751">limiting your social media use</a> to small, infrequent, purposefully-directed pockets of time.</p> <p>And a third is to sustain connections with other humans, and lead a more analogue life – which has other benefits as well.</p> <p>So in short: log off, read a book, and spend time with people you care about. <img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223717/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-booth-715018">Emily Booth</a>, Research assistant, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marian-andrei-rizoiu-850922">Marian-Andrei Rizoiu</a>, Associate Professor in Behavioral Data Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-people-get-sucked-into-misinformation-rabbit-holes-and-how-to-get-them-out-223717">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Out of the rabbit hole: new research shows people can change their minds about conspiracy theories

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matt-williams-666794">Matt Williams</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/massey-university-806">Massey University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-kerr-1073102">John Kerr</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-otago-1304">University of Otago</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mathew-marques-14884">Mathew Marques</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/la-trobe-university-842">La Trobe University</a></em></p> <p>Many people <a href="https://theconversation.com/was-phar-lap-killed-by-gangsters-new-research-shows-which-conspiracies-people-believe-in-and-why-158610">believe at least one</a> conspiracy theory. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – conspiracies <em>do</em> happen.</p> <p>To take just one example, the CIA really did engage in <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/13/cia-mind-control-1266649">illegal experiments</a> in the 1950s to identify drugs and procedures that might produce confessions from captured spies.</p> <p>However, many conspiracy theories are not supported by evidence, yet still attract believers.</p> <p>For example, in a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12746">previous study</a>, we found about 7% of New Zealanders and Australians agreed with the theory that <a href="https://www.earthdata.nasa.gov/learn/sensing-our-planet/on-the-trail-of-contrails">visible trails behind aircraft</a> are “chemtrails” of chemical agents sprayed as part of a secret government program. That’s despite the theory being <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084011">roundly rejected</a> by the scientific community.</p> <p>The fact that conspiracy theories attract believers despite a lack of credible evidence remains a puzzle for researchers in psychology and other academic disciplines.</p> <p>Indeed, there has been a great deal of research on conspiracy theories published in the past few years. We now know more about how many people believe them, as well as the psychological and political factors that <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-25617-0">correlate with that belief</a>.</p> <p>But we know much less about how often people change their minds. Do they do so frequently, or do they to stick tenaciously to their beliefs, regardless of what evidence they come across?</p> <h2>From 9/11 to COVID</h2> <p>We set out to answer this question using a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-51653-z">longitudinal survey</a>. We recruited 498 Australians and New Zealanders (using the <a href="http://prolific.com">Prolific</a> website, which recruits people to take part in paid research).</p> <p>Each month from March to September 2021, we presented our sample group with a survey, including ten conspiracy theories, and asked them how much they agreed with each one.</p> <p>All of these theories related to claims about events that are either ongoing, or occurred this millennium: the September 11 attacks, the rollout of 5G telecommunications technology, and COVID-19, among others.</p> <p>While there were definitely some believers in our sample, most participants disagreed with each of the theories.</p> <p>The most popular theory was that “pharmaceutical companies (‘Big Pharma’) have suppressed a cure for cancer to protect their profits”. Some 18% of the sample group agreed when first asked.</p> <p>The least popular was the theory that “COVID-19 ‘vaccines’ contain microchips to monitor and control people”. Only 2% agreed.</p> <h2>Conspiracy beliefs probably aren’t increasing</h2> <p>Despite contemporary concerns about a “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320252/">pandemic of misinformation</a>” or “<a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30461-X/fulltext">infodemic</a>”, we found no evidence that individual beliefs in conspiracy theories increased on average over time.</p> <p>This was despite our data collection happening during the tumultuous second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns were still happening occasionally in both <a href="https://www.timeout.com/melbourne/things-to-do/a-timeline-of-covid-19-in-australia-two-years-on">Australia</a> and <a href="https://covid19.govt.nz/about-our-covid-19-response/history-of-the-covid-19-alert-system/">New Zealand</a>, and anti-government sentiment was building.</p> <p>While we only tracked participants for six months, <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0270429">other studies</a> over much longer time frames have also found little evidence that beliefs in conspiracy theories are increasing over time.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe class="flourish-embed-iframe" style="width: 100%; height: 600px;" title="Interactive or visual content" src="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/16665395/embed" width="100%" height="400" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" sandbox="allow-same-origin allow-forms allow-scripts allow-downloads allow-popups allow-popups-to-escape-sandbox allow-top-navigation-by-user-activation"></iframe></p> <div style="width: 100%!; margin-top: 4px!important; text-align: right!important;"><a class="flourish-credit" href="https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/16665395/?utm_source=embed&amp;utm_campaign=visualisation/16665395" target="_top"><img src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/made_with_flourish.svg" alt="Made with Flourish" /></a></div> <hr /> <p>Finally, we found that beliefs (or non-beliefs) in conspiracy theories were stable – but not completely fixed. For any given theory, the vast majority of participants were “consistent sceptics” – not agreeing with the theory at any point.</p> <p>There were also some “consistent believers” who agreed at every point in the survey they responded to. For most theories, this was the second-largest group.</p> <p>Yet for every conspiracy theory, there was also a small proportion of converts. They disagreed with the theory at the start of the study, but agreed with it by the end. There was also a small proportion of “apostates” who agreed with the theory at the start, but disagreed by the end.</p> <p>Nevertheless, the percentages of converts and apostates tended to balance each other pretty closely, leaving the percentage of believers fairly stable over time.</p> <h2>Inside the ‘rabbit hole’</h2> <p>This relative stability is interesting, because <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2564659">one criticism</a> of conspiracy theories is that they may not be “<a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/criterion-of-falsifiability">falsifiable</a>”: what seems like evidence against a conspiracy theory can just be written off by believers as part of the cover up.</p> <p>Yet people clearly <em>do</em> sometimes decide to reject conspiracy theories they previously believed.</p> <p>Our findings bring into question the popular notion of the “rabbit hole” – that people rapidly develop beliefs in a succession of conspiracy theories, much as Alice tumbles down into Wonderland in Lewis Carroll’s <a href="https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11">famous story</a>.</p> <p>While it’s possible this does happen for a small number of people, our results suggest it isn’t a typical experience.</p> <p>For most, the <a href="https://www.latrobe.edu.au/news/articles/2023/opinion/how-to-talk-to-someone-about-conspiracy-theories">journey into</a> conspiracy theory belief might involve a more gradual slope – a bit like a <a href="https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1985.tb05649.x">real rabbit burrow</a>, from which one can also emerge.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Mathew Ling (<a href="https://www.neaminational.org.au/">Neami National</a>), Stephen Hill (Massey University) and Edward Clarke (Philipps-Universität Marburg) contributed to the research referred to in this article.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222507/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <hr /> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matt-williams-666794">Matt Williams</a>, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/massey-university-806">Massey University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/john-kerr-1073102">John Kerr</a>, Senior Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-otago-1304">University of Otago</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mathew-marques-14884">Mathew Marques</a>, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/la-trobe-university-842">La Trobe University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/out-of-the-rabbit-hole-new-research-shows-people-can-change-their-minds-about-conspiracy-theories-222507">original article</a>.</em></p>

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‘Self-love’ might seem selfish. But done right, it’s the opposite of narcissism

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ian-robertson-1372650">Ian Robertson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p>“To love what you are, the thing that is yourself, is just as if you were embracing a glowing red-hot iron” <a href="https://archive.org/details/jungsseminaronni0000jung">said psychonalyst Carl Jung</a>.</p> <p>Some may argue this social media generation does not seem to struggle with loving themselves. But is the look-at-me-ism so easily found on TikTok and Instagram the kind of self-love we need in order to flourish?</p> <p>The language of <a href="https://theconversation.com/teaching-positive-psychology-skills-at-school-may-be-one-way-to-help-student-mental-health-and-happiness-217173">positive psychology</a> can be – and often is – appropriated for all kinds of self-importance, as well as cynical marketing strategies.</p> <p>Loving yourself, though, psychological experts stress, is not the same as behaving selfishly. There’s a firm line between healthy and appropriate forms of loving yourself, and malignant or <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-many-types-of-narcissist-are-there-a-psychology-expert-sets-the-record-straight-207610">narcissistic</a> forms. But how do we distinguish between them?</p> <p>In 2023, researchers Eva Henschke and Peter Sedlmeier conducted <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355152846_What_is_self-love_Redefinition_of_a_controversial_construct">a series of interviews</a> with psychotherapists and other experts on what self-love is. They’ve concluded it has three main features: self-care, self-acceptance and self-contact (devoting attention to yourself).</p> <p>But as an increasingly individualistic society, are we already devoting too much attention to ourselves?</p> <h2>Philosophy and self-love</h2> <p>Philosophers and psychology experts alike have considered the ethics of self-love.</p> <p>Psychology researcher Li Ming Xue and her colleagues, <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.585719/full">exploring the notion of self-love in Chinese culture</a>, claim “Western philosophers believe that self-love is a virtue”. But this is a very broad generalisation.</p> <p>In the Christian tradition and in much European philosophy, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10848770.2020.1839209">says philosopher Razvan Ioan</a>, self-love is condemned as a profoundly damaging trait.</p> <p>On the other hand, <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2107991">many of the great Christian philosophers</a>, attempting to make sense of the instruction to love one’s neighbour as oneself, admitted certain forms of self-love were virtuous. In order to love your neighbour as yourself, you must, it would seem, love yourself.</p> <p>In the Western philosophical context, claim Xue and her colleagues, self-love is concerned with individual rights – “society as a whole only serves to promote an individual’s happiness”.</p> <p>This individualistic, self-concerned notion of self-love, they suggest, might come from the Ancient Greek philosophers. In particular, Aristotle. But <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/philosophy-stirred-not-shaken/201502/love-yourself-love-your-character">Aristotle thought only the most virtuous</a>, who benefited the society around them, should love themselves. By making this connection, he avoided equating self-love with self-centredness.</p> <p>We should love ourselves not out of vanity, he argued, but in virtue of our capacity for good. Does Aristotle, then, provide principled grounds for distinguishing between proper and improper forms of self-love?</p> <h2>Bar too high?</h2> <p>Aristotle might set the bar too high. If only the most virtuous should try to love themselves, this collides head-on with the idea loving yourself can help us improve and become more virtuous – as <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137383310_6">philosophers Kate Abramson and Adam Leite have argued</a>.</p> <p>Many psychologists claim self-love is important for adopting the kind and compassionate self-perception crucial for overcoming conditions that weaponise self-criticism, like <a href="https://theconversation.com/clinical-perfectionism-when-striving-for-excellence-gets-you-down-43704">clinical perfectionism</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-many-people-have-eating-disorders-we-dont-really-know-and-thats-a-worry-121938">eating disorders</a>.</p> <p>More broadly, some argue compassion for oneself is necessary to support honest insights into your own behaviour. They believe we need warm and compassionate self-reflection to avoid the defensiveness that comes with the fear of judgement – even if we’re standing as our own judge.</p> <p>For this reason, a compassionate form of self-love is often necessary to follow Socrates’ advice to “know thyself”, says <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10677-015-9578-4">philosopher Jan Bransen</a>. Positive self-love, by these lights, can help us grow as people.</p> <h2>Self-love ‘misguided and silly’</h2> <p>But not everyone agrees you need self-love to grow. The late philosopher <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/nov/29/guardianobituaries.obituaries">Oswald Hanfling</a> was deeply sceptical of this idea. In fact, he argued the notion of loving oneself was misguided and silly. His ideas are mostly rejected by philosophers of love, but pointing out where they go wrong can be useful.</p> <p>When you love someone, he said, you’re prepared to sacrifice your own interests for those of your beloved. But he thought the idea of sacrificing your own interests made no sense – which shows, he concluded, we can’t love ourselves.</p> <p><a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/3751159">He wrote</a>: "I may sacrifice an immediate satisfaction for the sake of my welfare in the future, as in the case of giving up smoking. In this case, however, my motive is not love but self-interest. What I reveal in giving up smoking is not the extent of my love for myself, but an understanding that the long-term benefits of giving it up are likely to exceed the present satisfaction of going on with it."</p> <p>We often have conflicting interests (think of someone who is agonising over two different career paths) – and it’s not at all strange to sacrifice certain interests for the sake of others.</p> <p>This is not just a question of sacrificing short-term desires in favour of a long-term good, but a matter of sacrificing something of value for your ultimate benefit (or, so you hope).</p> <h2>Self-compassion</h2> <p>Hanfling fails to consider the role of compassionate self-love. While we might understand it’s in our interests to do something (for instance, repair bridges with someone we’ve fallen out with), it might take a compassionate and open disposition towards ourselves to recognise what’s in our best interests.</p> <p>We might need this self-compassion, too, in order to admit our failures – so we can overcome our defensiveness and see clearly how we’re failing to fulfil <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10677-015-9578-4">these interests</a>.</p> <p>Self-acceptance in this context does not mean giving ourselves licence to run roughshod over the interests of those around us, nor to justify our flaws as “valid” rather than work on them.</p> <p>Self-love, as promoted by contemporary psychologists, means standing in a compassionate relationship to ourselves. And there’s nothing contradictory about this idea.</p> <p>Just as we strive to develop a supportive, kind relationship to the people we care about – and just as this doesn’t involve uncritical approval of everything they do – compassionate self-love doesn’t mean abandoning valid self-criticism.</p> <p>In fact, self-compassion has the opposite effect. It promotes comfort with the kind of critical self-assessment that helps us grow – which leads to resilience. It breeds the opposite of narcissistic self-absorption.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/205938/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ian-robertson-1372650">Ian Robertson</a>, PhD Candidate (Teaching roles at Macquarie &amp; Wollongong), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/self-love-might-seem-selfish-but-done-right-its-the-opposite-of-narcissism-205938">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Anger, sadness, boredom, anxiety – emotions that feel bad can be useful

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/heather-lench-1349234">Heather Lench</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/texas-aandm-university-1672">Texas A&amp;M University</a></em></p> <p>Remember the sadness that came with the last time you failed miserably at something? Or the last time you were so anxious about an upcoming event that you couldn’t concentrate for days?</p> <p>These types of emotions are unpleasant to experience and can even feel overwhelming. People often try to avoid them, suppress them or ignore them. In fact, in psychology experiments, people will <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9394-7">pay money to not feel many negative emotions</a>. But recent research is revealing that emotions can be useful, and even negative emotions can bring benefits.</p> <p><a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=fzHtrJIAAAAJ&amp;hl=en&amp;oi=ao">In my</a> <a href="https://emotionsciencelab.com">emotion science lab</a> at Texas A&amp;M University, we study how emotions like anger and boredom affect people, and we explore ways that these feelings can be beneficial. We share the results so people can learn how to use their emotions to build the lives they want.</p> <p>Our studies and many others have shown that emotions aren’t uniformly good or bad for people. Instead, different emotions can result in better outcomes in particular types of situations. Emotions seem to function like a Swiss army knife – different emotional tools are helpful in specific situations.</p> <h2>Sadness can help you recover from a failure</h2> <p>Sadness occurs when people perceive that they’ve lost a goal or a desired outcome, and there’s nothing they can do to improve the situation. It could be getting creamed in a game or failing a class or work project, or it can be losing a relationship with a family member. Once evoked, sadness is associated with what psychologists call a deactivation state of doing little, without much behavior or <a href="https://dictionary.apa.org/arousal">physical arousal</a>. Sadness also brings <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/ap.12232">thinking that is more detailed and analytical</a>. It makes you stop <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721412474458">and think</a>.</p> <p>The benefit of the stopping and thinking that comes with sadness is that it <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-77619-4_4">helps people recover from failure</a>. When you fail, that typically means the situation you’re in is not conducive to success. Instead of just charging ahead in this type of scenario, sadness prompts people to step back and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016242">evaluate what is happening</a>.</p> <p>When people are sad, they process information in a deliberative, analytical way and want to avoid risk. This mode comes with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.75.2.318">more accurate memory</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/02699939108411048">judgment that is less influenced</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2004.11.005">by irrelevant assumptions or information</a>, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2008.04.010">better detection of other people lying</a>. These cognitive changes can encourage people to understand past failures and possibly prevent future ones.</p> <p>Sadness can function differently when there’s the possibility that the failure could be avoided if other people help. In these situations, people tend to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.1994.tb01049.x">cry and can experience</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10286-018-0526-y">increased physiological arousal</a>, such as quicker heart and breathing rates. Expressing sadness, through tears or verbally, has the benefit of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/147470491301100114">potentially recruiting other people to help you</a> achieve your goals. This behavior appears to start in infants, with <a href="https://doi.org/10.2307/1127506">tears and cries signaling caregivers to help</a>.</p> <h2>Anger prepares you to overcome an obstacle</h2> <p>Anger occurs when people perceive they’re losing a goal or desired outcome, but that they could improve the situation by removing something that’s in their way. The obstacle could be an injustice committed by another person, or it could be a computer that repeatedly crashes while you’re trying to get work done. Once evoked, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024244">anger is associated with a “readiness for action,”</a> and your <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00313-6">thinking focuses on the obstacle</a>.</p> <p>The benefit of being prepared for action and focused on what’s in your way is that it motivates you to overcome what’s standing between you and your goal. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073913512003">When people are angry</a>, they <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2420240104">process information and make judgments rapidly</a>, want to take action, and are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.03.010">physiologically aroused</a>. In experiments, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.04.017">anger actually increases the force of people’s kicks</a>, which can be helpful in physical encounters. Anger results in better outcomes in situations that involve challenges to goals, including confrontational games, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000350">tricky puzzles</a>, video games with obstacles, and responding quickly on tasks.</p> <p>Expressing anger, facially or verbally, has the benefit of <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000292">prompting other people to clear the way</a>. People are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.86.1.57">more likely to concede in negotiations</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.015">give in on issues</a> when their adversary looks or says they are angry.</p> <h2>Anxiety helps you prepare for danger</h2> <p>Anxiety occurs when people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/070674371105601202">perceive a potential threat</a>. This could be giving a speech to a large audience where failure would put your self-esteem on the line, or it could be a physical threat to yourself or loved ones. Once evoked, anxiety is associated with being prepared to respond to danger, including increased physical arousal and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01701.x">attention to threats and risk</a>.</p> <p>Being prepared for danger means that if trouble brews, you can respond quickly to prevent or avoid it. When anxious, people detect threats rapidly, have fast reaction times and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01701.x">are on heightened alert</a>. The eye-widening that often comes with fear and anxiety even <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2138">gives people a wider field of vision</a> and improves threat detection.</p> <p>Anxiety prepares the body for action, which improves performance on a number of tasks that involve motivation and attention. It motivates people to prepare for upcoming events, such as devoting time to study for an exam. Anxiety also prompts protective behavior, which can help prevent the potential threat from becoming a reality.</p> <h2>Boredom can jolt you out of a rut</h2> <p>There is less research on boredom than many other emotions, so it is not as well understood. Researchers debate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2023.02.002">what it is</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/bs3030459">what it does</a>.</p> <p>Boredom appears to occur when someone’s current situation is <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/bs3030459">not causing any other emotional response</a>. There are three situations <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-011-9234-9">where this lack can occur</a>: when emotions fade, such as the happiness of a new car fading to neutral; when people don’t care about anything in their current situation, such as being at a large party where nothing interesting is happening; or when people have no goals. Boredom does not necessarily set in just because nothing is happening – someone with a goal of relaxation might feel quite content sitting quietly with no stimulation.</p> <p>Psychology researchers think that the benefit of boredom in situations where people are not responding emotionally is that it <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000433">prompts making a change</a>. If nothing in your current situation is worth responding to, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jocb.154">aversive experience of boredom can motivate you</a> to seek new situations or change the way you’re thinking. Boredom has been related to more risk seeking, a desire for novelty, and creative thinking. It seems to function like an emotional stick, nudging people out of their current situation to explore and create.</p> <h2>Using the toolkit of emotion</h2> <p>People want to be happy. But research is finding that a satisfying and productive life includes a <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000292">mix of positive and negative emotions</a>. Negative emotions, even though they feel bad to experience, can motivate and prepare people for failure, challenges, threats and exploration.</p> <p>Pleasant or not, your emotions can help guide you toward better outcomes. Maybe understanding how they prepare you to handle various situations will help you feel better about feeling bad.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217654/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/heather-lench-1349234">Heather Lench</a>, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/texas-aandm-university-1672">Texas A&amp;M University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/anger-sadness-boredom-anxiety-emotions-that-feel-bad-can-be-useful-217654">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Alzheimer’s may have once spread from person to person, but the risk of that happening today is incredibly low

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/steve-macfarlane-4722">Steve Macfarlane</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>An article published this week in the prestigious journal <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-023-02729-2">Nature Medicine</a> documents what is believed to be the first evidence that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted from person to person.</p> <p>The finding arose from long-term follow up of patients who received human growth hormone (hGH) that was taken from brain tissue of deceased donors.</p> <p>Preparations of donated hGH were used in medicine to treat a variety of conditions from 1959 onwards – including in Australia from the mid 60s.</p> <p>The practice stopped in 1985 when it was discovered around 200 patients worldwide who had received these donations went on to develop <a href="https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-cjd/">Creuztfeldt-Jakob disease</a> (CJD), which causes a rapidly progressive dementia. This is an otherwise extremely rare condition, affecting roughly one person in a million.</p> <h2>What’s CJD got to do with Alzehimer’s?</h2> <p>CJD is caused by prions: infective particles that are neither bacterial or viral, but consist of abnormally folded proteins that can be transmitted from cell to cell.</p> <p>Other prion diseases include kuru, a dementia seen in New Guinea tribespeople caused by eating human tissue, scrapie (a disease of sheep) and variant CJD or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as mad cow disease. This raised <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_BSE_outbreak">public health concerns</a> over the eating of beef products in the United Kingdom in the 1980s.</p> <h2>Human growth hormone used to come from donated organs</h2> <p>Human growth hormone (hGH) is produced in the brain by the pituitary gland. Treatments were originally prepared from purified human pituitary tissue.</p> <p>But because the amount of hGH contained in a single gland is extremely small, any single dose given to any one patient could contain material from around <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00000563.htm">16,000 donated glands</a>.</p> <p>An average course of hGH treatment lasts around four years, so the chances of receiving contaminated material – even for a very rare condition such as CJD – became quite high for such people.</p> <p>hGH is now manufactured synthetically in a laboratory, rather than from human tissue. So this particular mode of CJD transmission is no longer a risk.</p> <h2>What are the latest findings about Alzheimer’s disease?</h2> <p>The Nature Medicine paper provides the first evidence that transmission of Alzheimer’s disease can occur via human-to-human transmission.</p> <p>The authors examined the outcomes of people who received donated hGH until 1985. They found five such recipients had developed early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>They considered other explanations for the findings but concluded donated hGH was the likely cause.</p> <p>Given Alzheimer’s disease is a much more common illness than CJD, the authors presume those who received donated hGH before 1985 may be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>Alzheimer’s disease is caused by presence of two abnormally folded proteins: amyloid and tau. There is <a href="https://actaneurocomms.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40478-017-0488-7">increasing evidence</a> these proteins spread in the brain in a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8086126/">similar way to prion diseases</a>. So the mode of transmission the authors propose is certainly plausible.</p> <p>However, given the amyloid protein deposits in the brain <a href="https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/estimates-amyloid-onset-may-predict-alzheimers-progression">at least 20 years</a> before clinical Alzheimer’s disease develops, there is likely to be a considerable time lag before cases that might arise from the receipt of donated hGH become evident.</p> <h2>When was this process used in Australia?</h2> <p>In Australia, donated pituitary material <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2022/07/the-cjd-review-final-report.pdf">was used</a> from 1967 to 1985 to treat people with short stature and infertility.</p> <p><a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2022/07/the-cjd-review-final-report.pdf">More than 2,000 people</a> received such treatment. Four developed CJD, the last case identified in 1991. All four cases were likely linked to a single contaminated batch.</p> <p>The risks of any other cases of CJD developing now in pituitary material recipients, so long after the occurrence of the last identified case in Australia, are <a href="https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2010/193/6/iatrogenic-creutzfeldt-jakob-disease-australia-time-amend-infection-control">considered to be</a> incredibly small.</p> <p>Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (defined as occurring before the age of 65) is uncommon, accounting for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356853/">around 5%</a> of all cases. Below the age of 50 it’s rare and likely to have a genetic contribution.</p> <h2>The risk is very low – and you can’t ‘catch’ it like a virus</h2> <p>The Nature Medicine paper identified five cases which were diagnosed in people aged 38 to 55. This is more than could be expected by chance, but still very low in comparison to the total number of patients treated worldwide.</p> <p>Although the long “incubation period” of Alzheimer’s disease may mean more similar cases may be identified in the future, the absolute risk remains very low. The main scientific interest of the article lies in the fact it’s first to demonstrate that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted from person to person in a similar way to prion diseases, rather than in any public health risk.</p> <p>The authors were keen to emphasise, as I will, that Alzheimer’s cannot be contracted via contact with or providing care to people with Alzheimer’s disease.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222374/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/steve-macfarlane-4722"><em>Steve Macfarlane</em></a><em>, Head of Clinical Services, Dementia Support Australia, &amp; Associate Professor of Psychiatry, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/alzheimers-may-have-once-spread-from-person-to-person-but-the-risk-of-that-happening-today-is-incredibly-low-222374">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Bruce Willis' heartwarming reaction to granddaughter amid dementia battle

<p>Bruce Willis' daughter Rumer has shared what the actor is like as a grandfather, amid his battle with frontotemporal dementia.</p> <p>Rumer candidly revealed that the now-retired actor is “incredibly loving and kind” and despite his FTD, his face “lights up” whenever he sees his granddaughter Louetta.</p> <p>“His face lights up when he sees Louetta,” Rumer told <a href="https://nypost.com/2024/02/01/entertainment/bruce-willis-face-lights-up-with-granddaughter-amid-dementia-battle/?utm_medium=browser_notifications&amp;utm_source=pushly&amp;utm_content=Entertainment/Living%20Audience&amp;utm_campaign=4164834" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>The New York Post</em></a>.</p> <p>“And I’m just so grateful to have that kind of spark of mischief and fun and and play no matter what age I am.”</p> <p>Louetta is Rumer’s 9-month-old baby girl with partner, Derek Richard Thomas.</p> <p>Rumer also shared that her father is most like David Addison Jr, a character he played on the hit 80s show <em>Moonlighting</em>.</p> <p>“So charming, so funny, so silly … kind of mischievous glint in his eye, kind and sweet,” she said.</p> <p>“And so I feel like that’s really the epitome of who my dad is.</p> <p>“And that is so true to this day.”</p> <p>Despite his dementia diagnosis, Rumer said that her father has not lost any of his trademark silliness and sense of humour.</p> <p>“He’s so incredibly loving and kind,” she said.</p> <p>“My dad is absolutely the reason I (have) my taste in music (and) some of my humour.</p> <p>“Both of my parents are so silly.”</p> <p>In 2022 Bruce's family announced that the <em>Die Hard</em> star was going to retire, as he was diagnosed with <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/news/news/bruce-willis-forced-to-retire-after-medical-diagnosis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">aphasia</a>, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate.</p> <p>A year later it was revealed that it had progressed to <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/cruel-disease-bruce-willis-given-heartbreaking-new-diagnosis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">frontotemporal dementia</a>.</p> <p>His family have since kept fans updated on the star's health.</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p> </p>

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What’s the difference between memory loss and dementia?

<p dir="ltr">When it comes to memory loss, it's normal to become a little more forgetful as we age. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, it’s important to know the difference between a standard level of memory loss, and the early signs of dementia. </p> <p dir="ltr">Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) say it is crucially important to distinguish between the physical decline of ageing, and the more sinister reality of cognitive decline. </p> <p dir="ltr">Associate Professor Simone Reppermund from the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing says, “As we age, we get more frail, and it may be difficult to walk longer distances or to have the range of motion to drive a car.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“But that's unrelated to cognitive decline, and this is where dementia or cognitive impairment comes in. A person with dementia at some point will not be able to do the things they once could do without thinking, such as drive a car, because they get confused and are no longer able to process the sensory information required to do this.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Prof. Brodaty went on to say that some cognitive decline is part of normal ageing.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As we age, we become slower in our processing speed. We’re not as good at remembering things, particularly when they’re not able to be logically sorted and connected.”</p> <p dir="ltr">But it’s not all bad for older folks, as some things are known to improve with age.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As we age our vocabulary improves, our judgement improves, our ability to organise things improves. In everyday tests where we can sort, say, 10 grocery items into different categories, we do just as well as the younger person because we can use those strategies to compensate. There is also evidence that we become wiser as we get older.”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to <a href="https://www.dementia.org.au" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Dementia Australia</a>, it’s when people encounter difficulties with the following on a regular basis that there could be some underlying cognitive cause worth investigating. </p> <p dir="ltr">These difficulties include:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Trouble remembering recent events</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Trouble finding the right word</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Trouble remembering the day and date</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Forgetting where things are usually kept</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Trouble understanding written content or a story on television</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Difficulty following conversations in groups</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Problems handling finances</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Difficulty with everyday activities</p> </li> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation">Losing interest in activities that were previously enjoyable</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Researchers and medical experts say that even if encountering these difficulties has not become a huge hurdle, it is important to be assessed by a doctor. </p> <p dir="ltr">Some conditions can cause symptoms similar to illnesses of cognitive decline, and can be reversed and prevented if caught early enough. </p> <p dir="ltr">While Professor Brodaty says there is no cure for most types of dementia and no known way to prevent it, we can certainly delay the onset of it. </p> <p dir="ltr">“There are certain risk factors that make it more or less likely to develop cognitive decline and dementia, including physical and social inactivity. Being inactive, not engaging in social activities, a poor diet and too much alcohol are all risk factors.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Even then, Professor Brodaty says, “it’s never too late to start, and never too early to start” making changes that maintain and protect your brain health into old age.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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Storytelling allows elders to transfer values and meaning to younger generations

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mary-ann-mccoll-704728">Mary Ann McColl</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queens-university-ontario-1154">Queen's University, Ontario</a></em></p> <p>If you spent time over the holidays with elderly relatives or friends, you may have heard many of the same stories repeated — perhaps stories you’d heard over the years, or even over the past few hours.</p> <p>Repeated storytelling can sometimes be unnerving for friends and families, raising concerns about a loved one’s potential cognitive decline, memory loss or perhaps even the onset of dementia.</p> <p><a href="https://tenstories.ca/">Our research</a> at Queen’s University suggests there is another way to think about repeated storytelling that makes it easier to listen and engage with the stories. We interviewed 20 middle-aged adults who felt they had heard the same stories over and over from their aging parent. We asked them to tell us those stories and we recorded and transcribed them.</p> <p>We used a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1108/14439881211248356">narrative inquiry approach</a> to discover that repeated storytelling is a key method for elders to communicate what they believe to be important to their children and loved ones. Narrative inquiry uses the text of stories as research data to explore how people create meaning in their lives.</p> <h2>Transmitting values</h2> <p>Based on nearly 200 collected stories, we found that there are approximately <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/scs.13121">10 stories</a> that older parents repeatedly tell to their adult children.</p> <p>The hypothesis was that repeated storytelling was about inter-generational transmission of values. By exploring the themes of those repeated stories, we could uncover the meaning and messages elders were communicating to their loved ones.</p> <p>The ultimate purpose was to offer a new and more constructive way of thinking about stories that we’ve heard many times before, and that can be otherwise perceived as alarming.</p> <h2>Here’s what we have learned:</h2> <ol> <li> <p>There are typically just 10 stories that people tell repeatedly. While 10 is not a magic number, it does seem to be about the right number to capture the stories that are told over and over. Interviewees felt that a set of approximately 10 allowed them to do justice to their parent’s stories.</p> </li> <li> <p>Among our interviewees, a significant number of their parents’ stories – 87 per cent — took place when they were in their teens or twenties. A person’s second and third decades are a time when they make many of the decisions that shape the rest of their lives; a time when values are consolidated and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/09658211.2013.863358">adult identity is formed</a></p> </li> <li> <p>What’s important about the 10 stories is not the factual details, but the lesson that was learned, or the value that was reinforced — values like loyalty toward friends, putting family first, maintaining a sense of humour even in hard times, getting an education, speaking up against injustice, and doing what’s right.</p> </li> <li> <p>Key themes in the stories reflected the significant events and prevailing values of the early to mid-20th century. Many of the stories revolved around the war, and both domestic and overseas experiences that were formative. Many of our interviewees heard stories about immigrating to Canada, starting out with very little, seeking a better life and working hard. Stories often reflected a more formal time when it was important to uphold standards, make a good impression, know one’s place and adhere to the rules.</p> </li> <li> <p>The stories elders tell appear to be curated for the individual receiving them. They would be different if told to another child, a spouse or a friend.</p> </li> </ol> <h2>Tips for listening</h2> <p>Our research offers some tips for listening to stories from elders:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Focus on just 10 stories. It can make the listening seem less overwhelming.</p> </li> <li> <p>Write them down. Writing challenges us to get the story straight.</p> </li> <li> <p>Notice your loved one’s role in the story, as the message is often contained in that role.</p> </li> <li> <p>Be attentive to feelings, sensations, tension and discomfort. These can be signals or clues to the meaning of a story.</p> </li> <li> <p>Finally, remember these stories are for you — selected and told in the context of your relationship with your loved one. As such, they are a gift from a loved one who is running out of time.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>The importance of receiving stories</h2> <p>Storytelling is an <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cad.20067">essential human process</a> and a universal experience associated with aging. Neuroscientists suggest that storytelling has practical survival value for individuals and communities, <a href="https://www.jonathangottschall.com/storytelling-animal">as well as social and psychological benefits</a>.</p> <p>It may be as powerful as medication or therapy for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.1018">overcoming depression among elders</a>. Storytelling becomes especially important <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2017.1396581">when people become aware of their mortality</a> — when they are ill, suffering or facing death.</p> <p>People don’t necessarily tell the same stories over and over again because they’re losing cognitive function, but because the stories are important, and they feel we need to know them. Telling stories repeatedly isn’t about forgetfulness or dementia. It’s an effort to share what’s important.</p> <p>Our hope is that by better understanding elderly storytelling, caregivers may be able to listen in a different way to those repeated stories and understand the messages they contain. Those 10 stories can help us to know our loved one at a deeper level and assist our parent or grandparent with an important developmental task of old age.</p> <p>This research offers a constructive way for caregivers to hear the repeated stories told by their aging parents, and to offer their loved one the gift of knowing they have been seen and heard.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/197766/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mary-ann-mccoll-704728"><em>Mary Ann McColl</em></a><em>, Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queens-university-ontario-1154">Queen's University, Ontario</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/storytelling-allows-elders-to-transfer-values-and-meaning-to-younger-generations-197766">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The power of positivity: Starting the year with a positive mindset

<p>As we step into the New Year, many of us are hitting the reset button and focusing enthusiastically on achieving our resolutions. By harnessing this welcome surge in positivity, we can begin to direct our attention towards tackling our goals and embracing a shift in mindset, even after the glitter on New Year’s has settled. But how can we achieve this? Jacqui Manning, the resident psychologist at Connected Women, a female-founded organisation dedicated to cultivating friendships in women in their midlife, shares her tips on how to foster a more positive mindset, year-round. </p> <p>“Developing a positive mindset is all about being intentional, and it begins with a good routine. Carving out time within your week for activities that fill your cup and encourage a more optimistic outlook is key to embracing age with positivity,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>“Set realistic expectations – if you have a New Year’s resolution to make more time for yourself, pencilling time in the diary for self-care is going to be essential. Or, if your goal is to build new connections this year, be sure to set time aside at least once a week for networking. Whether it’s joining a local tennis club, attending a community event, or simply striking up a conversation at your local café, enriching your social circle can bring new perspectives, enhance feelings of optimism, and boost overall well-being,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p><strong>Don’t skimp on self-care!</strong></p> <p>Self-care involves dedicating the time to engage in activities that help to enhance overall well-being. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to develop an adequate self-care routine to support both our mental and physical health.   </p> <p>“Remember that taking time for yourself is essential. Small indulgences such as enjoying a quiet evening at home, book in hand, or heading outside for a leisurely evening stroll can quiet the mind and recharge your emotional batteries.”</p> <p>“As the year progresses, our self-care practices can tend to fall by the wayside. It’s essential to invest in ourselves, which includes prioritising sleep, regular exercise, remaining engaged in hobbies or preferred activities, and maintaining social connections,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>“Dedicating time for yourself helps to create the space necessary to support mental recharge. Goal setting, implementing boundaries to avoid overwhelm, or integrating wellness practices like meditation or mindfulness exercises act as stress-relievers and boost energy levels,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p><strong>Cultivating your crew</strong></p> <p>Research suggests that our social circle holds a meaningful influence over our mood and disposition. Friends have been found to act as a buffer against ageing, positively supporting both our health and overall cognitive function. </p> <p>“The first step to finding friendship is assessing – how supported do you feel within your relationships? Remember, friends exert significant influence over our feelings and behaviours, so finding a tribe that fulfils your emotional needs is essential,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p>“Nurturing successful relationships begins with finding individuals with shared values and interests. Actively engaging in open conversation is a magnet for developing authentic and emotionally fulfilling connections with others.” </p> <p>“Be open-minded – discussing topics like hobbies, future goals, anxieties, and challenges can encourage openness and conceive opportunities to offer support to one another. Openness also lays the foundations for more meaningful friendships to blossom,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>Friendships in adulthood are well worth the investment, and curating your immediate network could be the masterstroke in ageing with positivity (and boosts overall health and cognitive function to boot!). </p> <p>If forming new bonds heads up your list of New Year's resolutions, then joining a vibrant community group like Connected Women could be the ideal place to start. </p> <p><strong>Practice positive self-talk</strong></p> <p>Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the aspects of life that you’re grateful for – whether that be your health, family, friendships, or a stellar career. By focusing on the positive, it encourages a mental shift away from the negative and toward a more optimistic outlook on life (and age for that matter!). </p> <p>“Practicing techniques such as meditation, gentle movement, and journaling regularly can help to cultivate a more relaxed mind, boost serotonin levels in the brain, and decrease feelings of anxiety or depression,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>Jacqui suggests another technique for fostering a mental shift is to incorporate regular gratitude practices.</p> <p>“Reflecting on and recording the things you’re thankful for can be a valuable outlet. Expressing gratitude regularly serves as a reminder of the positive aspects in your current life and can be a useful tool on low days,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>By incorporating these tips, not only will you be working to foster a more optimistic mindset year-round, but you’ll also be laying the groundwork to build and nurture more meaningful relationships with others. </p> <p><em><strong>For more information visit <a href="https://www.connectedwomen.net" target="_blank" rel="noopener">connectedwomen.net</a> </strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>About Connected Women </strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>Jacqui Manning is the resident psychologist at Connected Women, bringing with her over two decades of experience. Founded in 2022, Connected Women facilitates friendships for women over 50 through a range of online and in-person events. With the rising epidemic of loneliness impacting Australians now more than ever - Connected Women aims to provide a community in which women can feel free to be themselves, connect with like-minded women and build life-long friendships. Launched in Perth, Western Australia, Connected Women now also operates in NSW and Victoria, with plans to grow its network to QLD, ACT and SA in the coming year. With a small monthly membership fee, women can join Connected Women events, share and connect over areas of interest, and connect with women in their local areas to arrange meet ups. Whether members prefer big events with lots of action and adventure, or quiet meet ups and walks around the local neighbourhood, Connected Women is committed to providing a safe and inclusive space for women to find their feet and build new friendships in a space that feels most comfortable to them. </strong></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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More than a third of people with dementia don’t know they have it – what to do if you suspect your partner has the condition

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-irving-1493654">Kate Irving</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/dublin-city-university-1528">Dublin City University</a></em></p> <p>Around <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-67613465">36% of people</a> in England with dementia are unaware they have the condition, according to a new report from the Dementia Commission.</p> <p><a href="https://chamberuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/231127-Dementia-Commission-Report-Embargoed.pdf">The report</a> suggests things health and care professionals can do to improve spotting early signs of dementia. But what can you do if you think your partner has the condition? And how can you broach the topic with them?</p> <p>If you are worried about your partner having dementia, here are some useful things to know.</p> <p>Dementia is a term for a range of diseases (for example, Alzheimer’s) which develop over time (months and years) and cause problems with memory and reasoning, communication, changes in personality and a reduction in a person’s ability to carry out daily activities, such as shopping, washing, paying bills or cooking.</p> <p>Dementia can present very differently in each person, so it’s about knowing what’s normal for your loved one. A person who has always been conscientious and organised starting to unravel is very different from a scatterbrained person just being slightly more scatterbrained.</p> <p>Grief and stress can affect memory yet not be the start of dementia. But they can also mask the start of dementia: we call this “diagnostic over-shadowing”.</p> <p>There are also age-related changes to cognition. For example, we take longer to learn when we get older. But a one-off event – no matter how dramatic – is not necessarily dementia. It’s about looking for a pattern of decline.</p> <p>If you see these changes happen in a short space of time (weeks or days) it is unlikely to be dementia and could be something more serious. This requires urgent investigation by a doctor.</p> <h2>Greatest fear</h2> <p>Dementia is one of the greatest fears of our age. The horror of perceived loss of self can cause people to avoid discussing the issue, discussing it in an unhelpful way (such as criticising or inadvertently humiliating) or discussing it with other relatives, but not the person they are noticing changes in.</p> <p>Over time, this can cause a lack of trust to develop. Discussing memory problems openly with the person at the point of a memory failure or if they raise the concern is best. Of course, it takes courage and makes us face our own vulnerability.</p> <p>Sometimes the person will be in denial or lack insight into the memory problems (this can be a symptom of dementia, but isn’t always). If someone raises a concern about their memory issues, I would urge you not to minimise this, as it probably took courage to admit their concerns.</p> <p>I heard a relative say to my mother: “Oh, you left the pot on the stove. I lost the car in the multistory the other day.” My mother had dementia – the relative did not.</p> <p>If they are adamant that they do not have concerns, this is harder to deal with. One approach is to say: “I know you are not concerned, but I am concerned and I wonder if you would see a doctor to ease my worries?”</p> <p>Also explaining that memory problems can at least to some extent have reversible causes means a visit to the doctor to at least rule these out is an important step. It may also be encouraging to say to the person: “If there is something with your memory that will get worse over time, would you want to know?” (Most people <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2408568/">answer yes</a> to this).</p> <h2>Seeing a GP</h2> <p>If your partner agrees to visit a GP, it is helpful to prepare by filling in a diary for a week with the kind of memory (or other) problems experienced, what was happening at the time and the effect of the memory failure. This can be shared with a GP to help them to understand the issues.</p> <p>When people hear even the suggestion of the word dementia, they are faced with the uncertainties of what will become of them, of what they will lose, what they can keep up and where they will end up. These uncertainties are often shared with family members. But research shows that positive aspects of timely diagnosis <a href="https://www.scie.org.uk/dementia/symptoms/diagnosis/early-diagnosis.asp">outweigh fears</a> over time.</p> <p>At the same time, there are often ongoing stresses to do with memory impairments or confusion. With these stresses, everyday life can be troublesome, family relationships can suffer, and people can find it difficult to be supportive of each other.</p> <p>Being honest and open is the best policy. Stating that we are in this together, I want to help, let’s meet whatever happens head on, can help. If a person becomes resistant, it may be there is another family member who might better assist the person.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219172/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kate-irving-1493654"><em>Kate Irving</em></a><em>, Professor of Clinical Nursing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/dublin-city-university-1528">Dublin City University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/more-than-a-third-of-people-with-dementia-dont-know-they-have-it-what-to-do-if-you-suspect-your-partner-has-the-condition-219172">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Early indicators of dementia: 5 behaviour changes to look for after age 50

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/daniella-vellone-1425451">Daniella Vellone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-calgary-1318">University of Calgary</a> </em></p> <p>Dementia is often thought of as a memory problem, like when an elderly person asks the same questions or misplaces things. In reality, individuals with dementia will not only experience issues in other areas of cognition like learning, thinking, comprehension and judgement, but they may also experience <a href="https://www.alzint.org/u/World-Alzheimer-Report-2021.pdf">changes in behaviour</a>.</p> <p>It’s important to understand what dementia is and how it manifests. I didn’t imagine my grandmother’s strange behaviours were an early warning sign of a far more serious condition.</p> <p>She would become easily agitated if she wasn’t successful at completing tasks such as cooking or baking. She would claim to see a woman around the house even though no woman was really there. She also became distrustful of others and hid things in odd places.</p> <p>These behaviours persisted for some time before she eventually received a dementia diagnosis.</p> <h2>Cognitive and behavioural impairment</h2> <p>When cognitive and behavioural changes interfere with an individual’s functional independence, that person is considered to have dementia. However, when cognitive and behavioural changes don’t interfere with an individual’s independence, yet still negatively affect relationships and workplace performance, they are referred to as <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/other-dementias_mild-cognitive-impairment.pdf">mild cognitive impairment (MCI)</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s13195-021-00949-7">mild behavioural impairment (MBI)</a>, respectively.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9169943/">MCI and MBI can occur together</a>, but in one-third of people who develop Alzheimer’s dementia, the behavioural symptoms come <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jagp.2019.01.215">before cognitive decline</a>.</p> <p>Spotting these behavioural changes, which emerge in later life (ages 50 and over) and represent a persistent change from longstanding patterns, can be helpful for implementing preventive treatments before more severe symptoms arise. As a medical science PhD candidate, my research focuses on problem behaviours that arise later in life and indicate increased risk for dementia.</p> <h2>Five behavioural signs to look for</h2> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=525&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/551071/original/file-20230928-17-jmy46j.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=659&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="Illustration of five behaviour changes that may indicate risk of dementia" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Spotting behavioural changes can be helpful for implementing preventive treatments before more severe symptoms arise.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Daniella Vellone)</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>There are <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233%2FJAD-160979">five primary behaviours</a> we can look for in friends and family who are over the age of 50 that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s13024-023-00631-6">might warrant further attention</a>.</p> <h2>1. Apathy</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002%2Ftrc2.12370">Apathy</a> is a decline in interest, motivation and drive.</p> <p>An apathetic person might lose interest in friends, family or activities. They may lack curiosity in topics that normally would have interested them, lose the motivation to act on their obligations or become less spontaneous and active. They may also appear to lack emotions compared to their usual selves and seem like they no longer care about anything.</p> <h2>2. Affective dysregulation</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2023.03.074">Affective dysregulation</a> includes mood or anxiety symptoms. Someone who shows affective dysregulation may develop sadness or mood instability or become more anxious or worried about routine things such as events or visits.</p> <h2>3. Lack of impulse control</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002%2Ftrc2.12016">Impulse dyscontrol</a> is the inability to delay gratification and control behaviour or impulses.</p> <p>Someone who has impulse dyscontrol may become agitated, aggressive, irritable, temperamental, argumentative or easily frustrated. They may become more stubborn or rigid such that they are unwilling to see other views and are insistent on having their way. Sometimes they may develop sexually disinhibited or intrusive behaviours, exhibit repetitive behaviours or compulsions, start gambling or shoplifting, or experience difficulties regulating their consumption of substances like tobacco or alcohol.</p> <h2>4. Social inappropriateness</h2> <p><a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1041610217001260">Social inappropriateness</a> includes difficulties adhering to societal norms in interactions with others.</p> <p>Someone who is socially inappropriate may lose the social judgement they previously had about what to say or how to behave. They may become less concerned about how their words or actions affect others, discuss private matters openly, talk to strangers as if familiar, say rude things or lack empathy in interactions with others.</p> <h2>5. Abnormal perceptions or thoughts</h2> <p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s44220-023-00043-x">Abnormal perception or thought content</a> refers to strongly held beliefs and sensory experiences.</p> <p>Someone with abnormal perceptions or thoughts may become suspicious of other people’s intentions or think that others are planning to harm them or steal their belongings. They may also describe hearing voices or talk to imaginary people and/or act like they are seeing things that aren’t there.</p> <p>Before considering any of these behaviours as a sign of a more serious problem, it’s important to rule out other potential causes of behavioural change such as drugs or medications, other medical conditions or infections, interpersonal conflict or stress, or a recurrence of psychiatric symptoms associated with a previous psychiatric diagnosis. If in doubt, it may be time for a doctor’s visit.</p> <h2>The impact of dementia</h2> <p>Many of us know someone who has either experienced dementia or cared for someone with dementia. This isn’t surprising, given that dementia is predicted to affect <a href="https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/nearly-one-million-canadians-will-live-with-dementia-by-2030-alzheimer-society-predicts-1.6056849#:">one million Canadians by 2030</a>.</p> <p>While people between the ages of 20 and 40 may think that they have decades before dementia affects them, it’s important to realize that dementia isn’t an individual journey. In 2020, care partners — including family members, friends or neighbours — spent <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/Landmark-Study-1-Path-Forward-Alzheimer-Society-of-Canada-2022-wb.pdf">26 hours per week</a> assisting older Canadians living with dementia. This is equivalent to 235,000 full-time jobs or $7.3 billion annually.</p> <p>These numbers are expected to triple by 2050, so it’s important to look for ways to offset these predicted trajectories by preventing or delaying the progression of dementia.</p> <h2>Identifying those at risk</h2> <p>While there is currently no cure for dementia, there has been progress towards <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/dementia-treatment-options-developments">developing effective treatments</a>, which <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/do-i-have-dementia/how-get-tested-dementia-tips-individuals-families-friends/10">may work better earlier in the disease course</a>.</p> <p>More research is needed to understand dementia symptoms over time; for example, the online <a href="https://www.can-protect.ca/">CAN-PROTECT study</a> assesses many contributors to brain aging.</p> <p>Identifying those at risk for dementia by recognizing later-life changes in cognition, function as well as behaviour is a step towards not only preventing consequences of those changes, but also potentially preventing the disease or its progression.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/213954/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/daniella-vellone-1425451"><em>Daniella Vellone</em></a><em>, Medical Science and Imaging PhD Candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-calgary-1318">University of Calgary</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/early-indicators-of-dementia-5-behaviour-changes-to-look-for-after-age-50-213954">original article</a>.</em></p>

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It’s normal for your mind to wander. Here’s how to maximise the benefits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-anchal-garg-1491247">Dr Anchal Garg</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bruce-watt-1486350">Bruce Watt</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p>Have you ever found yourself thinking about loved ones during a boring meeting? Or going over the plot of a movie you recently watched during a drive to the supermarket?</p> <p>This is the cognitive phenomenon known as “<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2011.01.002">mind wandering</a>”. Research suggests it can account for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0044423">up to 50%</a> of our waking cognition (our mental processes when awake) in both <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1192439">western and non-western societies</a>.</p> <p>So what can help make this time productive and beneficial?</p> <h2>Mind wandering is not daydreaming</h2> <p>Mind wandering is often used interchangeably with daydreaming. They are both considered types of inattention but are not the same thing.</p> <p>Mind wandering is related to a primary task, such as reading a book, listening to a lecture, or attending a meeting. The mind <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00560/full">withdraws</a> from that task and focuses on internally generated, unrelated thoughts.</p> <p>On the other hand, daydreaming does not involve a primary, active task. For example, daydreaming would be thinking about an ex-partner while travelling on a bus and gazing out the window. Or lying in bed and thinking about what it might be like to go on a holiday overseas.</p> <p>If you were driving the bus or making the bed and your thoughts diverted from the primary task, this would be classed as mind wandering.</p> <h2>The benefits of mind wandering</h2> <p>Mind wandering is believed to play an important role in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612446024">generating new ideas</a>, conclusions or insights (also known as “aha! moments”). This is because it can give your mind a break and free it up to think more creatively.</p> <p>This type of creativity does not always have to be related to creative pursuits (such as writing a song or making an artwork). It could include a new way to approach a university or school assignment or a project at work.<br />Another benefit of mind wandering is relief from boredom, providing the opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031569">mentally retreat</a> from a monotonous task.</p> <p>For example, someone who does not enjoy washing dishes could think about their upcoming weekend plans while doing the chore. In this instance, mind wandering assists in “passing the time” during an uninteresting task.</p> <p>Mind wandering also tends to be future-oriented. This can provide an opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2011.08.007">reflect upon and plan</a> future goals, big or small. For example, what steps do I need to take to get a job after graduation? Or, what am I going to make for dinner tomorrow?</p> <h2>What are the risks?</h2> <p>Mind wandering is not always beneficial, however. It can mean you miss out on crucial information. For example, there could be disruptions in learning if a student engages in mind wandering during a lesson that covers exam details. Or an important building block for learning.</p> <p>Some tasks also require a lot of concentration in order to be safe. If you’re thinking about a recent argument with a partner while driving, you run the risk of having an accident.</p> <p>That being said, it can be more difficult for some people to control their mind wandering. For example, mind wandering is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.112901">more prevalent</a> in people with ADHD.</p> <h2>What can you do to maximise the benefits?</h2> <p>There are several things you can do to maximise the benefits of mind wandering.</p> <ul> <li><strong>be aware</strong>: awareness of mind wandering allows you to take note of and make use of any productive thoughts. Alternatively, if it is not a good time to mind wander it can help bring your attention back to the task at hand</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <p><strong>context matters</strong>: try to keep mind wandering to non-demanding tasks rather than demanding tasks. Otherwise, mind wandering <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00441">could be unproductive</a> or unsafe. For example, try think about that big presentation during a car wash rather than when driving to and from the car wash</p> </li> <li> <p><strong>content matters</strong>: if possible, try to keep the content positive. Research <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00900">has found</a>, keeping your thoughts more positive, specific and concrete (and less about “you”), is associated with better wellbeing. For example, thinking about tasks to meet upcoming work deadlines could be more productive than ruminating about how you felt stressed or failed to meet past deadlines.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219490/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> </li> </ul> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-anchal-garg-1491247"><em>Dr Anchal Garg</em></a><em>, Psychology researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bruce-watt-1486350">Bruce Watt</a>, Associate Professor in Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty </em><em>Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/its-normal-for-your-mind-to-wander-heres-how-to-maximise-the-benefits-219490">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How to stop self-criticising and build yourself up instead

<p><strong>Stop the self-harm</strong></p> <p>It won’t hurt as much when you say something mean about me if I say it about myself first. For decades, this had been my mantra, a type of self-defence mechanism I developed as a kid against those who would criticise, bully or belittle me. On one hand, it made me humble, aware of my flaws and open to improving myself. On the other, self-criticising stunted my ability to be confident and trust my gut.</p> <p>The self-criticism quickly took on a life of its own – to the point where I was constantly trying to anticipate what people might not like about me and then beat them to the punchline. “I know I can be too much, and you’re probably sick of me,” I’d tell friends, which was a statement born less out of self-awareness and more out of fear. That sort of self-deprecating remark made it impossible to love myself, put others in an awkward position and backfired on quite a few occasions. A new friend once quipped, “If that were true, why would I be friends with you? Are you saying I have bad taste in friends?”</p> <p>That hit hard. For people who didn’t have good intentions, well, I’d just handed them a laundry list of all my insecurities. What I was really saying was I’m afraid you’ll hurt me, so I’ll hurt myself first. That’s a pretty harsh way to live life. Luckily, there’s a path out of the self-criticising trap. I talked to the experts to find out why we’re so good at putting ourselves down – and how to stop.</p> <p><strong>Why do we criticise ourselves so much?</strong></p> <p>I’m not the only one who made self-criticising a personality trait. In fact, a lot of women are conditioned to be this way, says psychologist Dr Traci Stein, who is also an author and creator of a series of programs to fight critical self-talk and build self-compassion.</p> <p>“Having negative thoughts about ourselves is human nature. We all want to fit in, be accepted and not be ostracised,” she explains. “We are all under a lot of pressure to measure ourselves according to other people’s evaluations and expectations. So we subconsciously fixate on something to ‘fix’ so we will feel loved and accepted.”</p> <p>The irony of these thoughts is that while they’re based on a desire to fit in and feel accepted in our community, they often have the opposite result, says Latasha Blackmond, author of Be You, No Filter: How to Love Yourself and Stay #SocialMediaStrong. “Over time, self-criticism does the very thing you’re afraid of: It isolates you by making you very self-centred and, yes, selfish. You’re too busy worrying about yourself to love and help others,” she says.</p> <p>Ouch.</p> <p><strong>What is self-criticism and how do you spot it?</strong></p> <p>Self-criticism is any thought that highlights a flaw or problem you have – or think you have (as Stein points out, critical thoughts are often untrue). These negative thoughts can become ingrained so deeply in your inner voice that they become hard to recognise in the moment.</p> <p>You can identify these thoughts, she says, because they are often self-defeating and repetitive, leading to feelings of insecurity, confusion, self-doubt, sadness and anger. The connection between self-criticising thoughts and negative emotions is so strong that many people with chronic depression find that a habit of severe self-criticism is at the core of their mental illness.</p> <p>Often tell yourself you’re a massive failure? That’s self-criticism. Other examples of self-critical thoughts include:</p> <ul> <li>I’ll never be good enough. I’ve always failed at everything I try.</li> <li>I don’t deserve to be loved.</li> <li>I hate myself.</li> <li>If only I were richer, thinner, prettier or smarter. Then people would like me.</li> <li>I don’t deserve good things, but I deserve all the bad things.</li> <li>I’m so annoying. Everyone must hate me.</li> </ul> <p>These are just the tip of the garbage iceberg. Self-criticism can cover any area of your life, including your body, relationships, sexual encounters, career, finances, goals, hobbies, family and education – even your life in general, Stein says.</p> <p><strong>What is the harm in self-criticising?</strong></p> <p>On a basic level, being able to recognise our own faults benefits us because it gives us a chance to correct them and improve. But this is different from the type of malignant self-criticising many people engage in, Blackmond says. “Self-criticism is rarely productive and often impedes growth,” she says. “You start to believe all the bad things you are saying about yourself, which can then turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. This, in turn, leads to anxiety and depression, creating a vicious cycle of negativity.”</p> <p>Case in point: You tell yourself you’re too dumb to get the promotion at work, so you don’t even try. When you don’t get the promotion, you tell yourself that proves you were right. You beat yourself up for your “failure,” which reinforces the belief that you are dumb, starting the whole cycle over again.</p> <p>“People who are very self-critical lack the confidence to make mistakes they can learn from. Fearing they aren’t good enough can lead to struggles at school, work and in general, and can lead someone to avoid any situation that generates more worry and self-doubt,” Stein says, adding that these people are also more likely to end up in toxic or abusive relationships.</p> <p>Another issue arises when self-criticism framed as self-improvement turns into excessive worrying, Stein says. “So someone might wind up worrying about an awful lot of things, from whether they are ‘good enough’ in some way to excessive worrying about their health, safety or competence – even if there is no objective evidence suggesting they have something to worry about,” she explains. “These worries take up a lot of time and energy.”</p> <p><strong>How to stop self-criticising once and for all</strong></p> <p>The good news about these negative thoughts is they are just that: thoughts. And you can change your thoughts, Blackmond says. It starts by cultivating a positive mindset through self-compassion. “Be aware of the negative thoughts and interrupt that internal dialogue,” she says. “Change them into something positive. Speak to yourself kindly, like you would to someone you love and care about. You’d never tell your child that they are stupid and ugly, so don’t speak to yourself that way either.”</p> <p>Easier said than done? Here are 12 tips from our experts that will help you cultivate self-compassion and nix harmful critical thoughts.</p> <p><strong>1. Celebrate imperfections </strong></p> <p>Kintsugi is a Japanese art form that repairs broken pottery with gold, highlighting the “flaws” and showing the beauty in breaking down and repairing. Look for kintsugi in your life, metaphorically and physically. “Look to art, music, poetry and prose, drama and [other areas] that celebrate imperfection and see it as a gift, not a flaw to be hidden,” Blackmond says.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Start by reading body-positivity quotes and confidence quotes. For a hands-on lesson in the beauty of imperfections, get a kintsugi craft kit. Or watch a play, read a book or listen to a song that celebrates our flaws.</p> <p><strong>2. Be less judgemental of others</strong></p> <p>People who are harshly critical of others are usually harshly critical of themselves as well, so learning to offer others grace and compassion can open the door to doing the same for yourself, Blackmond says. “It’s about not seeing the world as black or white, good or bad,” she says.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively of someone else – from your sister to a celebrity to a terrible driver – stop the thought and offer a more compassionate take. Let’s say your mind automatically thinks What kind of idiot can’t park between the lines? Replace the thought with a kinder take: This person must have been in a big hurry or having a bad day. I hope things get better for them.</p> <p><strong>3. Delete your social media apps</strong></p> <p>Or at least lessen the amount of time you spend on them. “Social media can have this immense impact on our self-esteem because it encourages us to compare our worst selves to other people’s best selves,” Blackmond says. Besides, what you see is often photoshopped or cherry-picked.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Stop comparing yourself to others. Limit your time on social media to one hour or less per day. Curate your feed, and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself.</p> <p><strong>4. Get therapy</strong></p> <p>Self-critical thoughts can be really sticky, especially if you’ve made a habit of them, Stein says. “A good therapist will help you learn to recognise these thoughts, challenge them and come up with anxiety-management strategies,” she says. “They can also act as a mirror, helping you see yourself in a more accurate light.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Find a therapist who specialises in self-compassion or read a book about self-compassion.</p> <p><strong>5. Do a mindfulness meditation</strong></p> <p>Mindfulness is simply the practice of being present in the here and now, and when you’re focused on this moment, you can’t beat yourself up by looking to the past with regret or looking to the future with worry, Stein says. “Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool for learning to reframe or stop self-critical thoughts,” she says.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Download a meditation app like Calm, Headspace or The Mindfulness App, and do a daily guided mindfulness meditation. Don’t worry about acing the practice on day one. Being mindful is a learned skill, and mindfulness meditation is useful even at the beginner stage.</p> <p><strong>6. Use self-deprecating humour sparingly </strong></p> <p>Making other people the butt of your jokes is cruel… and so is making yourself the butt of the joke. “A little self-deprecating humour in the right situation can help defuse tension and build relationships, but a little goes a long way,” Blackmond says. Heavy-handed self-deprecating humour makes others uncomfortable, and it can affect how you see yourself.</p> <p>“Be very careful with how you speak about yourself, even in a joking way,” she says. “Better yet, pick a different type of humour to bond over.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Brush up on your public speaking, and if you’re going to crack a joke, pick one that has nothing to do with you.</p> <p><strong>7. Go outside </strong></p> <p>Self-criticism makes your world get smaller and smaller as you limit yourself. The antidote? Make your world bigger. “When you find yourself getting trapped in a cycle of negativity, go outside and take a walk,” Blackmond says. Breathe the fresh air, look at the sunset, say hi to your neighbours, pick up a little trash along the way – all these things will help you instantly feel better about yourself and the world.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Take a walk outdoors each day and boost both your mental and physical health. Listen to some confidence-boosting songs in the process to really break your negative mindset.</p> <p><strong>8. Learn a new hobby</strong></p> <p>From painting to computer coding to rock climbing, trying new things helps you focus on the positive while “proving” the negative thoughts wrong. The trick, Blackmond says, is to go into it with a positive attitude. Be open to new things and accept that failing is a part of the learning process. “It’s OK to fail,” she says. “Expect mistakes as part of the learning process – celebrate them.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Sign up for a class, find a new hobby or go back to an activity you used to love.</p> <p><strong>9. End toxic relationships </strong></p> <p>“A lot of us are self-critical because we were criticised early on by parents or other loved ones,” Stein says, adding that people often see this type of criticism as good because it’s “done out of love.” But this is not loving behaviour.</p> <p>“Go where you’re celebrated,” Blackmond says. “Everyone deserves to be celebrated and lifted up by their loved ones.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Break the cycle by keeping relationships with only those people who build you up and encourage you to grow. Avoid people who use “brutal honesty” or “tough love” to show their care. Stand up for yourself and kick those toxic relationships to the curb.</p> <p><strong>10. Try cognitive behavioural therapy</strong></p> <p>Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and its companion, dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), are powerful psychological tools for reframing negative thoughts and learning how to think more positively, Stein says. “CBT helps people become more aware of the specific, core beliefs behind all of these in-the-moment worries and identify what is triggering the negative self-talk,” she explains. They sound technical, but the concepts are simple, and anyone can implement them with practice.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Even if you have to get out of your comfort zone a little, it’s worth signing up for a course of CBT. Not ready for that? Do a CBT workbook at home.</p> <p><strong>11. Help other people</strong></p> <p>The fastest way to feel more positively about yourself is to do something positive in the world, Blackmond says. “Self-criticism is inherently selfish. Serving others is selfless,” she says. “Pure altruism sparks a cascade of love and positivity that fills you and radiates outwards.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Do something for someone who can’t do anything for you, she suggests. For instance, volunteer at a local school or food bank. Not only will you be doing some good in the world, but you’ll reap the many benefits of volunteering.</p> <p><strong>12. Use self-reflection instead of self-criticism </strong></p> <p>No one is saying that you need to think you’re perfect exactly the way you are, or there’s no room for improvement. Rather, Blackmond says, you should be looking honestly and realistically at your flaws. The trick is to do it in a positive way. Self-reflection encourages insight and action based on self-love and a desire to do better and be better, she explains. Self-criticism stops that process, trapping you in a cycle of negativity and stunting your growth.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Try this:</em></span> Keep a journal of the things you like about yourself and the things you can improve on. Practice gratitude for yourself and others. Make positive goals to help you progress in those areas, track your progress and celebrate your successes.</p> <p><strong>Stop the self-criticising cycle </strong></p> <p>“At the core of every self-critical belief is the question ‘Am I lovable and worthy of love the way I am?’ And the answer is yes, you are,” Stein says. Too many people, like me, use self-criticism as a self-defence tool, and it cuts us off from the very love and acceptance we crave.</p> <p>Learning how to build emotional strength and quiet that critical self-talk through self-compassion is the key to stronger relationships and a happier life. “You’ve only got this one life, so don’t waste it on regret and worry,” she says.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/healthsmart/conditions/mental-health/how-to-stop-self-criticising-and-build-yourself-up-instead?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

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Nostradamus’ 2024 predictions revealed

<p>Nostradamus, a 16th-century French astrologer known as “the prophet of doom,” has a warning about the potential upcoming events of 2024. </p> <p>The astrologer's visions and predictions in the past have credited with foreseeing the rise of Adolf Hitler, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the September 11 attacks and Covid, to name a few. </p> <p>Now, according to his 1555 text Les Propheties (The Prophecies), 2024 is set to bring continued global strife, including war on the seas, royal turmoil and humanitarian disaster.</p> <p>One of the passages in the text mentions that a “King of the Isles” will be “driven out by force”, with many taking this to mean King Charles III will be ousted from the throne. </p> <p>A following passage reads “soon afterwards [a disastrous war] a new King shall be anointed / Who, for a long time, will appease the earth,” with British author and Nostradamus commentator Mario Reading deciphering this to mean Prince Harry will become King. </p> <p>According to the <em>Daily Mail</em>, Reading analysed that King Charles III would be abdicating due to “persistent attacks on both himself and his second wife,” and Harry would replace him instead of William because he — the “Spare” heir — has “no mark of a king.”</p> <p>Nostradamus predicted “combat and naval battle” and said that a “red adversary will become pale with fear, putting the great ocean in dread”.</p> <p>Many have guessed the "red adversary" is in reference to China, with suggestions the global superpower could wage war on the rest of the world, given the growing tensions between China and Taiwan. </p> <p>For many years, climate change has been a topic at the front of people's mind, with Nostradamus predicting global warming will get worse over the next 12 months. </p> <p>“The dry earth will grow more parched, and there will be great floods when it is seen,” he wrote.</p> <p>He also predicted extreme weather events and world hunger, writing about a “Very great famine through pestiferous wave”.</p> <p>While some of Nostradamus’ doomsday predictions seem bleak, fear not, for his most terrifying 2023 predictions have yet to come true with just a few weeks left before the new year. </p> <p>This year, Nostradamus predicted the coming of the antichrist as well as a full-blown World War III.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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