Swiss Restaurant Offers Insect Cooking Class, Forces Uncomfortable Comparison to Crustaceans

Insects are a sustainable and healthy food source, Bern’s Löscher restaurant explains.

A Swiss eatery has bugs on the brain, and they’re hoping that patrons will bite. As Travel + Leisure reports, The Löscher restaurant in Switzerland’s capital city, Bern, is now offering classes to instruct people how to cook with insects.

Aside from the initial “ick” factor, insects are a sustainable, protein-packed food source, and cultures around the world—from Central Africa to Asia and Latin America—eat the tiny critters. To enjoy the taste of bugs, we need to rethink our relationship with them, Löscher’s manager, Andrea Staudacher, told Swiss news outlet 20 Minuten, according to The Local. “We associate prawns with food but not grasshoppers. However the two animals are very similar,” Staudacher said.

Read the rest at Mental Floss 

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New Tea Shop Mystery: Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs

>>>Enter to Win a Print Copy of Pekoe Most Poison<<<

In the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs, Theodosia Browning attends a “Rat Tea,” where the mice will play…at murder.

When Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is invited by Doreen Briggs, one of Charleston’s most prominent hostesses, to a “Rat Tea,” she is understandably intrigued. As servers dressed in rodent costumes and wearing white gloves offer elegant finger sandwiches and fine teas, Theo learns these parties date back to early twentieth-century Charleston, where the cream of society would sponsor so-called rat teas to promote city rodent control and better public health.

But this party goes from odd to chaotic when a fire starts at one of the tables and Doreen’s entrepreneur husband suddenly goes into convulsions and drops dead. Has his favorite orange pekoe tea been poisoned? Theo smells a rat.

The distraught Doreen soon engages Theo to pursue a discreet inquiry into who might have murdered her husband. As Theo and her tea sommelier review the guest list for suspects, they soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse…


About the Author


Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

Visit Laura’s webpage or find her on Facebook.

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Bet you didn’t know this about Pi

Happy Pi Day (3/14)!

Pi shows up everywhere. Here’s one place: Did you know that Buffon’s Needle Problem, one of the oldest problems in Geometric probability, was posed by Count Buffon, who was inspired by a popular game of chance of his time? In that game, you would toss coins onto a tiled floor and bet on whether the coin would land entirely inside one tile. Count Buffon modified the problem to look at the probability that a needle (or stick) dropped on a grid of parallel lines would cross a line. Counting the number of stick crossings using multiple tosses, you can approximate Pi:

See the Science Friday article (where this image is from) for more:
Try simulating stick-dropping yourself here, and see how close you can get to Pi:
Bonus: we know that random number generators aren’t perfect (and are not really “random”). Some generators are not that good, but others do a pretty good job.  If you write your own Buffon’s Needle simulator, you could use it to test how good different underlying random number simulators are. (More on randomness here: )
Find some history of Pi here:
Enjoy Pi Day!
(Source: L. de Pillis, chair of the mathematics department at Harvey Mudd)

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Is It Possible to Be Allergic to Exercise?

Jessi K. asks: Joking aside, is it possible to be literally allergic to exercise?

DeadliftMost couch-potatoes have probably at some point in their lives said, “I can’t run a mile without feeling like I’m going to die!” They might also sarcastically proclaim they must be allergic to exercise. And, amazingly enough, it turns out there is a rare disorder in which someone can be deathly allergic to exercise, a condition known as Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis (EIA).
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How to avoid tripping over your confirmation bias

How do you persuade somebody of the facts? Asking them to be fair, impartial and unbiased is not enough. To explain why, psychologist Tom Stafford analyses a classic scientific study.

One of the tricks our mind plays is to highlight evidence which confirms what we already believe. If we hear gossip about a rival we tend to think “I knew he was a nasty piece of work”; if we hear the same about our best friend we’re more likely to say “that’s just a rumour”. If you don’t trust the government then a change of policy is evidence of their weakness; if you do trust them the same change of policy can be evidence of their inherent reasonableness.

Once you learn about this mental habit – called confirmation bias – you start seeing it everywhere.

This matters when we want to make better decisions. Confirmation bias is OK as long as we’re right, but all too often we’re wrong, and we only pay attention to the deciding evidence when it’s too late.

How we should to protect our decisions from confirmation bias depends on why, psychologically, confirmation bias happens. There are, broadly, two possible accounts and a classic experiment from researchers at Princeton University pits the two against each other, revealing in the process a method for overcoming bias.

The first theory of confirmation bias is the most common. It’s the one you can detect in expressions like “You just believe what you want to believe”, or “He would say that, wouldn’t he?” or when the someone is accused of seeing things a particular way because of who they are, what their job is or which friends they have. Let’s call this the motivational theory of confirmation bias. It has a clear prescription for correcting the bias: change people’s motivations and they’ll stop being biased.

The alternative theory of confirmation bias is more subtle. The bias doesn’t exist because we only believe what we want to believe, but instead because we fail to ask the correct questions about new information and our own beliefs. This is a less neat theory, because there could be one hundred reasons why we reason incorrectly – everything from limitations of memory to inherent faults of logic. One possibility is that we simply have a blindspot in our imagination for the ways the world could be different from how we first assume it is. Under this account the way to correct confirmation bias is to give people a strategy to adjust their thinking. We assume people are already motivated to find out the truth, they just need a better method. Let’s call this the cognition theory of confirmation bias.

Thirty years ago, Charles Lord and colleagues published a classic experiment which pitted these two methods against each other. Their study used a persuasion experiment which previously had shown a kind of confirmation bias they called ‘biased assimilation’. Here, participants were recruited who had strong pro- or anti-death penalty views and were presented with evidence that seemed to support the continuation or abolition of the death penalty. Obviously, depending on what you already believe, this evidence is either confirmatory or disconfirmatory. Their original finding showed that the nature of the evidence didn’t matter as much as what people started out believing. Confirmatory evidence strengthened people’s views, as you’d expect, but so did disconfirmatory evidence. That’s right, anti-death penalty people became more anti-death penalty when shown pro-death penalty evidence (and vice versa). A clear example of biased reasoning.

For their follow-up study, Lord and colleagues re-ran the biased assimilation experiment, but testing two types of instructions for assimilating evidence about the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent for murder. The motivational instructions told participants to be “as objective and unbiased as possible”, to consider themselves “as a judge or juror asked to weigh all of the evidence in a fair and impartial manner”. The alternative, cognition-focused, instructions were silent on the desired outcome of the participants’ consideration, instead focusing only on the strategy to employ: “Ask yourself at each step whether you would have made the same high or low evaluations had exactly the same study produced results on the other side of the issue.” So, for example, if presented with a piece of research that suggested the death penalty lowered murder rates, the participants were asked to analyse the study’s methodology and imagine the results pointed the opposite way.

They called this the “consider the opposite” strategy, and the results were striking. Instructed to be fair and impartial, participants showed the exact same biases when weighing the evidence as in the original experiment. Pro-death penalty participants thought the evidence supported the death penalty. Anti-death penalty participants thought it supported abolition. Wanting to make unbiased decisions wasn’t enough. The “consider the opposite” participants, on the other hand, completely overcame the biased assimilation effect – they weren’t driven to rate the studies which agreed with their preconceptions as better than the ones that disagreed, and didn’t become more extreme in their views regardless of which evidence they read.

The finding is good news for our faith in human nature. It isn’t that we don’t want to discover the truth, at least in the microcosm of reasoning tested in the experiment. All people needed was a strategy which helped them overcome the natural human short-sightedness to alternatives.

The moral for making better decisions is clear: wanting to be fair and objective alone isn’t enough. What’s needed are practical methods for correcting our limited reasoning – and a major limitation is our imagination for how else things might be. If we’re lucky, someone else will point out these alternatives, but if we’re on our own we can still take advantage of crutches for the mind like the “consider the opposite” strategy.

This is my BBC Future column from last week. You can read the original here. My ebook For argument’s sake: Evidence that reason can change minds is out now.

from Mind Hacks

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Can brain activity predict chocolate sales? In search of the buy button

Brain icon with a shopping cart
Have researchers really found the holy grail of neuromarketing?

By guest blogger Julia Gottwald

Coming up with the perfect recipe for crisps or the ideal marketing strategy for a soft drink used to depend on explicit measures. In focus groups and surveys, consumers were asked which product tasted best or which commercial was most appealing. But these measures are imperfect: consumers may choose to hide their true opinions or they might not be fully aware of their own preferences. Food and drinks companies need more objective measures. Currently their best hope is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The idea is that somewhere in the brain, a “buy button” is hidden away: a region (or combination of regions) that influence your purchase decision. The promise of neuromarketing is that one day, we will be able to find this region, record its activity when you watch an ad or sample a product, and then predict how well this product will sell. So far, the success has been limited. But in a recent study in NeuroImage, Simone Kühn from the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf and her colleagues claim to have found “multiple ‘buy buttons’ in the brain”.

The researchers showed six different ads for the chocolate bar “Duplo” to 18 healthy women while they underwent fMRI. In these ads, the chocolate bar was presented either next to the face of a woman; a couple; a group of people; in two hands; in two hands and with an additional slogan; or next to a toothbrush (the toothbrush was meant to serve as a control condition).

The researchers measured brain activity during the adverts in eight brain regions thought to be involved in making purchase decisions. Then they entered these measures into a formula that weighed key areas such as the nucleus accumbens and medial orbitofrontal cortex more strongly than others, which were expected to have less influence. Some areas, such as dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, were even weighed negatively, assuming that higher activity in these regions would make a purchase less likely. The team then used this “fMRI sales forecast value” to predict the sales of the chocolate bar. After the scan, the women were also asked which ad they liked most.

Next, the researchers ranked the six ads in different ways: according to the fMRI forecast; according to the women’s explicit preferences; and according to actual sales in a real German supermarket where the chocolate bar was sold in a display showing one of the six different ads, with a different advert used each week. In total, more than 63,000 customers were recorded, of whom 317 bought the chocolate bars. The six weeks were not consecutive and were carefully chosen to be uninfluenced by holidays and promotional periods.

The fMRI-based forecast was a surprisingly accurate predictor of sales, while self-reports performed poorly. The two ads which did best in the supermarket (chocolate bar in front of a group and next to a woman) were also predicted to be most successful by the fMRI sales forecast value. In contrast, the two most-liked ads from the self-reports (hands without text and, somewhat surprisingly, the toothbrush) were actually the least and third to least successful ones.

These seem like impressive results for the field of neuromarketing, but I had a number of reservations. For instance, while the authors tried to justify their selection of brain areas, arguing that these regions had previously been implicated in neuromarketing research, it is not entirely clear how they came up with their specific formula to calculate the “fMRI sales forecast value”. A clearer rationale would have been helpful.

The new results also contradict earlier studies, which found that asking people directly about their preferences was far superior over modern measures such as fMRI. Note though that in this study, people were asked which ad they liked best. But liking does not equal wanting. You might not like an ad very much, but it could still increase your desire for a product. A more useful question for the self-report part of this study would have been: “How much does this ad make you want to buy the chocolate?”

Also, there was a potential effect of the order in which the ads were displayed in the shops. The most successful ad, which was also predicted to be most successful by the fMRI based forecast, was the one that was used first in the German supermarket. The authors argue that most customers would have bought and eaten Duplo before, since it is a very popular sweet in Germany. However, it is easy to see how a new display in your local supermarket could encourage you to buy this product, regardless of the ad attached to it. Future studies should take this effect into account and maybe start with a shop display without any ads in the first week.

But perhaps most concerning is that one of the study authors, Enrique Strelow, is only listed in the paper as a member of the Justus-Liebig University of Gießen, even though he is also Head of Shopper Communication at Ferrero, the company that makes the chocolate bar Duplo. This is a clear conflict of interest, which was not disclosed in the paper. From reading the article, it is clear that the authors had cooperated with Ferrero, since they had early access to the advertisements which would later be placed in the supermarket. However, one of the authors being an employee of this company is a different thing altogether. Since these conflicts of interests can implicitly or explicitly influence study design, analysis, and result presentation, it is common practice to disclose any links to industry. Why this information was not made publicly available for this paper is unclear.

Nonetheless, the study highlights how neuroimaging-based market research in relatively small groups could one day reliably predict product sales on a large scale. Giving companies access to such sensitive data holds the potential for abuse and should therefore be carefully regulated. While there are strict regulations for fMRI based research in academic settings, such rules are lacking for industry applications. A public debate about the merits and dangers of neuromarketing is therefore more and more pressing.

Multiple “buy buttons” in the brain: Forecasting chocolate sales at point-of-sale based on functional brain activation using fMRI

Post written by Julia Gottwald for the BPS Research Digest. Julia is a PhD student in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge. Her book, Sex, Lies, & Brain Scans: How fMRI reveals what really goes on in our minds, is out now. Follow her on Twitter: @julia_gottwald.

from BPS Research Digest

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Believe in yourself? Sure. Believe yourself? Maybe not.

try again give up keep going and trying self belief never stop bHow much do you trust your own opinions? Do you feel that your beliefs and worldviews are based upon an “evidence file” of real facts? Most people do — and if asked to justify their position on big issues like politics, religion and life they would be able to hit you with a list of supporting facts and arguments. It’s the same for the smaller things too; people are usually very good at justifying their actions based on a reasonable-sounding chain of logic.

But are our opinions really as solid as we think they are? Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t always “believe yourself” without giving your opinions a second look.

Illusory Patterns

The human mind loves patterns. We love it when things fit together nicely and we’re innately primed to spot and recognize recurring patterns and ideas in the world around us. We’re so good at it that we can identify patterns even when there aren’t any.

Research has time and again shown that people will extract meaning from “noise” or meaningless sets of data. People see patterns and pictures in TV static. We see trends and themes in randomly drawn lottery numbers. We draw connections between unrelated images and call it fortune-telling. We see the face Jesus on a slice of toast.

This becomes an issue when we apply this same principle to our important life experiences. If the human brain is naturally good at finding patterns where none exist, it can link pieces of information which on their own are perfectly true but do not logically follow on from each other. This leads to forming conclusions which do not reflect reality.

This fallacy of over-generalization and forming beliefs on isolated facts is the basis of stereotyping. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience when visiting a certain town, or with someone of a certain ethnicity. Maybe you know someone who has had a similar experience to you. In your mind these small, isolated incidents paint a much broader picture that leads you to conclude that everyone from that town, or everyone of that ethnicity are just as bad as the one you came into contact with.

Making Facts Match Belief

Once a belief is formed in your mind, it’s very hard to shake. People like information that matches their pre-existing beliefs. This confirmation bias leads us to pay particular attention to information that confirms what we already know, while ignoring or discounting info which would conflict with our previously held views. Not only that but we will bend over backwards to make new information fit within our existing concepts.

Imagine a town where two politicians are running for mayor. At one end of town the existing mayor is holding a rally. He proudly states that during his last term he cut unemployment in the town by 10 percent, thereby proving that his policies are working and that he is the only man for the job. The room erupts in applause and cheering.

On the other side of town his rival is holding a rally. He says, “In his entire term my opponent only managed to cut unemployment by a minuscule ten percent! If a moron like him can achieve that much, think how much a genuinely hard working, forward thinking politician like myself could achieve!” The assembled crowd roars in agreement.

When preaching to people who have already made their minds up two people can take the exact same bit of information and use it to draw entirely opposite conclusions. And most people listening will be totally unaware they’ve done anything illogical in believing them. So all those facts and figures you have in your mental evidence folder might need a second look — you could have mentally shoehorned them in there so as to protect your established view of the world.

Mental Illness and Believing Yourself

All of this becomes a much bigger problem when you throw mental illnesses like anxiety and depression into the mix. These conditions bias your thinking towards the negative- they make you far more likely to interpret events in a negative way. If a friend doesn’t respond to your text, most people would think they were just busy, but someone with depression would take that as evidence that they aren’t really your friend and hate spending time with you. They then might start to form illusory patterns based on a few unrelated incidents- thinking that everyone they know secretly hates spending time with them.

Depression causes you to believe negative things about yourself and your value as a person. When “I am worthless” or “everyone hates me” is your starting point, confirmation bias becomes highly damaging because it makes you interpret every situation as validating your negative view of yourself. If people do choose to hang out with you- they’re only pretending to like you. And if they don’t- then you were right all along. With the filter of mental illness over your perception it doesn’t matter what happens, it all looks and feels the same.


You don’t have to suffer from mental illness to fall foul of the occasional faulty assumption or over generalization. From time to time everyone makes this kind of mistake and ends up believing negative things about themselves or the world around them. Learning to take a second look at your opinions rather than seeing them as infallible can free you from all kinds of damaging beliefs.

from World of Psychology

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How Music Can Boost Your Mood

Paralyzed by worry.Overcome with regret.

Fraught with rage.

Down in the dumps.

Have you ever felt stuck in an emotional state that you can’t seem to get out of? If you’ve felt this way before, you may have even wished that there was a way to turn these emotions off entirely.

With colder temperatures outside and fewer daylight hours, the winter months can be especially tough to trudge through. Just like the weather outside, we may often feel powerless to change the emotions we feel on the inside. Calling upon our favorite music, however, just might help us to transform the winter blues into a different sounding tune.

While seasons shift gradually, our inner emotional states can change rapidly, like the channels on a radio or a TV. Think of your mind as a radio. There is a vast and constant amount of information to digest and process. Sometimes we might get stuck on a certain song or station, hearing the same thing over and over. If you’ve experienced this kind of rumination or thought-looping before, you know it is an unwelcome and negative cycle. When this happens, anything that helps us to switch to a different channel can provide emotional relief.

Sometimes when we get in these entrenched states, it can be difficult to dig ourselves out. We may start listening to negative messages that have been internalized and deeply ingrained within our minds, (consciously or unconsciously) playing them on repeat. The good news, however, is that we actually have the power to shift our thinking. We have the ability to bring ourselves away from the destructive noise of our own cognitive distortions and into the sweet sounds of serenity.

Music can be a useful tool in helping to turn down volume on the (often irrational) song or story that’s being played incessantly. While muting the unpleasant tracks we’re so accustomed to hearing in our minds and boosting the sound on some uplifting tunes, our favorite music automatically becomes a natural mood enhancer.

  1. Plug back in 
    When we feel disconnected or burnt out, listening music can help us to feel more grounded and aligned — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. When we feel inspired or uplifted by the sound or the lyrics of a song, it can result in a truly profound experience. When we are moved by the music we hear, we gain a greater understanding about ourselves. With that comes the ability to foster a better sense of connection to other people and the world around us.
  2. Flip the Switch 
    Much like meditation, putting on our favorite song or playlist can take our minds out of the vicious cycle of regret, worry, or fear, and help us to refocus our attention on the sound and rhythm of the song, even if just for a short while. Almost instantaneously, we have the ability to bring our minds away from the trap of its constant mental chatter, and into states of present moment awareness and enlivened being.
  3. Feel the Beat 
    The mind and body are connected. Music often makes us want to move, inspiring us to dance or exercise. This helps release endorphins and serotonin in the brain, so we feel better and adopt a naturally more positive outlook. Combining music with movement is a potent way to improve your mood with the potential for long lasting effects.

Each of us may have different taste in music, but we all crave many of the same things, including happiness and belonging. Music can help us strengthen the bond we have with ourselves, and ultimately, with each other. While listening to our favorite music in solitude may be the perfect antidote, some people find that the energy and vibrations that abound at live music shows are powerfully therapeutic. No matter where you are, it’s important to remember, that if you’re feeling a particular emotion, you are surrounded by human beings everywhere who have felt that same emotion before.

All of these ideas depend on what works best for you and what makes you feel good. Not sure what music to put on? Try checking out Spotify and Soundcloud to explore new artists and songs that might be appealing to you.

Of course there is no magic remedy to alleviate all emotional pain when going through a difficult experience, but we can make small choices that add up over time to contribute to our overall well-being in a big way.

Just like the seasons, our emotions will come and go. If you’re having difficulty shifting out of a particular emotional state, grab that remote and switch the channel on your thoughts. Program your mind just like you would program your favorite radio stations and let the music guide you to a better place.

from World of Psychology

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We know what will make us happy, why do we watch TV instead?

Couch Potato Watching TVBy Christian Jarrett

The luxury microwave meal was delicious, the house is warm, work’s going OK, but you’re just not feeling very happy. Some positive psychologists believe this is because many of us in rich, Western countries spend too much of our free time on passive activities, like bingeing on Netflix and browsing Twitter, rather than on active, psychologically demanding activities, like cooking, sports or playing music, that allow the opportunity to experience “flow” – that magic juncture where your abilities only just meet the demands of the challenge. A new paper in the Journal of Positive Psychology examines this dilemma. Do we realise that pursuing more active, challenging activities will make us happier in the long-run? If so, why then do we opt to spend so much more time lazing around engaged in activities that are pleasant in the moment, but unlikely to bring any lasting fulfilment?

Across two studies, L. Parker Schiffer and Tomi-Ann Roberts at the Claremont Graduate University and Colorado College, surveyed nearly 300 people (presumably US citizens, average age 33/34 years) via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website about what they thought of dozens of different activities: some passive like listening to music or watching movies, others more active and potentially flow-inducing, such as making art or meditating. Specifically, the participants rated how enjoyable, effortful, and daunting they considered the activities to be, as well as how often they engaged in each of them in a typical week. The participants also identified which activities they considered the most and least conducive to lasting happiness.

There was a clear pattern in the participants’ answers: they identified more effortful activities as being more associated with lasting happiness, yet they said they spent much more time on passive, relaxation-based activities, like watching TV. Looking at their other judgments, the key factor that seemed to deter participants from engaging in more active, flow-inducing activities is that they tended to be seen as particularly daunting and less enjoyable, even while being associated with lasting happiness. The more daunting an activity was deemed to be, the less frequently it was undertaken (by contrast, and to the researchers’ surprise, the perceived effort involved in the activity did not seem to be a deterrent).

Schiffer and Roberts consider this to be a paradox of happiness: we know which kind of activities will bring us lasting happiness, but because we see them as daunting and less enjoyable in the moment, we choose to spend much more of our time doing passive, more immediately pleasant things with our free time. Their advice is to plan ahead “to try to ease the physical transition into flow activities” to make them feel less daunting. For example, they suggest getting your gym clothes and bag ready the night before, and choosing a gym that’s close and convenient; or getting your journal and pen, or easel and paintbrushes, ready in advance.

The other thing they suggest is using mindfulness, meditation or some other “controlled consciousness” technique to help yourself to disregard the initial “transition costs” of a flow activity, such as the early pain of a run, and to focus instead on its pleasurable aspects and the long-term rewards.

“Future research is needed in order to empirically back our proposal that preplanning, prearranging, and, and controlled consciousness may aid overcoming the activation energy and transition costs that stand in the way of our true happiness,” the researchers said.

The paradox of happiness: Why are we not doing what we know makes us happy?

from BPS Research Digest 

DISCLOSURE: I posted this right before I went to watch murder mysteries on BBC America.

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The 3 Most Dangerous Things to Say in a Relationship

Man Covers Mouth After Smelling ShoeAlmost every relationship article mentions the big C: communication. But what if your words are doing more harm than good?

Language is a powerful thing, and what you say to your partner on impulse could be doing a great deal of damage. Here are the top 6 most dangerous phrases to slip from your lips.

1. “You Always… You Never…”

The classic communication killer. Nothing is more guaranteed to aggravate your partner than to hear this kind of sweeping generalization. The problem with “You always…” “You never…” is that it’s so easy to let slip in the heat of the moment, and what your partner hears is “You’re useless. You always disappoint me.” Even if it’s over something as trivial as doing the dishes.

You may be frustrated, and simply wanting to make a point, but what the other person hears is an attack on his or her very character. And that hurts. Lines of communication clamp shut with a vengeance. Your partner will automatically become defensive and is unlikely to really hear another word you are saying.

Hyperbolic criticism like this only serves to push your loved one away and won’t get you any closer to having your needs met.

What to say instead:

“I feel ‘x’ when you do/don’t do ‘x’… How can we sort this out?”

“I really appreciate it when you do ‘x’.”

As you see, starting with “I” rather than “You” is often a good start! Beginning with “I” turns your words from a blanket accusation into an invitation to talk, and to come to a resolution.

2. “I don’t care.”

This is a no-brainer. Your relationship is based around caring, so why sabotage it with this thoughtless phrase? To say “I don’t care” in any context — I don’t care what we have for dinner, I don’t care that the kids are fighting, I don’t care where we go later — automatically implies a lack of emotional investment in the other person, and in your shared life, even if that’s not true.

The most important predictor of a long-lasting relationship, according to John Gottman, is quite simply whether or not couples regularly perform simple acts of kindness, such as showing interest when the other points something out, or wants to tell them something. If your partner makes a bid for your attention and you react with “I don’t care” (either spoken or implied) — it’s going to inflict damage.

What to say instead:

Pretty much anything, as long as it conveys interest and involvement in whatever your partner wants to share with you!

3. “Never mind… it doesn’t matter.”

Of course there will be times when you genuinely mean this. But too often we use these words in a dismissive sense, eg. “Never mind, I’ll just do it myself”, or “No point talking about it!”

Both phrases in this sense imply that you are rejecting your partner’s input, deliberately shutting them out. It can also be passive aggressive — trying to make an implied point about your partner’s behavior, or attitude, rather than having a frank and upfront conversation.

What to say instead:

“I would really love to get your input on ‘x’…”

“I’m in a tight spot here, please can you help me out?”

And don’t forget to say thank you! Such a small thing, but makes all the difference. Unsurprisingly, couples who thank each other regularly feel more supported and appreciated, helping them to get through tensions when they do arise.

No doubt, we all have times when our partners frustrate and annoy us. Expressing that frustration might just seem like speaking your mind, or being honest. But oftentimes, it’s just not constructive.

Ask yourself, “Is this a real issue or just a passing annoyance?” If the answer is the former, try to use neutral, constructive language that focuses on actions rather than character, and avoids placing blame.

That doesn’t mean you should watch every word you say, all the time. But a little bit of sensitivity around hurtful phrases goes a long way. And making an effort to reinforce your love with positive phrases — “Thank you”, “I love you” — is worth it a hundredfold.

from World of Psychology

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