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Big Data: Can We Predict Population Trends (Like Happiness) via Health Apps?

More than five years ago, I penned a piece entitled Reliability and Validity in a Web 2.0 World. It spoke about the concerns of gathering data from biased samples -- without first understanding in what ways, exactly, those samples may be biased.

Now, with the ubiquity of apps -- downloadable programs for people's smartphones -- I'm seeing the same problem arise. Developers and entrepreneurs are pursuing data from these apps without understanding the basics of good, reliable, scientific data collection. And why it matters -- especially when you start wanting to analyze all of this "big data" (a somewhat silly term... in epidemiology, for instance, scientists just call it "data").

Can personal health data be collected by these apps without bias, and somehow be transformed into measuring something bigger?

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How to Create Meaningful Resolutions as a Couple

As a couple, you might be interested in creating New Year’s resolutions to improve your relationship. But you might be stumped about where to start – especially since resolutions tend to get a bad rap.

The reason? We usually don’t follow our hearts or our values.

We asked three relationship experts for their suggestions on setting meaningful resolutions for 2013. Below you’ll find specific steps for creating goals that truly help you cultivate your connection and boost your relationship.

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5 Tips to Blow Up Your Old Expectations & Move Forward

A client shared his frustration over not achieving more in his life, all those things he thought he would have done by now. I suggested that his struggle with low self-esteem would be helped if he stopped comparing himself to others.

This man, like many I know, deals heroically every day with the special needs challenges in his family. He and his wife step up in a non-traditional, focused, determined manner with love and spirit that is hard for outsiders to imagine. He is the frog in the pot, so it is nearly impossible for him to see how exceptional he is.

His reaction to me was: "Are you asking me to lower my expectations?"

No, I said, I'm asking you to blow them up, destroy them, obliterate them to dust. I hate that term: 'lower expectations', (can you tell?) as if by thinking differently we are less ourselves instead of more.

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10 Winter Depression Busters for Seasonal Affective Disorder

We've officially entered the hard months, the "dark ages" as the midshipmen at the Naval Academy say: the time of the year when the sun disappears and the pale complexions of your friends remind you that you had better take your vitamins or else you'll have a cold to go with your pasty look.

I dread winter each year because many of my depression busters require sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. What does a girl who kayaks and bikes for sanity do in the winter? Lots of things.

Here are a few of them.

1. Give back.
Ghandi once wrote that "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Positive psychologists like University of Pennsylvania's Martin Seligman and Dan Baker, Ph.D., director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch, believe that a sense of purpose -- committing oneself to a noble mission -- and acts of altruism are strong antidotes to depression.
The winter months are a good time to do this because the need is greater, the holiday spirit ideally lasts until February, and you don't have the excuse of attending family picnics, unless you live in California or Florida.

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The Benefits of Mindfulness in Early Parenting

When my first daughter was born -- nearly 15 years ago -- I remember a level of anxiety that I carried with me wherever I was and whatever I was doing.

Was I doing things right? Would my decisions as a parent serve her well? Would she grow up to be a well-adjusted person, at ease and self-confident?

Being in the mental health field, these things were of primary importance to me. I would often ask myselff: Was I stimulating her enough? Was I providing her with an optimal amount of external stimuli? Was I stimulating her too much, interfering with her ability to soothe herself?

The answers from developmental and parenting experts were contradictory and confusing. They ranged from advice, such as never to put your baby in a crib (the equivalent of being “put behind bars”), to the need to teach your baby to self-soothe by several months of age. (Otherwise she will have difficulty developing a sense of independence and self-reliance.)

I was, as many new mothers are, vulnerable to the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that were expressed all around me, both from experts and from other new mothers.

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How I Create: Q&A with Illustrator & Author Elizabeth Patch

This month for our creativity series I’m thrilled to present my interview with illustrator Elizabeth Patch. I’ve been a big fan of her work ever since I discovered it several years ago. In fact, in 2010, I interviewed Patch for my body image blog Weightless. (Here's parts one and two.)

Patch is a high school art teacher and author of More to Love, a beautiful book of illustrations that features uplifting and inspiring messages about body diversity and self-acceptance. With her unique artwork Patch celebrates the human form. And she promotes a very important message: to accept, respect and take great care of ourselves at any and every size.

Below, Patch shares what inspires her, how unstructured “sabbaths” help her slow down and create and the quick way she ignites her imagination. She also reveals how we can incorporate creativity into all areas of our lives.

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Can A Hormone Prevent Men From Cheating?

This guest article from YourTango was written by Dr. Christie Hartman.

Raise your hand if you've heard of oxytocin. If you have, that's not surprising. To the extent that trends exist for substances that naturally occur in the human body, oxytocin is quite trendy these days.

In our attempt to understand the science of love and attraction, and recently more specifically about cheating, oxytocin has taken center stage, possibly outdoing dopamine in its ability to explain human relationships.

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Best of Our Blogs

Best of Our Blogs: December 28, 2012

Many people gravitate towards ritual and tradition. It's the reason why we still have weddings, and birthday and anniversary parties. And it's why we continue to create New Year's Resolutions at the end of every year. We might fail to live up to those lofty goals, disappointed come February and completely dismayed by June. Yet, we'll do it all over again in December.

It's the hope for a new and better future that makes us compose Resolutions to be happier, be a better friend or manage our emotions. It explains my own desire to do them in the past and why I spent so much time compiling lists filled with weight loss wishes and international travel dreams.

Truth be told, I only ever achieved a few things on my list-minimizing soda consumption and traveling to Europe. In time it became more of a ritualistic task than a practical one. Eventually, I got rid of the list. Instead I focused on what the year brought me and what I was looking forward to in the coming year.

That's when things like losing weight became about feeling healthier, and traveling to luxurious places became about living an adventurous life. The most important thing it taught me was that I had more things to be grateful for in that past year than things to pine for in the coming one.

I hope our last list for 2012 will bring you ideas for what to accomplish in 2013 with a reminder of how far you've already come. How ever you spend New Year's Eve, may it be one filled with love, peace and hope. Happy New Year!

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Mental Illness & Violence: We Need to Step Up

It's impossible to write a blog post about mental illness without confronting the violence that has descended on this country all too often. Too many innocent victims have fallen at the hands of too many offenders to set the issue aside.

My heart bleeds for the victims lost and the loved ones remaining. Nothing written can take away the pain of the survivors. But a call to action may help to prevent such crimes from continuing.

The offenders in these incidents are often troubled and plagued by recurrent mental illness. The tragedy begins when our mental health system fails these individuals and their families as they seek help that is sometimes unavailable.

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How to Live with a Narcissist

Narcissists can be horribly frustrating. Everyone probably knows one -- people who are so wrapped up in themselves, so demanding and demeaning, that they leave no room for anyone else. Sounds like a horrible person.

Yet, there’s something enticing about narcissists that pulls you in. Perhaps it’s his or her self-entitlement or know-it-all, does-no-wrong outlook. You’ve always been one to subjugate your desires, anyway. So, though you hate to admit it, your narcissist's confidence and cockiness may be (or used to be) a turn-on for you.  It’s amazing that your favorite narcissist can be both appealing and appalling.

If you’re not ready to toss your narcissist out of your life, you'd better learn how to deal with such a personality. 

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5 Tips to Help Make Your Resolutions Stick

I know what you're thinking: another cheesy, goody-two-shoes article on how I can keep all those goals I've set going into 2013. If you abhor such articles (like 10 ways to de-clutter your bathroom), then keep on reading. I'm like you -- normal.

1. Bribe yourself.

A so-called parenting expert that I read last week claimed that bribing your kid to get him to do something was an example of irresponsible and ineffective parenting. I suspect that the same man sits in his quiet and tidy little office cranking out advice like that while either his wife or nanny is home changing diapers and doling out time-outs. Let's face it, bribing feels like one of the most effective tools to get anyone -- your kid, your stubborn mother, your golden retriever, or yourself -- to do something.

My running coach used this brilliant method to train me to run 18 miles. Before our run, he hid Jolly Ranchers along our route, every two miles, so he'd say to me when I wanted to stop, "In another half-mile, you get a treat! Come, you can do it!" And like a rat spotting a half-eaten hotdog, I'd run to the candy.

You want to make sure you stick to your resolution? Bribe yourself along the road there: at the one-forth mark, one-half mark, and three-quarters mark.

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