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Anxiety and Panic

Why We Worry and What to Do About It

Don't believe that worrying will solve or help anything. It won't. So, stop it.

- John Alonzo, 83, from the Cornell Legacy Project
I was at a New York City diner recently and overheard two young women talking. One was telling her friend how anxious she was about her classes and her job. She was worried that she wasn’t going to do well in her statistics course, and layoffs at work.

Her friend asked about her new boyfriend, her upcoming vacation, and the beautiful coat she’d received as a birthday present from her parents. Each good thing got a one-sentence response, and then the conversation slid right back into the anxieties about work and school. Each attempt at giving the good things a chance to flourish was met with a return to the topics of worry and concern.

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Brain and Behavior

3 Rules for a Positive Transformation

Things do not change; we change.
- Henry David Thoreau
At the core of positive psychology is the research on intentional activities. The effectiveness of deliberate positive interventions has created a platform from which many people are transforming their lives for the better. Purposeful, conscious activities -- such as committing acts of kindness, expressing gratitude, and reviewing the good things happening in your day -- have an additive effect. The more we do, the better we feel, and the more we seek intentional activities to supplement these good feelings.

Barbara Fredrickson, one of the leading researchers in the field, coined this progression "broaden and build." Intentional activities run the gamut: meditation, exercise, expressive writing, or the proverbial "count your blessings." Researchers and applied practitioners are constantly seeking new interventions to add to our emotional piggybank.
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Alternative and Nutritional Supplements

Are New Treatments for Depression Right Under Our Nose?

“The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.” - Edith Wharton
Yogic breathing, a phone app, and laughing gas may be some of the best new remedies for depression.

Some interesting pilot studies in 2014 are providing hope for the future of depression. Curiously, these new possibilities all involve the mouth and nose. Breathing a certain way, speaking a certain way, and inhaling nitrous oxide all may have potential in reducing symptoms and breaking the cycle of depression.

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Brain and Behavior

7 Habits of Highly Defective People

After you have known people for a while, you realize they are defective. They're cheap, crude, pushy, ignorant, loud, and unattractive. How did this happen? How did people who seemed so elegant and gregarious become the varmint-like creatures you want to avoid? What made them change into the dirty froth of humanity right before your eyes? Believe it or not, science has done some research on this phenomenon.

Highly defective people (HDP) have several common characteristics that reveal themselves over time. Their habits astound and mystify us. They might look different on the outside, but on the inside they are very much alike. They share common attributes that make them a kindred clan. One or two of these traits alone wouldn’t qualify them, but with a cluster of seven, you are in the presence of a HDP. In no particular order, here’s what to look for:

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Would Your Life Be Better if You Owned More Things?

Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough. ~ Oprah Winfrey
Materialists are those who have a central life focus on acquiring more things. They often relate their happiness directly to their possessions while declaring these goods as both the main source of life satisfaction and a symbol of their success in life. The answer they give to the above question is a resounding “yes” -- More is always better for the materialist. But does accumulating stuff make them happy?
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Alternative and Nutritional Supplements

Are Antidepressants Enough?

Zinc, exercise, Vitamin D and potential stress busters top the list of new possibilities to supplement the widespread use of antidepressant medicines. The latest research is welcome because antidepressants only work about half the time, and they often come with unwanted side effects, such as low libido, weight gain, and in some cases (believe it or not) depression.
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Brain and Behavior

True Colors: Research Sheds Light On Body Emotions

Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.
~ Pablo Picasso

There is a saying in bodywork that your “issues are in your tissues.”

Now there is some evidence to support this: New research reveals that various emotions, both positive and negative, are felt in different body areas.

A study published on Dec. 31, 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that bodily sensations related to different emotions appear to be a universal phenomena. From an anxious lump in the throat or cold feet, to the excitement and warm feeling of a first kiss or a long hug, our bodies respond to our feelings with physiological fluctuations. While this information isn’t headline news, the fact that these researchers were able to find that this is a universal phenomenon is something of a breakthrough.

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Is Your Diary the Ultimate Self-Help Tool?

If you keep a diary or journal, you are not alone. In fact, in a recent study, 83 percent of girls ages 16-19 are reported to be keeping a diary, and most of them say they keep their highly personal reflections offline. How prevalent is keeping a journal or diary? Google Scholar had over 36,000 entries in 2013 alone on the topic.

You also are in good company.

Presidents George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Harry S. Truman, and writers Lewis Carroll and Virginia Woolf all kept a diary. Then, of course, there are famous ones. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is written about her life in hiding from the Nazis from June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944 during World War II. The diary was a gift given to her on her 13th birthday, the day she first began writing in it, and is considered to be one of the top books of the 20th century.

Evidence suggests that keeping a journal -- which includes your thoughts about events in your life and how you feel about those events -- can help you cope with the past. It also can help you reach your goals for the future. This is called expressive writing.

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Miracle on 38th Street: Micro-Changes & Majestic Moments in a Philadelphia Cab

“Happiness is when you give the love…” -- Philadelphia cab driver

Elevation results, when the right kind of tone and the right kind of emotions, with the right kind of rhythm and respect, become integrated with the right kind of themes to form a vibrant life-philosophical line of thought. -- Finnish practical philosopher Esa Saarinen

“Don’t get out; it’s too cold,” I told the cabbie. “Just pop the trunk.”

He did. I put my bags in the back and slid into the cab. “38th and Walnut, please.”

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How Much Grit Have You Got? Duckworth Will Help You Find Out

"Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways." — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Angela Duckworth operates the Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, which studies the interplay between grit and self-control. According to the website: "Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and...
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A Close Encounter with Thich Nhat Hanh

I was eating my California wrap outside at a local coffee shop in Boston when without reason I began to weep. Tears began rolling down my face, which made me feel as if I were sitting in a steady rain. It was as if my eyes had suddenly sprung a leak or a nearby sprinkler had found me.

Initially I didn’t have any feeling, but within seconds after the tears began like a fountain, I felt what seemed like an inconsolable pain -- a deep sorrow that grew in intensity. It was as profound and moving as any emotion I’ve ever had.

Within the space of a brief moment I had gone from enjoying my lunch at a sidewalk café on a beautiful late summer day in Boston to a crying, blubbering mess. What the hell was going on?

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Mental Floss: How Meditation is Like Brushing Your Teeth

A colleague challenged me the other day while we were waiting for the elevator about the value of meditation. She gave me a very hard time.

“I don’t understand why you positive psychologists get your undies in a bunch about meditation,” she said, “I tried it and I think it is the stupidest thing in the world. Stop your mind -- and breathe.”

“Well,” I began, “it really isn’t just about trying to stop your mind. Often it is about breathing, but I really think if you believe it is stupid it probably isn’t going to work.”

“See -- you have an answer for everything. So if I think it is going to be stupid, then it is going to be stupid. You always put it back on the person. If meditation is going to work, why do I have to believe in it? Why doesn’t it just work?"

“How often have you tried to meditate?” I asked, trying to keep from responding.

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