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mental health

Talk to me

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When I was 15, I took the bus from Stavanger to Bergen after saying goodbye to my boyfriend. The last thing I wanted, was to talk with anyone. I struggled to keep my tears back and wanted to have time to think about everything we did and he said (like a typical teenager). But to my horror, an old woman sat next to me and I knew immediately that she was a talker. Little did I know that this would be one of the very conversations I remember from that year. We talked about everything, and soon started on a philosophical journey together. I told her about my boyfriend, and how hard it was to live so far apart from him (over 10 hours with a car or bus). She responded by saying how healthy it is to meet people who live in a different place than where you grew up. Because they probably see the world a little bit different than you, and that means you might end up learning something new.
This woman was so wise, and I learnt something new too: By opening up to all kinds off people, even strangers, you might change the way you think and see the world. I was reminded of this event when I listened to “an organized mind” by Daniel Levitin in my car. He described a study where the researchers asked people if they thought they would prefer sitting alone or talk with a stranger on the bus. They were quite sure about what they would like the most, but it seems like we don`t always know how much we crave connections with others. The study is described below, and I hope you enjoy it as much as me. Maybe the next time you`r filled with dread, hoping that somebody won`t disturb you on a bus, plane or train, you might look at the commute as an opportunity instead of fear.

Why You Should Put Down Your Smartphone and Talk to Strangers

Credit: pio3 / Shutterstock.com

Talking to the stranger in seat 4B on a cross-country flight is often considered one of the torments of air travel, to be avoided at all costs. But new research suggests people are deeply wrong about the misery of striking up conversations on public transit.

Contrary to expectations, people are happier after a conversation with a stranger, the study revealed.

“At least in some cases, people don’t seem to be social enough for their own well-being,” said study researcher Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “They think that sitting in solitude will be more pleasant than engaging in conversation, when, in fact, the opposite is true.” [7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You]

Talking to strangers

Epley, author of the book “Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Feel, Believe and Want” (Knopf, 2014), studies social connection. Humans are social animals, he said, to the extent that having more and stronger friends and family connections is linked with a healthier life.

But in waiting rooms, trains, planes and other public spots, people fail to show their social stripes, Epley told Live Science. During his own commute in Chicago, he sees “highly social animals getting on the train every morning and being remarkably anti-social … They might as well be sitting next to a rock.”

Perhaps people know that interacting with a stranger is likely to be less pleasant than sitting in silence, so they choose the latter, Epley said.

Or maybe, just maybe, everybody is wrong about talking to strangers. Maybe it’s actually fun.

Only connect

To find out which is true, Epley and his colleagues recruited real-life commuters at Chicago train stations. They also conducted a series of experiments with bus riders. In some of these experiments, they simply asked people to imagine striking up a conversation on the bus or train. Would it be pleasant? Would they feel happy afterward?

By and large, people said “no,” it wouldn’t be pleasant, and that such an interaction wouldn’t result in a happiness boost. In addition, people guessed, on average, that fewer than half of strangers would be interested in chatting. They expected to be rebuffed.

In other experiments, the researchers actually asked the commuters to go through with the conversations. At random, some participants were assigned to start a conversation. Others were asked to sit silently, and a third group was told to go about their normal commute routine (which involved silence for some and speaking to a friend for others). The participants were given sealed surveys to complete and mail in after their commute.

The results? People had a more pleasant time when they talked to a stranger versus when they stayed silent. Incredibly, the findings held even when the researchers controlled for personality traits, like extraversion and introversion.

 Does the finding that talking to strangers makes people happier make you more likely to strike up conversations in public more often?
  • No way. You couldn’t pay me enough.
  • Maybe. I can see the upsides.
  • Definitely. I’d like to meet new people.
  • No – but only because I already chat with strangers.

“Everyone seems happier and has a more pleasant interaction when they connect versus sit in isolation,” Epley said.

Perhaps even more surprising, their conversation partners seemed to welcome the connection, too.

“Nobody was rejected in any of our studies, as far as I can tell,” Epley said. “Everybody who tried to talk to somebody was able to.”

In another study, the researchers set up participants in a waiting room, so they could test the happiness of both the conversation starter and their target. Again, everyone was happier after chatting — even the person who hadn’t started the conversation. Pairs of strangers deep in conversation also reported that the wait seemed shorter.

Epley’s research isn’t the first to find that interactions with strangers influence mood. Findings reported in 2012 showed that even smiling and nodding at strangers makes people feel more connected. [5 Wacky Things That Are Good for Your Health]

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My last day at work

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Today is my last day at work. I can’t believe that it’s already been a year. In ten days I’m starting working with adults like I did before and I really look forward to it. All though I never found my calling working in the school system, I have still learnt a lot. And I have also been very happy with the people I’ve met here. They have always been nice and comfortable to be around. 

We had lunch together for the last time today. I brought two cakes I struggled with yesterday. To my surprise, my leader had made a cake also, and I almost started to cry. She held a speech where she said so many nice things about me, so I really feel like they are satisfied with the work I’ve done here. The rest of the day has been full of hugs and nice conversions, and this evening some of us will go out and have a drink to say properly goodbye. 

The sound of being colorblind 

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I have been listening to colorblind from glee cast a lot lately. Simply a beautiful song with lyrics that speaks to me. I am adding the video here and hope you like as much as me.

Being thankful 

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One way to feel better, is to practice thankfulness. I’ve either hear or read about collecting memories of what you are thankful for, and looking back at them at the end of the year. I don’t just want to practice what I preach when I tell clients what might be useful, so I have started my own thankful collection in January. Instead of using a jar or a box, I am working on a decoupaged book where is will put scraps of paper with that days events written on them. 


I can already feel how meaningful this is. By using just one minute every day to reflect on what’s good in my life, I feel grateful. It also boosts my mood, and I like to believe it also inspires me to do even more of what I love. I’ve also discovered a trend: What I write down and remember is when I’m with other people. I’ve written down things they have said and what we have done together. So for me, that’s what I’m most thankful for. 

There are myriads of ways to do this little excersise. Use your imagination and keep trying to record what is good in your life. There will always be something: For someone with depression it might be that they managed to take a walk. For traumatized individuals it might be a kind word, or the absence of flashbacks. For the anxious, it can be going into a supermarket with a thumping heart.

Real-life psychopaths actually have below-average intelligence

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Manipulative, dishonest and lacking in empathy – the traits that describe a psychopath aren’t particularly pleasant. But the idea that they are also fiendishly clever – as often portrayed in films and TV – isn’t quite true. In fact, in general, psychopaths seem to have below-average intelligence.

You have probably met a psychopath at some point in your life. They make up around 1 per cent of the population, says Brian Boutwell at St Louis University in Missouri. A person is classified as a psychopath if they achieve a certain score on a test of psychopathic traits, which include callousness, impulsiveness, aggression and a sense of grandiosity. “Not all psychopaths will break the law or hurt someone, but the odds of them doing so are higher,” says Boutwell.

Because many psychopaths are charming and manipulative, people have assumed they also have above-average intelligence, says Boutwell. Psychologists term this the “Hannibal Lecter myth”, referring to the fictional serial killer, cannibal and psychiatrist from the book and film The Silence of the Lambs.

But Boutwell wasn’t convinced. “Psychopaths are impulsive, have run-ins with the law and often get themselves hurt,” he says. “That led me to think they’re not overly intelligent.”

Not so smart

To investigate, Boutwell and his colleagues analysed the results of 187 published studies on intelligence and psychopathy. These papers included research on psychopaths in prison as well as those enjoying high-flying careers. They also included a range of measures of intelligence.

Overall, the team found no evidence that psychopaths were more intelligent than people who don’t have psychopathic traits. In fact, the relationship went the other way. The psychopaths, on average, scored significantly lower on intelligence tests. “I think the results will surprise a lot of people,” says Boutwell.

Matt DeLisi at Iowa State University hopes that the findings will help put the Hannibal Lecter myth to rest. “The character promulgated the notion that psychopaths were highly intelligent, and there were real offenders that embodied this, like Ted Bundy,” says DeLisi. “But I have interviewed thousands of offenders, some of which are very psychopathic, and I have found that the opposite is true.”

Towards a treatment

In his experience, DeLisi says psychopaths tend to do poorly at school. “They are very sensation-seeking,” he says. “They don’t like to sit and read books – they end up engaging in substance abuse.” In his own interviews, he has found psychopaths to be rather inarticulate, and to swear a lot. “They talk over you in a brusque, aggressive style,” he says.

Boutwell hopes that his research will add to a growing understanding of how psychopathy works, and whether we might be able to treat it. As things stand, psychopaths tend to be considered “untreatable”, and many of those who have been incarcerated end up reoffending. “Psychopathy isn’t amenable to psychotherapies,” says Boutwell. “As we better understand psychopathy, we should be better able to develop treatment and rehabilitation for psychopaths.”

Changing the way people perceive psychopaths might also affect the way they are treated by the criminal justice system. “If they have low intelligence, you could say that they are likely to offend again, or you could say that if they have cognitive difficulties, a lengthier prison sentence is not going to help them,” says Boutwell. “You could make the argument in either direction.”

Manchester by the sea

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I have just watched “Manchester by the sea”. Instead of writing what it`s about, I have included the trailer so you can see for yourself.

http://www.imdb.com/videoembed/vi967947801
The movie was good. It almost made me cry several time, and even the old man sitting next to me seemed like he was moved by the story. How can you not be? The main theme as I see it, is living with guilt. We all know how terrible guilt is. It can lead to havoc in our lives, because unprocessed, you can`t focus on what you have and give it your all. I will not spoil the movie by writing about the end, but I found the ending led to more questions than answers. When I think back that is one of the things that made the movie watchable: The characters were believable and complex. There was no good or bad, just a mix of different emotions in one messed-up man.

We all make mistakes. And in this movie, the small ones have huge consequences. Just thinking about it makes me shudder. There is such a thin line between happiness and devastation. The worst thing is that you never see it coming. And if you had a chance to do things differently, you might do something else that turns your life around. Being reminded of how fragile life is, luckily makes us think about what we do with our lives and appreciate what we have more. For some, movies like these might be a reminder of what was lost and never can come back. I must admit that I started to think about people I have lost, but that is a part of the process. You can not ignore reality. You can not ignore the fact that life can be horrible. But you can decide how you spend your next day. What you say to people. If you smile to a stranger. If you tell your brother that you are sorry for something you have done.

In Manchester by the sea, some things could not be undone. But he could move on. And he tried it as best as he could.

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