Can You Teach People How to Love?

How many times have you used the word “love” in the past week? Maybe you were referring to someone’s outfit, ending a phone call, or talking to a romantic partner. Did you really mean it? Did you feel it? Did you mean the same thing each time? The overuse of the word “love” is a major problem, said Cambridge-based therapist and relationship expert Kyle Carney in an interview with the HPR. Ending a call with “I love you” is “quite empty,” Carney explained,  and yet “we seem to have a focus on it in our culture.” Varying definitions as well as overuse of the word love contribute to Americans’ struggles with romantic relationships. We don’t know how to love, when we are in love, or how love transforms over time. Forty to 50 percent of United States marriages end in divorce, with even higher rates for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th marriages. One in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence. Why are we so bad at something so central to our culture? To solve this challenge, some have proposed a system of love education — teaching Americans, particularly young people, how to love, just as we teach sex education or math.

Read the entire article on Harvard Magazine

My name is Kevin, and I have a phone problem. And if you’re anything like me — and the statistics suggest you probably are, at least where smartphones are concerned — you have one, too.Read the entire article on The New York Times

How to Foster Empathy in Children

As the year’s end approaches, most Americans get bombarded by emailed and snail-mailed requests for donations to all manner of charities, A to Z.

I’m an easy target, a softy readily seduced by impassioned pleas to help improve the well-being of people, animals and the environment, and I often respond to more appeals than my earnings warrant.Read the entire article on The New York Times

How to make friends as an adult

Stay home alone binge-watching Netflix. If you do go out, commune with your phone only. Do not volunteer. Join no groups. Exude an “unavailable” vibe when walking the dog. Or better yet, get an indoor cat. Runners, run solo. Freelancers, skip the coffee shop and work from your kitchen table. Moms and dads, rush from school drop-offs and birthday parties. Adult ed classes should be taken online. If your kids play sports, stand alone on the sidelines, ideally sending e-mails.

And don’t forget to frown!

Or . . . if you want to make friends as an adult, emulate George Costanza in Seinfeld’s “The Opposite” episode and do the opposite of what your instincts are telling you.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Janna Koretz saw a number of her classmates from Cornell University go on to “big jobs” after they graduated, only to burn out quickly from the intensity of the work. So Koretz, a clinical psychologist, decided to open a practice in Boston that addressed their needs. Nearly six years later, her business, Azimuth Psychological, focuses exclusively on people in high-pressure careers, and she can’t hire therapists fast enough. “It’s just sort of blown up,” she said.

As our jobs become all-consuming, with employees answering e-mails around the clock and companies trying to squeeze higher profits out of fewer people, more attention is being paid to the effect all of this is having on workers’ psyches.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

It wasn’t even noon, but there was Kirsten Blair, in a Hudson News at Logan Airport, trying to fight off the siren call of a 10.7-ounce “sharing” bag of Peanut M&M’s.

“It’s bad,” the usually disciplined eater, a young mother from Fayetteville, N.C., said on a recent day. “I turn into a different person when I fly.”Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Let Children Get Bored Again

“I’m bored.” It’s a puny little phrase, yet it has the power to fill parents with a cascade of dread, annoyance and guilt. If someone around here is bored, someone else must have failed to enlighten or enrich or divert. And how can anyone — child or adult — claim boredom when there’s so much that can and should be done? Immediately.

But boredom is something to experience rather than hastily swipe away. And not as some kind of cruel Victorian conditioning, recommended because it’s awful and toughens you up. Despite the lesson most adults learned growing up — boredom is for boring people — boredom is useful. It’s good for you.Read the entire article on The New York Times

If December is the month of self-indulgence, January is the month of self-reproach. Gym memberships and diet programs are part of the traditional response, but so, increasingly, is mindfulness. We are exhorted to improve our health and outlook by growing more intimate with the present.

While many Americans added mindfulness to their portfolios long ago, others are wary. What if it’s boring? How can I tell if I’m doing it right? Will I lose my drive? Does this mean giving up potato chips? Still, beset by technological overload and runaway worries, almost everyone would like to feel more serene. For those who do not know where to begin, a few reading suggestions.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

The playground is deserted with the exception of my toddler and me. It’s pitch black out and she’s clad in a puffy snowsuit, perched on a swing, under a glowing street lamp. You might guess the whole tableau is playing out at 9 p.m., well past her bedtime. You might question my parenting.

Actually, it’s not even 5 p.m.

These are dark times, specifically in the Northeast, where we are currently experiencing little more than nine hours of daylight in a 24-hour period, according to the National Weather Service.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Valentine’s Day spending is hyped as a way to show your love.

But one way to truly have a successful, loving relationship is to have frank, regular discussions about your finances. Bare your financial soul to your soulmate.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

How to tell your boss you need time off for therapy

Anna Swenson has been in therapy for seven years to help her manage her depression and anxiety. But until taking her most recent job six months ago, she’d never discussed it at work. When she had her weekly appointment, she’d sneak out of the office. She worried that in her previous workplaces, people would resent her for taking the time out from a hectic workday. Some, she worried, may even see the appointment as a value judgment on her skills or her sanity.

Swenson isn’t alone in approaching the “T word” with some trepidation. The conversation is hard for people to navigate, in part because the stigmas around mental health force some into silence. Combined with traditional ideas about “ideal workers,” who need little to no support from their employer and work tirelessly for the company, these stereotypes can make the conversation feel even more intimidating.

Deciding to discloseRead the entire article on CNN

It was hard to admit that a mental health crisis had crept up on me, just weeks after one of the happiest days of my life. I told myself that I was exaggerating my own symptoms, that I was just overtired. Many women have it worse, I thought. I could make it work. And yet, even as I was “making it work,” I was pierced by moments of breathtaking sadness. I was underwater before I saw the tide coming in.

I loved my baby more than it was possible to describe. I also had postpartum depression and anxiety. It was hard to square those facts.

Worry was a constant companion. It was especially present at certain times — when hooked up to a pump in the “mother’s room” at the office, typing out work emails while fretting that I was not producing enough milk. At night, I watched the baby asleep in the bassinet next to me, my brain too electrified to sleep. During my commute, I thought about how for nine months she had traveled with me on the train, in me, and how now leaving her felt like having a limb removed, only to be reattached each night when I returned home.Read the entire article on Stat News

A few weeks ago, Heather Carey was driving her son home from a soccer game. He was frustrated. His teammate never passed the ball.

“Why not talk to him about it?” Carey asked.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

Thirty years ago, this magazine published “The End of Nature,” a long article about what we then called the greenhouse effect. I was in my twenties when I wrote it, and out on an intellectual limb: climate science was still young. But the data were persuasive, and freighted with sadness. We were spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere that nature was no longer a force beyond our influence—and humanity, with its capacity for industry and heedlessness, had come to affect every cubic metre of the planet’s air, every inch of its surface, every drop of its water. Scientists underlined this notion a decade later when they began referring to our era as the Anthropocene, the world made by man.

I was frightened by my reporting, but, at the time, it seemed likely that we’d try as a society to prevent the worst from happening. In 1988, George H. W. Bush, running for President, promised that he would fight “the greenhouse effect with the White House effect.” He did not, nor did his successors, nor did their peers in seats of power around the world, and so in the intervening decades what was a theoretical threat has become a fierce daily reality. As this essay goes to press, California is ablaze. A big fire near Los Angeles forced the evacuation of Malibu, and an even larger fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, has become the most destructive in California’s history. After a summer of unprecedented high temperatures and a fall “rainy season” with less than half the usual precipitation, the northern firestorm turned a city called Paradise into an inferno within an hour, razing more than ten thousand buildings and killing at least sixty-three people; more than six hundred others are missing. The authorities brought in cadaver dogs, a lab to match evacuees’ DNA with swabs taken from the dead, and anthropologists from California State University at Chico to advise on how to identify bodies from charred bone fragments.

For the past few years, a tide of optimistic thinking has held that conditions for human beings around the globe have been improving. Wars are scarcer, poverty and hunger are less severe, and there are better prospects for wide-scale literacy and education. But there are newer signs that human progress has begun to flag. In the face of our environmental deterioration, it’s now reasonable to ask whether the human game has begun to falter—perhaps even to play itself out. Late in 2017, a United Nations agency announced that the number of chronically malnourished people in the world, after a decade of decline, had started to grow again—by thirty-eight million, to a total of eight hundred and fifteen million, “largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks.” In June, 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. found that child labor, after years of falling, was growing, “driven in part by an increase in conflicts and climate-induced disasters.”Read the entire article on The New Yorker

Massachusetts residents who need health care are colliding with a hard reality: Having medical insurance doesn’t guarantee you can get treatment, particularly for psychiatric problems.

More than half of adults who sought mental health or addiction treatment in recent months had difficulty getting that care, according to a survey of 2,201 residents by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation in Boston. About 39 percent of those surveyed went without needed treatment. And about 13 percent went to an emergency room — even as about half of those patients acknowledged their condition was not an emergency, according to the survey.

The obstacle wasn’t a lack of insurance; the vast majority of patients were insured. Rather, the problem was that providers either did not accept their insurance or their practices were closed to new patients.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

IN THE WEEKS AFTER my first son was born, I squandered hours of precious sleep leaning over his bassinet to check that he was still breathing, or Googling potential dangers that seemed to grow into monstrous reality by the blue light of my smartphone. Among them: The lead paint my husband and I had discovered recently — a real but manageable risk — had turned our new home into a hazard zone. I cleaned our floors incessantly but still imagined a cartoonish cloud of poison dust following us as I carried the baby, so tiny and fragile, from room to room.

When the doctor screened for postpartum depression during my six-week checkup, she noted that my responses to the questionnaire were somewhat mixed though my score was within the normal range. She asked whether I had thoughts about harming myself or my child and, when I said no, she moved on. But I was struggling. Before baby, I had managed a tendency toward low-level worry. Now, it was as if the volume had been turned up. Among the biggest worries I faced was worry itself.

The way I saw it, motherhood made me feel this way, and I would be a mother forevermore. Would I always be this anxious? And would my baby suffer for it? I feared that something deep within me — my disposition, my way of seeing the world, myself — had been altered.Read the entire article on The Boston Globe

The Age That Women Have Babies: How a Gap Divides America

Becoming a mother used to be seen as a unifying milestone for women in the United States. But a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education. The result is that children are born into very different family lives, heading for diverging economic futures.

Read the entire article on The New York Times

It has long been true that women are paid less than men at work and do more of the labor at home. It turns out those patterns start as early as childhood.Read the entire article on The New York Times

Earlier this year, I wrote about what kids should do if they found a baby bird on the ground. The idea for the story came from an experience I had with my sons last summer, when we discovered a robin’s nest in a holly bush. The fragile home, stitched together with twigs and lined with dried grass, clung to a prickly-leafed branch near the busy bus stop at the edge of our yard in Northwest Washington. We watched the parents deliver dangling worms to the babies, snapped pictures from a distance, fretted through heavy rainstorms and, when they finally grew feathers and disappeared, wondered whether the little birds would make it to adulthood.

When writing the story a year later, I interviewed David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. He shared advice for kids who encounter a baby bird. He also talked about how ordinary backyard wildlife — from birds to bunnies — provides valuable context for teaching kids to care about others. “All of these are fellow creatures who need a happy and safe habitat, even if it’s in the backyard,” he said at the time. “And . . . giving your kids the exposure to nature is just the right thing to do.”

Kevin Coyle, the NWF’s vice president of education, says: “The research tends to show that even very young kids can develop a real sense of caring about things other than themselves, like wild animals. They develop tolerance toward other things and develop a sense of empathy. That’s a good thing overall.”Read the entire article on The Washington Post

Sleeping in on a day off feels marvelous, especially for those who don’t get nearly enough rest during the workweek. But are the extra weekend winks worth it? It is a question that psychologist Torbjorn Akerstedt, director of the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, and his colleagues tried to answer in a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Akerstedt and his colleagues tracked more than 38,000 people in Sweden over 13 years, with a focus on their weekend vs. weekday sleeping habits. This peek at weekend slumber fills in an ‘‘overlooked’’ gap in sleep science, Akerstedt said.

Previous sleep studies asked people to count their hours of sleep for an average night, without distinguishing between workdays and days off. In the new study people under the age of 65 who slept for five hours or less every night, all week, did not live as long as those who consistently slept seven hours a night.

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