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How Comforting Others Helps You with Your Own Struggles

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According to two new studies, we need practice dealing with our difficult feelings—and we get it from helping other people manage their own.

When we feel bad, we often turn to others for help and support. And when others come to us in pain, we do our best to help them feel better. This natural cycle seems to be part of the human experience.

Now, two new studies suggest that trying to make people feel better not only supports them—it allows us to practice emotional skills that may help us with our own problems. While negative emotions feel isolating and personal, the best way to deal with them may be profoundly social.

Both studies also highlighted one skill that seemed to really benefit both other people and ourselves: perspective-taking, the part of empathy that involves understanding someone else’s point of view. To read more from KIRA M. NEWMAN, click here.

Why Curious People Have Better Relationships

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Research suggests that being curious might be a social glue that strengthens our relationships.

There’s an old saying: “Curiosity killed the cat.” It implies curiosity is bad for you and leads to dangerous risk-taking behavior. But this idea of curiosity is pretty outdated—in humans, at least.

Curiosity—the desire to approach novel and challenging ideas and experiences in order to increase one’s knowledge—has long been associated with intellectual pursuit, engagement with the world, memory, and learning. Now, more recent research suggests that curiosity may also play a role in our social relationships.

Studies have found that people who are curious are often viewed in social encounters as more interesting and engaging, and they are more apt to reach out to a wider variety of people. In addition, being curious seems to protect people from negative social experiences, like rejection, which could lead to better connection with others over time. To read more from JILL SUTTIE, click here.

Feeling Lonely? Too Much Time On Social Media May Be Why

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For young adults, social media may not be so social after all.

Among people in that age group, heavy use of platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram was associated with feelings of social isolation, a study finds.

The results surprised study co-author Brian Primack. “It’s social media, so aren’t people going to be socially connected?” he says. He’s director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh. And while his team’s previous research connecting social media use and depression in young adults wasn’t terribly surprising, these new results seemed counterintuitive.

While face-to-face social connectedness is strongly associated with well-being, it’s not clear what happens when those interactions happen virtually. To investigate, Primack and his colleagues surveyed 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19 to 32 and asked them about their usage of 11 social media platforms outside of work. The survey also gauged social isolation by asking participants questions such as how often they felt left out. (As will happen in this type of survey, people may have lowballed their estimates of media use.) To read more from KATHERINE HOBSON, click here.

Why Is Time In A Hurry?

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We humans have this uncanny ability to tell time and create schemes to measure its passage.

Time is our greatest ally and our greatest enemy.

We exist in it, are bound by it. We all have a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning, we haven’t much of a choice about; it just happens, thanks to our parents. The middle, well, that’s the challenge, what to do with the decades we have allocated to us; how to live a life of meaning, given the many compromises, disputes and limitations of existence. And the end, the unspoken, the terrible finality of life, the elephant in everyone’s closet, the ultimate demonstration of our powerlessness against nature’s unrelenting force. That one we speak little of, naively believing silence equates with oblivion.

No wonder people feel time is hurrying up as they age. I hear this often, people asking whether there is some kind of astronomical phenomenon going on that’s speeding up time. This time is, essentially, the duration of a day, the precise ticks and tocks of clocks. And it turns out that, at least astronomically, the very opposite is happening. Existential time, of course, is another story. To read more from MARCELO GLEISER, click here.

Turns out humans aren’t the only animals that contagiously yawn

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Bears do it; bats do it. So do guinea pigs, dogs and humans. They all yawn. It’s a common animal behavior, but one that is something of a mystery.

There’s still no consensus on the purpose of a yawn, says Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Provine has studied what he calls “yawn science” since the early 1980s, and he’s published dozens of research articles on it. He says the simple yawn is not so simple.

“Yawning may have the dubious distinction of being the least understood common human behavior,” Provine says.

There are many causes for yawning. Boredom, sleepiness, hunger, anxiety and stress — all cause changes in brain chemistry, which can trigger a spontaneous yawn. But it’s not clear what the yawn accomplishes. One possibility is the yawn perks you up by increasing heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory function.

“[Yawning] stirs up our physiology and it plays an important role in shifting from one state to another,” Provine says.

When violinists get ready to go on stage to play a concerto, they often yawn, says Provine. So do Olympians right before a competition, or paratroopers getting ready to do their first jump. One study found that yawning has a similar impact on the brain as a dose of caffeine. To read more from MICHELLE TRUDEAU and JANE GREENHALGH, click here.

Why Some People Are Born to Worry

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How do early-life traumas get under our skin? A researcher details his quest for the stress-causing mechanism.

By the late 1990s, our group at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research had identified robust connections between early adversity and lifelong anxiety and stress, leading to problems in social relationships and mental and physical health—and even to shorter lives. What we needed was an explanation for why this was happening: How does early-life stress “get under the skin”?

Enter Michael Meaney, a professor at McGill University who specialized in neurology, stress, maternal care, and gene expression. He had been studying rodents displaying stress dysregulation (SDR), who were over-reactive to stressors and stayed in a stressed-out state longer. He had discovered physiological differences and behavioral problems in rats who’d been deprived of maternal nurturing, which aligned with previous studies, but he also arrived with a brand-new and as yet unpublished finding. He had actually found a biological mechanism—a process that seemed to explain why those who experienced stress early in life had so much trouble thereafter. As he explained what he had learned, we suddenly realized that this was the missing piece of our puzzle. To read more from Daniel P. Keating, click here.

How To Alleviate Stress at the Airport

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Airline passengers have to deal with a lot these days; getting bumped from flights and losing luggage on top of the general anxiety that nervous flyers always feel.

At the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, miniature horses deliver a calming force two times a month. Denver and Ruby, two of 34 therapy horses at Seven Oaks Farm in southwest Ohio, trot out of their trailer and into the ticketing area.

That’s where Shoma Anjola spots them. He’s traveling from Toronto and saw a therapy dog at another airport. “It’s quite amazing that I saw one on my way and then one [on the way] back to Canada. I’ve never seen any in my entire time traveling around different airports.”

During Kentucky Derby season, therapy horses dress the part as they greet passengers at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport. More than 30 airports across the country now have therapy dogs. San Francisco has a therapy pig. San Jose, Calif., began a dog program after the Sept. 11 attacks and now has 21 therapy dogs and a therapy cat. To read more from ANN THOMPSON, click here.

Am I Introverted or Socially Anxious?

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At long last, introverts are having their day. Over the last few years, being quiet and inner-directed has become not only acceptable, but downright trendy. But introversion often gets mistaken for its more restrictive, self-conscious, but treatable cousin, social anxiety

For the quiet types among us, “introversion” and “social anxiety” frequently get used interchangeably. Or, just as often, social anxiety is mistakenly thought of as an extreme form of introversion. But while you can definitely be a socially anxious introvert, you can also be socially anxious extrovert—for example, you may really want to go to the bar with your co-workers but worry they actually don’t want you there. Or you may crave company but obsess about the possibility you’ll say something stupid.

But the two terms are actually quite different. Far from being a psychological tomato-tomahto, the two are more like apple and orange—here are five big differences. To read more from Ellen Hendriksen click here.

Eleven simple ways to forgive, heal, and move on

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When you’ve been hurt by someone, it’s not always easy to let it go. But holding on to a grudge will only make you feel worse—and not just emotionally. Resentment can cause your blood pressure to spike and trigger the release of stress chemicals that can make you physically sick. And the truth is: It doesn’t really do any good anyway. As the saying goes: “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

The paradox is, when you’ve been wronged, forgiveness is the only thing that provides relief from the pain. Sound like a bitter pill to swallow? Read on to learn how forgiving others (and yourself) can help you release the heavy burden of resentment and experience more freedom.

1. Understand forgiveness

Before you attempt to force forgiveness on your most tender hurts, consider what it is you’re asking of yourself: Forgiving doesn’t mean that you condone what happened or that the perpetrator is blameless. It is making the conscious choice to release yourself from the burden, pain, and stress of holding on to resentment. To read more from Stefanie Goldstein and Elisha Goldstein, click here.

It’s All In The Cuddling

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An impressive amount of research has linked frequency of sex with greater happiness. One study even put a monetary estimate on it. They said that the happiness spurt from having sex once a week compared with monthly is similar to the boost you’d get from earning an extra $50,000 a year (though for anything more frequent than weekly sex, the benefits seemed to tail off).

Asking if and why more sex makes us happier may sound like asking the blindingly obvious, but of course a lot of pleasurable activities don’t have long-term emotional benefits; it’s also tricky to rule out the simple alternative possibility that we’re more likely to have sex if we’re happy.

In a series of studies in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, psychologists in Switzerland and Canada have looked beyond the immediate bliss that sex can bring, and they say that the main reason that more sex seems to contribute to greater long-term happiness is because of all the cuddling (and other expressions of affection) that’s involved, both at the time, and for hours afterwards. To read more from Christian Jarrett, click here.