Smile Science

I have a vivid memory of one Saturday night riding in the car with my parents on our way back from my 4K choir concert. My frequently hungry self was buckled into my car seat next to my two siblings and we watched in excitement as the golden arches came into view.“MOM?! CAN WE GO TO MCDONALDS?!?” I yelled as we quickly sped passed the entrance.“Not today sweetie, I already bought some chicken for dinner,” my smile quickly turned to a frown. My Dad turned around, “Aww c’mon honey, give us a smile!” I faked an even deeper frown causing my Dad to laugh. I laughed, then he laughed, and soon I was wearing a grin ear-to-ear.

Smiling… it’s not something we think much about, we just do it. Yet behind it’s façade of simplicity, there lies a science that affects our emotional and physical health, and the way with which we approach life Continue reading “Smile Science”

With Just a Smile, Our Hearts Beat as One

Every morning, as I’m in the bathroom getting ready for work, my husband goes and collects our five-month-old daughter from the bedroom as soon as he hears the half-hearted fussing indicating she’s woken up. It’s become our routine that he brings her out to say good morning to me, her face still bearing the vestiges of sleep, her eyes squinting into the light. Shielding her eyes with his hand, he’ll say brightly, “Here’s Mama!” and I stop whatever I’m doing to give her a huge smile, grab and kiss her pajama-clad feet and welcome her enthusiastically into the new day (even if I’m a bit bleary-eyed and not feeling all that enthusiastic myself). Invariably, she rewards me with a huge, face-scrunching grin, wrinkling her nose and opening her mouth wide — as close as she can get at this point to a reciprocal “Good morning, Mama!” We trade big smiles back and forth for a few moments, and then Daddy takes her in for the much-needed diaper change. Continue reading “With Just a Smile, Our Hearts Beat as One”

Make Your List, Check It Twice, and Please Try to Stay Focused

We are almost a week past Black Friday, and, if you were one who ventured out to shop all the deals, I applaud you: you have more dedication and shopping fortitude than I, and I certainly do hope your bruises and scratches are healing nicely. It sounds like it was brutal out there. Black Friday is traditionally considered the start of the holiday shopping season here in the United States, where many of us begin the three to four week slog through the stores, catalogs and websites, buying up those perfect gifts for our friends and family, our poor credit cards creaking gamely under the weight of all that shopping. Continue reading “Make Your List, Check It Twice, and Please Try to Stay Focused”

Thinking yourself thin at the holiday table

Woman standing on weighing scale, low section

So, picture this: you’re at a friend’s holiday party, full of good cheer. Maybe you have a drink in hand, you’re laughing and catching up with people, swinging regularly by the candlelit dining room table, which is overflowing with the most glorious food: cheeses you can’t pronounce, fancy little appetizers nestled in puff pastry, shrimp cocktail, dips and nuts and something incredible with bacon and…oh my, is that an entire table over there just with desserts? You nosh and nibble all night long, until you head home, exhausted, and fall into bed. You’re a little stuffed from those last four rumaki, three spinach balls and the frosted sugar cookie you washed down with a tumbler of egg nog, but you’re pretty happy, nonetheless. You lie there in bed and think: “My goodness, I have THREE more of those to go to before I even head home for the holidays to Mom’s cooking.”

And then you go to work the next day, and four people have brought cookies. And fudge. And chocolate-dipped pretzels. You start wondering if you should ask Santa for some new pants. Bigger ones. With the elastic waistband. Or maybe just chuck it all and order a muumuu. Continue reading “Thinking yourself thin at the holiday table”

It’s a Rich Man’s World-Or Is It?

Money Money Money
Warning! Looking at this picture may ruin your day.
We all know that “Money Can’t Buy You Love” or make you happy. Now comes a piece of research suggesting that having money (or even just looking at money) can actually make normal everyday pleasures less enjoyable. Even worse, this bad feeling can’t be cured by having a piece of chocolate. Continue reading “It’s a Rich Man’s World-Or Is It?”

The Social Brain and the Human Condition

ResearchBlogging.orgThe plans had been made, details finalized and all expenses paid. I was to travel to the south coast of England to complete my training for the British Sub-Aqua Club Sports Diver certificate. I boarded a train from London’s Waterloo station down to the quiet seaside resort of Bournemouth where I was received by relatives. For the next two weeks I commuted to the nearby harbor town of Poole and headed out on a rigid hull inflatable boat with five other students to complete a series of required dives. The testosterone-induced camaraderie soon brought us together into a close-knit group. We were assigned our respective diving ‘buddies’- a practice that is almost a mandatory requirement of amateur sport diving. We quickly picked up on the diving lingo and were Hi-fiving our way to the end of each day.

All of our sorties out to sea went according to plan. That is, until the final afternoon. As we were heading back to the safety of the mooring station the weather took a turn for the worst. Surging waves reduced visibility to little more than a few feet and with the quickly darkening skies we knew we were in trouble. In desperation the pilot of the boat radioed for help. Minutes later we were spotted by the coastal ‘cavalry guard’- a British Navy Sea King helicopter equipped with all the fittings that one might expect for a major rescue operation. Fortunately the terrifying experience of being stranded out at sea ended without further incident. We were escorted to the calmer waters of a local bay from which we headed home for a feast of fried fish served in greasy, vinegar-sodden newspaper (the quintessentially English supper). That same evening we all reconvened to mull over the events as they had unfolded. We bonded socially knowing that, in the midst of our differences, there was at least one thread of commonality by which we could all relate to each other. We were all now sports divers with a story to tell.

A craving for social connection is a deeply-rooted aspect of the human psyche (1). Continue reading “The Social Brain and the Human Condition”

The Fun Theory

Who out there likes to have fun? Probably the majority of us would enthusiastically raise our hands to this question. And the couple of you who didn’t, well, you’re totally not invited to my next party. Fun is one of those no-brainer things. Fun is always welcome. I adore fun and invite it over for coffee cake at every opportunity, but I’d never really thought about fun as a behavior modification tool until I followed the link in a tweet recently posted by a brand new coworker (welcome to Promega, Jason!):

@konen's tweet about "fun stairs"

Stairs? Fun? I take the stairs all the time, but wouldn’t characterize them as fun. More like “good for me” or “penance for those chips I ate last night.” But I hit the link and watched the video and was almost pouting by the end because those stairs? Those stairs in the Odenplan subway station in Stockholm? I want to go climb those stairs RIGHT NOW. Hold me back, I may start shopping for a plane ticket. Continue reading “The Fun Theory”