Moo-nuficent: France’s biggest celebrity is this gorgeous cow

February 26, 2020

“Her name could not be more appropriate,” says the website for the 2020 Paris International Agricultural Show: Idéale, a superb, sturdy six-year-old Charolais, has been selected to represent her breed and get top billing as this year’s mascot at the exhibition, which runs from February 22 through March 1.

The annual convention brings together farmers from all over France to celebrate the country’s rich bounty of agricultural products, from its wine and cheeses to its produce, its livestock; and, according to The New Yorker, its hot-tub vendors.

Every year, New York Magazine’s “The Cut” reports, the event chooses a bovine mascot that best embodies the wonders and opulence of the event, and whose picture gets plastered around the streets and subways of Paris. First, the breed is selected by the organizing committee. Then the president of the breeding organization for the winning breed chooses a specific cow as mascot. And this year, it’s Idéale. Idéale!

Idéale hails from Monts du Beaujolais in western France. She has, according to the show, “everything going for her.” Specifically, she has “a short head, a broad muzzle with nice sharp teeth, fine crescent-shaped horns which curve perfectly around towards her eyes (referred to as cabettes), a wide and muscular back, thick haunches, etc.”

In addition to her gorgeous sharp teeth and thick haunches, she has a sweet personality. She’s described as docile, maternal, and “she cannot hide her pleasure when being stroked.”

Last year’s mascot, Imminence, was a five-year-old Bleue du Nord, who also was a delightful ambassador, we’re sure. But who can compare to Idéale, really?

Research contact: @NYMagazine

In victory for ‘Me Too,’ Harvey Weinstein found guilty as sexual predator; remanded to custody

February 25, 2020

Harvey Weinstein—formerly a large and in-charge Hollywood film producer—was found guilty on two counts on Monday morning, February 24, in his New York sexual assault trial.

Specifically, the jury convicted Weinstein of two of the five charges against him: a criminal sexual act and third-degree rape, according to a report by The Hill. The 67-year-old former movie mogul has denied any wrongdoing, saying all of his sexual encounters were consensual—however, he did not testify on his own behalf.

The verdict brings to a close the high-profile New York case—during which prosecutors had characterized him as a “sexual predator” and a serial “rapist.” Indeed, during her opening arguments last month, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast said that evidence in Weinstein’s case would show he was “not just a titan of Hollywood but a rapist.”

Jurors heard emotional testimony, including from actress Annabella Sciorrawho told the court that Weinstein raped her after shoving his way into her Manhattan apartment. “I was trying to get him off me,” Sciorra testified. “I was punching him, kicking him.”

According to The Hill, another witness who accused the former film executive of rape became so emotional during an hours-long cross-examination by Weinstein’s attorney Donna Rotunno that she was dismissed for the day by the judge.

The sexual assault allegations, first brought against Weinstein in 2017—followed by a flurry of public accusations of sexual misconduct against many in the entertainment industry— helped to spur the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and to shine a spotlight on systemic sexual harassment.

In total, The Hill notes, more than 80 women—including actresses Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, and Gwyneth Paltrow—have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape.

Last year, Weinstein reportedly reached a $44 million settlement with some of his accusers.

Weinstein was remanded to custody by New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke pending sentencing on Wednesday, March 11. Rotunno made an unsuccessful last-ditch plea to keep her client free on bail due, in part, to his ill health and pain as a result of an auto accident last summer, but the judge did not grant the request.

The erstwhile Miramax titan could face up to 25 years in prison, with a minimum of four years.

What’s more, the legal peril isn’t over for Weinstein, who has also been indicted for alleged sexual misconduct in Los Angeles.

Research contact: @thehill

Do you have an addictive personality, or just a healthy enthusiasm?

February 24, 2020

Some people cannot stop tweeting; others stream endless episodes of a favorite TV series, drink gallons of coffee each week; bet on competitive sports;  cover themselves with tattoos, jockey for position on video games, or visit tanning salons. While they may not be taking opioids, they still might be “addicted.”

But is there such a thing as an addictive personality? The informal answer is yes, according to the American Addiction Centers—one of the largest networks of rehab facilities nationwide.

Indeed, the rehabilitation experts describe “addictive personality” as an informal term that links particular personality traits to a higher risk of addiction or other problematic behaviors—such as drug abuse, cigarette smoking, gambling, or even constant social media use—according to a report by MindyBodyGreen 

“The term is used colloquially to refer to people who have tendencies that appear to lead to addiction-like behaviors,” says George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

“Addictive personality” is a term often used in association with alcoholism, but you can also feel addicted to other things, like certain activities, people, foods, or physical objects. According to J. Wesley Boyd, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics, behaviors like gambling, frequent social media use, or even video gaming can also be addictive.

“For people who are addicted to these behaviors—and even those who just derive intense enjoyment from them—engaging in these behaviors can result in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is the final common pathway of basically every drug of abuse,” Dr. Boyd told MindyBodyGreen.

He also notes that you can even be addicted to another person in a dating relationship because of this neurochemical response. That said, an unhealthy addiction is very different from healthy enthusiasm.

“Being addicted to something means it has taken over your life and that you are sacrificing important things in your life in service of the addiction,” says Boyd. Koob describes addiction similarly as “being stuck in a cycle in which a person binges on a substance, feels discomfort when the substance wears off, and is preoccupied with procuring and using the substance again.” (And again, this doesn’t apply only to physical substances—it can also be behaviors or experiences.)

On the flip side, “enthusiasm means that you might love something and even that you might look forward to it much of the time, but you are not and will not compromise basic important elements in your life,” Boyd says. 

Some experts believe that the term “addicted” is used too loosely to explain behaviors that are closer to enthusiasm, so Boyd uses exercise as an example of this distinction: An enthusiastic exerciser will look forward to workouts but probably won’t work out when they’re sick, he says. An exercise “addict,” on the other hand, might continue exercising even when they have the flu, despite adverse outcomes. 

“There are definitely individuals who are prone to become addicted in various ways,” Boyd says, noting that addiction is often a combination of both genetics and the environment. “Some of this is based on personal history, but much of it is determined by having a family history of addiction.”

According to MindBodyGreen, people who are at a higher-than-average risk for addiction may have some of the following markers:

  • A close family member with an addiction. Boyd says individuals born to parents who have an addiction are more likely to become addicted themselves, and lots of research backs this up. Overall, it appears that genetic heritability affects addiction by between 40% and 70%—but Koob is careful to note that this genetic component comes from many different pathways, and the likelihood of developing an addiction is due to both the environment and your genetics.
  • An OCD diagnosis. Several other disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, are more likely to co-occur with addiction.
  • Impulsive tendencies and trouble self-regulating. A study about video game addiction found that impulsive people might be more prone to developing an addiction.
  • Low self-esteem. For certain people, low self-esteem also appears to be associated with a higher risk for developing an addiction, according to the study about video gamers.
  • ADHD. A sibling study conducted in 1997 found certain people with ADHD may be more likely to develop substance use disorders, and more recent studies have found that ADHD and substance use disorders tend to co-occur in the same patients.
  • Social anxiety. People who feel lonely and anxious during social events are more likely to develop problematic internet use tendencies, according to a 2007 study. This may be because scrolling the internet can feel soothing in the moment, which helps to reduce overall feelings of anxiety or discomfort.
  • A traumatic history. Koob says people who have a history of abuse or trauma may be more likely to initiate substance abuse in order to reduce their discomfort.

Again, Koob is careful to note, “While there are tendencies that increase the risk of a substance use disorder, they don’t comprise a specific personality type, such as an addictive personality.”

Research contact: @mindbodygreen

 

Bite me: Colorado study finds snake venoms hold promise for curing cancers

February 20, 2020

While the “snake oil salesmen” of the past were peddling fraudulent cures, they actually might have been on the right track: According to a team of scientists at the University of Northern Colorado, snake venom may be the remedy for cancer, Denver’s CBS News affiliate reports.

Dr. Stephen Mackessy, a professor at UNC’s School of Biology told CBS4 that, from rattlesnakes to vipers, studies by his students have shown that snake venoms can attack human cancer cells in unique ways.

 “These are compounds that have evolved to kill other animals, and kill things … in general, wreak havoc with living systems,” Mackessy told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “It turns out they are actually a very logical place to look for therapeutics.”

Snake venoms have been used since the 1950s to treat conditions such as high blood pressure in millions of people worldwide. However, Mackessy told the news outlet, his lab is one of the first to research the possible uses of venom compounds to battle various forms of cancer.

“When you think about looking for a therapeutic drug, you don’t turn first to something like a venom or toxin as a source,” Mackessy said.

He noted that  one of  his Ph.D. candidates, Tanner Harvey, has specifically been researching viper venoms—some of which originate in habitats as close to UNC as southern Arizona. Each venom, in different doses, reacts to cancers in distinctive ways.

“[One viper venom] … kills breast cancer really quickly at low doses. And, it kills colon cancer at low doses. But, it doesn’t kill melanoma,” Tanner Harvey told CBS4.

However, other venoms strongly react to melanoma.

Killing the cancer with venom isn’t hard. It’s not killing the patient at the same time that’s the challenge. The team at UNC said their challenge is finding which compounds can be combined with other remedies to kill cancer efficiently, while preserving other life-dependent cells.

“[Finding the proper doses and mixes] is just like panning for gold,” Harvey said.

The study is still in preliminary phases. Once the team believes it has a solid answer to which venom compounds are safe to battle cancer with, the research would press on to one day potentially meet clinical studies.

And, while Mackessy’s team is working toward the goal of curing cancers, another takeaway from their research that both Mackessy and Harvey hope for is that it will encourage the public to stop senselessly killing snakes simply out of fear.

“You never really know what is going to come from a natural source, even something like a rattlesnake,” Mackessy said. “It may be, in fact, that these dangerous animals house in their venom something that one day may be lifesaving for you, or your family members.”

Research contact: @CBSNews

‘Megxit’ effect: Could Vancouver Island be the next Martha’s Vineyard?

February 19, 2020

Following  a “battle royal” among  the  members of Britain’s sovereign Windsor family, Prince Harry and his wife—the former (and future?) actress Meghan Markle—and their son, Archie, have been living on Canada’s posh Vancouver Island, located just off the coast of British Columbia.

In taking up residence on the island, either temporarily or permanently, the Sussexes have instantly elevated awareness of the 12,000-square-mile enclave—now trending globally as the next “it” place to buy property or vacation.

“Vancouver Island is now on the map as a place where royals reside and live, similar to Martha’s Vineyard being put on the map by the Kennedys and Kennebunkport by the Bushes,” Eric Smallwood, president of the Apex Marketing Group, told NBC News this week. “The focus will be tourism. A little longer term, it will be real estate.”

Smallwood told the network news outlet thatd all of the buzz is worth more than $38 million in positive brand value for the country, with that number increasing daily based on news coverage and information about the Sussexes’ new life on Vancouver Island, according to an analysis he conducted for NBC News.

Sotheby’s Realty lists 57 luxury homes for sale on the island for anyone who might be interested in living like a royal. One home, billed as a “surfer’s paradise” located on the water is priced at $10.5 million, while another “luxurious oceanfront estate” is on the market for nearly $6.8 million.

Additionally, Levine predicted that the couple’s presence could lead to a new cottage industry: independent, “not-so-royal tours, which highlight the family’s favorite local shops, restaurants and playgrounds,” he said. “There may be a temporary influx of visitors trying to catch a glimpse of the couple out and about.”

“Canada has been trying to advance tourism to British Columbia,” Levine added. “So, if whale watching isn’t working, maybe ‘Markle spotting’ will be a hit.”

George Hanson, president and CEO of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, told NBC News he is “continually surprised at how few North Americans are aware of our island,” which is a short trip from Seattle. Hanson said he’s thrilled that the island is now known by people around the world.

“Vancouver Island is one of the most progressive, beautiful, pristine. and spacious destinations in the world,” he said. “We understand why Harry and Meghan might choose to live here and why others not familiar with the island might want to come see this appeal for themselves.”

 “The couple could have chosen to live anywhere in North America and they selected Vancouver Island. That’s a powerful endorsement and is generating positive buzz for the community,” said Andy Levine, chairman of the marketing company Development Counsellors International.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Indoor pollution solution: Do air purifiers actually work?

February 18, 2020

Given the fact that indoor air can harbor up to five times higher concentrations of certain pollutants than outdoor air—odors, smoke, dust, pet dander—you might be tempted to acquire an air purifier. But in reality, not all air purifiers necessarily live up to the marketing hype, according to a report by the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Most air purifiers comprise a filter, or multiple filters; as well as a fan that sucks in and circulates air. As air moves through the filter, pollutants and particles are captured and the clean air is pushed back out into the living space.

Some use ionizers to help attract particles like static: Negative ions bond to dust and allergens and make them settle out of the air. Good Housekeeping warns, if you’re interested in buying an air cleaner that uses ionizers, make sure it does not produce ozone, a gas made up of three oxygen atoms that is often claimed to help break down pollutants. Ozone could be a lung irritant and further aggravate asthma conditions.

The majority of filters are designed to capture particles like dust and pollen, but don’t catch gases like VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or radon from the air that may accumulate from adhesives, paints, or cleaning products. Allergens that are embedded into furniture or flooring also are not captured by them.

 That would require an adsorbent, like activated carbon. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that the functionality of air purifiers is limited in terms of filtering out gases, and that you must frequently replace filters for optimal functionality, usually about every three or so months.

If you are concerned about mold, Good Housekeeping recommends buying a dehumidifier or humidifier to help maintain the appropriate moisture levels in your home and stave off mold growth issues. Air purifiers do not prevent mold growth, so it is necessary to eliminate the source of moisture that is allowing it to grow.

However, if you are an allergy or asthma sufferer, an air purifier with a HEPA filter may be helpful for you as it will be good at removing fine airborne particles. HEPA is an acronym for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters capture variously sized particles within a multi-layered netting usually made out of very fine fiberglass threads (much thinner than the size of a human hair strand!) with varying sized gaps.

So, after all of this, if you still are interested in purchasing an air filter, the Good Housekeeping Institute advocates that you consider the following:

  • CADR (clean-air delivery rating): This measures the cleaning speed of the purifier for removal of smoke, dust, and pollen. Look for a CADR of at least 300; above 350 is really great.
  • Size guidelines:  Choose a model that is designed for an area larger than the one you are outfitting it for if you want to operate it at a lower, quieter setting.
  • AHAM (Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers) Verified mark: AHAM’s standards are design to ensure the safety, efficiency and performance of many home care appliances, including air purifiers. While voluntary, most reputable air purifiers have undergone this certification program, which often provides a CADR rating and size guidelines.
  • True HEPA: True HEPA filters are effective at removing ultra fine particles (think: dust, dander, pollen, mold,and other common allergens in the home). The industry standard for such is that the unit must be able to remove at least 99.97% of particulates measuring 0.3 micron diameter in a lab setting,

Finally, the best advice is to address the source of indoor air pollution and ventilate your home. If you can, keep your windows open to prevent locking irritants into rooms (when air purifiers aren’t running!). Create a stronger cross draft by opening windows on opposite sides of the room if possible.

 Research contact: @goodhousekeepi1

Tress distress: Why women lose hair

February 17, 2020

Talk about a bad hair day. When a woman realizes that her hair is no longer as thick and lustrous as it used to be—in fact, it has become downright thin in certain spots, or worse yet, overall—it can be a cause for panic.

Most of the time minor hair loss is just a sign that your body is growing new, healthy strands to replace the old, according to a report by Self magazine. In fact, losing up to 100 hairs per day is totally normal.

But, “if all of a sudden you’re noticing a lot more in the brush or the drain, or your ponytail is thinner, or you’re seeing more scalp,” then you may be losing more hair than you should, Francesca Fusco, M.D., dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City and assistant clinical professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, told the news outlet.

Figuring out why you’re suddenly losing more hair than usual can be tricky. For example, hereditary hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), isn’t really something you can control; you get the hand you’re dealt.

But other types of thinning, such traction alopecia or temporary hair shedding (a very common condition called telogen effluvium), can be managed or even reversed, if caught early. Making things even more complicated, some causes of hair loss in women result in sudden shedding while others may become progressively more noticeable over time.

According to Self, if you’ve noticed your hair is falling out more than usual, looks thinner, or seems to be growing more slowly, one of the following may be the reason:

1. Genetics: When we think of hereditary hair loss, we usually go straight to male pattern baldness. But people of all genders are susceptible to hereditary hair loss. In women the hair loss is usually concentrated at the crown of the head (especially noticeable at the hair part), while it’s more likely to affect men along the hairline, the American Academy of Dermatology notes. Although you can’t prevent this type of hair loss entirely, there are treatments available—such as over-the-counter minoxidil or finasteride (propecia)—that can slow it down and make hair stay fuller longer. So the sooner you start treatment, the better.

2. Childbirth: During pregnancy, most women notice their hair going into rapid growth mode. “That’s when everything is in a grow, grow, grow phase, because there are surges of hormones [estrogen] that make hair grow,” Dr. Fusco notes. Not only is the growth stage kicked into high gear, but also it lasts longer than normal, meaning that normal shedding doesn’t occur. However, once estrogen levels go back to normal after delivery, hair resumes its normal growth cycles and starts to shed all of those extra, luscious strands

This type of hair loss (technically, hair shedding) is called telogen effluvium, and it can occur months after a stressful or major life event like childbirth, Bethanee Schlosser, M.D., assistant professor of Dermatology and director of the Women’s Skin Health Program for Northwestern Medicine, told Self recently. “Shedding peaks about four months after the incident” that caused it, she explains. 

3. Changes in birth control: Going off hormonal birth control or changing to a different type of hormonal contraception can also cause hormone-induced shedding. “Whether you’re just starting it, discontinuing it, or changing brands, your body can react by causing the hair to go into an increased shedding mode,” Dr. Fusco says. This is another form of telogen effluvium, which means that it’s usually temporary. You can rely on volumizing products and styling tricks while you wait for your hair to regain its fullness.

4. Nutritional deficiencies: Creating and maintaining healthy hair relies on getting appropriate nutrition. In particular, deficiencies in iron, zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), and protein have all been linked to various types of hair loss. Treating a nutritional deficiency usually starts with a chat with your doctor and a blood test to accurately diagnose your issue. Then your doctor may treat your deficiency with prescription supplements or may refer you to a dietitian. for further guidance.

5. Medications: Some “medications can cause chronic shedding,” Dr. Schlosser says. In particular, those used to manage high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, and depression are known to cause hair loss issues, according to the Mayo Clinic.If you think your medication may be causing hair loss, check in with your doctor. In many cases, this type of hair loss is temporary. But if your hair loss becomes chronic, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication that doesn’t cause this side effect.

6. Dandruff or scalp psoriasis: When the skin on the scalp is inflamed and itchy, it’s obviously tempting to scratch it. But that may cause your hair to shed more than usual. Dandruff is the most easily treated cause of hair loss, Dr. Fusco says, because you can treat it with over-the-counter oo and conditioner you like enough to use regularly. But other conditions can also cause itchiness and scalp flaking, including seborrheic dermatitis (a more severe version of dandruff caused by a buildup of yeast and oil) and psoriasis (an autoimmune condition that causes thick patches of skin). If you think you have one of these conditions, check in with a dermatologist, Self advises.

7. Intense emotional or physical stress: When you’re experiencing something stressful or traumatic—not your average day-to-day stress, but something big and life-altering like a divorce, a death in the family, a significant job change, or a big move—you may experience a temporary halt in hair growth as your body puts its efforts into getting you through said big event.

“Hairs don’t all grow at the same rate,” Dr. Schlosser told the news outlet. “Some are growing, some are resting, and some are actively being shed. When you have these conditions, your body halts hair growth, and then things get restarted and all these hairs that have been halted start to get pushed out at the same time.” The same thing can happen with physical stress and trauma, like having a big operation, being hospitalized, or even losing a significant amount of weight very quickly. St

8. Autoimmune diseases: “An autoimmune condition makes the body recognize its own hair follicles as foreign and it attacks them and makes the hair fall out,” Dr. Fusco explains. This could be a condition like alopecia areata, in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles. Sometimes people with alopecia areata do see their hair grow back (although it may fall out again). But if not, dermatologists can help by prescribing various treatments, like corticosteroid injection to stimulate hair growth, the AAD says.

Conditions that primarily affect another part of the body—like thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or sickle-cell anemia—can also cause hair loss as one of many symptoms. Additionally, Dr. Schlosser notes that lupus can cause some scarring of the hair follicle, resulting in permanent hair loss.If you think your hair loss may be connected to an underlying issue like an autoimmune condition, it’s important to talk to your doctor.

9. Wearing too-tight hairstyles too often: Tight hairstyles can cause traction alopecia, Dr. Schlosser says. “Classically, this happens when people wear tight braids chronically, but I’ve seen it with tight ponytails too,” she explains. It can cause progressive thinning of the hairline, and if you do it for long enough, the hair loss may actually become permanent. It’s considered a scarring process, which can damage the hair follicle beyond repair.

10. Heat-styling your hair regularly: Fusco says that women will come to her and tell her they have hair loss, when really they have something called trichorrhexis nodosa. This is a condition in which damaged, weak points in the hair shaft cause strands to break off easily. The cause? Thermal damage to the hair from things like using hot tools and overbleaching. In this case, the hair loss “is not necessarily from the root but it’s from somewhere along the shaft,” she explains. Treatment for trichorrhexis nodosa usually involves finding and avoiding the source of the damage, which could be hot tools, harsh chemicals, or aggressive brushing. Instead, opt for gentle brushing techniques and gentle, soothing hair products.

11. Overprocessing your hair: Getting frequent perms, chemical straightening procedures, or relaxing procedures—basically anything that uses harsh chemicals on your scalp and hair—can damage the hair follicle and cause permanent hair loss. “After repeated insults, the hair follicles just won’t grow back,” Dr. Schlosser says. This can cause hair to appear thinner, and may be especially noticeable on the scalp. If you want your hair to grow back, you’ll likely need to enlist the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist.

Overall, unless your hair loss is caused by a product or lifestyle change, or a hereditary condition, remember to treat your hair gently, take the proper nutrients, and eliminate harsh products from your daily routines. Your good hair days may outnumber the bad ones sooner than you think.

Research contact: @Selfmagazine

Collect your thoughts: The benefits of journaling

February 13, 2020

Many of us barely have time to answer our emails or call our best friends on a typical, jam-packed weekday, so communicating our own thoughts in a diary or journal may seem like a self-centered waste of time.

We rationalize, “Writing a few sentences in a journal may keep me healthier longer, but so will eating Brussels sprouts! Why should I bother journaling when I’ve already got too much on my plate already?”

However, according to a report by PsychCentral, researchers have found that journaling provide unexpected benefits. The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit, and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others, and the world around you.

According to PsychCentral, once you start, you may find that you are able to:

  • Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Are you ever unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions (no editing!) will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
  • Know yourself better. If you write routinely, you will start to recognize what makes you feel happy and confident. You also will begin to realize whicht situations and people are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.
  • Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness, and other painful emotions helps a person to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to be “present” in your life..
  • Solve problems more effectively. Typically, we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity to arrive at unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
  • Resolve disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings rather than stewing over them will help you to understand another person’s point of view. And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict.

In addition, keeping a journal allows you to track patterns, trends, and growth over time. When current circumstances appear insurmountable, you will be able to look back on previous problems that you have since resolved.

So how should you start? Your journaling will be most effective if you do it daily for about 20 minutes. Begin anywhere, and forget spelling and punctuation. Privacy is key if you are to write without censoring yourself. Write quickly, as this frees your brain from “shoulds” and other blocks to successful journaling. If it helps, pick a theme for the day, week, or month (for example, peace of mind, confusion, change, or anger).

The most important rule of all is that there are no rules. Through your writing you’ll discover that your journal is an all-accepting, nonjudgmental friend. And ity provide the cheapest therapy you will ever get.

Research contact: @PsychCentral

For love or money: ‘Valentighting’ is the dating trend out to ruin your Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2020

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Any “significant others” who have lost their suitors just before Valentine’s Day might well say no.

No breakup is ever well-timed, but there’s something particularly nasty about doing it just weeks before February 14.

Just ask Amy Luong, according to a report by The Huffington Post. Up until recently, Luong, a 23-year-old account coordinator from Des Moines, Iowa, thought she was on sure footing in her yearlong relationship, the news outlet says.  She and her boyfriend had almost broken up recently—but, if anything, that had only brought them closer together, or so she thought. Luong’s boyfriend told her he didn’t want to lose her. They’d started talking about the future in unambiguous terms.

But then, just one week before Valentine’s Day, he dumped her.

“He brought up that his friends didn’t like me, they didn’t want to talk to me when I was over at his place—and that they suggested he break up with me,” Luong told HuffPost. “It started a 12-hour argument about us being together and how he didn’t feel like I respected him. I told him that I do everything I can to respect and support him, but he accused me of doing no such thing.”

The hyperdramatic fight—and the relationship itself—ended when Luong told her boyfriend to get an Uber home and leave.

The term, Valentighting, joins the ranks of other newfangled, slightly ridiculous dating trends (ghosting, mosting, orbiting, breadcrumbing).

Valentighting was coined by Metro UK writer Ellen Scott last year. Scott defined it as “the heartbreaking act of dumping someone right before Valentine’s Day, because you’re too tight to get them a gift, write a card, or make any kind of fuss. Get it? Valentine’s Day plus being too much of a tightwad to buy a gift. Valentighting.”

Clever. But as Luong’s story illustrates, there’s usually more than an aversion to gift-giving at play when a person gets valentighted.

“Valentine’s Day of all holidays brings the relationship to a head and highlights issues between couples that might not be working,” Kim Seltzer, the host of Charisma Quotient podcast and a dating coach in Los Angeles, told HuffPost.

If it’s about the gifts at all, it’s less about penny-pinching and more about a person’s fear of having a gift be interpreted as an investment in the relationship, Seltzer said.

“So avoiding the gift might really be about not wanting to spend money on someone you don’t see a future with,” she explained. (In other words, your ex isn’t just a cheap-ass in this scenario, they’re a cheap-ass with commitment issues.)

However, it’s not just the recently dumped who struggle with Valentine’s Day, the news outlet says. The holiday puts the squeeze on a lot of relationships—especially new ones. In those cases, it’s hard to know what kind of gift, if any is called for: How much should you spend? Would you overplay your hand if you get the person something and they show up empty-handed?

It’s a complicated holiday, for sure—and for many of us, the second celebration of Valentine’s Day with the same person could be the winner. You know their preferences and you know how they feel. Just go for it.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Sweet as a baby: Altruism begins in infancy

February 11, 2020

Most of us would prefer to believe that people are fundamentally good. Now, researchers from the University of Washington’s Learning & Brain Sciences division (I-LABS) have found evidence that babies and toddlers actually are altruistic—that they will give away something desirable, such as food, even at a cost to themselves.

The researchers studied nearly 100 19-month old infants, and discovered that the babies were quick to share their food with the study’s authors, even when they themselves were undoubtedly hungry.

And not only did they find that this generous and kind behavior starts in infancy, but they believe their work suggests that social experiences very early in one’s life can shape our behavior towards others later on in adolescence and adulthood.

“We think altruism is important to study because it is one of the most distinctive aspects of being human. It is an important part of the moral fabric of society,” says lead author Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, a postdoctoral researcher at I-LABS, in a release. “We adults help each other when we see another in need and we do this even if there is a cost to the self. So we tested the roots of this

Kindness towards others at one’s own expense is a uniquely human trait. Indeed, the researchers say, nonhuman primates have been found to cooperate, and to share resources under restricted conditions. But nonhuman primates, such as chimpanzees, don’t actively hand over delicious food that they need themselves.

For this study, researchers chose kid-friendly fruits—including bananas, blueberries, and grapes—and set up an interaction between child and researcher. The goal: to determine whether the child would, without encouragement, verbal instruction or reinforcement, spontaneously give an appealing food to an unfamiliar person.

In the experiment, the child and the adult researcher faced each other across a table at I-LABS, and the researcher showed the child a piece of fruit. What happened next was determined by whether the child was in the control group, or the test group. In the control group, the researcher gently tossed the piece of fruit onto a tray on the floor beyond reach but within the child’s reach. The researcher showed no expression and made no attempt to retrieve the fruit.

In the test group, the researcher pretended to accidentally drop the fruit onto the tray, then reach for it unsuccessfully. A video clip from the experiment shows a 19-month-old child offering a strawberry to study lead author Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, after Barragan pretends to drop the fruit.

That reaching effort—the adult’s apparent desire for the food—seemed to trigger a helping response in the children, researchers said: More than half the children in the test group picked up the fruit and gave it to the adult, compared to 4% of children in the control group.

In a second experiment with a different sample of children, parents were asked to bring their child just before their scheduled snack or mealtime—when the child was likely to be hungry. Researchers reasoned that this would raise the “cost to self” that defines altruism. The control and test group scenarios were repeated, but with children who were now more motivated to take the fruit for themselves. The results mirrored those from the previous study. Fully 37% of the test group offered the fruit to the researcher while none of the children in the control group did so.

“The infants in this second study looked longingly at the fruit, and then they gave it away!” said Andrew Meltzoff, who is co-director of I-LABS and holds the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair in psychology. “We think this captures a kind of baby-sized version of altruistic helping.”

The research team also analyzed the data in different ways—whether children offered fruit on the first trial of the experiment or got better during the process, for example, and whether children from particular types of family environments helped more.

The researchers found that infants helped just as much on the very first trial of the experiment as on later trials, which Barragan said shows that the children did not have to learn to help during the study and needed no training. Indeed, children spontaneously and repeatedly helped a person from outside of their immediate family.

The study has been published in the February 4 editon of Scientific Reports.

Research contact: @uwashington