Here’s a summary of scientific research suggesting that “the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.”
Special Report: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? The Magic of Narrative Medicine in the ED
The special report discusses how the use of storytelling in medicine, known as narrative medicine, helps physicians better serve patients.
Here’s a New Year’s challenge for the mind: Make this the year that you quiet all those negative thoughts swirling around your brain… . constant negativity can also get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health.
This article offers not only scientific research to back up its premise but practical steps you can take to deal effectively with your own negative thoughts.
The most common advice aspiring writers hear is “write what you know.” I’ve always been suspicious of this admonition, since I believe in the power of research. Here thriller writer Brad Taylor explains how to use research to write convincingly about topics you have no personal experience with.
This article reports on recently published research into how the human brain develops, It’s a long but fascinating read.
© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown
Have you ever thought about all those cat videos you seen whenever you check Facebook? In this article for CNN Alice Robb talks with Abigail Tucker, author of The Lion in the Living Room: How Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World, about:
the disturbing similarities between cats and lions, the reason cats failed to uphold the Rabbit Suppression Act of 1884, and the somewhat baffling question of why people put up with them.
Eva Amsen on “the changing image of the TV scientist”:
The change in TV offers insight into the image and impact of scientists today, say communication scholars. Although recent headlines may have been dominated by people who bend scientific facts into the molds of their personal ideologies, surveys reveal a deep public esteem for scientists. Viewers now want and demand their scientists to be realistic, and what the viewer wants, Hollywood delivers. As a result, scientists on screen have evolved from stereotypes and villains to credible and positive characters, due in part to scientists themselves, anxious to be part of the action and the public’s education.
A look at how the human brain matures and when the brain can be considered mature. Investigation in this area might have profound implications on policy issues such as when people are old enough to vote or to be held accountable for committing crimes.
Have you ever wondered why you and other members of your family remember experiences so differently? This article explains why: “almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail” than they remember positive experiences.
“The quest for increased personal productivity – for making the best possible use of your limited time – is a dominant motif of our age,” writes Oliver Burkeman.
Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days.
© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown
Our inability to remember incidents from the first two or three years of life is known as infantile amnesia. It’s possible that such memories are lost, but some recent research suggests that we might be able to recall those memories with proper prompting. The research was done on rats, and much more research is necessary to discover whether the results apply to humans as well. If they do, it may be possible to devise ways to block out traumatic early memories.
Put simply an autobiography tends to be a linear record of the events of our life and requires attention to the accuracy of the memories and the detail of each event while a memoir is more free form and is usually based around a theme or themes that have meaning for us in some way.
This article offers some advice on how to write about personal experiences in a way that connects them “with the bigger picture of human experience or history.”
Whether they are writing full-blown memoirs or more modest sketches or vignettes, many older people … are telling their life stories. Some are taking life-story writing classes at local colleges, libraries and adult learning centers, while others are hiring “personal historians” to record oral histories or to produce videos that combine interviews, home movies and family photos. Some opt to write a “legacy letter,” which imparts values to the next generations.
This article explains how autobiographical writing can help people gain perspective on their lives and come to acknowledge and understand how past experiences have shaped their lives.
Some recent research suggests that optimistic women tend to live longer than less optimistic ones. This article is informative nut just for these research results, but for its look at how to interpret research reports. Learn why these study results are limited by the participant pool and why they may or may not be applicable to people generally.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
Here are some of the articles I’ve been reading around the web lately.
Some suggestions for how to make your personal data”more difficult for attackers to obtain.”
Gordon Marino, a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, contemplates the meaning and function of regret, especially the type that he calls “moral regret.”
For those of us who need yet another reminder of how important physical exercise is:
Exercise may be an effective treatment for depression and might even help prevent us from becoming depressed in the first place, according to three timely new studies. The studies pool outcomes from past research involving more than a million men and women and, taken together, strongly suggest that regular exercise alters our bodies and brains in ways that make us resistant to despair.
Common wisdom advises us that there are no right or wrong ways to grieve, that all people handle grief differently and in their own way. This article takes a long look at grief, including a new approach to something called “complicated grief”:
complicated grief is more chronic and more emotionally intense than more typical courses through grief, and it stays at acute levels for longer. Women are more vulnerable to complicated grief than men. It often follows particularly difficult losses that test a person’s emotional and social resources, and where the mourner was deeply attached to the person they are grieving. Researchers estimate complicated grief affects approximately 2 to 3 per cent of the population worldwide. It affects 10 to 20 per cent of people after the death of a spouse or romantic partner, or when the death of a loved one is sudden or violent, and it is even more common among parents who have lost a child. Clinicians are just beginning to acknowledge how debilitating this form of grief can be. But it can be treated.
What I found most interesting here is that this approach to helping people cope with grief involves storytelling:
Grief is a problem of narrative. A story, in order to be told, needs a narrator with a point of view who offers a perspective on what happened. But you can’t narrate if you don’t know who you are… . Plotting out the story restores the narrator and the narrative. Then, you can begin to imagine a new story, a new plot for yourself.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
Tara Parker-Pope reports that as many as 25% of adults have at least one nightmare a month. And, she says, most people don’t realize that having chronic nightmares is a medical problem that can be treated with “‘imagery rehearsal therapy,’ a pioneering technique developed by Dr. Barry Krakow at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.” This approach “looks for ways to rewrite a nightmare’s script” by allowing the dreamer “to rewrite the nightmare during the day” using basic imagery techniques. The dreamer creates a better version of the dream, then practices that version by imagining it several times throughout the day.
Here’s the heartening story of Gloria VanDemmeltraadt, who has found the calling of her later years in serving as a volunteer life story writer for people in hospice:
When a person is admitted to a hospice program, they are able to choose whether they would like a story done. Gloria receives the assignment and then spends several hours interviewing the patient, asking questions about their lives. She said the saddest thing she often hears is “I wish I had asked my mom that” and similar regrets about understanding the lives of our older relatives. Putting families in touch with older generations is part of her mission as a volunteer.
In her interviews she directs patients to focus on the better parts of their lives, especially childhood memories and family stories that are meaningful to them. Her aim is to produce a life story of 15 to 20 pages as a legacy for the patient’s family.
I hadn’t heard anything about this phenomenon when I came across this article:
Across the nation, and even across seas, people have been calling police to report being menaced by people in clown costumes. An expert in the field of group psychology at Washington State University says there are several factors that could play into the motives of the “deviant” jesters.
According to one psychologist cited, such behavior can occur during times of tension, conflict, and anxiety. Read how these incidents may have developed through the principle of deindividuation and been spread through social contagion.
This is an interesting article from Fortune about how advances in technology affect our lives. From speech recognition to image recognition, from home computers and smartphones to X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, these developments come into play in many areas of out lives.
[These developments have] all been made possible by a family of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques popularly known as deep learning, though most scientists still prefer to call them by their original academic designation: deep neural networks.
But here’s the most interesting aspect of deep learning:
The most remarkable thing about neural nets is that no human being has programmed a computer to perform any of the stunts described above. In fact, no human could. Programmers have, rather, fed the computer a learning algorithm, exposed it to terabytes of data—hundreds of thousands of images or years’ worth of speech samples—to train it, and have then allowed the computer to figure out for itself how to recognize the desired objects, words, or sentences.
“In short, such computers can now teach themselves.” This article, which includes a glossary of artificial-intelligence terms, covers the history of technology development and looks at projects now underway at companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Intel.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
A poignant article about a recent bombing in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. The “psychological shrapnel” of such an event can be just as traumatic as physical injury.
For just about all my writing life I’ve known that I get my best ideas in the shower. This article based on the book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire says that I’m not alone in this: The first of these seven surprising facts is “72% of people have creative insights in the shower.”
Read how solitude, daydreaming, and even trauma can contribute to creativity.
For years, the term ‘asylum’ has evoked images of chaos and cruelty – in spite of the mental health community’s attempts to give it new meaning. Examining 700 years of history at the world’s oldest psychiatric hospital, Bethlem, a new exhibition intends to set things straight.
A fascinating look at Bethlem Royal Hospital in the Beckenham area of south London, the asylum that give us the word bedlam.
Scientific American summarizes research of species other than humans to try to find an answer to the question of where creativity comes from.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
I keep finding articles on use of the bullet journal. This one contains good advice for how to create and adapt a bullet journal for your own needs. There are lots of links here to give you many variations to explore.
Every time I read about the bullet journal, I think of how inconvenient it must be to try to keep all this information in a bound notebook. If I were to try this system out, I’d want to use a disc notebook rather than a bound one. A disc notebook allows for easy removal and rearrangement of pages.
I’ve used Levenger’s Circa notebooks for several years now, and I love them (Disclaimer: I have no affiliate or other relationship with Levenger; I’m just a satisfied customer.) If you do an internet search for a term like discbound notebooks, you’ll find oodles of entries. Here are a few links to check out if you think a discbound notebook would be a good start for a bullet journal:
- Discbound Notetaking Systems at Office Depot/OfficeMax
- Arc Customizable notebook system from Staples
I first became aware of the lack of critical thinking skills of high school graduates back in 1971, my first year of teaching college composition. I began my first semester with the goal of teaching students how to structure and write convincing essays, but I soon discovered that I needed to take a giant step back and start with teaching students how to evaluate and choose source material for use in their essays. In the 45 years since then I’ve seen this trend grow alarmingly. In this article business leader Ray Williams discusses this :disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture”:
There has been a long tradition of anti-intellectualism in America, unlike most other Western countries. Richard Hofstadter, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his book, Anti-Intellectualism In American Life, describes how the vast underlying foundations of anti-elite, anti-reason and anti-science have been infused into America’s political and social fabric. Famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Scientists have long known that recalling a particular memory strengthens it. But recent research suggests that “Recalling one memory actually leads to the forgetting of other competing memories.”
Views give us a reference point and connect us to where we are, and to nature, and to each other. They inspire us to get up, get out, get involved. They make that tiny in-city studio, or whatever space we’re currently sharing with 10 similarly rent-challenged roommates, feel bigger, lighter, better.
Sandy Deneau Dunham looks at how the rise of nearby buildings that change our view can have unexpected impact on all aspects of life.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
One of my own toughest writing challenges has been to shake myself out of the impersonal aridity of academic writing and assume a more open persona. I therefore found this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Mark Edmundson, professor of English at the University of Virginia, helpful. Here’s his advice:
Slow down and make contact with a dreamier, more associative part of your mind.
Forcing yourself to type slower could improve the quality of your writing, a new study finds.
Participants in the study who typed with only one hand produced higher quality essays, researchers found.
The same approach of writing more slowly will also help people who write with pen or pencil on paper, according to the article. However, do not slow down too much, the article warns: “When people slow to below the rate of normal handwriting, their quality gets worse, previous research suggests.”
Novelist Tim Lott on
… the classic text Story by Robert McKee. The so-called “God of Story” (as Vice magazine dubbed him) has been explaining his theory of how and why dramatic narratives emerge for 35 years, to the fascination of playwrights and screenwriters – his alumni have so far mustered 60 Oscar wins, including, among many others, William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) Paul Haggis, Peter Jackson, John Cleese (who has attended the story seminar three times) and the entire writing staff of Pixar. However, McKee receives a more sceptical response from most novelists, at least, most non-genre novelists like myself.
McKee’s book is the bible among screenwriters and other folks in the movie production business. In fact, the subtitle of McKee’s book is “Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting.” But Lott says that many novelists shy away from McKee’s concept of story structure because they feel it goes against the grain of creativity and produces formulaic work.
The use of storytelling in the business world has developed into a hot topic. Here Gabrielle Dolan advises job applicants on how to use personal storytelling during a job interview to move beyond their printed resume and to make themselves stand out from all the other applicants. To demonstrate during the interview that you’re the right person for the job, she writes, “you also need to demonstrate your values and create a connection. One of the most effective ways to do this is by sharing a variety of work related and relevant personal stories.”
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown