Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg

Youtube's Head of Fashion & Beauty Partnerships
Mending a Broken Heart

Mending a Broken Heart: A How-To

Remember that scene in Clueless, where Cher kind of makes fun of Tai for wanting to burn the few things she associates with her late relationship with Elton? Turns out, Tai was right. Burn, baby, burn. That’s the best way to mend your broken heart. Well, not the burning so much as the ritual of it all. For those in a committed and loving relationship, Valentine’s Day may be something to look forward to, but for the broken-hearted, it’s a painful reminder of lost love. Each image of heart-shaped chocolate boxes, bouquets of red roses and sappy card commercial — even the usual catch-all heart emoji —  can make the lonely feel even more lonely. If you are having a hard time in the wake of a difficult breakup, behavioral science sheds some light on how to move on. In a series of experiments, researchers Michael Norton and Francesca Gino reveal that people who engage in rituals recover more quickly and report feeling better than those who don’t. We typically think of rituals as communal or religious but, as Norton and Gino’s research shows, a ritual doesn’t need to be to be effective. They were surprised to discover that, when asked to write about a ritual performed in the wake of a loss, most participants turned to “everyday” practices that were self-generated, personal and private. One wrote:
I returned alone to the location of the breakup each month on the anniversary of the breakup to help cope with my loss and think things over.
Another wrote:
I looked for all the pictures we took together during the time we dated. I then destroyed them into small pieces (even the ones I really liked!), and then burnt them in the park where we first kissed.
Afterward, the participants felt better. Norton and Gino theorize that engaging in a ritual after a loss restores a sense of control. Feeling in control mitigates sadness and increases well-being, physical health, and resilience. In addition to helping mend a broken heart, Norton and Gino’s research suggests that performing a ritual—even one made up by others—may be helpful in dealing with everyday setbacks. In one experiment, they induced a sense of loss among participants by having them lose a lottery. Those in the “ritual group” were told about the benefits of rituals and then asked to engage in the following mini ritual:

1) Draw their feelings on a piece of paper for two minutes.

2) Sprinkle a pinch of salt on it.

3) Rip the paper into pieces.

This group described feeling much better and less disappointed than those who didn’t engage in the ritual. The results of the study indicate that, in order for a ritual to be most effective, it needs to be deliberate, intentional and performed. Just knowing that a ritual is helpful is not enough.  Action must be taken though the specific actions do not seem to matter. Create a go-to ritual to help you deal with the daily hassles and disappointments. While you cannot control all of life’s curve balls, you have far more power than you realize over whether or not they take you down.

Does Showing Emotion At Work Undermine My Authority As A Boss?

Showing emotion need not undermine your authority. On the contrary, it can underscore your commitment to your work. It all depends on how you spin it. If you have a meltdown, instead of saying “I was too emotional” to account for your behavior, say, “I was very passionate.” According to a recent study, those who pulled the passion card were perceived to be more competent than the ones who said emotions got in the way. This makes sense, of course, considering how the two words have very different connotations in the professional world. “Being passionate is often stated as an important attribute for employees; passion is associated with determination, motivation and having a high degree of self-control. Being emotional, however, has almost a negative mirror effect and is associated with irrationality, instability, ineptitude and a low degree of self-control,” explained lead researcher Sunita Sah, Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations at Cornell University. Showing emotion from time to time makes us human and not a NARP (Not A REAL PERSON), as my stepson calls people are incapable of expressing emotion. When I first became a doctor, I remember bursting into tears the first time I had to tell a family that their loved one had died. I did my best to keep it together but the willpower to look professional was no match for the tears streaming down my face. At the time, I was mortified.  A few weeks later I received a lovely note from the family. They said they were touched by my tears. It showed how much I cared for someone they loved dearly. This post originally appeared in Marie Claire Magazine
Write a letter

Write a Letter: It’s Good for You

It is astonishing how quickly we adapt to the good things in life. A famous example of this is lottery winners. In the short term, their happiness shoots up dramatically but over the long term they are not significantly happier than non-winners. The truth is we get used to nice things. Consider WiFi, air conditioning, cappuccinos, and eating fresh oranges in the middle of winter. Not so long ago they were considered luxuries. Today they are “normal.” One strategy to counteract taking things for granted is to cultivate gratitude. The benefits of gratitude abound. It is associated with stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, greater optimism and happiness and more compassion. Writing someone a letter is one of my favorite ways to cultivate gratitude. I try to write one every week—not just a generic “thank you” note but a personal letter expressing appreciation. Is there a secret recipe for writing a good letter? I don’t think so. There are many creative ways to express gratitude. Here’s my blueprint:

Address and stamp the envelope first

Getting started is often the hardest part. And once I have committed that stamp to the envelope, I’m already halfway there. As soon as I get this step out of the way, I can concentrate on the actual content of the letter and not worry about logistics. It’s liberating.

Personalize it

Include details. I do my best to make it relevant and meaningful for the person I am writing to. It doesn’t need to be long, but it does need to be heartfelt and genuine.

Use a pen

Even if someone’s handwriting is messy, a handwritten note expresses so much more than a typed or emailed one. Putting pen to paper takes a different kind of effort. Its very nature relays to the receiver the time and effort you put into it. It is authentic and “not a cut-and-pasted, global searched-and-replaced bit of faux intimacy” as described by psychologist Chris Peterson.

Stationery is optional

I adore beautiful cards but they are not a requirement. A post card or a blank piece of paper work just as well. It is the thought that counts. When I was an intern, a patient once wrote me a beautiful thank you note on the back of a paper towel. It lived in the pocket of my white coat for months. Just knowing it was there provided me with strength and courage.

Take time

I consider what I want to say beforehand and give myself time to write it. Part of the beauty of writing a letter is that it forces me to slow down.

Give it your full attention

Chris Peterson says it best:
The thing about writing a letter, unlike e-mails or the phone, is that no one can multitask while doing so. A letter represents undivided attention and is precious as a consequence.
Both sending and receiving a handwritten note has a boosting effect. Whenever I receive one, I pin it on what I call my Gratitude Wall. For me, it is a kaleidoscope of goodness and an embodiment of connection and meaning. Knowing someone has taken the time and made the effort to hand write me a note fills me with gratitude and inspires me to do the same. In short, it’s a two-way thrill. Two thousand years ago, Cicero said:
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
Gratitude is something that only finds meaning when it is expressed. Express it whenever you can.

5 Ways to Improve Your Love Life

Happily Ever After isn’t just a fairy tale notion, as psychologist John Gottman has been working to prove. For the last 40 years, he and his team have been studying how couples interact and respond to each other, researching how to achieve endless love. From the data he has gathered over the years, he separates the couples into two main categories: Masters and Disasters. The Masters are couples who remain happily together while the Disasters are either chronically unhappy or eventually break up. Here are 5 things the Masters, well, mastered in their relationships:

1. Look Up

In the 1990s, Gottman studied newlywed couples in a lab designed to look like a bed and breakfast. His research uncovered some surprising findings, especially the fact that marital wellbeing isn’t simply based on strategic conflict resolution. In fact, a major predictor of marital wellbeing is how a partner responds to a request for connection: Throughout the day, partners asked for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” It’s not just about the bird — he’s looking for a response from his wife, a sign of interest or support. The couples whose partners were able to give attention when it was sought were more likely to stay together. Those who couldn’t be bothered to look up from the newspaper, who kept doing what they were doing, who responded with annoyance, “Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?” were more likely to separate.

2. The Benefit of the Doubt

Believing in your partner’s good intentions. In other words, don’t skew negative. Masters don’t translate finishing the last of the milk without buying more (or leaving a note to buy more) as a deliberate move to annoy them. They chalk it up to forgetfulness and move on.

3. Everyday Kindness

Yet by that same token, a Master who finishes the milk will either buy more or leave a note — a thoughtful gesture for his/her partner. Being kind, giving compliments, doing something nice — making a cup of coffee, sending a random love note or text, or giving a foot rub — telegraphs emotion powerfully.

4. Actively Appreciate

In an interview with The Atlantic, Dr. Gottman explains that Masters “are scanning the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.”

5. Work It

Masters know that a good relationship requires sustained hard work and a great deal of effort. They don’t “have” a good relationship, they work at having a good relationship. As the Masters illustrate, happily ever after can and does exist… It takes kindness, optimism, generosity and effort. And love.
seasonal affective disorder

Rethinking The Winter Blues

In medical school I was taught to look out for Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, during the cold dark months. I expected my patients’ depression to worsen and for the winter blues to set in. After all, it made sense—who doesn’t want to hibernate until spring?It turns out that this assumption was far from accurate. New studies suggest that winter doesn’t quite take the emotional toll we once thought it did. In fact, the research suggests people deal with the gray and chilly weather pretty well. As science writer Christian Jarrett points out:

The results provided no evidence whatsoever that people’s depression symptoms tended to be higher in winter — or at any other time of the year. This lack of a seasonal effect was true whether looking at the entire sample or only respondents with depressive symptoms. The respondents’ geographical latitude and sunlight exposure on the day of the survey were also unrelated to depression scores.

Related research challenges the notion that our brains slow down in the winter months. In fact, there is reason to believe that brain function is enhanced during the winter. As we well know, expectations shape reality. All those times I ascribed a patient’s sluggishness or sadness to Seasonal Affective Disorder, what was I missing? What else was going on in their lives that might have been affecting their mood or energy level? It was so easy to chalk it up to SAD, which may just be a “well­-entrenched folk theory.” Looking back, I wonder how many times I prescribed an anti-depressant or increased a patient’s dose in anticipation of the winter blues. As Jarrett concludes, there is a silver lining to the winter:

If anything, the data suggest that our minds are more sprightly at this time of year than in the summer. Now there’s some news to brighten your day — even if it’s an abysmally cold, short one.

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Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg


Youtube's Head of Fashion & Beauty Partnerships
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