Suzy Batiz

Suzy Batiz, founder of Poo-Pourri discusses bankruptcy, resilience, and the motivation to start her own company. 

Here’s How to Make a New Year’s Resolution That Will Stick

After a busy and perhaps (overly) indulgent holiday season, radical change might feel like the answer. Before you embark on a period of punishing deprivation, consider a former patient of mine who lost more than 10 pounds after going on a green-juice diet for the first two weeks of January. She was thrilled about the weight loss but ravenously hungry and in a terrible mood the entire time. A few weeks later, she had regained all the weight … and then some. Cast in a broader framework, it’s a metaphor for what so many of us experience when we try to make a long-term change. In the short term, it’s easy. In the long term, not so much. Crash diets aside, how can you make behavioral changes that help you start the year on the right track and that are also sustainable? Psychologists Barbara Fredrickson and Michael Cohn explored this question by following a group that had participated in a short-term study on the benefits of meditation. In the initial seven-week study, regular meditation was shown to increase feelings of love, hope, gratitude, and a sense of purpose for pretty much everyone. Then Cohn and Fredrickson followed up 15 months later. A number of participants continued to meditate and reported feeling better as a result, but others had stopped. What made the difference? According to their findings, those who enjoyed meditating early on in the study were more likely to be meditating one year later. The findings suggest that the trick to long-term behavior change is that you must connect with it. For anything to stick, there must be interest in the first place. So instead of fixing a flaw, consider doing more of something that comes naturally and that you enjoy. If you love art, make a resolution to visit a gallery or museum once a week. If you like reading, join a book club. Whatever change you want to make or skill you hope to master, begin with something that feels right. Enthusiasm is the gatekeeper of endurance. Have a happy new year!
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.

Do You Struggle to Ask for Help in the Workplace?

When it comes to getting what you need to be truly successful in your work, do you struggle to ask for help?  Perhaps as you think about asking people to test a new approach you’re developing you fear they’ll say no and you’ll feel rejected.  Or when you imagine asking someone to give you a hand managing a difficult customer or project, you worry that they’ll think you’re weak.  Maybe when you consider seeking out people who might be able to offer new opportunities to develop your strengths, you feel anxious that they’ll think you’re not good enough. Researchers have found that whilst these are common fears in workplaces, the truth is we are wired to help each other.  And that in fact the toughest barrier we face in having our personal and professional needs met in workplaces, is our inability to ask for help. “In many Western cultures we have a strong value of self-reliance and individualism that gets in the way of asking for what we need,” explained sociologist Professor Wayne Baker from the University of Michigan when I interviewed him recently.  “But studies are finding that smart people and progressive workplaces have discovered that asking for help is the key to success because we need to be able to draw upon the wisdom and resources of crowds.”  Giving cultures – where people don’t simply engage in two-party reciprocity but instead create a chain of reciprocity where help is paid forward – have been found to improve productivity, promote learning, and build a climate of trust.  In fact, a wealth of research demonstrates the vital role of generalized reciprocity for the health of communities and organizations, as well as for individual health and wellbeing. According to Wayne:
By increasing the flow of resources through networks, enabling the combination and recombination of resources, and by increasing the probability that the right resource will get to the appropriate need, reciprocity expands the capacity of an organization...It enables groups to discover new resources, solve problems faster, and save time and money.
So how can we create more giving cultures in even the most traditional workplaces? Wayne recommends three steps:

1. Willingly help others

By building a reputation as someone who genuinely helps others, others will then want to help you – even those you haven’t directly helped. This is because the desire to repay help appears to be hard-wired in the human species. For example, Xerox instituted a practice of 15-minute huddles, so when someone needed help they could round up the people needed and request a 15-minute huddle. Those asked to help dropped what they were doing and participated, knowing that when they needed help in the future, they too could call huddles. However, be aware that the effects of reputation appear to be short lived. An old reputation for helpfulness gets you nothing. You have to continually renew your reputation by helping others on a regular basis.

2. Learn to ask for help

This sound obvious but most of us struggle to be clear about the help we need from others. Try to make your requests for help SMART: Specific; Meaningful (why you need it); Action-oriented (ask for something to be done); Real (authentic, not made up); and Time-bound (when you need it).  For example, Professor Adam Grant at Wharton Business School allows a few students in his class to present requests and invites the whole class to contribute.  He encourages them to ask for anything meaningful in their professional or personal lives, ranging from job leads to travel tips.   Drawn in by the empathy ignited by a meaningful request, students often report being surprised by how much they want to help others.

3. Run a reciprocity ring

A guided, structured process of asking for and giving help, this approach has been used in Bristol-Myers Squibb, IBM, Boeing, Citigroup, Estee Lauder, UPS, and many other organizations.  Typically a group works together for about two-and-a-half hours to make requests of each other, and find ways to share connections, knowledge, ideas and resources.  It is estimated the monetary value of benefits achieved for groups typically exceeds $150,000 and the time saved by participants typically exceeds 1,600 hours. In a reciprocity ring, because everyone is making a request, people’s fears about asking for help are easily overcome.  Not only that but because everyone is publicly being encouraged to behave like givers, people willingly step forward to help others – even the takers in groups have been found to give three times more than they get.  You can learn more about running a reciprocity ring by clicking here or get the Give&Get app for a virtual team. What can you do to create a more giving culture in your workplace?
By Michelle McQuaid To learn more, visit Michelle McQuaid at her website,, and follow her on: facebook_profile-1twitter_profiles-1

If You Want to Sound Smart, Dont Send an Email

It might seem old-fashioned, but if you want to get something done or make a good impression, pick up the phone. Better yet, say it in person. New research shows that text-based communications may make individuals sound less intelligent and employable than when the same information is communicated orally. In other words, if you are trying to impress someone, close a deal, get a job, or make yourself more appealing, don’t let your fingers do the talking. As the lead researcher explains:
How do we know that another person has a mind at all? The closest you ever get to the mind of another person is through their mouth.
One area where this is loud and clear is on the dating scene. Interpreting text messages is particularly challenging. Punctuation, capital letters, and response time are open to interpretation. For example, when someone writes “I’ll text you later,” do they really mean they will text later? Is it a blow off? offers some insightful decoding tips. For example, an exclamation point can fundamentally alter the meaning of a message. Compare: Sounds good. Not sure if we’re going but I might see you at the party. If you leave, let me know. Sounds good. Not sure if we’re going but I might see you at the party. If you leave, let me know! The tone of the first one is passive whereas the tone of the latter example is enthusiastic and encouraging. Even with a punctuation guide as in this example, it is often impossible to read the tone of a text message. My advice: pick up the phone.

RoboDoc: Is it Time to Fire Your Therapist?

There are many things computers already do better than we do. In fact, a 2013 Oxford study forecast that machines might be able to perform half of all U.S jobs in the next 20 years. I never imagined my job could ever be “computerizable.” How on earth could a machine do a better job than I do in evaluating patients, providing therapy and recommending treatment? Well, in some cases, it can. By using cameras to follow subtle cues such as micro-facial expressions, the frequency of looking at the floor, as well as speech patterns, new research reveals computers can spot symptoms of depression that psychiatrists may not catch. Other research suggests people are more honest in therapy sessions when they believe they are communicating with computers, because unlike humans they do not pass moral judgment. Similarly, people are more likely to report suicidal feelings on a smartphone than on a printed questionnaire at a doctor’s office. Computers provide an anonymous and a shame-free environment. Indeed:
Google and WebMD already may be answering questions once reserved for one’s therapist.
Scientists are also using smartphones to collect passive data (such as how many steps someone takes each day, how many emails they send, etc.) and active data (voice samples, mood trackers) to provide objective measurements of mental health. That said, I don’t think anyone is proposing that computers replace psychiatrists just yet. The secret sauce seems to lie in the combination of the two.



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Suzy Batiz

Suzy Batiz, founder of Poo-Pourri discusses bankruptcy, resilience, and the motivation to start her own company. 


Here’s How to Make a New Year’s Resolution That Will Stick

After a busy and perhaps (overly) indulgent holiday season, radical change might feel like the answer. Before you embark on a period of punishing...

The Paradox of the Perfectly Wrapped Present 

Great news for those who are terrible at wrapping presents. A study found that badly wrapped gifts are better received than those that look like they...

Master The Art of Small Talk

While it’s fine to talk about the weather, quality conversations that deepen your understanding of another person or topic are more gratifying and meaningful....

Feasting Together Can Help You Succeed in Business and in Life

While meal replacements like Soylent are ideally suited for those who prefer to get sustenance through a straw and on their own time, don’t...

The Science Behind Good Gift-Giving

The desire to be a good gift-giver often backfires. Here’s a scientific breakdown of what many of us get wrong about gift-giving and how...


“Sadness, more than other negative emotions, heightens craving to smoke and likelihood of relapse.” New research on the link between substance abuse and addiction.

Blame the chairs.

Doctors spend more time with patients today than they did 25 years ago but much of that time is directed not at the patient but at the electronic medical record. Typing does not equal caring.

Me, me, me! How narcissism changes throughout life.

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