Aerin Lauder

Mother, Creative & Passionate

Yes, You Can Cultivate Luck – Here’s How

Why do some people seem to have all the luck? Psychologist Richard Wiseman has been researching this question for most of his career and uncovered some surprising results. By interviewing over 400 self-described lucky and unlucky people, Wiseman's research indicates that luck isn't "just luck"; it's a mindset. Lucky people encounter and capitalize on chance opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not. Here's why: Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for. Wiseman thinks of luck as a skill that can be cultivated, not something you either have or you don't. He describes three basic principles to generate good fortune:

1. Turn off auto-pilot

Unlucky people tend to be creatures of routine. They tend to take the same route to and from work and talk to the same types of people at parties. In contrast, many lucky people try to introduce variety into their lives.

2. Follow your intuition

Unlucky people often fail to follow their gut when making a choice, whereas lucky people tend to respect hunches. Lucky people are interested in how they both think and feel about various options rather than simply looking at the obvious.

3. Be realistically optimistic

Lucky people tend to see the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse. In one interview, a lucky volunteer arrived with his leg in a plaster cast and described how he had fallen down a flight of stairs. Wiseman asked him whether he still felt lucky, and he cheerfully explained that he felt luckier than before. As he pointed out, he could have broken his neck. Wiseman created a "luck school" to test his hypothesis. He asked a group of lucky and unlucky volunteers to perform exercises designed to help them act and think like a lucky person: capitalize on chance opportunities, follow intuition, have positive expectations and be more resilient. The results were dramatic: 80 percent of people were now happier, more satisfied with their lives, and, perhaps most important of all, luckier. While lucky people became luckier, the unlucky had become lucky. Take Carolyn, whom I introduced at the start of this article. After graduating from "luck school," she has passed her driving test after three years of trying, was no longer accident-prone, and became more confident. As the Irish proverb goes:

Luck is believing you are lucky.

Sleep Makes You Thinner (& 4 Other Reasons to Get Some Shut Eye)

At this point, I shouldn’t have to remind anyone about the benefits of sleep. Medicine and science has been lecturing us about why it’s as important as water and oxygen. And yet many — even the healthiest, quinoa-committed among us — still ignore the many documented risks. Here are five reasons to get at least seven to eight hours a night.

You will look better

It’s scientifically proven that people who are well-rested are consistently judged by others to be more attractive. Studies show it affects your appearance and facial features in obvious ways. Among just a few of the sleep-deprived side effects: accelerates the aging of skin (thus you); wrinkles; paleness; drooping mouths.

You will function better

A lack of sleep impacts memory and cognitive performance. It also lowers productivity. As a researcher at Harvard recently demonstrated in a paper, “It might be the difference between a B+ and an A-.”

You will make better choices

After a sleepless night we are more likely to choose donuts instead of a healthier breakfast. And it just goes downhill from there. When we don’t get enough rest, fMRI scans show impaired activity in part of the brain that governs complex decision making and increased activity in the parts of the brain that respond to rewards.

You will be thinner

In addition to making poor food choices and feeling hungrier, insufficient sleep is associated with obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Sleep deprivation has been shown to raise the amount of ghrelin — the hunger hormone — in the blood. In fact, experts recommend sleep as a treatment for these disorders. NOTE THIS LINK WASN”T WORKING FOR ME…

You will have better relationships

Tired people are more likely to lash out at their partner. Not getting enough rest compromises a couple’s ability to avoid and manage conflict. As the researchers caution, even one bad night can have an effect:
Even among relatively good sleepers, a poor night of sleep was associated with more conflict with their romantic partner the next day.

Your future depends on your dreams. So go to sleep. -Mesut Barazany

Love Literally Hurts – So Does Being Left Out

Love hurts — the pain is emotional and physical. In the 1970s, scientist Jaak Panseep discovered that puppies separated from their mothers were less likely to cry if given small doses of morphine. Pansee suspected a connection between physical and emotional pain, but couldn’t find a way to replicate his study in humans. A decade ago though, Naomi Eisenberger did just that at the University of California, Los Angeles. Eisenberger tricked subjects into thinking they were being excluded from games with others and found that the areas of the brain that registered physical pain were the very same areas reacting to the social exclusion. While physical and emotional pain may overlap, according to the results of a study out of Purdue University, physical pain fades sooner than emotional. When test subjects were asked to recall pain from the past, they provided more detail about emotional pain than they did about a physical injury. This comes as no surprise to anybody who has ever had a broken heart. Some scars last longer than others.

Paralyzing Choices

When it comes to choice, most people assume that more is more. Whether we are choosing a doctor, shoes, what to order for dinner or setting up a 401k, we are faced with countless options. As Barry Schwartz writes in his bestselling book, The Paradox of Choice, having the freedom to choose what we want is a core cultural value. But as luxurious and convenient as this abundance of choice is, it has a dark side. Too many choices can be overwhelming. In a study entitled, When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing? people were more likely to purchase gourmet jams or chocolates when offered just six options rather than when offered 30 options. Similarly, college students were more likely to write an optional class essay assignment when given fewer topics to choose from. Significantly, when the options were limited, the participants in the studies reported greater satisfaction with their jams and chocolates and wrote better essays. There are a number of possible explanations for these results. Avoidance of potential regret, feeling overwhelmed, and the amount of effort it takes to choose. As Schwartz describes:
A large array of options may discourage consumers because it forces an increase in the effort that goes into making a decision. So consumers choose not to decide. Or if they do, the effort that the decision requires detracts from the enjoyment of the results.
Choice overload makes you question the choices you make, it sets up unrealistically high expectations, and we end up blaming ourselves for making the wrong choice. Jam is one thing. Being paralyzed by choice can carry more serious consequences when it comes to making important decisions. For example, in a study using data from over 800,000 employees, participation in 401(k) plans was higher in plans offering a handful of funds as compared to plans offering 10 or more. When overwhelmed with plans, choosing none may become the default option. Bottom Line: When it comes to making choices, some choice is good. If you choose not to choose, be sure it is an active rather than passive decision.
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.


Can Bad Manners Kill?

The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.
Oscar Wilde’s amusing observation highlights the negative impact of bad manners. We all know bad manners are toxic. New research now shows that bad manners can kill. In the study, when doctors spoke rudely to their staff, both accuracy and performance suffered. The medical teams exposed to bad behavior and nasty comments demonstrated poorer diagnostic and procedural performance than those who were not exposed to incivility. As the lead researchers commented:
Relatively benign forms of incivility among medical staff members — simple rudeness — have robust implications on medical team collaboration processes and thus on their performance as a team.
Rudeness undermines people’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions. It steals confidence and weakens motivation. I vividly remember working with a senior physician who always barked at the team. We all hated working with her and she certainly did not inspire hard work or optimal performance. Her harsh words and non-stop criticism made us lazy and passive aggressive. While I don’t think our behavior killed anyone, we definitely were not at our best when working with her. Next time you are looking for a doctor, pay attention to his or her manners. It may be the difference between life and death.

6 Strategies To Turn A Bad Day Around

It is so easy to start the day on the wrong foot. You spill coffee all over your white shirt, the dog decided to do his business on the new carpet, the milk you already poured in your cereal is spoiled. You know those days—everything seems to be going wrong. So, what can you do to turn your bad day around? Here are six strategies to stop that downward spiral in its tracks:

1. Go take a walk:

Studies show spending time outdoors puts things in perspective and stops negative thoughts.

2. Do something for someone else:

Buy coffee for the person behind you in line. Send an email to an old friend.

3. Get specific:

Figure out what exactly is bugging you. Once you pinpoint the problem it is easier to deal with it.

4. Flip it around:

Take five minutes to think about three things that are going well in your life. It can’t all be bad.

5. Set yourself up for small wins:

Write down one thing you know you can accomplish today and do it.

6. Mix it up:

Instead of stewing at your desk and feeling sorry for yourself, do something different. Bust out of your routine. The moment you take yourself off autopilot, you ground yourself in the present. This helps you stop ruminating about all the bad things that have happened. Even if you don't feel like doing any of the above and prefer to wallow in your bad mood, it’s worth doing it to spare those around you. Bad moods are contagious. The good news is good moods are contagious too.

What Is The Ultimate Luxury?

The best things in life aren’t things.

-Art Buchwald

While nice things may be nice, the relentless pursuit of material goods leaves people feeling empty. More money, a faster car, a brand new dress and a bigger house don’t bring happiness. What is striking is how bad most of us are at predicting what will. The offices of Park Avenue psychiatrists are filled with people who have “everything” but feel empty inside. Philosophers and religious teachers have known this forever and research confirms it. Study after study shows that materialism is bad for wellbeing. It actually undermines happiness. The good news is that there are proven strategies to reduce materialism. In one study, a group of adolescents were asked to participate in three sessions where they learned about consumer culture. Then they were asked to think about what they value most in life such as friendship, family, giving back to the community and connections. The adolescents became less materialistic, showed greater self-esteem and were more content than those who didn’t participate in the sessions. By focusing on what was intrinsically meaningful to them, they gained perspective and were able to distance themselves from the “more is more” rat race. As the researcher commented:
Intrinsic goals tend to be the ones that promote greater well-being and act as a kind of ‘antidote’ to materialistic values.
In other words, when people live their lives in concert with their values, they are inoculated against the unyielding lure of luxury. Arthur Brooks says it best:

Love people, not pleasure.

Good Stuff

1. Make a friend: Just Like Falling in Love, We Can Form Friendships at First Sight by @cariromm


Aerin Lauder

Mother, Creative & Passionate