Archive for July, 2011

July 30, 2011

Why Are People Are Staring At Me?

by Dave P.

I went downtown a few days ago to attend a meeting. I arrived late and there was no meeting going on at the location where I expected it to be. So I went to another building where I thought it might be and still no meeting. What was going on? Did I read the invitation wrong? I was feeling like an idiot. What made it worse was people were staring at me.

I distinctly remembered checking to make sure this was the day the meeting was scheduled to take place by checking the date on my computer. It turned out, the date on my computer was off by one day. DOH! I thought it seemed like Thursday but the computer said Friday. Working for myself, I sometimes lose tract of the day of the week so I thought that was just the case. I had just bought the computer on Monday. The time was set correctly so I didn’t even bother checking the date, which was off by one day. The meeting was the following day.

So why were people staring at me as I ran around frantically trying to find the meeting? I was preoccupied with that thought for the remainder of the evening. I’ve always been a bit self-conscience so it bothers me when people stare. I asked myself, “How would Jerry Seinfeld deal with this situation.” It would have turned into a comedy routine on the TV show.

“Why were people staring at me?,” I imagined myself asking George.

“Well, you are kind of funny looking,” he replied.

A lot of people are funny looking or weird looking and they don’t get stared at. It’s how you act that makes people stare. So I decided to do a little experiment.

The following day (the correct day of the meeting), I arrived about a half-hour early to just hang out and see if people stared at me again. I leaned up against a light pole as if waiting for someone. People passed by on either side of me. Nobody stared. I causally walked down the busy street, not really looking at anything in particular. Nobody stared. Finally, I heading to the building where the meeting was to take place. Nobody stared.

My hypothesis was correct. It’s not how you look that makes you appear weird; it’s how you act.

People who suffer from social anxiety are overly concerned with how they’re judged by others. We approach social encounters with fear rather than welcoming the experience. Other people are perceived to be threats. When we do interact with someone — especially a stranger — that fear prevents us from forming a healthy connection with that person. We lose out on the feelings of well being that most people experience when interacting with others and instead, it becomes a draining, stressful event.

So the question is: how do we become more comfortable with other people?

More to come…

July 30, 2011

Are You Lonely? Take the UCLA Loneliness Test To Find Out

by Dave P.

Answer each of the questions below with a number from 1 – 4 where:

4 – “I often feel this way”
3 – “I sometimes feel this way”
2 – “I rarely feel this way”
1 – “I never feel this way”

  • How often do you feel unhappy doing so many things alone?  ____
  • How often do you feel you have nobody to talk to? ____
  • How often do you feel you cannot tolerate being so alone? ____
  • How often do you feel as if nobody really understands you? ____
  • How often do you find yourself waiting for people to call or write? ____
  • How often do you feel completely alone? ____
  • How often do you feel you are unable to reach out and communicate with those around you? ____
  • How often do you feel starved for company? ____
  • How often do you feel it is difficult for you to make friends? ____
  • How often do you feel shut out and excluded by others? ____

Add up your answers. Scores from 21 – 30 indicate moderate loneliness. If your total is greater than 30, you may be suffering from severe loneliness.

You can also take this test online at UCLA Loneliness Scale.

July 23, 2011

Words To Live By

by Dave P.

‎”Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, make sure that you are, in fact, not just surrounded by assholes.”
~ William Gibson

July 20, 2011

Depression Can Affect Ability of Women To Empathize; Can Be Hard on Relationships

by Dave P.

Not surprisingly, people who suffer from depression often have difficult romantic relationships — when they have them at all. They tend to take out their depression more on their partner than they would a stranger or friend.

In a relationship where one person is depressed, depressed individuals have a “higher tendency than non-depressed individuals to repeatedly ask for reassurance, demand support in a hostile manner, and display negative behaviors, such as a reduced tendency to smile. Consequently, depressed individuals often burden or alienate their partners.”

People in romantic relationships can typically infer and understand their partners’ thoughts and feelings with a fair amount of accuracy. Even in complex social interactions, couples often know what each other is thinking about the situation. A new study suggests that depression can alter this empathic accuracy in women, but not in men.

Read more…

July 13, 2011

CBT Offers Best Treatment For Loneliness

by Dave P.

Persistent loneliness is not only emotionally painful but can be more damaging to our physical and mental health than many psychiatric illnesses. For instance, lonely people sleep poorly, experience severe depression and anxiety, have reduced immune and cardiovascular functioning and exhibit sings of early cognitive decline that grow more severe over time.

Not surprisingly, psychologists have created dozens of interventions designed to try to tackle this epidemic of loneliness. The approaches taken are varied but can be broken up, roughly speaking, into four different categories.

There are interventions aimed at:

  1. Improving social skills. Some researchers argue loneliness is primarily the result of lacking the interpersonal skills required to create and maintain relationships. Typically, these interventions involve teaching people how to be less socially awkward — to engage in conversation, speak on the phone, give and take compliments, grow comfortable with periods of silence and communicate in positive ways non-verbally.
  2. Enhancing social support. Many lonely people are victims of changing circumstances. These approaches offer professional help and counseling for the bereaved, elderly people who have been relocated and children of divorce.
  3. Increasing opportunities for social interaction. With this approach, the logic is simple: If people are lonely, give them opportunities to meet other people. This type of intervention, therefore, focuses on creating such opportunities through organized group activities.
  4. Changing maladaptive thinking. This approach might seem surprising, and its rationale less obvious than the other approaches. But recent research reveals that over time, chronic loneliness makes us increasingly sensitive to, and on the lookout for, rejection and hostility. In ambiguous social situations, lonely people immediately think the worst. For example, if coworker Bob seems more quiet and distant than usual lately, a lonely person is likely to assume that he’s done something to offend Bob, or that Bob is intentionally giving him the cold shoulder.

With four approaches to curing loneliness, the obvious question is: What works? Thanks to a recent meta-analysis of 50 different loneliness interventions, the answer is clear. Interventions aimed at changing maladaptive thinking patterns were, on average, four times more effective than other interventions in reducing loneliness. In fact, the other three approaches weren’t particularly effective at all.

More than anything else, the cure for persistent loneliness lies in breaking the negative cycle of thinking that created it in the first place.

Read more…

July 8, 2011

New Study Shows Change In Brain Activity In People Who Meditate

by Dave P.

Studies have found that Buddhist monks, who have spent tens of thousands of hours of meditating, have different patterns of brain activity. But Anderson, who did this research as an undergraduate student together with a team of University of Wisconsin-Stout faculty and students, wanted to know if they could see a change in brain activity after a shorter period.

At the beginning of the study, each participant had an EEG, a measurement of the brain’s electrical activity. They were told: “Relax with your eyes closed, and focus on the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose; if a random thought arises, acknowledge the thought and then simply let it go by gently bringing your attention back to the flow of your breath.”

Then 11 people were invited to take part in meditation training, while the other 10 were told they would be trained later. The 11 were offered two half-hour sessions a week, and encouraged to practice as much as they could between sessions, but there wasn’t any particular requirement for how much they should practice.

After five weeks, the researchers did an EEG on each person again. Each person had done, on average, about seven hours of training and practice. But even with that little meditation practice, their brain activity was different from the 10 people who hadn’t had training yet. People who had done the meditation training showed a greater proportion of activity in the left frontal region of the brain in response to subsequent attempts to meditate. Other research has found that this pattern of brain activity is associated with positive moods.

The shift in brain activity “was clearly evident even with a small number of subjects,” says Christopher Moyer, one of Anderson’s coauthors at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. “If someone is thinking about trying meditation and they were thinking, ‘It’s too big of a commitment, it’s going to take too much rigorous training before it has an effect on my mind,’ this research suggests that’s not the case.” For those people, meditation might be worth a try, he says. “It can’t hurt and it might do you a lot of good.”

Read more…