Altered states of consciousness: the elusiveness of the mind

Altered states of consciousness may immediately bring to mind psychedelics or hypnosis, but there are many ways to induce such non-ordinary states. But first, a conundrum. In order to define altered states of consciousness, we need to ask: what is an ordinary state of consciousness? Because scientists can’t agree on an answer to this question, …

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Negativity bias: how negative experiences cloud our judgement

Have you ever found yourself ruminating over a mistake you made a while ago? Replaying in your head a conversation that didn’t go so well? That’s the negativity bias at play: not only do we register negative stimuli more readily, but we also tend to dwell on these events for longer. In general, negative events …

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The two sides of stress: distress and eustress

One common misconception about stress is that it should be minimised at all cost—that stress is bad. But stress is just your body and your mind’s response to external challenges. Depending on the particular stressors and your reaction, stress can be detrimental (distress) or beneficial (eustress). While the prefix -dis in “distress” has the same …

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The empathy gap: why we underestimate the influence of emotions

“I would do much better!” you think, watching someone give a presentation about a topic you are familiar with. “I don’t feel like smoking at all, I’ll definitely be able to quit tomorrow,” you say with a relaxed tone, right after smoking a cigarette. These are illustrations of the empathy gap: our tendency to underestimate …

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How to take a replenishing vacation (or staycation)

A growing body of research shows that taking a vacation is good for your mental health. In a study conducted in the U.S., participants who took vacations twice or more per year were less likely to suffer from tension and depression. Even expecting a holiday break has a positive impact on your general sense of …

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The rational benefits of emotions

Rationality and emotion may seem antithetic. One is objective, the other subjective. One relies on mental models, the other on gut feelings. When it comes to making decisions, we tend to favour the reassuring formal process of rationality over the impulse of our emotions. In school, we are taught how to think better, but rarely …

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Creating calm: how to manage stress

Ambition makes some levels of stress inevitable. However, while stress is a basic survival response, it can often be triggered in situations that are far from being life threatening—such as too much work, public speaking, or conflict. In addition, long-term stress is detrimental both for your mental and your physical health. The good news is: …

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How to build a support group

Support groups are a great way for people with common goals and experiences to provide each other with encouragement and advice. Usually limited in size to keep them intimate, they offer a safe space for like-minded people to connect, learn from each other, and grow together. While formal support groups may appear to be a …

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Worrying well: how to bring wisdom to your worries

Worry is traditionally seen as a negative emotion. But is it possible worry has a positive function, and that we just don’t tend to use it well? Physician and researcher Martin L. Rossman argues that worry is actually an adaptive function to better solve problems and imagine creative solutions. And worrying well is a skill …

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How to bridge the intention-behaviour gap

These are raw notes from the Maintaining health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic King’s College conference on April 2, 2020. This lecture by Dr Joseph Chilcot was titled Health behaviour for COVID-19: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t expect any commentary or additional research. You know sugar is bad for your health. …

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