psychology en-US 8 Powerful Brain Hacks You Can Do in Under 2 Minutes <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-powerful-brain-hacks-you-can-do-in-under-2-minutes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="mind power" title="mind power" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Brain Hacking, also known as &quot;mind hacking&quot; has become increasingly popular over the last few years. According to <a href="">Squidoo</a>, mind hacking is &quot;to perform some act that gains access to the fundamental mechanism behind your mind and other people's minds by here-to-fore unknown or apparently mystical means.&quot; (See also: <a href="">13 Easy Ways to Improve Your Brain</a>)</p> <p>Other people see it simply as &quot;mind over mind over matter,&quot; which basically comes down to self-control using techniques that allow you to tap into your mind's seemingly unlimited potential. Now, with these 12 quick and easy brain hacks, you can unlock some of that latent ability and surprise yourself, and your friends and colleagues. And maybe even some new dates.</p> <h2>1. &quot;Smell&quot; Yourself More Attractive</h2> <p>Right now, you can make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex just by <em>thinking</em> one thought over and over in your head. That thought is, &quot;hey, I really smell terrific,&quot; or some variation of it. Researchers at the University of Liverpool conducted tests on men, seeing how they felt about themselves <a href="">after spraying on deodorants</a> that contained powerful ingredients. However, half of the men got spray that contained no such magic ingredients. The results were the same. By believing they smelled great to the opposite sex, the opposite sex found them more attractive.</p> <h2>2. Reduce Your Pain&hellip;With Binoculars</h2> <p>&quot;Pain is all in the mind.&quot; How many times have you heard that and thought &quot;yeah, right!&quot; If you slice your finger cutting vegetables, or whack your little toe on the corner of the nightstand, it's not so easy to convince yourself it doesn't hurt.</p> <p>However, researchers at Oxford University found a non-medicinal way to make the pain shrink &mdash; <a href="">they used inverted binoculars.</a> When subjects looked at their wound through the wrong end, it made the wound <a href="">seem a lot smaller</a>, and in turn they felt less pain. It sounds nuts, but it's true. The upshot of this is when you get pain, you have to imagine that pain being much smaller; or simply look away. Focusing on your wound will bring you increased pain.</p> <h2>3. Organize Using Your Imagination</h2> <p>Cleaning. 99% of us really don't like doing it. Whether it's a messy room, a desk at work, or the cluttered basement, the task always seems overwhelming. But there is a very quick brain hack you can do to make that task much easier.</p> <p><a href="">Watch how PJ Eby</a> uses this trick on a messy desk.</p> <p>First, you look at your desk and take in the whole situation. Look at the mess, the chaos, and the disorder. Then, close your eyes and visualize that desk as clean and organized. Next, you need to feel good about what you visualized. Feel relaxed about the desk. Feel proud. Finally, hold that feeling, and the clean desk image, in your mind. Let it wash over you. You should almost be seeing in x-ray vision, looking through the clutter to the clean space.</p> <p>What you have done is kick-start your brain's automatic planning system. By comparing the two images, you are automatically going to see places for things to go, and what to do with them. It's something that takes less than a minute, but can save you hours of frustration.</p> <h2>4. Improve Your Memory With a Mind Palace</h2> <p>If you're a fan of the BBC show <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B004132HZS&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=YGHVABWLWBVIJGLG">Sherlock</a>, you will be all too familiar with the mind palace. However, you don't need to be an egomaniacal genius to make your own. It's a technique that dates back to <a href="">ancient Rome and Greece,</a> and it's a simple but effective way to store and recall a lot of information.</p> <p>First, you create a layout of a building or town in your brain. It should be composed of memorable places and signs. For instance, you create a shopping mall, and the first store on your right is a jewelers, followed by a burger stand and then a gym. Now, you place items you want to remember inside the different stores. Once inside each store, there will be a similar approach to the layout, with different sections, and shelves. And the key is to always use very distinct and bizarre combinations together, such as the title of this memory book &mdash; <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=159420229X&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=JCLEYWNUGPXF3BFF">Moonwalking With Einstein</a>. You can very easily walk through your palace whenever you want, and pluck items from the shelves with ease. Try it. This <a href="">journalist</a> did, and look how it worked for him.</p> <h2>5. Use Your Eyebrows to Become More Creative</h2> <p>If you ever want to feel more creative, try raising your eyebrows and widening your eyes. This simple technique appears to act as a boost for your creative mind, literally broadening the scope of your ideas as your widen your eyes and take more in. This is all backed by scientific research that was published in the Creativity Research Journal. Two groups of people were asked to come up with captions for a seemingly mundane image. Those with <a href="">raised eyebrows had much more creative and funny captions</a>. Try it for yourself at home and see how it works with your family.</p> <h2>6. Write Stuff Down to Remember It</h2> <p>This does not mean, &quot;type stuff down.&quot; No, you will have to go back to that archaic form of communication that uses a pen and a piece of paper. Or better yet, keep a little notepad and small pen or pencil on you as often as you can.</p> <p>An experiment conducted at Indiana University proved that the physical act of <a href=";">writing something down stimulated parts of the brain</a> that were not active when simply trying to remember something, or typing it into a computer. Perhaps it is the fact that your hand is hardwired to certain parts of the brain, and as you write you are pressing the words or images more deeply into your memory than the simple act of trying to remember. Whatever the reason, it works. Write it down, you'll remember it.</p> <h2>7. Avoid &quot;Choking&quot; By Singing</h2> <p>This is not the literal lack of breath, but rather falling victim to severe nerves and messing up something seemingly simple. It happens in sports a lot, but it can also happen to us if we have to give a presentation at work, or perhaps give a speech at a wedding.</p> <p>Choking is the result of pressure getting to us, usually because our brain is working overtime on all the &quot;what ifs&quot; and worst case scenarios. The way to beat it is fairly simple; do something to keep your brain occupied. Research shows that singing to yourself gives your brain <a href="">something to do instead of stressing out</a>. By singing, you are holding your brain hostage to a task you have given it, and it cannot concentrate on all the disasters you think are going to happen. Sing until it's your time to do something, be it sinking a long putt, giving a speech, or bowling a strike for a perfect game.</p> <h2>8. Stop Stress by Laughing &mdash; Seriously</h2> <p>Fans of <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B005YVP366&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=X5TRTSMFUMLPQHWB">The Office (UK)</a> will remember the painfully awkward scene with David Brent laughing as a motivational speaker. (<a href="">If not, refresh your memory here.</a>)</p> <p>Although it was done poorly to showcase Brent's delusions, it's actually a great way to <a href="">relieve stress</a> and think more creatively. Laughter releases dopamine, and even if you feel dumb doing it, you will eventually reap the rewards. Of course, these days we all have an instant home entertainment system in our pocket. Just pull out your smart phone, Google a funny video (perhaps something you know has made you cry with laughter in the past) and spend two minutes putting a smile on your face. Your shoulders will lift, you will feel better, and you will think more clearly. Try it out.</p> <p><em>Any other quick mind hacks you'd like to share? Please do so in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="8 Powerful Brain Hacks You Can Do in Under 2 Minutes" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Paul Michael</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> General Tips Personal Development brain hacks mind hacks mind tricks psychology Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:00:03 +0000 Paul Michael 1193088 at 4 Ways Your Mind Can Make You Rich <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/4-ways-your-mind-can-make-you-rich" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Le baiser de l&#039;hôtel de ville" title="Le baiser de l&#039;hôtel de ville" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I was in my early 20s, I had a lovely photograph of a solitary woman hanging in my bedroom. My mother suggested that I switch it out for a picture of a couple. According to a <a href="">theory of Feng Shui</a> that she had read, the way you decorate your home reflects your intentions &mdash; so if you have artwork depicting loneliness in your bedroom, then you're more likely to be unlucky in love.</p> <p>I rolled my eyes at my mom &mdash; but I switched out the picture of the woman for a poster of Robert Doisneau's famous photograph <a href="">Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville</a>, which I had previously displayed in my living room.</p> <p>A few months after making the switch, I met the man who is now my husband.</p> <p>While proponents of Feng Shui, the <a href="">law of attraction</a>, and other somewhat off-the-wall theories about cause and effect would claim that the universe responded to my decorating change, science offers an even more intriguing possibility: <a href="">priming</a>.</p> <h2>Understanding Priming</h2> <p>Psychologists have discovered that our behavior and thinking can change based upon the context of information that we receive. This phenomenon is known as <em>priming</em>, and it can affect everything from your behavior to your emotions.</p> <p>For instance, researchers have found that simply hearing the words <a href=";fa=main.doiLanding&amp;doi=10.1037/0022-3514.71.2.230">Florida, forgetful, and wrinkle</a> is enough to cause individuals to start walking more slowly, as if they are feeling the effects of aging. In another experiment, researchers have found that individuals holding a hot cup of coffee when talking to another person felt more positive about the conversation. The warmth of the cup translated into a feeling of warmth about the interaction.</p> <h2>Think Yourself Rich</h2> <p>There are various ways to provide your brain with the kind of stimulus that can help to achieve your financial dreams &mdash; just as I reached my romantic dream. Here are four things you can do to help put your mind to work for you.</p> <h2>1. Visualize Doing It</h2> <p>Athletes have understood the importance of active visualization for some time. They will often spend hours thinking about what it will look like, sound like, and feel like to stick the landing, sink the shot, or hit the ball.</p> <p>In a recent study at the University of Chicago, three groups of participants were asked to make as many free throws as they could. Then, the first group was asked to practice free throws for an hour every day, the second group was asked to visualize making free throws every day, and the third group did nothing. A month later, the first group had improved by 24%. The second group had improved by an impressive 23% <a href="">without setting foot on a basketball court</a>. The control group had made no improvement. Clearly, visualizing an activity can help you improve your performance.</p> <p>It's important to clarify that visualizing is very different from creating <em>a vision board</em>. That's because vision boards can actually be detrimental to your goals. Studies that ask participants to envision good outcomes (such as getting an A on an exam or winning a tennis match) have found that the <a href="">participants do worse on their exam or match</a> if they have visualized the positive outcome. That's because those types of visions skip over the hard work (and those visualizers do study and practice less), and jumps right to the feel-good ending. This is clearly not helpful.</p> <p>The difference between the type of visualizing that athletes do and the vision boards is action. Athletic visualization is very active and involves multiple senses. Imagining winning the gold or cutting out pictures of the things you'd like to own someday is much more passive and dreamy.</p> <p>If you want to visualize yourself rich, spend your visualization time thinking through how you will handle various financial situations, from salary negotiation to saying no to pressures to spend money. Priming your brain for these situations ahead of time will do much more for your ability to get rich than gluing a picture of a yacht to a piece of poster board.</p> <h2>2. Appreciate What You Have</h2> <p>If you want to use your mind to make yourself rich, take a moment to truly <a href="">look at all that you have with new eyes</a>. Isn't it incredible that you can speak to people the world over, learn almost anything about almost any subject, and look at pictures of grumpy cats using a device no bigger than a deck of cards? We really are living in an exciting time and there is an incredible bounty available to us.</p> <p>Reminding yourself of the abundance in your life allows you to step out of the &quot;consume consume consume&quot; culture that we live in and recognize that you can feel rich with what you already have. While this thought experiment will not necessarily add dollars to your bank account, it will leave you feeling richer and more satisfied with your life &mdash; and isn't that the point of wealth?</p> <h2>3. Give Money Away</h2> <p>In his book <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B000QFBXHI&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=ZTMUQEI7WVBWYUMD">More Than Enough: The Ten Keys to Changing Your Financial Destiny</a>, Dave Ramsey talks about the difference between having an open hand or a closed fist:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;">I see the closed fist often in the area of money: a fist full of dollars tightly held so that those precious dollars never get away. That closed fist represents someone who doesn't know how to give. They think if they clutch those dollars tight enough, never giving, that they are on the path to more than enough. The real world will teach you that the opposite is true: those with more than enough got there by giving.</p> <p>All of this sounds a little woo-woo, but there is something to Ramsey's analogy. Specifically, individuals who are close-fisted with their money tend to have very negative money scripts &mdash; <a href="">unconscious beliefs about money created in childhood</a>. If you feel that you must hold tightly to your money, you probably believe things like there will never be enough money or the amount of money you have reflects on who you are as a person.</p> <p>One solution to dealing with these money scripts is to get in the habit of giving money away. If you change your attitude about money from something that you must tightly hold to something that flows through your life, then you are in a better position to see and accept wealth-generating opportunities when they arise.</p> <h2>4. Repeat Positive Affirmations</h2> <p>Stuart Smalley was onto something when he repeatedly told himself, &quot;<a href="">I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me</a>!&quot;</p> <p>As it turns out, positive affirmations can really help prime your brain to make significant changes. That's because <a href="">your mind does not know the difference between reality and fantasy</a>. This is why your heart races while watching a horror movie &mdash; your mind is empathizing with the characters on the screen even though you know intellectually that they are not real.</p> <p>So if you tell yourself over and over &quot;<a href="">I welcome wealth into my life</a> and I love the positive energy that money brings to me,&quot; then your mind will fall in line with the belief system you are stating. Repeat your affirmations out loud three times a day for five minutes. And be like Stuart &mdash; look at yourself in the mirror while you're doing it.</p> <p>If you find yourself rolling your eyes when you state your affirmations, however, you might see no results from this new habit. That's because we all already have affirmations in our heads, and many of them are very negative. You might be trying to reprogram your mind by stating a positive affirmation, but the negative voice inside is undermining it by whispering something like, This is stupid. You will always struggle with money.&quot;</p> <p>If you do have a negative reaction to affirmations, it's a good idea to examine exactly what that inner voice is saying and poke holes in the negative message. Don't let your negative affirmation get in the way of your wealth.</p> <h2>Harness the Power of Your Brain</h2> <p>The human mind is an incredible machine. It helps to create the reality you live in, and you can give it gentle nudges toward the goals you want. If you visualize, appreciate, give, and affirm, your brain will help to bring you closer to the lifestyle you deserve.</p> <p><em>Have you used the power of your brain to build wealth &mdash; or sink more putts? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="4 Ways Your Mind Can Make You Rich" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Emily Guy Birken</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Development affirmation behavior confidence psychology wealth Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:00:05 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 1191315 at 12 New Ways Restaurants Trick You to Spend More <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/12-new-ways-restaurants-trick-you-to-spend-more" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="good restaurant service" title="good restaurant service" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, my favorite spot was a little place called The Blue Danube, familiarly known as &quot;The Dube.&quot; In addition to the usual inexpensive bar fare, the menu there offered the <a href="">Dube Dinner Deluxe</a> which paired a bottle of Dom Perignon with a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches (made with Roquefort cheese) at a cost of $185.</p> <p>Though I always regarded the Dube Dinner Deluxe as more of a joke than anything else, I've since come to realize that including it on the menu was a savvy marketing strategy on the part of the bar's owners.</p> <p>Due to a cognitive bias known as <a href="">anchoring</a>, diners are more likely to buy mid-priced items when the menu highlights a very expensive meal. Just the existence of a high-priced item is enough to make the other prices on the menu seem reasonable in comparison. &quot;Menu engineers&quot; (and yes, that's a real profession) actually describe these very high priced items as &quot;<a href="">decoys</a>,&quot; since they're only there to soften the sticker shock of other offerings. (See also: <a href="">13 Overpriced Restaurant Items</a>)</p> <p>As it turns out, restaurants have a pretty good handle on behavioral psychology &mdash; which is why you often end up leaving with a fuller belly and a lighter wallet than you intended. Here are 12 of the sneakiest tricks that restaurants use to get you spend more.</p> <h2>Menu Presentation</h2> <p>A well-designed menu is the single greatest asset for a restaurant's bottom line, as it can help to steer customers to the items the restaurant most wants to sell. That's why you'll find nearly all restaurants have many or all of the following features on their menus.</p> <h3>1. Visual Highlights</h3> <p>If you have ever wondered why some menu items are placed in a text box or otherwise bolded, it's because the restaurant wants to draw your attention to the item. Often, the boxed-off menu item is something that is a major profit-maker for the restaurant &mdash; like chicken wings, for example. Wings cost the restaurant pennies, so the more they sell, the more they profit.</p> <p>In addition, menu designers recognize that most people's eyes are drawn to the <a href="">top right-hand corner</a>, so that is where the big money-maker dishes are often placed. You may have noticed this if you've ever searched in vain for a simple burger on a menu. Burgers and sandwiches and the like don't tend be super profitable in some restaurants, so they are often confined to &quot;menu Siberia,&quot; where you'll have to read through the pricier items before finding them.</p> <p>Finally, photographs of food tend to be powerful motivators, which is why restaurants will place photographs of only some of their menu items. The ones appearing in photographs are the most profitable dishes.</p> <p>Even in high-end restaurants, where photos on the menu are considered a little déclassé, you will often find line drawings or other visual representations of the big money makers.</p> <h3>2. Offering Two Portion Sizes</h3> <p>I often order salads when I dine out, and I have noticed that salads are usually offered in two sizes. This practice is called &quot;bracketing,&quot; and it's a no-win for the customer. Most customers will order the smaller/cheaper portion, thinking that the lower price is a better deal. But the menu does not specify how much smaller the cheaper portion will be, and in general the restaurant is actually hoping you'll buy the smaller size. If you do splurge on the larger salad, often the size difference will be made up in inexpensive lettuce.</p> <h3>3. Feeling Like Family</h3> <p>Diners tend to like seeing the <a href="">names of mothers, grandmothers, uncles, and other relatives</a> on their menus. That's why you'll see something listed as &quot;Bubbie's Chicken Soup&quot; or &quot;Uncle Doug's Famous Burgers&quot; rather than simply chicken noodle soup or &frac14; pound burgers.</p> <h3>4. Brand Name Recognition</h3> <p>Going along with that, menu designers have discovered that using <a href="">brand names helps boost sales</a>. For instance, T.G.I. Friday's offers Jack Daniel's sauce, and many restaurants make sure to specify that their juice is from Minute Maid. The name recognition is enough to help sell the food.</p> <h3>5. Descriptive Language</h3> <p>A study by Cornell University revealed that foods described in a more flowery or beautiful way were more appealing and popular with diners than the same items presented more plainly. For instance, the study would either label a dessert as &quot;New York Style Cheesecake with Godiva Chocolate Sauce&quot; or simply as &quot;Cheesecake.&quot; The results showed that diners chose the more descriptive menu items <a href="">27% more often</a> than the more plainly labeled items.</p> <p>Restaurants will often use this effect to highlight a profitable dish &mdash; while using much plainer description on a less profitable menu item placed nearby.</p> <h3>6. Price Shenanigans</h3> <p>One of the things you won't find in almost any menu, from a formal foodie haven down to Mom's Diner, is a dollar sign. Omitting the symbol from the price seems to be enough to spur diners to spend significantly more, according to another Cornell study.</p> <p>In addition, you'll notice something funny about the numbers on menus. You will rarely see any prices ending in a 9. For instance, a dessert will be listed as $4.95 <a href="">rather than $4.99</a>. Apparently, numbers ending in 5 seem &quot;friendlier,&quot; while numbers ending with 9 connote value, but not necessarily quality.</p> <p>Many restaurants will leave off the cents entirely, listing their dishes as a clean and simple number. All of these gambits make prices abstract, which makes spending feel less threatening and painful.</p> <h3>7. Price Placement</h3> <p>Many menus will avoid listing prices in a column, since that will make it much simpler to compare prices between meals. Instead, many restaurants will bury each item's price beneath the description.</p> <p>Even if prices are listed across from the dishes, restaurants generally do not print leader dots between the dish name and the price. It's harder to scan across to the price without those dots, meaning you're more likely to focus on the dish.</p> <h2>Service</h2> <p>The menu is not the only way restaurants try to manipulate your spending. Your friendly server is also in on it.</p> <h3>8. Introducing Themselves by Name</h3> <p>When your server introduces himself as Todd and claims he'll be &quot;taking care of you this evening,&quot; he's not just being friendly. Studies have shown that <a href="">restaurant tipping is higher when servers introduce themselves</a> because the interaction feels more personal.</p> <h3>9. Upselling</h3> <p>Servers are trained to ask you if you'd like to add to your meal during every step of the ordering process. For instance, when you order a cocktail, your server might offer you a choice of brands of liquor &mdash; letting you know that the restaurant carries both Bombay and Beefeaters gin, for instance. What the server does not tell you is that there is also a perfectly good and inexpensive gin that the bartender would have used had you not specified either Bombay or Beefeaters.</p> <h3>10. Listing Specials Verbally</h3> <p>In addition to upselling, servers are also trained to rattle off the day's specials &mdash; from the appetizers to the soups to the entrees to the desserts &mdash; off the top of their heads. This practice provides you with a mouth watering description of the foods that the restaurant is hoping to sell, but it does not give you the price point for each special. Many diners are too embarrassed to ask about the prices of specials, meaning they are surprised when the bill comes.</p> <h3>11. Beverage Timing</h3> <p>You've probably noticed that good servers get your beverage from the bar very quickly after you place your order. That's partially because if the timing is right, you'll run out of your drink either before your entrée arrives or in the middle of your meal &mdash; which will often mean you ask for a refill. If you're drinking a bottle of wine, you might find that your server is Johnny-on-the-spot with refills, since you might be persuaded to purchase another bottle if the first one is empty before your plate is.</p> <h3>12. The Midas Touch</h3> <p>Waitresses in particular are known for being very friendly and even lightly touching diners on the shoulder or hand. That's partially because studies have shown that both men and women tend to tip significantly more when their waitresses touch them in a friendly way. Researchers have dubbed this the <a href="">Midas Touch</a>.</p> <p>This Midas Touch <a href="">does not extend to male servers</a>, however. Diners are more likely to see that kind of touch as creepy rather than friendly or nurturing when it comes from a waiter rather than a waitress.</p> <h2>Limiting Your Restaurant Spending</h2> <p>Unfortunately, the restaurants hold most of the cards when you decide to treat yourself to a meal out. Since you are there to enjoy yourself, it can be very difficult to attempt to counteract the psychological tricks since doing so will likely negatively affect your enjoyment.</p> <p>The best way to deal with these issues is to plan ahead. Bring cash so you cannot spend more than you brought. Check out the menu online and decide what you will order before you arrive. Make sure you ask questions of your server if you're not sure of prices or options. And plan to savor your food and drink, since it will help you be more satisfied and lessen the possibility of over-ordering and overeating.</p> <p><em>Have you noticed any other tricks of the restaurant trade? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="12 New Ways Restaurants Trick You to Spend More" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Emily Guy Birken</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink Shopping dining out psychology restaurants spending tricks Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:00:04 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 1189022 at 4 Weird Brain Hacks That Make You a Better Person With Almost No Effort <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/4-weird-brain-hacks-that-make-you-a-better-person-with-almost-no-effort" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="garden" title="garden" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We tend to think of our personalities as pretty set in stone. If you have always been short-tempered or shy or change-averse, you may think that it's simply who you are. Yes, you might be able to work hard over years to chip away at the aspects of your personality that you'd like to change, but overall, what you see it what you get. (See also: <a href="">13 Easy Ways to Improve Your Brain</a>)</p> <p>But it turns out that your mind is much more like clay than marble. With the right brain hacks, you can make real and lasting changes to just about any aspect of yourself &mdash; without feeling like you are fighting a war with your true nature.</p> <p>Here are four brain hacks that can help you to become the best version of yourself.</p> <h2>1. Become More Generous by Spending Time in a Beautiful Garden</h2> <p>It has been well established that spending time in nature is both calming and mentally restorative. However, recent studies out of the University of California and the University of Southern California have determined that subjects who spend time in natural places that they find beautiful increase what's known as &quot;<a href="">prosocial tendencies</a>.&quot; Basically, after spending time in a beautiful spot, subjects show more agreeableness, empathy, generosity, trust, and helping behavior.</p> <p>What is interesting about these studies is that they show how important it is for the subject to perceive their surroundings as <em>beautiful</em> in order to experience the generosity increase. It's not enough to be outside in nature &mdash; you must also appreciate the beauty of the nature you see.</p> <h3>How to Use This Hack</h3> <p>If you have a garden, now is the time to spend some time in it. Not only will working in your garden give you a sense of satisfaction (and a <a href="">reduction of the stress hormone cortisol</a>), but making your own little patch of nature look more beautiful will also help to improve your relationships and increase your empathetic and generous behavior.</p> <p>If you don't have a garden to tend, regularly make plans to head outside for a walk through a beautiful spot. Bring a grumpy friend and help hack his brain, too.</p> <h2>2. Prime Your Brain for Improvement With the Right Words</h2> <p>The language that you use to talk to yourself actually has an effect on your brain. That's because your brain retains the memory of the words you say, even if you don't think that you recall them. Adam Dachis of Lifehacker explains it this way:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;">If you were to say the word <em>mustard</em> out loud, and then you were to see a portion of the word later, <a href="">you'd be reminded of mustard</a>. For example, if you were to say, 'I must have this,' you might be reminded of mustard because of the word must. If you were hungry and liked mustard, you may even want some.</p> <p>This is because your mind has been primed to think about mustard. Your brain retains the memory of you saying the word out loud, and so it gives you a kind of a neural shortcut to get back to the word that clearly must be important because you said it out loud.</p> <p>Advertisers have been using <a href="">priming</a> for years, but you can also use it to hack your brain to be happier, more ambitious, or more outgoing. All you have to do is create the right list of words to say out loud.</p> <h3>How to Use This Hack</h3> <p>Create a list of words that you associate with whatever feeling you are trying to evoke in yourself. For instance, if you are trying to encourage yourself to become more outgoing, you might come up with this list of words:</p> <ul> <li>friendly</li> <li>eager</li> <li>talk</li> <li>enthusiasm</li> <li>go</li> <li>yes</li> <li>smile</li> <li>people</li> <li>fun</li> <li>interest</li> </ul> <p>After reading this list aloud, you will find yourself in a more outgoing mindset. Reading the list will help to focus your thoughts and prime your brain to react in an outgoing manner throughout your day.</p> <p>While reading this priming list aloud every day is not going to magically transform a wallflower into a social butterfly, it does provide you with the mindset that encourages the behavior you're aiming for.</p> <h2>3. Improve Your Willpower by Becoming a Lefty (or a Righty)</h2> <p>Whether you have trouble passing up the office donut box or you find yourself consistently blowing your top over minor issues, the root cause is the same: a lack of self-control.</p> <p>But before you start beating yourself up, it's important to remember that studies have shown that <a href="">self-control is a limited resource that can be depleted</a>. Basically, willpower is like a muscle &mdash; and it can be exhausted. But it can also be strengthened, just like a muscle.</p> <p>Specifically, allowing yourself to be regularly frustrated can help you to improve your willpower muscle because you become more immune to feelings of frustration. And according to a study from the University of New South Wales, an excellent way to do this is to <a href="">use your non-dominant hand</a> for two weeks. Aggressive individuals who practiced being a lefty (or a righty, if they were left-handed) for two weeks were able to respond to annoyances more calmly after the experiment.</p> <h3>How to Use This Hack</h3> <p>If you are concerned about your ability to practice self-control, plan on using your non-dominant hand for everything (within reason and safety concerns) for two weeks. This means that you will be fighting your habitual tendencies for two weeks straight. While it will be difficult to remember to butter your toast with your left hand for two weeks, your capacity for self-control will grow stronger over that time. Afterwards, you will find it easier to pass up that cruller or keep your cool when you get cut off in traffic.</p> <h2>4. Rearrange Your Refrigerator to Eat Healthier</h2> <p>You have every intention of eating better. But it seems like all the fruit you buy just rots in the bottom of the fridge, and you end up snacking on potato chips and onion dip <em>yet again</em>.</p> <p>While it might be simplest to just not buy the junk food that tempts you away from eating right, that's not always feasible. A junk food loving family member or roommate can easily thwart those plans. Instead, make eating healthy easier by rearranging the food in your kitchen.</p> <h3>How to Use This Hack</h3> <p>Specifically, put your carrot sticks and apple slices front and center in your refrigerator so that they are easier to see and grab. If you put the onion dip in a far corner, you'll make it even easier to avoid, since you're less likely to see it and be tempted by it.</p> <p>This hack comes from Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the authors of the book <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=014311526X&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=L76N3HHV4AEWFCBP">Nudge</a>. They refer to such a change as &quot;<a href="">choice architecture</a>.&quot; Basically, if you make it harder to do the unhealthy thing, you're more likely to make the healthy choice.</p> <p>In addition to putting your healthy snacks in a prominent position in the refrigerator, it's also a good idea to prep those healthy foods ahead of time so all you have to do is grab a bag of pre-cut fruit slices when you're hungry. Add that to placing all of the unhealthy foods in as remote a spot as possible in the refrigerator, and it will be easier to eat healthy without thinking about it.</p> <h2>You Can Train Your Brain</h2> <p>Our brains are wired to respond to all kinds of stimuli. If you know how to hack that wiring, you can improve your life without any of that overwhelming, soul-sucking, hard work that's usually required.</p> <p><em>Have you been able to trick yourself into becoming a better person? Do the right thing and share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="4 Weird Brain Hacks That Make You a Better Person With Almost No Effort" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Emily Guy Birken</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> General Tips Personal Development brain hacks psychology self improvement Fri, 20 Jun 2014 15:00:07 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 1145232 at 8 Reasons Why It's OK to Eat Meat <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-reasons-why-its-ok-to-eat-meat" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="barbecue" title="barbecue" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>These days, it seems like meat doesn't have many friends. Vegetarians hate it. Environmentalists rail against it. And your doctor has probably told you to avoid it.</p> <p>But it may be time to come to meat's defense. After all, there is considerable evidence to suggest that lean beef and other meats can be a meaningful part of a balanced diet.</p> <p>No one is suggesting you must eat an 18-ounce Porterhouse for every meal. But you may be surprised to find that meat can be very good for you in ways you never considered.</p> <p>Consider these great benefits of eating meat.</p> <h2>1. It's Packed With Protein</h2> <p>One six ounce steak has about 44 grams of protein, or nearly 90% of the daily recommended intake for an average middle-aged man. That's great for building strong muscles and repairing damaged tissues.</p> <h2>2. It's a Great Source of Iron</h2> <p>If you're feeling tired or lethargic, more meat may be what you need. Most meats, especially beef, have <a href="">high amounts of iron</a>, a mineral that helps ensure good oxygen content in the blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the iron in meat can be absorbed two to three times faster than the iron in plants. In fact, the CDC said eating meat can help the body more effectively absorb the iron we get from other foods.</p> <h2>3. It Has Lots of Other Vitamins, Too</h2> <p>Meat is also <a href="">a great source of vitamin B12</a>, which is only available from animal products and helps release energy from food. It also contains helpful amounts of vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, phosphorous, and riboflavin, according to the US Department of Agriculture. People who avoid meat have to work extra hard to find these vitamins and minerals in other foods.</p> <h2>4. It Has Fat, but Not All of It's Bad</h2> <p>It's important to know that there are different kinds of fat, and some are more healthful than others. Saturated fat is generally not good for you, but monounsaturated fat &mdash; the kind found in olive oil &mdash; can help boost your HDL (good) cholesterol. And guess what? About <a href="">half of the fat content in beef</a> is monounsaturated. Beef also has a small amount of polyunsaturated fat, including the heart-helpful Omega-3 and Omega-6.</p> <h2>5. It Fills You Up and May Help You Lose Weight</h2> <p>In part because of that great protein, beef takes a while to digest. That's a good thing if you are looking to keep your appetite in check. Beef rates quite <a href="">high on the Satiety Index</a>, which scores foods based on how long they can keep a person feeling full. Beef has a score of 176, meaning that it is 76% more satisfying than a similarly sized portion of white bread. (See also: <a href="">9 Foods That Will Keep You Satisfied Longer</a>)</p> <h2>6. Our Bodies Know What to Do With It</h2> <p>Many health-conscious people have adopted the &quot;Paleolithic&quot; diet, which essentially eliminates any food that we humans didn't eat in the early days of our evolution. The diet is based on the theory that humans haven't really changed much genetically in thousands of years, so it's best to stick with foods we commonly ate during our hunter-gatherer days. That means we're essentially left with meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Our bodies, in theory, know exactly how to digest and process these foods.</p> <h2>7. It May Be Good for the Environment</h2> <p>OK, there are many people who will surely disagree with this one. After all, a United Nations report estimated that livestock are responsible for as much as <a href="">18% of all greenhouse gases</a>. But there are some who argue that figure is actually lower, and that livestock can actually be helpful to the ecology when properly raised.</p> <p>In his book, &quot;<a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=1603583246&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=FZHLR4FWH3UWHF4S">Meat: A Benign Extravagance</a>,&quot; author Simon Fairlie writes that livestock <a href="">can play a role </a>in a well-balanced ecosystem.</p> <p>&quot;Livestock provide the biodiversity that trees on their own cannot provide,&quot; he writes. &quot;They are the best means we have of keeping wide areas clear and open to solar energy and wind energy. They harness biomass that would otherwise be inaccessible, and recycle waste that would otherwise be a disposal problem.&quot;</p> <h2>8. It's Great for Your Mental Health</h2> <p>I count grilling out on a summer evening among life's greatest pleasures. And there is at least one study that suggests <a href="">cookouts can be beneficial to your psyche</a>. A study in Psychology Science said that many &quot;comfort foods&quot; &mdash; such as those found during a typical family cookout &mdash; can play a role in making people feel less lonely. Environmental psychologist Sally Augustin further theorizes that there is an additional <a href="">benefit to being outside</a>, and that the music played at barbecues can improve a person's mental outlook.</p> <p><em>What's your favorite reason to eat more meat? Please share in comments! </em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="8 Reasons Why It&#039;s OK to Eat Meat" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tim Lemke</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink Health and Beauty dieting Food meat nutrition psychology Mon, 05 May 2014 09:00:15 +0000 Tim Lemke 1137747 at 3 Survival Instincts That Harm Investors <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/3-survival-instincts-that-harm-investors" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="broken piggy bank" title="broken piggy bank" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="230" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I remember as a kid how my inclination toward saving hurt me. One day, during a neighborhood gathering, a boy named Chuck was dispensing malted milk candies to his friends, me included.</p> <p>The other kids ate the candy as soon as they got theirs, but I ate a few pieces and stored the rest. So, when Chuck noticed that I hadn't consumed my portion, he said he wouldn't give me as much in the second round of candy distribution. (See also: <a href="">Delayed Gratification and the Secret to Will Power</a>)</p> <p>Back then, my desire to set aside a gift for another day worked against me. Later, as a teen and adult, saving tendencies became advantageous to my financial well-being.</p> <p>Similarly, primitive instincts that ensure our survival in some circumstances can work against us in modern-day scenarios. There are three areas in which our natural tendencies, embedded in our psyches from the days of our <a href="">hunter-gatherer ancestors</a>, may detract from investing success.</p> <h2>1. Consume Right Away</h2> <p>As a kid, I may have been healthier than others by limiting consumption of candy at one sitting. But in leaner times, millenniums before packaged candy and grocery stores were commonplace, eating immediately after trapping or gathering food was essential to survival and strength. Otherwise, items would spoil and the effort to hunt and gather was wasted.</p> <p>Today, the instinct to consume right away rather than set aside for consumption years or decades later can hurt our investing success, former <a href="">Wall Street Journal personal-finance writer Jonathan Clements</a> once told me. Put simply, our focus on short-term survival causes us to spend now. As a result, we often don't have money to take care of long-term needs. (See also: <a href="">Is Instant Gratification Financially Responsible?</a>)</p> <p>We need to overcome the instinct to spend on immediate and pressing concerns, leaving us the cash to save for financial goals, such as our children's education or our retirement. A first and very important step to successful investing is to consume less than you earn and set aside money for the future.</p> <h2>2. Favor What Is Popular</h2> <p>Many experts point to the &quot;<a href="">herd instinct</a>&quot; as a detriment to investing success. In <a target="_blank" href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=074945637X&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Forecasting Financial Markets: The Psychology of Successful Investing</a>, author Tony Plummer explains how this inclination can hurt investors: &quot;On the one hand, their own 'personal' approach to making an investment decision may suggest one course of action; on the other, the lure of the 'herd instinct' may be pulling entirely in the opposite direction.&quot; He goes on to say that even professionals can be swayed by popular opinion at times when ignoring the crowd would ultimately be more profitable.</p> <p>Today, the instinct to listen to the group and follow the crowd is often useful. For example, you may choose a restaurant based on reviews on <a href="">Yelp</a>, book a room at an inn after referencing feedback on <a href="">TripAdvisor</a>, or choose a plumber by following recommendations from Facebook friends. (See also: <a href="">How to Make Facebook Productive</a>)</p> <p>This instinct to favor what is popular and well-liked among family, friends, and neighbors was crucial in the human race's early days. Clements notes that common group knowledge supported survival. For example, if everyone drank from a certain body of water or ate a strange food and lived happily afterward, then the water or food was deemed safe to consume. Following the crowd simplified decision making, offering an easy and secure way to live.</p> <p>Today, however, we may suffer harm when we apply such thought processes to investing decisions. That is, favoring what is popular or following the crowd may not be the best way to invest our money. Specifically, we often wrongly chase performance, buying shares of stocks, mutual funds, or other assets based on recent past performance and unloading them from our portfolio when everyone else is selling.</p> <p>We need to retrain our instincts not to ignore the crowd altogether but to place a much greater weight to a disciplined investment approach.</p> <h2>3. Never Take Risks</h2> <p>In hunter-gatherer days, little was gained by taking risks. There was no upside to trying something new and generally much to lose on the downside. For example, being the first to sample the water of a newly found stream or taste a new food could result in death.</p> <p>Today, being the first to discover and market a new drug, technology, product, etc. is often associated with greater wealth. For example, being an early investor in a startup that becomes wildly successful could provide rich rewards when the company becomes profitable and its stock price soars. (See also: <a href="">How to Manage Risk in Your Financial Life</a>)</p> <p>Further, avoiding risk can actually be risky. That is, if you keep all your money in a low-yield savings account, then you may not be able to earn enough interest to beat the inflation rate. So by not taking on risk in the stock market or other investments, your purchasing power is diminished, albeit slowly over time.</p> <p>Avoiding loss in the past was a positive attribute and helped people to stay safe and preserve their well-being.</p> <p>Now, though, the instinct to avoid risk may prevent us from investing at all and reaping gains through these investments. Though we shouldn't be reckless with our lives or our money, we do need to take appropriate risks when needed to grow our investment portfolio.</p> <p>You don't need to abandon your survival instincts. But you should learn to recognize when to counteract instinctual decisions to save money for investing, take appropriate risks, and stick to an investment plan.</p> <p><em>Have your survival instincts gotten in the way of your investments?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="3 Survival Instincts That Harm Investors" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Investment investing investments psychology Thu, 19 Sep 2013 10:24:17 +0000 Julie Rains 988368 at Sleep Better With Calming Words <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/sleep-better-with-calming-words" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="woman sleeping" title="woman sleeping" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Via <a href="">Lifehacker</a> and Men's Health comes word of a surprising discovery reported in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology <a href="">that people sleep better</a>, and perhaps fall asleep faster, simply by exposure to &quot;sleep-related&quot; words and phrases. (See also: <a href="">How to Naturally Reset Your Sleep Cycle</a>)</p> <p>Notably (and suggested by the study's title, &quot;The Effect of Subliminal Priming on Sleep Duration&quot;), participants did not actually read the magic sleep words; they picked up the suggestion unconsciously from words in the environment around them. In the experiment, some subjects were exposed to words such as &quot;cozy&quot; or &quot;relax&quot; for five minutes. Others were exposed to &quot;neutral&quot; words. Sleepy word subjects slept 47% longer, and their heart rates were reduced, compared to the neutral word group.</p> <p>Study lead author Mitsuru Shimizu suggested to <a href="">Men's Health</a> the finding could be a cheap substitute for sleeping medication:</p> <blockquote><p>Write down slumber-centric words like &ldquo;calm,&rdquo; &ldquo;rest,&rdquo; and &rdquo;drift away&rdquo; on notecards or sticky notes. Place them in your bathroom, on your bedside table, or anywhere else you&rsquo;ll see them in the hour before you go to bed, Shimizu suggests. Exposing yourself to this kind of language should improve your sleep, he says.</p> </blockquote> <h2>What's Going On?</h2> <p>In psychology &quot;priming&quot; is understood in terms of the creation of pathways to <a href="">a memory, stimulus, or construct</a>. Repeated exposure to the stimulus causes the pathways to deepen, and recognition of the thing or word to &quot;rise&quot; more readily to our conscious minds. This is why after hearing a new word once, we seem to notice it everywhere. It isn't that the word is suddenly everywhere; it's that our brains now have a pathway to its memory and we quickly recognize it. This is also why cramming for a test rarely works very well. We need to give ourselves enough repeated exposure to the material for the pathways to develop and the knowledge to stick. (See also: <a href="">Improve Your Memory and Get Smarter</a>)</p> <p>However, intentionally priming the unconscious with words and other cues to achieve a particular goal such as sleeping sounder, or performing better on tests, or unlocking creative potential &mdash; &quot;goal-priming&quot; &mdash; <a href="">is not without its critics</a>. Controversy erupted earlier this year when several of the most important experiments in the field <a href="">were found to be &quot;irreproducible</a>,&quot; which suggests that the original studies were somehow flawed, or perhaps even fraudulent.</p> <p>Who's right? Who knows? This test is simple enough to try at home and reach your own conclusions. Create your own sleepy time cue cards, rate the sleep that follows, and please report back with your findings!</p> <p><em>How do you fall asleep faster and stay sleeping sounder?</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Sleep Better With Calming Words" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Lars Peterson</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Life Hacks priming psychology sleep Wed, 18 Sep 2013 22:28:35 +0000 Lars Peterson 988369 at The Paradox of Choice and the Mortgage Crisis <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-paradox-of-choice-and-the-mortgage-crisis" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="couple looking at house" title="couple looking at house" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="181" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you're interested in having an illuminating (if possibly boring) evening, ask your parents or grandparents to tell you about the details of buying their first house. After getting over your indignation at the fact that homes a mile from Washington D.C. could be had for less than $50,000 in the early '70s, you might be surprised to hear how easy the process of getting a mortgage was back in the day. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="">Quiz: Am I Really&nbsp;Ready to Buy a Home?</a>)</p> <p>That's not to say that saving for the down payment, getting approved, and going through the mind numbing stack of paperwork at closing was any simpler or more fun when our parents were newlyweds &mdash; it's just that they had fewer options for their mortgages.</p> <p>In fact, they basically only had one option &mdash; a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for which they had to put down 20%. While they could shop around for the best annual percentage rates, that shopping around was fairly easy since they were only comparing APRs for the same kind of mortgage. Choosing the best mortgage was as simple as finding the lowest interest rate.</p> <p>Fast forward to the new millennium. Anyone who bought a house during the housing bubble can remember the dizzying array of choices available for mortgages: traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (as well as other fixed-rate mortgages with different term lengths), adjustable rate mortgages, sub-prime mortgages, interest-only mortgages (a misnomer if there ever was one), piggyback loans, mortgage buydowns &mdash; and those are just the options that I understand. Compared to our parents and grandparents, we were offered (and are still offered) a veritable wonderland of mortgage choices.</p> <p>That ought to be a good thing, right?</p> <p>You would think so. As Americans, we have a basic understanding that more choices mean more freedom &mdash; and boy do we love our freedom. But there's a reason why we had a mortgage crisis <em>after</em> all of these mortgage choices became available. It's part of what author Barry Schwartz describes as the Paradox of Choice in <a href="">his book</a> by the same name. Basically, having all this extra choice available does not make us any more likely to take the most rational and intelligent course of action &mdash; and according to Schwartz, extra choice actually has the opposite effect, making our choices less rational and less likely to make us happy.</p> <p>While there's no denying that many different issues worked together to create the mortgage crisis, I would suggest that the paradox of choice at least played a part in why our housing market collapsed in 2007-2008. Here's why.</p> <h2>The Optimism Bias</h2> <p>Human beings are spectacularly bad at predicting the future. This doesn't just mean that we're lousy at picking stocks or the winning team for the Super Bowl &mdash; we're also horrible at figuring out what the heck we ourselves will want in the future.</p> <p>If you've ever felt the Netflix dread that occurs after you receive the disc for the 17-hour award-winning documentary on beet farms in Romania when all you want to do is watch &quot;Weekend at Bernie's,&quot; you know exactly what I mean. You may think when you choose it that you'll want to watch &quot;Love and Death in the Beet Farms<em>&quot; </em>by the time it comes up in your queue, but you're making some assumptions about your future self that simply aren't true. Namely, that you will someday be the type of person who watches thought-provoking beet-related cinema, when in fact you're always a slapstick comedy kind of guy.</p> <p>An important aspect of our inability to predict what will make us happy in the future is a phenomenon called <a href="">the optimism bias</a>. We all experience this bias, even if it's just the false optimism about your ability to raise the tone of your movie preferences.</p> <p>In most cases, however, the optimism bias works to make us blind to possible negative consequences. No matter how pessimistic an outlook you may have, you are more likely to think that bad things will not happen to you and that good things are in store for you, than is statistically likely. The optimism bias is the reason why smokers feel comfortable with their risk of cancer and lung disease (&quot;It won't happen to me!&quot;) and why traders feel as though they can take big financial risks (&quot;Losses can't touch me!&quot;).</p> <p>In terms of the mortgage crisis, the optimism bias led many borrowers to take on more debt than they were able to handle. For instance, many of these innovative mortgage options allowed borrowers to increase the maximum amount they could borrow. While these new mortgages were designed to give borrowers more flexibility, that's not what happened. According to <a href="">Dan Ariely</a>, a behavioral economist at Duke University and author of <em><a href="">Predictably Irrational</a></em>,</p> <blockquote><p>When deciding on a mortgage, borrowers were told by the banks and by any mortgage calculator the maximum amount that they could borrow and not <strong><em>the optimal amount</em></strong> that they should borrow. So given a borrowing max of $400,000 with a regular mortgage or a borrowing max of $650,000 with an interest-only mortgage, would the average consumer borrow $400,000 with the interest-only mortgage and this way gain flexibility, or would they borrow to the new max? (Emphasis mine.)</p> </blockquote> <p>It's fairly clear that the flexibility intended to make paying the mortgage simpler was often used to buy a bigger house instead. When this happened, the borrower may have believed he was making a rational decision. This was an option made available to him by the bank, and he was certain he could make his payments in the future &mdash; because a foreclosure would never happen to him. And of course, the fact that the bank was willing to lend him that maximum amount meant he could afford it, right? Why would the bank lend him more money than he could pay back?</p> <p>Many people made this type of irrational choice because it was one of the many options available to them. They would certainly have been happier in the long run with a smaller house that they could comfortably pay for, but given extra choices, the optimism bias is likely to kick in and make it difficult to determine what will really make them happy in the future &mdash; particularly when a 4,000 square foot house with gleaming marble countertops and a lagoon-like backyard pool is staring them in the face right now.</p> <h2>Analysis Paralysis</h2> <p>Another major reason why borrowers ended up taking on more house/mortgage than they could afford has to do with a common choice problem known as <a href="">analysis paralysis</a>. Every new employee faced with an overwhelming number of options for enrolling in their company's <a href="">401(k)</a> has experienced this paralysis. Making a choice seems too difficult, and so it gets put off.</p> <p>Barry Schwartz talks about a study of this phenomenon in a <a href="">TED talk from 2005</a>. A researcher found that for every 10 mutual funds offered by a company's retirement program, employee participation went down 2%. This means that having 50 mutual fund options to choose from means a 10% decrease in participation compared to having only five options. It's much easier to choose the best of five options rather than comb through 50 in order to determine which option is best. So much easier that you're likely to just skip the task altogether if it seems too hard.</p> <p>I suspect that a similar phenomenon was going on during the housing bubble. The enormous number of mortgage options available was overwhelming to the average borrower. How would she know if it was better to take a tradition mortgage or an ARM or a piggyback mortgage, etc.? But rather than a paralysis that led to no decision whatsoever, this type of analysis paralysis likely made borrowers more susceptible to sales pitches from their banks. With a dizzying number of options, having your friendly neighborhood mortgage lender tell you that Mortgage X was a wonderful option is an easy way to make your choice. No need to investigate the various options &mdash; this one is the best, according to the lender.</p> <p>I saw this type of paralysis first hand when my husband bought his <a href="">first house</a> (which became ours after we married). He purchased the home in 2005, at the top of the housing bubble, and at the time he had no down payment saved. (You could get away with those kinds of shenanigans back then).</p> <p>He was offered a huge menu of different potential mortgages, including several adjustable rate mortgages that had incredibly low introductory rates. Staring cross-eyed at the options available to him, he found himself silently screaming, &quot;I just want this house!&quot; Many borrowers, when feeling this sense of helplessness and paralysis, might simply choose whatever option will get them the house for the cheapest amount in the short run.</p> <p>Luckily, my husband spent a little time researching and took the most conservative option available to a borrower who was putting no money down &mdash; a piggyback loan wherein he took out a home equity line of credit to pay for the down payment and a traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for the remaining 80%. But his analysis paralysis could have led to him taking one of the tempting ARM options available, which would have been devastating for us down the road. (As it was, he had two payments to make each month, which was less than ideal.)</p> <h2>Making Rational Decisions</h2> <p>Anyone who has gone mortgage shopping in the last four or five years knows that the wonderland of mortgage options is more limited than it once was. But we still have mortgage choices available to us that would have been completely alien to our parents and grandparents back in the day. Considering the potentially disastrous consequences of making a poor choice, how can we cut through the noise of those extra options?</p> <p>Richard Thaler, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, outlines an intriguing regulation idea in a <a href=";">New York Times article</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Lenders could be required to offer some mortgages they call 'plain vanilla,' with uniform terms. There might be one vanilla 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage and one five-year, adjustable-rate mortgage. The features of these plain mortgages would be uniform, much as in a standard lease used in most rental agreements&hellip;Lenders would also be free to offer other exotic mortgages &mdash; perhaps called &quot;rocky road&quot; mortgages? &mdash; along with the vanilla variety, but these offerings would receive more intense scrutiny from regulators.</p> </blockquote> <p>Such a regulation would allow first-time borrowers to stick with (and be steered towards) the traditional loans that will work out best for them, while still allowing lenders and experienced borrowers to experiment with other mortgage products.</p> <p>Unless and until this type of regulation is put in place &mdash; and as of right now, <a href="">the new mortgage rules that will come into effect in 2014</a> do not include this particular regulation idea &mdash; the path for the rest of us is pretty clear.</p> <p>Stick with the traditional fixed-rate mortgages of our parents' day. Ignoring the other options available to you is probably the best choice of all.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="The Paradox of Choice and the Mortgage Crisis" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Emily Guy Birken</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Real Estate and Housing choice mortgages psychology Tue, 26 Feb 2013 11:25:04 +0000 Emily Guy Birken 968066 at 5 Sneaky Ways Supermarkets Get You to Spend More <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-sneaky-ways-supermarkets-get-you-to-spend-more" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="supermarket" title="supermarket" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Do you ever wander through the grocery store and end up spending more than you were budgeting for? Don't beat yourself up over it &mdash; supermarkets actually have several different strategies to trick customers into blowing bucks. Be on the alert and watch out for the sneaky psychology tactics these stores will try to use on you.</p> <p><a href="">RELATED:&nbsp;12 Tricks to Make Groceries Last Longer and Save Cash</a></p> <h3>10 For $10</h3> <p>10 for $10 sounds like a great deal. However, you'll get the same savings even if you only buy one item, according to the New York Times. A <a href="" target="_blank">grocery store survey</a> recently found that people bought way more items when they see 10 for $10 deals vs. five for $5 and one for $1 sales. Even if you aren't buying 10 items, your mind will trick you into thinking that the item is such a great deal that you end up buying more of it.</p> <h3>Growing Carts</h3> <p>No, you're not shrinking; it's the grocery carts that are growing. The larger the cart, the more likely you'll end up spending more, so try to stick to a hand basket instead.</p> <h3>Pre-Cut Vegetables and Fruits</h3> <p>Pre-cut veggies look so attractive, with their colorful packaging and its promise of less work (no need to wash or chop!). However, they aren't exactly a good deal. Consumer Reports found that pre-cut veggies and fruits can be a lot more expensive than the whole items. The team noted that a $1.50 six-ounce bag of shredded carrots <a href="" target="_blank">costs about five times more </a>than a similar amount of whole carrots.</p> <p>Not to mention, these pre-cut veggies and fruits go bad faster than their whole counterparts.</p> <h3>Items at the Checkout Counter</h3> <p>Ever wonder why all those magazines and yummy candy are crammed in the front of checkout counters? It's one of the supermarket's tricks to get you to succumb to last-minute purchases while you're waiting in line.</p> <h3>Where Is Everything?</h3> <p>You think you have the layout of your local supermarket down pat when you find out they changed shelves again! Darn it. The stores are actually doing it on purpose, because if you don't know where the items are, you'll end up spending more time in the store. More time to browse means more chances to tempt you into buying more items.</p> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-blog-teaser"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Want to know how grocery stores are parting you from your hard-earned cash? Learn about these supermarket psychology tricks. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align:center;"><a href="" style="border:none;"><img src="" alt="" /></a></p> <p><em>This is a guest contribution from our friends at </em><a href=""><em>SavvySugar</em></a><em>. Check out more useful articles from this partner:</em></p> <ul> <li><a href="">7 Smart Extreme Couponing Tips</a></li> <li><a href="">12 Items You&nbsp;Should Not Buy in&nbsp;Bulk</a></li> <li><a href="">6 Ways to&nbsp;Stay Organized When&nbsp;Grocery&nbsp;Shopping</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">POPSUGAR Smart Living</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink Shopping psychology Shopping Tricks supermarkets Mon, 09 Jul 2012 10:24:13 +0000 POPSUGAR Smart Living 939956 at 5 Psychological Hacks to Boost Your Bottom Line <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/5-psychological-hacks-to-boost-your-bottom-line" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Psychological Hacks to Boost Your Bottom Line" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>In his book, <i><a href="" target="_blank">The Happiness Advantage</a>,</i> Sean Achor outlines positive psychological principles and tactics that increase performance at work. More specifically, positive psychology can be used to improve the effectiveness and output of employees. If you're looking to boost employee productivity &ndash; and your business&rsquo; profitability, see if these five psychological hacks don&rsquo;t do the trick.</p> <p><strong>1. Discover the link between happiness and performance.</strong></p> <p>Did you know that students who were told to think about the happiest day of their lives scored higher on a standardized math test than their peers? Or that more effective business negotiators test higher for positive emotions than their peers?</p> <p>There is actually a mountain of research supporting the idea that higher performance is associated with positive emotions. What does that mean for you?</p> <p>If you want your employees to perform better, give them something to smile about. Remind them of a positive event. Pay them a compliment. Or simply do like the professor did and ask them to remember something that makes them smile.</p> <p><strong>2. Applaud early failure.</strong></p> <p>Ever notice how history repeats itself?</p> <p>It's easy to shake our heads when people repeat the mistakes others have made, or make the mistakes their managers have warned them about, but there's a simple reason for that. Of course, we often learn from mistakes others have made, but we also learn from our own past experiences. Often, failure has to be experienced rather than read about or explained. We can only learn how to deal with failure&mdash;and all of the emotions and struggles that come with it&mdash;by experiencing it.</p> <p>In fact, employees who learn to deal with failure early on are better equipped to solve problems and are more effective down the line.</p> <p>In other words, it's a good idea to let employees fail and figure out solutions on their own ... especially in the beginning. Sometimes experiencing the process is the only way we really learn the solution.</p> <p><strong>3. Revise patterns.</strong></p> <p>There is a well-known psychological principle called <a href="" target="_blank">Expectancy Theory</a> which says that our brains make choices because of the outcomes we associate with specific actions. In other words, we choose the action that we think will result in the best outcome.</p> <p>This is easy enough to understand, but what we often forget is that it has also been proven that our brains fall into patterns.</p> <p>As creatures of habit, it's easy for our minds to play tricks on us. If we think an outcome is good and we choose it over and over again, we will continue to choose it, even if it's not the best choice anymore. The business world is ever-changing. Habits that were beneficial during startup may not be right for a mature business.</p> <p>Take some time to think about the habits and processes in your business. What choices are you still making that you haven't thought about in awhile?</p> <p><strong>4. Remind employees that positive outcomes are possible.</strong></p> <p>Positive psychology research shows that job performance is improved simply by believing that <a href="" target="_blank">positive change is possible</a>. In other words, if you're looking to turn your company around, then share stories of successful business turnarounds. If you're hoping to take your superstar performer to the next level, then share stories of how top athletes get even better.</p> <p>Determine the goal that you are trying to achieve in your business and then show your employees that achieving that goal is possible.</p> <p>The psychological result is that people begin to believe that they can make change. If we believe that it is possible for us to do something, then it is much more likely that we will do it.</p> <p><strong>5. Keep positive experience journals.</strong></p> <p>One positive psychology study found that people who <a href="">took 20 minutes to write down</a> positive experiences from that day and did this three times per week not only displayed higher levels of happiness, but also displayed fewer symptoms of illness. In other words, more thoughtful, more positive employees were also healthier employees.</p> <p>It doesn't matter the situation, the circumstance, or the timing, everyone has something to be positive or thankful about.</p> <p>Don't forget to remind your employees to focus on the positive in their lives. Your bottom line with thank you later.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">James Clear</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center employee management employee motivation management positive thinking psychology small business Wed, 19 Oct 2011 19:50:18 +0000 James Clear 747396 at 4 Reasons Why a "Good Enough" Decision May Be Best <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="" target="_blank"></a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/4-reasons-why-a-good-enough-decision-may-be-best" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="4 Reasons Why a &quot;Good Enough&quot; Decision May Be Best" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>Successful businesses are based on results, not promises; action, not plans; decisions, not procrastination.</p> <p>Yet, in spite of the abundance of information &mdash; or more to the point, because or it &mdash; business decisions are increasingly hard to make. We sift through tons of irrelevant&nbsp;information on Google, Bing, and Yahoo in hopes of making an optimal choice.</p> <p>The solution, as odd as it may sound, may be to stop trying to find the <em>best</em> solution and be happy with <em>good enough</em>. Here's why:</p> <p><strong>1. It's Hard to Know What You Want</strong></p> <p>&quot;Look, we need to make a decision here and take some action. We need results, and we need them now.&quot; Sound familiar? Anyone who's ever run a business has said those words, or similar, many times. But making a decision requires that you know what alternatives are available, and more importantly, which one is the best.</p> <p>Generally we make decisions based on prior experience. The problem is we're not very good at remembering experiences. Princeton Psychologist <a href="">Daniel Kahneman</a> has done some fascinating research that shows we only remember the best of what we experience, and how the experience felt at the end. He calls this the &quot;peak-end&quot; rule, which suggests people remember the average of an experience, not the sum.</p> <p>For example, one group of people in an experiment were subjected to loud noise, while a second group was exposed to the same noise plus more, but less painful, noises at the end of the session. The second group, surprisingly, said the the experience was less unpleasant than the first group, even though they actually had to listen to more noise.</p> <p>How does this play out in a business? Years ago you made a decision. The results were a disaster, but all the angst and chaos tapered off as you got things back under control. <em>You remember the decision as a reasonably good one</em> because on average things weren't so bad, especially at the end.</p> <p><strong>2. We Can&rsquo;t Trust Ourselves</strong></p> <p>In some deep way, many of us know we really shouldn't trust our experiences. So we talk about, and read about, other people&rsquo;s experiences and opinions in hopes of making better decisions. You're doing that right now.</p> <p>The problem is we're wired to depend on what's most available, or what we're familiar with. You see lots of ads that offer discounts, so you assume discounting must be a good idea. <a href="">In fact, it often isn't.</a></p> <p>College students selecting classes are influenced more by a single review from someone they know than an extensive evaluation survey collected from several hundred students. Advertisers learned long ago that branding works because people will chose what's familiar, a brand name they recognize. Mass media features dramatic causes of death such as tornados, accidents, floods, fires, and homicides. So we overestimate how often those occur while, at the same time, we underestimate diabetes, asthma, stroke and tuberculosis &mdash;&nbsp;more common causes of death.</p> <p>Worse, because we often have to rely on secondhand sources, we find ourselves relying on the <em>same</em> secondhand sources, such as CNN or Fox News or Huffington Post. What that means is that we're less likely to get unbiased advice from someone else's experience. We also tend to associate with people of like mind, so we limit the advice we receive to people who think like we do. Soon we&rsquo;re believing in something that has no basis in fact &mdash; something that may even be based on fraud, <a href="">such as the anti-vaccination baloney</a> that&rsquo;s actually killing kids.</p> <p><strong>3. We Don't Know How to Make Good Decisions</strong></p> <p>If discounts are a bad idea, why do department stores seem to have everything on sale all the time? Because we're bad at decision making. They give us the manufacturer&rsquo;s suggested retail price as an anchor, and then lead us to believe we're getting a great deal by offering what seems to be a bargain. One mail-order catalog offered a $279 bread maker with mediocre results. When they offered a super-deluxe version for $429, sales of the cheaper model almost doubled.</p> <p>Even the way information is framed affects our decision-making. Two stores sell a particular brand of paint. One store has a big sign that says, &quot;Discount for Cash!&quot; and offers the paint at $11.50 a gallon, or $10.50 if you pay cash. A nearby store offers the same paint for $10.50 a gallon, but imposes a $1 surcharge per gallon if you charge it. Research shows that&nbsp;we'll go for the discount every time, even though the cost is exactly the same. We'll also pick a small-but-sure gain (do you want $100 now?) over a large but uncertain&nbsp;one (or $200 based on the flip of a coin?). And we prefer yogurt that&rsquo;s 95% fat-free over yogurt with 5% fat content.</p> <p>We're also psychologically challenged when it comes to making decisions about gains and losses. Losses are &quot;more bad&quot; than gains are good. That's why money-back guarantees work &mdash; people think something they possess is worth more then its cash value, so if they return it they feel as if they've lost something.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>4. We Strive for the Optimum Choice at Our Peril</strong></p> <p>Seeking the best is impossible when you have many alternatives. The only way to know if you&rsquo;re picking the best alternative is to know what they all are. In today&rsquo;s world that can drive you nuts. An &quot;if only I had...&quot;&nbsp;mentality can lead to regret, and that steals from the satisfaction of even a good, if not optimum, decision.</p> <p>In fact, when economists theorize about how we make decisions they assume we try to maximize our preferences, our satisfaction. What they&rsquo;ve learned is that satisfaction and preferences are subjective, not objective. And that&rsquo;s where the idea that <em>good enough</em> &mdash; not necessarily the <em>best</em> &mdash; decisions, actions, and results may make the most sense.</p> <p>Daily decisions overwhelm us to the point that we want to avoid making them. But if we understand that any decision is usually better than no decision, that there never will be a perfect choice, and that we are going to make mistakes, we&rsquo;re on the path to satisfaction and sanity.</p> <p>We can limit our choices, decide which ones are important and invest our time in those. The entrepreneurial predisposition for a &quot;ready, fire, aim&quot; approach is based on that premise. Does the color of your logo really matter when you don&rsquo;t have any customers?</p> <p>Choose an alternative; don&rsquo;t just pick one. Once you&rsquo;ve narrowed the list of choices, you&rsquo;ll have the time and attention to be thoughtful, even creative, about what to do.</p> <p>Every advertiser tries to convince you to accept only the best, but if you can embrace the idea that <em>good enough</em> can be satisfactory, you can stop trying to make the perfect choice and get on about your business.</p> <p>Think carefully about what you want, where you&rsquo;re going, and what&rsquo;s important. Once you do, make a decision and take action and you&rsquo;ll find the result much more satisfying.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Tom Harnish</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Small Business Resource Center articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Entrepreneurship Personal Development Small Business Resource Center choices decisions psychology small business Sun, 20 Feb 2011 17:57:36 +0000 Tom Harnish 489583 at Review: Bluebird -- Women and the New Psychology of Happiness <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/review-bluebird-women-and-the-new-psychology-of-happiness" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="166" height="250" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Back when I was a Women&rsquo;s Studies major, no story of the history of women in America so intrigued me as the stories of women in the asylums of the 19th and early 20th. Maybe it was that they all seemed to land there at the hands of their fathers, husbands, and brothers. All it seemed to take is one man in their families to notice them being restless, bored, or sighing too deeply and their whole existence could start to unravel. A perfect life for a woman was a marriage to a man of property, having a couple of kids, and building a home. Any deviation from the pattern was deviant. But women forced into the pattern often were unhappy (who wouldn&rsquo;t be without any control over her own destiny?). And so thousands of women were institutionalized for their despondent sadness. Women of course have also been trained to be the one that doesn't fulfill her goals (goals? what goals?). As mothers and grandmothers we are happy for our children, happy for our husbands, happy for those around us but not, it seems, happy for ourselves. That, was too selfish of us.</p> <p>Today you&rsquo;d think we&rsquo;d moved away from these ideas but Ariel Gore shows us that today&rsquo;s psychology hasn&rsquo;t really landed us that far from the beginning. There is a whole industry of talk show experts, a thriving how to be happy book industry attempting to solve your problems, and of course the pharmaceutical industry to make you expensively dependent on their products all for the sake and the quest of that elusive thing called happiness. It&rsquo;s all a racket of a business and we all seem to have fallen into the unwise trap of it.</p> <p>What&rsquo;s fascinating about <a href=";s=books&amp;qid=1264121625&amp;sr=8-1"><em>Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness</em></a> is how true it rings to a woman who has been told she&rsquo;s depressed, or &quot;sees the negative.&quot; As Gore chronicles the rise of the happiness industry, there&rsquo;s no way to read this book without nodding your head in agreement of all the money and time and energy we&rsquo;ve collectively spent trying to be happy the way society deems we should be. Whom among us hasn&rsquo;t done that workshop or that seminar or bought that shelf of books that you haven&rsquo;t finished reading? Who hasn&rsquo;t taken the advice to take the anti-depressants? Turns out not many of us. Women are overwhelmingly diagnosed with depression much more so than men and she explores the reasons behind it all. The contemporary world is telling its women they need to find happiness in a man, some kids, and a home of their own &mdash; has anything changed since the 19th century? What about all of us women who don&rsquo;t fit in that category anymore if we ever did? Are single mothers, feminist scholars, childfree women all destined to be unhappy? American psychology says yes, but Ariel tells us to think again.</p> <p>Ariel&rsquo;s way of writing is always a joy to read. Brutally honest, she is and willing to let you see everything that she is and isn&rsquo;t. You feel instantly like you are talking with a friend. Make that a smart friend who reads lots of psychology articles so you don&rsquo;t have to. Though sometimes I wished some of the areas touched on would have been expanded further and in more detail, she whets the appetite for you to go and research the history yourself.</p> <p>What actually makes this book sing though is Ariel charming and witty writing style. She tells stories of her family and stories of her friends. Women she knows well and barely knows at all, come forward to say what works for them, what makes them happy. No two stories are alike but all have a familiar ring. Happiness is found in kissing the head of a baby and smelling in his scent, a hike in a favorite place, or an evening spent alone in a bath. Guess what happiness industry? Surprise, surprise, happiness actually doesn&rsquo;t cost you anything &mdash; perhaps though, it might be worth the cost of this book.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Review: Bluebird -- Women and the New Psychology of Happiness" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Maggie Wells</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Health and Beauty Lifestyle ariel gore bluebird happiness psychology Sat, 23 Jan 2010 18:00:05 +0000 Maggie Wells 4707 at Frugal Tip: Do Not Spend When You Are Sad <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/frugal-tip-do-not-spend-when-you-are-sad" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="293" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today I read an <a href="">eye opening article</a> about the effect known as &quot;misery is not miserly&quot;. Basically, a study was conducted on two groups of people. One group was shown a sad video about the death of a boy&#39;s mentor while the other was shown a random and emotionally neutral video about the Great Barrier Reef. Then each person was given $10 and asked to put an offer on a bottle of water. The group that was shown the sad video offered $2.11 on average, while the other group offered only $0.56 on average. Even though the first group offered nearly four times than that of the second group, they say that the video had no bearings on their decision. Thus the researchers say it is a phenomenon that happens without awareness, and that is frightening.</p> <p>I can see how this effect can trap people into a vicious cycle of spending. When people are in debt they can be dragged down emotionally by all the bills they have to pay, and if they spend more to compensate for their emotions then they will pile on more debt. More debt means more frustration and sadness, and the expensive toys get charged once again. For these people, they really need to get rid of their emotions and focus on reducing their debt. Once they eliminate the root of their depression, they may naturally stop their overspending. </p> <p>Personally, when I am sad I tend to spend more on food, and eat a lot more than I should. I also know a friend who would buy clothes that&#39;s much more expensive than what she usually wears when she is feeling down. After these frivolous purchases there is always a bit of pleasure, and then guilt soon follows. Now that I am aware that sadness induces extravagance, I can only hope that I will stop myself from spending money when I need a little pick me up. If I absolutely need to spend money I may need to let someone else buy the item for me. </p> <p>This brings up another random thought, are funeral homes aware of this effect and do they take advantage of it? </p> <p> How about you? Do you tend to spend more when you are sad and are you aware of it? </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Frugal Tip: Do Not Spend When You Are Sad" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Xin Lu</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance Frugal Living Health and Beauty Shopping frugality mental health moods psychology sadness saving shopping spending Fri, 08 Feb 2008 08:10:06 +0000 Xin Lu 1763 at When it's hard to be frugal (and how to talk yourself into it anyway) <p><img src="/files/fruganomics/wisebread_imce/258035435_da5be9a428_m.jpg" alt="Frustrated Girl" title="Battling Temptation" width="160" height="240" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Honestly, it&#39;s been hard to be frugal lately. My fiance and I are moving our stuff into the place that will be ours after the wedding, and I want it to be nice. I know, it&#39;s just a 2-bedroom apartment in a small, non-descript apartment complex, but I want it to be home. Part of what would make it home for me would be creating a place where I&#39;m comfortable, and that can take a goodly chunk of change. Also, it&#39;s Christmas, and when I&#39;m splurging for others, it&#39;s hard for me to stop splurging for myself. After all, I know what I want better than anyone else does, and when it&#39;s dangled in front of my face...well, that&#39;s just temptation waiting to happen.;s tempation happening, because I refuse to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, and block it all out with a loud, &quot;La, La, La! I&#39;m not listening!&quot; in the middle of the store. A girl has to draw the line somewhere. </p> <p>I won&#39;t say that I&#39;ve been completely successful in resisting the temptations, but I&#39;ve done well enough that I&#39;m proud of myself. I&#39;ve gathered my top three tactics for talking myself into frugality, and out of spending money I don&#39;t want to spend, in the hopes that they&#39;ll help you, too.</p> <p><strong>Wait</strong></p> <p>This is said time and time again, but it&#39;s definitely true for me. Purchases I make on the fly tend to be the product of my often-capricious emotions. I value emotions, quite deeply in fact. But I don&#39;t think that how I feel about an item should be the driving force behind my purchasing it. I know that because the items I&#39;ve purchased on an emotional whim are the ones that I&#39;ve later wondered about. This doesn&#39;t happen with purchases that are well thought-through.</p> <p><strong>Don&#39;t Wait</strong></p> <p>I know this is a contradiction of the above, but hear me out. If you have thought about a purchase (particularly a large one) and you know what you want, jump on a deal when you see it. Dave and I needed a fridge for our new place. We knew what we wanted (freezer on the bottom) and what brands were good. He saw an ad for a local store that had a great deal, but we had to purchase it that day. We did, and it&#39;s one of the purchases I&#39;m proudest of. How does this lead to resisting the temptation to spend more than you want to spend? Having chosen to wait and ended up with a better deal once, I will be more likely to do it again later, because I know that it can really happen. Sometimes, it&#39;s all about motivation.</p> <p><strong>Visualize Your Priorities</strong></p> <p>I&#39;m big on priorities, but sometimes just remembering that I have them isn&#39;t enough. Instead, I have to visualize myself living them. Thinking, &quot;Dave and I will be able to travel just a little bit sooner if I don&#39;t buy 7 new Christmas CDs,&quot; doesn&#39;t always work. But closing my eyes and seeing us hiking through the mountains in New Zealand (the ones where <em>The Lord of the Rings</em> was filmed usually does. When I&#39;m really working toward something, I will cut out pictures of it and put them in places where they&#39;ll help me remember what I&#39;m really after. If I have one in my purse, I&#39;ll look at it when I&#39;m contemplating a purchase. When it successfully puts me there, in my dream, I won&#39;t buy what I&#39;m tempted to buy. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="When it&#039;s hard to be frugal (and how to talk yourself into it anyway)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Sarah Winfrey</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Lifestyle frugal psychology Sat, 30 Dec 2006 04:10:35 +0000 Sarah Winfrey 85 at