At this time of year students return to university. This is an exciting time as you get to catch up with last year’s student and see what they been up to over the summer. Of course, we also welcome a new cohort of students to the University and, for many of them, help them get used to a new way of life. For some of these new faces, the transition between their old lifestyle and becoming a student is easy. For others it is more difficult. What causes these differences and what does the study of psychology tell us about situations where our identities don’t really fit together, or are just plain incompatible? Read on to find out.
Facebook and social networks – pastime or addiction?
I am not really a heavy social network user. I have a twitter and Facebook account, and a (slightly outdated) Linkedin account. I mostly use mine to publicise my blog and keep in touch with distant friends. I maybe make about 6 posts a week max. For most, these networks are a great way to bring people together and share views. For others, though, social networks like Facebook can become problematic or even addictive. Can the science of psychology help predict who is at risk?
PsychologyItBetter How To: Meditation.
Meditation is not complicated.
Why should I do this?
Psychological research shows us that meditation can increase your immune function and health, improve levels of happiness and bolster emotional self-regulation. It can also decrease negative emotions and massively reduce stress and anxiety. It can also make you more productive in your day to day lives. It’s not complicated, and it need not have a spiritual component to it. Neither should it take up hours of your day. Even 10 minutes done regularly can have an impact on your life.
Lack of sleep can affect us in many ways, but did you know in some ways it is the equivalent of being drunk?
I love my children, but boy, do they keep me up at night. I reckon over the last three years, 98% of my nights have involved being woken up multiple times, often for stretches of 30 minutes plus. The other 2% of the time I am away at conferences. Things were just settling down with our last one (by settle down, I mean just up once a night) when we had the next one. I think my partner has it even worse at the moment with our four month old!
My family and I have a allotment (well, a half sized allotment)a short walk from our home. The growing season starts in earnest soon, and our windowsills are covered in small seedlings and the like already. Whilst digging last week (something which allotments seemingly demand endlessly!) I began to wonder about the psychology of gardening.
Interestingly, a quick search of the research literature revealed a pretty decent selection of papers. Gardening seems to have a great stress reducing effect – lowering physiological reactions to stress1, being of therapeutic benefit for everyone from children2 to the elderly3. It is also linked to higher self-efficacy and self esteem4. But how does it work? This seems to be a bit more of a mystery, but I’m happy to speculate. One argument is that simply looking at green landscapes is simply inherently soothing (Soylent Green anyone?). I think this is true from hiking trips, but looking at my allotment is NOT viewing a inherently pleasant vista (more of a muddy diorama covered in bravely struggling flora!). I wonder if it is more about the states of mind gardening can produce, and the social connections it brings.