Fast food, racing thoughts
Fast food is unhealthy. I know, I know. Few of us need convincing of that fact any more. But as unassailable as it is, the brief against fast food has for years focused almost entirely on the food in fast food—the high fructose corn syrup and artery-busting fats and nutritional bankruptcy of burgers and French fries and soft drinks. But what about the fast in fast food? New science is now suggesting that fast food may be doubly unhealthy—not only nutritionally damaging but psychologically detrimental as well.
The Power of Gratitude
Like most parents, I drilled my young kids on the importance of saying “thank you” to others. Nagged them, really. After all, words of gratitude are an important social convention, a way of letting others know you value and appreciate them and their support. Plus saying “thank you” is the right thing to do. What I didn’t teach them—because I didn’t know it at the time—was how they themselves might benefit from saying “thank you.” An emerging body of research is now showing that genuine expressions of gratitude can be tonic not just for the recipient, but for those who are saying “thank you” as well.
A tool for predicting suicide?
Suicide is both disturbing and perplexing to survivors, in part because it is so unpredictable. People who are intent on killing themselves often conceal their thoughts or outright deny them, so family and friends are left puzzling over warning signs they might have missed. Even experienced clinical judgment often misses the mark. As a result, suicide experts have long hoped and searched for a clear behavioral marker of suicide risk. Now they may have found one.
A willingness to wonder
Willingness is a core concept of addiction recovery programs, and a paradoxical one. Twelve-step programs emphasize that individual addicts cannot will themselves into recovery and healthy sobriety, indeed that the ego and self-reliance are often a root cause of their problem. Yet recovering addicts must be willing. That is, they must be open to the possibility that the group and principles are powerful enough to trump a compulsive disease. It’s a tricky concept for many, and must be taken on faith. But now there may be a little bit of science to back it up, too.
Vieux, en bonne sante . . . et bilingue
In French, that means old, healthy . . . and bilingual. I could just as well have used Google Translate to put that phrase into Finnish or Spanish or Chinese. The fact is, I don’t speak any of those languages fluently—any language except English really. Which puts me in good company: When Senator Barack Obama was campaigning for the presidency back in 2008, he told a crowd in Dayton, Ohio: “I don’t speak a foreign language. It’s embarrassing.” It is embarrassing. But worse than that, it may be unhealthy. New research suggests that bilingualism may convey previously unrecognized cognitive benefits—benefits that appear early and last a lifetime.
Casting light on cheating and greed
Louis Brandeis was already one of America’s most famous lawyers when Woodrow Wilson appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1916. He was a tireless and prescient critic of big investment banks—including bankers’ excessive bonuses—an argument he spelled out in his influential book of essays, Other People’s Money and How Bankers Use It. His solution for the problem of concentrated financial power was unfettered public scrutiny, a belief he summarized in his famous statement: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” Justice Brandeis was an intuitive psychologist.