Your Health: Don't overthink things

  • "Writing about worries and stressful events in your life can help free up your working memory," Sian Beilock writes.

    "Writing about worries and stressful events in your life can help free up your working memory," Sian Beilock writes.

  • There is some scientific evidence that positive emotions can help make your life longer and healthier, says Harvard Medical School.

    There is some scientific evidence that positive emotions can help make your life longer and healthier, says Harvard Medical School.

 
Daily Herald Report
Updated 9/26/2011 12:21 PM

Overthinking it

When the going gets tough, sometimes the tough make embarrassing last-minute mistakes, says The Washington Post.

 

In her book, "Choke" (Free Press, $15), newly available in paperback, psychologist Sian Beilock examines the mental forces that drive golfers to miss easy putts, cause businessmen to bungle presentations and may have caused you to nuke yourself during that Mario Cart match against your housemates last weekend.

Her recommendations: Don't psych yourself out. "Choking can occur when people think too much about activities that are usually automatic," she writes.

But don't relax too much, either. "People also choke when they are not paying enough attention to what they are doing and rely on simple or incorrect routines."

Don't get hung up on your mistakes. And don't be afraid to practice in pressure-filled circumstances. One do: Keep a diary. "Writing about worries and stressful events in your life can help free up your working memory," Beilock writes.

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Paths to happiness

Want to improve your health? Start by focusing on the things that bring you happiness. There is some scientific evidence that positive emotions can help make your life longer and healthier, says Harvard Medical School.

In an early phase of positive psychology research, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan chose three pathways to examine:

• Feeling good. Seeking pleasurable emotions and sensations, from the hedonistic model of happiness put forth by Epicurus, which focused on reaching happiness by maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.

• Engaging fully. Pursuing activities that engage you fully, from the influential research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. For decades, Csikszentmihalyi explored people's satisfaction in their everyday activities, finding people report the greatest satisfaction when they are totally immersed in and concentrating on what they are doing -- he dubbed this state of absorption "flow."

• Doing good. Searching for meaning outside yourself, tracing back to Aristotle's notion of eudaemonia, which emphasized knowing your true self and acting in accordance with your virtues.

Through focus groups and testing hundreds of volunteers, they found that each of these pathways individually contributes to life satisfaction.