During the holiday season, it can be tough to find a reason not to have that third cookie. After all, your bathing suit isn’t threatening to reveal that extra jelly roll around your middle, and it’s all part of the seasonal fun, right? Well, recent research might just give you a more convincing way to turn down all of the sweets sitting around the house in December, and the added bonus is maintaining your figure come January. Australian research found that rats who were fed a diet high in sugar and fat exhibited symptoms of memory impairment when compared with a group fed a healthy diet. The sugar had caused swelling in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus – where memories are maintained. This inflammation kept it from functioning (read: remembering things) at its typical level. And the swelling didn’t automatically go down when the rats cut it out with the cookies. It took about three weeks for the brain activity to return to normal. Just remember that fact when you’re reaching for another slice of cheesecake this Christmas.
We’re all pretty connected these days – to our Instagram feeds, facebook, and twitter. Sometimes that can be draining. While many people turn to logging off, or stop using the sites for a break, an alternative may be to log on, just to a different site. Now there is a new social network in town. It’s called Happier, and its goal is to make you just that. The site is dedicated to keeping a log of good things happening to the people using it. There will be thank you notes, mentions of unexpected kindness, and even some inspiring stories of overcoming difficulties. There won’t be all that other info you’re used to seeing on facebook, like what kind of music you like or books you’ve read. The whole goal is to give you short, easy-to-digest mood boosts. Think of it as status updates geared towards making you happy instead of making you fear you’re missing out on that awesome holiday party. If you’re feeling blue, it might be worth checking out.
If you’re trying not to go overboard with the holiday shopping this year, you might want to stay out of the men’s department. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology found that women who touched boxer shorts were more likely to spend more money. The study was geared towards understanding how sexual cues impact shopping habits. The results were the women shoppers spent more than they needed to after handling male underwear on items including chocolate, a chair and a keyboard, throwing price tag caution to the wind. Scientists believe this may be because the boxer shorts triggered the reward center in the brain, which makes people more inclined to take risks for immediate pleasure. In this case, the risks were financial. So, when you’re finishing up your Christmas purchases save those silk boxer short stocking stuffers for last before you leave the store.
I like to read my horoscope in the morning. It’s fun to see when it’s totally spot on, and when it’s way way off. You may have looked at your horoscope as a fun way to have a barometer of your day, and taken it with a grain of salt. You’d be in good company with nearly a third of all Americans who place serious weight in what the stars tell them. But now a new study indicates that people who are trying to lose weight may want to stay away from the astrology section of the newspaper (or astrology app as the case may be).
One study presented 180 people with a bad horoscope predicting a sub-par day, and then gave them the option to go to a party, or stay home and clean the house. The people who believed they could change the horoscope’s predictions were more likely to go to the party. Another study used the same scenario, but gave participants the option between a healthy snack and a chocolate granola bar. The people who thought they could change the stars went for the chocolate option. Reserachers believe the people chose to indulge after receiving new of a bad day to come to either pre-compensate for future negatives (as a coping mechanism). Or because by simply imagining that negative things were headed their way people depleted their willpower stocks trying to imagine how to turn things around, which made them more likely to choose the unhealthy option. Either way, if you’re watching what you eat this season, be extra vigilant if your horoscope predicts bad news that day.
You’re probably heard one of an assortment of quotes about how smiling at others will encourage them to smile at you. “Smile and the world smiles back.” “Smile and others will smile back.” Well, as it turns out, there is some scientific basis to the statement. A study found that when people were encouraged to see others as happy, they were less angry and aggressive. Participants looked at the photos of people’s faces. Then researchers encouraged certain people to interpret their facial expressions as happy rather than ambiguous or angry. They found that when people interpreted more facial expressions as expressing happiness, they not only began to see more happiness around them, but began to feel less annoyance and hostility towards others. Basically the act of perceiving and receiving smiles from others can make you feel happier yourself. So go ahead and listen to that guy on the street telling you to, “Smile beautiful.” Though he might be creepy and annoying, it just might make you and some other people a little more joyful.