The Mediterranean Diet Benefits

Days of wine and salad by Jeremy KeithI like wine. Well, okay, I love wine. Red wine. Cabernet. Malbec. Sangiovese. Those are three of my favorite things. I also like salads, chicken, olive oil, and nuts. I’m pretty much describing the Mediterranean diet, something that I’d heard about and never looked into. However, a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine caught my attention.

It turns out that, “Among persons at high cardiovascular risk, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events” in the study’s participants. The reduction in cardiovascular disease was up to 30 percent.

Let’s get to the wine, though. Those in the Mediterranean diet group in the study were told they could drink at least seven glasses of wine a week with their meals. The key phrase here is “at least.” Moderation with anything is usually the correct path to take; however, what’s moderate for one person (or society) may be too much or too little for others. One study showed that residents of the Greek Island Ikaria drink up to four glasses of wine a day and live long, healthy lives.

If you’re going to have a long and healthy life, then you surely want to have a fully functional brain. The Mediterranean diet has that covered, too. According to a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study, the diet can preserve memory.

“The study found that in healthy people, those who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 19 percent less likely to develop problems with their thinking and memory skills,” Bob Shepard reported for UAB News.

(Of course, if you want to help improve your memory, you can always make a fist. Researchers at Montclair State University found that clenching your right hand helps form stronger memories, while clenching your left hand helps with recollection.)

Because of all these recent studies, I’m working on making the Mediterranean diet more a part of my lifestyle. It should be easy. I already have the wine part down.

– By Jason Hensel

(Image via Flickr: Jeremy Keith/Creative Commons)

4 Words That Set Pinterest Apart From Other Sites

Pinterest logoI’m trying to get into Pinterest. It’s difficult, though, because I have too many other social media channels to focus on. I know it’s a valuable application, and I should put more effort into it.

In fact, let’s take a look at what researchers from Georgia Tech and the University of Minnesota found out about the site in a recent study:

1.    Female users have more re-pins, regardless of geographical location.
2.    Men typically have more followers on Pinterest than women.
3.    Four verbs set Pinterest apart from Twitter: “use,” “look,” “want” and “need.”

“Those four verbs uniquely describe Pinterest and are particularly interesting,” said Georgia Tech assistant professor Eric Gilbert, who runs the Comp.Social Lab. “Words encapsulate the intent of people, revealing the motivations behind their actions. You can use the word ‘this’ after all of these verbs, reflecting the ‘things’ at the core of Pinterest. Many press articles have focused on Pinterest’s commercial potential, and here we see verbs illustrating that consumption truly lies at the heart of the site.”

The researchers examined more than 200,000 pins.

“We wanted to take a closer look at Pinterest because of its differences compared to other social media, including its focus on pictures and products and the large proportion of women users,” said University of Minnesota professor Loren Terveen, a co-author of the study. “These findings are an important early snapshot of Pinterest that help us begin to understand people’s activity on this site.”

The researchers say that understanding motivations behind Pinterest is beneficial for businesses that want to use the site for marketing.

“There are several social networking sites that marketers and advertisers can take advantage of these days,” Gilbert said. “After conducting this research, if I had to choose where to put my money and marketing, Pinterest would probably be my first choice.”

(Story materials via Georgia Tech.)

When to Avoid Face-to-Face Meetings

Baltic Development ForumImagine you are planning to meet someone for a business deal. You have the choice to either meet face to face or virtually. Which would you choose?

Your answer should depend on if the other person is more powerful than you.

Michael Taylor from Imperial College London presented this finding at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in Harrogate this week. Taylor and his co-researchers ran two studies of identical negotiations; one face to face, the other virtually. Both times, those less powerful performed better negotiations virtually compared to when they conducted them face to face.

“It looks as though it is a good idea for less powerful parties to negotiate from remote locations rather than face to face,” Taylor said. “When people negotiate from further apart, it affects their whole way of thinking. This can mean the contextual details of the negotiations, such as power hierarchies, have less impact on the outcome. This has implications for team negotiation and shared decision-making in the workplace.”

In addition to those two examples, what are some other implications of this research?

(Story quote from the British Psychological Society. Image via Flickr: Baltic Development Forum/Creative Commons.)

Live Ever In a New Day

Choose to Have a Great Day by MaryaIt’s been awhile since I’ve written anything on here. That’s primarily because of a death in the family. That death, in turn, has caused me to start re-evaluating my life. Then again, I just turned 40. Maybe I’m having the cliché mid-life crisis. I don’t want a sporty car or motorcycle. I don’t want to date an 18-year-old. I do, though, want to travel the world. I want to change careers. I want to feel like I’m positively contributing to the world.

One of the things I enjoy most is education. I’ve been taking some courses on Coursera, and this week one class discussed Emerson. A quote of his really made me pay attention to the lesson: “Live ever in a new day.”

In improvisation, one of the art’s best benefits is that every scene is a chance to start over, that the past has no relevance on what is happening in the now. If you can shake off the past, you can truly live to your full potential. It’s not easy. It takes years of practice. Like a 401k, the sooner you start, though, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Here’s how you can practice. Every morning, take a minute moment and reflect where you are. Concentrate on the now. Be mindful of what you’re offered. Often, we say we have to do things. Consider changing that line to something the great improv performer and teacher David Razowsky says: We get to do things. Life and its many options are choices. You may feel forced to do things. Think about it (become more mindful), and you’ll notice that you’re choosing one thing over another. You’re in control. You get to participate in your own outcome.

Emerson also said, “With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.” He’s talking about habitual consistency, a mindlessness toward life. When you fully participate in life, even if you make the same choices every day, you’re truly living. When you get to do things because you choose them, life becomes more fun and exciting. And that’s really what any kind of life crisis is about: seeking to regain excitement.

How do you keep your life exciting? I’d love to know you tips. Please share them in the comments.

(Image via Flickr: Marya/Creative Commons)

Study Says Women Make Better Leaders Than Men

World Leaders Draw Attention to Central Role of Women’s Political Participation in Democracy by UN WomenResearchers at McMaster University in Canada would like to set everyone straight: Women make for better corporate leaders than males. The reason is because females are “more likely to consider the rights of others and to take a cooperative approach to decision-making.”

“We’ve known for some time that companies that have more women on their boards have better results,” said Chris Bart, a professor of strategic management at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. “Our findings show that having women on the board is no longer just the right thing but also the smart thing to do. Companies with few female directors may actually be shortchanging their investors.”

Bart and co-researcher Gregory McQueen, a McMaster graduate and senior executive associate dean at A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, found that male board directors preferred rules, regulations, and traditional business practices when making decisions.  They found that females were less constrained, willing to mess with the status quo, and “tend to use cooperation, collaboration and consensus-building more often – and more effectively – in order to make sound decisions.”

Women and men can view the world differently, and from my experience, women tend to approach the world holistically more than men. However, to generalize both sexes starts you down a wooded path that only ends in you getting lost. I’m not saying anything new when I say that people should be viewed individually. But every day a different study comes out that wants to put people in boxes. I understand why; the brain spends less energy if something is routine. Having to learn something new is a resource drain. If you stop, though, and take the time to learn about someone – personally and professionally – then you’ll both be better off. You’ll find that your decisions more balanced, and you’ll consider history and the opinions of others more often than not.

Do you think women make better leaders than men? Or is the whole issue sexist?

(Story materials via McMaster University/Julia Thomson. Image via Flickr: UN Women/Creative Commons.)

5 Foods to Improve Brainpower and Productivity

Nom nom nom. Eating peanuts at my desk by slworking2I’ve been eating a lot more lunches at my desk, and I know it’s not healthy. However, I have work to do (or articles to read or music to listen to, etc.). So if I’m going to eat there, I might as well eat foods that increase brainpower.

That’s what makes the following video from Citrix and nutrition expert Kit Hansen a great find. It offers suggestions on what to eat so that your brain won’t go to waste while you’re wasting away in your cubicle watching cat videos.

(Image via Flickr: slworking2/Creative Commons)

What's Your Motivation? by opensource.com

How Do You Define Good Leadership?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about motivation and what makes a good leader. This usually happens when I’m stuck in traffic, and I’m left wondering what’s motivating me to continue driving into the office. Money? Yeah, that’s one reason, but not the only reason, nor even a major one. Co-workers? Yeah, I work with some pretty cool, smart, funny people, and I don’t want to let them down by not doing my job.

Really, though, what motivates me most is a boss who trusts me, treats me like an adult, and knows when to get out of the way and let me do my job the way I know how it should be done. So when I saw an article online today titled “Why Your Organization Suffers From Leadership Dysfunction” by Mike Myatt, I immediately had to read it.

Too often, though, bosses lead by fear. They either fear employees screwing something up, or they fear their own inability to lead. In essence, they become risk managers and not leaders. Myatt wrote:

Leadership has become synonymous with babysitting in many organizations, which does nothing more than signal a lack of trust in the workforce. I can think of no time in modern history where employees feel less valued and trusted. Remember, a leaders job is not to place people in a box, but to free them from boxes.

That phrase, “free them from boxes,” reminded me of a point I read in another article titled “When Your Character Leads the Charge, Everyone Owns the Goal,” by Don Shapiro. In the article, he poses seven questions “you can ask yourself to learn more about your own character and how it may affect your leadership effectiveness.” My favorite is No. 4 on the list.

Do you encourage people to become leaders themselves and support them when they spread their leadership wings?

You can only support someone if you trust them and trust yourself that you coached them correctly. Shapiro’s question reminded me of another article I recently read titled “Want Productive Employees? Treat Them Like Adults” by Tony Schwartz. He wrote:

Distrust begets distrust in return. It kills motivation rather than sparking it. Treat employees like children and you increase the odds they’ll act like children. You reap what you sow — for better and for worse.

Which takes us back to Myatt’s article and his ideas about why there is rampant dysfunctional leadership. He wrote:

Many corporations just desire leaders to go along and get along more than they desire them to lead.

That’s not a sustainable model, though. We need leaders who encourage experimentation, who turn away from conformity, who trust their employees enough that autonomy is part of a job function and not a reward. Because if we don’t get those types of leaders, Myatt warns:

Until organizations reject those playing leadership and embrace those willing to challenge the status quo, offer new thought, encourage dissenting opinion, and who desire to serve instead of seeking to be served, we’ll continue to see organizations struggle unnecessarily.

Yeah, that’s what I think about when I’m driving to work. Now, if I could work from home, I’d probably just go straight from my bed to my computer, start working, and not think about any of this.

Do you consider yourself a good leader? Why? Or do you work for a good leader? Why is that person good? Please let me know in the comments.

(Image via Flickr: opensource.com/Creative Commons)

The Best Persuasive Phrase

Ye Olde Arguments by AskMeAboutLoomThere’s a great, simple phrase to use for anyone looking to persuade others. In fact, it’s so easy it’s hard to believe it isn’t used more often (then again, it might lose its power). The phrase is, “But you are free.”

PSYBlog explains it:

This simple approach is all about reaffirming people’s freedom to choose. When you ask someone to do something, you add on the sentiment that they are free to choose.

By reaffirming their freedom you are indirectly saying to them: I am not threatening your right to say no. You have a free choice.

The exact words used are not especially important. The studies have shown that using the phrase “But obviously do not feel obliged,” worked just as well as “but you are free”.

What is important is that the request is made face-to-face: the power of the technique drops off otherwise. Even over email, though, it does still have an effect, although it is somewhat reduced.

I’ve always believed that freedom is the best way to keep someone. Consider this: If someone gave you complete freedom to do what you want, wouldn’t you stay with that person as opposed to being controlled by someone else? Autonomy is an amazing aphrodisiac.

Give it a shot. Include “but you are free” when putting up a persuasive argument, and let me know in the comments how it worked for you.

(h/t to Farnam Street. Image via Flickr: AskMeAboutLoom/Creative Commons.)

Facebook Use Can Increase Cognitive Performance

grandma joan writing her nightly e-mail message to the family by Sean DreilingerJokes about elderly people using technology are plentiful. Yes, it can be humorous to tease those that have a hard time with technology. But the truth is that there are benefits if the elderly (really, any age) are willing to learn something new. Let’s take Facebook, for instance.

Janelle Wohltmann, a psychology graduate student at the University of Arizona, found that people over the age of 65 who learned to use Facebook saw an increase in cognitive performance and became more connected socially.

Yes, you read that correctly. Being connected socially increases cognitive skills. The kicker is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a face-to-face connection.

“The idea evolved from two bodies of research,” Wohltmann said. “One, there is evidence to suggest that staying more cognitively engaged – learning new skills, not just becoming a couch potato when you retire but staying active – leads to better cognitive performing. It’s kind of this ‘use it or lose it’ hypothesis.

“There’s also a large body of literature showing that people who are more socially engaged, are less lonely, have more social support and are more socially integrated are also doing better cognitively in older age,” she continued.

More research is needed to determine if Facebook’s social aspect truly contributed to better cognitive performances. Still, Wohltmann feels that the site’s complex interaction is a key component in boosting cognitive behaviors.

“The Facebook interface is actually quite complex,” she said. “The big difference between the online diary and Facebook is that when you create a diary entry, you create the entry, you save it and that’s all you see, versus if you’re on Facebook, several people are posting new things, so new information is constantly getting posted.

“You’re seeing this new information coming in, and you need to focus on the new information and get rid of the old information, or keep it in mind if you want to go back and reference it later, so you have to constantly update what’s there in your attention,” she continued.

This gives hope to anyone that isn’t able to get out and meet people, either by situation or choice. If you can be social online, then you can boost your cognitive abilities. And I’m sure this can expand to include anyone who plays games such as Call of Duty, where you’re playing alongside or against other players.

No, this doesn’t take away from the value of face-to-face interaction and its many benefits, but it does show that our brains can clearly define “social” in more ways than we usually allow in our minds.

(Story materials from the University of Arizona/Alexis Blue. Image via Flickr: Sean Dreilinger/Creative Commons.)

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