Getting a Goodnight’s Sleep😴

Picture credits: University of Michigan School of Public Health

There are plenty of quotes I am pretty sure you have heard many times: ‘I will sleep when I am dead’, ‘There will be plenty of time to sleep when I am dead’. I am not sure who said all this but what I am sure of is that they were totally wrong and they are very bad advices to follow because by not sleeping enough we will definitely die a lot earlier.

We look at sleep not as a necessity but as a luxury and whenever we feel overwhelmed or overburdened due to some work load, number one thing we sacrifice is SLEEP. It is true that sometimes we are bounded by extraordinary circumstances like something unexpectedly has come up at the eleventh hour and demands our attention or couples having a newborn. I am not talking about those circumstances. But in general when things are relatively normal people don’t prioritise their sleep. Maybe it’s because people don’t understand well enough the significance of sleep.

Before I begin with how to get a goodnight sleep I think it is equally important to have a look at the consequences of getting an insufficient sleep.

Consequences of Getting Insufficient Sleep

  1. Mental- more prone to depression and anxiety
  2. Respiratory- more likely to catch a cold
  3. Cardiovascular- boost in blood pressure and higher likelihood of a heart attack
  4. Metabolic-propensity for packing on pounds, increases risk of diabetes

Note: The above information has been taken from  Harvard Health and researchers have come across many health hazards associated with insufficient sleep. 

Now coming on how to get a goodnight sleep so that we feel more energetic, concentrated and productive throughout the day. 

7 Tips for a Goodnight’s Sleep

1. Consistency: Number one reason why I never and I literally mean never have trouble with my sleep is because I have a consistency. No matter it’s Monday or Friday or Sunday I sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time. That kind of consistency doesn’t allow my circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle to get disrupted.

2. Sleeping for the adequate number of hours: While consistency is important it is not enough because it doesn’t matter if we are sleeping and waking up at the same time if we are not sleeping for the adequate number of hours. On an average, an adult human body needs at least 7 hours of sleep but for some people it can be +, – 1. I have been sleeping for 7 hours every day for the past two years but recently I have come to realise that I function relatively better if I am sleeping for 8 hours. So do your little experiments and find out if you need 7 hours or 8 hours or 9 hours of sleep. The idea is not to under sleep or over sleep but to sleep for the adequate number of hours that your body needs.

3. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day: Alcohol comes under the category of drugs that we call ‘sedatives’ and by the very word sedative we think it will induce sleep. However, that’s not true. Alcohol consumption later in the day affects our REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep and REM sleep is quite significant when it comes to our emotional and mental health. Caffeine is a stimulant and coffee which contains caffeine is good when we are drinking it during the day but not so good when we are drinking in the afternoon or at night. It takes about 4-6 hours for caffeine to get metabolised in our body which means if we drink coffee at 4 pm then only half of caffeine has been processed through by 10 pm. Half is still there. And that obviously affects our sleep significantly. There are some people who face no problem when they drink coffee later in the day but for majority of the population that’s not the case. So watch out for your body is trying to tell you.

4. Comfortable environment: Our environment matters a lot when it comes to sleep. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable enough. Ideally it should be quite, dark and cool. Temperature of the room shouldn’t be too cold or too hot.

5. Unwind or in simple terms have a sleep ritual: Having a sleep ritual is very important in this world full of distractions. It helps give signals to our brain that our bed time is near and it’s time to prepare for bed. Some people prefer keeping away their phones an hour or two before bed. Some prefer reading or taking a hot bath. Whatever works out for you.

6. Don’t exercise too late: Exercise is very important but exercising too late during the day can be stimulating. Instead  go for a walk or maybe do some light stretching but intensive workouts should be avoided because it will affect your sleep quality.

7. Beds are for sleep not work: Beds should be reserved for sleep because when we do our daily activities in our bed we kind of confuse our brain. It gets confused whether bed is for sleeping or its for work. Make sure you work space is different from your sleeping space. Bed should be a stimulus for sleeping.

 

Disclaimer: This blog is about some general tips for sleep that are science based. If you or your loved ones are having some sleep problems which can’t be fixed by these tips then you should immediately talk to your doctor.

The blog is based on a video I made ‘7 Tips for a Goodnight Sleep- Backed by Science’. Don’t forget to check that out. It would mean a lot if you can like the video and subscribe to the channel ‘A Psyched Mind’. Your support will help ensure that science based information reaches more and more people.

A Psyched Mind

Under the Microscope: People with a Psychology degree- What I have found and why I feel enraged?

Picture credits: PNGWing

I have an under-graduate degree in economics. Quite honestly, I don’t remember what I studied and don’t like economics anymore. There are many reasons and I don’t want to bore you right away. So, maybe some other time. Back to where I was, I don’t like economics anymore. Right now I call myself a ‘psychology student’ because I am a psychology student. Over the past 4 years I have been around people who either have a psych background or are striving for what I am striving for. I have made certain observations about these people and they make me feel enraged. I know you’re going to stick it to my face that I have anger issues and must start meditating or even join an anger management class. Trust me, I am not angry in a bad way. I feel enraged but laugh at the same time because I find it funny.

I believe you can have any degree in the world and yet your life will remain the same (obviously, not true for everyone). I am specifically talking about people with degrees in medical science, psychology, physics, chemistry, etc. People with the above mentioned backgrounds should do everything in their power to stop being illogical and unscientific. When I encounter illogical and unscientific ideas I feel sad and my sadness elevates when those ideas come from people who claim themselves to be ‘potential psychologists’ or ‘medical doctors’. Based on what I have been seeing over the past few years, my observations are as follows:

Science is not everyone’s cup of tea

I could not stress upon it enough. Ever since I have started making sense of the things around me I have found that majority of the people with a medical degree, engineering degree, physics and chemistry degree and psychology degree are merely degree holders. Their education in these subjects did not change them at all. Such people call themselves medical doctors, psychologists, physicists, etc. and still their mind has only expanded professionally and not personally. They don’t know how to challenge the narratives they have been exposed with since childhood. Would you believe me if I told you that I have met psychology students who believe exorcism can cure schizophrenia? Would you believe me if I told you that I know people with a modern medicine degree who think homeopathy is not a pseudo-science? Would you also believe me if I told you that I know a lot of people who don’t believe in evolution?

Trust me, science is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Psychology is ‘interesting’ to everyone. Yet not everyone can grasp it intellectually

When I opted psychology for my graduate studies and told people about it (when they asked me) I believe 9 out of 10 people said they like psychology as it’s very ‘interesting’. I am not trying to insult anyone but those people had no idea what psychology as a subject actually means. It’s true that psychology is quite interesting but grasping it intellectually is not an easy job. Pick an academic paper in psychology and start reading it. I am sure you will stop finding it interesting. The subject of psychology is intellectually challenging and if you don’t agree with me then you’re studying the ‘real’ psychology.

You can study ‘abnormal psychology’ and then go around talking superstitious stuff

I remember I was in a psychopathology/abnormal psychology class and the topic of discussion was schizophrenia. One thing led to another and very soon my classmates started talking about their long held superstitious beliefs without even considering for a minute if that was making any sense. Things started becoming more interesting when paranoid schizophrenia was being explained using superstitions and utter nonsense. I am sorry to say this but they didn’t deserve to sit in an abnormal psychology class. Such people don’t deserve to pick up psychology subject at all.

Psychology isn’t limited to helping people get back on track in their lives

When my friends used to ask me what I am doing, I used to say that I am studying psychology and will pursue my career in this field. Immediately many of them used to pose another question and ask me, “Are you going to be a doctor of mad people?” I wanted to explain things to them and to a certain level I did but after some time I stopped. Because nothing could change their fixed ideas. So, I want to make things clear: psychology is much more than clinical psychology. Psychology is like an ocean and there are many sub-fields. It’s embodied in economics, anthropology, political science, business and many more. I would encourage people to do some research first and then ask such questions.

Psychology isn’t telepathy

A lot of people ask psychology students “Tell me what I am thinking right now?” I mean seriously? Psychology students/professionals of the field are not telepaths. If you don’t know your own self in the first place how can you expect another person to do it for you? Psychology is indeed about behaviour and mental processes. The focus group of the subject is none other than humans. But the training is not given to become mind readers. Training is given to study behaviours and mental processes scientifically and not randomly.

Yuval Noah Harari: A Visionary Man Who Metamorphosed my Ideas about the World

Picture credits: Google Images

I was in the final year of my college when I first got to know there is a book called “SAPIENS: A Brief History of Humankind” that exists. It was one of my classmates who recommended me and my friend this book. For almost 3 years I couldn’t manage to complete this book. Eventually I did. Only a few days ago. 

Describing how the book was seems quite a naïve question. Usual answers coming from the readers are:

“Oh, it was great.”

“You should really read this book. This book changed my life.”

“Yeah, it’s a good book.”       

                                                

But I personally believe that describing this book is a very difficult task. Words do fall short when it comes to describing SAPIENS. I do not mean to sound rude but many people applaud this book and go back to living their lives with the same held beliefs and ideas including “Evolution is tricky. I am sceptical about it.” Such people don’t do justice with the book. I cannot speak for everyone but my ideas have been made better after reading this book. I can speak for myself that my intellect is not the same as before. I am glad that it isn’t. 

Dr Yuval Noah Harari earned his PHD from the University of Oxford in History. He is now a full time professor at Hebrew University and his specialisation is in World History. His book Sapiens is an international bestseller and has been published in more than 30 languages worldwide. In the year 2012, Professor Harari received the annual Polonsky Prize for his work full of creativity and imagination. Dr Harari published another book in the year 2015 and it’s titled “HOMO DEUS: A Brief History of Tomorrow”. This book is about humankind’s future- where we are heading and what our future looks like. Homo Deus is followed by another incredible read “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”. The book is about our present. Dr Harari believes there are 3 problems revolving around heads and we must address them immediately: ecological collapse, technological disruption and nuclear war. Technological disruption is the most tricky one because our pace of technological developments is very fast and even we don’t know where is it we are heading or what is it that we are striving for. 

Cognitive revolution did give us some advantages over other human species including Homo Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, etc. What set us apart was our ability to believe in fictional stories. These fictional stories made us co-operate with our fellows in large numbers. We did manage to create imagined realities and they proved to be very helpful and necessary. Only a limited number of chimpanzees can stay in a room with one another. However, millions of humans co-operate with each other  (majorly strangers) just because they share the same imagined realities. Agricultural revolution changed the course of life of the hunter gatherers forever. When they settled, towns and cities began emerging. This was the period in human history which caused population explosion. More mouths meant a need to grow more and the vicious cycle continued. Scientific revolution has changed things to another level. An excerpt from the book SAPIENS beautifully captures the whole idea:

In 1500, humans were confined to the earth’s surface. They could build towers and climb mountains, but the sky was reserved for birds, angels and deities. On 20 July 1969, humans landed on the moon. This was not merely a historical achievement but an evolutionary and cosmic feat. During the previous 4 billions years of evolution, no organism managed even to leave the earth’s atmosphere, and certainly none left a foot or tentacle print on the moon.”

The world is changing at a much faster pace than anyone could have ever imagined. Technology, nevertheless, has made our lives better. Modern Science has managed to increase our life expectancy. Communication has become so much easier. In no time I can send a professor in the US an e-mail. Did pre-historic humans ever expect such a thing happening in the future? I don’t think so. However, our big problem is that even we are blank when it comes to asking ourselves: 

“WHAT IS IT THAT WE WANT?”

“WHAT WILL BE THE END OF OUR DESIRES?”

“WHERE DO WE SEE OURSELVES IN THE COMING YEARS?”

Dr Harari believes it is high time we grab on an ancient philosophy proposed by Aristotle- KNOW THYSELF. Seriously, we should become self- introspective and question our needs, wants, desires, etc. We should spend time knowing ourselves better than the corporations and government. Companies and governments are playing with our psychology to fulfil their self-interests. Politicians need power and authority. Corporations need profits. What about us? They don’t care about us. We are merely puppets in their hands. This is exactly why we need to start devoting some time into knowing ourselves better and more. Do we really need that new phone if our old one is working just fine? Do we really need that new furniture when our current furniture is only 6 months old? 

Question. Question and question.

I am going to end this blog with a quote by my favourite thinker, Dr Harari:

“I encourage all of us, whatever our beliefs, to question the basic narratives of our world, to connect past developments with present concerns, and not to be afraid of controversial issues.”

Are we born ‘creationists’?

Picture credits: Pinterest.com

It seems to have become an established truth that science and religion can never merge or go hand in hand. They both are incompatible with each other. The former proves that we are a product of evolution while the latter fails to make sense of evolution and puts faith in the ‘Intelligent design’. Now the argument of this blog isn’t about which one is right and which one is wrong. That’s a completely different story for another day. The argument is regarding our biases towards creationism because studies in developmental psychology are showing how children tend to believe in the blind watchmaker. 

Pascal Boyer, a French American Cognitive Anthropologist and Evolutionary Psychologist gave a theory called ‘Hypertrophy of social cognition’ which simply puts the fact that we have a natural willingness to see purpose, design, intention even when it is not there at all. Stewart Guthrie who is a Professor Emeritus at Fordham University, wrote a book “Faces in the Clouds” (1993) in which he explained how humans are always looking for some signs. So if we see a cloud or a tree or a bird or a leaf we try hard to perceive it as something even when it is nothing but a mere leaf or a tree. He further said that we look for intention even when it’s not there. Two prominent social psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel conducted an important experiment in 1944 to explore the experience of animacy. They made a movie using geometric figures including circle, triangles, squares. The movie was made in a way as if storytelling was going on. It was found that the participants started attributing figures to people in which every figure was either a hero or a villain or a bully or a victim. It was done instinctively. 

Developmental psychologists believe cognitive biases might be playing their role and help explain why intelligent design is so popular among people even in children. These biases are:

  1. Psychological Essentialism 
  2. Teleological explanations

Psychological essentialism is a belief that a basic, internal quality of a species will never change throughout life. When three year old children were asked if a Labrador undergoing a surgery will still look like a Labrador and not Rottwieler, they agreed. This showed that the pre-schoolers  have a basic understanding of an individual identity even when appearances change. In a way, psychological essentialism is a useful tool because it helps us categorize and get all sorts of other information for free. However, the fact that internal qualities in species do not change contradicts with the theory of evolution . Natural selection in evolution is a process which says that species constantly change and adapt so that they have better traits to survive in the environment than others. Maybe psychological essentialism is why people find it hard to digest evolution theory. 

Teleological explanations is another cognitive bias we have that underpins the importance of intelligent design among us. As already discussed in previous paragraphs that humans have a bad eye for randomness and believe everything has a purpose, this is what makes us not prioritise the theory of evolution. When children are asked why some mountains look like mushroom or why some rocks are very sharp and pointy they tell it’s because animals do not sit on them. Thus indicating a purpose or an intention. Rather the real explanation is that it is so because of processes like wind erosion taking place for thousands of years. It looks like creationism lies deeply in us. 

But Charles Darwin changed everything. His theory explained complex structure in living organisms without seeking help of a creator or an intelligent design. It’s very unfortunate that still many people do not believe in evolution. A lot of intellectuals belonging to the field of science do not believe in evolution. They rather believe the earth is only 10,000 years old. 

An important question remains: can we tackle these biases among people (even among children) so that there is more room for natural selection? Probably. Scientists need to understand that understanding evolution is not a piece of cake. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. People might study it at schools and colleges for the sake of passing the exams. But that doesn’t guarantee any firm belief in it. So, in the simplest possible ways, without getting too technical evolution should be taught to children. The illustrations should be filled with pictures and colours to make it all look very appealing and interesting. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that we are born creationists. 

If You’re Blessed. Be a Blessing.

Picture credits: CNN.com

No one ever became poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a German- Dutch diarist, a Holocaust survivor who posthumously gained fame with the publication of her all time famous book “The Diary of a Young Girl”. For approximately two years she and her family lived in a secret annex to avoid getting caught by the Nazis. However, they got caught and only her father , Otto Frank managed to survive. The times she and her entire family was going through is completely unimaginable for all of us. In spite of living in such ordeals Anne Frank did not stop being optimistic and the best version of herself. While she had nothing to give to anyone outside that secret place she was living in, she believed in the power of giving. She said that no one in this world has ever become impoverished by giving to other people. 

Why you must give?

We all talk about giving. We all say if we have so much to be grateful for we must never back down from helping others. In other words, if we have so many countable blessings we must become a blessing to someone else too. I think that’s appropriate because life is not a life if it is lived not in the service of others (please mind that living in the service of others doesn’t mean we should forget our own selves). Many pundits and philosophers also believed in this and made the best usage of words to express themselves:

“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”Leo Tolstoy

“We make a living by what we get, we make life by what we give.”- Winston Churchill

And finally…

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.  If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.  If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.  If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”  –Chinese Proverb

Is this enough? I mean is this the only reason we must give to other people? No. While poets and philosophers were right, science has now ample amount of data to prove that giving is a good thing and it adds meaning to our lives. 

In the year 2008 an interesting study was conducted by researchers at Harvard University and University of British Columbia on the benefits of giving. In the study they found that spending money on others lead to lasting improvements in people’s overall happiness levels. Another study was conducted by Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University and in one of their annual studies ‘Women Give 2017’ it was found that there is a connection between charitable giving and life satisfaction. In other words, there is a relation between how satisfied we feel in our lives and how charitable our attitudes are. Economists Bill Harbaugh & Daniel Burghart and psychologist Ulrich Mayr conducted a study in the year 2007 which was published in a prestigious journal Science. They were interested in observing the changes in brain activities when donations were voluntary or mandatory. Every participant was given a sum of $100 and were told no one would know how much of it they had kept with themselves or donated. The participants were kept under fMRI machines while they made decisions whether to keep some money or donate it. Their brain activity was measured by an fMRI. Sometimes subjects had a choice to choose if they were willing to donate some money to a local food bank while other times tax was levied and some of the money was sent to a local food bank without seeking the permission of the participants. Researchers found that when the participants chose to donate, the areas of the brain were lit up that release pleasure chemical called dopamine. These are the same brain areas which respond when we are involved in activities including eating and sex. On the other hand, when subjects had to donate in spite of their choice same brain areas were lit up but the activity was slower than in the previous case. 

These experiments are only a drop in the ocean. There are tons of other studies that clearly demonstrate that giving to other people is a good thing. Bill Gates is one of the names that is cited the most when it comes to philanthropy. His wealth is estimated to be nearly $94 billion and he has given away approximately $50 billion over the years to various charities. Other well-known philanthropists include Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, J K Rowling, etc. They all seem to have understood that by giving no one becomes poor. Ever. 

What can you give?

Now we know donating money to charities is an excellent practice to boost our psychological well-being. Even science agrees. But is it really about money? Does it always have to be about dollars or pounds or euros? Is it really that only if I am donating a part of my income to various charities and people in general then I am contributing in uplifting the society? Was Anne Frank merely talking about money when she said about ‘giving’? 

While it is true that it’s money which often comes to our minds whenever we are talking about giving something, we need to expand our perspective. Not everyone is in a position to help someone financially. Sometimes you’re helping someone if you are being kind and understanding with them. You’re also helping someone if you’re guiding them correctly so that they stay on the right path throughout their lives. Moreover, you’re helping someone by being the best version of yourself. They may not be given much worth but they are definitely worthy. Currently, I am not earning any money and I cannot help someone money wise. I cannot buy anyone any gifts on their birthdays. Until that day comes I am trying to help people with everything else. I am trying to become a better person each day so that my goodness is out there in the world. 

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Picture credits: studygrowknowblog.com

Conspiracy theories are not a modern invention. They have been a part of human civilization for a very long time. There are conspiracy theories that revolve around 9/11, moon landing, Adolf Hitler, Nazism, etc. Some conspiracy theories assert that Hitler did not commit suicide but escaped and lived in secrecy until his death (god knows what year). Even Antisemitism is believed to be based upon a conspiracy theory: a cabal of financiers (Jews) were secretly plotting to dominate the whole world and destroy the Aryan race. It was only a matter of time that Hitler found out about it and took the necessary steps.

When the whole world is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic conspiracy theories don’t seem to go anywhere. The most popular conspiracy theory during the pandemic is related to Bill Gates who is a Microsoft co-founder and a philanthropist. He had been accused of unleashing the virus so that he could make money while making a vaccine for it and then implant microchips into people to keep constant surveillance. The believers believed because how come he knew about a virus and not a war killing millions of people in the year 2015- five years prior to the pandemic.

Conspiracy theories might seem interesting but why such theories float among us all is a much more interesting question. Before jumping on to why we are so susceptible to misinformation it is critical to understand that there is a distinction between fiction and lies. Lies and fiction both play a role in conspiracy theories. Yuval Noah Harari who is one of my favorite thinkers believes there is a difference between lies and fiction. He believes lies are often spread intentionally to deceive people while fictional stories spread not with a malicious intent. They are passed on having best interests in our hearts. Fictions are actually needed so that we as a human race co-operate with one another. Take religion, for instance. Religion has no objective reality. It is only a fictional story. It is required so that we all live in unity. So, when people are spreading conspiracy theories they may not be lying about them. If they are passing them on it is important that they believe in them first. In the end they do believe.

Professor Harari believes human beings majorly are not very good when it comes to understanding complicated things like a virus. Making the efforts to understand the genetic code of a virus and how it replicates when it enters inside a living host seems quite daunting and difficult. So people prefer explanations that are easier to understand. Hence they believe in ridiculous theories. It is easier to understand that billionaires have started the pandemic than all the statistics and logical explanations scientists have been trying to put forth.

Human beings seek certainty. We are always questioning things happening around us and we eventually search for their answers. But when things get a little bit more uncertain we become very uncomfortable. As already mentioned that humans prefer easier explanations so, we go out & start finding comfort and conspiracy theories do just that.

Another reason why people fall prey to conspiracy theories is that human beings want security and a sense of control in their lives. When that security gets threatened and our comfort zone starts getting disrupted we turn to ideas that give back our lost sense of control and security. For instance if I don’t want my social life to come at halt during the pandemic and I want to keep socializing with people then false ideas generating ridiculous theories like ‘there is no such thing like COVID-19, it is a hoax’ will be taken seriously. It is because it’ telling me that I still have control over the things. And my security is still intact.

These are some of the reasons that shed light on why we have a tendency to believe in conspiracy theories. Can we do something about it? Maybe we can. Professor Harari believes this is high time we put our good faith in science. Instead of taking in information from unreliable sources with no knowledge of viruses, pandemics, public health, etc. we need to shift to reliable sources offering scientific explanations. Do not believe what a self-proclaimed scientist is telling you!! Furthermore, scientists should convey information not merely using statistics and some very complicated graphs. Rather in form of stories. Humans love stories and when something is passed on in form of nicely constructed stories they believe in them.

Conspiracy theories have a potential to cause a lot of damage. Imagine how many Jews had to die during the World War 2 due to one person’s delusions and misinformation. It is important to understand that we must not dismiss conspiracy theories entirely. While it is ridiculous that Bill Gates started the pandemic to implant chips into people it is critical to ponder upon the issue of global surveillance that central authority figures are already performing.

Are we really doomed?

Picture credits: Scientific American magazine

We have never cared enough of our homeland. We have always treated it so badly believing nothing of danger can ever take place. In retaliation, however the very place we call our ‘home’ has been very patient with us just like parents are with their children. Human race seems to have forgotten that every action has a reaction and that reaction is lingering upon us for quite a long time now. Climate change is a very big concern. It is sad it is not being given the highest priority by the political leaders. It looks like the issue still lacks a lot of political will. There are important questions that puzzle a lot of people (especially those who care about climate change): Are we really doomed? Is it too late to reverse the ecological collapse? Are we seriously running out of time? These questions are quite daunting. Yet we must address them so that we have a clearly laid out plan to do our best.

It is obvious that earth’s atmosphere is majorly comprised of nitrogen and oxygen. There is carbon-dioxide too but its percentage is very low: 0.04%. Unfortunately, the percentage is rising and the more carbon-dioxide is in earth’s atmosphere the hotter the earth gets because Co2 traps sunlight that comes in the atmosphere. According to a report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) global carbon-dioxide emissions flattened at 33 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2019 after a consecutive increase for two years. This may sound like positive news but the number is still very alarming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published in 2018 revealed that if we want to limit warming to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century we will have to limit the carbon emissions by 45% by the year 2030 and further cutting down carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. It looks like we have 10 years left to prevent climate crisis to a greater extent and 30 years to complete the job altogether. But to scientists the time frame seems a little misleading to general public.

“The world will not end if we pass 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above preindustrial levels,” said Katharine Mach, a climate scientist at the University of Miami. But such deadlines give forth an important message: every year we delay addressing climate change is an invitation to an ecological catastrophe. An ecologist at Georgetown University, Colin Carlson believes there is no point in debating which year climate change is going to show up because it is already here. His research has shown that diseases caused by mosquitoes like dengue and malaria prevail more in warmer climate. Every year hundreds or thousands of people die. I know my opinion is going to be completely anecdotal but I am seeing already how mosquitoes prevail in my neighborhood even in the month of December!! They don’t seem to go away for the whole year. Many regions in North America, South America, Africa and Asia are also becoming very hot to grow crops. Sea levels are already rising which is making it difficult to live in the coastal areas. Coral reefs are getting wiped out. High water temperature is making it very hard for them to survive. As a result, half of the corals have been lost in the Great Barrier Reef in the last two decades. Plants and animals will have a hard time to evolve because of the destruction we are causing to Mother Nature. Just imagine how hot it would be in areas near the equator!! We are already seeing forest fires all over the world. In the last months of 2019, Australia witnessed worst-ever forest fires killing or severely damaging crores of animals. Thousands of people had to leave their homes and the country suffered millions of dollars of property damage.

Sir David Attenborough who is a natural historian and broadcaster believes things are getting out of our hands and they are only going to get worse if we still stay ignorant. In one of the interviews with Channel 4 he said his biggest fear regarding the implications of climate change is that there is going to be mass civil unrest and mass migration. When asked if it is actually too late to reverse climate change he said, “It’s too late to reverse it. Not in my lifetime, but in the next lifetime. I don’t think you can reverse it. I think the best that we can hope is that we will slow it down, and slow it down considerably.”

Climate change is a very serious problem. I personally disagree that we can delay it any further. The best time to do something about it is NOW. Nothing ever gets done until we prioritize it and it seems like leaders do not look at climate crisis as a priority. With innovations made possible with science and technology we humans have drastically changed the course of our lives. What’s needed right now is to use brilliant minds to innovate methods that can help tackle the problem of climate change. The situation should not be taken lightly anymore. It is true things are not so good no matter what is being projected. But we must not lose hope. We should stay positive that a lot can happen if we take the right steps at the right time. And that time is not tomorrow, day after tomorrow or 4 months later. The right time is NOW.

The worst virus you could possibly get infected with

Picture credits: thespiritscience.net

Let me start by asking a very simple question: “What do you think is a virus?”

Let me help you a bit. A virus is an ‘infective’ agent that is ‘too small’ to be seen by light microscopy and multiplies only within living cells of a host.

Coronavirus disease is caused by one of the types of coronaviruses. So, yes it is a virus. What I have been seeing lately is that people are not only getting infected with corona-virus but also a virus of illogical beliefs and unscientific ideas. It is infectious, no doubt. It passes from one person to another and then throughout communities. It is so small that you cannot look at a person and say he/she is suffering from this virus. Their qualifications and living standards might trick you into believing that they are sane people when actually they are very dumb.

I see many people not wearing masks. I see people not following social distancing. And I also know many people who are travelling as if there never was any COVID-19 pandemic. Do I feel angry at them? Of course I do. I get very frustrated. But more than frustration I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry because they are suffering from such a deadly virus of stupid beliefs and they do not even know about it. What’s even more saddening is that so many of them are qualified, smart and good people. But the pandemic has brought about their true colors. The stoics were wise enough to know how such a kind of virus is so deadly and lethal. Marcus Aurelius, a famous stoic around 2,000 years ago said very aptly during the Antonine Plague, “An infected mind is a far more dangerous pestilence than any plague. One only threatens your life; the other destroys your character.” I do not mean to sound judgemental and rude but I am getting a very fine idea about people’s characters these days.

Research has shown that wearing masks actually reduces the spread of virus to a greater extent. Yet people do not do it. Why is it that people do not want to wear masks? Why are they so hesitant and arrogant enough to put their and other people’s lives in danger by not wearing masks? As it turns out there are many reasons to it.

People do not like it whenever they are told what to do. It is simply a human psychology. So, when they are asked to wear face masks they start believing their freedom has been snatched away from them and so they act out and do the opposite. “People value their freedoms. They may become distressed or indignant or morally outraged when people are trying to encroach on their freedoms.” said Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist at University British Columbia and an author of a book “The Psychology of Pandemics”.

Everyone is exposed to different kind of information and the kind of information they have always been exposed to determine their ability to perceive anything. In this case, everyone’s risk perception towards COVID-19 varies a lot. And it decides if people are going to wear masks or not. Also, a direct experience with the virus will also shape your ability to wear a mask. People who had/have contracted the virus and suffered because of it will be much more careful than the ones who didn’t get an infection.

It is also common among people to believe that wearing masks make them look weak in front of others. So to compensate for that people do not wear masks at all. They do not want others to think of them as ‘scared beings’.

It is not easy to change human psychology especially during these uncertain and difficult times. A belief about anything cannot be changed in a moment. So, if people are infected with close-mindedness, they are impervious to reason and scientific evidences then the job becomes really hard.

We still need to try. As I said, the job is not easy but we have to try. We should and we must. Telling people blatantly to wear masks might not be the best way to make them wear one. Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist and professor at Harvard wrote an article on males who wouldn’t wear masks with a marked lack of shaming. After that many men got in touch with her and opened their minds to listen to her views. We can try changing people’s beliefs about things if we show some empathy towards them. Also, there is a need to make things less confusing- leaders, famous and successful people should set up good examples. If these people are not going to wear masks themselves and follow social distancing then it will definitely get very confusing for others to figure out what should be done.

Writing Gratitude Diary for 30 days as a challenge

Picture credits: Bustle

Gratitude and well-being

‘Gratitude’ has become a very common word these days. I see everybody writing or talking about it. In a way it makes me feel good because gratitude has many benefits and seeing people taking it seriously gives me a relief that they will be all right. However, it becomes bothersome when people merely talk about it but never act upon it. Probably it is because they don’t understand it well enough– they think they do but actually they don’t. I just hope I am wrong.

I can speak for myself when it comes to not fully understanding what gratitude is all about. Thankfully life found numerous ways to make me wise. Martin Seligman, a leading psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania is a pioneer in the field of positive psychology. Before the emergence of positive psychology, psychology was all about mental illnesses, flaws and shortcomings in people’s personalities. And Professor Seligman changed it. He wanted to promote the idea that we all have strengths within us and to live a happy, satisfied life filled with meaning it is very important that we focus on our strengths and not just weaknesses.

There are many studies on gratitude & well-being. One of the interesting ones is when researchers asked respondents or participants to do one of the three exercises. One group of participants was asked to write down 5 things they were grateful for each week for around 10 weeks. The other group was asked to write things that were negative and they weren’t grateful for (for 10 weeks). The last of the three groups was made to write about neutral events (neither positive nor negative) taking place in their lives for 10 weeks. It was found at the end of 10 weeks that people who took out some time to write gratitude diary continuously recorded being 25% happier than the ones who didn’t.

Sounds interesting, right? Well, it would be better if you also take out some time every day to just reflect upon the things that made you happy and write them down.

Gratitude diary and me

My experience with writing a gratitude diary consecutively for 30 days was a different experience altogether.

  1. Honestly, I dreaded writing gratitude diary. But my commitment surpassed it.

The challenge I undertook to write 3 things I was grateful for during my day wasn’t easy. It was because I didn’t feel writing it at all. Sometimes I was feeling very sleepy that I just wanted to sleep on it. Sometimes my hands couldn’t manage to write properly and I just wanted to write a single word and get done with it. I literally dreaded it. In spite of all the laziness I did it. And I am glad that I did because I was committed to it. When I decided to undertake the challenge I was very much sure that I would not be able to it. But I proved myself wrong. My unwillingness to write few good words that made my day felt short in front of my commitment to stay stick to a 30 day challenge.

2. I was seeking pearls within an ocean of sorrows, sadness and disappointments.

There were days when I was sitting on my chair thinking very hard about 3 good things that I was grateful for. All I could think of was negative chain of events, boredom, frustration, helplessness, etc. Such moments made me realize that happiness isn’t always readily available. Many times we have to take some extra efforts to find or create it. Our days get so bad that all we think of is negativity. And that is okay. But not always. A single cup of coffee or tea with your loved ones or even all by yourself is enough to bring a smile on your face. Like I said, you can find pearls deep within an ocean of sorrows, sadness and disappointments; if you try hard enough.

Even though writing gratitude diary some days didn’t feel very appealing and I felt very lazy, I know very well (through empirical studies as mentioned above) that it is very crucial. I am not saying that by writing down 3 or 5 things that made you happy before going to bed is going to make you the happiest person on this earth. Trust me, that’s not what I am suggesting. There is no causation but co-relation. What I am saying is that human brain responds to gratitude and by practicing it regularly we can teach ourselves to be more optimistic and thus at least a little bit happier than before.

Stop Misusing OCD: Myths about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Picture credits: ADDitude

In this modern world, we are suffering from different types of mental health issues that are disrupting our personal, social and work lives. And OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one such mental health issue that affects about 1.2 percent of the Americans (American Psychiatric Association).

But what is OCD and what are the misconceptions that people have about this particular disorder.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a type of an anxiety disorder which is characterized by having unwanted and recurring thoughts, referred to as obsessions, which forces an individual to act on them repetitively, referred to as compulsions. We all suffer from having unwanted thoughts. We all have recurring thoughts too about something or the other and many times such thoughts compel us to act upon them. However, things are a little different for people suffering from OCD. They have these obsessions and want to have a control over them but they can’t. They know well that their thoughts are not making any sense but they can do nothing to stop themselves from having them and acting upon them. Things get out of their hands to such an extent that their obsessions and compulsions start to mess up with their personal, social and work life. Fortunately there are different treatments that one can seek and get better with time.

What’s worrisome is that people have misunderstood this particular mental health issue and let some myths take control over their level of understanding. And it is very important that these myths should be debunked.

3 Common Myths about OCD

MYTH 1: If you are meticulous, you have OCD

Some people are very punctilious. They work with a lot of precision. Even I like precision and want to do every task with perfection (although I know well enough perfection doesn’t exist). But that does not mean such meticulous people have OCD. Being precise with everything is one of their personality traits. It doesn’t mean that they have impulses and compulsions to act upon them. So before you go out and call someone having OCD based on their orderliness, make sure you don’t pick up on myths anymore.

MYTH 2: If you are washing hands many times or like things hygienic, you have OCD

A lot of people believe that OCD is all about washing hands many times and keeping things neat and tidy. While it is true that many people with OCD have one of the obsessions where they believe their hands are dirty and feel compelled to wash them 20 times in an hour; it is not the end of the story. Obsessions can be of different kinds including fear of close ones dying, fear of harming themselves or loved ones, fear of committing a sin or crime, etc. Many people have obsessions where they believe they haven’t locked their almirah locks or haven’t turned off gas stove. As a result, keep checking them compulsively many many times in a day.

MYTH 3: People with OCD should learn to have some control over their thoughts

Stigma is very common among mental disorders or psychopathology. People never miss on any opportunity to teach the sufferers that they need to be bold and take control over things. They must not act weak anymore. Such sentient beings make it all sound so relaxing as if it all so easy. It is not easy to let go off the obsessions. It is not easy to stop acting upon intrusive thoughts altogether. There are a lot of factors playing their part: changes in brain’s chemistry due to imbalances in neurotransmitters, triggers in the environment, cultural background, interpersonal relationships, etc. That is why it is not so easy for people suffering from OCD to simply have control over their thoughts.

Mental Health problems are never easy: both for the person suffering and people who are closed ones. That is why it is of utmost importance that we get to the facts and seek professional help and not get wrapped around misconceptions and myths.