Saturday, December 31, 2022

Learn time management to make those New Year’s resolutions stick

  Does this sound familiar? You make a New Year’s resolution, like learning a new language, reading more books, or playing an instrument. You’re really excited at the beginning. You even go out and buy books or sign up for lessons. But then life happens.

  You get busy at work, you have to take care of your kids or elderly parents, and before you know it, the month is over and you’ve barely made a dent.

Friday, December 30, 2022

A call for more civility

  When George Washington was 16, he discovered a booklet of 110 maxims describing how a well-mannered person should behave. He was so convinced that these maxims would help him become a better person that he set out to incorporate them into his daily living. Among Washington’s many virtues, his commitment to civility marked him as a gentleman and helped him become a universally respected and enormously effective leader.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

A neuroscientist’s tips for a new year tuneup for your brain

  Unlike the effervescent bubbles that stream to the top of champagne flutes on New Year’s Eve, what I call brain bubbles are far from celebratory. These bubbles are metaphorical rather than physical, and they distort the stream of reality processed by our brains. Like a real estate bubble that reflects an inflated perception of home values, a brain bubble twists your perception of the world around you. And when either of these bubbles bursts, the results can be devastating.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Establishing a culture of kindness

  Though intensive media attention on bullying has died down, the problem persists in many forms, and it continues to diminish the lives of tens of thousands of young people every day. According to a recent survey, roughly half of all high school students said that in the past year they were bullied in a manner that seriously upset them. A similar number said they had bullied someone else.

  That’s an awful lot of meanness.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

4 New Year’s resolutions for a healthier environment in 2023

  When many people think of New Year’s resolutions, they brainstorm ways to improve themselves for the year ahead. What if we expanded those aspirations to include resolutions that benefit our communities, society, and the planet, too?

  It might not be a typical approach, but it can broaden your horizons to show ways you can also be of service to others.

Monday, December 26, 2022

We are what we think

  In the early 1900s, a little-known philosopher named James Allen wrote a powerful essay called “As a Man Thinketh” in which he argued that we are what we think, that a person’s character is the sum of his thoughts. He declared that the power to control our thoughts (whether we use that power or not) is the ability to mold our character and shape our destiny.

  This is a profound insight, making us personally responsible not only for our conduct but for our circumstances.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

How Christmas became an American holiday tradition, with a Santa Claus, gifts and a tree

  Each season, the celebration of Christmas has religious leaders and conservatives publicly complaining about the commercialization of the holiday and the growing lack of Christian sentiment. Many people seem to believe that there was once a way to celebrate the birth of Christ in a more spiritual way.

  Such perceptions about Christmas celebrations have, however, little basis in history. As a scholar of transnational and global history, I have studied the emergence of Christmas celebrations in German towns around 1800 and the global spread of this holiday ritual.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas food around the world

  The following provides just a taste of favorite festive foods from around the world:


  Austrians celebrate Christmas in grand style with a Christmas Eve supper of carp simmered in a ginger and beer-flavored sauce and seasonal vegetables, followed by Topfenpalatschinken (sweet cheese crepes topped with an apricot caramel sauce) for dessert. The traditional fare on Christmas Day is roast goose with all the trimmings.

Friday, December 23, 2022

The road to significance

  The most traditional way to measure the quality of one’s life is to evaluate success by listing accolades, achievements, and acquisitions. After all, in its simplest terms, success is getting what we want, and most people want wealth and status.

  Yet, as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will elude them if they do not have peace of mind, self-respect, and enduring, loving relationships.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Christmas around the world

  Christmas is both a religious holiday and increasingly a secular holiday heavily influenced by local culture. As a result, Christmas traditions are as diverse as the world itself.

  In the United States, for example, Christmas traditions are a literal potpourri of the Christmas traditions brought by immigrants, mostly European. For example, Yule log (English), Christmas tree (German), carols or noels (France), Santa Claus (Dutch). In more recent times, newer Christmas traditions have arrived with the most recent immigrants such as luminaries (Mexico) and the "Feliz Navidad!" greeting (Latin America generally).

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

About one-third of the food Americans buy is wasted, hurting the climate and consumers’ wallets

  You saw it at Thanksgiving, and you’ll likely see it at your next holiday feast: piles of unwanted food – unfinished second helpings, underwhelming kitchen experiments, and the like – all dressed up with no place to go except the back of the refrigerator. With luck, hungry relatives will discover some of it before the inevitable green mold renders it inedible.

  U.S. consumers waste a lot of food year-round – about one-third of all purchased food. That’s equivalent to 1,250 calories per person per day, or US$1,500 worth of groceries for a four-person household each year, an estimate that doesn’t include recent food price inflation. And when food goes bad, the land, labor, water, chemicals, and energy that went into producing, processing, transporting, storing, and preparing it are wasted too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Hate Christmas? A psychologist’s survival guide for Grinches

  Years ago, I came into work on December 1 to find a bag on my desk labeled “Karen’s Christmas Intervention”. It contained many Christmas-themed gifts and challenges – such as watching a Christmas DVD and going to a carol service. These were all designed to help me find something to like about Christmas. I tried everything – after all, someone had made a big effort. But while I enjoyed completing each challenge, it didn’t change my values. I remain a Grinch.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Why we love holiday rituals and traditions

  The mere thought of holiday traditions brings smiles to most people’s faces and elicits feelings of sweet anticipation and nostalgia. We can almost smell those candles, taste those special meals, hear those familiar songs in our minds.

  Ritual marks some of the most important moments in our lives, from personal milestones like birthdays and weddings to seasonal celebrations like Thanksgiving and religious holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah. And the more important the moment, the fancier the ritual.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

What Hanukkah’s portrayal in pop culture means to American Jews

  When I was growing up in suburban New York, Hanukkah was not grounded in religious observance. Having no clue that there are traditional Hebrew blessings that accompany the kindling of the Hanukkah candles, we invented our own wishes, awkwardly voiced out loud, for happiness and peace.

  Then again, the festival of Hanukkah demands the performance of fewer religious rituals than most other Jewish observances. Even the most pious Jews do not take off from work during the eight-day festival. After all, the holiday is never mentioned in the Bible since the events that it commemorates occurred hundreds of years after the Bible was written.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

What is a good Christmas?

  Will this be a good Christmas?

  How will you measure it?

  For lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question, “What did ya get?”

Friday, December 16, 2022

What’s the point of holiday gifts?

  Whether it’s the dread of a trip to an overcrowded shopping mall, the challenge of picking out the right gifts, the frustration over delivery delays, or the hit to the wallet, shopping for holiday gifts can be stressful.

  What’s the point of it all? Shouldn’t the holiday season simply be about family, friends, and food? And wouldn’t everyone just be better off spending their own money on things they know they want?

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Surviving critical relatives at family gatherings

  I realize that not everyone lives in a Norman Rockwell world where family gatherings are sources of warmth and good memories. For some, the prospect of holiday get-togethers generates dread and anxiety; they are something to endure, not enjoy.

  One reason is that family members can be tactless and downright cruel when expressing their opinions about perceived foibles, flaws, and failures of their relatives, especially in-laws. Often comments are so laden with negative judgment that they could make the Grinch wince. Whether motivated by well-intentioned, but misdirected, love and concern, or by malice, insensitive or unkind words are like spears to the heart.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

What psychiatrists have to say about holiday blues

  This time of the year brings a lot of changes to the usual day-to-day life of hundreds of millions of people: The weather is colder, trees are naked, snowy days become plentiful, and friendly critters are less visible around the neighborhood. Especially in the Western Hemisphere, this time of the year is also linked to a lot of joyous celebrations and traditions. Most children and many adults have been excited for this time of the year to come for months, and they love the aura of celebrations with their gatherings, gifts, cookies, emails, and cards.

  Alas, there are also millions who have to deal with darker emotions as the world literally darkens around them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

‘Twas the night before Christmas’ helped make the modern Santa – and led to a literary whodunit

  The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known by its opening line “‘Twas the Night before Christmas,” has a special place among Christmas traditions, right alongside hot chocolate, caroling, and bright lights. It has also inspired the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly old man sporting red and a round belly.

  But this poem has been steeped in controversy, and debate still looms over who the true author is. Traditionally, Clement C. Moore – a 19th-century scholar at the General Theological Seminary in New York, where I work as a reference librarian – has been credited with writing the poem in 1822 for his children. Every December, library staff shares our multiple copies of the poem in an exhibit to celebrate the holiday season.

  No matter who wrote it, the poem is a fascinating object that has shaped Christmases past, present – and maybe yet to come.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Retail... why I hate Christmas

  I work in retail, therefore, I hate Christmas. Yes, that's what I said: I HATE CHRISTMAS. People often cluck their tongues and shake their heads in appalled disbelief when I tell them this, and then they often follow up the shaking of their heads with the same response: "I love Christmas because people are nicer to each other."

  Obviously, these people do not and have never worked in a grocery store during the holiday season. Wherever these kindler, gentler folk are, they definitely aren't anywhere near my place of employment. Of course, I work at the customer service desk, which on any given day, is overcrowded with pissed-off patrons demanding refunds and making general threats in order to get free food. During the holidays, this volatile behavior inevitably increases twofold, only to be compounded by the insane repetition of the Muzak in the background playing the 975th version of "White Christmas."

Sunday, December 11, 2022

317,793 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2020 despite the growing legalization movement

  More than 300,000 people were arrested for cannabis possession in 2020, FBI records show. Meanwhile, the drug is being legally sold for a profit in 19 states.

  That arrest number may sound high, but arrests have actually been going down each year since 2010 as more states legalize medical or recreational use of the drug. In 2019, for example, more than 500,000 marijuana possession arrests were reported, so the 2020 arrest numbers represent a single-year decline of 36%.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Making resolutions of principle

  The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions reflects one the very best qualities of human nature – the ability to reflect on and assess our lives in terms of the goals we set for ourselves and the principles we believe in.

  It’s still not too late to formulate a self-improvement plan to make our outer lives and inner selves better by adopting more positive attitudes, living up to our highest values, and strengthening our relationships.

Friday, December 9, 2022

The best way to follow through on your New Year’s resolution? Make an ‘old year’s resolution’

  If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, your plot for self-improvement probably kicks into gear sometime on Jan. 1, when the hangover wears off and the quest for the “new you” begins in earnest.

  But if research on habit change is any indication, only about half of New Year’s resolutions are likely to make it out of January, much less last a lifetime.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Character is an essential part of competence

  If you were hiring a new CEO, what are the most important qualities you’d look for?

  Surely you’d want a high level of demonstrated competence – knowledge, experience, intelligence, vision, communication, and relationship skills and the ability to motivate, manage, and solve problems. But what about qualities such as honesty, moral courage, accountability, and fairness?

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The 4 biggest gift-giving mistakes, according to a consumer psychologist

  A good gift can elicit a surge of happiness and gratitude in the recipient. It also feels great to give, with psychologists finding that the joy of giving a gift is more pronounced than the pleasure of receiving one.

  Unfortunately, there are times when you receive a gift and you have to force a smile and fake your gratitude.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Taking back their power: Black veterans seek recognition, recompense for generations of racial inequity

  When Richard Brookshire finished his tour as a combat medic in Afghanistan in 2011, he couldn’t wait to get on with his life. He enrolled in Fordham University and earned a degree in political science, graduating magna cum laude and going on to earn a master’s degree in public policy at Columbia University.

  Brookshire had been out of graduate school only a few months when, in 2017, amid a rising tide of violence against Black communities in the U.S., a white supremacist brutally killed a 66-year-old Black man in New York City. The murderer was also an Army veteran. And, chillingly, he had gone through basic training with Brookshire, deployed in the same brigade, and even left Afghanistan at the same time.

  For Brookshire, who is Black and gay, the realization – at a moment of increasing racist rhetoric and violence across the United States – that he served alongside someone who harbored such rage unearthed painful memories of racist aggressions during his service, plunging him into a frightening mental health crisis.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Access to sports betting in the US has exploded since 2018 – and we’re just starting to learn about the effects

  For most of U.S. history, sports betting was rare.

  Some people certainly bet on sports illegally via a bookie, or placed bets in the few places where it was legal, such as Nevada.

  However, gambling policy took a sharp turn in 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that each state had the right to legalize or prohibit sports wagering as they saw fit.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

How the news media – long in thrall to Trump – can cover his new run for president responsibly

  Now that he’s in the 2024 presidential race, the media circus that is Donald Trump is returning for a new season.

  Trump is still newsworthy. He’s been weakened by his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, his attempt to overthrow its result, and the underperformance of Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms. Nevertheless, Trump is more than a party leader. “Make America Great Again,” known colloquially as “MAGA,” is a political movement. Trump has a legion of diehard followers.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

How Mrs. Claus embodied 19th-century debates about women’s rights

  Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” redefined Christmas in America. As historian Steven Nissenbaum explains in “The Battle for Christmas,” Moore’s secular St. Nick weakened the holiday’s religious associations, transforming it into a familial celebration that culminated in Santa Claus’ toy deliveries on Christmas Eve.

  Nineteenth-century writers, journalists, and artists were quick to fill in details about Santa that Moore’s poem left out: a toy workshop, a home at the North Pole, and a naughty-or-nice list. They also decided that Santa Claus wasn’t a bachelor; he was married to Mrs. Claus.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Why do we feel bad when our beliefs don’t match our actions? Blame ‘cognitive dissonance’

  Have you ever been out and about, perhaps tackling the Christmas shopping list, and felt a bit thirsty? You buy a drink – say, one that comes in a plastic bottle – and quench your thirst, only to find there’s no recycling nearby. What do you do?

  You could hang on to the empty bottle, or throw it in with general rubbish. If you are particularly passionate about recycling, the latter option may feel quite distressing.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Give good memories

  In a society preoccupied with the quest for material possessions, it’s easy to overlook the fact that our most valuable possessions are our best memories.

  Good memories are a form of wealth. They are not simply something we own, they become part of who we are. Through our memories we can literally re-live and re-experience past pleasures.