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Bits & Bites

BIG ON SMALL TALK

 

Do you avoid social situations? You’d rather eat your cravat and become one with the wallpaper than force a smile and shake hands with a stranger. Brace yourself: recent studies show that small talk might actually be good for you.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that just a few words about the weather, sports or the background music can lead to minimal social interaction that will ultimately help you focus, plan, and organize. University of British Columbia researchers found that daily interactions with casual acquaintances like your local barmaid or postman contribute to feelings of belonging and happiness.

Okay, but where does an introvert start? Make eye contact. This creates a subconscious connection and builds trust. Next, open up the possibilities of meaningful dialogue with questions like “what’s keeping you busy these days?” or “where do you call home?”

Remember this acronym: FORD. Family. Occupation. Recreation. Dreams. Each topic keeps the conversation going without broaching potentially catastrophic topics like religion, politics, or whether Weber’s a better defenseman than Subban. The horror!

And every good introduction needs an exit strategy. Feel good about leaving a conversation with the phrase “I need.” For example: “I need to run. My friend has just arrived and she’ll be wondering where I am.” Or “I need to find a bite to eat since I skipped lunch.”

BEDTIME RITUALS

When it comes to quality of sleep, much depends on developing a routine and sticking to it. If you’re suffering from little or no sleep, ditch the old routine and try a new ritual.

Bedtime alarm. Heading for bed at all hours of the day will throw off your circadian rhythm, your inner clock. Set a “bedtime alarm” for a specific time and stick to it, including weekends. A regular sleep schedule makes it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Block out blue light. Exposure to blue light via myriad digital devices reduces the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Block blue light at night with special glasses. According to one study conducted by the U.S. National Institute of Health, wearing the glasses an hour before bed can prevent light-induced melatonin suppression by nearly 50 per cent. Ask your optician about blue-light blocking eyewear.

Classic chamomile. There’s a reason why Grandma drinks chamomile tea every evening. Not only does the herb ease digestion, it helps fight depression and brings on sleepiness. If tea’s not your thing, know that chamomile extract works well, too.

Shower time. Take a shower or draw a warm bath just before bed. Fall asleep quicker and enjoy a deeper sleep. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. All it takes is five minutes.

Wind down. Multitasking, getting a jump on Monday’s workload, or planning just about anything money related before bed is counterproductive. Who can sleep with dollar signs and question marks dancing in their heads? Lack of sleep means a lack of productivity when at the office the next morning. Finish your tasks early. Relax in the hour or two leading up to bedtime.

Ironic insomniac. The root of the problem, as Sasha Stephens explains in her book, The Effortless Sleep Method, is lacking faith in your ability to fall asleep. In other words, any external crutch – pills, herbs, and yes, any of the rituals mentioned above – risks eroding the trust you have in your sleepy self. It’s that lack of self-trust, Ms. Stephens argues, that is insomnia’s main cause. The next time you’re wide awake at 3 a.m., remember that the next day usually isn’t so bad. Once you’re okay with not getting back to sleep, you’ll be snoring in a snap.

MULTITASKING

These days, multitasking is more than a job requirement—it’s a way of life. Here are some ways trying to do too much in too little time might affect your well-being.

The very concept of multitasking is skewed. Spinning several plates while juggling bowling pins would give anyone fits. Add a deadline, and just wait for the crash. You’re better off doing one task at a time. Besides, nothing creates momentum like crossing off items one by one on your to-do list.

Turn off, tune out. Working on a project while watching TV, speaking on the phone, listening to music and answering emails lowers your focus and your mental performance. According to one study published in the international journal Computers & Education, just being around multitasking colleagues can lower comprehension by 20 per cent.

Multitasking changes your brain. According to a study’s results published in PLOS One, researchers found a link between higher media multitasking and smaller grey matter density, which can lead to poor memory and a risk of some types of dementia.

Creativity cramp. If you’re an artist or your job requires creativity of any kind, having a list of menial tasks taps your well of creativity. Drafting a budget, filing expenses, and doing data entry might not be the most inspirational work, but creative types should use their imagination and find a way to make the boring beautiful. At the very least, get them done early on and leave the rest of the day for creative thinking.

HIC... HIC... HICCUPS

Hiccups are annoying. They can be painful, too, and downright embarrassing in certain situations, like a first date per se. For most people, hiccups usually go away within a few minutes. On rare occasions, it takes a bit longer. We try everything from holding our breath and drinking cold water to sucking on a lemon and asking a friend to scare us.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, hiccups that persist over a period of time can cause exhaustion and weight loss from lack of sleep and abnormal eating patterns. Imagine if those hiccups didn’t go away after an hour, a day, or a week. Now try to wrap your mind around poor Charles Osborne’s plight.

According to BBC News, Mr. Osborne of Iowa had to endure hiccups over the course of 68 years. Despite an estimated 420 million “hics” over that period, Mr. Osborne worked at various jobs, got married, and raised children. Nearly seven decades of hiccupping forced him to learn coping mechanisms like strategic breathing and a liquid lunch.

Hiccups are involuntary contractions of the diaphragm. According to the Mayo Clinic, each contraction is followed by a sudden closure of your vocal cords, which produces the characteristic ‘hic’ sound. The most common triggers include drinking carbonated beverages and alcohol, excitement, swallowing too much air, a sudden temperature change, overeating or eating too fast.

One of the most common techniques to stop hiccups is simply holding your breath, which helps to relax the diaphragm. Mayo Clinic also suggests breathing into a paper bag or gargling with ice water. Our favourite is pulling on the tongue — anything to distract the brain from hiccups, even if only for a brief reprieve.

 

Summer 2019, Vol 11 N°3

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