Good News for All Your Video Game Playing Kids!

A metanalysis of 89 studies recently published in the Psychological Bulletin, found that there is a strong positive relationship between gaming and high scores on tests of perception, top-down attention, spatial cognition, multitasking and the ability to quickly switch strategies when the old strategy they are using no longer works. Researchers found that theses results did not require an exorbitant time spent playing video games. Simply 10 to 30 hours over the duration of the experiment was sufficient for significant change.

In addition, researchers found that the benefits gamers experience from playing video games match the same benefits as other forms of play. Not only are these games becoming more complex, creative and social—especially with the increase in popularity of online multi-player games—they may in fact be helpful in ameliorating social isolation rather than causing it. In fact, these on-line games may actually be counteracting the harmful effects of the loss of playing outdoors and finding other children to play with, for example, without adult’s supervision, as they once did.

So if you are worried about your kid’s brain turning to mush after a weekend spent bingeing on video games, you can relax, pull up a seat next to them, and pick up a controller. Your brain and your child will thank you.

First published January 2019 at

Why Taking a Vacation is Essential to Your Physical & Mental Health

Did you know that taking time off work has long-lasting physical and psychological health benefits?

People who take vacations, for example, report:

  • lower stress rates
  • a more positive outlook on life
  • a higher level of motivation to achieve their goal
  • and they are happier.

Yet, research shows that Americans work longer hours, retire later, and take less vacation days compared to other industrialized countries.

I know that many of you can relate. Maybe you are worried that you will get behind in your work or feel less productive. You may have people relying on you and due dates to meet and you don’t want to let anyone down, including yourself. With these many concerns, taking time off can seem to create more stress.

But studies show that this is not true. People who take time off work are actually more focused, engaged, and productive. This is because taking time away from work can reduce the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone is responsible for stress, anxiety and depression and can wreak havoc on our bodies, cognitive abilities (like thinking and remembering), and peace of mind.

It seems Dolly Parton knew a thing or two when she said:

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Here are a few more reasons why taking time to go on a vacation is a good idea:

  • The New York Times reported that those who go on a on a vacation every two years have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease compared to those who only take a vacation every six years.
  • Those who take time for regular trips have a 69.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway’s Well-Being index compared to a 51.4 who traveled less frequently. In addition, people reported that three days after their vacation, their mood had improved, they could sleep better and had less physical pain than before their trip. And what may be surprising to many, these benefits lasted as long as five weeks after their vacation. Although there are some studies that say it lasts three weeks.
  • With this positive mood comes more mental power. In fact, employees reported feeling more focused and being more productive after a holiday from work. Why? Chronic stress can actually inhibit the goal centered and memory parts of the brain.
  • I love this one. The Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations reported being more satisfied with their marriages.
  • And when it comes to job burnout, it’s a no-brainer. Not surprisingly, employees who take time to travel experience less fatigue and exhaustion. They are more rested, creative and content.
  • Last but not least, studies show that it is the actual planning of a vacation that gives one an extra happiness boost – sometimes as much as eight weeks before – and not just the vacation itself.

By the way, you don’t have to fly off to some exotic Island to reap the benefits of a vacation. A “staycation” can have the same positive results.

Now that you know the facts about vacation, staycation, and productivity, I recommend you put as much importance on your vacation time as you do your annual doctor’s check-up. For your physical and mental health are simply not up for negotiation!

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

I have learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I had to, because the alternative is…well, there is no alternative if you are going to enjoy life, learn and grow.

We lost everything in the 2008/2009 recession. Soon after, I was diagnosed with cancer. We didn’t know where we were going to live or how we were going to pay the medical bills. I didn’t even know if I would survive.

It is in moments like these when you are hit with great challenges, and the uncertainty that comes with it, that we want to be assured that everything is going to be okay. We desperately want to know what’s going to happen. We want answers even where there are none. This state of ambiguity can result in feelings of insecurity, stress, anxiety, and if it lasts for an extended period of time, depression.

People do not like uncertainty. But the truth is that as long as change is ever present in our lives, so is the uncertainty that comes with it. My dad used to say, “the one thing that is for sure is that nothing is for sure.” Of course, when I was a kid, I didn’t quite understand what he meant. After experiencing many unexpected changes in my life, I get it now.

So, what do we do we in times when we do not have the answers? What do we do when we have to live in a state of ambiguity and uncertainty, sometimes for weeks, months or even years? How do we deal with the insecurity and anxiety that comes with a change in relationship status, for example, a new job, or the kids moving out? How do we deal with the fear that comes with an illness, ours, or a loved one? How do we stay calm when plans do not turn out the way we planned, financial upheaval hits, or any other situation that results in an uncomfortable state of being?

Answer: We learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Yep. Sorry if you were hoping for a better answer.

In fact, not only is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable a way to help reduce the anxiety that comes with uncertainty, Jungian psychologist, James Hollis says that being able to live in uncertainty for long periods of time is a sign of growth and maturity; “it is is learning to live with how life really is, full of complexities and strange surprises.”

And how do we get comfortable living with the complexities and strange surprises of life? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Let go of certain expectations and prepare for different possibilities. When your expectations are not met, you set yourself up for disappointment. If you are open to different outcomes, there is nothing or no one to disappoint you.
  2. Avoid black and white thinking and one-sided solutions and accept the paradoxes and complexities of life.
  3. Approach each day with curiosity. Look at life as both a gift and an adventure rather than a sure thing.
  4. Know when to let life unfold rather than attempting to control every twist and turn. In other words, focus on what you can control, accept the things that you cannot and know the difference between the two.
  5. Have patience with not having all the answers. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “live in the question.”
  6. Do not avoid the anxiety that comes with being uncomfortable. Instead. go towards it. Depression can be a sign of regression. Anxiety is a sign you are moving forward.
  7. When in need, apply stress reduction techniques such as being mindful, taking a walk, meditation, and/or yoga.
  8. Be kind to yourself and others in time of change and uncertainty.
  9. Know that “This too shall pass.”
  10. Change the narrative. As the Indian spiritual leader Osho said, “Don’t call it uncertainty; call it wonder. Don’t call it insecurity; call it freedom.”

And last but by no means least, love each other. We can’t control external forces or change other people, but we can change our attitudes and reactions to these events and people in our lives. As Holocaust survivor and psychologist Victor Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Although Frankl’s experience was more than most of us will ever have to endure in a lifetime, Frankl understood that attitude and love were first and foremost to survival. When one lives life from this perspective, one is able to be more open to the uncertainty that is certain in life.

First published at