Being true to yourself may protect against the harmful effects of loneliness

Contentment. Jubilant Ecstatic Old Woman Holding Ice-Cream and LaughingA lot has been written about the downward spiral of loneliness, writes Dr Christain Jarrett for the British Psychological Society.

People who crave more social contact often develop behaviours and thinking styles that only serve to accentuate their isolation, such as turning to drink and becoming more sensitive to perceived slights and rejections. Less studied is the question of whether some people have personality traits that give them a buffer against these loneliness-related risks. A new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology finds a promising candidate that appears to fit this description – authenticity, or being true to yourself.

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Loneliness triggers cellular changes that can cause illness, study shows

Lonely senior manLoneliness is more than a feeling: For older adults, perceived social isolation is a major health risk that can increase the risk of premature death by 14 percent.

Researchers have long known the dangers of loneliness, but the cellular mechanisms by which loneliness causes adverse health outcomes have not been well understood. Now a team of researchers, including UChicago psychologist and leading loneliness expert John Cacioppo, has released a study shedding new light on how loneliness triggers physiological responses that can ultimately make us sick.

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Survey finds 90 percent overlook key to weight loss

Diets fail because people don’t address emotional aspects of food.

Tens of millions of Americans vow each year to lose weight in the New Year, and while their intentions are good, most of the time their results are not. It’s estimated that only 8 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them.

Even if weight is lost initially, it usually returns. Studies show nearly 2 out of 3 people who lose 5 percent of their total weight will gain it back, and the more weight you lose, the less your chances of keeping it off.

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The search for happiness: Using MRI to find where happiness happens

Kyoto University scientists have used MRI brain scans to find the location of happiness. CREDIT: Kyoto University

Kyoto University scientists have used MRI brain scans to find the location of happiness.
CREDIT: Kyoto University

Kyoto University researchers narrow in on the neural structures behind happiness.

Exercising, meditating, scouring self-help books… we go out of our way to be happy, but do we really know what happiness is?

Wataru Sato and his team at Kyoto University have found an answer from a neurological perspective. Overall happiness, according to their study, is a combination of happy emotions and satisfaction of life coming together in the precuneus, a region in the medial parietal lobe that becomes active when experiencing consciousness.

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Eating to impress

"These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off -- you can also see this tendency in eating competitions which almost always have mostly male participants," explains lead author Kevin Kniffin, Ph.D., of Cornell University. CREDIT: Daniel Miller

“These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off — you can also see this tendency in eating competitions which almost always have mostly male participants,” explains lead author Kevin Kniffin, Ph.D., of Cornell University.
CREDIT: Daniel Miller

Men eat more food when dining with women.

If you’re a man, how much you eat may have more to do with the gender of your dining companions than your appetite. A new Cornell University study, published in the journalEvolutionary Psychological Science, found that men will eat significantly more food in the company of women than they will with other men.

For the study, researchers observed 105 adults lunching at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet over the course of two weeks. They recorded the number of pizza slices and how many bowls of salad each diner ate. Gender of each diner’s eating partner or partners was also noted. Before leaving the restaurant, the diners were intercepted by a researcher to ask them to complete a short survey indicating their level of fullness after eating, and their feelings of hurriedness and comfort while eating.

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Why we look at pretty faces

The areas we typically scan when viewing a face for several seconds. The red areas show what we look at most, with colors gradually changing to blue for the areas that receive less attention. Here, a picture of the researcher herself - Olga Chelnokova. Photo: Lasse Moer/ UiO.

The areas we typically scan when viewing a face for several seconds. The red areas show what we look at most, with colors gradually changing to blue for the areas that receive less attention. Here, a picture of the researcher herself – Olga Chelnokova. Photo: Lasse Moer/ UiO.

A quick glimpse of a face provides us with rich information about the person in front of us. Are we acquainted? Man or woman? Happy or angry? Attractive?

In her PhD thesis, conducted at the Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Olga Chelnokova has explored how our visual system is able to direct attention to the most important information in a face. Her study suggest that evolution has made us experts on faces.

“We are very curious about others’ faces, we read stories in them and evaluate their aestetic value”, says Chelnokova.

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