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Train Your Brain to be Happy

Young man has head resting on golden retriever's shoulder

Athletes do endless drills to qualify for the Olympics. It takes practice to perfect any skill, whether calligraphy or coding. Now, it may be possible to train your brain for an ongoing sense of well-being.

“There is a lot of evidence that the technologies of the 20th and 21st centuries may have made us more productive and able to do more stuff, but we are not happier,” claims Ofer Leidner, developer of Happify.com. But his creation uses technology “as a means of creating happiness and human to human interaction.” Games and activities on Happify are grounded in science proving that repeating certain behaviors can reroute pathways in the brain to make happiness a habit. The goal of using his platform, says Leidner, is to obtain “a set of skills to use and apply.”

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Kids Need Parents to Pay Attention

WeHavemet Walt Kelly snip

 

Kids are upset their parents are spending too much time on technology. Yes – those same kids who are themselves involved in upwards of 8 hours of media per day. 

The news comes from top behavioral experts at the annual conference of the Family Online Safety Institute.  I was there in search of advice for reining in screen time now that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that children and teenagers should spend no more than two hours a day on digital media.

But it didn’t take long to realize those darned kids aren’t necessarily the trouble. To borrow a phrase from Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is us. Continue reading

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Oceans Offer Second Chance at Controlling Plastic

catch of the day photo by Jenifer Joy Madden

Every day, the ocean serves up a chance for us to change our ways.

That dawned on me when I was walking on the beach in south Florida and noticed, glinting from the sand, the corner of a clear plastic bag. Picking it up, it snapped in the wind and I saw it was still intact. After that, I couldn’t help but use it to collect other stuff left in the wake of the tide: bottle caps and straws, spoons and forks, hair clips and cup lids, and many, many plastic scraps.

That’s the thing about plastic: it never really breaks down.  As I wrote after Superstorm Sandy, the problem afflicts fresh water, too. Bacteria and other micro-organisms naturally degrade things like banana peels, egg shells and other natural, organic matter. But machine-made plastics are petrochemical polymers that don’t degrade. They only become smaller and smaller bits of themselves.  Continue reading

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Pediatricians to Parents: Kids Need a Media Diet

8 year old girl on cellphone

America’s pediatricians have an order for parents: get a handle on how your children are using media.

Kids are certainly getting their fill of texting, online games, social media and YouTube videos. The average 8-year-old now spends almost 8 hours a day on screens of various sizes.  Make that 11 hours for teenagers.

But a new statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns too much screen time can “contribute substantially to many risks and health problems” ranging from disrupted sleep to substance abuse to weight increase. Continue reading

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