College’s Priceless Value

Frank Bruni explores the question of education for education’s sake. Considering that the Senator of Wisconsin recently proposed cuts to university funding, behind claims that they are not dedicated to boosting the work force, the question of education is in the air. Certain schools of thought clearly favour utility over intellectual curiosity, but Bruni believes that a good education does more than simply secure one a job. A good education is a gateway to a holistic existence, signaling personal growth. So why do we value productivity over curiosity? Why is education a means and not an end?

Read an excerpt of the article written by Frank Bruni:

What’s the most transformative educational experience you’ve had? I was asked this question recently, and for a few seconds it stumped me, mainly because I’ve never viewed learning as a collection of eureka moments. It’s a continuum, a lifelong awakening to the complexity of the world. But then something did come to mind, not a discrete lesson but a moving image, complete with soundtrack. I saw a woman named Anne Hall swooning and swaying as she stood at the front of a classroom in Chapel Hill, N.C., and explained the rawness and majesty of emotion in ‘‘King Lear.’’ I heard three words: ‘‘Stay a little.’’ They’re Lear’s plea to Cordelia, the truest of his three daughters, as she slips away. When Hall recited them aloud, it wasn’t just her voice that trembled. It was all of her. more

The emotional benefits of a lunchtime walk

What are the benefits of lunchtime strolls? More Importantly, emotional benefits. Gretchen Reynolds writes that a recent study showed that on the afternoons after a lunchtime stroll, walkers said they felt considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope than on afternoons when they had not walked and even compared with their own moods from a morning before a walk. ‘There is now quite strong research evidence that feeling more positive and enthusiastic at work is very important to productivity,’’ Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani said. She also suggests that managers might wish to acquaint themselves with the latest science.

Read an excerpt of the article written by GRETCHEN REYNOLDS:

A new study finds that even gentle lunchtime strolls can perceptibly — and immediately — buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work. It is not news, of course, that walking is healthy and that people who walk or otherwise exercise regularly tend to be more calm, alert and happy than people who are inactive. But many past studies of the effects of walking and other exercise on mood have focused on somewhat long-term, gradual outcomes, looking at how weeks or months of exercise change people emotionally. Fewer studies have examined more-abrupt, day-to-day and even hour-by-hour changes in people’s moods, depending on whether they exercise, and even fewer have focused on these effects while people are at work, even though most of us spend a majority of our waking hours in an office. So, for the new study, which was published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports this month, researchers at the University of Birmingham and other universities began by recruiting sedentary office workers at the university. Potential volunteers were told that they would need to be available to walk for 30 minutes during their usual lunch hour three times a week. Most of the resulting 56 volunteers were middle-aged women. It can be difficult to attract men to join walking programs, said Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, the study’s lead author and now a professor of exercise science at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Walking may not strike some men as strenuous enough to bother with, she said. But she and her colleagues did attract four sedentary middle-aged men to the experiment. The volunteers completed a series of baseline health and fitness and mood tests at the outset of the experiment, revealing that they all were out of shape but otherwise generally healthy physically and emotionally. Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani and her colleagues then randomly divided the volunteers into two groups, one of which was to begin a simple, 10-week walking program right away, while the other group would wait and start their walking program 10 weeks later, serving, in the meantime, as a control group. To allow them to assess people’s moods, the scientists helped their volunteers to set up a specialized app on their phones that included a list of questions about their emotions. The questions were designed to measure the volunteers’ feelings, at that moment, about stress, tension, enthusiasm, workload, motivation, physical fatigue and other issues related to how they were feeling about life and work at that immediate time. A common problem with studies of the effect of exercise on mood, Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani said, is that they rely on recall. ...Read more

Challenging the ‘you-can- do-it’ vibe

Why should we always think positive? Is blind optimism the key to success? Dr. Oettingen disagrees. It just lowers blood pressure, he argues. He developed a technique called mental contrasting. The art to achieve our goals is to not only imagine achieving them, but also considering the barriers that could prevent them from achieving. He also developed an app called WOOP- wish, outcome, obstacle, plan. Dr. Friedman wonders to what extent would mental contrasting be affective for patients who suffer from depression, anxiety etc.  

Read an excerpt of the article written by Richard A. Friedman:

Ever hear the joke about the guy who dreams of winning the lottery? After years of desperate fantasizing, he cries out for God’s help. Down from heaven comes God’s advice: ‘‘Would you buy a ticket already?!’’ This starry-eyed dreamer is, like so many of us, a believer in old-fashioned positive thinking: Find your dream, wish for it, and success will be yours. Not quite, according to Gabriele Oettingen, a psychology professor at New York University and the University of Hamburg, who uses this joke to illustrate the limitations of the power of positive thinking. In her smart, lucid book, ‘‘Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation,’’ Dr. Oettingen critically re-examines positive thinking and gives readers a more nuanced — and useful — understanding of motivation based on solid empirical evidence. Conventional wisdom has it that dreams are supposed to excite us and inspire us to act. Putting this to the test, Dr. Oettingen recruits a group of undergraduate college students and randomly assigns them to two groups. She instructs the first group to fantasize that the coming week will be a knockout: good grades, great parties and the like; students in the second group are asked to record all their thoughts and daydreams about the coming week, good and bad. Strikingly, the students who were told to think positively felt far less energized and accomplished than those who were instructed to have a neutral fantasy. Blind optimism, it turns out, does not motivate people; instead, as Dr. Oettingen shows in a series of clever experiments, it creates a sense of relaxation complacency. ...Read more