Blog-aholic Award!

I am surprised and thankful to Catalyst for Change for nominating me for the blog-aholic award! Check out their blog for inspiring posts on mental health and sexual assault!


What is the Blog-aholic Award?

“The Blog-aholic Award” is an award for bloggers addicted to blogging with creative, ingenious and inspiring posts. They mesmerize their followers with their posts, keep them captivated and riveted to their blog. The Blog-aholic Award is also for bloggers who “Share and Inspire Others!”

What are the Rules?

  1. Put the above award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog (it can be to the post in which they nominated you or any other post or you can even link to their “About” page)
  4. Mention the creator of the award and please provide a link to The Recipe Hunter (Cook & Enjoy) as I would love to meet you!
  5. Write a post to show your award
  6. Share a link to your best post(s)
  7. Share 3 interesting and different facts about yourself
  8. Nominate 5-10 fellow bloggers, or more if you wish
  9. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Thanks to The Recipe Hunter!

Esmé of The Recipe Hunter (Cook & Enjoy) routinely posts about cooking and shares great recipes for you to make at home. She is the creator of this award!

My Favorite Posts:

Facts About Myself:

  • I hope to one day have a career writing about psychology
  • I am a huge anglophile and plan on moving to the UK (fingers crossed!)
  • I absolutely detest coffee

My Nominees Are:

Thank you to all of my readers and followers. I don’t know what I did for you to find me but I appreciate all of your views, likes and comments! Happy blogging!


Us and Them: The Psychology Behind Xenophobia and the Muslim Ban


The Merriam-Wesbter dictionary defines xenophobia as a “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” The next print edition for the publication will definitely reference Trump’s immigrant and refugee ban as the perfect illustration of xenophobia. The fact that a president could ban an entire religion from distinct countries only promotes xenophobia while also highlighting the intense paranoia that our leader feels of outsiders. So how can somebody become xenophobic to the point of isolating themselves, and our country, from the rest of the world?

Psychology has long researched the idea of xenophobia, especially after tragic events such as the Holocaust and assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The recent political climate has again stirred interest in nationwide prejudice, bringing evidence back into the spotlight as to how xenophobia can override common sense and logic. Here are some common discussions surrounding the psychology behind xenophobia:

We Have to Look Back to Look Forward

Sorry Christians, but humans did not appear on Earth in perfect form. We have spent millions of years evolving from common ancestors such as apes. It should come as no surprise that the evolutionary adaptations necessary to survive back in caveman days are still present in our highly evolved brains.

“Us vs. Them” grew from an evolutionary need during our days as apes and humanoid cavemen.

“I think there’s probably a very deep-rooted fear and suspicion of outsiders,” says Michael Wilson, a primatologist at the University of Minnesota.

The scientist, who studies apes for a living, cites behavior in apes as evidence for our hostility to people who belong to other groups. When two groups of apes bump into each other in the wild, it will always end in conflict. According to Wilson, the apes will threaten each other with loud calls, perform aggressive gestures and at times become physically violent.

Remember Harambe? When a little boy fell into the gorilla sanctuary at Cincinnati Zoo he grabbed the boy and began to drag him throughout the moat in the exhibit. Zoo officials reacted immediately to save the boy because they knew how territorial apes are by design. Harambe saw a boy, an outsider, as an immediate threat and dealt with this the only way his brain could let him: through violence. Whether he would actually kill the boy is indeterminable, but evolutionary psychology bets that after interacting with the boy more the violence would escalate.


RIP Harambe

“If they can grab a member of the other community, they may beat on them, bite them, and continue doing so until they’re very severely injured or killed,” says Wilson of apes.

Wilson goes on to say that it makes sense that chimps defend their territories so vigilantly. A bigger territory leads to more food for the group and a better chance for survival.

The idea of protecting one’s territory is one aspect of apes that passed on to early humans. Before the invention of civilizations, humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies where one’s group had to work together for survival. No doubt the early humans had to protect their food and shelter from not just animal predators, but from other groups who would poach food for themselves. The need to protect one’s group, and conversely the hatred of other groups, came from the need to survive, and this would be imprinted in our brains for the rest of time.

We Can Be Prejudiced on the Most Arbitrary of Traits

In a hallmark experiment, schoolteacher Jane Elliott wanted to teach her class what it felt like to be prejudiced against after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Elliott proclaimed to the class that the blue-eyed students were superior to their brown-eyed peers by stating that:

“Blue-eyed people are the better people in this room. Blue-eyed people are smarter than brown-eyed people… this is a fact: blue eyed people are better than brown-eyed people… the blue-eyed people get five extra minutes of recess while the brown-eyed people have to stay in. The brown-eyed people do not get to use the drinking fountain, you’ll have to use paper cups. You brown-eyed people are not to play with the blue-eyed people on the playground because you are not as good as blue eyed people.”


Elliott went on to say that brown-eyed people were to wear collars to identify them more easily (similar to how Jews had to wear stars of David during the Holocaust). When the students were asked to open their books to start a lesson, brown-eyed people were slower to do so. When Ms. Elliott declared that her yard stick was missing, students in the class pointed out that a brown-eyed person probably stole it. The blue-eyed students bullied the brown-eyed students by declaring that they weren’t smart, should be beaten if they disobeyed, and that they don’t deserve seconds at lunch.

The treatment of the brown-eyed children had a demonstrable effect on their own behavior. One student remarked that: “It seemed like when we were down on the bottom everything bad was happening to us. The way they treated you, it felt like you didn’t even want to try to do anything.” The brown-eyed students started to perform worse on phonetic tests, they began hitting the children who called them names and refused to answer questions in class.

To further test how easy it is to create prejudice, Elliott reversed the proclamation, stating that it was actually the brown-eyed children who were better than their blue-eyed counterparts. The results were strikingly similar with now the blue-eyed children performing worse on tests, being picked on, and not wanting to participate in class.

Elliott’s unconventional experiment shows how groups can be formed on the simplest of traits. The children never saw eye color as a basis for discrimination before, but were emboldened by a superior (their teacher) to form these ingroups and outgroups based on eye color.

For the naysayers that believe this is only because they are children, studies have shown that when minorities are presented with an identifying question before a standardized test (i.e. what is your race?) they perform significantly worse than when such a question was absent. In addition, the prejudices that we form in childhood are much harder to get rid of in adulthood, as seen in an earlier post here.

When We Are Fearful, We Think Threats Are Much Closer than They Are

Researchers from New York University conducted three studies on which people were asked to estimate how close immediate threats are to them.

In the first study, fans of the New York Yankees were asked to estimate how far away Fenway Stadium (home of their rivals the Boston Red Sox) is to NYU, and asked the same question to students who did not identify as fans of Derek Jeter’s old team. Researchers found that Yankees fans believed Fenway to be closer than the non-Yankee fans.


In the second study, researchers presented half of participants with information that portrayed Columbia University as threatening to NYU students while the other half received no such information. The students who were given negative information about Columbia rated the university as being physically closer to NYU than the students who did not receive incriminating information.


Finally in the third study, Americans who perceived Mexican immigrants as a threat to the United States estimated New Mexico City as closer to New York City than those who did not perceive a threat.


These studies combined give a clear indication that those who fear outside groups observe a more eminent threat than reality actually imposes. This falls in line with the psychological theory called the representative heuristic.  This states that things that happen in the media are more likely to happen then in normal probability.

This is why people are more afraid to ride in planes than cars: the national media covers more plane crashes than car crashes, making it seem as if they happen more often than in reality. The national news is more likely to cover a shooting or an attack that is committed by a terrorist group than a local American. Take for example the “terrorist” who attacked Ohio State University last year. He did not actually kill anyone, but Trump and other politicians called for more extreme vetting for refugees after. A local shooting carried out by a local citizen may kill five or ten people and only make it to the local news by comparison. The idea that terrorists are all over, as perpetuated by the media, can override comparable statistics saying that it is far more likely to get struck by lightning than to be confronted by a terrorist.


We Are Able to Dehumanize Humans, No Matter How Much They Look Like Us

When critics of Michelle and Barrack Obama lash out at the two dignified leaders calling them apes, it is not just evidence of racism, but of dehumanization. These people do not even see the leaders of our country as human, due to the fact that they are in a different social group.


Dehumanization first appeared in our vocabularies during the Holocaust in which Jews were deprived of their names and given a number instead. Germans stood by Hitler as they no longer saw the Jews as people, neighbors and friends, but as workers indebted to the Reich.

Psychologists have found that dehumanization exists far after Auschwitz closed its doors. Psychologists from Northwestern University have studied dehumanization as recently as 2015. In their paper The Ascent of Man: Theoretical and Empirical Evidence for Blatant Dehumanization, researchers looked into how Americans viewed Americans, Arabs, Canadians, Chinese, European and Muslim groups using their ascent measures.

Unsurprisingly, Europeans, and Japanese were rated as similarly evolved to Americans whereas South Koreans, Chinese, and Mexican Immigrants were rated as significantly less evolved than Americans. Arabs and Muslims were rated as 10.6 and 14.0 points less evolved than Americans respectively.


The researchers then decided to see if dehumanization is more present after tragic world events than when they completed the first study. Three days after the Boston Marathon bombings, the scientists asked participants the same survey questions for two weeks. Not only did Americans still rate Arabs as less evolved, but blatant dehumanization measures increased as well, symbolizing that Americans dehumanized Arabs as less than human more significantly after perceiving a threat.


But Not All Hope Is Lost

The American Psychological Association has published a set of guidelines in response to a conference on racism held at the United Nations. Psychologists break down solutions to solving the problems into two categories: exposing racism’s roots and socializing people for tolerance and peace. The guidelines are as followed:

Exposing racism’s roots:

  • Acknowledge racist practices and urge major institutions to fight them.
  • Establish institutes on racial equity and mental health promotion.
  • Eliminate racist bias in research.
  • Reduce racism-related physical and mental health disparities
  • Conduct more research on perpetrators

Socializing people for tolerance and peace:

  • Collect statistical data on race that takes into account “economic and social indicators, including…mental and physical health care” to help close social and economic gaps
  • Bolster measures “to fulfill the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” by working to eliminate racism-induced health disparities.
  • Promote fair treatment and respect for migrants, refugees and indigenous peoples.
  • Increase tolerance and diversity
  • Stop trafficking of women and children
  • End racial profiling and discrimination on the part of law enforcement and government officials
  • Fight xenophobia, gender and racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance


If we can change our society to enforce these rules, if we can learn to have empathy for other groups, if we can learn to look at correct statistics instead of relying on emotions and lies, then the road to eliminating xenophobia will be far less bumpy. We have to start seeing the refugees and immigrants as actual people, as someone’s parent, child, friend, and not as just people from the other side of the world, even if our leader is incapable of doing such. America was built as a nation of immigrants, someone taking a chance on our ancestors, and we have to do to same. These are actual people, not hypothetical  “what ifs” on a psychology study.

Seattle to Open Two Safe Injection Sites to Combat Growing Heroin Overdose Deaths

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin overdose related deaths more than quadrupled from 2010 to 2015 with more than 13,000 deaths recorded in 2015 alone. Seattle experienced one of the greatest rises in deaths in 2015, with a 58% increase in fatal heroin overdoses. Seattle mayor Ed Murray announced yesterday that he has a plan to combat these alarming statistics, a controversial plan to say the least.

“Like many places across our nation, Seattle and King County are experiencing an epidemic of heroin and prescription opiate use unlike any we’ve seen before,” Murray stated to the press. “Keeping people alive gives them the opportunity to get treatment and begin their path to recovery.”

His plan to keep people alive? Institute safe injection sites where nurses monitor heroin and other injectable drug use. The proposed facilities will provide users with clean needles, cookers, filters, tourniquets and water as well as having onsite nurses available to provide life-saving procedures in case an overdose occurs. Nurses also provide HIV testing as well as vaccine administration.


Safe injection sites are not a new development. In fact, the first government approved injection site was founded in Berne Switzerland in 1989 with facilities in Australia, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands soon following in its footsteps. Mayor Murray hopes to model the two safe injection sites (one in downtown Seattle and another in rural Cook County) after the Insite injection site located in Vancouver.

Insite is the only safe injection site in North America and operates by the harm reduction model in treating drug addiction. The harm reduction model operates by “decreasing adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use” according to the Vancouver Coastal Health website. In addition to effectively treating drug overdoses and related deaths, this model benefits Vancouver residents by keeping drug addicts off the streets, preventing the spread of infectious disease, fostering more positive relationships between health care providers and sick individuals and by stabilizing the health in a population that may be too scared to seek medical attention.

The statistics of Insite do not lie. Out of 4,922 overdoses that occurred on site, zero resulted in any deaths.  The safe injection site is popular among drug addicts seeking medical help as they have 18,903 registered users resulting in 3,476,722 visits since opening in 2003. They also founded a detox center, aptly named Onsite, in order to help patients going through withdrawal symptoms.


“The reality is people are using drugs, and it should be our mandate to keep people alive and make sure that they can reduce the harms associated with drug use as much as possible,” said Alyssa Aguilera, executive director of advocacy group VOCAL NY in New York City.

New York has long called for the installment of safe injection facilities and has even launched a campaign to bring these injection sites to the city. New York City currently has over 14 needle exchanges where drug users can obtain sterile needles for free.

But not everyone is a fan of safe injection sites and needle exchange programs, despite all of the evidence from Insite. Our own Vice President Mike Pence refused to adopt a needle exchange program, instead relying on prayer to make the rampant drug problem in Indiana go away while governor. He eventually ordered a temporary needle exchange in 2015, but the longevity of the program is questionable. An estimated 200 people contracted HIV while Pence refused to instate the exchange, largely due to users sharing dirty, used needles.


No matter what our Vice President says, states are more open to the idea of safe injection sites in America. Aside from New York and Seattle, Massachusetts passed legislation to permit safe injection sites throughout the state, though there are currently no facilities where patients can use drugs on site and receive treatment. Other states say they are open to such institutions, but need more research to determine if such legislation can actually increase drug use. Health experts, on the other hand, say that all the research we need is already right in front of us.

“The public health harm reduction approach that we are already doing; our needle exchanges are model examples of getting people into treatment,” said Public Health Director Patty Hayes. “This is not a short term road, this is a long road together.”


Science Confirms What We All Know: Internet Trolls Are Horrible People

When Data & Society released their report on online harassment, digital abuse and cyberstalking in America, the statistics confirmed what we all learned from the election: internet trolls are everywhere. The report, which compiled recorded instances of harassment over an 18th month period across the US, states that 47% of Americans have been victims of online harassment whereas over 72% of internet users witness such abuse from their own computer screens. These numbers are sure to rise over the next 18 months as internet trolls have become emboldened by our new president, arguably the biggest, nastiest troll of all time. But not all trolls can be as evil and sadistic as their online personas, can they?

Of course they can. In fact, researchers at the University of Manitoba found just that. In their paper Trolls Just Wanna Have Fun, psychologists Erin Buckels and Paul Trapnel profiled the personality characteristics of self-identified trolls. Most importantly, they wanted to determine whether the trolls’ personalities consisted of traits associated with the psychologically evil Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (self-obsession and inflated sense of ego), psychopathy (defined here as a lack of remorse and empathy) and sadism (a sense of pleasure in hurting others).


Pepe the Psychopath Frog

In order to identify the trolls wreaking havoc on the internet, the scientists simply asked a population of 1215 survey takers what they enjoyed most when commenting on web sites. Their options were: “debating issues that are important to you”, “chatting with others”, “making new friends”, “trolling”, and “other”.  Yes, the researchers found the harassers by literally asking if they identified as trolls, and the trolls were proud enough of their behavior to admit to it. Sounds about right to me.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has a working internet connection: trolling was significantly associated with all the traits of the Dark Tetrad except for narcissism where there was a positive association, but not strong enough to reach significance. The trait of sadism was found to be the highest associated with trolling behavior, implying that the bullies enjoy the harm they bring to others. The amount of time spend commenting on the internet also was found to be associated with higher levels of these dark traits, their sadism growing with every new disturbing post.


Hundreds of people proudly identified as trolls. And Machiavellian, narcissistic, psychopathic, sadistic and as all-around horrible people.  

If the words “Dark Tetrad” aren’t enough to scare you away from these insidious creatures, then perhaps a sub-study by the researchers will. Using survey samples from Amazon Mechanical Turk and college students, Buckels and Trapnel wanted to see if they could determine why trolling attracts these psychologically disturbing personality profiles. They even coined their own survey instrument, aptly titled the Global Assessment of Internet Trolling, or GAIT. Here are some of the actual terms from the assessment:

The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt

I like to troll people in forums or the comments sections of websites

I have sent people to shock websites for the lulz

I enjoy griefing other players in multiplayer games

People actually said yes to these questions. Researchers comment that endorsing such atrocious intentions further supports the assertion that sadism is highly associated with trolling. Not only do the sadists enjoy internet bullying and harassment, they are so proud of themselves that they actually admit to identifying as a troll and engaging in such vile behavior. Authors reveled in this information, stating that “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

Perhaps for their next study researchers can identify trolls by their hair?

So how do we keep trolls away from their beloved swings and slides? The answer is complicated, and perhaps, unsolvable. News websites such as Recode, The Verge, Reuters, Mic, Popular Science, The Week, and USA Today’s FTW have discarded their comments section after the rise of the internet troll. On the other hand, websites such as 4chan are breeding grounds for trolls, where they can get together to plan attacks on other internet users and not face repercussions due to anonymity.

Study authors also comment on the troubles of fixing this potent problem. “Because the behaviors are intrinsically motivating for sadists, comment moderators will likely have a difficult time curbing trolling with punishments (e.g., banning users),” said Buckels. “Ultimately, the allure of trolling may be too strong for sadists, who presumably have limited opportunities to express their sadistic interests in a socially-desirable manner.”


The actual face of a troll when you respond to them calling you a racist against white people.

The rise of our President presents another problem. Usually trolls live under the guise of anonymity, tied only to their IP address. This troll stands atop a podium, making his name known to the world one gilded Trump Tower and tweet at a time. His sadism not only feeds his own already gargantuan ego, but feeds the egos of those who copy his childish behavior online.

The best way to deal with trolls, in my opinion and based on the research, is to tackle their egos. We have seen time and time again with Trump becoming visibly irritated when presented with concrete facts that diminish his ego. When the numbers came in about his abysmal attendance at his inauguration, he sent a fury of tweets that millions attended (wrong!). When he lost the popular vote by close to three million ballots, Trump has signed an executive order saying that he lost due to massive voter fraud without any evidence (sad!). Trump even shut down the EPA for tweeting evidence for climate change, which he decrees as a “hoax” (too bad!). Trump only relies on emotions. We’ve seen in throughout the election debates. He could not, and still cannot, produce any concrete plans for tax cuts, healthcare replacement, or crime in inner cities, but instead focused all of his campaign on creating emotion in voters by painting Clinton as corrupt and bible belters as a forgotten population in America. Presenting Trump with facts that he cannot explain with his emotions is slowly causing him to become unhinged and will ultimately lead to his downfall if he continues on this path.


An actual article from It doesn’t matter that what he says makes no sense! He speaks for me and stands up for the little guy! He’s a rich New Yorker, of course he understands Middle America and the lower class!

Internet troll problems can be solved similarly. Trolls, like Trump, feed off of your negative emotions. As the study shows, they don’t post to begin debates, they post because they like seeing you suffer, that your suffering makes them happy. You can accomplish this either by ignoring trolling behavior, or eliciting a tactic known as the Gray Rock Method. Developed initially to help people deal with psychopaths and stalkers, the Gray Rock Method involves simply becoming uninteresting in the eyes of whoever is harassing you. Instead of calling a troll an asshole or stupid in response, try giving a boring response that is void of emotion. Remember, a troll wants you to get emotional, so if you do not give them that, they will eventually leave you to find another target.

One statistic gleaned from the study, however, gives hope to those desiring to reclaim the safe haven of the internet. Researchers found that only 5.6% of the 1215 surveyed identified as trolls, whereas 41.3% of internet users identified as “non-commenters”. The presence of trolls seems to be greater than it actually is as most trolls post multiple comments on multiple platforms searching for that high from upsetting people. The act of trolling is a manifestation of everyday sadism, meaning that trolls are in constant need of harassment for stimulation. How many hours a day do you watch TV? How many hours do you spend texting or talking on your phone? Imagine spending all of those hours on the internet, needing to leave nasty comments for entertainment and excitement. All of those comments would certainly rack up, just as your phone data bill does toward the end of the month.

The biggest thing to remember is that internet trolls are not psychologically normal. They combined the scariest words in psychology together to form the term “Dark Tetrad” for a reason. Next time you witness internet harassment remember, these are sadistic people and replying to them is only feeding into their sadism. Remember, these people have to look in the mirror every day, or at least their reflection in their laptop screens. That should be punishment enough.


Beer Yoga is Here to Help Heal Your Ale-ments


Move over goat yoga, there’s a new sheriff in town: and he enjoys a pale ale.

It seems that the new trend in meditation is combining things that make us happy with yoga. Now beer yoga is the perfect illustration of this: who doesn’t love a nice cold pint?

That was the inspiration behind the aptly named BierYoga based in Berlin Germany. Founded in 2015 by yoga instructors Emily and Jhula, the classes integrate beer bottles into normal yoga poses in order to create an even more enjoyable experience.

“BeerYoga is fun but it’s no joke” states the BierYoga website. “We take the philosophies of yoga and pair it with the pleasure of beer-drinking to reach your highest level of consciousness.”


While it might seem to be a bit of a stretch, the idea of combining beer and yoga does make sense from a psychological view point. Yoga is meant to be a relaxing process, to help one disassociate from the anxieties of daily life. Beer, as a form of alcohol, is a depressant for the brain. Depressants inhibit the GABA neurotransmitter creating a calming effect, thus promoting relaxation. How many times have you hit the bar for happy hour after work and felt de-stressed after your third or fourth or tenth (no judgement here) beer?

The owners of BierYoga also note the similarities between drinking beer and taking yoga classes: “Both are centuries-old therapies for body, mind and soul. The joy of drinking beer and the mindfulness of yoga compliment each other, and make for an energizing experience.”


While some yoga classes in the United States have been performed in breweries (sadly only allowing students to imbibe after the class), none have actually integrated bottles of beer into the yoga poses. Photos on the BierYoga website depict yogis balancing beer on their heads, taking a sip while doing a downward dog, and most importantly  laughing and having a good time.  The bottle aren’t just for show or used as weights either: one participant noted drinking three bottles during the two hour class. The instructor even commands the posers to take swigs. “Has anyone not finished their first bottle? If not, bottoms up!” she says about half an hour into the class according to one satisfied reviewer.

Jhula and Emily have begun to expand their business, most recently sponsoring events in Sydney and Melbourne, and hoping to eventually break into the festival market.  Owner Jhula even conceived the idea for BierYoga after witnessing similar yoga being performed at California’s Burning Man festival. She is hoping to return to the legendary desert ritual, beer in tow.

Beer yoga coming to the United States? We can all cheers to that.


Try it Tuesday: Do Adult Coloring Books Actually Work?

Last week was a stressful week. It was the last five days of Obama as President and the dread of a Trump presidency started to sink in. With all this stress, I decided to pick up an adult coloring book to see if they actually work in creating relaxation. And yes, I know that I am playing into the alt-rights portrayal of liberals as snowflakes with safe spaces and adult coloring books, but hey, it’s better to be conscious of your mental health than to be bullied by internet trolls.

The Experiment

In order to test the validity of adult coloring books I needed to induce stress and frustration. The best way to do this, I figured, was to watch the evening news for a full 30 minutes. I decided on ABC World News with David Muir in order to eliminate any bias associated with liberal or conservative news outlets. I ordered a Great British Bake Off coloring book (one of the most relaxing shows out there) and decided upon one image to color for the entire work week after the news, Monday through Friday.


Oh David, not even your handsome face can cushion the blow of a Trump administration

What Happened

Monday January 16, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Rep. John Lewis boycotts the inauguration
  • Winter storms continue across the US
  • Outgoing CIA director warns Trump about Russia

Frustration level before coloring: 3/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1/5

This day wasn’t particularly too stressful, but coloring actually help my attention and focus more than I imagined. The 30 minutes flew by as if it were 5 minutes and all I was thinking about while coloring was what color I was gonna make all of the pies and pastries. And how delicious those pies and pastries must be of course.

Tuesday January 17, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Barbara Bush and George WH Bush hospitalized
  • Trump communications appointee resigns amid plagiarism scandal
  • Trump receives record low approval ratings as incoming president

Frustration level before coloring: 4/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1.5/5

One interesting aspect about this foray into coloring was when I began I was starving and almost ordered a pizza. After I began coloring though, I was not hungry anymore and didn’t eat for over an hour after I was finished. I believe, like on the first day, this was because of coloring helping me to focus more. Again, the coloring was relaxing and helped me to forget for a second about our new president.

Wednesday January 18, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Obama commutes Chelsea Manning
  • DeVos cites grizzly bears as reasoning for guns in schools
  • 18 million Americans will go uninsured if Obamacare repealed

Frustration level before coloring: 5/5

Frustration level after coloring: 2/5

It seemed like this day was filled to the brim with bad news. Every single one of Trump’s appointees said disparaging things about climate change, women’s rights and their own failures to disclose their finances. How could one forget to mention they had $100 million dollars just lying around? Nothing got my blood boiling more than DeVos confirmation when she said that guns should be allowed in schools to shoot grizzlies, that disabled students shouldn’t be protected by federal law and that she did not know she donated thousands to anti-LGBT groups. That being said, the coloring was a great distraction for the thirty minutes, but as soon I was done the bad news kept tumbling, in bringing back my frustration.

Thursday January 19, 2017

Top news stories:

  • Trump inaugural concert most boring, most cringe-worthy concert in modern history
  • 2016 named hottest year on record even though Trump dismisses global warming
  • Hundreds attend queer dance party outside of VP Pence’s house

Frustration level before coloring: 4.5/5

Frustration level after coloring: 1/5

Today’s news was a mixture of good and bad. Of course the biggest ticket was Trump’s concert but it made me feel happier knowing how sparsely attended it was and that his biggest draw was the guy who wrote “God Bless the USA”. That being said, my frustration levels didn’t last after coloring and it was a welcome distraction from what was happening in Washington.

Friday January 20, 2017

The day of Trump’s inauguration

Frustration level before coloring: 100,000,000/5

Frustration level after coloring: 3/5

To be honest I didn’t turn in to the news today. I already knew what was happening and did not want to be a part of it. I kept my tv off, switched off my wifi on my laptop, and kept my headphones on. Like in previous days, the coloring definitely helped to shift my focus and keep me calm as I was creating art, this day was just full of special circumstances and anxieties that would not go away easily.


They make adult coloring books for everyone. Even your pervy uncle 

Did it Really Help?

In one word:yes. The coloring definitely helped to calm my frustrations and to keep me focused on creating art as opposed to pondering all of the bad things going on in the world. I found that I was paying less attention to things around me while I was coloring and that it was quite relaxing. As another positive, I found that it actually quelled my appetite, or at least made me focus on things other than food.

Will it Help Me?

If you find that certain things or people make you frustrated, then yes, coloring books will help you. Because I induced my frustration by watching the news I am unsure that coloring will help you cope with generalized anxiety that may be experienced at all times. However, if you need time to unwind and focus on other things besides your hectic life, then adult coloring books will aid you in that.

What Does the Research Say?

Research on the subject of adult coloring mainly focuses on the benefits to the brain as well as differences with art therapy. Psychologists have found that while coloring may not be as effective as art therapy in the treatment of major mental disorders, they have found four main benefits to adult coloring:

  1. Helps dementia and Alzheimer’s patients remain engaged with the outside world
  2. Can lower blood pressure (by decreasing stress)
  3. Trains your brain to focus better
  4. Helps people deal with PTSD and stress

Psychologist Stan Rodski, who has even authored his own coloring book, compares the effects of coloring to the effects of meditation. Like meditation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains and focus on what is at hand instead of  the perils of everyday life.

Adult coloring books may also help in relaxation by replacing negative images and thought with positive ones literally:

“You have to look at the shape and size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color,” Pearson told Nine MSN. “It should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well. … Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”

Final Thoughts

If you have been thinking about picking up an adult coloring book but have passed due to embarrassment, time limitations, or disbelief in their effects  just do it! Even taking just half an hour out of your day can ease frustrations, help you focus and keep your brain from eliciting negative thoughts. You can find adult coloring books practically everywhere for cheap, and you can create priceless advantages for your brain in the process.





Two Days After the Women’s March, Trump Signs Executive Order to Defund Reproductive Care Groups


via Daily Prompt: Oversight

Donald Trump sent a big middle finger to the 1 million women who marched worldwide on Saturday by signing an executive order to reinstate the “global gag rule”, a policy that is just as bad as it sounds. This order also comes one day after the 44th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, a Supreme Court decision Trump is committed to overturning.

The global gag rule states that any foreign organization that provides abortion cannot receive funds from the US, even though it is illegal for governmental funds to be used for abortion. This means that family planning NGOs in developing countries will lose funds for contraceptives, HIV services, and even malaria treatment. In fact from 2001 to 2009 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East lost US donated contraceptives and many organizations were shut down entirely. Ironically enough, this plan did not reduce the amount of abortions, but instead increased the number of unsafe abortions practiced worldwide. You can read statistics about the implementation of the global gag rule at these links:

Global gag rule in Nepal:

Click to access ggrcase_nepal.pdf

Global gag rule in Kenya:

Click to access ggrcase_kenya_2006.pdf

Global gag rule in Zambia:

Click to access ggrcase_zambia_2006.pdf


We cannot, as citizens of one of the most privileged civilizations in the world stand, by idly while this “man” can do whatever he pleases with a subject he knows nothing about. Why older politicians are so obsessed with women’s rights and reproductive issues I do not know, but what I do know is that we must fight and not let this become an oversight. If we do fail to stand up now it is only a matter of time before abortion becomes defunded and possibly made criminalized in our own country. We need to continue the momentum from the Women’s March and channel it into positive decision making, positive action. The lives of our mothers, sisters, cousins and daughters depend on it.


To the Men Who Don’t Understand the Women’s March


On Saturday more than 500,000 women gathered outside the White House in DC, more than 3 times the amount of people in attendance for Trump’s inauguration (not if you ask Trump of course). More than 600 sister marches occurred concurrently in other cities in the US such as Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York as well as the world in cities like London, Toronto, Sydney and Paris. I was unfortunately not able to go, but my sister made the long trek for the protests in Washington. Upon viewing pictures she sent me and seeing live news coverage on television I cried numerous tears. The first tears of joy since the election.

I remember November 9th 2016 just like it was yesterday. My uncle had passed away two days prior, so we were on an epic road trip from New York to Missouri for his wake. We made sure to stay back until the last second in order to vote, to vote for the first female president, hoping to silence the bigotry Trump spurted throughout his campaign. We live in Rochester, NY home of Susan B. Anthony and I remember seeing dozens of “I Voted” stickers plastered on her grave, pictures with comments that people were voting for Clinton in honor of Anthony who championed for women’s suffrage. Electing the first female president was the only thing keeping me going after my uncle’s death, but unfortunately death comes in three: first my uncle, then American democracy, and finally, my hope in the common American citizen.

Traveling throughout red states was especially hard. We crossed Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana (our homophobic vice president’s home state) and finally Missouri making pit stops in each. In one way being trapped in a car was a saving grace: I had no internet access to hear about the newest travesties that Trump would bring along with his presidency. No one in the car talked about the election; we were all in a state of shock and it took a while to sink in. We had all seen Trump condone sexual assault, make fun of the disabled, call Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, and threaten to take away the reproductive rights of women. How could anyone vote for him?


The days after the election was when I fully understood that being a women is a disadvantage. The fact that 50 million Americans thought that it was no big deal for Trump to commit sexual assault, threaten to take away health care coverage for birth control and assure that he would make abortion illegal was a slap in the face. Did 50 million Americans really declare that women are too stupid to make decisions regarding their own bodies? Did 50 million Americans award a man that has repeatedly said that a woman’s success is directly tied to appearance and breast size with the highest office in our country? Did 50 million Americans condone sexual harassment and sexual assault?

Of course there are voters out there that will say they voted for Trump because he was different, because he wanted to bring back jobs, because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton and to that I say bullshit. If you can overlook a person who looks at women with predatory eyes, and not just overlook them, but put them in charge of our country, in charge of making laws that effect the livelihoods of women then you are as asshole, plain and simple. And it is not just women. Mike Pence has repeatedly supported legislation that makes it okay to discriminate against the LGBT, the Trump camp wants to deport millions of undocumented immigrants who have been living in the US for years, Trump is single-handedly trying to destroy the press, put guns in schools,  cut off ties with the rest of the world. If you voted for him and cannot look in the mirror and see that you are misogynistic, bigoted, and xenophobic then you can at least call yourself selfish. Why do you think that your tax breaks or minimum wages are more important than the livelihoods of your fellow countrymen? Your mothers, your sisters, your friends, neighbors and coworkers?

When the shock from the election wore off, pure terror began to sink in. While returning to the safety of my blue state of New York, I still had to travel across Trump’s America. I couldn’t even look people in the eyes at rest stops. All I could think when seeing men at the stops were: “does he think its okay to assault me?” “does he think I am a lesser person than himself?” To be honest, I thought to myself this must be what it feels like to be black. To always wonder who is your friend and who is your enemy, to wonder who I would have to be careful around, to wonder if I would ever have it as easy as other people. To want to be seen equally as white men would be a common dream between women and blacks and all other minority groups. We were finally at the cusp, and then it was thrown in our faces.

This was not the first time where I had experienced feeling like a lesser person than men. While at my summer job in college, a coworker proudly declared that “you will always be inferior to me because of your chromosomes”, because of what is between my legs. I stood there shocked, and actually hoped that one of my male coworkers would step in, horrified by his declaration. I stood there, in silence, waiting for help that would never come.

I spent the next couple of hours or so crying, trying to get my managers attention that there was a problem, but no one would help. Other men there had made sexist comments that I would never make as much money as them, that I should just get married instead of going to graduate school, that I was weird for not having a boyfriend. I am ashamed to admit that some of these people were my friends, that I just shrugged these comments off. I should have be awoken to the misogyny then, but nothing woke me up faster and more effectively than this election.


If you ask women around you they will probably share the same sentiment. That they had experienced some kind of misogyny or assault in their lives but they thought that the problem was contained to themselves. I personally thought I would never meet another man like the one who told me that I was inferior to him for being a woman. Then I saw Trump. Millions of women, not just Americans, saw the worst qualities of men they had interacted with exist ten-fold in Trump. I am sure Trump brought up painful memories of ex-boyfriends, bosses, and Facebook friends that women had to deal with.

The problem is that we expected people to be on our sides. For me, I expected one of my best friends who was present when our coworker proudly said that I was a lesser person than him to step in and do the right thing instead of doing the right thing myself. This election, if anything, taught us not to rely on the common American to stand up for what is right and speak up for women. We have to speak up for ourselves. The first thing I did upon returning to my home after the road trip was to write a letter to my friend and the “man” who harassed me, telling them both to shove off.

This women’s march goes well beyond a Trump presidency. If one good thing were to come out of the election it is that we are no longer ignorant to the fact that a sizable amount of Americans do not hold women’s rights as important, that they are selfish and look out for themselves before the good of others. That we have to stand up for what is right even though we are in the minority. That women are strong and should be respected. That we will not give up silently.

For those men who cannot take strong women, who do not champion for equal rights, and think they are better than anyone else we say: grow some balls.


Trump Isn’t the First Psychopath in the Oval Office (and He Probably Won’t Be the Last)


Today is January 20th, 2017. The first day of Donald Trump’s presidency and for most, the first day of the end of the world. We’ve constantly seen him belittle others on Twitter, condone sexual assault, and exert such grandiose assertions about multiple things (having the most diverse cabinet, bringing back jobs that have nothing to do with his position, and declaring himself so charming, that Mexico will listen to him to build a wall costing billions for no good reason, to name a few instances) that it is no wonder most label the “politician” as a psychopath. In fact, many psychologists are exercising their professional opinions, calling Trump not agreeable, neurotic, and unusually aggressive, many traits of psychopathy (you can read one such account here: So how did we actually elect a psychological monster to lead our country? Well it turns out we have done it before.

Researchers from Emory University began a study in 2010 delving into the psychopathic traits of 42 past presidents (up until and including George W. Bush) with the notion that some aspects of psychopathy (fearlessness, interpersonal dominance) can actually be beneficial to the leader of our country.

“Despite the lengthy research tradition linking psychopathy to unsuccessful behavior, a consistent strand of clinical lore has tied psychopathy, or at least certain features of it, to socially successful behavior across a variety of domains, including the business world, politics, and everyday life,” cites Scott O. Lilienfeld, first author of the paper. “These important results raise the possibility that psychopathy, or at least some features of it, are associated with certain aspects of adaptive functioning in workplace settings, although they may also be associated with certain aspects of maladaptive functioning.”

To test whether the presidents in fact shared traits consistent with psychopaths, researchers handed our surveys to the biographers of every US president, people who know the actions and personalities of the presidents best. Instead of answering the questions about themselves, they were asked to compile answers on behalf of their biographical subjects to questions taken from the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, PPI for short. The PPI consists of two factors: fearless dominance (social potency, stress immunity, and fearlessness) and self-centered impulsivity (careful nonplanfuless, impulse nonconformity, Machiavellian egocentricity and blame externalization). The psychologists also asked historians for ratings on presidential performance, leadership, persuasiveness, crisis management skills and Congressional relations to determine if certain traits on the PPI were correlated with a successful presidency.

Without further ado, here are the top psychopathic presidents according to the research:

1.      John F Kennedy

2.      William Clinton

3.      Andrew Jackson

4.      Theodore Roosevelt

5.      Lyndon B Johnson

6.      Franklin D Roosevelt

7.      Chester Arthur

8.      George W Bush

9.      Ronald Reagan

10.   Richard Nixon

11.   Andrew Johnson

12.   James Polk

13.   John Adams

14.   John Tyler

15.   Martin van Buren

16.   Woodrow Wilson

17.   Warren Harding

18.   William Harrison

19.   Benjamin Harrison

20.   James Earl Carter

21.   Zachary Taylor

22.   George Washington

23.   Thomas Jefferson

24.   Ulysses S Grant

25.   John Q Adams

26.   Dwight D Eisenhower

27.   Gerald Ford

28.   Abraham Lincoln

29.   James Garfield

30.   Harry S Truman

31.   Herbert Hoover

32.   Franklin Pierce

33.   James Madison

34.   Calvin Coolidge

35.   George H Bush

36.   Grover Cleveland

37.   James Buchanan

38.   William Taft

39.   Rutherford Hayes

40.   James Monroe

41.   Millard Fillmore

42.   William McKinley


The face of a real psychopath

If you are wondering how the hell Nixon didn’t clench the top spot, it boils down to the fact that some aspects of psychopathy are associated with being a better leader. The researchers found that higher levels of fearless dominance were associated with higher approval ratings, better leadership, and more initiative in starting projects. John F. Kennedy scored especially high here for his revolutionary work in the civil rights movement, while more forgettable presidents such as Van Buren scored lower.

In contrast, impulse antisociality ratings were negatively correlated with presidential success. Conversely, they were associated with Congressional impeachments, unsavory character and tolerating unethical behavior. It is no surprise that Bill Clinton snagged the highest rating in this category due to him impeachment and overall “discretions”.

Psychologist Kevin Dutton echoed the results of the study saying “Both great and terrible leaders score higher than the general population for psychopathic traits, but it is the mix of those traits that determines success.”

So how would our sparkly new President do if he were given the PPI? Recently Dr. Dutton took it upon himself to find out, while also contrasting our leader with infamous dictators, monarchs, and conquerors from history. Here is his list:

  1. Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq (with a score of 189)
  2. King Henry VIII, former King of England (178)
  3. Idi Amin, former President of Uganda (176)
  4. Donald Trump (171)
  5. Adolf Hitler, former fuhrer of Nazi Germany (169)
  6. William the Conqueror, former king of England (165)
  7. Saint Paul, apostle (157)
  8. Jesus, son of God (157)
  9. Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of England (155)
  10. Napoleon Bonaparte, French military leader (153)
  11. Hilary Clinton, former Presidential candidate and hope for the future (152)

Yes, you read that correctly: Trump is more psychopathic than Hitler, especially on the traits of social influence and fearlessness. This is especially ironic given that Trump recently stated that the media treats him as if he were living in Nazi Germany:


Donald may actually be right about something

But if Jesus was enough of a psychopath to make the list, surely it is not all doom and gloom for the incoming administration. Dutton explains that it is all about how these traits work together, stating that “someone who scores highly for being influential, fearless and cold hearted could be a decisive leader who can make dispassionate decisions. If those traits are accompanied by a high score on blaming others, they might be a genocidal demagogue.”




On second thought, I am going to invest in a bomb shelter after today.



Diet and Exercise Ruining Your Weight Loss Resolution? Use Your Brain to Lose Pounds Instead


It’s been a little over two weeks since the start of the New Year. If you’re like the millions of Americans who have professed a New Years’ resolution, you’ve probably resolved to lose weight, stick to a diet, or exercise more. Also if you are similar to these millions of people, you have probably given up on your resolution already.

I get it, it is hard to pick a salad when you can have a Big Mac or to get up to go to the gym when you can have ten more minutes of sleep. But there might be an easier solution under your nose (or behind it, rather).

What if I told you that you can use your brain to elicit weight loss? After all, our brains are what tell us that we’re hungry, when we’re full, and when food feels good. Here I’ll outline three ways to use your good ole brain to keep you from eating too much grain (or pizza, or cheeseburgers, or chocolate cake).


Using Medications

Okay so if you’ve been serious about losing weight for a while you have probably indulged in one or more diet supplements and are ready to dismiss miracle pills for weight loss. Most diet supplements work by providing your body with excess caffeine, thereby giving you more energy to exercise and  forcing your body to burn more calories when idle. The new trend in weight loss medication, however, targets specific chemicals in the brain associated with over-eating.

If you have a television and subscribe to cable, then I am sure you have seen the advertisements for Belviq, a new weight loss medication. If seeing images of people rock climbing aren’t enough to convince you to buy this medication, then the science will. According to their website:

“It all starts with chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Some neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, can stimulate the brain, telling us to take a certain action—such as “Eat now!” Other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are associated with satiety.

In a nutshell: we smell food; certain neurotransmitters are released that makes us want to eat; when we eat, serotonin is released, causing feelings of fullness when specific receptors associated with satiety.

As serotonin is naturally activating its receptors to cause feelings of fullness, BELVIQ and BELVIQ XR are believed to selectively activate those “fullness receptors,” helping us feel satisfied with less food.”

In science terms, Belviq (generic name Lorcaserin) is a serotonin agonist, which means that the medicine binds to serotonin receptors, causing the receptors to release more serotonin. In addition to being associated with satiety, serotonin is colloquially known as the “happy hormone”. Studies again and again have shown that the amount of serotonin in the brain is related to happiness and mood.

Because bad, greasy food is known to make us happy, it is theorized that indulging in these calorie bombs is accompanied by an increase in serotonin. Therefore, if we combine a serotonin stimulator with healthier foods (or at least not 10,000 calorie meals from the Cheesecake Factory), we can recreate the bliss that accompanies fatty foods, therefore making us like healthier foods more. If high fat foods make us feel good and low fat foods make us feel good, then there are no excuses in picking a smothered burrito over a lettuce wrap.

If the word “serotonin” sounds familiar, you have probably heard of the term SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This is the mechanism by which antidepressants improve mood. Instead of targeting serotonin receptors to increase the production of the happy molecule, like in Belviq, SSRI’s increase the amount of serotonin in the brain by stopping the reuptake and reabsorption of the particle.

It should come as no surprise that one of the major side effects of antidepressants is loss of appetite. When I was on Prozac, I felt no inclinations to eat, and actually had to force myself to eat a bagel every couple of hours in college. In fact, some doctors prescribe Wellbutrin, an antidepressant with the sole intention of weight loss.

Have you heard the term “stress eating”? Most of us can agree that when we feel a little sad or anxious we head straight to the refrigerator to aid in our healing. This is where antidepressants can additionally be of service on our journeys to weight loss, as consistent medication can slow the number of these occurrences by decreasing anxiety and fostering more positive emotions.  If you are happy already, then you will not look to food to provide you with happiness.


Using Conditioning

Besides creating pleasurable experiences through taste, we indulge on specific foods that accompanied emotional experiences in our pasts. Have you ever gotten a special ice cream cone whenever your parents took you to the beach? Did you always have pizza parties for your birthday growing up? Do you frequent Jell-O wrestling matches?

It should come to no surprise then when you frequently pack your shopping cart with ice cream, pizza, and Jell-O whenever you visit the dreaded supermarket. You have been conditioned to like these treats because they have been repeatedly associated events that have brought you joy. Therefore, spoiling yourself with these treats also bring you positive emotions as often as you like.

Of course, it is tricky, if not impossible, to reverse these associations made during childhood.  But, we can use conditioning to make healthier strides in adulthood. Psychologists warn against the use of negative stimulants in weight loss: punishing yourself often leads to binge and over eating, all while creating a deeper hole of depression and self-loathing if you cannot keep to a strict diet. Conditioning should be utilized to create more positive affiliations to drown out the other unhealthy associations.

Next time when you are celebrating a birthday, a promotion at work or actually meeting someone worthy of a second date, don’t reach for the alcohol, the sweets, or the grease. If you consistently reward yourself with healthier treats over a long period of time, your brain can make new connections between positive emotions and food that is better for you.

Start off small: instead of ice cream eat frozen yogurt, instead of a large Little Caesar’s Hot-n-Ready try a grilled flatbread. Building new connections takes time and constant practice when we are adults, so this way will take constant effort. But isn’t your health in need of constant monitoring anyway?


Using Self-Control

In college as a intrigued psychology major, I took part in running a study that delved into using self-control as a means for weight loss. The idea of the study was that if we target certain areas of the brain that are important in self-control and encourage participants to use these areas when making decisions about what to eat, then subjects will lose weight. Participants underwent training using EEG in a course that was previously used for tobacco cessation and then had their weight recorded after a six week period.

Amazingly, the participants who took part in the self-control training over a placebo training lost significantly more weight.

Of course you are probably asking how this can pertain to you when you don’t have an EEG or access to highly intricate training software. The point of this is that utilizing self-control was enough for the participants to lose weight, and there are many other ways for you to practice self-control. Here are a few:

  • Meditation-Many studies have shown that individuals that meditate have more willpower as well as improved stress-management, attention, and self-awareness. If you can train yourself to monitor your breathing then you can sure as hell monitor what you eat and how much you eat.
  • Get more sleep- When we give our brains ample time to recharge, we are able to make better decisions, including decisions about how much we eat.
  • Keep a bullet journal- If you make yourself aware of your goals and what you want to accomplish, you will find yourself having more control over your daily activities. Keeping a journal or to-do list will keep you from becoming procrastinated and give you more control over your life.
  • Maintain your blood sugar- This is where it gets tricky. Glucose is our brains’ fuel just as it is for our bodies. Research has shown that acts of self-control reduce glucose levels in the brain, while also explaining that low levels of glucose result in poor performance on self-control tasks. Psychologists recommend drinking a sugary drink periodically, such as lemonade, while not overdoing it with the sugar.


So there you have it: three ways to use your brain to lose weight. Of course, all of these tricks work much better with the inclusion of diet and exercise, but can provide a measurable difference when compared to lazing around on the couch. Remember: stay happy, associate your happiness with healthier food, and try not to put so much pressure on yourself. It’s not like the weight of the world is on your shoulder when it comes to your actual weight.