There Are 7 Money Personality Types, Says Psychology Expert—how To Tell Which One You Are (And The Pitfalls Of Each)

There Are 7 Money Personality Types, Says Psychology Expert—how To Tell Which One You Are (And The Pitfalls Of Each)

We often stress about the importance of financial literacy, such as gaining a strong understanding of how money works and having the resources to make informed decisions.

But when it comes to establishing financial health, one thing most people fail to consider is their money personality type — or their approach and emotional responses to money.

We each have our own beliefs and emotions about money, and they are mostly shaped by our individual life experiences (e.g., passed down from our parents or influenced by our current situations).

In my 10-plus years of researching the psychology of money and happiness, I’ve found that there are seven distinct money personality types. Typically, we fall into a combination of many types, and not just one.

Identifying which types you fall under, and understanding the pitfalls of each, can significantly improve your relationship with money. It can help you do things like spend less on impulse purchases, be better about budgeting, invest wisely and ensure a nice nest egg for retirement.

1. The Compulsive Saver

Signs you might be a Compulsive Saver:

  • You put away money endlessly, sometimes with no actual end goal in mind.
  • You believe saving money is the only way to feel more secure in life.
  • You’re very frugal. (Friends will often come to you for advice on which phone company is the cheapest, which point cards are worth it, or when to buy plane tickets at the lowest price.)

Pitfalls: Some Compulsive Savers are so afraid of losing money that they go their entire lives without spending any of what they worked so hard to save. For example, they might choose to skip out on hobbies or activities that could bring them happiness and purpose.

Money advice: It’s all about moderation; learn to find a balance between saving money and enjoying life. Think about where you see yourself in the future and how you can use your savings to get there.

2. The Compulsive Spender

Signs you might be a Compulsive Spender:

  • You tend to spend money on things you don’t necessarily need.
  • You have an outgoing personality and love treating people to something special, sometimes for no particular reason.
  • When you’re in emotional distress, your solution is to spend, especially for immediate gratification.

PitfallsEven if they have large amounts of debt, Compulsive Spenders will often continue going on shopping sprees. They may even try to hide large purchases from friends and family. In extreme cases, they can be at risk of going bankrupt if they consistently spend more than they earn.

Money advice: Creating a budget plan will help you see things from a different perspective. Remind yourself that buying a new car (when you already have one), for example, means sacrificing money on essential things like saving for retirement or paying off debt.

3. The Compulsive Moneymaker

Signs you might be a Compulsive Moneymaker:

  • You believe that earning more money is the secret to happiness.
  • You spend most of your energy on trying to make as much money as possible.
  • You get pleasure from the approval and recognition from other people for your financial success.

Pitfalls: While Compulsive Moneymakers are usually on a strong path to achieving financial freedom, they can enter dangerous territory if they start neglecting important relationships to prioritize growing their wealth (e.g., choosing to work on weekends over spending time with loved ones).

Money advice: Recognize that there’s more to life than money. And if you do have a sizeable amount of wealth, give it purpose by helping others, whether that means donating to an important cause or treating yourself to that family vacation you’ve been talking about for years.

4. The Indifferent-to-Money

Signs you might be an Indifferent-to-Money:

  • You rarely think about money (and just the idea of creating a budget makes you nauseous).
  • In extreme cases, you believe that money is inheritably bad or evil.
  • You feel strongly that money shouldn’t influence important decisions in life.

Pitfalls: Many people who are indifferent to money feel they only need a modest amount of money to be happy, which is a healthy mindset. But things can get ugly if they’re not responsible with their finances (e.g. depending on a partner or spouse to do the work for them).

Money advice: Even if you are financially comfortable, make it a point to know things like where your money is going, what your monthly expenses are, and where you stand on debt. Doing all these things can save you a lot of financial stress in the future.

5. The Saver-Splurger

Signs you might be a Saver-Splurger:

  • You share common traits between Savers and Spenders.
  • You start out saving a lot of money, but then give into spending impulses out of nowhere.
  • When you do use your savings, you might spend on things you don’t need or will rarely use.

Pitfalls: It can be emotionally exhausting when the pendulum swings from compulsive saving to compulsive splurging. Saver-Spenders often end up stressed and disappointed in themselves for working so hard to save money, only to lose it so quickly.

Money advice: Like Compulsive Spenders, Saver-Splurgers rarely put thought into what they’re spending on when they decide to splurge. Before any big purchase, imagine how you might feel the following week or two. Don’t lose sight of your financial goals.

6. The Gambler

Signs you might be a Gambler:

  • You share common traits between Moneymakers and Spenders.
  • The thrill of risk and promise of reward is a pleasure unto itself that you can quickly get lost in.
  • You gamble away your money sometimes for the purpose of escaping boredom.

Pitfalls: It’s not unusual for Gamblers to encounter sudden windfalls or devastating losses. The most obvious risk is when the gambling gets out of control and they borrow against things like their retirement money or children’s college fund to make up for losses along the way.

Money advice: The goal is to be introspective and strict with the financial risks you take. Balance and security are essential to have, so start setting aside monthly savings before making any big financial decisions.

7. The Worrier

Signs you might be a Worrier:

  • It doesn’t matter how much money you have — you’re constantly worried that you’ll lose it at any given moment.
  • You lack confidence in your abilities to achieve financial freedom.
  • You constantly obsess over the worst case scenario of what will happen if you run out of money.

Pitfalls: It’s smart to be aware of what could happen if you don’t prepare for your future. But letting worry and anxiety eat away at your happiness in the present moment is never a good thing.

Money advice: Seek positivity around money conversations. Work on understanding where your financial worries are coming from, whether that means talking to a financial advisor or a therapist.

Ken Honda is an expert in the psychology of money and happiness, and the bestselling author of “Happy Money: The Japanese Art of Making Peace With Your Money.” He has owned and managed businesses, including an accounting company, consulting firm and VC corporation. Ken currently lives in Tokyo, Japan.


Mick Fanning’s Scoliosis Led Him To Breath Work. Now, It’s Key To His Success

Mick Fanning’s Scoliosis Led Him To Breath Work. Now, It’s Key To His Success

It’s what some people still think of as “weird hippie stuff”, but learning how to breathe better may just be the most underrated tool we have at our disposal, one that can reduce anxiety, pain, stress and improve our physical performance.

Mick Fanning laughs at the thought of himself starting out as a professional surfer and someone suggesting he work on his breathing. He imagines he would have asked them, “What for?”

Today, however, the three-time world champion believes it is a key component of his success.

“Breath work is critical,” says the 39-year-old, who recently announced his professional surfing comeback. “You can change your moods, your thought patterns, just by concentrating on breath … and the better you breathe the better you perform.”


Fanning was first introduced to breathing techniques as a 19-year-old trying to manage the pain of scoliosis.

In yoga classes he attended, he learnt to slow down his breath during deep stretches. He focused on using his breath to create space between his ribs and spine and found the pain in his back began to subside.

Later he incorporated different breathing techniques into his training program, using them alongside visualisation and meditation.

“I felt that was one of the key parts of my success,” says Fanning, who was announced as the face of F45’s new yoga-pilates-tone studio FS8, this month.

“It’s something that I still use today. We all get fired up for different reasons and by concentrating on breath you can bring yourself down or you can get yourself excited.”

The fact that the breath affects us on both mental and physical levels simultaneously is part of what makes it so powerful, says Dr David Farmer, an honorary fellow at the University of Melbourne.

When we breathe spontaneously, without even thinking about it, a group of cells in our brains is working in synchronicity with the muscles in our chest to make a rhythm.

“Whether [breathing] evokes a physical or mental response … it’s very hard to separate the two,” he says.

“We all get fired up for different reasons and by concentrating on breath you can bring yourself down or you can get yourself excited.”


Although it happens automatically for healthy people, when we then use our breath in specific ways we can start to control that rhythm and, in doing so, elicit certain physical and mental responses.

In this way, it is an “absolutely unique” tool, says Farmer.

“The only system over which we have direct motor control which is essential for our survival is our breathing.”

Breathing fast and slow

Fanning’s performance coach, Nam Baldwin says breathwork is the foundation of mental and physical performance: “It is one of the only natural ways to regulate the nervous system’s behaviour when it comes to all forms of stress.”

Baldwin says they practise different breath techniques depending on what they are trying to evoke. They use it as a regulating tool during high intensity training sessions; in the pool to give him greater breath-holding capacity, as a way to recover, and they use basic rhythmic breathing as part of his psychological preparation for competition.

“It really is a simple concept, but the intensity or the pressure you are under at any given time is what makes it more difficult to apply or get right,” Baldwin says.

Tony Blazevich, a professor of biomechanics at Edith Cowan University, says though many elite athletes now use breathing techniques as part of their daily regimes, the benefits are available to all of us.

Manipulating the speed and depth of breathing is one way to create physical and mental shifts, explains Blazevich, who is also the director of the Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research (CESSR).

”As part of a hype up, adrenalin-inducing effect or to ensure high-tissue oxygen levels, a few rapid, deep breaths can be beneficial,” Blazevich says.

“So prior to an activity if you’re nervous or worried, your breathing might become shallower and your blood can reduce its oxygen levels. Several rapid, deep breaths may bring your blood oxygen back up and provide some small oxygen delivery benefit to the muscles.”

Along with oxygenation, researchers believe that changing our breath affects our baroreceptors, mechanical receptors located in our necks and hearts.

“They help us regulate blood pressure and heart rate and the deep breathing seems to stimulate baroreceptor activation and that affects your autonomic system and blood pressure,” Blazevich explains. ”It also seems to cause a more general inhibition in the central nervous system itself and so this leads to a decrease in pain.“

How to breathe better every day

In his 2020 book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, James Nestor writes that breathing through our noses doesn’t just humidify air and remove foreign particles, it can boost nitric oxide sixfold. “[It] is one of the reasons we can absorb about 18 per cent more oxygen than by just breathing through the mouth,” he writes.

Along with breathing through our noses, holding our breath, counting it, visualising it can potently affect the way we feel.

For reducing pain or anxiety, for instance, Blazevich says that it may not just be deep, slow breathing that makes the difference.

“If you hold your breath, the pressure you develop during the breath holding … seems to be a major trigger [of baroreceptor activation],” he says, noting that slowing the breath can naturally create a pause at each end of the inhalation.

Counting the breath and visualising the cool air coming in also slows down our breathing, and engages the areas of the brain that are involved in processing anxiety and pain too.

When we are counting and visualising, our brains can’t also process pain at the same time.

“It takes practice,” Blazevich says. “But when someone decides ‘I’m going to use my brain for some other reason’, they get good at beating anxiety, they get good at beating pain, they get good at beating whatever by using these breathing techniques.

“Over many weeks of training, you can go and take an MRI of someone’s brain and their amygdala – the part of the brain that’s associated with anxiety for example, will literally shrink.”

The perfect length of breath or count is hotly contended and likely depends on the individual. In his book, Nestor refers to a 2001 study in which participants said rosary prayers or mantras.

“The most efficient breathing rhythm occurred when both the length of respirations and total breaths per minute were locked in to a spooky symmetry: 5.5-second inhales followed by 5.5-second exhales, which works out almost exactly to 5.5 breaths a minute. This was the same pattern of the rosary. The results were profound, even when practised for just five to 10 minutes a day.”

It is a study Farmer also finds intriguing, though Blazevich doubts the ideal breath is as specific as 5.5 seconds. Others favour techniques like box breathing (breathing in to a count of four, holding for a count of four, exhaling to a count of four and holding for a count of four) and the 4-7-8 technique (breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds and exhale completely to a count of eight).

Either way, working with our breath, slowing it down and breathing through our noses can make us feel better in body and brain.

“It is fair to say it is one of the most underrated tools because a lot of people still think of it as weird hippie stuff,” Blazevich says, “but what people haven’t realised is that in the last 20 years, and certainly the last 10 years, the amount of scientific research that has gone into understanding it has improved enormously.”


Why You’re Probably Not Psychologically Ready To Retire

Why You're Probably Not Psychologically Ready To Retire

Retirement ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, if they’re not careful, a lot of folks will crack once they retire.

Perhaps no other stage of life triggers such intense feelings of excitement and liberation, on the one hand, but, on the other, fear and anxiety. Retirement for many entails a leap of faith after decades of routine. You’re not simply at work Friday, doing your job, and retired Monday, dancing for joy, though. Retirement is a major transition that unfolds over many years, as we move from the life we know into the life we will get to know.

Many pre-retirees do not fully comprehend how dramatically their lives will change.

“I struggled with it,” Nancy Schlossberg says of retiring more than two decades ago from a university teaching career. “It wasn’t what I expected.”

And she’s an expert on transitions and how to navigate them; the author of “Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age” and other books on aging, and creator of a respected academic theory about transitions.

A few lucky souls know exactly what their retirement looks like. The rest of us figure it out as we go. If we go, that is. Many people are simply not psychologically ready to retire, even if they’re financially able. Their job is their identity. They believe that “I work, therefore I am,” and its plaintive corollary, “Without work, what am I?”

Research shows that adjusting to retirement is difficult for such people, who report more boredom, anxiety, restlessness and feelings of uselessness. Retired men, for example, were found to be 40% more likely than employed men to experience depression, and the greatest increase in suicide rates between 2000 and 2016 occurred among 45- to 64-year old men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sociologist Phyllis Moen suggested that “people spend more time planning a wedding than planning retirement,” says Schlossberg, who at 89 years old enjoys a prolific second act as an author and public speaker. “It’s very important to think about your identity and what you’re losing, and how you get a new identity. What would give you a sense of meaning and purpose?”

“Visualize the kind of person you want to become [in retirement], share it with other people and get their feedback.”

— — Karl Pillemer

Start by finding your spot on the retirement transition curve. Dychtwald has identified five phases of retirement: imagination (15 to five years before retirement); anticipation (five years prior); liberation (first year of retirement); reorientation (years 2 to 15); and reconciliation (more than 15 years after retirement).

Three years to retirement: anticipation

You’re past the imagination stage and its fantasies, hopes and wishes. The anticipation stage is reality. Friends are retiring; you’re tired of working, the finish line is in sight. It’s time to seek wise advice on how to handle feelings about leaving regular employment and the supportive social network it typically provides.

Set aside any money concerns for now. Of course, money matters, but there’s plenty of guidance for retirees about your financial portfolio; not so much about your emotional portfolio.

“People make the decision to retire based on an economic state rather than a life state,” says retirement coach Mitch Anthony, who teaches investment advisers to help clients plan their life in addition to their finances. “Retirement is a mental-health consideration,” he adds. “We’ve treated it as if it’s something you have to do, then, ‘Do you have enough money?’ — and conversation over.”

Being emotionally grounded going into retirement will likely lead to better, more mindful financial decisions in retirement. Moreover, retired life may require less money than you expect. Find purpose and ways to feel relevant, and your financial plan will seem like a piece of retirement cake.

In this anticipation stage, ask yourself how you’ll spend time in retirement, which could span 25 years or longer. What activities, interests and lifestyle would be compatible?

One way to answer that question is to think about retirement not as the end of work but as the start of a late-career transition. “Use some of the tools you might use in conceptualizing a career,” says gerontologist Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at Cornell University. “What are my aptitudes? What are things I like to do?”

Retired men are 40% more likely than employed men to experience depression.

For instance, if you climbed the corporate ladder, you likely had a mentor and learned how successful people got that way by observing and asking questions. Do the same around your retirement. Find people with a few years of experience living the retirement life you want, and learn how they got it. Asking for direction is a sign of strength, not weakness.

“Identifying goals in retirement and having perseverance in pursuing them leads to better retirement,” says Pillemer. “Visualize the kind of person you want to become, share it with other people and get their feedback — especially people who have successfully made the transition.”

One year to retirement: check-in

It’s time for a pre-flight review. Says Norman Abeles, emeritus professor of psychology at Michigan State University and an expert on aging: “Develop concrete steps. What am I going to do the week after I retire? How about six months after that? Talk with your partner — what are the two of you going to do together? After you visit the grandchildren and have done the traveling, what are you going to do day by day?”

One helpful preparation tool comes from transition expert Schlossberg: the “four S’s” of coping with life changes and assessing your social and emotional strengths and weaknesses. These include: your situation with work and family at the time of the transition; your sense of self (outlook, resilience, spirituality); support (self-esteem, social network, role models) and strategy (optimism, reframing, self-management).

Realize there’s a light at the end of the retirement tunnel. “There will be many surprises along the way, but over a couple of years you will develop a new sense of purpose, a new sense of who you are, and a new way of negotiating relationships and building new ones,” says Schlossberg:

Year 1 of retirement: liberation

You made it; you’re free to be…who, exactly? Schlossberg has identified several types of retirees: “adventurers” who shake things up; “searchers” looking to fit in; “easy gliders” who live one day at a time; “involved spectators” who are still connected to their careers; and two kinds of “retreaters” — those who pause to regroup and those who essentially don’t leave their rocking chair.

You may take on several of these personas, especially in that initial, exciting honeymoon period when being old is new again. Studies show that older people tend to be happier than younger people, reporting greater psychological well-being and life satisfaction. “Learn to have fun again, to make new friends, to have less structure, to try something and fail at it,” says Dychtwald.

At the same time, the loss of structure and routine understandably can bring up sadness and depression. “Ask retirees what they miss most, and No. 1 is the social connection, the stimulation, the action,” Dychtwald says. “People don’t think that through.”

Be resilient and resourceful. Maintain social contacts, stay physically active, practice self-compassion and consider part-time work.

“Not only do you have the possibility of doing something new; you have to have at least some sense of what the choices might be and which might be a match for you,” says Dychtwald. “Stop, take a deep breath and look inside. Meet the modern age halfway.”

Three years post-retirement: reorientation

The honeymoon’s over. It’s been over for a while, in fact. By now, ideally, you’re a year or so into the reorientation stage of retirement. You’ve taken twists and turns, and, finally, you’re settling in.

“The most important thing people need is to reframe their mindset in terms of what they have to offer the world, and their perspective on aging,” says Chip Conley, author of “Wisdom @ Work: The Making of a Modern Elder.” After selling the successful boutique hotel chain he founded, Conley, 58, is now a strategic adviser to Airbnb, the worldwide home-sharing company.

Conley views retirement as a time to reinvent yourself and pursue what you’ve always wanted but never dared to chase. Increasingly, older people are doing just that.

According to the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, entrepreneurship in the U.S. is growing fastest among people over age 55. “Instead of being the end of the book, retirement is an added chapter,” says Conley, who in his new role calls himself a “mentern” — a mentor to younger colleagues and an intern who is eager to learn.

As the reorientation stage unfolds over a decade or two, people start paying attention to their legacy, which ushers in the reconciliation stage. Your legacy is not the material wealth you leave in a will; it’s how you will be remembered. This is a literal opportunity of a lifetime — the chance to distribute the wealth of knowledge, depth and wisdom you’ve acquired just by being alive.

“The storyline of retirement will be less about winding things up and more about transforming oneself,” says Dychtwald. “Rather than just becoming elderly, we become elders — wise, well-traveled and deeply experienced.”


Insomnia Disorder Is ‘absolute Misery’ But Experts Say It Can Be Treated Without Sleeping Pills

Insomnia Disorder Is 'absolute Misery' But Experts Say It Can Be Treated Without Sleeping Pills

In the depths of her insomnia, Helena Morland tried it all — meditation, herbal supplements, a change in diet, medication and psychology.

The mum-of-two was desperate to find a solution to the seemingly never-ending spiral of disrupted sleep followed by days of exhaustion.

“I’d be in tears in the middle of the night out of pure frustration because I couldn’t understand what was going on,” she said.

“It’s absolute misery. And if you haven’t been through it, you don’t understand it.

“Imagine having a newborn baby that wakes you all the time. Except there’s no one waking me up – it’s just me.”


For three months, Ms Morland battled through worsening sleeplessness while juggling a university course and raising her family. 

“I was unable to cope,” she said. “I didn’t want to see anyone when I was really bad and hadn’t had an opportunity to catch up on sleep.

“I had a lot of unproductive days where I just had to stay at home, and basically do nothing or try and catch up on sleep, because I didn’t have the mental capacity to do anything apart from very basic things.”

For decades, Melbourne health psychologist and Sleep Health Foundation board member Moira Junge has seen patients at this “pointy” end of insomnia, when the act of sleep itself – far from being a relaxing and reinvigorating experience – is wracked with performance anxiety.

“Sleep itself becomes the performance,” Dr Junge said. “It’s like a job interview. And when you go into bed you think, ‘I’ve got to do this well, I’ve got to sleep’.

“But sometimes if you’re really worried about it, or have a lot riding on it, then you don’t.”

Late at night, online insomnia forums are populated with the desperately sleepless. Sometimes they post medication questions or treatment recommendations, but mostly they’re just looking for someone who understands the lonely despair of what feels like endless consciousness.

“Second day on no sleep, who else?” asks one poster.

“Anyone else have a partner who sleeps like a baby every night? So infuriating!” comments another.

“I know this may sound ridiculous, but will I die from insomnia?” another post reads. “I am so scared my brain is broken and that it will never let me sleep again … I’m not over-exaggerating, I truly feel this way.”

15 per cent of Australians may experience insomnia disorder

Insomnia disorder is defined by a failure to fall or stay asleep for three or more nights a week for three months or longer. A 2019 Sleep Health Foundation study found nearly 15 per cent of Australians have symptoms which could meet the diagnostic criteria, whether they realise it or not.

While many people experience disruptions to sleep during times of upheaval or anxiety, the difference in patients with insomnia is the sleep problem will persist even after the initial stress trigger is resolved, says Sean Drummond, a professor of clinical neuroscience at Monash University.
“For 85 per cent of the people out there, when that initial stressor is gone, sleep goes back to normal, and everything’s fine,” he said. “But for roughly 15 per cent of people, even once the stressor is gone, they continue to sleep poorly.

“Those are the people who then we say go on to develop chronic insomnia.”

People might try to cope by going to bed early, napping during the day, drinking extra caffeine, spending more time in bed looking at a phone, or being overly sedentary.

While these behaviours are understandable among people who are feeling tired, Professor Drummond said they often became “perpetuating factors” that could ultimately make the situation worse.

“It’s essentially a series of behaviours and thoughts that utterly conspire to make this insomnia worse and keep it going over time,” he said. “And that’s when it really develops a life of its own.”

‘Almost an obsession around their sleep’

In their desperation, many insomniacs begin designing their lives around improving their sleep, Dr Junge said.

“What happens is you get anxious about not sleeping, and then worry about it and put all these sort of maladaptive habits in, like trying too hard,” she said.

“You have less tolerance for tiredness, and everything gets blamed on the tiredness. A lot of people develop a misattribution that everything is to do with sleep – like, ‘If only I slept better, I’d be the Prime Minister’.”

Professor Drummond said trying too hard to sleep is unhelpful. “People develop what’s called an attention bias towards sleep,” he said. “Everything they’re thinking about is related to sleep.

“It leads to almost an obsession. Sleep is one of these funny things that the harder you try to do it, the less likely it is to actually happen.”

How the body responds to sleep anxiety 

As a person becomes more fixated on sleep, and anxious at the prospect of another sleepless night, the body responds to bedtime counterintuitively, by generating stress hormones – rendering the person almost physically incapable of sleep and developing an association with bed as a place of stress, not rest.

“The person develops what we call conditioned arousal,” Professor Drummond said.

“As soon as they go into the bedroom and lie down in bed, that conditioned arousal kicks in and bang, their eyes open and their brain starts to go and they can’t turn it off, and all of a sudden they can’t fall asleep.

“It’s all because the bed now has become a symbol to the brain that, ‘Hey, you’re supposed to be awake and anxious and stressed out’ rather than, ‘You’re supposed to be relaxed and sleepy’.”

Veronica Bosworth has dealt with intermittent periods of insomnia since she was a child and has experienced this feeling of being “tired but wired”.

“When my insomnia was at its worst, I would get anxious before going to bed – the whole opposite of what you need to be,” she said.

“I reached a stage where I was in a fugue state. I felt like I was existing. I was just pushing my body through the processes of the day as best I could, but I didn’t feel like I was living at all.”

If she woke up in the night, Ms Bosworth would frantically begin calculating the amount of time she had left to sleep.

“One thing that I used to do when I would wake up in the middle of the night is look at the time and then freak out at how little sleep I could get in before my alarm would go off,” she said.

“Although this was probably one of the most difficult things to do, I taught myself to never look at the time. The reason being that it made no difference. All it did was make me anxious.”

Many clients with insomnia also develop anxiety around the negative health effects of prolonged sleeplessness, Dr Junge said.

“I get so worried when I hear headlines around: ‘Less than eight hours sleep will cause dementia’ and the like,” she said.

“This is fantastic, great quality research… but when you’ve got insomnia, the last thing you need to hear when you’re driving to work is that your lack of sleep is going to harm you.”

Who’s most likely to develop insomnia?

While researchers are still investigating genetic risks for insomnia, both Dr Junge and Professor Drummond agreed there was a typical personality profile prone to the condition.

“Somebody who generally runs a little on the anxious side, somebody who we used to call the ‘Type A personality’ that’s really driven, always switched on, a go-go-go kind of person, somebody who ruminates a lot and has a hard time turning their thoughts off, is like more likely to develop insomnia,” Professor Drummond said.

Dr Junge said her patients were generally “very high achieving, very conscientious but also self-confessed worriers [with] high empathy.”

In the Sleep Health Foundation survey, significantly more female respondents than male respondents reported they “often or always” worried about getting a good night’s sleep (31 per cent vs 21 per cent) and were overwhelmed by thoughts when trying to sleep (35 per cent vs 25 per cent).

People with insomnia were likely to be fastidious in their attempts to improve their sleep, which might include following a regimented “sleep hygiene” program of avoiding caffeine after lunch, exercising vigorously but not too close to bedtime, and less screen time at night.

While this advice often works well for the general population, Dr Junge said following a sleep hygiene program too religiously could be problematic for those with an insomnia disorder as it could instil the belief sleep is impossible without following an elaborate list of rules, and even feed anxiety.

“Once you’ve got insomnia, those lists of dos and don’ts become quite rigid and ritualised and … really counterproductive,” she said.

‘The frontline treatment is not medication’

Professor Drummond said the solution to insomnia was not sleeping pills or other medication but “unequivocally” a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Cognitive therapies are usually psychologist-administered and involve identifying and challenging a patient’s unhelpful thoughts and beliefs around sleep, as well as encouraging them to adopt behaviours more conducive to sleep.

Behavioural therapies include re-establishing the association of bed and sleepiness by asking the patient to get out of bed if they don’t fall asleep after 10-15 minutes and only returning when they feel tired again.

Another intervention is what Professor Drummond calls “sleep efficiency therapy”, a mild form of sleep deprivation where the patient limits their time in bed in order to increase their sleep drive and maximise the amount of time they are asleep.

While effective insomnia treatment involves intervention by healthcare professionals, studies show awareness around identification and treatment of insomnia disorder within the healthcare profession may be lacking.

A study spanning 15 years to 2015 found 90 per cent of people who discussed sleep problems with their GP were prescribed medication, with only one per cent referred onward to a psychologist or sleep specialist.

And a October 2020 narrative review found while deficient sleep had been recognised as a current health crisis, all Australian healthcare disciplines received limited training in addressing the condition, with one international study that included Australia and New Zealand finding medical students only received an average of 2.5 hours of sleep education.

“Despite the expansion of academic sleep programs over the past 30 years, basic sleep education has not filtered down into training programs for primary healthcare providers who service the majority of people affected by deficient sleep,” the study found.

Over the years, both Helena and Veronica have developed methods to manage and live with their insomnia.

Veronica follows a strict pre-bed routine involving meditation, relaxing music and affirmation recordings.

Helena has a flexible schedule at work and home in order to fit in with her disrupted sleep pattern, and says it’s been working for her.

“While I’m still working on my own sleep, it has definitely improved from when my insomnia began,” she said. “I do have days where I feel refreshed, and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is what it’s like to be a normal person and have a productive day’.

“I don’t want my story to be a message of hopelessness, but one of being a journey to find the right solution for me.”


Deepak Chopra: ‘we’re Heading For A Global Disaster’ Unless People Address Their Total Well-being

Deepak Chopra: ‘we’re Heading For A Global Disaster’ Unless People Address Their Total Well-being

People need to pay attention to their total well-being, and if they don’t the consequences could be dire, according to wellness expert and best-selling author Deepak Chopra.

Total well-being encompasses purpose — or career— social, physical, community and financial factors, he said. For example, community well-being can mean feeling safe and involved in your community, while social well-being can be the quality of the relationships you have with family and friend.

“Unless we address these five buckets of well-being … we are heading for global disaster,” said Chopra, founder of both The Chopra Foundation and Chopra Global. He’s also a member of the CNBC Invest in You Financial Wellness Council.

Financial health is more than just where you stand with your money. If you are financially stressed, it will send your cortisol levels up and weaken your immune system.

“You have inflammation going up, which makes you more susceptible to chronic and acute illness, even Covid-19,” he said.

Yet the pandemic is also the cause of financial anxiety for so many. Millions of jobs have been lost, pay has been cut and some parents had to leave the workforce to care for children.

“If you are whole in your body, in your emotions, in your mind, and in your spirit, you can accomplish anything.”

More than 4 in 5 Americans, or 84%, are feeling stress on their personal finances due to the crisis, an October survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education found.

Another survey by Fidelity found that 79% of women, who typically suffer from more financial anxiety than men, feel weighed down by money and stress.

While there may be real reasons are anxious over money, financial well-being is ultimately a state of mind, said Chopra, whose latest book is “Total Meditation.”

“It does not have to do with the amount of money you have, it has to do with how secure you feel with the money you have,” he explained.

Here are Chopra’s five tips for financial wellness:

  1. Don’t spend money you have not earned to buy things that you don’t need, to impress people you don’t like.
  2. Put away 10% of your income every month. “I did that since 1970, when I was earning $202 a month.”
  3. Find an employer who takes care of their employees and offers benefits like retirement, disability and insurance. Work with friends and people you like; otherwise, you won’t be successful in your career.
  4. Don’t ignore your body, mind and emotions. “If you have a healthy body, if you have good relationships emotionally and if you are a rested mind, you will make wise financial decisions.”
  5. Make other people successful, which is the best way to be successful yourself. “I found in my career that if I could make other people make money, I would make money, as well.”

Chopra says he strives every day to have a joyful, energetic body and compassionate heart, as well as a clear, reflective, alert and creative mind, and joy and lightness of being.

“If you are whole in your body, in your emotions, in your mind and in your spirit, you can accomplish anything, including have a very successful career and make lots of money,” he said.


3 science-backed techniques to help young women overcome self-doubt

3 science-backed techniques to help young women overcome self-doubt

Many young women have experienced episodes of self-doubt in school, work and beyond, which leave them feeling insecure about the sufficiency of their skills to carry them through new or challenging situations. Years ago, I certainly felt a wave of uncertainty before I delivered my first presentation as a professional speaker to an audience of more than 750 young leaders in Charleston, South Carolina. Would I be able to connect with the audience? Would the words come out as I had written them? Are the strategies I’m sharing good enough?

Self-doubt is part of the human experience and can be expected to surface as young women transition through new life stages or take on different professional roles. But, it can also do much more than simply show up. When left unchecked, self-doubt can mutate into a debilitating condition that hijacks your choices and controls your life. Research says that women are more likely than men at every age level to listen to the judgmental thoughts in their brains, which begs the question: how can young women effectively turn down the volume on self-doubt in order to push forward?

Be fully in the present moment.

When self-doubt creeps up, it can usurp all of your attention, making it difficult to focus on anything else. Self-doubt is known for having the capacity to transport you to a past experience when you came up short or made a mistake, and it can leave you ruminating about your inadequacies.

A proven strategy to manage the spiraling effects that often accompany self-doubt is to intentionally shift your awareness to the present moment — to see the birds playing outside your window, to smell the curry lingering from your lunch, to notice each breath you inhale. Research has long supported the role of attention and awareness in the “maintenance and enhancement of psychological and behavioral functioning.” Being in the present moment offers an opportunity to establish calmness and communication with yourself about how you are feeling.

Erica Cheung, a NYC-based Senior Brand Manager for Violife, often turns to the present moment to reset her energy during a bout with self-doubt. “I take deep breaths. I stomp my feet and turn around in circles until I feel like I’ve physically shaken out the negative vibes,” she said.

According to neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart, engaging with the physical sensations of the present moment can help to quiet “brain chatter” and refocus your attention to the now rather than on previous or imagined mistakes.

In addition to being in the present, you can also find the inspiration to overcome self-doubt by reflecting on the right moments from the past.

Remember What you’ve already overcome.

When self-doubt pressures you to drive along memory lane to revisit experiences from your past, it is important that you maintain control of the steering wheel and guide your thoughts to those events that are capable of helping you restore faith in your abilities. This means, the experiences you reflect on should offer up inspiration and direct your thoughts in a positive orientation.

According to research by psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson, positive thinking helps to broaden your attention, enabling you to elevate and widen your range of perceptions and ideas. And, when you expand your outlook, you effectively open up space to discover and leverage the personal resources needed to side step self-doubt.

For Constance Jones, CEO of Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago, the process of overcoming self-doubt begins with reflecting on significant challenges she conquered in her past.

“I ask myself the question: are these things a challenge now? The answer is always no,” she said. Reflection exercises like these help Jones to remember times when she didn’t believe she had the appropriate skills and confidence to navigate through the murkiness of self-doubt, yet she always did. Similar to Jones, Ericka Tarrant, a training and development manager in Columbia, South Carolina, often recalls past obstacles with successful outcomes to “generate energy and confidence” as a way to combat self-doubt in the face of a new challenge.

For Jones and Tarrant, drawing inspiration from the past provides them with a positive filter through which to reframe their response to self-inflicted doubt. But, sometimes, managing and overcoming self-doubt requires you to tell yourself a different story.

Tell yourself the truth.

Self-doubt doesn’t usually tell the truth. It, instead, offers an exaggeration of negative potential outcomes as a way for your brain to assume some level of control over the uncertainty that looms. One way to neutralize these mental exaggerations is to tell yourself the truth — that you are intelligent and capable. The illusory truth effect, which holds that you are more likely to believe false information to be correct after repeated exposure, highlights the importance of countering the voice of self-doubt with another, more inspiring one. What you frequently hear, and thereby listen to, can be staggeringly persuasive.

Elandria Charles, a non-profit executive based in New York City, uses truth-telling as a go-to exercise to disarm the overwhelming unease that self-doubt can bring on. “I make a habit out of telling myself that my value is completely separate from my doubt or fear.” This disconnection helps Charles to maintain her self-worth even when self-doubt pays her a sudden visit.

Telling yourself the truth is an action generated from knowing your truth. If a sense of personal truth feels like an elusive concept to you, you may find it helpful to allocate time for introspection to discover and recognize your power.

The Takeaway

Self-doubt is a normal part of the human experience, but it’s important for young women to prevent it from morphing into mental paralysis. Young women can keep self-doubt in check by focusing on the present moment. Doing so can effectively drown out disempowering brain chatter. In addition, young women can direct their attention to past experiences where they successfully overcame significant challenges. Remembering their successes can remind them of the skills and abilities available to apply to new obstacles. Lastly, young women can make concerted efforts to tell themselves the truth to counter the exaggerated voice of negativity that can come from self-doubt.

Candace Doby is a speaker, author and coach who works with universities and organizations to help young leaders activate personal courage to speak up, stand out, and stay true to themselves. When she’s not speaking, she working on new designs for her greeting card and gift company, Pep Talker.


How Follow Your Dreams And Get Happier

How Follow Your Dreams And Get Happier

Commencement season is just around the corner. Whether in person or over a live-stream, graduates and their families will follow the long-honored tradition of listening to speeches studded with unoriginal chestnuts like following your dreams, shooting for the stars, and believing that you can do whatever you set out to do.

But that message doesn’t seem appropriate at this moment. Our greatest ambitions, personal and professional, have been systematically frustrated by the pandemic, as the weeks have turned to months have turned to more than a year. Perhaps the words of the English satirical poet Alexander Pope are a better fit. In 1727, he gave his friend John Gay a piece of advice, in the form of a ninth beatitude: “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

Whether Pope was serious or not, there is some good sense in his counsel for times both normal and pandemic-stricken. Sure, audacious goals can be energizing. But a fixation on them can lead to big disappointments. Worse, when your eyes are constantly on the horizon, you can miss what is right in front of you. For happiness, we need a better approach to setting goals—one that sets us up for success in life and lets us enjoy the here and now.

or the most part, goal setting seems to raise our well-being modestly in the short run, by increasing our optimism and sense of direction. In a 2008 study, for example, researchers ran an experiment in which half of the participants set out goals for their lives and received training to bring them to fruition. The other half did not. After the three-week training, the researchers observed that the goal-setters were 8 percent happier than they had been before they started, and 12 percent happier than the control group.

That study mixed all sorts of aspirations together. But if you look closer, not all goals are associated with equal happiness. A 2008 analysis of German survey data, for example, showed that while goals involving family, friends, and social and political involvement promoted life satisfaction, goals focused on career success and material gains were detrimental. This is consistent with research on American college graduates: Aspirations for personal growth, close relationships, and community involvement (what most psychologists call “intrinsic goals”) lead to increased well-being when those goals are attained; those for material possessions, fame, and attractiveness (“extrinsic goals”) predict ill-being.

The magnitude of a dream matters, too. Setting short-term, realistic goals has been shown to start a reinforcing mechanism of success and happiness, provided these goals fit with our values and aren’t imposed on us by others. For example, in one 2001 study, college students who set academic performance goals for the year that matched their intrinsic motivations were more successful than those who didn’t, leading to higher well-being and confidence. This set them up for more goal setting, more success and happiness, and so on.

Focusing on long-term, difficult-to-achieve goals, in contrast, is risky, because you’re less likely to accomplish them. Disappointment creates pessimism and can provoke depressive symptoms. Therefore, goal setting—especially for audacious goals that are unlikely to be met, or even ordinary goals during times like the present—might lead to a lot more unhappiness than happiness. As the poet John Greenleaf Whittier so poignantly put it, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen / The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

This is a growing peril in our economy, which is becoming more and more characterized by what my former economics professor Robert Frank calls “winner-take-all markets,” also known as “superstar markets.” In winner-take-all markets, a few people get outsize rewards, and the rest are left by the wayside. Rarified zones such as Hollywood and the NBA are classic examples. But in the era of new media, people can be celebrities in more ordinary professions, such as law or academia. One can even become rich and famous—at least temporarily—as a YouTuber, which 29 percent of American 8-to-12-year-olds now say is their career goal. The paradox of superstar markets is that their very impenetrability makes them attractive, drawing in more and more aspirants, the vast majority of whom will be disappointed.

Fortunately, we don’t have to swear off goal setting in order to protect and increase our happiness. On the contrary, a balanced strategy based on three lessons from the research can give us the benefits while mostly avoiding the costs.

The scientific literature is clear that goals can bring a lot of happiness when they are short term, achievable, and leading us toward ultimate success—in other words, when achieving them indicates that we are making progress. The self-improvement guru Tony Robbins has taught that progress toward a goal can even bring more happiness than its actual attainment, an idea that is supported by research. To build a happiness strategy around this principle, you should set an end goal, then break it into manageable steps: one year, one month, one week, one day.

The one-day goals are especially important. In his 1948 self-improvement classic, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie recommended that readers resolve to live in “day-tight compartments.” Take stock of long-term goals regularly, but not too often (for me, every six months does the trick); focus the rest of the time on what is to be done today that creates positive progress. Finish your work, set it aside, and relish the accomplishment. Then, start again tomorrow.

The prospect of committing to a lifelong aspiration might unnerve you, since it’s the type that’s least likely to pan out. But long-term goals can be audacious and bold without inviting disappointment if they go unfulfilled. The secret is in a formula articulated by the writer Deepak Chopra: intention without attachment.

Being overly attached to anything in life invites suffering. The solution is to see major goals not as the only way to achieve happiness but as points of navigation that set a direction for your lifelong journey. That way, when storms arise and new opportunities present themselves, you can set a new goal and gracefully let go of your old one, thereby avoiding disappointment and missed opportunities.

When setting out your long-term goals, try writing them down followed by these words: or something better. This gives you explicit permission to diverge from these goals as life circumstances dictate—which you can and should do without disappointment if the original goals are no longer appropriate.

Extrinsic goals—the worldly aspirations leading to money, power, and prestige—can be the hardest to achieve because they are inherently zero-sum: In the pursuit of scarce resources, we crowd one another out. By contrast, intrinsic goals—based on love and personal growth—are positive-sum, and thus more likely to lead to success: My efforts to love and grow as a person are not crowded by your efforts; on the contrary, they can be complementary. Furthermore, they are the goals most associated with happiness. As such, a proper bucket list should be heavily weighted toward these intrinsic aspirations.

Make a list of specific intrinsic goals and work to achieve them. If you need help coming up with some, remember that intrinsic goals are akin to what the writer David Brooks calls “eulogy virtues”: the things you would want people to remember you for at the end of your life. As in, “loving mother,” not “5-million-mile flier on United.” You might resolve to develop your spirituality this summer through 30 minutes a day of reading and practice, to make a new personal friend (one you see outside work) before the end of the year, or to call your mother twice a week starting today.

For happiness, even during the pandemic, neither follow-your-dreams cheerleading nor Pope’s passive shrug is the best approach. A better commencement speech might advise the following:

Dream of the person you want to be—not of how rich or powerful or famous that future self is, but about the life you will lead and work you will do to serve and enrich others maximally, leaving behind a world that is better than you found it. Then, consider what it will take for you to get there, and the happiness you will gain from the joyful journey of creating value and loving others with abundance. Finally, focus your attention on what you will do this day in your work, spiritual life, and relationships that keeps you on that path. Oh—and your diplomas will arrive in the mail in four to six weeks.


World Happiness Report is out, with a surprising picture of global resilience

World Happiness Report is out, with a surprising picture of global resilience

In a conclusion that even surprised its editors, the 2021 World Happiness Report found that, amid global hardship, self-reported life satisfaction across 95 countries on average remained steady in 2020 from the previous year. The United States saw the same trend — despite societal tumult that yielded a national drop in positive emotions and a rise in negative ones. The country fell one spot, to 19th, in the annual rankings of the report, which was released Saturday.

The report is good news regarding global resilience, experts say.

“I don’t want to leave an impression that all was well, because it’s not,” said one of the report’s editors, Jeffrey Sachs, an economics professor at Columbia University. But while the use of national averages masks individual well-being disparities, Sachs said, the data suggests that “people have not thrown up their hands about their lives.”

The pandemic proves we all should know ‘psychological first aid.’ Here are the basics.

The happiness report relies on the Gallup World Poll, which asks respondents to rate their current life satisfaction on a zero-to-10 “ladder” scale, with a 10 representing “the best possible life for you.” It’s a “longer view” of happiness, as Sachs put it, and its steadiness aligns with what other U.S. Gallup polling and some European polling has found during the pandemic.

In late March to early April of 2020, at the beginning of pandemic restrictions, 58.2 percent of U.S. respondents rated their current life satisfaction as a 7 or above, Gallup found.

While the number of Americans reporting anxiety and depressive symptoms rose sharply over the course of 2020, that satisfaction number stayed fairly even through December, according to the report, even after further covid-19 restrictions, pandemic surges, protests over racial injustices and politics, and a divisive presidential election.

All the while, Americans’ expected future happiness remained high: In five surveys since the pandemic began, between 65.8 and 69.2 percent of respondents said they expected their life satisfaction to be an 8 or above five years into the future, higher than before the pandemic. That suggests an optimism for the future that Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California at Riverside, says is “really, really adaptive.”

“We have the most massive changes in social behavior we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes happen during this pandemic,” said Lyubomirsky, author of books such as “The Myths of Happiness” and “The How of Happiness.” “And so I would have expected much, much bigger declines in well-being. And we do not see that.”

Covid brought ‘manifestation’ back. But you can’t simply will your way to a better life.

It’s not so much that people are doing precisely as well as they were before, experts explain, as that many have adapted to their new situations in ways that might have roughly evened out their well-being. “One of the quotes we use is ‘You aren’t traveling the world, but you’re more likely to have met your neighbors this year,’ ” said John Helliwell, another editor of the report and a professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia.

Stressors such as those we’ve experienced this year can encourage people to craft a different, big-picture concept of happiness. And this, psychologists say, can improve resilience. You’ve already likely taken the opportunity to examine your own big picture this past year, but, if you’ve been having difficulty, and because we’re not done with this pandemic, here are some strategies to help.

Look for awe-inducing experiences

When the rover Perseverance touched down on Mars on Feb. 18, Ethan Kross, a professor and director of the Emotion and Self-Control Lab at the University of Michigan, felt something powerful: awe.

“When you experience awe, that’s an emotion we have when you’re in the presence of something that’s vast and hard to explain,” said Kross, the recent author of “Chatter.” “Like, I don’t know how the hell we figured out how to land on another planet, right? But it fills me with awe.”

The landing, he recalled, reminded him of life’s bigger (in this case, interplanetarily massive) picture. “What science has shown is that when you experience awe, that leads to a ‘shrinking of the self,’ ” Kross explained. “So our own problems feel smaller by comparison.” Perseverance, it seems, helped him summon the same.

You can also find awe stopping at a scenic overlook, watching a sunset or seeing a 1-year-old figure out how to take their first, hesitant steps. A 2018 study, published in the journal Emotion, sent students and military veterans on a whitewater-rafting trip and asked them to record their experiences of six different positive emotions after each day on the river. The extent to which the rafters felt awe, researchers found, most predicted changes in their well-being and stress symptoms a week later.

Seek social support, and give it

It’s no surprise that, according to this year’s happiness report, “the ability to count on others” was a “major” support to life evaluations in 2020.

“Social support is by far one of the best ways to help people cope with any kind of adversity or stress or tragedy,” Lyubomirsky said, and it’s been crucial during the pandemic: drive-by birthdays, neighbors helping the elderly, regular Zoom or FaceTime check-ins with friends.

But communing with others also expands our perspective. And if we’re facing a problem, or getting down on ourselves, those who know us well often see things we don’t.

“Other people can be really excellent sources of feedback for our superpowers and our strength,” said Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist and author of “Insight.”

Helping others can take you outside of yourself and help you, too: The global “happiness effects” of generosity increased last year, the report found, and making a donation correlated with higher life satisfaction and positive affect. That finding tracks with a number of studies that testify to the well-being boosts of acts of kindness and volunteering.

Give yourself some (psychological) distance

Psychological distancing refers to “kind of a perspective broadening,” Kross explained. After gaining some distance from a stressor, he said, we’re often better equipped to reengage.

One version is linguistic distancing, a technique that involves analyzing your situation from a third-person perspective, like a close friend would, and activating self-compassion. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General found that “participants who showed greater linguistic distancing were more successful [emotional] regulators.”

“You go on a date, it doesn’t go well, and you have all these negative thoughts like, ‘Oh, it was because I wasn’t attractive enough, or I was not interesting enough.’ A friend would never say that to you, right?” Lyubomirsky said. “It’s partly they’re being kind, but partly it’s a little bit objective. When we’re immersed in our own problems and wallowing in our negative thoughts, we’re not taking that big-picture perspective.”

During the pandemic, Kross has been recommending and himself practicing a second version: temporal distancing, which involves imagining how you’ll feel about a current stressor sometime off in the future, perhaps a year from now, after it’s passed.

Reappraise, and look for meaning

“Humans are meaning-making machines,” Eurich said, and finding personally relevant positive meaning in trying experiences — a technique known as positive reappraisal — can broaden and boost your outlook. A 2015 review of studies on older adults showed that positive reappraisal is “an adaptive coping strategy for older adults with wide-ranging benefits,” including for physical health.

Eurich recommended reflecting on questions like “What are the strengths or insights that I showed up with in facing the situation?” or “What have I learned about myself or about my most important relationships?” and considering how, amid a trying experience, you might be helping your future self. Reflecting on such questions, she said, can reveal growth or benefits the person hadn’t considered, even if it “doesn’t change its negative reality.” A new appraisal is a step toward tweaking your broader narrative.

“The best individual levels of psychological resilience come when we take a really horrible event like a car crash or the death of a loved one [and] turn that into a story of, ‘You know, this really bad thing happened. It was really hard. And I got through it, and here’s what I did to get out of it,’ ” said Daniel Aldrich, director of the Security and Resilience Studies program at Northeastern University. “As opposed to saying, ‘I’m still that person stuck in my house’ or ‘I’m still the person anxious about getting my parents sick.’ It’s hard to maintain that narrative and feel like I’m moving forward.”

Of course, changing one’s narrative isn’t easy, and it might not always be feasible.

But Kross, for his part, is welcoming a possible alternate narrative now on pandemic resilience.

“The discourse right now is so much on the negative side of things, and for very good reason,” he said. “. . . But I do think that [this is] a story about hope.” Without dismissing the United States’ very real suffering, he said, “you’re seeing evidence of a society that is not crumbling.”


Holding a partner’s hand while processing painful memories can weaken the lasting effects of emotional pain

Holding a partner’s hand while processing painful memories can weaken the lasting effects of emotional pain

Consoling touch helps facilitate the processing of painful memories, according to findings published in PLOS One. The study found that while handholding does not immediately reduce emotional pain, it appears to reduce the experience of prolonged distress.

Emotional pain is commonly experienced and often has a more profound impact on the sufferer than physical pain. Such psychological pain lies at the heart of various mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thinking. Social support such as sharing one’s feelings with loved ones is said to facilitate the processing of emotional pain, but researchers Razia S. Sahi and her colleagues say there may be more subtle ways to secure comfort from others — like consoling touch.

“Consoling touch is a powerful form of social support across cultures and species, but we still don’t have a complete picture of how touch shapes experiences of emotional pain, like the experience of loss,” said Sahi, a doctoral student and member of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab at UCLA.

“We wanted to better understand this phenomenon in terms of how touch affects subjective feelings of emotional pain and comfort, and to see whether it has any potential lasting effects on the way that people process autobiographical emotional pain.”

Research has already documented the alleviating effects of touch when it comes to physical pain, but the field has yet to determine whether touch can similarly reduce emotional pain. A research team led by Sahi aimed to explore whether holding a romantic partner’s hand while processing a painful memory would be associated with a less distressing experience.

The researchers recruited a sample of 60 university-age couples who had been together for an average of 7 months. Within each couple, one partner was assigned to be the storyteller and the other was assigned to be the listener.

At an initial lab session, the storytellers related 4-5 stories from their past alone in a room while in front of a video camera. Two of the stories were neutral, and 2-3 stories were emotional (e.g., involving betrayal, loss). After recounting each experience, the storytellers gave ratings from 1 to 10 for how hurt, sad, angry, or emotional they felt, and how much pain, or stress/anxiety they felt. These ratings were averaged into a single measure denoting their emotional pain during the task.

A week later, both partners returned to the lab for session 2. Here, each couple watched the recordings of 2 neutral and 2 negative videos that were recorded by the storyteller at the first session. Importantly, during the watching of each video, the couples were instructed to either hold hands or to squeeze a stress ball. Following each video, the storytellers completed the same assessments as the first session to describe their emotional pain during the task, and a new measure of how comforted they felt by their partner during the task.

Interestingly, the researchers found no significant differences between the levels of emotional pain reported by storytellers during the handholding condition versus the stress ball condition (after controlling for the emotional pain at first recall). In other words, holding a partner’s hand did not appear to reduce the immediate emotional pain felt by storytellers while watching the distressing videos. It did, however, lead to increased feelings of comfort.

Interestingly, handholding did appear to have a diminishing effect on emotional pain in the long term. Between 1 and 7 months after the lab sessions, the storytellers completed an additional survey where they were reminded of the emotional memories they had shared and were asked to rate how much emotional pain they had experienced at the time of the event and how much emotional pain they felt now when recalling the event.

At this follow-up survey, storytellers reported less emotional pain associated with the memory that had been processed while holding their partner’s hand, compared to the memory they had processed while holding a stress ball. The researchers suggest that consoling touch from a partner may have created a feeling of safety that reduced the painful feelings associated with the negative memory. Overall, the authors say their findings suggest that while consoling touch can assuage both physical and emotional pain, the processes through which this happens are somewhat different.

“The main take-away is that while touch provides a source of comfort during emotional pain, it may not actually reduce immediate subjective emotional pain related to personally significant events, in the same way that it has been shown to reduce subjective reports of physical pain,” Sahi told PsyPost.

“This could be a good thing, since, unlike physical pain, emotional pain may need to be processed and experienced in order to be adaptively regulated over time. Indeed, this idea may help explain our finding that touch reduced lasting emotional pain associated with autobiographical memories, but not immediate pain.”

“These results are somewhat surprising and further research is needed in order for us to have a clearer sense of what is happening during the provision of social support via consoling touch in emotional contexts,” Sahi added.

The study, “The comfort in touch: Immediate and lasting effects of handholding on emotional pain”, was authored by Razia S. Sahi, Macrina C. Dieffenbach, Siyan Gan, Maya Lee, Laura I. Hazlett, Shannon M. Burns, Matthew D. Lieberman, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, and Naomi Eisenberger.


Why ambiverts are better leaders

Why ambiverts are better leaders

Blending both extrovert and introvert personality types can make you indispensable in the office – and finding that balance is a skill we can all master.

It’s like asking someone if they’re a cat person or a dog person – so basic, almost tribal: are you an extrovert or an introvert?

Each of these identities has its own strengths and weaknesses, yet it seems there’s constant debate about which it is better to be. Some say the internet has a “love affair” with introverts, and that being an introvert is, at long last, cool, particularly during the pandemic. That’s likely a reaction to a culture that has long seemed to celebrate and reward extroverts, especially in many Western countries and particularly in the workforce, where they’re able to use their natural people skills. Complicating things further, some research has shown that introverts can outshine extroverts as leaders, despite the fact that the confident demeanour of an extrovert fits many people’s image of a typical CEO.

So, which is it? Who has more of an edge, and who’s more successful at work: bubbly, outgoing workers; or reserved, restrained ones? The answer, it turns out, is those who can be both: the chameleon-like ambivert.

Blending the best of both personality types can make you indispensable in the office, experts say. And although acting like both extrovert and introvert might feel tricky at times, it’s a skill we can all master, with a little practice.

The ‘ambivert advantage’

Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, coined the term ‘the ambivert advantage’ in a 2013 study that challenged notions of extroverts being more successful and productive in a sales environment. After studying 340 call-centre employees, Grant found that the workers who made the most sales revenue were those who fell in the middle of the extroversion scale. In fact, the results made a bell curve: the worst performers were the workers who were either extremely introverted, or extremely extroverted.

“Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale,” Grant writes in the study. But ambiverts are also “more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident”.

Karl Moore, an associate professor of management at McGill University and associate fellow at Oxford University, who has studied ambiverts for years, estimates that 40% of top business leaders are extroverts, 40% are introverts and 20% are “true ambiverts”, based on interviews with 350 C-suite executives. But he believes that the unprecedented circumstances created by the pandemic have forced leaders of all stripes to try and act more like ambiverts.

In his upcoming book, We Are All Ambiverts Now, Moore says that the situation we were all thrust into required more leaders to call upon the strengths of both extroversion and introversion. For example, bosses needed to listen and take feedback in order to provide flexible and empathetic work environments for staff, but they also needed to broadcast clear and demonstrative enthusiasm to rally and guide the team into the unknown.

“What [the pandemic] means is that the CEO needs to listen a lot – a great leader is a great listener,” says Moore. “But [they] also need to be able to give the inspiring ‘guys, I am confident we can make it through this crisis’.”

‘Adapt to what’s necessary’

So, whether it’s sales figures or muddling through a once-in-a-century catastrophe, it’s good to be an ambivert. But how do you become one?Actually, say the experts, it’s very doable. Most of the popular personality tests will place you on a sliding scale of extroversion anyway, so ambiversion is likely within your grasp.

“It’s more about adaptive leadership style” than about thinking you need to re-haul your entire personality, says Alisa Cohn, a start-up and CEO coach based in New York City. “I think it’s less about working on your [perceived] weaknesses than it is about building up your ability to push yourself outside your comfort zone.”

It’s not just CEOs who benefit from ambiversion either, she says. In fact, the earlier in your career you build these skills, the better, since “the benefits will improve over time”. For people who identify as extroverts, this may mean being consciously quieter in meetings; for introverts, it may mean contributing more in meetings.

“It might be a specific behaviour: to listen longer or to ask another question and listen to the answer. To be more extroverted, it might be to initiate conversation or make small talk,” says Cohn. “I like the idea of practising the behaviour three, four, five times a day in little micro doses so you can do that a lot more easily without getting exhausted. And then score yourself.” Keep track of how often you do these things each day, and if you met your goal.

She also recommends spotting a role model you admire in your office who has the introvert or extrovert qualities you’re looking to emulate, so you can watch their behaviour and model yours on them.

Moore talks about working with an introverted CEO, Claude Mongeau, the former chief executive of Canadian National Railway, for his research. He says Mongeau worked with a leadership coach who gave him a clicker – like the one a bouncer outside a nightclub uses to count patrons – to keep track of every extroverted skill he practised each day. These were small things, like saying hello to someone or commenting on the weather. Moore says he was still very much an introvert, but realised to be an effective CEO, he had to channel his extroverted side.

Moore, an extrovert himself, says that channelling his inner ambivert has helped him in his own career, both as a researcher and for his radio show, in which he interviews CEOs. “On my radio show, 98% of the time I’m quiet, because I’m asking [the guest] a question, ‘Where are you from, what does your family do?’.”

Being an ambivert means being aware of your own natural social style, and knowing when the situation may call for just the opposite: “The most successful leaders are the ones who can recognise a situation and adapt their style as necessary,” says Cohn.

Avoiding the mental toll

The only downside is that this adaptation can wear you down. “You need to act like both. The problem is, it’s exhausting,” says Moore.

But remember, being an extrovert or an introvert comes down to how you are energised – either from the outside world or your internal one. So, when you try to go against natural preferences, it uses more “mental calories”, says Cohn, and it’s important to refill that mental energy tank.

For introverts, that might mean a solitary afternoon at home with a book or if you’re at work, a 15-minute break outside alone on a bench. For extroverts, it might mean surrounding yourself with people. Moore says his preferred ‘extrovert break’ when he’s on business is to find a restaurant and sit at the bar for dinner, so he can talk to other patrons. “It stimulates me. It gets my dopamine levels going, because I’m with people.”

It’s important to reiterate that few people are 100% one or the other. But becoming an ambivert is something more active; it’s deciding which switch to flip, and when. Sharpening that skill could mean all the difference – not just for you, but for the people you work with, too.

Cohn says one of her clients, an introverted manager, worked hard to strengthen his extroverted side by talking more in meetings, and responding more enthusiastically with confirming gestures like nodding. The result? His team “felt like there was more harmony in the meeting”, says Cohn. “It made them feel more important and empowered.”

“It wasn’t about him,” she says. “It was about other people feeling heard, feeling met.”