The Local Optimist Digest #42

How to recognize when it’s time to give your brain a break, the ways therapy has influenced modern-day dating culture, and tips to slow down in a fast-paced world.

Welcome to The Local Optimist Digest, your crib sheet for the latest news in mental health. Whether you want to know how the government is (or is not) investing in our well-being, discover the latest research on how the mind impacts the body, or find out which celebrities are helping continue the conversation by opening up about their own mental health struggles, we’ll be covering it all here every week. This week, we’re looking at practical ways to stop catastrophizing, why taking a break is good for your brain, and how the language of therapy is shaping modern dating culture. 

Eri Miura / Getty Images

Catastrophizing: What It Means And How To Stop

Defined as a cognitive distortion, catastrophizing is characterized by a tendency to imagine the worst-case scenarios and exaggerate the potential negative outcomes of a situation. While we all experience negative thoughts from time to time, catastrophizing differs as the amplified negative thinking can distort reality, raise levels of anxiety, and increase stress levels. Moreover, this type of negative thinking can trigger the body’s stress response, causing harmful physical consequences. Fortunately, experts are actively researching this topic and providing valuable insights on how to recognize and overcome catastrophizing. READ.

Mental Fatigue: When To Step Back And Take A Break

We all know it's important to take breaks here and there, from both work and life responsibilities, to recharge and rest. Whether it's taking a walk, spending a few moments without a to-do list, or simply staring into space, taking a break gives your mind and body a chance to reset. Breaks are also crucial for maintaining optimal brain function, as it has been found that overworking can lead to mental fatigue and decreased productivity, creativity, and concentration. Experts provide helpful tips on how to identify when your brain needs a break and offer several ways to refresh your mental energy. So if you're looking for a sign to take a break, consider this your cue. READ

AI Surprises Researchers With An Unforeseen Developed Theory Of Mind

Over the past few years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots have made significant advancements in answering complex questions and using persuasive language to solve problems. A recent study showed that these chatbots spontaneously developed a "theory of mind" (comprehending that other people might think differently from you), allowing them to understand the thoughts and beliefs of human users. The GPT-3 model has even shown comparable performance to nine-year-old humans on theory of mind tests. This capability, which emerged without explicit programming or training, has left researchers in awe and now pushes them to consider its potential long-term implications in regard to the development of intelligent machines. READ.

Four Ways To Slow Down In A Fast-Paced World: 

  1. Structure your days. Structured days calm our internal pacemaker because they’re more predictable and allow you to feel more in control.

  2. Think big picture. Often, we’re lost in the minutiae of our days and this tunnel vision can make time appear to fly. It will help to broaden your attention and focus on the larger purpose of your goals. 

  3. Give time away. Research shows that giving time to others makes us feel as if we have more time. Doing so boosts our confidence and efficiency.

  4. Reach for awe. Awe is the emotional response to something vast that expands the way we see the world.  It can enhance our well-being—and make time feel more plentiful. 

Read MORE.

Marta Cerdà Alimbau / New York Times

How The Language Of Therapy Is Shaping Modern Dating Culture

The language of therapy is making its way into the dating world, with terms such as "love bombing," "gaslighting," and "trauma bonding" becoming increasingly commonplace when describing dating experiences. Hinge, a popular dating app, has responded to this trend by allowing users to not only post pictures and declare their love for espresso martinis but also respond to prompts that reference therapy, such as "A boundary of mine is ___," and "My therapist would say I ___. " While some experts see this trend as a positive development that may enhance emotional intelligence and communication skills, others caution that using these terms in a casual way may lead to misuse of the phrase and misunderstanding of the situation. READ.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW). NEDAW is an annual campaign that takes place during the last week of February and aims to raise awareness about the seriousness of eating disorders. It was also created in an effort to provide hope, support, and visibility to individuals and families affected by these conditions. We are excited to highlight The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. NEDA serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures, and access to quality care. To learn more about NEDA, head HERE.

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