Ted Talk Friday: My story is painted on my body

I picked this talk randomly while looking for a shorter talk. At first I was not enjoying this, but it quickly took a turn halfway through. I was so intrigued how a young girl who was bullied then became a bully herself. I am sometimes naive to think that empathy is inherent and that we always learn by experience. Hearing this young woman reflect on her experiences really made me pause and think.

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Are you surprised she was a bully after being bullied?

Our Negativity Bias & What It Means For Social Media

Dr. Rick Hanson offers one of the most simple, clear explanations of negativity bias:

“the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.”

This served us well during evolution; for example, remembering that lions are dangerous is much for useful than remembering how nice a rose smells. In order to stay alive, we prioritize the negative memories and experiences. As Dr. Hanson perfectly describes:

“The alarm bell of your brain — the amygdala (you’ve got two of these little almond-shaped regions, one on either side of your head) — uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news: it’s primed to go negative. Once it sounds the alarm, negative events and experiences get quickly stored in memory — in contrast to positive events and experiences, which usually need to be held in awareness for a dozen or more seconds to transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage.”

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I studied PTSD at-length while in college, and one of the promising theories is that the disorder is actually the brain stuck in this negative cycle to an extreme point–over-activating the negative response (fear, startle, racing heart). The trauma is primed to be triggered by any similar negative experience.

Now, how does this relate to your social media consumption?

A recent study found that negative interactions on social media have a much stronger impact than positive interactions. Every 10% increase in positive interactions/experiences on social media was associated with a 4% decrease in chances of depressive symptoms, but those results were not statistically significant, which means that the findings could simply be due to chance (aka positive social media experiences might not effect us). On the flip side, for every 10% increase in negative experiences, there was a 20% increase in the odds of depressive symptoms–a finding that was statistically significant. Remember, correlation does not equal causation; while social media might increase depressive symptoms, it’s also possible that individuals with depressive symptoms seek out negative social media experiences.

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What we can we do about this?

Unfollow. Unfriend. Remove all the negativity from your news feed.

That girl who posts stunning photos that makes you feel ugly and boring? Unfollow.

That acquaintance who makes a snide remark on your new profile picture? Unfriend.

Think about how you feel looking at different posts, comments, and photos and make sure to use your social media mindfully. It can be a wonderful tool for connection when used with a focus on positivity, networking, and friendship.

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Do you find yourself feeling sad while on social media? When was your last social media purge?

Ted Talk Friday: The harm reduction model of drug addiction treatment

The public health model of harm-reduction is one of the most powerful, and controversial, models I know of. While it might seem counterintuitive to provide the tools to use safely, think about addiction–addiction is a mental illness. If there are drugs available, addicts will seek them out, whether they can use them safely or what. Learn more about Harm Reduction here and watch the talk below to understand its value:

 

 

 

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What  do you think of the harm reduction model?

News alert: IIFYM, Sugar, & Sweeteners

I have always been fascinated by the strange world of nutrition science (or lack thereof); every day there is a new diet in the news or a new supplement with promises for weight loss or muscle gain. It’s exhausting to follow all of the new trends, but one trend that has caught on across social media is called IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). This diet, or lifestyle, is about breaking down your diet by nutrient: carb, fat, & protein. It’s not about what you’re eating, but instead about the nutritional breakdown. For example, x amount of cotton candy is 50 carbs, but so is a huge bowl of fruit–and thus, those two food choices are counted equally.

A lot of individuals say this makes them feel free to eat “unhealthy” foods without guilt; if that is what it takes for you to have a balanced diet, then more power to you. I personally think food should never come with guilt–whether you’re choosing to eat that cotton candy or the fruit. Instead, see how you feel. I know I would savor and enjoy the fruit, while the cotton candy would leave me on a sugar high & crash. Sure, enjoying cotton candy at the county fair once a year is fun, but it’s not what I would consider a balanced diet.

Despite this IIFYM obsession, I read a recent article that concludes that sugar sweetened beverages, when compared to starchy carb equivalents, have a more harmful effect & increase cardiometabolic risk factors.

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These same researchers also concluded that there is no strong evidence supporting the idea that noncaloric sweeteners (like Splenda, aspartame, etc.) contribute to weight gain. A quick google search shows that popular media has run wild with the idea that fake sugars will only increase weight, but there is little support for this theory. Takeaway: If you’re going to drink Coke or Diet Coke no matter what, drink the Diet Coke.

Nutrition is about balance and for a lot of people, simple harm reduction. One fewer sugar-sweetened soda. One extra serving of veggies. All of these small daily choices add up over a lifetime. Use your common sense, and don’t believe everything you read.

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How do you make your nutritional choices? Do you drink regular or diet soda?

Ted Talk Friday: How to live passionately–no matter your age

I love Isabel Allende; she has lived through such tragedies and has come out with such an inspiring, hopeful attitude about the world we live in. As I see people I love age, I think about what aging means today. We perceive those who are aging as weak and tired, but that is simply not the case. We need to tell ourselves the story that vibrance, passion, and excitement do not dissipate as we age, instead we can learn how to make those qualities grow even more.

 

 

 

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Do you agree on Allende’s principals of living passionately? Do you live your life how she does?

Does your schedule make you less productive?

A recent study from the Ohio State University found that we perceive we have less time when we have an upcoming meeting (which makes sense), but as a result we do not make the best use of that time. We subjectively feel that we have less time to accomplish tasks or reach goals, often leaving a few minutes of “wiggle room” before a meeting or appointment. Individuals, on average, performed fewer tasks when they were reminded that had an upcoming appointment compared to those without the reminder.

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At first I was surprised and skeptical. I feel that I am more productive when I know I have x amount of time before a meeting to knock a few items off of my to-do list. As a I read about the first study, I assumed I must be a special snowflake who does not fall into this trap. Then I read that this finding held up across eight studies.

Well, I need to re-think how I structure my days! When I have work days with 4 to 6 meetings sprinkled throughout the day, I hardly have room to breathe–let alone sit and focus on one task. With 2 to 3 meetings, my day feels entirely different. I have beautiful long, clear hours on my calendar. I fill that space by knocking off items from my to-do list, which are typically prioritized by importance. Occasionally I throw in a few easy, 5-minute tasks just to get that little dopamine hit and feel accomplished 😉

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This is definitely a good lesson in time management; I wonder if knowing this will change how I am able to schedule around my meetings? If we are aware, can we counter-balance our overestimation? It seems like knowing we overestimate time before appointments or meetings could help minimize the potential time impact. I will definitely keep you updated on how incorporating this information into my day affects me.

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Do you overestimate the time-cost of meetings? Do you feel like an appointment deadline makes you more or less productive?

 

Ted Talk Friday: Why tech needs the humanities

I am in 100% agreement with this talk; I had an incredibly interdisciplinary education during college. I took classes ranging from the Philosophy of Truth, Certainty,  & Knowledge to courses on the biology of the microbiome. I was a fellow for the IDEAS program, Interdisciplinary Education and Scholarship, while at Emory where I had the chance to discuss the value of interdisciplinary education and thought with peers every week. Working at a tech company now, I see the danger in thinking in only one way–so many STEM fields focus on the binary, one-solution style model, but the world and its answers are diverse, multifaceted, and far from binary.

 

 

 

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Do you agree that we overemphasize the value of STEM fields?

My Trip to Australia: Part III

I landed in Sydney mid-afternoon on Tuesday and took the train from the airport to my friends train stop. I got off and she quickly met we there; we embraced and started talking nonstop. We went back to her apartment, dropped my bag off, and wandered into the city.

We stopped at this super fancy food court and enjoyed delicious salads at a Sydney health-food chain. After dinner, we headed to the Sydney Opera House for the beautiful night views. We took plenty of photos and saw a stunning light show projected on the Opera House outside.

At the moment, I decided I had to try and see a show. It was quickly cemented in my mind and I determined our best chance would be the first-come, first-serve discount tickets available starting at 9am.

The next morning we woke up early, I saw my friend’s gorgeous university campus, and took the train to Circular Quay—the home of the Opera House. I lucked out and scored two discounted tickets to La Boheme for that night.

Thrilled by my success, I headed off to meet the walking tour group scheduled for the next event of the day. It started around 10:30 and was an entirely free three hour walking tour all over the city. I learned so much and met so many interesting people from all over the world. I highly recommend the free walking tour in Sydney.

I loved this open art exhibit; each cage represents a species of bird that has lost its habitat as Sydney grew. There were speakers around that playing each bird’s song.

After the long walk I was exhausted so I grabbed a quick lunch and headed to the cool, hipster neighborhood where I planned to meet up with my friend for dinner. I got there much earlier than expected, so I went thrifting for about an hour and a half scoring great gifts!

I met up with my friend and we went to a quick vegan Vietnamese restaurant before heading to the Sydney Harbor to the show. As we headed there, we both got a bit hungry so we stopped at Woolworth’s and picked up our favorite thing—a pint of Halotop! We walked through a beautiful park eating the ice cream straight out of the pint as we walked, laughing & talking.

We got to the show in perfect time. We people watched for a few minutes before the show began. I can’t say the Opera was my favorite, but the stage and tech was incredible! The stage was literally floating on the harbor and they had real snow falling down into the audience throughout the show.

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By the end of the show, I was completely wiped out. My friend virtually dragged me home (bless her patience). Up to that point, I’d felt zero jet lag..but I’d also gone to bed no later than 8pm every other night.

I think I’m at my worst when I’m that tired, but luckily I woke up feeling ready for action! We had a day trip scheduled to the Blue Mountains. The day was a mixture of hiking & vista points, each more stunning than the last. During our big hike, my friend sprained her ankle on the steep, rocky stairs so we hung back for the last bit of the hike.

Afterwards, we ventured off to a cute town for lunch, followed by a trip to see town-funded graffiti, which is as beautiful & diverse as you can imagine.

We also saw kangaroos (of course)!

We stopped at a few other beautiful lookout points and finally headed home. It was a lovely day, but dog-tired we headed back to the apartment and threw together a quick dinner.

On Friday I rewarded myself by sleeping in a bit, and it was worth every minute. I enjoyed a cup of tea and began my journey to Coogee Beach for the insanely gorgeous Coogee to Bondi Beach Walk.

A definite tourist favorite, and I can see why. Stunning views the whole way. I took the day slow and stopped every so often to read or just stare into the aquamarine waters.

After my walk, I didn’t have time for any major activity so I met my friend at her favorite book store & cafe called Sapphos Books. It was such a quaint little shop and I found a book of feminist comics in German for my dad (he is learning German).

I had a transit disaster right after…ending up 45 minutes in the wrong direction. I decided to go without cellular data during my trip, and I didn’t have a single issue until my second to last day. As the bus went stop after stop, I got the uneasy feeling that I might be going the completely wrong direction. I asked a woman sitting next to me and she saw my dismay and helped me sort out what to do. We got to talking and she told me how much she loved Nashville (my hometown), Taylor Swift, and Graceland. We bonded quickly and she was rooting for me as I hopped off the bus at her instruction. I made it back to my friend’s apartment later that night and we had a relaxing low key evening.

The next day we took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach. We decided to spend the morning eating brunch, exploring the street market, and wandering the beach. Brunch was to die for…I ordered a vegan breakfast bowl and it was filling, delicious, and beautiful full of roasted kale, kabocha, turmeric-spiked cauliflower, avocado, and pickled lemon peel with vegan feta & micro greens.

Of course we also tried a famous Australia classic–the acai bowl!

After brunch we wandered around the outdoor market and climbed up hills near the beach—finding some gorgeous views.

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After the beach I went and packed up my stuff and we decided to have a fun night out. We had dinner at this super cool vegan restaurant called “Lentil as Anything” that has a pay-as-you-can policy. The choices were limited, but delicious. After dinner we wandered the streets until we made our way to a zombie-themed bar. After an hour or so there, we arrived at the best stop—the Cuban themed bar & club. The downstairs half of the club was a mess—bad music & drunken teens everywhere!

Luckily, the upstairs half was a game changer. Live salsa music and a few incredible dancers on the floor. After watching for a few songs, one of my roommate’s friends gave us a brief lesson, and soon my friend and I were on the dance floor. We had a blast, even if our salsa moves were lacking. Oftentimes when I go out, people tend to make a big deal of the fact that I don’t drink. Luckily this crew couldn’t care less, and we danced the night away and ended up playing in a park with the dozens of other party-goers out that night.

We got back to the apartment after catching the last train; running to make it on time! It was 2AM and I collapsed into bed, all packed for my 5am wake up call to begin the journey home to San Francisco.

I made it the airport after one insanely expensive uber ride (I regret nothing!) and I collapsed into a deep sleep on the plane, with a whole row to myself! I woke up in Hong Kong feeling nothing but gratitude & playing my Australia memories in my head over and over again.

 

Ted Talk Friday: The way we think about work is broken

I have heard so many peers and friends echo the same bleak outlooks about their jobs and sense of meaning about the work they do. I completely agree and I often fall into the same trap myself. I spin my wheels on one task or frustrating outcome and get caught up in the details. I lose sight of the why, the purpose. Schwartz provides a positive reminder about what it means to work and feel fulfilled.

 

 

 

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Do you fall into the same patterns Schwartz describes?

My Trip to Australia: Part II

I arrived in Airlie Beach and my amazing Airbnb host picked me up from the bus stop, gave me a quick drive through tour of the area, and after dropping my stuff off, I began a fun day of wandering the beach town. I had a wonderful picnic lunch on the water and walked along the shore for hours.

That evening I took an insanely fun speedboat tour around the area. I got there early and after talking with an employee there, I learned she lived in Nashville (my hometown) and went to Vanderbilt, not to mention she nannied for a family from my school. What a small world! Times like this are the perfect example of how interconnected we all are–it just takes a little bit of friendliness! It was a roller coaster on water–such a fun 30 minute ride! I even got to see some of the turtles the area is famous for.

I got back to my Airbnb around 6, ate dinner, and promptly fell asleep about 10 minutes into reading my book. I woke up the next morning, and after a bit of confusion, made it to the right dock to catch my beach/hiking/snorkeling day trip around the Whitsundays.

We started out the day at Whitehaven beach, one of the best beaches in the world (and I can see why). The perfectly white sand is soft because it’s made of silica (the result of the volcanic eruptions that made the islands), which also means it does not retain heat. After lying on the sand, I decided to take advantage of the paddle boards our boat offered. I’ve always wanted to paddle board, but I haven’t because 1) I’m afraid I would fall 2) I didn’t want to pay 3) living on the Pacific Ocean, the water is FREEZING. So this was finally my chance! I would say it went pretty well for about 5 minutes:

And then…

Now I can say I’ve tried it! I definitely want to try it again.

After the beach stop, we made our way to a short hike with incredible views.

The hike was gorgeous and I relaxed on the beach after. After a quick lunch on the boat, we set off to our snorkeling location. The Captain was awesome and decided to take us to a location slightly further away because their usual spot was spot was too crowded, which meant the wildlife would be overwhelmed and it wouldn’t be the best experience for us or the fish!

Don’t I look cool while snorkeling? LOL

This was actually the most awesome wildlife experience I caught on camera while in Australia. I felt like I was a part of the school of fish–it was such a bizarre experience. The fish had no fear!

The one and a half hours snorkeling and exploring the reef flew by and I was back on the boat riding back before I knew it. I was dropped off about a mile from my Airbnb and took about an hour exploring a local grocery store (one of my favorite activities!). I found tons of interesting things and walked out with $40 worth of chocolate and ingredients to make dinner.

I make it back to the Airbnb, cooked dinner, chatted with my host for a few hours, and put my laundry in. I went to shower and immediately passed out in bed. I woke up the next morning and my host had folded up all of my laundry–how sweet is that? I really lucked out. If you’re traveling to Airlie Beach/the Whitsundays, you’ve got to stay with Chris & Glenn.

After a relaxing morning, I took a shuttle to the Proserpine Airport to catch a flight to Sydney and begin the next amazing leg of my journey.