Nootropics, adaptogens, brain foods… What the heck is going on?

In a world where cognitive performance is considered a clear advantage to succeed—whether as a student or a busy professional—it’s not surprising the idea of popping a pill to enhance your brainpower is appealing to many. And marketers have noticed: the market for cognitive enhancers is a multi-billion dollar industry. Between drinks supplemented with “adaptogenic …

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The benefits of stretching: why your body needs to move

Do you feel tight from sitting in your chair all day? Is it becoming harder to extend your legs or your arms? You may need to get up and stretch. A stretching routine is not just for athletes. Stretching helps our muscles and joints stay flexible and strong, which in turn helps keep our body …

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Creative burnout: when the creativity tap runs dry

Creativity is fragile: it needs to be fed enough inspiration, but not too much, for consuming an excessive amount of information may destroy its delicate balance. It needs space to grow, but should not be forced, for mechanical work may lead to lifeless output. Despite all our care, sometimes, it seems to be gone: the …

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Overcoming learned helplessness

When bad things repeatedly happen, we may come to think they are unavoidable. And when we feel like we have no agency over our situation, we may begin to behave in a helpless way. Learned helplessness is a mental state that occurs after someone has experienced a stressful situation so many times, they believe they …

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Selective ignorance: cultivating intentional knowledge in a chaotic world

Have you ever found yourself aimlessly scrolling online, then feeling guilty about the wasted time? Twelve years ago, the Webster’s New World Dictionary—which is the official dictionary used by the Associated Press and many leading newspapers such as the New York Times—selected “selective ignorance” as a candidate for the word of the year. (it lost …

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The benefits of laziness: why being a lazy person can be good for you

Sloth is one of the seven capital sins. While it’s hard to define it exactly, most will agree it has to do with laziness: the disinclination to use energy. Whether or not you believe in such moral vices, most cultures see laziness as a negative trait. However, being lazy can have advantages—and many of them …

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Altered states of consciousness: the elusiveness of the mind

Altered states of consciousness may immediately bring to mind psychedelics or hypnosis, but there are many ways to induce such non-ordinary states. But first, a conundrum. In order to define altered states of consciousness, we need to ask: what is an ordinary state of consciousness? Because scientists can’t agree on an answer to this question, …

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Negativity bias: how negative experiences cloud our judgement

Have you ever found yourself ruminating over a mistake you made a while ago? Replaying in your head a conversation that didn’t go so well? That’s the negativity bias at play: not only do we register negative stimuli more readily, but we also tend to dwell on these events for longer. In general, negative events …

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The two sides of stress: distress and eustress

One common misconception about stress is that it should be minimised at all cost—that stress is bad. But stress is just your body and your mind’s response to external challenges. Depending on the particular stressors and your reaction, stress can be detrimental (distress) or beneficial (eustress). While the prefix -dis in “distress” has the same …

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The empathy gap: why we underestimate the influence of emotions

“I would do much better!” you think, watching someone give a presentation about a topic you are familiar with. “I don’t feel like smoking at all, I’ll definitely be able to quit tomorrow,” you say with a relaxed tone, right after smoking a cigarette. These are illustrations of the empathy gap: our tendency to underestimate …

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