Recent Findings . . .

First, from the L.A. Times:

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School looked at the media habits of 4,142 healthy adolescents and calculated that each additional hour of TV watched per day boosted the odds of becoming depressed by 8%. [. . .]

The researchers described several possible mechanisms that could be at play. Perhaps TV watching cut into time that could have been spent on organized after-school activities and other pursuits thought to reduce the risk of depression. [. . .]

The programs and ads teens watched may have made them feel inadequate and worthless, or they could have stirred feelings of anxiety and fear, all of which contribute to depression, researchers said.

Compared with other forms of media, TV may be particularly damaging because it is so time-consuming, all-absorbing and laden with ads. If that’s true, Primack said, today’s teens could be even more vulnerable.


Then, from the “Guardian:”:

Scientists have found that, far from being a way to avoid reality, burying yourself in the disastrous romantic adventures of Bridget Jones or following Oliver Twist in his journey from rags to riches could make you better able to cope with similar situations in the real world.

A brain-imaging study carried out by psychologists at Washington University in St Louis used functional magnetic resonance imaging to track brain activity as participants read short stories, finding that reading is by no means a passive activity. Instead, as participants read from a 1940s text about the daily activities of a young boy, activity in different brain regions increased depending on what was going on in the story.

So, if the character in the book “pulled a light cord”, brain activity increased in the frontal lobe region which controls grasping motions. As the character in the story “went through the front door into the kitchen”, activity went up in the relevant temporal lobes.

As Moby Lives puts in a much wittier way, well, yeah, of course, did we really need a study to figure this out?


Still, the best study of recent times is this one about rapid thinking and happiness:

A new study shows that accelerated thinking can improve your mood. In six experiments, researchers at Princeton and Harvard universities made research participants think quickly by having them generate as many problem-solving ideas (even bad ones) as possible in 10 minutes, read a series of ideas on a computer screen at a brisk pace or watch an I Love Lucy video clip on fast-forward. Other participants performed similar tasks at a relaxed speed.

Results suggested that thinking fast made participants feel more elated, creative and, to a lesser degree, energetic and powerful. Activities that promote fast thinking, then, such as whip­ping through an easy crossword puzzle or brain-storming quickly about an idea, can boost energy and mood, says psychologist Emily Pronin, the study’s lead author.

So, I think the moral of the story is that the secret to a good life is to stop watching TV (except Lost) and read books really, really fast . . .

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