Count­ing your bless­ings re­ally can help you feel hap­pier and health­ier

The Woolwich Observer - - LIVING HERE -

Q. Have you had your “Vi­ta­min G” to­day? Stud­ies have linked it to fewer aches and pains and to bet­ter sleep. But what, you ask, is vi­ta­min G? A. “Mak­ing grat­i­tude a daily prac­tice is like tak­ing a vi­ta­min,” mak­ing your body work bet­ter, says psy­chol­o­gist David DeSteno, as re­ported by Jen­nifer King Lind­ley in “Pre­ven­tion” mag­a­zine. More than a sim­ple “thank you,” “grat­i­tude is af­firm­ing the good­ness in one’s life and rec­og­niz­ing that its source lies out­side the self,” adds psy­chol­o­gist Robert Em­mons. In one early study, vol­un­teers were di­vided into two groups: one wrote down five things they were grate­ful for once a week for 10 weeks; the other group recorded neu­tral daily events or small has­sles. Not only did the bless­ing-coun­ters re­port feel­ing 25% hap­pier, but they also spent 30% more time ex­er­cis­ing and had fewer health com­plaints.

Fur­ther re­search con­firmed other ben­e­fits: af­ter just two weeks, bet­ter sleep and lower blood pres­sure read­ings; af­ter two months, a 40% drop in daily smok­ing rates. Even older adults with early-stage heart fail­ure had more con­stant heart rates and lower lev­els of dis­ease-caus­ing in­flam­ma­tion when they kept grat­i­tude jour­nals.

Call it the pow­er­ful con­nec­tion be­tween our minds and our bod­ies. As Em­mons ex­plains, “Feel­ings of grat­i­tude trig­ger the parasym­pa­thetic, or calm­ing, branch of the ner­vous sys­tem.” Also, they make us value the fu­ture, in­creas­ing our self­con­trol and help­ing re­duce im­pul­sive be­hav­ior. As we af­firm our bod­ies, we may come to take bet­ter care of our­selves as well. Q. In what med­i­cal field is ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence on a par with the best doc­tors? A. “DEEP­MIND’S ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) can spot key signs of eye dis­ease as well as the world’s top con­sul­tants,” re­ports “New Sci­en­tist” mag­a­zine. The sys­tem learned how to spot 10 key fea­tures of eye dis­ease, draw­ing on anony­mous di­ag­nos­tic data from some 15,000 pa­tients as it an­a­lyzed com­plex reti­nal scans. In over 94% of cases, it cor­rectly iden­ti­fied more than 50 eye con­di­tions (“Na­ture Medicine”).

Though the AI doesn’t make an ac­tual di­ag­no­sis, it “rec­om­mends which pa­tients should be seen ur­gently by a spe­cial­ist or sim­ply placed un­der ob­ser­va­tion.”

Within a few years, it may be at a hos­pi­tal near you. Q. Are you ready for a lit­tle fun with words? We’re not try­ing to bam­boo­zle you, since the fol­low­ing are all real English words, some dat­ing back hun­dreds of years. Can you de­fine “bam­boo­zle,” “flap­doo­dle,” “meta­grobolize,” “quaqua­ver­sal” and “whig­maleerie”? A. We don’t know who, when, or where they were coined, but the why might have been to fill a gap in the lan­guage or just to have some fun, says Anu Garg on his “A.Word.A.Day” web­site. “Bam­boo­zle” means “to de­ceive” or “to con­fuse,” with ear­li­est doc­u­mented use in 1703. “Flap­doo­dle” (1834) is a col­or­ful syn­onym for “non­sense.” And “meta­grobolize” (1635) comes from Mid­dle French, mean­ing “to puz­zle” or “to mys­tify.”

Com­bin­ing the Latin “quaqua” (in all di­rec­tions) and “vert­ere” (to turn) gives us “quaqua­ver­sal” (1691), de­fined as “slop­ing down from a cen­ter in all di­rec­tions.” Fi­nally, one of the most whim­si­cal is the Scots term “whig­maleerie” (1730), mean­ing “a whim” or “a fan­ci­ful con­trivance.” Here is Jane Dun­can writ­ing in “My Friend Madame Zora” in 2015: “There was noth­ing of the wispy char­ac­ter of the whig­maleerie about Granny Gil­mour when she opened her neat front door to us.”

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