Counting your blessings really can help you feel happier and healthier
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.”