Category: Stress

Hey Big Spender! Why our brains make us spend too much during the holidays

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Whether or not we stay within our holiday shopping budget may not depend as much on willpower as it does on the circuitry of our own brains. Learn why your brain “lights up” when shopping—and how you can avoid impulse spending this season.

Three Simple Tips to Avoid Impulse Spending and Stay within Your Holiday Budget

The holidays are here, which for most of us means spending time shopping in malls or online looking for gifts for loved ones (and even for ourselves!). It also means trying to keep from spending too much money.

Apparently whether we stay within our holiday shopping budget may not depend as much on willpower as it does on the circuitry of our own brains.

Brian Knutson of Standford University and colleagues mapped the brains of shoppers using a MRI. They discovered that, as people contemplated whether or not to make a purchase, one of two segments of their brains would “light up.” If the nucleus accumbens–part of the reward and pleasure center of the brain–lit up, the subject would invariably make the purchase. If the insula–the part of the brain that registers pain (such as the pain of something costing more than its perceived value)–lit up, the subject would invaribly say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

By watching which part of the brain became active, researchers could accurately predict whether or not the shopper would make the purchase.

The reason shopping feels so good may be related to the brain chemical dopamine. This “feel good” chemical is released anytime we are exposed to the exciting mix of new places, challenges, sights and sounds–all of which are plentiful at the mall.

Looking to the brain for reasons people make the decisions they do is a new science. Baba Shiv, professor of marketing and an expert in the field of “decision neuroscience” says that, “Ten years ago if you said there is going to be fMRI in marketing research, I would have said it will never happen.” He explains that now business researchers and neuroscientists are working together, “moving toward systems of brain analysis, figuring out what gives us the juice to make decisions.”

Knudsen agrees, adding, “We’re moving from the outside to the inside of the mind.”

As you go about your holiday shopping, understanding how your brain perceives and even influences the experience may help you make better decisions.

If you’re prone to impulse purchases and are worried about staying in your budget, try these three things:

For starters, be extra careful while traveling–the novelty of shopping in a new city can make you particularly vulnerable to the heady pleasure of bagging a bargain.

Also, when contemplating a purchase you suspect you’ll regret, neutralize the thrill of the moment and activate your insula by thinking of three unpleasant ramifications that might be related to the purchase you’re trying to resist.

Finally, consider leaving the store and coming back the next day to let the dopamine settle before making your final decision.

5 Ways Keeping a Journal Can Help You Be a Better Parent

Blog1 By Guest Blogger Karen Linamen Bouchard

You want to be the best parent that you can be. What if something as simple as keeping a journal could help you be a more effective parent?

I happen to be a writer, so it makes sense that I’m enamored with the power of the pen. But it’s not just me! In fact, the myriad benefits of journaling have been well documented by study after study.

Let’s take a look at a few of the perks of journaling, starting with something every parent can appreciate.

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Are Daily Homework Battles Driving You Crazy?

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HiResDoes your child struggle with homework?

Kids who struggle with learning can find homework frustrating and exhausting (as in “tears, excuses, and tantrums” kind of frustrating and exhausting). And of course it only makes things worse when, for struggling students, assignments meant to take twenty minutes can take up to several hours.

Kids who struggle with learning can find homework frustrating and exhausting (as in “tears, excuses, and tantrums” kind of frustrating and exhausting). And of course it only makes things worse when, for struggling students, assignments meant to take twenty minutes can take up to several hours.

Whether you and your child tackle homework immediately after school or a couple hours before bedtime, this kind of recurring routine is exhausting for kids and exhausting for parents, too.

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Are Your Child’s Learning Struggles Turning You into a Monster?

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HiResYou’re frustrated and frazzled.

You’ve been nagging at your kids for hours. Snapping. Yelling, even. You’re not happy with how you’re acting, but you can’t seem to stop the momentum, pull a U-turn and get yourself off Witchy Lane and back onto Reasonable Avenue.

Welcome to the club.

Every parent has days when life’s challenges feel… well, challenging. And if you’re the parent of a kid who is struggling, those challenges can feel absolutely overwhelming. Stress (as we all know) can bring out the worst in all of us. And if you’re feeling the stress of herding a resistant child through hours of homework, dealing with angry outbursts, or being stretched too thin, that stress can prompt you to respond in ways you know aren’t helpful.

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Relax and Live a Little

DeCooler than your average granmands. Deadlines. Delays. Some days the stress of life makes our mental cogs spin so wildly, it can feel like our brains are overheating! In the rapid pace of everyday living, accumulated stress can compromise brain health, but what can we do about it?

Perhaps the advice of 85-year-old Nadine Stair offers some direction. In her poem “If I Had to Live Life Over Again,” the sage Kentuckian penned: “I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip. . . . I would eat more ice cream and less beans.”

So how can we apply Nadine’s slow-down-and-savor-life perspective to our lives? Here are some suggestions:

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