Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Hillary Clinton used ‘alternate nostril breathing’ after her loss. Here’s why you should, too.

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Kim Weeks writes in the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton revealed this week she turned to an esoteric breathing technique popular among yogis to heal from her devastating election loss.

She has spoken in the past about using meditation and yoga for calm and balance, but during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night to promote her new campaign memoir she explained and demonstrated alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana in Sanskrit. She said the practice is “very relaxing” and urged Cooper to try it.

By bringing this kind of breath work into the mainstream, Clinton has introduced the world to a practice that has both proven mental and physical health benefits.

Yoga in general, and yoga breathing practices such nadi shodhana, calm the mind and the body. In nadi shodhana, the process of literally alternating breathing between the right and left nostril also helps balance the right and left brain, the right and left lungs, and the right and left sides of the body. Alternate nostril breathing has been shown to slow down a rapid heart rate and to lower blood pressure. It can clear toxins and respiratory systems — shodhana translates to purification and nadi to channels, so the intent of the practice is to cleanse different systems of the mind and body.

Research has also shown that this type of breathing exercise can significantly increase the effectiveness of the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest-and-digest” system that automatically kicks in when we relax or sleep to help restore our body’s equilibrium. But in our hectic, daily lives, when our bodies are in a perpetual state of fight or flight, this calmer part of ourselves is harder to activate.

It’s particularly challenging to access during times of extreme stress, which is why Clinton told Cooper he probably wouldn’t be able to do it in the middle of covering a hurricane. But for everyday stresses, taking the time to breath this way is calming and grounding.

The demands of daily life act on the body the same way, whether you’re running for political office or running late to pick up your toddler at day care. In almost all cases, the body doesn’t register the difference. It just knows that it is stressed, deprived of its need to disengage from activity and be still. So instead we look to power, money, career, relationships and thousands of other things outside ourselves in hopes they will bring us contentment and calm. But life doesn’t work that way. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

Here’s how to try it yourself

1. Take a seat. Sit cross-legged on the floor or use a chair.

2. Curl your right forefinger and middle finger into your palm. You’re getting these two out of the way. Your thumb, ring finger, and pinky finger will be sticking out. You will use your thumb and ring finger to do alternate-nostril breathing.

3. Put your thumb on the right nostril where the nose bone meets cartilage. Put your ring finger on the left nostril in the same place. Rest them there lightly.

4. Breathe normally, but do not breathe through the mouth. Keep it closed. Take a long, slow, deep inhalation through both nostrils. Before exhaling (don’t really pause, just go with it), push in/depress the right nostril to close it off completely. Exhale fully through the left nostril only.

5. Keep the right nostril closed off. Inhale through the left nostril. Before exhaling again (again, no pausing, just keep going), press the left nostril with the ring finger and release the thumb from the right.

6. Exhale through the right nostril only, and then inhale through the right nostril only.

7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you’re ready to finish (for maximum benefits do at least 10 rounds). The finishing breath will be an exhale through the left nostril.

8. Take a long, slow breath in through both nostrils, and then exhale through both nostrils.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 September 2017 at 7:40 pm

Old obsession continued: knives and knife-sharpening

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For some reason I’ve always been interested in knives. I am struck that you could take, say, a Randall knife and put it into the paw of a very early member of genus Homo, and she or he would immediately know what it was for and would doubtless prize it as the best sharp rock they’ve ever found and even better than the sharp rocks they are just learning how to make.

I like pocket knives, and I have a large collection of those, but I think I like fixed-blade knives even more: no moving parts.

The first thing you learn once you’re fond of knives and paying attention to them is that they will require sharpening, and sharpening is definitely a skill that must be learned. I’ve always liked the shortcut of sharpening systems that use some device to allow even a novice to keep a constant angle. There is still skill to be learned and experience to be gained, but a good sharpening system makes an enormous difference.

I started with a Lansky system, as many do, and in packing I found I still have it along with a GATCO sharpening system that I forgot I had: it’s been storage for quite a while.

I got an EdgePro Apex, but in that system the knife is not clamped but just held in place. After you get a certain amount of experience, this seems to work well, but I wanted the knife to be clamped securely.

After the EdgePro Apex, I got a KME system, which I liked a lot. It can do a very fine job, and my oldest grandson has it now. Still, it has some drawbacks. Changing the stones on the KME is a bit of a pain because it interrupts the workflow (and the same is true of the EdgePro Apex and the Lansky), and for me I could never get a secure clamp on a knife with a distal taper (in which the thickness of the blade tapers from relatively thick near the handle to a thin foible). This is a chronic problem and the best solution is to use two clamps rather than one. If you use one clamp, the blade is clamped mostly on the side where it’s thickest, so the blade tends to swivel under pressure: a line through a point can rotate about the point.

With two clamps, though, even though the clamps may be holding only on the thicker side, the blade is still secured: two points fix a line, so no rotation. And the TSProf sharpening system does indeed have two clamps for the blade. However, you still face the fuss of changing the sharpening stones. I learned about this sharpening system before they were really doing US sales, and I got no reply to a a query, but I did like the two-clamp solution to the problem of a distal taper.

But then I saw this video of the Wicked Edge sharpening system:

Did you notice the ease of changing sharpening stones? I was won over at once, but what with one thing and another was not moved to take action until recently—and I’m glad I waited. In the intervening years, Allison and his colleagues have continued to improve the device and now we have the Wicked Edge Gen 3 Pro 2017 Edition. It has many nice features, but one important one for me is that it has a two-pronged clamp that, according to reports, is enough to vanquish the distal-taper problem.

It comes fairly complete, but if you’re going to sharpen knives of small width (e.g., pocket knives), you’re going to need the Low-Angle Adapter, and with those the longer guide rods are desirable.

I haven’t really used it yet—waiting on getting settled for that—but I wanted to summarize my obsession status. And I have to say that the customer service at Wicked Edge (it’s in Santa Fe NM) is exemplary. They are very accommodating, answer their email, and are good to talk to on the phone.

In furtherance of the obsession, I have joined Edge Snobs™, and they often post good tips. (Wicked Edge also has its own forum on the company website.)

Stay keen, and stay tuned.

BTW, you search YouTube and find videos on all of these.

UPDATE: I realize that I did not include the two Chef’s Choice electric sharpeners I tried. Avoid at all costs. Bad for knives. There are also some manual sharpeners, not very costly, with stones or rods mounted at an angle and you draw the knife down the rod/stone while keeping the blade vertical, which defines the cutting angle (which is thus fixed). Nah.

Basically, the only sharpening systems I recommend are those listed in the original post above. The others I did not think of because I have blocked them from my memory.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 11:26 am

Can You Get Addicted to Trolling?

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Very interesting article in Motherboard by Virginia Pelley.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 September 2017 at 2:06 pm

The little-known benefit of DACA: It reduced mental illness in dreamers’ children

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David D. Laitin, Linna Martén, and Jens Hainmueller report in the Washington Post:

Among the many dramas of the Trump presidency has been whether he would fulfill his campaign promise to dismantle the DACA program. Months of speculation and mounting anxiety among immigrants and their advocates culminated Tuesday, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would rescind DACA protections in six months’ time.

The program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, provided temporary relief from deportation and the right to work for unauthorized immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. To date, some 800,000 of these “dreamers” have successfully applied for the deferred action.

The press has focused its attention on the plight of these young people — some now adults in their 30s — many of whom have no memories of living elsewhere. What has been ignored is the predicament of the DACA recipients’ children, most of whom are U.S. citizens by birth.

When DACA was announced in 2012, those eligible for the program were parents to an estimated 200,000 children. This constitutes a subset of the estimated 5 million children in the United States who have at least one unauthorized immigrant parent.

How does DACA protection for parents affect the lives of their children? Our Stanford Immigration Policy Lab study, recently published in Science, produced this striking finding: when mothers are eligible for DACA protection, their kids’ mental health improves dramatically.

We used data from Oregon’s Emergency Medicaid program to identify mothers who gave birth to children born between 2003 and 2015. The program provides coverage for labor and delivery, and most of the program’s participants are unauthorized immigrants. Since the children of these mothers are U.S. citizens by birth, they are eligible for the broader Medicaid program, and we could thereby track their mental health outcomes over time.

To be eligible for DACA, people had to be born after June 15, 1981. This arbitrary date creates a sort of experiment, since DACA recipients born just after this cut-off date should be similar to those born just before, who were not eligible for DACA. The same should be true for their children. So by comparing these children after DACA was implemented, we could determine how DACA protection for mothers affected their children.

Our study focused on diagnoses of adjustment and anxiety disorders, mental illnesses known to be provoked by external stress and that can produce lifetime challenges for children. Childhood mental illness also accounts for the highest share of the nation’s pediatric health care spending.

Here is what we found: children with mothers born either before or after the DACA age cutoff were diagnosed with these disorders at roughly the same rate before DACA was implemented: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 September 2017 at 12:08 pm

The smartphone has destroyed a generation

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Cultural norms and structures are fragile: just the interruption of one generation is enough to seriously weaken if not kill them.  has an intriguing article in the Atlantic. From the article:

. . . Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.

At first I presumed these might be blips, but the trends persisted, across several years and a series of national surveys. The changes weren’t just in degree, but in kind. The biggest difference between the Millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the Millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time. The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them.

What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior? It was after the Great Recession, which officially lasted from 2007 to 2009 and had a starker effect on Millennials trying to find a place in a sputtering economy. But it was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

5 September 2017 at 8:08 pm

“The last of life, for which the first was made”: People feel happier as they age beyond 60

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The chart above is from Christopher Ingraham’s interesting column in the Washington Post. From the article:

. . . Two things stand out: First, the curves all follow the same general U-shaped trajectory. Youth and old age are periods of relative happiness, while middle age is something of a rock bottom. Second, they generally agree that the bottom of that U hits some time in the early 50s.

These similarities are even more remarkable given the differences in the underlying surveys, which were administered in different countries. They include the General Social Survey (54,000 American respondents), the European Social Survey (316,000 respondents in 32 European countries), the Understanding Society survey (416,000 respondents in Great Britain) and others.

Researchers have been finding evidence of a U-shaped happiness curvefor years now. It’s even been observed among apes. The strength of this particular study is in demonstrating how consistent that curve is across a variety of different data sources. . .

Read the whole thing.

I have to say that the curve has held true for me personally.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2017 at 11:50 am

Is the Economics Profession Toxic for Women?

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Extremely interesting post by Kevin Drum. Read the whole thing.

And while you’re at it, read this one, too.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2017 at 1:12 pm

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