Sunday, January 31, 2016

Want to master a new skill? Change the way you learn it

 For practicing and developing a new skill, making slight changes during practice sessions may help to master the skill faster than practicing in the same manner, a new study has found. The results support the idea of a process called re-consolidation, in which existing memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge, plays a key role in strengthening of motor skills, said senior author Pablo A Celnik from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.
"What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row,"Celnik added.
The study was published in the journal Current Biology, suggests re-consolidation is not only for leisure skills like learning a musical instrument or a sport, but it is also beneficial for helping patients with stroke and other neurological conditions regain lost motor function, Celnik explained.
For the study, 86 healthy volunteers were asked to learn a computer-based motor skill using an isometric pinch task over the course of two or three 45-minute sessions. The volunteers were divided in three groups. The first group completed a typical training schedule and repeated the exact same training lesson six hours later.
The second group performed the first practice session and, after six hours, completed a second training session in which researchers had twisted the test and the third group performed the exact same task just once a day.
Speedier and more accurate completion of the task, nearly doubled among those in the second group compared to those in the first group, who repeated the same task, the study found. Participants in the third group, who skipped the second session, performed approximately 25 percent worse than those in the first group. "If you make the altered task too different, people do not get the gain we observed during re-consolidation. The modification between sessions needs to be subtle,"he says.

Desk-bound all day? Ways to remain fit at work

Sedentary lifestyle is one of the worst outcomes of modern lifestyle. Being chained to your desk, work stress and working till late, including odd hours, can lead to a risky future with regards to health. Here's how you can make small changes in your lifestyle, without exercising.

  • Pay attention to what you're eating. Avoid junk food as much as you can and avoid ordering from outdoor eateries as much as you can. Do not skip breakfast else, the urge to overeat increases during lunch time. 
  • Eat small portions of healthy snacks like ragi chips, nuts, fruits, popcorn, healthy oat biscuits, at regular intervals if there's too much time between your meals. Avoid overindulging, though. Do not combine stress with eating; generally, people tend to overeat due to stress. Also, have lots of water,ragi chips, nuts, fruits, popcorn, healthy oat biscuits, at regular intervals if there's too much time between your meals. Avoid overindulging, though. Do not combine stress with eating; generally, people tend to overeat due to stress. Also, have lots of water. 
  • Try walking as much as possible. Take the stairs, walk during your lunch break. If you take your vehicle to work, park it slightly away from your office so you have to walk, regardless. Stretch as much as possible and walk as and when you get the chance to. 
  • If need be, resort to reminder apps on your phone that will send alerts for you to take breaks in order to rest your eyes, go for a stretch, take a walk and so on.  

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Proven Ways to Master Your Self-Confidence

No matter how mind-blowingly brilliant your business idea is, or how insanely talented you are, absolutely nothing will take off if you don't believe in yourself. Confidence is the jet fuel you'll need to fly towards success. There will always be thousands of obstacles on your journey--but you're stopping yourself right at the gate if you lack this one key trait.
If you think building confidence is impossible, realize that it isn't an innate trait anyone is born with. Richard Branson wasn't a shrewd negotiator when he uttered his first words, and I've personally witnessed the most nervous interns quickly transform into self-assured leaders. You can develop that same self-poise. All you need is a plan and some elbow grease. Here's how to do it.
Stand up
Oprah doesn't start her TV appearances hunched over in the corner. She always stands tall and gets the crowd amped up by walking around with swagger and self-assurance. The audience wouldn't be cheering otherwise, and in the TV show of life, you need that same body language to get people to cheer for you. I'll admit, standing loud and proud isn't always easy. But it's a self-perpetuating cycle, and you can start with baby steps. Everything from slightly improving your posture to doing "superhero" poses before presentations are proven ways to release a flood of confidence-boosting chemicals. Before you know it, you'll be able to face anything with your head held high.
Dress for success
You don't have to be a fashionista to be self-assured. But dressing like a slob isn't doing you any favors in the confidence department. Studies show that our mental state is linked with our wardrobe--if you wear an outfit associated with successful people, you'll look, feel, and speak like a successful person. And if you dress like a "hot mess," you'll most likely act the part too. So invest in yourself at the mall--your confidence is worth it. You don't need to bust your budget at Prada, but you should get that sharp outfit, and even consider implementing a dress code to boost your whole team's confidence.
Embrace the unknown
Remember how nervous you were when you first hopped on a bike? That slight slope on the concrete sidewalk felt like a freefall down Mount Everest. But after time passed and you embraced that "terrifying" new venture, all that discomfort washed away. The phrase "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for," is truer than ever for your confidence. I'm not saying you should take on every crazy risk out there. But by realizing that your discomfort will go away over time, you can easily dive right into the uneasiness of those smart risks.
Link up
Having a solid network of people who have walked in the same shoes can pave the pathway to your success and confidence. Heather Payne founded Ladies Learning Code, and she relies heavily on mentoring to inspire women to join the male-dominated field of coding. She says, "There's something about seeing someone like you do it. Whether that's development, entrepreneurship, angel investing, or something else, a mentor who has been there can show you it's possible." In fact, it's actually one of the best ways for women to boost their confidence in entrepreneurship and business, according to multiple studies. So look up mentoring groups in your area--it's well worth it, and I guarantee they'd love to have your helping hand.
Drop the bias
Did you know that humans are naturally inclined to notice the bad stuff over the good? It's called negativity bias, and it can chisel away at your self-confidence. The reason is simple: We're instinctually hardwired to pay more attention to something like a dangerous lion over a tasty fruit to ensure survival. But we're not cave gals (or men) anymore. You can boost your confidence by forcing yourself to notice those everyday victories. Whether it's through keeping a journal or positive self-talk, take some time every day to do this, and see your self-worth soar.
Spread it around
Just like a bad cold on an airplane, confidence is very contagious. So even if you're not completely sure of yourself, you should take the time to make your team feel confident. So take that break to shower some praise--your team will be beyond appreciative, and it will pay for itself tenfold.
Visualize it
My favorite moment in basketball history is when Michael Jordan shut his eyes and blindly sunk a free throw against the Denver Nuggets. He wasn't just entertaining the crowd--MJ's key to success was his mental game, and his ability to face the possibility of failure. He said, "I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." Even though he was the greatest player of all time, Jordan encountered his fair share of missed hoops, too. He mastered the court by mastering his attitude, and realized that he had to make that self-assured leap--even if it meant a few failures along the way.

Eating the right fats could save 1 million lives per year

    It’s often said that fatty foods can be detrimental to heart health. And yet, scientists revealed certain fats can actually prevent heart disease. Eating healthier fats could save more than one million people worldwide from dying prematurely of heart disease, according to a new study from the American Heart Association. The study revealed, for the first time, that global heart disease burdens can be attributed to insufficient intake of polyunsaturated fats.
Study author Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said: ‘Worldwide, policymakers are focused on reducing saturated fats.
‘Yet, we found there would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if the priority was to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as to reduce trans fats.’ Polyunsaturated fats help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood.
That, in turn, can lower the risks of heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, oils that are rich in polyunsaturated fats provide essential fats that the body needs – including long chain fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods including soybeans, corn and sunflower oils, tofu, nuts and seeds. They are also contained it fatty fishes, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.
The study sought to estimate the number of annual deaths related to various patterns of fat consumption. The team of scientists used 2010 data from 186 countries.
They estimated worldwide that 711,900 heat disease deaths stemmed from eating too little healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates. Those accounted for 10.3 per cent of total global heart disease deaths. Comparatively, only 250,900 of heart disease deaths occurred because of excess consumption of saturated fats instead of healthier vegetable oils.
Saturated fats can be found in meat, cheese and fat dairy products, in addition to palm and coconut oils. The study also found that 537,200 deaths – representing 7.7 per cent of global heart disease deaths – came as a result of excess consumption of trans fats.
Trans fats are contained in processed, baked and fried goods – as well as cooking fats in certain countries. The study also compared data from 1990 to 2010. The researchers found that the proportion of heart disease deaths due to insufficient omega-6 polyunsaturated fat declined nine per cent. Due to that, they also saw that high saturated fats decreased by 21 per cent.
On the other hand, however, deaths because of high consumption of trans fats great up four per cent. Dr Mozaffarian said: ‘People think of trans fats as being only a rich country problem due to packaged and fast-food products.
‘But, in middle and low income nations such as India and in the Middle East, there is wide use of inexpensive, partially hydrogenated cooking fats in the home and by street vendors. ‘Because of strong policies, trans fat-related deaths are going down in Western nations (although still remaining important in the United States and Canada).
‘But in many low- and middle-income countries, trans fat-related deaths appear to be going up, making this a global problem.’ The study found that nations in the former Soviet Union – especially Ukraine – had the highest rates of heart-disease deaths because of low polyunsaturated fat consumption.
Yet, tropical nations – including the Philippines and Malaysia – had the highest rates of heart-disease deaths from excess saturated fat consumption.
Dr Mozaffarian said: ‘These findings should be of great interest to both the public and policy makers around the world, helping countries to set their nutrition priorities to combat the global epidemic of heart disease.’

Thursday, January 28, 2016

How To Avoid Distractions In The Workplace

Some of us get pushed off balance by the slightest interruptions at work, while others easily tune out distractions. The truth is, nobody is completely attentive to their work 100% of the time–and we can all use some guidance on ways to avoid or ignore disruptions in the office. All workers have trouble with distractions in the workplace to some degree. The key is to limit those distractions as much as possible.
We’d all get burnt out pretty quickly if we didn’t get distracted from time to time and take our minds off of work. The danger, however, is when distractions take up too much of our time and prevent us from getting our work done. If those interruptions in the office are not managed, they can seriously erode your ability to focus and may lead to factual mistakes and poor judgment; which can lead to poor performance. Frequent distractions can also negatively affect your mood.
They can prevent you from getting your work done on time, which creates more stress for you and consequently makes you more frustrated and unhappy at work. You may not have any control over these factors, but there are steps you can take to limit distractions, so that no one and nothing can interrupt you when you are trying to work.

Budget Your Time 
Have you ever wondered where the day went when you're leaving the office? If you make a careful schedule that accounts for all of your time and tasks -- free time, meetings, calls and quiet work time -- you'll be more likely to accomplish what you need to each day. Also, you'll always know exactly where the day went and what went into it.

Put Down Your Mobile Device
Constant but unscheduled phone calls and text messages are a common culprit when it comes to efficiency busters. Shut down your device or check it every hour or so, rather than keeping it at the ready when you're attempting to focus on a particular task.

Consider a Change of Scenery
When you're under pressure to complete a project, you may want to take your show on the road if you can. Work from anywhere you can truly devote yourself without the possibility of interruption. If working remotely isn't possible, find a conference room or vacant office to squat in so you can get things done.

Stop Incessantly Checking Your Email
Remember the days before email? No one does. Today's professionals have become slaves to constantly checking their email. Take control of your inbox and limit how often you check on and address email to stay sane and focused on the job.

Off-Hours Are In
If you're cursed with coworkers whose conversation you cannot resist, a phone that won't stop buzzing or an email account that sees more incoming mail, you may have to put in some time during off-hours. Try coming in earlier, staying later or dropping by the offices on the weekend to get at work that's getting pushed aside. This may not be ideal, but it may be what you need to stay on top of your responsibilities and get to the top of the corporate ladder.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Want to improve your writing skills?

The quality of your writing will surely get better if you start typing slowly on the computer, says a study. Researchers from the University of Waterloo asked participants to type essays using both hands or with only one. Using text-analysis software, the team discovered that some aspects of essay writing, such as sophistication of vocabulary, improved when participants used only one hand to type.

"Typing can be too fluent or too fast and can actually impair the writing process," said Srdan Medimorec, researcher in the faculty of arts at Waterloo and lead author of a paper appeared in the British Journal of Psychology. The results led the researchers to speculate that slowing down participants' typing by asking them to use only one hand, allowed more time for internal word search, resulting in a larger variety of words.
Fast typists may have simply written the first word that came to mind. "This is the first study to show that when you interfere with people's typing, their writing can get better," said professor Evan F. Risko. The researchers are not forcing students to write their term papers with one hand but the results show that going fast can have its drawbacks. "This is important to consider as writing tools continue to emerge that let us get our thoughts onto the proverbial page faster and faster," the authors noted.

Monday, January 25, 2016

10 Essential Security Tips for Your Internet of Things

This year, there will be 6.4 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices in use — a 30 percent jump from 2015. But all of this advanced and integrated technology leaves room for potential security threats like hackers and malware. Whether you use one smart device or dozens, boost the safety of your Internet of Things with these 10 essential security tips.

1. Know what’s connected
Before you can secure your devices, you have to know what is vulnerable to an attack. The average home has five connected devices, excluding computers, tablets, and smartphones. Note your home’s connected devices — including game consoles, media players, and anything with a microphone or camera — and verify what information each has access to.
2. Password Protect All Devices and Accounts
Every smart device you manage through an Internet-based account should be protected with a strong username and password that includes a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts — otherwise, if a hacker manages to get in, they’ll have wider access to your devices.
3. Avoid Using Insecure Internet Connections
When you check on your smart devices remotely from your smartphone or tablet, don’t use any Wi-Fi that isn’t password protected. Insecure connections can make your device vulnerable to hacking. To increase your personal network security, create strong passwords for your own router and Wi-Fi connections, and update them regularly.
4. Keep Your Smartphone Secure
If you lost or misplaced your smartphone, a hacker could potentially access your personal information and smart devices. Mobile security programs can back up your data to an online account, track your device’s location, and remotely lock and wipe your entire phone. A password or PIN on the device itself can also provide another layer of defense.
5. Create a Separate Network for Your Devices
Many routers allow you to set up multiple networks. Consult your router’s manual to create at least one separate network for your IoT devices. The more you segment your networks, the harder it is for hackers to access all of your devices and information.
6. Install a Firewall
A firewall helps prevent hackers, viruses, and worms from reaching your connected devices over the Internet by denying unauthorized traffic. Some computer systems offer a default firewall, which is sufficient for many users. For an added layer of protection, install a firewall that offers more security functions that meet your needs, or configure a hardware firewall to offer wider network defense.
7. Immediately Update Security Patches
Smart devices regularly release system updates that address user issues and security flaws. Installing updates as they become available helps you stay more protected. Periodically check each device manufacturer’s website for updates or security announcements. Some devices even have a setting that will allow automatic update installation.
8. Disconnect Devices When Not in Use
Turn off any smart devices when you aren’t using them, particularly those with microphones and video cameras. While some connected devices, such as smart thermostats, require a constant Internet connection, other devices — including smart TVs, coffee makers, and video cameras — do not. Prevent a hacker from connecting to your video or audio streams by disconnecting when you can.
9. Adjust Default Device Settings
Most smart devices and their ancillary apps feature adjustable privacy settings. Depending on your desired level of security, you can enable or disable certain connectivity features. If you are suspicious of any functions, like voice control or motion detection, turn them off. You can always switch them back on if you need those features at a later date.
10. Set Rules for Your Children
If your children will be using any connected smart devices, explain the risks of the Internet and teach them the importance of never sharing personal information online or with a stranger. Supervise their usage of any devices with microphones or cameras, including baby monitors. For even more security, disable all connectivity while your child is using the device.
The Internet of Things allows you to improve your home and simplify your living. As you’re setting up all of your favorite features, dedicate time to increase the security of your devices as well. By taking precautions early, you can help prevent malicious attacks when it really matters.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

How to Manage Boundaries at Work...

Want to feel more in control? Make sure you communicate your limits. A great way to increase our sense of control and reduce our stress is by setting boundaries.
What is a boundary, you ask, and why are they important? In essence, a boundary is a limit defining you in relationship to someone or to something. Boundaries can be physical and tangible or emotional and intangible. You may not be familiar with the "B" word, however, I (Dana) bet you have used and heard the concept of it before. If you have ever told someone that "I draw the line here," then you have already set a boundary! If you have informed someone that this is your office space, your desk oryour designated chair (and who hasn't), you have attempted to set physical boundaries. Another clear example of a physical boundary is a fence, showing the border of our yard to our neighbors. It is often easier to understand a physical boundary. Emotional or mental boundaries may be a bit subtler; however, they are equally, if not more, important.

Boundaries serve many functions. They help to protect us, to clarify what is our responsibility and what is another's, to preserve our physical and emotional energy, to stay focused on ourselves, to live our values and standards, and to identify our personal limits.
1. Identify Your Limits
The first step in setting boundaries is getting clear about what your limits are--emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, etc. You do this by paying increased attention to yourself and noticing what you can tolerate and accept as well as what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed. These feelings will help you clarify your limits. It is important to remember that your limits are personal--your own--and therefore, they are likely to be different than the limits that others have (our friends, family members, colleagues etc.). Although challenging, it is most helpful if you do your best not to compare your limits with others' limits.
What I may be willing or easily able to accept, may make you feel quite uncomfortable. This is then an important boundary for you. A recent example of bumping into a limit was a work opportunity that unexpectedly presented itself to me. I initially thought it would be an easy fit given my health expertise. However, I underestimated the effects of my personal history of loss, and how much this particular work setting would trigger these feelings. I knew immediately I had encountered a professional limit with the extremely strong feelings of discomfort that arose in me. I honored those feelings--my limit--and declined this work opportunity. Someone with a different personal history would most likely find this to be a wonderful professional opportunity.
The employer also respected my boundaries by not trying to persuade me to reconsider or to do it on a trial or part-time basis. Efforts to influence me to take the position, after I clearly stated I was very uncomfortable with the nature of the position, would have demonstrated a lack of consideration for my boundaries.
2. Pay Attention to Your Feelings
There are three key feelings that are often red flags or cues that you need to either set boundaries in a particular situation or that you are letting your boundaries slip (and not maintaining them). These feelings are (1) discomfort, (2) resentment, or (3) guilt. You can think of these feelings as cues to yourself that a boundary issue may be present. If a particular situation, person, or area of your life is leading you to feel uncomfortable, resentful, or guilty, and it has happened several times, this is an important cue.
For example, resentment often develops from feelings of being taken advantage of or not being appreciated. It's often a signal that you are extending yourself beyond your own limits because you feel guilty or want to be considered a good parent, spouse, sibling, child, friend, or employee. Another common contributor is someone else imposing their expectations, views, or values on you.
To determine how much attention the situation warrants and whether a boundary may need to be set, it is often helpful to think of these feelings on a continuum. For example, when a situation happens, ask yourself, "How uncomfortable, resentful, or guilty am I feeling now?" Rate your answer on a scale of 1-10 (10 highest). If your level of discomfort is a 3, you can consider this to be in the lower zone, having a mild affect on your emotions. Ratings of 4-6 are in the medium zone, indicating a more significant effect on you. Scores between 7 and 10 are considered in the high zone. As we discussed, boundaries are designed to protect you and your overall well-being. In this regard, consider setting a boundary if you are consistently rating a personal interaction or situation in the medium to high zone.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Set Boundaries
The biggest obstacles often experienced at some point, when considering setting a boundary, are the feelings of fear, guilt, and self-doubt--the anti-boundary musketeers--that show up. You might fear how the person will respond (e.g., angry, hurt) if you set and enforce your boundaries. You might feel guilty about speaking up or saying no to a family member or friend.
Often, people feel they should be able to cope with a situation and say yes, because that is what a good sibling, friend, or spouse would do. You may believe this despite the evidence that it is not good for you, leading you to feel drained and overextended at best, and taken advantage of at worst. You may question whether you even have the right or deserve to set boundaries in the first place. When these doubts occur, reaffirm to yourself that you do indeed have this right, so give yourself the permission to do so, and work to preserve them.
4. Consider Your Environment
When I was in training as a marriage and family therapist, one of the most valuable lessons I learned about human behavior was the incredible power of context.

The environment you are in, for example, serves as your context, and can have a strong influence on your behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions. Family and work environments are two examples of powerful contexts. Social circles are another. Why is it important to consider your environment when it comes to setting boundaries, you may be wondering? Your environment can either support your setting boundaries--making it easier for you--or present obstacles to boundary setting--making it more challenging for you. For example, consider your social circle of close friendships. Are these relationships generally reciprocal, with a natural give and take? Or do they feel lopsided, with you more often giving than receiving? If more lopsided, it will likely be more uncomfortable, and therefore more challenging, for you to begin to set boundaries or to maintain existing ones in these relationships.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Colour helps our body clock adjust time

Ever wondered how animals know when to call it a day and return to their shelters? The colour of light has a major impact on how the brain clock measures the time of the day and on how our physiology and behaviour adjust accordingly.
This is the first time that we have been able to test the theory that colour affects our body clock in any mammal,” said lead researcher Timothy Brown from the University of Manchester in Britain. 
The research can be applied to humans too. “So, in theory, colour could be used to manipulate our clock which could be useful for shift workers or travellers wanting to minimize jet lag,” Brown pointed out. The researchers looked at the change in light around dawn and dusk to analyze whether colour could be used to determine the time of day.
Besides the well-known changes in light intensity that occur as the sun rises and sets, the scientists found that during twilight, light is reliably bluer than during the day.

The researchers next recorded electrical activity from the brain clock while mice were shown different visual stimuli. They found that many of the neurons were more sensitive to changes in colour between blue and yellow than to changes in brightness.