social sciences

Romantic attraction: what do we look for in a partner?

There are many ideas on what attracts people to each other romantically. Some people are convinced that opposites attract holds true. As such a couple would perfectly balance each other out. According to this principle,  a person who is very timid and an outgoing person would make a perfect match. Or people might have theories, regarding looks that individuals search for others who are just as attractive as them. This concept is labeled ‘being in someone’s league’, meaning you have a chance of making a successful move one someone who is just as attractive as you are. Earlier I wrote a post about what men and women find attractive about each other, from an evolutionary perspective. But these a very generalized ideas, what about individual attraction?

  • First of all, in terms of romantic attraction, men perceive attraction as a more important feature than women.¹ This is what studies,  time and time again, seem to find in terms of gender differences and attraction.
  • For females, height was deemed more important, with the male-taller norm as the standard.²
  • Using speed-dating settings for research, it was found that people ended up being more attracted to their potential partner when they knew that the partner already liked them. So knowing someone is attracted to us, can make us feel more attracted to them.³
  • There seem to be robust findings for the similarity principle. People like those who are like them. Opposites attract was quickly regarded as folk wisdom, similarity is what influences who we form relationships with, whether it be romantic or platonic. However, again using speed-dating settings, researchers found that it’s perceived similarity is what matters and not actual similarity. If we feel as if we are similar to others, this makes us feel more attracted to them.4
  • Interestingly, while knowing that someone likes you can increase your own attraction, uncertainty can also have an effect. Not knowing whether someone is attracted to you can ultimately increase your attraction towards that individuals. As you will spend more time thinking about that person.5

1. Feingold, A. (1990). Gender differences in effects of physical attractiveness on romantic attraction: A comparison across five research paradigms.
2. Pierce, C. A. (1996). Body height and romantic attraction: A meta-analytic test of the male-taller norm. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 24(2), 143-149.
3. Luo, S., & Zhang, G. (2009). What leads to romantic attraction: Similarity, reciprocity, security, or beauty? Evidence from a speed‐dating study. Journal of personality, 77(4), 933-964.
4. Tidwell, N. D., Eastwick, P. W., & Finkel, E. J. (2013). Perceived, not actual, similarity predicts initial attraction in a live romantic context: Evidence from the speed‐dating paradigm. Personal Relationships, 20(2), 199-215.
5. Whitchurch, E. R., Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2011). “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not…” Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction. Psychological Science, 22(2), 172-175.

social sciences

How to deal with stress

Awhile ago I wrote a post on dealing with anxiety. Unfortunately, stress is another negative emotion people experience in their daily lives. While stress can force us to get things done and help us achieve goals, it can also impair us and cause health problems. Hormones involved in being in a stressed state can damage neurons in the brain(1). It affects our immune system, for instance, we can become more susceptible to colds(2). However, it is important to note that most of such consequences are related to chronic stress, which means being in a state of stress for longer periods of time.

In our modern world, there are many different situations which can affect our stress levels. Deadlines at work, school papers, paying the bills, maintaining relationships; each one of us experiences a myriad of stressors in a day. We might not be able to get rid of stress altogether, but we can try to find new ways to deal with it.

  • Having too much on your plate
    • Sometimes you have to say no. There are a lot of important things in our life we want to do. But we can’t do all of them. And if we did try to do all of them at once, we might end up failing at more things we anticipated. Quality over quantity. On the long term, it is more beneficial to focus on a few things, rather than devoting our time to a hundred things at once. We’re often unaware that many things can wait.
  • Get rid of the problem?
    • Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. If something gives you chronic stress, it might be time to get rid of the problem. If you have to write a paper or take a course and you really can’t handle it with rest you got going on right now, maybe it would be better to try again next year or the next opportunity you get. Or maybe your work is severely affecting your mental health, you might want to consider quitting. Look for something that gives you more room to maintain your health.
  • Recognize your temporary emotions
    • Some things we can’t say no to. Not all of us have the privilege to postpone stressful situations that need our attention now, such as planning the funeral of a recently passed away loved one. Therefore, in such situations, it’s important to remember that it’s temporary. This isn’t the first stressful situation you’ve dealt it and it certainly won’t be the last. Remember you’ve tackled problems before and you will continue to do so.
  • Reach out
    • Others can help you. Whether it be to take off some of the load by helping you or to provide you with some moral support. Having your friends or family assure you that you can get through it might just be enough to get rid of some of the stress!
  • Don’t forget to focus on other important aspects
    • Remember to tend to other needs, such as nutrition and sleep. Temporary not eating well or not getting enough sleep for awhile is nothing to worry too much about. But don’t make it a habit. Also, try to convince yourself to get your daily nutritional needs. Emotional eating is a real thing and can be triggered in stressful times. Reaching for junk food might activate an endorphin release, due to the sugars(3). Endorphins make us feel good. We might also overeat, as feeling stuffed makes us feel tired and relaxed. However, you can also achieve this state of relaxation without overeating!
  • Take a break
    • If possible, take a break. Play a game (Sudoku, your favorite video game, a fun game app on your phone), watch TV, go for a walk, hang out with a friend. Moving away from the stressor might help you in the long run. Taking a small break will give you new energy you’ll need to take on your stressor.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
    • If you feel stressed because you aren’t where you want to be in life school-wise, career-wise or anything else, it might be time to re-evaluate. Ask yourself why you need to be anywhere anyway. It’s not a race. The internet is filled with anecdotes of people who wrote their first best-selling book at 50, became a famous actor at 40, got the first real job they liked at 60 or finally overcame their fears at 38. There are only a few times opportunities will only present themselves once. With some out-of-the-box-thinking, you can still get where you need to be even if that means taking an alternative route.

1. Sapolsky, R. M. (1996). Stress, glucocorticoids, and damage to the nervous system: the current state of confusion. Stress, 1(1), 1-19.
2. Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological bulletin, 130(4), 601.
3. Fortuna, J. L. (2010). Sweet preference, sugar addiction and the familial history of alcohol dependence: shared neural pathways and genes. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 42(2), 147-151.

social sciences

Are you genetically similar to your friends?

People pick their friends based on several factors including proximity and similarity. Proximity is of importance because we prefer stimuli we see often as opposed to stimuli we’re not familiar with (mere-exposure effect). This principle also holds for friendships. Apart from starting friendships with people, we’re regularly exposed to, it is also easier to maintain relationships with those nearby us. Similarity is imperative for creating bonds, as it gives us topics to talk about and ideas to agree on. We also understand those who are similar to us a lot better. But could these similarities among you and your friends indicate that you might also be genetically similar?

Research has found that this seems to be the case by looking at a sample of adolescents in the United States. Guo (2006) found that there might be a genetic basis for trait-specific similarities between friends. To analyze genetic differences and similarities, identical (monozygotic) and non-identical (dizygotic) twins are always added to the sample. Interestingly, Guo also found that identical twins were more likely to list their twin as their best friend, compared to non-identical twins. Maybe we can speculate here that because identical twins share more genetic similarities, they might have more trait-specific similarities, which is an important factor in friendship.

Looking at more twin studies, we can see the same result for partner choice as well. Rushton and Bons (2005) compared identical twins to non-identical twins. They found that identical twins had friends and spouses similar to that of their co-twin. Again, we can speculate that there must be an underlying genetic effect for friend and partner choice.

Guo, G. (2006). Genetic similarity shared by best friends among adolescents. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 9(01), 113-121.

Philippe Rushton, J., & Ann Bons, T. (2005). Mate Choice and Friendship in Twins: Evidence for Genetic Similarity. Psychological Science, 16(7), 555-559.

social sciences

Money does bring us happiness, depending on how you spend it

There is no denying we need money in order to survive within a capitalist system. In order to get food, shelter, clothing, warmth to be able to actively participate in society, we need some kind of income. But once we’ve reached the threshold of being able to meet these basic needs, we can actively spend money on what some might define as luxurious. For instance, this can be anywhere from candy, entertainment, cars, vacation, depending on your budget and preferences. In this article, I will discuss two ways of spending that can increase happiness or life satisfaction.

Materialistic vs experiential spending
Simply put, we can spend money on two different categories. We can buy a new car, this would be materialistic spending. Or we could book a vacation, and this would classify as experiential spending. A vacation is an experience that you can treasure as a memory. However, while this distinction is made, I would like to get a bit philosophical and point out that a car can also be seen as experiential spending. If you enjoy certain experiences with a car, such as going on road trips, it might not just be a materialistic investment. But, for the sake of the research I will discuss, cars are in this case materialistic.

It turns out we feel happier after experiential spending than materialistic spending. This is due to several reasons, we get used to materialistic spending, we remember experiential spending, and experiential spending is often spent with others (1). So if we bought a new painting for our living room, we will be used to it at some point, hanging there. It probably won’t bring us the same amount of happiness it did when we first hung it up. We also spent a great deal remembering our experiential purchases in comparison to our materialistic purchases. And lastly, we often spend time with others when we engage in experiential spending. Which makes us happier in general.

Spending money on others
The second way in which we can spend money is using it to buy things for others. This is referred to as prosocial spending. Researchers gave participants a small amount of money and either instructed them to spend it on themselves (personal spending) or to buy something for someone else (prosocial spending). And it turns out that those who engaged in prosocial spending ended up feeling happier (2).

1. Dunn, E. W., Gilbert, D. T., & Wilson, T. D. (2011). If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21(2), 115-125.
2. Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687-1688.

Opinion

Let’s Hypothesize: the internet, memes and ‘new’ words

Not only does the emergence of the internet create new terms, it also redefines existing words. The internet is a new place where people exchange information and engage in social contact. The setting of social media is quite different from the setting real life interactions. For instance, we’re able to edit and correct ourselves before posting something, however, in real life, once the words are out, we can’t take them back. We’re probably also interacting with a larger diversity of people than in real life. With this diversity, it is likely easier to create new creative content.

Memes?
A very interesting part of this new creative content is memes. The term meme was coined long before people had an internet connection at home. Initially, Dawkins used it as a way to describe pieces of cultural information that are passed on between people. Memes according to him, pass on the same way as genes do. Gestures, words or rituals are spread among people and are also subject to mutations. And if we think about memes in the internet sense, the aforementioned definition still holds. Words, pop culture, specific interests, daily life situations are often spread among users of internet communities in the form of imagery or texts.

When does something become a meme?
This is a very difficult question to answer, as internet users can get quite pious in what can be labeled a meme or not. However, I believe the same principles that determine whether something becomes a meme in real life, can also be applied to the internet setting. For instance, the word “gnarly” existed long before surfer culture popularized it in the 70s.
But what exactly makes up these principles is hard to spell out. I think if this was known, businesses would gladly use this to promote their products, to make money off of this process. Sure, there have been companies that successfully, intentionally and unintentionally, used this phenomenon for brand recognition (I have seen people use Snickers’ slogan: “eat a Snickers” in online interactions). But not all companies that invest money in ‘memeing’ will achieve ‘meme status’.
Though, not only companies can earn money through memes. People and animals have become internet sensations and earned money as well (e.g. Antoine Dodson, Grumpy Cat, Ken Bone). But why do some memes catch on, while others don’t? I’m assuming timing plays a large role in this. Some attempted memes achieve virality after a few years. For example, the movie The Room was released in 2003. The first meme-like imagery was spread in 2009, while in 2010 more content was created, which kickstarted the actual meme.

Memes as words and slang
Language-wise, what is interesting, is that new definitions for existing words are created. And that the use of certain words suddenly spikes in online interactions (and gradually make its way into real life interactions as well). I recall a time when the words “I’m bored” were plastered all over my Facebook timeline. The actual meaning behind these words in that setting is fascinating. As it wasn’t just a statement of one’s internal states. With this phrase, people looked for entertainment through social interactions.
Then we had a spike in “That awkward moment…“. The internet provided the opportunity for people to open up about embarrassment they go through in daily life. Things people might not discuss in everyday face-to-face conversations, because, well, they’re embarrassing. But being able to read that you are actually quite similar to your peers takes away some of that embarrassment. Besides, a quick Google search can easily lead you to stories of people who are going through similar situations, which probably makes people less alone and ‘weird’.
Now the word “relatable” seems to be a much-used form of expression to indicate you experience similar emotions or events in your life. What is important to mention with this word is that figurative speech is imperative online. For instance, people might find a picture of a dead fish lying on the shore to be ‘relatable’. Thus, images are used to figuratively or comically express feelings.
Other, more recent slang terms are “extra“, “lit“, “dead“, and “bruh“. Much of the credit of the emergence of these new words can be given to an important online community referred to as Black Twitter. This community not only sheds light on relevant (racial) issues, such as police brutality, members of the community are also responsible for a large part of the new creative content that can be identified as memes (and slang).

Memes do not only create new ways to express emotions and create bonds between individuals, it also influences the current zeitgeist and creates discussion among groups of people (e.g. Kony 2012, #icantbreathe).

social sciences

Are people becoming more narcissistic?

People love to compare. And this includes looking at the differences between generations. It seems as if ‘millennials‘ are the new scapegoat. However, it’s difficult to define millennials, as different sources use different definitions of the word. Everyone born between approximately 1980 – 2000 are usually dubbed as this ‘new generation’. Thus, we’re talking about people between the ages of ~40-20 roughly. Interestingly, many of the critics often fall between in this age cohort. One of the most recurring critiques includes the supposed increase in selfishness and narcissism. Does taking selfies really indicate narcissism? What is narcissism and did it really increase over the years?

Has narcissism prevalence increased over the years?
Unfortunately, this is difficult to answer. This actually an issue for almost all mental health disorders. Psychology and attributing behaviors to disorders both have been gaining acceptance over the years. This means that we can’t actually accurately compare data from fifty years ago.


First, we lacked valid and reliable measurement tools for each disorder. Second, we lacked knowledge, more research still needs to be done to find out the incidence and implication of a mental disorder. Third, what behaviors are considered to be ‘not normal’ changes through history. Do we still use the same definition of narcissism? Fourth, subgroups of the population have been ignored in terms of mental health. For instance, it seems that more girls suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) than was estimated. This holds true for people with an ethnic background in Western countries as well, these groups are overlooked, their behaviors are more likely to be attributed to their personalities.


So does narcissism increase over the years? Researchers found it is actually a very stable trait and that it didn’t increase(1).

But what exactly is narcissistic personality disorder?
In order to have guidelines in terms of mental health disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was created. This book helps clinicians (e.g. psychologists) make sense of the problems their patients might have. And according to the DSM, the following symptoms are associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):

  1. Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from others
  2. Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  3. Self-perception of being unique, superior and associated with high-status people and institutions
  4. Needing constant admiration from others
  5. Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others
  6. Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain
  7. Unwilling to empathize with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs
  8. Intensely envious of others and the belief that others are equally envious of them
  9. Pompous and arrogant demeanor

So are ‘millennial behaviors’ an indication of increased narcissism?
Younger people are overrepresented in statistics of internet use and social media use(2,3). So in order to successfully carry out ‘impression management,’ these ages might be more inclined to use social media. In real life, all ages engage in impression management. We want people to see us in a certain light, and when we find out they don’t see us they way we want them to, we will adjust our behaviors. If we want people to perceive us as smart, we might do our best to display behaviors that could signal intelligence. Social media can be an interesting environment for impression management. You can upload selfies that display your ‘good sides’. You can effectively tell a large group of people that you engage in charity work, get good grades, get promotions, go to cool parties, go on nice vacations, etc.


Since we have more control in online settings, we get to edit and think about what we post, we naturally show most of the good stuff. Does that make us narcissists? Probably not. Normal individuals engage in impression management in real life situations, just like we do online. Online there is more room for enhancement.

1. Grijalva, E., Newman, D. A., Tay, L., Donnellan, M. B., Harms, P. D., Robins, R. W., & Yan, T. (2015). Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin, 141(2), 261.
2. Distribution internet use according to age
3. Distribution social media use according to age

social sciences

A sneak peek into North Korea

It is actually possible to go to North Korea for vacation. You will need to apply for a visa. Your trip, however, will most likely be highly restricted. You will have a curfew, you can’t leave your hotel at certain hours. And you can’t photograph everything you see, your camera will be checked upon leaving. You will be accompanied by a ‘tour guide’ at all times, so you can’t stray from the predetermined trip. Though, apparently the Chinese have a little bit more freedom and are allowed to drive cars.

One of the most famous hotels in Pyongyang is the Yanggakdo Hotel. If you’re interested in what it must be like staying there, I recommend you read the reviews on TripAdvisor. On average the hotel gets a ‘decent’ rating, though, reviewers often add ‘for North Korean standards’.
One of the reviewers explains:

“Whilst a lot is to be said for the fact this hotel is in the DPRK and all the perks that come with that this is by far one of the worst hotels I have stayed in. Nothing works, not the plugs, television or shower.”

Pyongyang seems to serve a purpose of displaying North Korea’s greatness. There are big skyscrapers, (fast food) restaurants, parks, and luxury stores. The restaurants’ customers or mostly those who are part of the elite, foreign diplomats, or tourists.

Luxury stores

The following video displays a POV of a tourist visiting a luxury store. Most of these goods aren’t available to the general public.

Fast food restaurants

It’s interesting to see the lady behind the counter use a calculator while taking the customers’ order. While it is supposed to be a fastfood restaurant, the service seems to be quite slow.

North Korean news… on YouTube?

North Korean news is interesting because it’s different from our news in the western world. It mostly consists of coverage of new construction projects. The construction and opening of Munsu Water Park were extensively covered by the news. It featured thousands of workers, building the new amusement park in absolute synchronization, using outdated methods of construction compared to western standards. North Korea had its own YouTube channel, Korean Central Television, on which it regularly uploaded (sometimes only hours apart) news, soap operas, and kids’ shows. However, YouTube took down the channel a few months ago.

Concerts

North Korea has its own version of ‘Kpop’. The legend goes that Kim Jung-Il called for his country’s own girl band. The women are always wearing uniforms, oftentimes military-styled. They play the drums, electric guitars, keytars, synthesizers, and more! I have been told that their songs often feature lyrics about the Korean War, the Great Leader, and their accomplishments as ‘a self-sufficient’ nation. In February last year, they held a concert celebrating a rocket launch.

Defectors

In this video, several defectors are interviewed and tell you all the good and bad things they experienced in their homeland.

Documentaries

There are many interesting documentaries that show us the insides of the regime. Including this 3-part series by Vice.

Sources: The Real North Korea (Lankov), Without You There Is No Us (Kim)

Books

North Korea: worse than you can imagine

To my surprise, there are quite a lot of books on North Korea. I wanted to find out more about the regime that is trying its best to keep its inside workings a secret. To get a better understanding of the current situation, I recommend the following books: The Real North Korea (Lankov), Without You There Is No Us (Kim), and Nothing to Envy (Demick). Each book sheds a different light on the lives of the common people living north of the 38th parallel.

The Real North Korea tells an elaborate story of how the regime came to be. Lankov explains how Korea ended up being split up in two different countries. He explains how the diplomatic relationships and tensions during the Cold War led to a ‘civil’ war in Korea. Starting from there he goes on to describe all the major political and economic reforms that took place afterward.
Reading this book, I realized that the measures this country takes to gain political power not only over its own citizens but in the worldwide sphere of influence are more absurd than we can imagine.
For instance, North Korea has abducted Japanese citizens in the seventies and eighties. The author suggests that the purpose might have been to create new spies, that speak both Korean and Japanese. Another strange example is that different North Korean diplomats have been caught smuggling drugs.
Lankov describes the inner workings of the regime, how those serving the regime can be bribed, and how capitalism has taken over some of the markets. He calls some of the actions, carried out by the elite, Orwellian. The government actively removes people from history, as if they never existed in the first place. Once someone is dubbed a traitor and is executed, their name will be taken off any existing document.
At the end of the book, the author speculates what would happen if the two Koreas were to be united right now. An important point made is that the North Korean people need to be protected in this case. They will face many challenges and dangers. For example, most people will not have the right qualifications to carry out their professions, compared to South Korean standards. A North Korean doctor cannot do the same work in South Korea. Another phenomenon to look out for is Ponzi-schemes, to which the North Koreans might fall victim to.

In Without You, There Is No Us, Suki Kim describes her experiences teaching English to sons of the elite. This book is intriguing because it tells the story of someone who’s experienced North Korea at firsthand. Kim gets to interact with North Koreans who are part of the elite. What stood out to me was the fact that the author catches her students lying about ‘trivial’ things, multiple times. They lie about where or how they spent their summers, they lie about having had access to the internet, or that they had contact with their families (which they most likely didn’t). Kim’s story is fascinating because she is also on a journey of ‘self-discovery’ while in North Korea. She was born in South Korea, moved to the USA in her teens, and spent some time in North Korea. In the book, she talks about not knowing where she belongs and having family in North Korea. During the Korean War, her uncle got separated from the family, he probably ended up North of the 38th parallel.

Lastly, Demick wrote a riveting book on the lives of North Korean defectors. The lives of these defectors are beautifully told in, Nothing To Envy. You will get to read how the inner workings of the regime (which Lankov elaborately explains in his book) affects the individual North Koreans. Demick discusses the major events we also read or heard about in the western world, such as the famine or the deaths of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jung-Il. You will learn about the great lengths these people went to survive during the famine and how familiar they got with death around them. How once devoted individuals eventually stop believing in the authorities and make their plans to escape. And what happens to defectors after they crossed the Tumen river in search of a better life.

Opinion

Let’s Hypothesize: modern day responsibility

After hearing about reflexive modernization in one of my sociology classes and attending a masterclass by Theodore Dalrymple, I started to wonder about modern day accountability and responsibility. I’m gonna put several ideas forward that might already be part of contemporary theories on societies. I will argue that society’s structure can influence perceptions of responsibility.

Society’s structure
Complexity. Complex societies have existed before, there are countless examples of civilizations with hierarchical structures, institutions, and laws. However, nowadays with ongoing globalization, we have established diplomatic relations between countries. This means that decisions made by one society can affect the status quo in another society. Laws are often updated and adjusted to modern day situations, such as the emergence of a virtual space (the internet) in which regulations are also imposed. The difference between today’s societies and ancient societies is that changes are happening so quickly that modern citizens can’t even keep up with the changes. According to the law, you’re supposed to know what is allowed and what isn’t. You can’t blame ignorance. But it’s almost impossible to know every rule implemented by the government. Not knowing the rules and rights means being unaware of responsibility and accountability. Thus, the complexity of today’s societies has made it difficult to know all your responsibilities according to the law. A consequence of the law being strictly imposed on a society, people might only fulfill lawful duties and cast aside their moral duties.

Institutions. With the emergence of a myriad of laws came institutions. In bureaucratic societies, institutions exist merely to monitor other institutions. Many examples exist where the web of institutions might have had an effect in the failure of achieving a goal or unsuccessfully intercepting problems. For instance, in the Netherlands different institutions exist to aid those in problematic situations, each institution has a task in helping these individuals. Though, it’s not always possible for these institutions to effectively work together. When things end badly (e.g. children suffering domestic abused not being helped in time), it’s often the question who’s responsibility it was.

Anonymity. Moral responsibility is also harder to impose in complex societies,  such as helping out your neighbor, being empathetic towards strangers in public spaces (e.g. giving up your seat for elderly), no littering, or being inconsiderate in traffic. In several countries, you can get fined for some behaviors associated with the aforementioned examples. For instance, I have been told that there are strict regulations on littering in Singapore. But not every society has such set rules and it comes down to unwritten rules, norms. But are norms enough for people to feel responsible for their behavior? Or do need people the threat of being fined? Many studies have found evidence for social pressure being enough to either stop people from behaving a certain way or to get them do something. Though, when people live in bigger cities, this social pressure diminishes, suddenly they are anonymous for a large part of the day. In such a setting, people might not feel entirely responsible for their actions.

Individualism. Not only are people in larger societies more anonymous, but they might also be more individualized. In a structured society with many institutions to provide aid to people for their problems, and paid services to meet their daily needs, people’s ties to groups might have weakened. People still organize themselves in groups, and it can greatly help them to get things done. However, they no longer rely on these groups to provide in all of their needs. For example, I do not need to establish a relationship with the cashier at my local supermarket before she’s willing to trade food for money with me. It’s easier to not be responsible because people have less risky relationships to maintain overall.

‘Let’s Hypothesize’ is part of an article series in which I do not rely on scientific references. Instead I will speculate on topics related to consumer behavior. Plus I will include more historical facts and sociological theories.

social sciences

How to deal with your anxiety

I have noticed that everyone experiences anxiety at one point in their lives. Whether it’s due to insecurity, pessimism or overall apathy. It could be caused by current events happening in your life or it might be linked to your disposition. If you can’t remember a time when you weren’t anxious or it influences your daily life, it might be time to do something about it. In this case, it would be a good idea to look for professional help. However, your anxiety could refrain you from taking this step. It is important to know that you can’t fix or deal with everything on your own! Mental problems are as serious as physical ones, and they are often related.

There could be different reasons for your anxiety, it could be that you’re about to do something important (such as a test), or your workload is too much to handle, anything changing the status quo (e.g. a divorce, being laid off, losing a loved one) you might be faced with insecurities that are hard to deal with. It is also entirely possible that you can’t even pinpoint what is causing you to feel anxious.

Here are important things to remember / strategies you could try to make your anxiety more bearable:

  1. Validate your feelings. It’s imperative to know that it’s entirely okay to feel anxious. Trying to suppress emotions can make you feel worse. You could even end up feeling anxious about feeling anxious. Therefore, acknowledge you feel this emotion.
  2. Take a small break. If it’s possible to do so, try to refrain from what is making you feel this way.  Though, in settings in which you need to participate to function in your daily life, make sure you do not refrain completely. Completely ignoring such settings will only make your situation worse (point 4). Taking a break is good for evaluating the situation and changing your thoughts and ideas, which could help you feel in control. In order to do so, you could use point 3.
  3. Engage in some cognitive behavioral therapy. This method will force you to change your thinking patterns by putting things in perspective. Take a look at this form. Go ahead and print it out if you want to practice.
    1. First, describe a situation which left you feeling anxious.
    2. Second, describe this feeling. How strong was it? Was it a mental feeling? Did you experience anything physical along with it? How would your rate it on a scale from 1-100?
    3. Third, describe the thoughts that were going through your head during that situations. Did it make the situation worse?
    4. Fourth, let’s fact check these thoughts. Are they true? Did they make sense in this situation?
    5. Fifth, come up with counterarguments for these thoughts. What evidence could indicate that you might be wrong?
    6. Sixth, combine both arguments into an alternative thought.
    7. Seventh, did the alternative thought change your feeling about the situation? Again, rate your emotions on a scale from 1-100. (I have provided an example at the bottom of this post).
  4. Don’t completely avoid situations that elicit anxiety if you need to engage in them in your daily life. If you’re dealing with social anxiety, it wouldn’t be a good idea to hide away at home and not participate in daily life. Also, we know that mere exposure can help people overcome fear. When someone stops interacting with settings that seem fearful to them, their anxiety will only become worse. People need to be regularly exposed to learn that the situation is not scary. Our psyche is incredible at forming associations. For instance, eating bad Chinese food once could make us not want to eat Chinese food ever again.
  5. If it won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes on it. This is important to remember to put your situation into perspective. Think about all the small encounters you had in the past that had zero influence on where you are now. This applies to what is going on now as well. Many things we experience today will not mean the end of the world tomorrow. If you’ve been walking around on Earth for a couple of years, you already overcame many hurdles, so I’m sure you can take on some more.

Again, I would like to emphasize, you could be dealing with serious problems that need a professional. Please, seek help if it affects your functioning in daily life. We can sit out a cold, most of the time, you probably won’t need your doctor for that. However, if your cold symptoms persist and severely affect your life, a visit to the doctor would be a good idea. This is also applicable in terms of mental health.

Example using the cognitive behavioral therapy form, test anxiety:
A: When taking a test I started feeling very anxious and I blacked out. I suddenly couldn’t remember anything I had studied.
B: I felt very anxious, my heart was beating fast, and I started to get nervous. I would rate it an 80.
C: I thought it would never be able to pass this test, I’m never going to get my degree, I’m a failure.
D: Well, I suddenly couldn’t remember the answers. But I did study really heard.
E: I passed many of my other tests, so I guess this one shouldn’t be out of reach either. I studied for weeks, so maybe if I was calm I would’ve been able to answer all the questions.
F: I should be able to pass this test, it isn’t more difficult than any of the other tests I already passed. I did study, so I can pass it if it wasn’t for blacking out.
G: I feel less anxious after putting this situation into perspective. I feel a bit more confident for my resit. I would rate my anxiety about 50 now.