I recently appeared on WCCO Television (Twin Cities) to discuss “Zoom fatigue,” a phenomenon that has emerged as we spend hour upon hour interacting via virtual means. The science is still very early, however, Jeremy Bailenson, Ph.D., at Stanford University has offered compelling theories concerning possible causes and suggested some countermeasures.
There is currently considerable interest in telehealth addiction care. Allina Health began offering it in February 2019 to address geographic voids in greater Minnesota. We were thus well-positioned for virtual care when the Covid-19 pandemic occurred about a year later.
Well, about 48 minutes.
Janet Lewis Muth, Director of Health Promotion at Carleton College, and I were guests today on MPR News with Angela Davis. We discussed happiness. Please see my earlier posts (and here, here and here) for more context.
I’ll let Linda’s work speak for itself—it’s an absolute gem—but offer the following references for those who might want to go deeper:
Here are some of my source documents
- Pandemic prevalence of mental health symptoms and substance use (CDC)
- Increase in overdoses (New York Times)
- Suicides and overdoses among the young (Robert Redfield, M.D. [CDC])
- Business cycle and suicide (Am J Public Health 2011;101:1139)
- Dangerous, counterfeit pills in Minnesota (DEA)
I appeared on WCCO Television this morning to discuss some new alcohol drinking limits. The context was a Lancet study that will likely be incorporated into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s updated Dietary Guidelines
Consistent with the Lancet study and traditional binge drinking definitions, my current advice regarding consumption is:
- Men: Up to 7 drinks per week; no more than 4 drinks per occasion/sitting
- Women: Up to 7 drinks per week; no more than 3 drinks per occasion/sitting
Key caveat: These recommendations are for people without a history of addiction. Those with a history of addiction should abstain from alcohol.
Taken all together, how would you say things are these days—would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?
Only 14% of people reported feeling “very happy,” which was a sharp drop from the usual run rate. In contrast, 23% of respondents indicated that they are “not too happy.” Both findings are unprecedented (red oval)
Correlation does not imply causation, however, the investigators pursued some provocative Covid-19-related explanations dealing with viral hotspots, loneliness and income. And while George Floyd was not mentioned in NORC’s report, his senseless death on May 25th occurred right in the middle of the survey period. I’d speculate that tragedy and the national reckoning which has followed was also on respondents’ minds
Regardless of the causes, what are some ways to improve happiness?
I generally recommend making peace with the present. This perennial wisdom that has strong, contemporary scientific support. For example, a seminal study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert tracked happiness in real time using iPhone surveys. They found that people were happiest when their minds weren’t wandering—that is, when they were totally present in the now
In conclusion, a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional costScience 2010;330:932
You can prove this to yourself by enrolling in the study, which is still running
Present moment awareness is sometimes called mindfulness, a trendy, frequently misunderstood word that I’ve avoided up until now. If you’re intrigued, I suggest snagging a copy of The Power of Now, the classic book by Eckhart Tolle. I often point people to “Wherever You Are, Be There Totally” (section), which starts on Page 82 in Google Books
I’ll try to mention other tips and tricks on the air, and hope to add them to my profile page at Allina Health later this week. ✸