Horror Short Stories Time!

Since Halloween is this Thursday, I decided to turn away from the usual content I post here, and work with something that’s related to Halloween.  So, despite not being a huge fan of the horror genre in general, I decided to ease my way into it by reading some horror short stories.

The Werewolf of Fever Swamp (TV special)
The Werewolf of Fever Swamp (TV special) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think I read about five, and ….big surprise… I didn’t like any of them. That is, until I somehow got the wonderful idea of looking up horror stories that are two sentences long. I had heard about them a few years ago, but I was never very interested in them, so I didn’t look ‘em up.

Big mistake. Seriously! Despite not being too keen in the whole horror thing, I found I loved them! It’s amazing just how they can tell stories that gave me the creeps in such a short amount of space. Absolutely wonderful!

Just a few examples, along with the users who created them:

jmperson : The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.

skuppy : My daughter won’t stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesn’t help.

Xresident :I reach my hand out to the mirror in front of me to offer some stability, but instead of cold glass against my hand, I feel the warm flesh of a palm, and looking up I see my reflection. Funny, it doesn’t feel like I’m smiling, but I must be.

After I finished reading some (a lot) of these, I worked up the energy to read just one more horror  short story (one of a more regular length). Thankfully, I ended up liking it, and I’m quite sure it isn’t just because I was “primed” by all these super short stories.

The story I’m talking about is called The Monkey’s Paw , by W.W. Jacobs, and it is the most interesting horror short stories I’ve read. I know that might not be saying much, since it just so happened that it was only the 6th one, but quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting to be so taken with it. ( Click here to read it.)

 

The simple fact that it carries deeper meaning and life lessons makes it very valuable in my eyes. However, I will not comment on what the lessons are: I will let you explore them 🙂 .

 

Anyhow, this is it for this Halloween post! Did you enjoy these short stories? Also, let me know if you have any recommendations, as I am new to this entire genre!

 

What Goes into Making You Happy?

An emoticon with a smile. For more emoticons i...
An emoticon with a smile. For more emoticons in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Emoticons. 32px|alt=W3C|link=http://validator.w3.org/✓ The source code of this SVG is valid. Category:Valid SVG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most important thing in life for many…actually, for most people is to be happy. This is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t go into a long explanation for the reason why. However, I will just say this: happiness is one of the things that make life worthwhile, so it is natural that we seek it.

In the post about Outliers, I mentioned that Gladwell presented having a meaningful job as a very important part of success. Yet, a meaningful job and its components are also important for overall happiness.

In this post I’ll try to unpack some of the other elements that go into happiness. I will leave genetics out of this article, however, because I prefer to concentrate on the things you can do to ensure that you’re going to be happy.

There was an entire article in Psychology Today devoted to unveiling happiness’ secrets, and you can read it by clicking here.

Embracing the Feeling of Uneasiness

The most fascinating idea in there was that people who are happy have a tendency to pursue activities and events that make them feel uncomfortable. In other words, they try to get out of their comfort-zones, and undergo experiences that make them feel somewhat uneasy.

But why? It feels so counter-intuitive at first sight that seeking out uncertainty and even a little bit of stress can turn out to award you with a feeling of blissfulness.

It seems that this whole mystery is simply connected to the fact that after you’ve undergone a new experience, you’re left with the feeling of accomplishment, which is what gives you happiness.

DSCN0682

Experiencing Things that Make You Feel Good

There are experiences that you know will put you in a good mood. Examples include watching a good movie, reading your favorite book, or enjoying a good conversation with someone.

Wouldn’t those be a better choice? Well, it seems that the answer is both yes and no. The magic lies in finding the right balance between the two types of experiences. Sadly, there’s no easy way that will reveal the right combination or ratio between them. You have to go out there and practice until you’ve found the right mix.

Being Grateful

Yeah, yeah, you’ve probably heard this before. Well guess what? It actually works! Studies have shown that individuals who take the time every day to think (or write down) the things they’re grateful for, tend to be happier. (Click here to read more about those studies).

This makes sense, because thinking of the good things in your life helps you appreciate them more. Plus, you’ve got the added benefit of having some moments in which you will put your negative thoughts aside, and replace them with happy, pleasant ones.

Investing in Others

This goes for both time and money. Meaningful relationships are crucial to us as humans, because we are designed to be social beings. We thrive when we’re around others; though those “others” must be people we actually like.

As for spending money, there’s research that shows that people who spent money on someone else were happier after than people who spent money on themselves. Click here to read more about this topic.

Relaxing

This is important for your well-being, but also for your happiness. When you relax, you push away the negative thoughts that are eating away at your mind.

Livin’ the Moment

There are so many benefits you can get from appreciating the moment you’re in. You’ll worry less, because worries come with thinking about the future, and you’re going to feel regret less, because regret usually appears when thinking of the past.

If you’d like to read more about this, click here to be taken to a post I made about enjoying the present.

To wrap up, I want to mention that above everything, happiness is something that is different for everybody. Each one of us may have their own list of things that make them happy, and I’d love to hear what are some of the items in that list for you! 🙂

The Impact Wealth Makes on Your Life

money
money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

In Outliers, Malcom Gladwell points out those children born in wealthy families are taught something very important for their life: to be independent. As an attitude, being independent is crucial for success in society, because each individual has to stand up for him or herself. One must realize that in order to get what they want, they need to go out there and seek it for themselves.

Being born in a poor family, says Gladwell, means that children have less chances of being thought to question authority and defend themselves when they’re wronged. They learn to be submissive, which, thinking of how the world works, can act as a tremendous flaw.

In this post, I’ll go over a few things that result from being born wealthy and from being born poor. The thing I’d like you to keep in mind, however, is that there is variability, and the outcomes I outlined here are by no means the rule.

To Be Born Rich

Not Worrying about Money

That’s quite obvious, but how precisely is this helpful? Sadly, one of the biggest factors that cause arguments in any kind of relationship (ranging from child-parent relationships to partner-partner relationship) is money, and more precisely, their absence. When you have money, you have one less thing to argue about, generally speaking.

Making Choices

When you grow up in a wealthy family, making choices is like second nature to you. You’re asked from a very young age to pick what you want to eat, how you want to dress, what toys you want to play with, and the list goes on and on. This teaches you that you’re in control, and by the time you become an adult, you are completely used to what this feels like.

Forgetting to be Grateful

The problem with thinking that you’re entitled to choose is that you’re always going to think that way. Sometimes, however, the choice is not yours to make, or is simply not available at the time you want it. This can lead to frustration and that, in turn, can make you forget the good things you’re blessed to have.

Feeling Like You Don’t Have to Accomplish Anything

This is by no means always the case, but there are occasions in which children who were born in rich families don’t feel motivated to achieve anything in life. They already have it all, so why bother? This attitude tends to change in later years, but it does leave its mark by delaying achievement.

To Be Born Poor 

Understanding the People around You

When you’re born in a family with limited financial power, you quickly learn that you’re more depended upon your environment than not. Part of that environment are the people around you, from whom you might require help. This is why, coming from a poor family you learn to communicate with and understand people better.

  Awareness of the Small Things

When you don’t have money to spend on everything you’d like to have, you tend to turn your attention to things that don’t require money, and appreciate them more. In this manner, you learn to love nature and be grateful for the people around you.

  Fear

Lack of money can cause a state of constant fear, and instability. If your parents are not capable to make ends meet, their stressed will likely reflect on you as well. I have seen people who grew up during the Second World War in Europe, who were extremely poor during their childhood. Even after the war passed, and they were able to become richer, they still feared losing their money.

Desire to Blend In

Dependence upon the environment, and the people in it, might cause you to want to be the same as everyone. This desire is driven in part by wishing to reach the standards of society (for being poor means being below the standard). When that standard is reached many feel compelled to remain within its boundaries, even if that means forsaking some parts that make you…well, you.

Bottom Line 

Does it mean that what is written here should be treated as fixed and bound to happen? Absolutely not! Besides individual differences, there is always one tool that you must be aware of: once you’ve become conscious of a certain problem, or a certain pattern of behavior, you can fix it. The problem lies not in being a certain way, but in not being aware of it.  

The most important thing to remember is that you are not defined as the condition you were born in. You actions, and attitude towards life are the factors that define who you are. The rest is just part of your history.

Read More! Here are a few links to other articles on this topic:

Why Family Wealth Is A Curse (forbes.com)

Why Family Wealth Is A Blessing (forbes.com)

How the Rich are Different from the Poor I: Choice (psychologytoday.com)

How the Rich are Different from the Poor II: Empathy (psychologytoday.com)

These first four articles are the main sources I used for putting together this post. If you’re interested in this topic, be sure to read them.Finally, here are just two posts I found very interesting:

How Does It Feel To Be RICH? (luckisforlosers.wordpress.com)

21 Ways Rich People Think Differently (teremity.wordpress.com)

 

Learning, Practicing and the Brain

  In my last post, on Malcom Gladwell‘s Outliers, I mentioned that practice is one of the factors that makes us good (or really good) at performing a task. Today, I’d like to explore with you how the brain adjusts to our learning. 

For years it has been thought that the human brain stops developing around adolescence. Nevertheless, it has been shown that the brain continues to grow and change beyond the 20-year mark, and up until mid-twenties. The particular area that becomes more complex after the teenage years is the frontal lobe, which is crucial for thinking processes, such as planning, problem solving, reasoning, and for attention.

English: Brain viewed from the right side show...
English: Brain viewed from the right side showing the 4 major cerebral lobes. This is a digitally enhanced version of an illustration from Manuel de L’anatomiste, by Charles Morel and Mathias Duval, published in 1883 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

          Hence, it can be concluded that our ability to think and pay attention expands after adolescence is over. 

There is, however, research that seems to attack this theory, not by opposing it completely, but by expanding upon its affirmations. This research has shown that our brains do NOT reach full maturity before we are 30; rather, they continue their development up until late in our 40s. Particularly, it is the prefrontal cortex (responsible for abstract thinking and analysis) that has been shown to change its shape on brain scans.

               What does it all mean?

What this new information suggests is that brain capacity broadens  as we mature, and it is notably our thinking that improves as years pass.

                How is this connected to learning?  

Learning happens when the brain has changed in a manner that allows for faster connections (synapses) between the brain cells (neurons), or when the structure of neurons has changed from within. As the brain develops, learning is easier simply because these changes can occur faster.

Compare this idea with molding clay that is warm and soft (in our case, the brain as it is developing), and molding it when it is hardened (the mature brain).            

              How does practicing come into the picture? 

When you practice a certain skill, a set of neurons in your brain begin firing. The more you do that particular task, the faster the neurons are at forming connections with one another, and hence, the better and faster you become at doing that it.  Moreover, if you keep repeating that task, or using the skill, the brain part in charge of that will change in dimensions, increasing in order to accommodate for the new synapses formed.

There you have it! Practically, our ability to perform a skill is translated as the ability of our neurons to form connections between them. Once we have repeated something enough times, we become better at it because the neurons have learnt the road they have to take in order to help you perform.