Books

Matters of the Mind: “How to Be a Mentalist: Master the Secrets Behind the Hit TV Show”, by Simon Winthrop

Intertitle from season 2 of the television pro...
Intertitle from season 2 of the television program The Mentalist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honor of the much-anticipated end to the Red John saga, from the TV show The Mentalist, I thought it would be a fun idea to discuss a book that is written around this very show.

How to Be a Mentalist”, by Simon Winthrop, promises its readers to uncover the mysteries of “mind reading”, as presented by Patrick Jane in his mission to find and imprison murderers. The only exception to this mission is the man because of whom it all begun, as Patrick has different plans after having found him.

The Mentalist is all about the mind: tricks and games, readings and predictions, realizations and assumptions. Winthrop tries in his book to shed light into how Patrick Jane has managed to master these matters of the mind.

Though I can’t say that after having read the book I can go out there and know people the same way Jane seems to, I do feel like I’ve gained some pretty interesting insight into what’s required to truly understand people.

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1)The Mind-Body Connection

Winthrop stresses this quite a lot: you can’t expect to have a well-functioning mind if your body is badly taken care of and generally unhealthy. He brings some viable suggestions to the table, such as meditating, doing exercise, and getting enough sleep. These may sound like common-sense notions, but it is staggering just how many of us don’t get around to doing any of these things.

2)Improve Your Memory

To truly be a mentalist, your memory must be excellent. When watching the show, we can’t help but notice that it is Patrick’s remarkable capacity to recall that almost always solves the case, or at least plays a crucial role in it. Winthrop gives some suggestions of improving the capacity of recalling. For example, practicing by trying to remember as many details from any event, object or person as possible is one of the best ways of improving the memory.

Winthrop also explains the concept of the Memory Palace, which is brought up in The Mentalist in a few episodes. It seems that the trick is to use a space that you’re extremely familiar with, and every time you have to remember something, you must break that thing into (funny) parts, and place each part in different sections of the familiar space.

3)Deal with Liars the Right Way

To me, the most valuable thing that I read in this book was, in fact, not something I’ve never heard before, but something I think we should all be reminded of as often as possible. Before you’re dealing with someone you know is a liar, make sure you have checked all your beliefs. That way, there’s no way you’re going to get confused and lost in the lie.

4)Maintain Your Appearance

We’re all about appearance, whether we like it or not. Truth is, we’re programmed that way, so fighting against it, though helpful to some extent, will probably end in failure. This is why, particularly those interested to become mentalists, must make sure that they appear powerful. To appear powerful, you must be confident and relaxed.

I participated in a psychology study recently, and there we had to watch several videos of pairs of people interacting for the first time. After that, we had to fill out a questionnaire about one of the people in each video. Most questions were concerned with whether I liked them or not, would I trust them, and so on.

The funny thing? The more confident and in control of the situation they were, the more tempted I was to say that I liked them. And yet, I hadn’t even actually met them! Just something to think about… 🙂

5)Instincts and the Subconsciousness

One of the theories out there is that instincts come from our subconsciousness. How? Well, it is assumed that our subconsciousness is able to pick up on clues that our conscious mind doesn’t (such as the body language of the person you are talking to). This is what Winthrop was also suggesting, and I believe this is a valuable to keep in mind. If this is true, then instincts should be used to our advantage. A little besides the topic of this post, but connected to instincts is the book “The Gift of Fear”, written by Gavin de Becker. It explores how fear that might seem unjustified might in fact, be an indicator of danger that your subconsciousness has picked up on.

If you like The Mentalist, and are looking for a fun read, then this book might just hit the spot. However, don’t expect it to convert you into the best mentalist that ever walked the Earth, first of all because that would require practice. Lots and lots of it. Second, this book did not strike me as a manual, but rather, as I just said, a fun read for the evenings.

As far as the actual TV show goes, what are your thoughts on the Red John matter? Are you excited for it to finally be over?

3 Simple Tips to Start Saving

Lately, the topic of saving money has been on my mind more than usual. It’s probably because I realized the money I am spending on clothing, home decorations and other such things, could be spent on experiences that would contribute to my development as a person, as opposed to things. Equally important, I should start saving up for the future.

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Via Pixabay

Here are some of the techniques I’ve been using the past few weeks. I just love how simple, yet effective they are:

1) Create, Don’t Buy

I love decorating my home. I love getting stuff that speaks to my heart, and which makes my home…a little homier. Nevertheless, home decor can get pretty expensive, and I don’t want to leave my wallet bleeding to make my heart smile.

The solution? DIY projects

There are two main benefits to doing this: first of all, you save money, which is what this post is all about. Second, you recycle, thus helping the environment. You can easily change up a few old objects around your home, giving them a new look and a new life. Plus, you can reduce waste by using some of the stuff you’d normally throw out. Something I’ve been doing is creating pretty containers from used cans. Another thing that I love to do is find out new ways of reusing plastic bottles.

Here are two lovely articles on re-using bottles and cans:
http://homesthetics.net/23-insanely-creative-ways-to-recycle-plastic-bottles-into-diy-projects/
http://www.diyncrafts.com/17424/repurpose/50-jaw-dropping-ideas-for-upcycling-tin-cans-into-beautiful-household-items/2

 

 2) Get Rid of Stuff You Don’t Use

It’s easy to get attached to stuff, and refuse to get it out of your home, even well after you’ve stopped using it. Here’s the thing though: you could be making money off it! So, be a little heartless with your objects and real with yourself: what will you probably never use again? Take them all out, and sort them: keep what you can transform through DIY into usable things, and sell the rest. This way, instead of collecting dust, your stuff could be bringing you money.

 

3) Don’t Be Afraid to Buy Used Things

Yup, buying stuff doesn’t have to leave your wallet empty. If there’s something that you need, try to think if you can buy it used. Clothing and furniture are just two examples of what you don’t need to buy new.

 

These tips are pretty simple, but in the long run, they could really save you quite a bit of money. Plus, you won’t be hurting the environment as much, which is equally satisfying.

Have fun saving!

/Larisa

 

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

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Today we’re exploring diabetes with owls. Special guest? David Sedaris.

Well, actually, we’re not. This book’s a collection of humoristic essays from Sedaris’ life (plus a few fictional ones), so the title sorta had to be broken from the world of the absurd. There are owls in this book though (not just on the cover ).

I loved this book for bedtime reading, which is why the picture above is the way it is. Inspired, huh? What I can’t say I loved quite as much were those fictional essays of his. I suppose they provided a nice break from the other essays, but I wasn’t looking for a break from them, which is probably why they didn’t work for me. Some of them I found straight out too dark to be part of this book, and quite frankly, this annoyed me a little. But thankfully, they were only a few, so it didn’t ruin the whole book. Yaay!

There are plenty of life lessons in this one, but I must say: I didn’t try that hard to look for them. Rather, I simply enjoyed the book and its stories, as I felt that this is the way this book should be read.

Nevertheless, I’m not gonna go without giving you the overall lesson that kept jumping out from the pages of these essays. It just wouldn’t be right, considering this blog:

You can get a laugh out of nearly every life situation.

Of course there are some life situations even the most devoted comedian should leave aside and not explore. But most of them? They’re hella funny! Change the angle you’re looking from, or pay closer attention to the details around you. Who knows? This may make your life better. I’d recommend your read David Sedaris for a lesson into the art of funny-ing everything.

/Larisa

 

Recommended reading:

Owls, Yes, But Also Kookaburras And Dentists In Sedaris’ Latest: http://www.npr.org/2013/04/10/176785307/owls-yes-but-also-kookaburras-and-dentists-in-sedaris-latest

“Be the Pack Leader” and “Cesar’s Rules” by Cesar Millan

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I my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to write about a book I finished a while ago. Well, surprise, surprise, I am going to write about TWO books. Yaaay!

The reason I decide to put them together is that they’re both on the same topic, and by the same author: dogs, and Cesar Millan, respectively.

I’ve mentioned in past blogs that I have two dogs. They are known under various names, including “Monkey”, “Baby boy”,”Little fella”, “Silly face”, and pretty much anything else I come up with, but their actual names are Tommy and Lupu. Tommy is the eldest, and he received his name because my grandmother had a dog named Tommy in her youth, and I though that it would make her happy to have another 4-legged creature with the same name. Lupu received his name because his fur resembled that of a wolf (and “Lupu” means “wolf” in Romanian), but as I found out, his personality doesn’t match his name in any respect. Still, it’s a cool contrast.

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But back to the topic. I bought these books a while ago, and after having read them,I gotta say: man, I wish I had them when my silly faces were babies. I guess it was just one of those things, where because I had grown up with dogs, I was under the impression I knew all there was to know about them.

Not so, not so. The more time passed, the more I realized how little I actually know about these creatures I had spent my entire childhood with. I’m glad I read them, because now I understand my dogs better. I no longer expect more than they’re capable of giving, and my relationship with them has improved. Well, not entirely, but you know…gettin’ there :).

Now, on to the lessons. As per usual, these are just a few of the things I learnt, because if I were to write everything, it would take a while.

1.Dogs are animals.

You’re probably going like “No shit, Sherlock!”. Yeah, I know…sounds pretty obvious. But you see, I believe many of us (including me), think of dogs as sort of weird-looking humans, and expect from them things that only a human can do. We expect them to understand when we’re sad, and we want them to comfort us. Surely, all those movies we’ve seen must show exactly how dogs actually act, right? While a very few dogs do react to sadness in the specific way we would want them to, most don’t. I’m not saying here that they don’t perceive it; just that they don’t know how we want them to react to that. There are plenty of other examples, and perhaps I’ll tackle this topic later on, but you get the point: treat dogs like they’re dogs, adjust your expectations of them, and your relationship will improve.

    2.  Dogs need to be respected.

This is a perfect sag-way from what I just talked about before,because it gives me a chance to explain myself. When I say that dogs should be treated like what they are, I in no way mean that they should be treated badly. Absolutely no way. They are little beings, and should be treated in the best way possible. Only thing is, they should be treated in the best way possible according to their own needs, which are driven by their genes (aka by their innate “dogness”). Many people forget that dogs need to be respected,in more ways than one. They may not be “smart” in the way you expect them to be, but they sure as hell have a bright mind.Even the less…umm…cognitively-gifted ones still have qualities that need to be respected. Find those qualities, and appreciate your doggie for them.

   3. Dogs need exercise.

They’re active creatures, and they’re used to getting their hearts pumping. Run with them, go for walks, play, or do anything that you and your little one may enjoy. Here’s the thing: don’t expect them to be super well-behaved dogs when they’re carrying a lot of extra energy with them. They might just need to release it by…say, chewing all your furniture.

 4. Take responsibility.

Another obvious one, that a lot of people seem to forget. It’s your dog, so it’s your responsibility. If you haven’t had time to invest in their training, don’t complain about how “badly” they behave. They are simply doing what is in their nature, they’re not doing it to spite you. If you haven’t train them well, don’t expect that by the grace of some unknown Dog Lords, your little one will act exactly as you want him or her to act. Oh, and one more thing: if you don’t have time for a dog, don’t buy one, only to realize a few months later that you can’t take care of one. That’s how dogs end up on the street and end up with miserable lives.

5. Enforce boundaries.

Yes, dogs need love to thrive. You know what else they need? Boundaries. Dogs are used to living in a pack, where the alpha enforces boundaries so that the entire pack is happy. When they lack those boundaries, they are not in their “natural” state, and as much as you think they like it, they don’t. And you probably don’t like it when they don’t listen. A well-behaved dog is a happy one, and has a happy owner.

 

These are just a few of the lessons these books have taught me. Cesar Millan is a wonderful teacher when it comes to dogs, and I love using his approach. While there’s still a bit to go with my own pups, I have already learnt a lot from him and his books.

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What rules do you have for your dogs? I’d love to know! 🙂

/Larisa

 

 

Catching Up on Blogging

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Via Pexels.com

Do you know the feeling of taking a break from something for so long, when you return to it, it takes a while to figure out where you left off, or what it is exactly you were doing before you took that break? Say, you begin a book, step away from it (for about a million years), only to come back to a story that’s unknown to you?

While I am intimately familiar with the example I just gave, this is not what I wanted to talk about.

Blogging. That’s what I wanted to talk about.

I stepped away from it for those million years I was just talking about, and now that I’m back, I’m a little bit …confused, shall we say?

I wanted to write about a book I finished reading a while back, and I had to check whether I had already written about it. That’s…well, that’s just fantastic.

As it turns out, I have’t written about it, so I’ll get to do that now. What book is it, you may wonder? Well, for that you’re just going to have to stay tuned : )

I have started reading about five books in the past year, and I haven’t had a chance to finish them, because life got hectic. Real hectic, actually, but I’m not going to devote any more time to that part of it than I’ve already done.

So, moving on. I am currently making my way through the books I began, while studying. Yes, well, there’s always some studying that needs to happen in the background, am I right?

Currently, I am reading David Sedaris’, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, as a bedtime book. I find it perfect for that purpose, and I am considering buying more of his books for the same purpose.

That’s it for now 🙂

/Larisa

What Is Depression, and What Can You Do About It?

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Via Pixabay

Depression is very common, having been named “the cold of mental disorders”, in an attempt to explain just how often it is seen. Despite this, it’s still misunderstood by the general population, and even by those who are depressed.

However, it’s very important that more people become aware of what depression really is, in order for them to be able to either help those around them, or even themselves, get the proper treatment when they need it.

 

What Depression is Not

First of all, one has to understand what depression is not. In the day-to-day life, people tend to go through periods of happiness, followed by periods of unhappiness. These ups and downs are normal, and they usually correspond to events that happen in one’s life.

While people often say that they are depressed when they’re experiencing those “downs”, this is the wrong label, as it is not depression they’re experiencing.

 

What is Depression?

Depression is characterized by feelings of despair, and an inability to find pleasure and interest in everyday activities. Indeed, this loss of interest can be so debilitating that it might leave a person completely unable to carry out regular activities.

Here is a list of symptoms that one might experience when undergoing a depressive episode:

  • Experiencing depressed mood almost the entire day.
  • A substantial decline in interest in nearly any activity.
  • Lack of movement, or too much movement.
  • A substantial decline in energy levels.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Weight loss or gain that is unintentional.
  • Decreased ability to concentrate.
  • Feeling worthless.
  • Experiencing guilt.
  • Thinking about death.
  • Thinking about suicide or attempting to commit it.

These symptoms have to last for over 2 weeks in order for it to be considered depression.

 

What Should You Do when Experiencing Depression?

The first step you should take is talk to a professional about it. If you don’t know where to start, even going to your family doctor is a good idea, as he or she will be able to point you in the right direction. In addition to this, there are a few things that you can do to help yourself.

  • Exercise
  • Eat healthy
  • Get the proper amount of sleep

You’ve probably heard about how good these things are for you that you might be tempted to ignore them, but you shouldn’t. Indeed, they can help you improve your mood, and though they might not be the quickest way to healing your mind, they are efficient.

Exercise

While exercising, most people enjoy an elevated mood, and though someone who’s depressed might not experience this, after a few weeks of exercising 3 to 4 times per week, there are high chances that you will notice an improvement in the way you feel.

Not only this, but exercise can also help you relieve stress, and improve your energy, which will leave you better able to deal with everyday activities.

Eat Healthy

Eating healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits is always a good idea, but this tends to be even more true for depressed people. By doing so, you will be feeding both your body and your brain with the nutrients it needs to work properly. As such, your brain will be on its way to recovery.

Get the Proper Amount of Sleep

Getting enough sleep is probably easier said than done. If you have insomnia, then you simply can’t get to sleep. However, there are things that you can do make falling asleep easier.

For instance, you can start by having a bedtime routine that helps you relax, which might involve reading a book, drinking a hot beverage such as tea or milk, and having a warm bath.

Then, if you find yourself unable to get to sleep, you should make sure that you don’t stay in bed, as that will only make matters worse. Rather, get up, and continue reading the book, or do something else, until you feel like you are about to fall asleep again. If this doesn’t help at all, then talk to your doctor about getting medication for sleeping.

If, on the other hand, you sleep too much , then you should make sure that you have activities that you can do throughout the day in order to avoid sleeping.

 

Ask for Help

Talking to a professional might feel a bit overwhelming, and if that feels like it’s too much in the beginning, you should start by asking a loved one for help.

Some people feel ashamed about having depression, but it is nothing to be ashamed about. Not only is it very common, but it’s also not your fault that you have it.

If you open up to someone who cares about you, you don’t have to worry about them thinking less of you, because they will very likely understand and try their best to help you.

 

Experiencing depression is difficult, but luckily, the problem can be dealt with. While getting the help of a professional is the surest way to healing, there are a few things you can do on your own, such as getting the help of a friend, taking care of how much you sleep and of what you eat, and exercising.

 

Sources:

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-signs-and-symptoms.htm

http://depressionhurts.ca/en/manage/social-life.aspx

http://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/depression/

Some “What Ifs” Are Better than “Oh Wells”

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Via Flickr

I’m sure you’ve heard people saying that it’s better to have done something and regretted it later than to not have done something and always wonder what would have happened if you would have had enough courage to do it. I agree with this, but I also believe that it’s not always true.

There are some things that are better left floating in the land of “what if” than being brought down into the world of reality. Why? Because some things might never turn into “oh well”. They might just turn into “why did I do that?”

Now, it’s hard to figure out which “what ifs” are better than others. Perhaps that’s why the idea of always doing something you want instead of wondering about it came to be. But what if there would be a better way than this? What if we could make sure that we go for the right “what if”, leaving the wrong one behind?

The world in which this always happens is a fictional world. We can’t always know. Sometimes we are going to mess up. Occasionally, we’re going to mess up a lot worse than other times. That’s something we need to learn to accept, because striving for perfection is a losing battle.

When trying to figure out if something is worth the risk, whatever that risk may be,  you have to consider how important that thing is for you. Can you learn to be without it? Be careful here. I wrote “learn” intentionally. It is normal to feel like you can’t be without something you’ve started to “crave”, but as time passes, the craving might go away, and you will learn to be without that thing.

However, if you feel like that thing has the potential to complete your life in a meaningful way, perhaps letting go is not the best thing in the world.

Keep in mind here that whatever the conclusion you arrive at, you might still have to learn to be without that thing, eventually. You can’t always get what you want, so be prepared for that possibility too.

Think of the situation where you might feel tempted to call your ex and try to get back together. Such a decision is always loaded emotionally, and I would personally call up a friend to get their opinion, because it will be less biased than yours, but you can also try to think of whether it’s really worth it. It’s very hard, but even in these situations, where the irrational part of your brain seems to be taking over, you might still be able to hear the voice of rationality, lost between your thoughts. Listen to it.

Even here, you might end up where you started all over again, if your ex won’t want to get back together. If you choose to give it a shot, be prepared for this option. But maybe leaving things at “what if” is the better choice.

/Larisa

The Terrifying Face of Change

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“We are creatures of habit.” The number of times I’ve heard this is ridiculously high, yet I never really gave it much thought. “Yes, I suppose we are.”, I’d say to myself, and go about my day, without really absorbing what the person meant by saying this. Hell, maybe they didn’t even know the extent to which they were right.

The idea of change is a beautiful one, isn’t it? There’s a certain comfort in thinking that your life won’t always be the same. Of course, we hope that someday it will be better. That we’ll get that dream job we’ve wanted since we were kids, that we’ll be able to afford the house, the car, the clothes, and the vacations we want. The reality, however, is that change isn’t always good. Sometimes, we go down a level instead of up. That can happen at work, but it can also happen in life. One day you’re happily riding the “Business Class” of life, and then the next, all of a sudden, you’re sent to “Economy”. No warning, no nothing.

This is why people don’t always welcome change; because they don’t know if it means that something good will happen, or something bad. Of course, some are better than others at dealing with the uncertainty of it all. Yet still, most of us are wired to prefer what is known, because simply knowing something makes it more comforting than not knowing. This is why people will stay in crappy conditions (and I’m sure you can think of someone who has stayed waaaay too long in a bad relationship). Chances are, they probably know that those conditions suck. But there’s a little voice inside of them whispering that maybe, just maybe, if they dare to change something, they might end up in a situation that’s even worse.

Via pixabay
Via pixabay

Many times, change can be seen as a good thing; a way for getting out of a life that’s not offering what you’re looking for. Even so, the more that change is approaching, the more terrifying it can be to look at it.

But there’s good news! Sometimes, change can make it seem as though you’ve gone to a worse place than you were before. Perhaps, temporarily, it may be true. However, if you know how to make use of it, even the scariest of changes can lead to better outcomes. Maybe you find yourself having to quit your job, leading to a period of unemployment. Let’s be honest here: for most people, going from job to no job is going from good to bad. Yet, this may give  you the chance to look for a better job than the one you had. It may push you to do something you never did before, because you were too comfortable.

Change happens outside of your comfort zone, but stepping into that land doesn’t feel all that great at first. There’s a reason it’s called the “comfort” zone. Nevertheless, once the change has occurred, you may just find that your zone of comfort is extended, and you can do so much more than before. This is why, no matter how terrifying change may seem, it certainly comes with benefits.

/Larisa