You 2.0: The Empathy Gym

What books are on your summer reading list?

If you’re reading mostly nonfiction, consider the benefits of adding a novel to the mix.

“There’s a fair amount of evidence now that the more fiction that people read, the more empathetic that they become,” says Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki. “Because fiction is one of the most powerful ways to connect with people who are different from us who we might not have a chance to meet otherwise.”

Zaki argues that empathy is like a muscle — it can be strengthened with exercise and it can atrophy when idle. On this episode of Hidden Brain, we talk about calibrating our empathy so we can interact with others more mindfully.

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CrossFit Helped Us Face Our Son’s Autism Diagnosis

Annie, my wife, agrees. And if you knew Annie, she doesn’t overstate anything.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of awesome things happen personally (I taught my daughter how to ride a bike… on Father’s Day!) and professionally (my second book came out), but the last year has been tough.

Honestly, we’ve sort of been reeling since Sept. 18, 2012. That’s the day we learned that our son Griffin might be on the autism spectrum. In 2013, after jumping through all sorts of hoops and watching our son be poked and prodded again and again in the name of evaluations, we learned that our little Griffy is autistic.

So much of our hearts and minds have been wrapped up trying to learn what autism means and what to do and how to feel. We struggled. We cried. Nothing we could say or do made it better. Much of whatever free time was left after a day of wiping ends of kids, feeding, bathing, and putting them to bed was spent talking about autism.

We took less photos. We spent less time with friends. We both were depressed.

Full story of parents handling autism at the Huffington Post

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,

Here’s One Way to Wreck a Child’s Education: Take Away Recess

Recess is the only “subject” my 9-year-old will talk about.

I don’t even bother asking him how school is. He’s a good student. An excellent student. A veracious reader. I’m not telling you this to brag. I don’t have an “honor roll” sticker on the back of my car. I’m telling you this because my child will not answer any question about school positively.

The only thing he will talk about is recess. In recess, there is a hierarchy. There are kids who cheat. There are kids who can help him troubleshoot rainbow loom issues. There are kids who will challenge him to be a better basketball and soccer player. There is freedom. There’s downtime. There’s time to think outside of the desk he is chained to all day long.

I get so much detail about recess that it’s hard to believe it’s only 30 minutes of his day. But to him, it’s everything. It’s his world. Yet, according to a new article in The Atlantic, taking away recess has become “common practice among teachers trying to rein in unruly students.” Says The Atlantic:

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 77 percent of school principals reported taking away recess as a punishment, while a 2006 study found 81.5 percent of schools allowed students to be excluded from recess.

Full story of children’s recess at school at the Huffington Post

Sitting, Lack Of Exercise Linked With Symptoms Of Depression In New Study

A new study shows an association between sitting time and mental health. Particularly, the longer a person sits, the more likely he or she is to have symptoms of depression. The findings, first reported in Runner’s World, were reached by researchers from Victoria University and the University of Queensland.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is based on 8,950 women ages 50 to 55 who answered surveys in 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2010.

Researchers took note of their depressive symptoms and physical activity levels, and also grouped them based on how much time they spent sitting each day (four or fewer hours a day, four to seven hours a day, or more than seven hours a day).

The study found that women who sat for more than seven hours a day were at a 47 percent higher risk for depressive symptoms, compared with women who sat for four or fewer hours a day. And women who didn’t do any exercise had a 99 percent higher risk for depressive symptoms, compared with those who exercised according to physical activity guidelines.

Runner’s World reported that those who sat the most and didn’t exercise had the highest risk of all, with a tripled risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.

Full story of lack of exercise and depression at Huffington Post

12 ways we sabotage our mental health

How We Sabotage our Mental HealthOur mind and mood are keenly sensitive to the world around us. Distressing life events—a bad breakup, unemployment, the death of a loved one—often leave us rattled or sad, of course, but our daily routine and patterns of thinking also have a big impact on our mood. Bad habits like skimping on sleep, drinking too much, or nursing grudges can undermine our mental health, whether that means a brief episode of the blues or full-blown depression and anxiety.

Happily, many of these mental pitfalls can be avoided. We break down 12 of the most common and provide tips for how to steer clear.

Avoiding exercise

Why it’s harmful: In addition to keeping your body in shape, physical activity plays a key role in propping up mood; it can even help ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety, research suggests. Regular exercise appears to have a positive effect on brain chemicals and mood-related hormones, and it may confer psychological benefits (such as increased confidence) that foster better mental health.

Full story of our mental health at Fox News

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,

Give The Gift of Health and Exercise this Holiday Season with a New Fitness Game for Kids: Introducing Flip2BFit

Children Holiday Health and ExerciseThis holiday season, help kids start the New Year off on the right foot through a new and exciting fitness board game that teaches kids about physical activity and nutrition. Introducing Flip2BFit, an interactive board game where kids develop self-esteem, confidence, and leadership skills through stretching, strength building, cardio and yoga activities – no gym or video game needed! In addition to Flip2BFit, the company also offers an exciting game of memory called Bakari, which emphasizes the same physical fitness skills as Flip2BFit but also challenges the mind!

At the age of 12, Flip2BFit Founder Heather Parisi was a national gymnast when she suddenly broke her leg leaving her with a discrepancy in length in her legs. This injury caused her to be teased, bullied, and eventually led to an eating disorder, which she overcame. However, through fitness she was able to find a place to be “normal” as she was still able to participate (and excel) in sporting activities, ultimately becoming a collegiate diver. Her physical challenges coupled with her awareness of the growing obesity problem among children in the U.S., were the drivers to create a fitness game for kids.

Full story of health for the holidays at The San Francisco Chronicle

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,

Regular Exercise May Be Helpful To Prevent The Development Of Panic Attacks And Related Disorders

By Christopher Fisher

A new study suggests that regular exercise may be a useful strategy for helping prevent the development of panic and related disorders. People with an intense fear of the nausea, racing heart, dizziness, stomachaches, and shortness of breath that accompany panic — known as “high anxiety sensitivity” — reacted with less anxiety to a panic-inducing stressor if they had been engaging in high levels of physical activity, said researchers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the University of Vermont in Burlington.

“Anxiety sensitivity is an established risk factor for the development of panic and related disorders,” said SMU psychologist Jasper Smits, lead author on the research. “This study suggests that this risk factor may be less influential among persons who routinely engage in high levels of physical activity.”

Regular exercise as an alternative or complementary strategy to drugs and psychotherapy
There is already good evidence that exercise can be of help to people who suffer from depression and anxiety problems, say the researchers.

Full story at The Behavioral Medicine Report

Why kids need recess and exercise

By Denene Millner

( — More and more researchers, educators, and parents are realizing that not only is playground time good for kids-it is crucial. Here’s why it just may be the fourth "R" in school, and what you can do to make sure your child gets a healthy dose of downtime.

Let me put this out there: I totally get it. Teachers are under pressure to make sure they’ve drilled reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic deep into their students’ brains — and there are only so many hours in the school day.

So if you have to get rid of an "extra" activity to make way for more book time — well, you might as well go for the playtime. After all, school is supposed to be about learning, right? And what mom doesn’t want her kid to ace The Test?

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