Science & Spirit: Sleeping, Dogs, Uncertainty

Science & Spirit: Sleeping, Dogs, Uncertainty

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This week, learn why adopting a dog is a lot like dating; how to deal with uncertainty; and sneaky ways to reset your body clock. Want to know more? Read on.

The Psychology of Choosing a Dog

Adopting a dog from a pet shelter is a lot like dating. How so? Researchers from Indiana University found there’s a disconnect in what people say they want in a partner—or a pooch—and what they ultimately pick. For example, pet-seekers may get caught up in the search for “the One,” like a purebred, and miss out on a good fit. Or they misread signals, such as when a dog seems playfully perky at the shelter but comes home and gnaws on the couch. And as with human dates, performance anxiety can alter how dogs act when they first meet you (ahem). For a better fit—whether that’s a pet or dating partner—limit your search criteria to the most desired traits only. This will help you avoid filtering out a good match based on less important qualities.

Dealing with Uncertainty

Waiting for uncertain news—like the results of a scary lab test—can be tortuous. But there are some ways to alleviate the discomfort of a waiting period, according to Kate Sweeny, a professor of psychology at UC Riverside. Meditation helps some people, as do engaging games. Sweeny has also discovered that viewing an awe-inspiring video, such as of a majestic sunrise or of the cosmos, works too. “Watching even a short video that makes you feel awe can make waiting easier, boosting positive emotions that can counteract stress in those moments,” Sweeny wrote in her research. For more ways to get through, read “5 Ideas When Things Are Beyond Your Control.”

Retraining the Night Owl

Being a night owl has been thought of as a fixed tendency. However, new research has found that “establishing simple routines could help night owls adjust their body clocks and improve their overall physical and mental health,” wrote Debra Skene, a professor at the University of Surrey who participated in the study. “Insufficient levels of sleep and circadian misalignment can disrupt many bodily processes putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.” (See my story, “Is It Dangerous Being a Night Owl?” for more on that.) Here’s how to adjust your schedule, if you wish to:

  • Wake up two to three hours before your normal time of rising, then get as much outdoor light in the morning as possible.
  • Go to bed two to three hours before your normal bedtime, and limit your exposure to artificial light and screens.
  • Keep to this schedule even on the weekends.
  • Eat breakfast upon awakening, keep lunch time consistent, and don’t eat dinner past 7 p.m.

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