Last Week’s Links

How Solitude Can Help You Regulate Your Mood

Whether we think we needed it or not, the arrival of COVID-19 has given us plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of solitude. Writing for NPR (National Public Radion in the U.S.), Colin Dwyer looks at the findings of recent research on the topic of solitude. 

Dwyer offers four findings from this research:

  1. Solitude is in the mind of the beholder.
  2. We may crave time alone the way we crave time with others.
  3. Don’t expect an epiphany.
  4. Solitude can be a communal exercise.

You Don’t Have to Be Young to Be a Badass Detective

Author Jane Badrock has noticed a fictional marketing niche that she aims to fill: older adult detectives, particular female ones.

“Think of the opportunities! Imagine, even the real-life unsolved crimes that may have happened because nobody suspected the little old lady.”

Brain scientists haven’t been able to find major differences between women’s and men’s brains, despite over a century of searching

brain

I couldn’t resist including this article. The search to explain gender differences by tying them to differences in the anatomy and/or function of various parts of the brain began at the dawn of the discipline of psychology. Here Ari Berkowitz, Presidential Professor of Biology and Director of the Cellular & Behavioral Neurobiology Graduate Program at the University of Oklahoma, concludes:

So it’s not realistic to assume any human brain sex differences are innate. They may also result from learning. People live in a fundamentally gendered culture, in which parenting, education, expectations and opportunities differ based on sex, from birth through adulthood, which inevitably changes the brain.

In other words, gender differences are not biological—that is, inborn—traits but rather social constructs, normative behaviors defined and passed down by societies to tell people how they should live, think, and feel.

The 40 Must-Read Books for Baby Boomers

Lorraine Berry makes “An earnest attempt at an essential library.”

She writes, “I aimed to include those novels rooted in a writer’s emotional honesty in telling true stories about the human condition. Light on classics, the list is weighted toward books published in the past 119 years.”

She adds that we should hurry up and look at the list—before she tweaks it yet again.

How about you? What books would you add or delete from Berry’s list? Remember, you must limit the list to 40 books.

Lifelike robotic pets are helping isolated seniors avoid loneliness

This CNN article looks at test programs that have provided robotic pets to older adults to help ease the loneliness exacerbated by the isolating restrictions of COVID-19. These programs have been conducted in Alabama, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.

So far the results look promising, but, at least in Alabama, evaluation of the program will continue over the next year.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

How to be alone

“Solitude is a skill. You can get better at it with practice.”

Sigal Samuel urges us to lean into being alone.

Many factors have conspired to make us bad at solitude. They’re mostly not our fault. As Jenny Odell lays out in her book How to Do Nothing, we live in a culture where sociability and constant connectivity are rewarded, and where choosing to be by yourself marks you out as a loser, crazy, possibly immoral.

This article goes deeper than I expected. Samuel offers several ingredients for making the most of solitude:

  1. “First, there’s the idea that to succeed at solitude, you have to accept that you’re being “thrown upon yourself” — to confront your reality rather than opting for distraction.
  2. “Another key ingredient to successful solitude, psychologists have found, is having a clear sense of purpose.”
  3. Some people who have adapted to living in isolation “emphasize the importance of routines — the little daily rituals that anchor us in time and give shape to a day.”
  4. “Many artists insist that isolation is necessary for creative work.”
  5. “Most world religions, even if they’re ambivalent about solitude as a long-term path, acknowledge that it’s useful for fostering spiritual insight.”

But Samuel also acknowledges that sudden isolation, such as that forced on us by the COVID-19 pandemic, can also have risks. There’s a link to a guide to developing “distress tolerance skills” developed by psychologists for the Centre for Clinical Interventions, supported by the Australian government’s department of health.

Loneliness Hasn’t Increased Despite Pandemic, Research Finds. What Helped?

NPR reports on several new studies that suggest the huge increase in loneliness social scientists expected to accompany the mandatory isolation necessary to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus hasn’t materialized.

Some researchers wonder if the many ways communities have found to band together while socially distanced—such as porch chats, Zoom dinners, neighborhood dancing—have contributed to the lower-than-expected rate of loneliness. Still, they add, conditions are ripe for anxiety and depression, which we should be on the lookout for in both ourselves and others.

As the pandemic surges, old people alarm their adult kids by playing bridge and getting haircuts

My husband and I are both over 70, and we’ve been terrified by how hard this virus is hitting older adults. We have minimized our trips out as much as possible, always wear masks when outside the house, and stay six feet away from others when we do go to the grocery store. So I was surprised to see this news story about older people shocking their children by not following recommended health guidelines.

Various factors are contributing to this generational divide. Older people in the United States are statistically more likely than younger generations to listen to conservative media and to politicians who have played down the dangers of the virus, and some may have followed their lead. Others may be well aware of the risks but have weighed them against the mental and physical benefits of maintaining exercise and social routines.

Whatever the reasons, the dynamic can leave middle-aged people, many of whom may already be worried about their adult children going to protests or beach gatherings, feeling that they must also parent their parents.

You’re Doomscrolling Again. Here’s How to Snap Out of It.

This experience of sinking into emotional quicksand while bingeing on doom-and-gloom news is so common that there’s now internet lingo for it: “doomscrolling.” Exacerbating this behavior, shelter-in-place orders leave us with little to do other than to look at our screens; by some measures, our screen time has jumped at least 50 percent.

Read explanations of how to use these approaches to lift yourself out of the doom and gloom:

  1. Create a plan to control your time
  2. Practice meditation
  3. Connect with others

Viewing Literature as a Lab for Community Ethics

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront many bioethical questions, such as, when resources are limited, which lives should be saved and which sacrificed? Maren Tova Linett, author of Literary Bioethics, argues that fiction, with its ability to present imagined worlds, offers the chance to explore such concerns: “Fiction has the virtue of presenting vividly imagined worlds in which certain values hold sway, casting new light onto those values. And the more plausible we find these imagined worlds, the more thoroughly we can evaluate the justice of those values.”

Literary Bioethics considers novels such as The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Lingering Legacy of America’s First Cookie-Cutter Suburb

I’ve been hearing a lot about systemic racism in the U.S., the fact that racism is built so basically into our culture that even the best-intentioned white folks don’t notice it. This article from Atlas Obscura startlingly illustrates that point.

“The idyllic ideal of modern suburbia in the United States was born in 1947 with the creation of Levittown, a large housing development in Long Island, New York.” Furthermore:

A clause in the standard lease for the first Levitt houses baldly stated that the homes could not “be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race.” Government policies at the time, such as those of the Federal Housing Administration, supported such racist practices, blocking Black Americans and other people of color from the new suburbs and homeownership.

I’ll just leave that fact right there.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown