When searching for a mate, most of us carry around a list of criteria or qualities that we tell ourselves we’re looking for. A brief perusal of any Internet dating site yields many such lists: “A sense of humor, a sense of adventure, and good teeth” says one. “Owns his own business, likes to travel, and works out,” says another. Curiously, however, we often end up with mates who seem ...

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Patients often come to me seeking advice about what they can do to live longer. The number of things that have been proven to extend life, however, remains shockingly small. What follows are things that have enough support in the scientific literature that I generally recommend them (though the strength of the evidence varies even with these):

  1. Take simvastatin (brand name Zocor). That is, if you have coronary artery disease. (This is one of ...

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The biggest mistake patients make isn’t what you think. It isn’t turning down tests or treatments their doctors recommend. Nor is it deciding not to take the medicines their doctors prescribe. It isn’t insisting on getting a test or beginning a treatment their doctors recommend against, either, and it isn’t failing to exercise, stay out of the sun (or use sunscreen), quit smoking, or lose weight. No, the biggest mistake ...

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As with most things in life, romantic relationships are, for many of us, a double-edged sword: while most find it wonderful to love and be loved, developing intimate emotional ties to someone makes us emotionally vulnerable—vulnerable not only to being hurt by our partner’s opinions of and feelings toward us, but also vulnerable to being affected by our partner’s bad moods. If a colleague or a friend gets depressed, we’re ...

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A few weeks ago my wife, my son, and I went out for dinner. My son, though usually well-behaved and pleasant, was boisterous and disruptive, alternately leaping off his seat to crawl under the table and banging his silverware on his water glass to see what different volume of sound he could make it produce. Our tolerance for disciplining him patiently having been exhausted in us both by our respective challenging ...

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The set-point theory of happiness suggests that our level of subjective well-being is determined primarily by heredity and by personality traits ingrained in us early in life and as a result remains relatively constant throughout our lives. Our level of happiness may change transiently in response to life events, but then almost always returns to its baseline level as we habituate to those events and their consequences over time. Habituation, ...

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Of all the different criteria people use when deciding for whom to vote in presidential elections, I’ve never heard anyone talk about the importance of a background in clinical psychology—but it’s always struck me as important for a president to have as for a clinical psychologist. Certainly, foreign policy experience, a firm grasp of the principles of economics, a bold and confident leadership style, and the ability to get people ...

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A common belief, even among doctors, is that almost no one succeeds in losing weight in the long term. And for almost two decades, I’ve counted myself among the skeptics, being able to tally on the fingers of one hand the number of my patients who’ve managed to do it—literally less than five out of multiple hundreds, if not a few thousand. When I stumbled across the ideas put forth in ...

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shutterstock_123348379 Research shows numerous benefits to meditation: it reduces stress, increases positive emotion, and even treats acute pain. Commonly, meditation involves focusing on one’s breathing as a way to anchor one’s attention in the present moment. Practitioners are also frequently taught to separate their experiences (breathing, pain, thoughts) from their judgments about them. Thus, with respect, for ...

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shutterstock_112225664 Having to confront an indeterminate outcome that might be bad seems to cause more anxiety than having to confront an outcome known to be bad. In one study, patients requiring colostomies (a rerouting of the passage of stool from the rectum to an opening in the abdomen) that were potentially reversible were actually found to be less happy six months after their operation ...

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