It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Dies: Amanda Bynes, Robin Williams, and the Spectacle of Mental Illness

Originally posted on Let's Queer Things Up!:

Internet, we need to have a talk.

I’ve had a number of readers ask why I’ve neglected to write about Amanda Bynes this last year. It’s simple, really. I don’t believe that celebrities are “fair game,” and that, when they have very human and very difficult struggles, I should capitalize on those things by writing an article, however well-intentioned. I believe they are deserving of privacy and respect, by virtue of their being people.

However, I’m making an exception here, because in the midst of the negative and callous press that Bynes has received, I think it’s time we had a chat about it from a different perspective. And then, after we’re done, I think it’s time we stop speculating about it altogether. Deal?

First and foremost, there is no way for us to know what, if anything, Bynes has been diagnosed with. The family has denied schizophrenia and bipolar…

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Random Acts of Consideration

As a psychologist, I often find myself noticing how the behavior of one person can  affect the behavior of another. For example, over the past few weeks while driving to work in the morning, I have noticed that if I leave a space open at an intersection, the car in the lane next to me often will do the same. I tested my theory by sometimes blocking the intersection and sometimes leaving an opening and, without fail, the other driver followed suit. This isn’t ground-breaking science, but it got me thinking about how important is can be for each us to model prosocial behavior. I’m not talking about pay-it-forward, random acts of kindness gestures (though those certainly are nice, too) but rather modeling an awareness that there are other people around us to consider. Huffington Post recently published an article about the habits of considerate people which supposedly include, among other things, anticipating the needs of other people, having good manners, and being empathetic. These are not behaviors that necessarily take a lot of time or other resources; these are things we can be mindful of in daily activities. Perhaps letting someone in in traffic won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it does signal respect and may decrease another person’s frustration by a margin. What could be bad about that?



Playlist: 5 Mindshifting talks on happiness

Originally posted on TED Blog:

(TED is on its annual two-week vacation. During the break, we’re posting playlists from the TEDTalks archive. We’ll be back with new talks on August 29th.)

Happiness seems simple, yet the more we look into it, the more layers and complexities we find. Here are five TEDTalks that will transform how you view happiness, and how to achieve it.

1) Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.


2) Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy — and our own self-awareness.


3) Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life…

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Stop and smell the roses for longer life?

Apparently Americans are just not that into vacation days. This probably comes as no surprise to many people who have looked forward to a vacation only to be bombarded by work e-mails upon arrival (and/or during their time off). Many of us struggle to take a lunch break, let alone an actual vacation. A hardy work ethic is part of the American tradition, right? But have we gone overboard? In the nation of supersizing everything, why have we minimized self-care, and what does it cost us? The chronic stress of overworking can be associated with burnout, heart disease, and decreased productivity. It’s not a great long-term strategy for professional and personal fulfillment. Compare this with other cultures, in which the norm is to take a break for a healthy lunch and a glass of wine, go for a walk, perhaps have an afternoon nap, go on holiday for a few weeks, regularly engage in meaningful social activities- in short, do things that do not revolve around work, and they actually live longer and healthier lives. That sounds heavenly to me. So how do we carve out time for lunches and vacations in a demanding work environment that values results over personal wellness? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that, at least not today. Likely it will take a major cultural shift. But perhaps we can start that shift by communicating to others through our actions the importance of self-care. Block some time in your schedule for lunch and step away from your desk to enjoy it. Make an appointment with yourself for exercise or socializing. Go away for a weekend, maybe even a long weekend if you’re feeling adventurous! Clearly there is more to the formula for longevity than this, involving a lifestyle change. But as one of my favorite sayings goes, you can only start from where you are, not from where you want to be.


 Have you made these changes in your life? What did you notice? What have you found that works?

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out


I’ve definitely experienced the same reaction during some exercise classes and when seeing all the fitspo photos on Pinterest. Sure, exercising is a little about looking good for me, but it’s also so much more than that. Focusing on how much stronger/faster/determined I’ve become by challenging myself physically is so much more rewarding and motivational than focusing simply on a number (be that weight, size, etc.).

Originally posted on wellfesto:

Mid-way through a recent group exercise class, the teacher lost me.  She didn’t lose me because of some complicated step sequence or insanely long set of burpees; I mentally checked out because of a few words she kept saying over and over.  “Come on!  Get that body ready for your winter beach vacation!  Think about how you want to look at those holiday parties!  PICTURE HOW YOU’LL LOOK IN THAT DRESS!

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Kitchen Adventures: Summer Kickoff

Since Memorial Day Weekend starts off the summer season, I thought I’d make a beach vacation favorite- crab cakes! I found a great recipe for Crab Cakes with Spicy Mayo on Pinterest. (You had me at spicy.) I swapped plain, nonfat Greek yogurt for mayo in salads and dressings a few years ago, mostly for the taste (I like the tanginess of Greek yogurt) and did the same for this recipe. I also added some Dijon mustard to the mixture for a little extra something. Here’s where I really went rogue: I put the spicy mayo in the crab cakes. Mixed it right in with the crab meat and half the Panko crumbs. It was a good decision. Lightly crispy outside, creamy melt-in-your-mouth goodness inside. When I make these again, I’ll probably make a little extra mayo so I can put some on top, too. I’ll be having the leftover crab cakes tomorrow morning for Crab Cakes Benedict.


Photo courtesy of, as that guy really knows what he’s doing

I’ve given up on good food photography of my own. My dish looked exactly the same, just without the mayo on top.

Farmers’ Market Brunch

I’m baaack. And I brought brunch! We’ve had an exceptionally nice Spring, which has motivated me to take my fitness outside (who can stand to spin in a dark, sweaty room when there’s fresh air and sunshine in which to play?!) and has inspired me to cook with fresh ingredients. I love spending Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market, scooping up fresh produce and other goodies. With this weekend’s haul, I made a tasty Sunday brunch: roasted beet and goat cheese salad, sweet potato and kale hash with an egg over-easy, and fresh-baked rosemary bread (to dip in golden, runny egg yolks). Fresh strawberries provided the perfectly sweet complement to the savory fare. If you want to get a little fancy, try your strawberries with a balsamic reduction to really enhance their flavor (I happened to have used up all my balsamic vinegar last weekend on eggplant and tomato stacks- another fresh veggie treat).





This just may have been one of my favorite brunches. Almost as good as the crab cakes Benedict and Bloody Mary made with bacon-infused vodka at Mad Donna’s in Nashville. Build-your-own Bloody Mary bar? Yes, please! I might need to work on that for my next brunch…

You too can be happy. Really. A Q&A with Shawn Achor


My favorite quote (and lesson): “A rhinoceros is on a treadmill, and it’s sweating and running as fast as it possibly can, and it’s looking up at this poster of this beautiful unicorn. So it’s trying to run as fast as it can to be a unicorn, and inherently it’s creating greater levels of frustration, because it’s not a unicorn, it’s a rhinoceros, and it should be the best rhinoceros that it can be.”

We can’t find happiness by looking at other people. Contentment and success start with accepting ourselves for who we are, without judgment of “good” parts and “bad” parts.

Originally posted on TED Blog:

Photo courtesy TEDxBloomington.

Photo courtesy TEDxBloomington.

“We think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier. But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order,” said Shawn Achor in his charming, immensely popular TED Talk from TEDxBloomington, “The happy secret to better work.” Achor is the CEO of consulting firm Good Think, which conducts research on positive psychology and helps people apply it to be happier and more effective at work. His 2011 talk drew on the research from his bestselling book on positive psychology, The Happiness Advantage, and since then he’s had a new question on his mind: Why are some people able to make positive changes in their lives, while others remain stuck in their ways? His latest book, Before Happiness, published last week by Random House, addresses just this question. In it Achor describes the five essential elements that are needed to develop a…

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Chocolate Stout and Irish Cream Whoopie Pies


I recently read that February 24 is National Cupcake Day in Canada. Even though I’m not in Canada, that shouldn’t stop me from celebrating, right? Plus, it’s for a good cause. In that spirit, I share the best cupcakes I ever made. So, they’re actually whoopee pies, which I think are actually much better than cupcakes. They’re easier to eat, and you get a taste of cake and frosting in every bite. What could be better? When I made these Chocolate Stout and Irish Cream Whoopie Pies, I had to give them away so that I wouldn’t eat them all in one weekend. So, yeah, they’re that good.

Originally posted on bake me away!:

Chocolate Stout and Irish Cream Whoopie Pies

I think this marks my first time posting a festive recipe several days before the actual holiday.  Shocking, right?  Unsurprisingly, this was kind of an experiment that I thought about doing awhile ago.  I didn’t come up with the recipe, but did try a different execution of it.

Did you know that I made a wedding cake almost a year ago?  It was this already huge chocolate stout cake recipe tripled and it was ridiculously delicious.  If you’ve never had chocolate stout cake, I think you should change that very soon.  It doesn’t taste beer-y, but has an even deeper chocolate flavor.  And just so you know, even beer haters like it. :)  By the way, all three winners of that Scharffen-Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest (remember?) incorporated stout into their cupcakes.  That’s saying something.

Anyway, I think Deb basically halved that cake recipe (she’d made it into a

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