WTF Fun Fact 13089 – The Benefits of Looking at Old Photos

From physical photo albums to scrolling far back in your social media history, there’s something about looking at old photos that tends to make us happy. In fact, research has shown it can be downright relaxing. For those not skilled at meditation, looking at old photos can be even more relaxing than meditating!

Make yourself happy by looking at old photos

Make fun of photo-takers all you’d like (and we’ll join you for the ridiculous Instagram posers), but there’s some serious value in documenting happy moments.

In an article posted about the research on Digital Camera World (cited below), UK behavioral psychologist Jo Hemmings noted that “Taking the time to look back on our treasured memories can be truly beneficial for our wellbeing as it can help to evoke feelings of positivity and happiness. Because of this, and especially at times like this, we should take more time to appreciate and look back on them.”

Reminiscing for stress relief

If you want to crush your stress and boost your well-being, try a few tips that have made people happy during research studies:

  • Check out old photos of your friends, family, and pets on your phone. It can trigger feelings of happiness and strengthen these relationships.
  • Look at photos when you need a reminder that you’re loved. Reminiscing about happy moments with a photo helps recreate those feelings in our minds and transports us back to a happier place.
  • Make an album of funny photos. Silly old photos can cause your body to release endorphins, a natural stress reliever.
  • Look back at other people’s happy occasions. When we see our friends and family at significant points in their lives (weddings, graduations, etc.), it can help reduce cortisol and take our anxiety down a notch.
  • Hang happy photos in your home. People tend to find the places in their homes that contain photos are the most relaxing. Having copies of real, physical photos around your room, office, or house helps enhance feelings of social bonds.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “It’s official! Looking at old photos is more relaxing than meditating” — Digital Camera World

WTF Fun Fact 12827 – The Urge to Cancel Plans

The pandemic might have made us feel more FOMO, but when it comes to actually following up on getting out and about, we’re more eager than ever to cancel plans.

Canceling plans and dread

Doesn’t it seem like there was once a “Golden Age” of making plans with friends and following up on them with no drama? Well, these so-called golden ages tend to be overrated and misremembered. But even if it wasn’t and you’re the life of the party (or co-dependent), you’ve probably felt some dread as plans crept up at least once or twice.

Sometimes we agree to plans we didn’t really want to follow through on in the first place (like a play date for our kid whose parents we just can’t stand but have to make small talk with for a few hours, or a golf buddy who gets a bit too loud every time you hang out for a beer). We say “yes” just to be polite and keep the wheels of friendship moving.

Other times, the plans seem like a great idea in the moment (like hanging out with girlfriends, having one too many glasses of champagne, and deciding to take a road trip over Labor Day weekend). But when it’s time to follow through, it feels like more of a chore than a good time.

That dread can creep up slowly, making the plans seem more miserable to execute with each passing day or they can hit you on the day of the outing. All of a sudden you feel like your home is so comfy, your snacks are so good, you have a line-up of bad TV to watch or a great book to read, and going to bed early sounds like far more of a luxury than getting yourself together to spend time with friends or family.

I don’t wanna go

If you’ve felt this way, you’re not alone – over 30% of people want to cancel plans they’ve made. If you haven’t felt this way, it’s worth noting that a lot of people do, so you should probably high-five your friends when they do show up.

The totally unsurprising news comes not just from our personal experience but an actual YouGov survey (cited below) that found “one-third of Americans say they often agree to plans in advance only to realize closer to the date that they don’t want to participate, with 11% saying this happens to them very often.”

Frankly, we’re surprised it’s only 11%. Maybe people who participate in YouGov survey are very outgoing. (Or maybe we’re just lame.)

Interestingly, it’s the young folks who say this happens most often. According to YouGov:

“Americans under 30 are most likely to say this happens to them somewhat often or very often: 56% say so. About half of 30- to 44-year-olds (49%) say the same, as do just 31% of 45- to 64-year-olds (31%) and 12% of Americans 65 and older.”

All we can say is apparently this gets better with time. When you’re 65, you’ll finally be ready for that night on the town with your besties!

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Ever agree to plans and later wish you hadn’t? According to this poll, you’re far from alone” — YouGov America

WTF Fun Fact 12764 – Mindfulness Meditation Changes the Brain

We need more large-scale studies to make definitive claims, but mindfulness meditation seems to have some cool cognitive benefits. In fact, we can see on brain scans that people who practice mindfulness meditation experience changes in their brains.

Minding your thoughts

Mindfulness practice encourages people to stop and spend time noticing their thoughts and then letting go of the ones that are negative, disorganized, or aren’t serving a positive purpose. It’s designed to help us notice and control our thinking. (As opposed to most meditation practices, which center around emptying the mind of thoughts.)

The part of the brain affected by mindfulness practice is called the amygdala. This is also called the “fight or flight” center because it is linked to fear and emotional responses. Brain scans have shown that mindfulness practice helps shrink the amygdala. While that may sound like a bad thing, an overactive amygdala can be bad for concentration, mood, and emotional regulation.

Regulating the amygdala

However, mindfulness has been shown to help increase the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. That’s a good thing because those connections help us regulate our emotional responses.

We need our amygdala, we just don’t want it to be hyperactive. And when we practice mindfulness, our bodies get better at regulating those emotional responses.

While some of the effects of mindfulness have been overstated in the press, there is evidence that it can modestly increase physical health and compassion and even reduce bias in addition to negative thought patterns.

The popularity of mindfulness meditation

A U.S. survey found that the percentage of adults practicing some type of mantra-based meditation, mindfulness meditation, or spiritual meditation in the previous year tripled between 2012 and 2017 (from 4.1% to 14.2%). Even among children (4 to 17 years of age), the percentage increased from less than 1% to over 5%. These emotional regulation techniques continue to grow in popularity.

Of course, there’s a lot we still don’t know about mindfulness and meditation in general, and they’re not always the best practices for everyone.

There are also different types of mindfulness meditation to practice, each with slightly different outcomes. For example, body scanning can help reduce negative thoughts. But practices in which participants are asked to observe their thoughts can sometimes lead to more negative thinking, especially among those who have just started practicing the skill and can’t let go of those thoughts easily.

In the end, it may be best for those who are new to mindfulness and observing their thoughts to do so with guidance from a teacher or tool so that they can stay on the right track and get the most out of their mindfulness practices.  WTF fun facts

Source: “10 Things We Know About the Science of Meditation” — Mindful

WTF Fun Fact 12614 – The Fear of Cooking

Plenty of people don’t like to cook. Or maybe you might enjoy it if it weren’t such a chore. After all, for most of us, cooking is something we have to do day in and day out, mostly for other people who may not even appreciate the effort (parents, we’re looking at you).

But there are a group of people who are genuinely afraid of cooking. So much so that it gives them severe anxiety (and we all know the kind of health problems stress and anxiety can cause). These people are known as mageirocophobics.

Mageirocophobia is the extreme fear of having to cook, and it’s typically classified as a social anxiety disorder because it can have a lot to do with a fear of judgment.

According to the Cleveland Clinic: “Mageirocophobia occurs when you’re fearful of cooking or the idea of cooking. You may experience intense anxiety or go out of your way to avoid cooking. For many people, this phobia stems from not wanting to make mistakes.”

Mageirocophobics may have other mental health issues, such as OCD, but not always. Sometimes, the fear results from extreme perfectionism and concern about the consequences of doing things wrong. (And to be fair, a lot can go wrong in the kitchen, from a lousy casserole to a missing finger or a kitchen fire.)

People who fear cooking may also suffer from PTSD after a bad kitchen or cooking incident. It can be a singular incident that caused them (or someone else) harm or even years of being criticized for their cooking.

The kitchen can be stressful for many people, even those who once found it relaxing. Sometimes it depends on your most recent experiences. For example, a chef who gets a bad burn in a kitchen fire might suddenly become mageirocophobic.

This particular phobia may not get in the way of everyday life (as long as sufferers can find a way to eat). In that case, it may not ever be treated. Treatment for the phobia is typically reserved for those who need to get over the fear because it keeps them from enjoying life or eating properly (or caring for those they have a responsibility to feed, like children).

There can even be more mild mageirocophobia. In this case, you won’t enjoy cooking, but severe anxiety arises when trying a new recipe, cooking for others, or needing to use a new kitchen tool.

Of course, more severe cases result in a person being unable to think much about food or developing a fear of watching other people cook.

It’s common to experience a little anxiety when trying new things, but a phobia is a whole different category of fear. Luckily, some treatments can help reduce the effects of mageirocophobia. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Mageirocophobia (Fear of Cooking)” – The Cleveland Clinic

WTF Fun Fact 12604 – Ergophobia

We know what you’re thinking:

Thats Me GIF by Your Happy Workplace - Find & Share on GIPHY

But ergophobia is more than a case of the so-called “Sunday scaries” – those are more about dreading work, and it’s not a clinical diagnosis.

Ergophobia is still not well understood but tends to be classified as an anxiety disorder – typically social anxiety or performance anxiety. It’s an irrational fear of work that causes noticeable signs of anxiety when a person thinks about working. It can even cause the kind of panic attacks that can lead to hospitalization. A sufferer may even know there’s nothing to fear, but their brain reacts anyway (hence the clinical diagnosis).

The condition includes an array of fears about work, including the ability to perform tasks or even look for a job. And the inability to do work without suffering mentally and physically can leave people in poverty or dependent on others to care for them. And as you might imagine, that can lead to even more anxiety about life that makes everything worse.

Psych Times lists the common symptoms of ergophobia as:

  • Intense anxiety when working
  • Anxiety when thinking of work
  • Unwillingness to hold a regular job
  • Inability to cope with strong emotions
  • Becoming dependent on others due to the inability to work
  • Experiencing panic attacks as a result of work or fear of work

The condition doesn’t always have to lead to hospitalization to be considered severe. As we know, stress can lead to all kinds of physiological effects, such as heart disease, that can lead to a shorter and less happy life.

The condition can be genetic (though someone may inherit a predisposition to an anxiety disorder that manifests in this unique way in them and no one else in their family) or because of a trauma or environmental pressure.

There’s no specific “cure,” but desensitization techniques are common treatments for phobias in general, and it’s possible someone can be eased into work. Anti-anxiety medications and therapy may help ergophobics maintain a job as well. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Ergophobia (Fear of Work)” — Psych Times