May Article Highlights

I truly believe that readers are leaders and I do my best to keep up with the latest news, studies and blogs. My interests range from positive psychology, health research, business tips to general self-help advice.

I come across so many informative and interesting posts on social media and in my RSS reader. I share them on my own Twitter and Facebook pages and have also collected some of the best posts and given you short summaries of the articles in a monthly highlights post.

The Confidence Gap

In studies, men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Their performances do not differ in quality.” Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Confident WomanA growing amount of evidence shows that women are less confident than men, and in order to be successful in your career, confidence matters just as much as competence.

Although evidence points to women being more competent than men in various businesses, our self-assurance has not risen. This lack of confidence correlates with a lack of success, which can be devastating for women in the workforce. There is hope, as this article points out, confidence can be acquired, and we have the ability to shape our minds to be more wired towards confidence!

Being a woman in the medical workforce, I understand the struggle to step out in confidence. The importance of self-talk and positive thinking, as well as taking time to meditate on who you are, and where you want to be has helped increase my confidence.

Male Executives Don’t Feel Guilt, See Work-Life Balance as a Women’s Problem

It was rather disheartening to come across this article recently. Harvard Business Review conducted a survey, which discovered that no matter how much power female executives have gained, family issues are still seen as a female issue.

It was revealed that men choose their work without regret because they see themselves as the “breadwinner.”  Unfortunately women followed this same notion, agreeing that family issues are the woman’s problem. In fact, many women leave their careers because of the guilt they feel over not spending enough time with their children.

This article points out, that in order to change this way of thinking, we need to encourage men to see “family issues” as everyone’s problem, not just women.

As a hard-working business woman, it is important to have a spouse that not only supports me, but shares the responsibility of our family life issues. I am grateful to have a husband who sees our son as not just “my responsibility”, but his as well.

The Doctor Who Coaches Athletes to Sleep

“The old-school approach of toughing it out is completely bogus, not to mention counterproductive.” Dr. Charles Czeisler

Dr. Charles Czeisler, a professor at Harvard Medical School, is well known around the professional sports team league industry. He advises teams and athletes on how to improve their performance.  His big emphasis is on sleep. He says, “Sleep plays such a big role in learning and memory. It’s a simple way to have an edge and be able to perform at your best.”

In 2011 the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time. Dr. Czeisler was the one who advised the team to cancel their practice in the morning, and exchange it for a nap! That night they beat their opposing team 4-0.

Sleep is crucial to everyday performance, whether you are an athlete, a business person, or a stay-at-home mom. In my practice as an eye surgeon, sleep is essential for me to be able to perform safely on my patients.  I make sure I get to bed early, and get the recommended 7.5-9 hours of sleep needed for my performance.

The Man Working To Cure His Own Cancer

I love coming across inspiring stories of people turning difficult situations into something positive and life transforming. When Josh Sommer was a young university freshman at just 18, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Chordoma. Instead of giving up and succumbing to the overwhelming news of cancer, he turned around and began to research the very disease, determined to change his prognosis.

After Sommer realized that the biggest hold out to any cure for this rare disease was human error, he made his way into working at the only federally funded laboratory focused on Chordoma. He says, “I had no experience, but a lot of motivation.”

Although Sommer is now cancer free, the disease often returns, meaning another risky surgery and radiation. To date, there are no drugs effective for treating the disease, something that Summer is determined to change. Thanks to his determination, and the help of dedicated scientists, there is now a drug that is showing some promise.

Cancer is something that affects us all and I’m thankful for the dedicated people working towards cancer cures and prevention strategies.

Female Entrepreneurs Leading Economic Resurgence

As a female entrepreneur myself, I respect and admire all women out there who are leading and supporting our economy with their businesses.

I recently came across an article that honors and gives credit to the heroes of our economy- women business owners.  During the last six years of the U.S recession little,  if not any, credit has been given to these inspiring women that are helping lift the economy up! It’s amazing to know that, without women small business owners, the recession would have hit a lot harder than it did.

With their creativity and perseverance, woman have shown that not only can they take on the difficult venture of owning a business, but they can successfully take it to the top, supporting the economy greatly. In 2007-2013 the U.S economy statistics showed that employment declined over this period, however, women leaders remained stable. In fact, the only businesses that provided an increase in employment are majority women owned.

It is important for us to continue to work with the business policy makers in our area, to support female job owners. They need to be supported in order to allow them to be successful and to grow their businesses. This will in turn allows us to harness the exceptional skills that these women posses, in order to continue to transform our economy.

The Countries With the Highest Number of Female Executives Are Not the Ones You’d Expect

I recently came across the 2014 International Business Report, which surveyed around 6,600 privately owned companies, in 45 countries. I was surprised to discover that emerging countries like Russia, Indonesia, Latvia, and the Philippines, had 40% or more of women in senior management.

North America on the other hand, had only about 25% of women in senior management. The U.S.A is among the lowest, with an average of 22%. I was even more surprised to find that countries like Brazil, Russia, Indian, China, and South Africa, have on average 30% of women in senior management, surpassing the global average of 24%.

It isn’t so surprising when you learn that women in emerging countries graduate university at a rate that matches, or exceeds men.  These countries give a lot of support to women, allowing more flexible working arrangements, and paid maternity leave. It is obvious that these countries see the worth of female leadership.

How to Succeed Professionally by Helping Others

I believe in the importance of giving back and helping others.  Not only does it encourage others, but it strengthens us.

I was very encouraged when I found recent research showing that contributing to the success of others, does benefit you in the long run. Although the results are not immediate, in time you will reap the rewards. In fact, evidence points out that helpful employees in restaurants, have higher revenue, cleanliness, and customer satisfaction. This verification applies to other industries, showing that, “helping behaviors play an important role in organizational effectiveness.”

There is even more research that suggests that by helping others, you can actually facilitate your learning. In a study examining employees at a large consulting firm, it was observed that those who helped others, gained insights about their own work, and become better problem solvers in general.

Exercising for Healthier Eyes- May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration

Mature woman using dumbbellsAs an eye surgeon, I know all too well the devastating effects of age related vision loss, especially due to macular degeneration. There is only so much we can do to repair the damage, so preventing disease in the first place is critical.

There was a promising study conducted in 2009 that followed more than 40,000 middle-aged distance runners. The study found that those covering the most miles had the least likelihood to develop the disease. However, the study didn’t compare runners to non-runners, nor did it explain how exercise may affect the eyes.

Another study, conducted  by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, used mice as subjects to try to come to a conclusion on this issue. Amazingly, the study concluded that the mice who were made to exercise, had higher levels of substances known as growth factors in the animal’s bloodstream and brain. These growth factors are known to support the health of neurons, and are  thus suspected to improving brain health and cognition.

Although there is no totally reliable research showing that exercise decreases your risk of macular degeneration, many doctors (including myself) would agree that if you have a family history of this, discussing an exercise program with your doctor wouldn’t be a bad idea! In fact, it will help you in many other ways physically and mentally!

Pill That ‘Resets’ The Body’s Clock Could Cure Jet Lag

For those who travel, jet lag can be debilitating. In fact, research has shown that when the body’s clock is out of sync for long periods of time, it can cause serious and even fatal heart problems. Not only that, it’s becoming clearer, that disruption of our body’s clock can also cause numerous diseases including, diabetes, cancer, and strokes.

A study conducted at Manchester University found an enzyme in mice that keeps the body operating on a 24- hour rhythm. When this enzyme is suppressed, it can effectively reset itself, giving the body an easier way to adapt to the change. Researchers have found a drug that can inhibit the same enzyme, and could possibly help the body adapt to changes, allowing people to have a smoother recovery from jet lag or night shifts.

The importance of sleep is crucial, and when you disrupt it by travelling through time zones, or taking on a night shift, you can negatively impact your body. This drug sounds promising, and could even help doctors or those on shift work!

 America’s Workers: Stressed Out, Overwhelmed, Totally Exhausted

So what’s driving the overwork and what can be done? To really get at the heart of it, we’d have to look at our economy, our tax policy, and our workplace laws.” Rebecca J. Rosen

Sleeping at the Office The author, Rebecca J. Rosen brings up such a huge issue in our society today. We are ALL overworked, and we value work too much, at the expense of our health, families’ and well-being. A study that she brings up in her article looked at productivity rates in different countries. The study found that in North America (particularly the U.S.A) our productivity falls below other countries with a more realistic work-life policy. We are putting in the most hours, but we aren’t putting in many productive hours, thus we are just working a lot of meaningless time.

It was interesting to discover that other countries limit work hours by law to keep workers from getting burnt out or exploited. We have no policies like that in North America, which explains why everyone is so tired and stressed!  As a busy working mom, I have to consciously remember to put my health and wellbeing first. If I don’t, I cannot effectively work in my practice, or be the wife and mom I need to be to my family. It is important to keep our priorities in order and remember what truly matters.


Toward a Pill That Helps Us Learn as Fast as Kids

Can you imagine taking a pill that could help you learn as fast as kids?  We may not be that far off, as Harvard professor Takao Hensch is passionately working towards a way to successfully achieve this.  In fact, he says he has found that behavioral drugs can actually help return the brain chemistry back into “critical periods” in development. A study conducted by Hensch and other researchers found that men who took the drug valproate, did better on identifying music notes, compared to those in the placebo group.

Hench explains that, “The brain is not losing its plasticity forever as we grow older. It’s the brain’s job to be elastic, and it wants to rewire. But through evolution, it’s created a lot of molecules to make sure it doesn’t rewire too much.”

Other researchers, such as Nafissa Ismail, are bringing up caution saying that, “The young brain’s plasticity is a double-edge  sword- though skills like language and music come more naturally to children, environmental and social stress can also harm them much more profoundly.” She cautions that drugs like Valproate, can actually open up the brain to be more sensitive to environmental stressors.

Although this new research poses some interesting and hopeful findings, there is another side where we have to be cautious, and weigh out the benefits and risks.

Treating Chronic Pain with Meditation

“Meditation teaches patients how to react to the pain. People are less inclined to have the ‘Ouch’ reaction, and are able to control their emotional reaction to pain.”  Fadel Zeidan

Nearly 15% of all Americans experience chronic pain. Many have tried chiropractors, acupuncture, medication, physical therapy, and even surgery to no avail. Chronic pain is most often caused by an injury that is exacerbated over time leading to more damage. Researchers are now saying that meditation can actually decrease pain, and allow sufferers to experience freedom from constant discomfort.

I am a solid believer in meditation and all its benefits, and was amazed by the findings in this article.

The last ten years has seen an increase in studies focusing on meditation. It was found in these studies that mental practice can alter sensory experience. This explains war wounds going unnoticed until after the fighting is over. These studies have also found that meditation can help pain significantly, however, it cannot cure it.

One study that I found encouraging in this article was that you don’t have to be a meditation guru to reap the benefits! Even beginners who attempted meditation for their pain found it effectively decreased it. The reason meditation works so well is that it has been shown to alter four areas of the brain, one of them being the primary somatosensory cortex, which is the pain processing area.

The Monitored Man – How Tracking Your Activity Levels Can Change Your Behavior

We all known that exercise is beneficial, but how much exercise do you really need? There are so many apps and devices out there that help monitor that activity, but do they really help?

I was impressed to find out that these trackers have been shown to increase activity levels. Dr. Rajani Larocca conducted a six week lifestyle program for ten patients with diabetes (age 50-70), and each patient was fitted with a Fitbit Zip tracker. Every one of those participants increased their activity. In fact, eight months later half the patients in the group still wore the tracker.

Although these trackers only detect motion, not really activity, they seem to motivate people to increase activity. Even though it has been shown that wearing a tracker does increase activity, it was encouraged to only wear monitors when meaningful.

I have a fitness routine that I go through every day, and if I didn’t try to match or beat my times it would get boring. I think that is why there is an increase in activity with monitoring devices. Most of us have a desire to better ourselves, and to be able to see our activity in number form allows us to see our progress more clearly!

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