Posted on Leave a comment

Something Special Happens to Your Brain When You Read Suspense Novels

How Reading Suspense Changes Your Brain

I’d tell you what it is, but I’d rather keep you in suspense. 😉

How Reading Suspense Changes Your BrainPhoto by Steve Halama on Unsplash

Suspense novels carry an undeniable intrigue. Our hearts race and our minds whirr as we race to put all the pieces together. Will our hero escape the forces of evil? Or will they meet an untimely demise? And which characters can you actually trust?

Fiction, in general, is a fantastic way to explore the dangers that surround us every day. From gossip at the watercooler to the less likely but far more dangerous kidnapping in the middle of the night at knife-point, stories help us explore what works— and what doesn’t.

Stories allow us to experience life-threatening circumstances from the comfort of our home. They are THE original simulation game. Plus, they increase our empathy by putting us inside other characters’ heads. Personalities which we may not like suddenly take on a bit more nuance and humanity.

But suspense does all that and more. In fact…

How Reading Suspense Changes Your Brain

In a 2015 study published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS), researchers noticed something intriguing about brain activity surrounding suspenseful reading. Can you guess what it is? 🙂

The areas of the brain which were most active when participants read something they considered to be suspenseful are also tied to:

  • mentalizing (figuring out ourselves and others, finding motives, etc.)
  • predictive inference (Solve that mystery!)
  • and possibly cognitive control

And I was sorely tempted to title this article: Can Suspense Novels Make You Psychic? (I mean the research says predictive!) But that would be a gross oversimplification of what’s going on. None of these results should be particularly surprising to anyone who’s read mystery, thrillers, or suspense novels in the past. Any well-written book in this genre will make us ask the big questions.

Why is this character doing that?

Who is to blame?

Wait, I noticed a detail here. Will this be important in the future?

Hey, I think I know who the killer is!

Sound familiar?

So, while reading suspense novels won’t give you the ability to see forty years into the future, it does exercise those problem-solving muscles. And in a world with 99+ problems, those are some good muscles to have.

PS: Want to know more about reading and the brain? Check out this post.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

The Science Behind Why You Might Prefer Print

The Science Behind Why You Might Prefer Print

Print books have an undeniable appeal for many book lovers. Here’s why.

The Science Behind Why You Might Prefer Print
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a commission from clicks or purchases made through these links at no cost to you. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

In these cold winter months, there’s nothing quite as relaxing as snuggling up in bed with a good book and a warm cup of cocoa/tea/coffee. But for many of us, that book is either or a hardcover or paperback. Despite the fact that ebooks are more convenient and take up less space, there’s something about the experience of holding a physical book that people find satisfying. Perhaps it’s the smell of fresh or older pages, the texture of the binding, cover, or book jacket.

Perhaps it’s something neurological.

The Science Behind Why You Might Prefer Print

When we read, our brains treat text like separate objects. We attach abstract meanings to words and weave them together into a mental picture. According to Scientific American, this is much like drawing a map. (Speaking of which, if you want to brush up on your map reading skills, check out this article by Authorized Boots.)

How many times have you flipped through a book looking for a line that you knew was on the top right-hand side? Or perhaps the middle of the left page?

If you’re reading a printed book, you have a lot of spacial and tactile references for this internal story-map. There’s the thickness of the book; signposts like chapter numbers can be found easily by referencing how close they are to the back or front cover of the book. But with ebooks, everything shows up in the same-sized window, and spacial references are entirely theoretical.

And, of course, there’s the eyestrain. Screens glow at us (although there are some e-readers such as the Kindle Paperwhite that work to reduce this problem).

The Science Behind Why You Might Prefer Print

Photo by James Tarbotton on Unsplash

And many of us come to screens subconsciously primed to be distracted. We use screens for so many different tasks involving varied apps, emotions, and the need for immediate gratification. Sometimes our reading comprehension gets entangled with these other things and interrupts our concentration. Especially if you read ebooks on a phone like I do. (*Hangs head in semi-shame*)

Additionally, studies have shown that people who read printed text have stronger long-term memory of the material compared to people who learn via text on a screen.

And if you were born back when libraries still had card catalogs, like me, there may be another factor at play. (I will add here that this particular bit is my own opinion and not based on any studies, so do take it with a bit of skepticism. I adore thought experiments.) Many of us were raised on printed books and only started reading on screens later on in life. It will be interesting to see how younger generations, who’ve had access to screen-based reading their entire lives, will adapt. Perhaps in the future, human brains will change and be primed to read digital text over paper text. Maybe stories will be wired directly into our brains. Who knows?

But if you ever get the feeling that there’s something about reading a physical book over an e-reader remember: it’s all in your head. And you’re not alone.

Other sources:

New Republic

Huff Post

PS: Liked this article? Don’t forget to share!

Posted on Leave a comment

Get Your Life Back: One Social Media Scheduler to Rule Them All

Social media schedulers are not created equally.

Bring some balance back into your life. Use this effortless social media tool.

This post contains referral links. That means I earn a commission at no cost to you. In fact, you get a bigger discount if you use my link instead of going straight to the site. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

If you’re here, it’s because you’re familiar with the hamster-running-in-a-ball-trying-to-outrun-an-avalanche feeling that can be social media post scheduling. Even if you’re doing everything right and set up a calendar in advance, sometimes it can be difficult to hunt down the time to actually post your content. Especially if you’re a solopreneur like me.

That’s where social media scheduling tools come in. They offer you the option of plugging in your content in batches and having them post later at times when they’re most likely to get engagement. And there are a plethora of tools available out there which offer both free and paid plans. However, there is one scheduling tool that has a special feature that can cut back your bulk posting time from hours to minutes.

Yeah, you read that right. Minutes.

But before I tell you what it is, I wanted to go over other tools I’ve used over the years and what they offer.

Tools for Multiple Platforms

Slack Social

Free Plan: Yes

Paid Plans: Basic $80+ a year, Professional $150+ a year

slack social

Slack Social connects to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Blogger. Free plans can schedule up to 10 posts a day. If you wanted, you could schedule 3,650 posts in advance. Scheduled posts are shown in list form rather than in a calendar, which may appeal to some users. Analytics are available for paid plans. Slack Social isn’t flashy, but it’s a simple, economical option.

Buffer

Free Plan: Yes

Paid Plan: $100+ a year

Buffer

One of the first social media tools I ever used, Buffer’s clean, simple, and easy to use. You can manage Twitter, Facebook (Profiles, Pages, and Groups), LinkedIn (Profiles and Pages), Google+ (Profiles and Pages), Pinterest, and set up reminders to post on Instagram.

Free plans allow you to preschedule 10 posts at a time. When those posts run out, you get an email reminding you that your queue is empty. After a while, this kind of feels like that annoying fairy from the Legend of Zelda games. Plus, the 10-posts-at-a-time thing doesn’t really give you a lot of breathing room. There’s a lot of incentive to upgrade to their paid plan. A button on my Buffer dashboard still beckons me to Upgrade to Awesome. Because their paid plan is called the Awesome Plan.

Hootsuite

Free Plan: Yes

Paid Plans: Professional $200+ a year, Team $1k+ a year, Business $6k+ a year

HootSuite

Hootsuite has been around for a while and once upon a time I had a professional account with them. Free accounts can schedule up to 30 posts at a time. You can also set up streams by network and keyword. This feature is especially useful for quickly finding mentions of your brand and interacting with customers.

Hootsuite connects to Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Youtube.

It offers analytics, a host of apps, educational resources, and even makes it easier to set up contests for your followers.

Specialized Tools

Later

Free Plan: Yes

Paid Plans: Plus $110+ a year, Premium $200+ a year, Starter $300+ a year, Brand $550+ a year

Later

Later is technically a multi-platform scheduling tool. You can use it to post on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. However, where this app really shines is Instagram. Their scheduling UI is beautiful and intuitive. And their blog brims with Instagram advice, trends, and how-tos. Though I no longer have an Instagram account at this time, I’ve experimented with their scheduler a bit in the past. When I’m ready to return to Instagram, Later will be my go-to scheduling app.

Tailwind

Free Plan: Sort of

Paid Plans: Plus $100+ a year, Professional $9.5k+ a year, Enterprise (cost not listed)

Tailwind

Tailwind connects to Instagram, but its heart is really with Pinterest. There isn’t a free plan, per se, but there is a free trial with no set time limit. Rather, the trial is capped by number of posts scheduled (100 for Pinterest and/or 30 for Instagram). My referral link for the Plus plan will also give you a $15 credit toward a paid plan if you are so inclined. It’s basically one month off your subscription fee.

You may have noticed bloggers across the galaxy raving about Tailwind. Probably because the referral program can help us earn $15 credits, as well. And there’s an Amazon gift card we can get, too. And though I wouldn’t mind the extra credit put toward my account, I’m pretty ambivalent toward gift cards. However, I am not ambivalent toward Tailwind in the least. In fact, I have feelings.

Very strong feelings.

I use Tailwind every day. It is incredibly useful for my content curation and affiliate marketing on Pinterest. Plus there are Tailwind Tribes that act a little like Pinterest Group Boards, only without the off-brand boards popping up in your profile. I appreciate the heck out of this program, and it’s worth every penny.

However, I like scheduling a lot of content in advance. By a lot, I mean I’d have posts scheduled well into next year if I could. And sometimes this makes Tailwind slow down. Like a sloth racing a snail kind of slow. Which is time consuming and a little aggravating. They even have a help page dedicated to the issue.

They’ve got a ton of extras like super in-depth analytics and ways to group your boards into lists and lots of really cool features. Again, I appreciate the heck out of Tailwind. But it’s not without its flaws.

BoardBooster

Free Plan: Sort of

Paid Plans: Based on pins shared per month. Ranges from $60-$1k+ a year

BoardBooster

BoardBooster is another tool that bloggers drool over. Like Tailwind, the free plan is really a free trial. When you sign up (which, like Tailwind, doesn’t involve any credit card info), you’re allotted a set number of pins. I think when I signed up it was at 300. Once you use up those pins, you’ll have to upgrade your account to a paid plan to continue using BoardBooster.

And yes, the reason bloggers go gaga over this tool is the referral link that helps us earn credit toward our own paid plans. But BoardBooster is legitimately awesome. The Pin Doctor feature analyzes a board and helps you optimize it for 1¢ per pin. This is useful for improving your boards and reach. And there’s a pin looping feature that ensures your best pins don’t get buried and forgotten forever.

But All of These Are Nothing Compared To…

 

Quick, Easy, and Effective Social Media Marketing

SmarterQueue

Free Plan: Sort of

Paid Plans: Solo $200+ a year, Business $400+ a year, Agency $800+ a year

SmarterQueue

I have legitmately never been as excited about a social media scheduling tool as I am about SmarterQueue. If you are looking for a program that will save you time, THIS IS IT.

  • You can bulk import posts from your other websites and social profiles! Repurpose old content!
  • You can categorize posts so you’re not always sharing the same stuff back to back!
  • Evergreen posts stay in your queue!
  • Add gifs and images to your posts without leaving the scheduler!
  • The scheduler is color coded, in calendar format, and SO PRETTY!
  • Simple drag and drop scheduling interface!
  • Post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest!
  • Browser bookmarklet for easier article sharing!
  • Queue can be paused!
  • Analytics, even for posts you didn’t schedule on SmarterQueue!

I’m not apologizing for all the shouting because this tool is just that good. Check out these reviews written by other SmarterQueue users if you need more proof. This is THE social media tool that will bring balance back into your busy day.

PS: Don’t forget to grab your 30 day free trial here. (Regular free trials are only 14 days.)

 

Posted on Leave a comment

What’s a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

Is a reading journal worth your time?

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a commission from clicks or purchases made through these links at no cost to you. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

If you’re anything like me, you might have a hard time remembering what you ate for breakfast let alone what you read last week. And we’re definitely not alone in that.

The chronic stress of scrambling around to get everything done can make our brains haywire. Not only does stress limit the amount of working memory you have at any given moment, but over time it can hamper your ability to form and recall memories.

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

According to an extensive article published by the University of Maryland Medical Center, in stressful situations, the brain secretes a chemical that suppresses “activity in areas at the front of the brain concerned with short-term memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought. This sequence of mental events allows a person to react quickly … It also interferes with the ability to handle difficult social or intellectual tasks and behaviors during that time.”

 

This means that in a busy world, we need to remember to stay calm and give ourselves time to rest. But it also means that it’s really easy to lose track of our reading lists.

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

How many times has this happened to you? You see the title of a book you remember reading years ago. The warm tinglies bubble up in your heart as you remember how much you loved the book and how it made you feel. Then you try to summarize the book for a friend and come up empty. Characters’ names are a fog, key details are missing, and you find yourself flailing.

If this has never happened to you, I’m honestly pretty jealous. Because forgetting the details of a book you once loved is like losing a close friend. The doors to magical worlds you once explored are suddenly closed to you.

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

Sometimes I’ve forgotten the titles of books, as well. Could you imagine forgetting a childhood friend’s name? It’s heartbreaking.

Goodreads has reconnected me with some of my long-lost books much the way Facebook has with long-lost friends. But for me, keeping a virtual library of books I once borrowed or owned isn’t enough. If I really want to absorb and remember a story, there’s only one thing that helps: writing about it.

Some people write reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and/or websites like this one. And that is a wonderful thing to do. It helps authors SO much.

But there’s a more personal alternative for people who don’t wish to air their literary opinions with the whole wide world:

Reading Journals

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

When did reading journals start?

You may not be surprised to learn that the idea came to us from the world of education. In 1933, Louise Rosenblatt published a revolutionary book called Literature as Exploration, which established the precursor to reader response theory. By the late 1970s, this theory of students creating written responses to the works they read had evolved into what many of us remember as “book reports.”

I distinctly remember my 5th-grade teacher in 1995 required each of us to maintain daily journals where we described our day and the books we read in class.

Back then, I absolutely hated it. But now, I’m extremely grateful. With a written record, I can go back and relive those moments and storylines again and again.

(So Mrs. Cogliando/Sarchi, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for being such a brat back in the day. And THANK YOU!)

But reading journals have moved beyond the classroom. Why?

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

Why People Keep Reading Journals

  • They help us maintain an updated list of the books we read.
  • And they allow us to track our reading rate and how it may change over time.
  • Reading journals force us to take time to contemplate and rest instead of constantly “doing” and increasing stress levels.
  • With hand-written journals, we have the freedom to doodle and add our own flair.
  • They help us remember key characters and plot events.
  • They provide space for us to interact with the text more critically.
  • We can jot down our favorite quotes all in one spot.
  • They’re a way to collect evidence to support what makes a book enjoyable or not.
  • They reveal how our reading tastes change over time.
  • And they showcase which authors and genres we’re drawn to.
  • They come in a wide range of styles and colors, so it’s easy to find one that connects with you and improves your mood.

What's a Reading Journal, and Is It an Effective Way to Track Book Lists?

Types of Reading Journals

Readers today who want to track and comment on their reading habits have a number of options. And you probably have personal reading goals and preferences that might benefit from any one or a combination of these formats. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find a reading journal that’s easy and natural for you.

Digital

If you’re a tech-savvy person, you may prefer the hyperlinking and tagging capabilities that digital book journaling allows. You can share your thoughts, interact with authors and other readers, or adjust your accounts to private. These offer some great options for book journaling:

  • Blogging (WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium)
  • Social Media (Instagram #bookstagram, Twitter, Facebook)
  • Vlogging (Youtube, Vimeo)
  • Litsy (A visually-focused social media site focused solely on books)
  • Goodreads

Printable

If you prefer a more hands-on approach and like loose pages that can be reordered however you like, printable reading journals may be a good option for you. You can download them instantly and print journal pages from the comfort of your own home as many times as you like. Many designers on Etsy offer a wide array of printables in a plethora of designs and style.

There are also free ones available like this one I made the other day. Reading journal printables give you the freedom to print from home and organize or shuffle around pages however you like.

Physical Journals

If you have a secret love affair with notebooks, like me, this may be more your speed. Long gone are the days where you have to keep book-related notes in a plain, general purpose diary or journal. Now stores like Etsy and Amazon have an abundance of journals dedicated specifically to the art of book logging.

And if you prefer brick and mortar stores, many of these reading logs are also available at major book retailers and in independent bookstores.

More Information

If you’d like a step-by-step outline on how to start a reading journal, this post by Dolly Garland does an excellent job of hitting all the major points. If you’re a book journaling pro looking for some inspiration, this post by Esther Lombardi has some wonderful, thought-provoking questions.

Download Free Book Journal Printable
No email sign-up. No paywall. Good, clean fun.

PS: Was this post helpful? Don’t forget to share!

Posted on Leave a comment

How Women Entrepreneurs Can Increase Productivity & Save Oodles of Time

How Women Entrepreneurs Can Increase Productivity & Save Oodles of Time

Time is fleeting. Make the most of it.

How Women Entrepreneurs Can Increase Productivity & Save Oodles of Time

How Women Entrepreneurs Can Increase Productivity & Save Oodles of Time
How Women Entrepreneurs Can Increase Productivity & Save Oodles of Time

This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a commission from clicks or purchases made through these links at no cost to you. See my Disclosure Page for more information.

If you feel exhausted, distracted, burnt out, and overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Researchers estimated back in 2009 that the average American consumes about 34 Gigabytes of information a day. The number today is surely much higher. Our brains simply aren’t wired to process that much information. And when you add chores, self-care, work, commuting, dating, and childrearing to the mix, it’s a wonder any of us manages to keep it all together. And the less working memory we have, the longer things take to complete.

Have you ever felt like a zombie walking underwater as you drag yourself through your day? Yeah, me too. Until I discovered this strategy that totally changed my life.

A Strategy that Works WITH Your Brain, Not Against It

Before we get to the strategy, here are some things about the brain that you might not know:

1. Research suggests there is a link between physical exercise and improved creative thinking. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Staying in a sedentary state (like sitting at a desk all day) isn’t great for your body or your overall health. Even ten minutes of vigorous physical activity a day can improve your mood and cognition.

2. If you work in large, contiguous blocks of time, you will suffer from decision fatigue. This means your judgment calls will become more and more impaired over time. And you’ll be at greater risk for making decisions based on outside influences (like how hungry, tired, or cranky you are).

3. Daydreaming is actually pretty important. Research suggests it’s a way for our brains to freeform problem solve.

4. On that note, something as funny and seemingly idle as doodling can improve your workflow, too! It actually helps you improve focus and absorb concepts quicker. (I don’t know about you, but I always doodled in my notes at school. When I became a teacher, I allowed my doodler students to do the same without reprimand. Because it works.)

5. Short work breaks like this can be really good for our focus and productivity, according to research. Which brings me to the method that transformed my creative process and increased my productivity.

The Pomodoro Technique

(Yes, Like the Tomato)

Invented in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the time management technique gained traction in the 1990s. In 2006, he published a free PDF version of his book, The Pomodoro Technique, that was downloaded over 2 million times. In 2013, he made a hardcover version available for purchase, and an updated version is set to hit bookshelves in August 2018. This video from the strategy from the Cirillo Company website that provides a brief overview of the technique:

The company even offers Pomodoro Certification and Pomodoro Trainer Licensing if you want to bring your project management skills up to the next level.

But what’s lovely about this strategy is its simplicity and accessibility. After all, the whole concept began with a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. There are plenty of free sites and apps available around this technique, but the one I’m using as I type this is Marinara Timer. It provides several options from the standard Pomodoro sequence (25 minutes of activity, 5 minutes of break time with a 15-minute break after every four pomodoros) to a more flexible custom timer. There are also a variety of fun sound effects to choose from. My personal favorite is the ‘Yipee!’ but there are 21 other options including no sound at all.

If you want a deeper understanding of the methodology and how it can improve your busy life, I recommend reading the book.

Get It Now and Save Oodles of Time Later: