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News Roundup: Shorter Work Weeks, Marijuana for Anxiety, and More

Woman sleeping at desk, papers around her
 

Had enough of the 40-hour (or more) work week? So have many other people. Earlier this week, The New York Times selected a handful of editorial-style articles on the subject for an online spread in “The Opinion Pages” that explores the issue of long hours on the job and how this impacts quality of life.

In an essay titled “An American Dream Deferred,” Lynn Stuart Parramore, director of the New Economic Dialogue Project at Alternet, details how the current work expectations of U.S. companies contradict the visions and hopes of our country’s founders and thought leaders, such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. As she writes, Adams envisioned a society that allowed his children and grandchildren the time and space to read poetry and enjoy music—not be stuck in an office cubicle or service job for hours on end. Jefferson wrote extensively on the pursuit of personal happiness, and how all Americans should be afforded this right.

To counter the trend toward an increasingly industrialized, mechanized experience of life in the United States, some are pushing for more flexible hours or to reduce the work week to 30 hours; in her essay on the subject, Anna Coote, head of social policy at the New Economics Foundation in London, argues that fewer hours spent on the job means better health and more time to enjoy other things in life, like time at home bonding with family and doing hobbies. She proposes higher wages to account for the decrease in hours paid.

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Others, like Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder and chief technology officer at a marketing software company in Massachusetts, claim a rigidly defined work schedule actually decreases productivity and overall business success. People don’t want to feel as though they are chained to their desks, unable to move through life in a way that feels natural and healthy; and when their needs aren’t being met, employees tend to slack and produce shoddier work in general.

In other mental health news…

Self-Acceptance Could Be the Key to a Happier Life, Yet It’s the Happy Habit Many People Practice the Least

Studies show that accepting ourselves just as we are—flaws and imperfections as well as the good stuff—is a practice that breeds personal happiness, but apparently the call to ‘love thyself’ is easier said than done, as many people still do not focus their time and energy on cultivating it.

Discovery Sheds New Light on Marijuana’s Anxiety Relief Effects

New research from Vanderbilt University identified cannabinoid receptors in the central nucleus of the amygdala, which is largely responsible for processing emotions and regulating anxiety levels, in studies involving mice. This explains the cannabis plant’s anxiety-relieving effects, and reveals the reason why some might find the habit of using marijuana to be addictive; since there is a naturally occurring endocannabinoid system in place to regulate anxiety levels, over time, using a substance to activate this system decreases the functionality of these receptors, thereby making a person dependent on the plant to remain calm.

Prison Meditation Becoming More Popular as Inmates Report Better Impulse Control, Improved Calm

Meditation among prisoners is having profoundly positive effects, particularly transcendental meditation. Through the help of organizations like the Prison Mindfulness Institute and the David Lynch Foundation, meditative practice is being introduced and explored in a number of prisons across the country.

Fight to Let Transgender Soldiers Serve

For decades, there has been a ban on allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military; however, it has been determined recently that there is no medically based justification for this ban, and there is now a push for President Obama to issue an executive order to lift it.

Body-Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys

The pressure to look a certain way and maintain a certain size and shape has long been focused on women, and young girls, especially. A new study reveals, however, that adolescent boys are feeling increasingly aware of and obsessed with their body image, as well.

Report Says Medication Use Is Rising for Adults with Attention Disorder

Along with increased diagnoses of conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), the use of psychotropic medications is also on the rise in the United States, particularly among children, adolescents, and young adults.

Adam Lanza’s Father in 1st Interview: He Would Have Killed Me ‘In a Heartbeat’

In December 2012, Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s, killed his mother and then fatally shot 20 children, six staff members, and took his own life at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Now, his father speaks out about his son’s instability in an interview with CNN.

Feel-Good Story of the Week: Autistic Kids Soar in Unique Partnership with Theater

An alternative school in Seattle, Washington, is making a huge difference in the lives of children who have been diagnosed with autism, which now affects 1 in 88 children.  After noticing that the autistic students were naturally drawn to music, “Broadway Bound,” a children’s theater group that shares building space with the school, decided to allow them to audition for and participate in musicals.

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Comments
  • Sheila March 15th, 2014 at 7:19 AM #1

    Shorter work week?
    I’m up for that!

  • dsmatt March 16th, 2014 at 4:16 AM #2

    Adam Lanza’s father wasn’t around to provide any emotional or psychological support it sounds like. It’s interesting how he takes a role of being so removed from it all like he’s a hero. Sadly, sounds like he a large part of that family’s problem.

  • fallon March 17th, 2014 at 10:26 AM #3

    Seems like all we ever hear about are the positive benefits of marijuana use for some patients and while I think that it can be beneficial for some I do think that it is important to continue to show that it can still have some harmful side effects too. I have always heard that it isn’t possible to become dependent on pot like it is other drugs or alcohol. Really? Well this study seems to show otherwise and I have heard from a lot of people who have used it at one time or another just how habit forming it can be. So just be careful out there about what we think is actually safe because there are things that are more than what they sometimes seem to be.

  • Al March 19th, 2014 at 11:43 AM #4

    I have a problem with the whole transgender thing in the military simply because there are too many times when gender does play a role and I think that this could lead to a whole lot of confusion for the soldiers. I don’t know, I don’t want there to be that kind of bias, that seems wrong in some ways, but I am only trying to look out for the men and women fighting so hard for us overseas. They already have such incredibly tough jobs, they don’t need political complications like these making their daily lives even harder do they?

  • walker March 20th, 2014 at 12:08 PM #5

    Sure I am for the shorter work weeks, but do you actually think that there are that many employers who are going to be all for paying their employees higher wages to compensate for the number of hours that they would lose?

    Small business especially are already hurting in these tough economic times. How would they ever justify paying people even more hours and having them work less. I guess that the argument is that you will get more productivity out of people if you have them work less and can therefore afford to pay them more, and I think that this could be true in the beginning when people are excited about it. But what about when it becomes the norm? Do you think that they will stay just as energized and ready to put as much effort into it? Probably not and they will probably go back to their old ways and then you are out a whole lot of money and getting less work out of your employees.

    I think that this is one of those things that sounds great in theory and looks good on paper but in the end would really just suck.

  • Ally March 24th, 2014 at 10:33 AM #6

    Sure, we all have our faults, but when didwe become a society that is so down on itself?

    I remember when I used to be so proud of who I was and all that we stood for and somehow much of that has been lost. I am not sure what happened, and it is not just on a personal level but I think that the country as a whole really struggles with this. Is there anyone or anythingt hat can help with this apathy that we tend to now have toward one another and the world?

  • Joe April 3rd, 2014 at 4:33 PM #7

    Thanks for providing the link regarding body image and adolescent males. I think that there are alot of times when this issue is blatantly ignored because we think about how this impacting young girls but never stop to think that young men are being harmed just as badly and are hurting themselves as a result. With more attention paid to this matter hopefully we can do more about this and help more adolescent males before the issue becomes so scary like it has for so many young women in the country.

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