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Researchers may have spotted a secret weapon in the fight against loneliness.

Feeling connected to our world could be just a daydream away.

"The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness."

That's a quote from journalist and activist Norman Cousins. I think he was onto something.

I would argue the most ironic thing about that eternal quest Cousins speaks of is that so many of us are on it. Together. And in the U.S., a growing number seem to be (unfortunately) joining in on the journey.


A 2010 survey found that 35% of American adults over the age of 45 reported being lonely — up from 20% roughly three decades ago, according to Slate. That's not just cause for concern over America's mental health, either — feeling socially isolated increases our chances of dying prematurely, too.

Photo via Thinkstock.

Fortunately, though, we might have uncovered a secret weapon in the fight against loneliness.

And (awesomely enough) it may live within our own imaginations.

A new study by researchers at the University of Sheffield and the University of Sussex in the U.K. found that daydreaming about loved ones may "significantly [increase] feelings of connection, love, and belonging."

In case you're wondering how they got to that conclusion...

  1. Participants (143 students and staff at a British university) all underwent a "loneliness induction," where they answered several questions to gauge how lonely they were. Regardless of their actual answers, each participant was falsely told their score made them "much more lonely than average."
  2. Participants were then separated into three groups: social daydreamers, non-social daydreamers, and a control group.
  3. Both daydreamer groups were instructed to, of course, do just that — daydream. The social daydreamers, however, were asked to imagine a scenario where they were "interacting with another person that [they] have a close, positive, relationship with," while the non-social daydreamers were asked to imagine a scenario that "should just be about [them]." The control group simply did a memory exercise.
  4. Based on answers provided before the loneliness induction, after the loneliness induction, and after the daydreaming task, researchers concluded that those in the daydreaming groups felt a heightened sense of social connection over the control group — especially the social daydreamers.

Photo via Thinkstock.

Like all studies, we should consider the constraints that prevent it from perfectly reflecting reality. Because many respondents were university students, the average participant age was a relatively young 23 years. The sample group was also disproportionately female, as 87 of the 143 participants were women.

Despite the study's limitations, its findings suggest daydreaming could play a role in bettering our cognitive health.

"These findings demonstrate that through imagination, social daydreaming can replenish connectedness, providing a potential strategy for enhancing socio-emotional well-being."

It's nice to know that even just the thought of my friends and family may help me feel even more a part of this big, bustling world of ours. Sweet (day)dreams!

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

People share experiences with intrusive thoughts.

When I was younger I used to think I was dying or that I would get kidnapped by a random stranger, but I kept it to myself because I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that telling people would confirm this fear, so I kept it inside my entire life until I was an adult and learned it was part of ADHD and other disorders, such as OCD and PTSD. But it doesn't have to be part of a disorder at all—a vast amount of people just have intrusive thoughts, and a Twitter user, Laura Gastón, is trying to normalize them for others.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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