There’s a surprising science behind making friends, and this psychologist is teaching it.
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UCLA Optimists

Imagine if someone jumped into your conversation at a party without an introduction, interrupting you mid-sentence.

That might strike you as odd or rude. But when we give someone the simple advice to "just go up and introduce yourself," we're skipping many of the nonverbal steps important to making a good impression.

For most, connecting with other people relies on intuition. However, social interactions of all sorts — from just saying "hello" to a new acquaintance to interviewing for a new job — can be challenging. For people with autism, it can be even more difficult to know how to strike up that first conversation.


Image via iStock.

That’s why UCLA psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson made it her mission to help.

Through her work at the Semel Institute and her work with Fred Frankel in 2005, she created a program that helps young adults with social challenges, such as those on the autism spectrum, make and keep friends by breaking down social interactions into easy-to-follow steps.

This program, called the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS), teaches them how to listen, interact, and communicate with others.  

Photo from UCLA PEERS via AP.

"We want to teach to the way that [people with autism] think. What works? Concrete rules and steps," Laugeson explains.

Most people pick up on social cues, like body language and facial expressions, quite naturally. But many people with autism struggle with abstract thinking. Concrete communication works best for many, according to the Indiana Research Center for Autism.

That's why, Laugeson explains, the first step is actually about learning to listen before jumping in.

"The first step is that you’d watch the conversation and kind of listen to the conversation," she explains.

Image via iStock.

Some of us might use a prop, like a cellphone, to look distracted while listening to a conversation we’re thinking about joining. We’ll spend this time eavesdropping for a common interest.

Next, we might move closer to the conversation, waiting for a pause to jump in with something on topic. Of course, this process involves assessing whether the person or group is interested in talking to us.

Introductions usually don’t come until mid-conversation, Laugeson says. This is why "just go up and say hello" may not the best advice, especially for people who struggle to pick up on subtle cues.

There are social nuances that go beyond first interactions, too, and the curriculum at PEERS addresses many of them.

UCLA PEERS also teaches students how to deal with conflict and bullying, for example.

Individuals with autism are especially vulnerable to bullying. The Interactive Autism Network found in a study that 63% of children ages 6 to 15 with autism spectrum disorder have experienced bullying.

Image via iStock.

This is another area where neurotypical people may give ineffective advice. People usually suggest dealing with teasing in one of three ways: ignore the bully, walk away, or tell an adult. But these strategies don’t always work, Laugeson says.

"These responses often make it worse for the victim and not better," she explains.

During a bullying situation, a neurotypical person will usually respond with a short, dismissive comeback. A casual "whatever" or "Is that supposed to be funny?" can make the aggressor’s comments seem boring.

This is a great way to show the ability to stand up for one’s self while diffusing the situation and avoiding more confrontation. Laugeson teaches this tactic in PEERS to her students, helping them deal with teasing in a way others might naturally react.

Image via iStock.

These are just a few ways that PEERS helps students who struggle socially.

Since 2005, PEERS has expanded from UCLA to locations across the country and throughout the world.

The PEERS method can also help preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other socio-emotional problems too.

And it’s more accessible than ever, thanks to her book, "The Science of Making Friends," and an app called FriendMaker, which acts as a virtual coach for social situations and includes role-playing exercises for making and keeping friends.

Friendship is a critical part of mental health, though it’s easy to take this for granted.

This is why programs like UCLA PEERS are so important, particularly for individuals who can't easily navigate social situations.

According to the Mayo Clinic, friendships can boost happiness, encourage a healthy lifestyle, reduce stress, improve self-confidence, help in coping with trauma, and much more.

Laugeson teaching social skills at a PEERS group. Image from UCLA PEERS via AP.

Laugeson shared a story of a student who had been in and out of psychiatric units with a long history of mental health issues. The young man had tried many medications by the time he joined PEERS.

"This was a kid who had been highly medicated over the years. He came to me at graduation and he told me friendship was the best medicine for him," Laugeson recounted. "It absolutely can change a life to have a friend."

PEERS has helped numerous students like him, not only in making friends, but in attending college, getting jobs, and even embarking on romantic relationships.

For the past 12 years, the skills taught at PEERS have helped improve the lives of thousands of people all over the world. For a skill set that’s so rarely taught, it’s transformative to make the art of friendship a little more accessible for those who need it.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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A vintage post-card collector on Flickr who goes by the username Post Man has kindly allowed us to share his wonderful collection of vintage postcards and erotica from the turn of the century. This album is full of exquisite photographs from around the world of a variety of people dressed in beautiful clothing in exotic settings. In an era well before the internet, these photographs would be one of the only ways you could could see how people in other countries looked and dressed.

Take a look at PostMan's gallery of over 90 vintage postcards on Flickr.

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via Budweiser

Budweiser beer, and its low-calorie counterpart, Bud Light, have created some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of the past 37 years.

There were the Clydesdales playing football and the poor lost puppy who found its way home because of the helpful horses. Then there were the funny frogs who repeated the brand name, "Bud," "Weis," "Er."

We can't forget the "Wassup?!" ad that premiered in December 1999, spawning the most obnoxious catchphrase of the new millennium.

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