TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How Fireworks Can Trigger PTSD

Fireworks will be going off with a bang all weekend, but for some, they cause more anxiety than celebration

You may see the signs popping up around your neighborhood this July 4—red, white and blue notices that indicate the home of a vet with the request to “Please be courteous with fireworks.”

The signs are the work of a Facebook-launched nonprofit, Military With PTSD, begun by Shawn Gourley, whose husband, Justin, served in the Navy for four years and returned with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sudden and loud noises can trigger episodes of PTSD, bringing veterans back to traumatic experiences they have lived through during their service. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, up to 20% of military personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan experience PTSD each year.

The signs are posted on the lawns of veterans’ homes to alert people to be more considerate when setting off fireworks in the area. According to Gourley, who spoke to CNN, the group has mailed 2,500 signs, some of which were paid for by donations and others by the vets themselves, while 3,000 people remain on a waiting list.

The signs are not meant to quash any Fourth of July celebrations, but to raise awareness that the explosive sounds, flashes of light and smell of powder may trigger unwelcome memories for some. “If you are a veteran, on the one hand July 4th should be one of the most patriotic holidays that you feel a part of,” says Dr. John Markowitz, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. “On the other hand, the rockets’ red glare and the bombs bursting in air are likely to evoke traumatic memories, and you might want to hide. It’s a tricky one.”

Having advanced knowledge of a fireworks display can help some people with PTSD to better prepare and cope with any symptoms they may experience. “A big component of the startle response and PTSD is the unexpected,” says Rachel Tester, program director of the Law Enforcement, Active Duty, Emergency Responder (LEADER) Program at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital. “When people are able to anticipate, they are able to put into place mechanisms they have to cope ahead of time.”

That might include things such as relaxation techniques or being able to see the fireworks show and therefore know that they’re coming, as well as having headphones, music or other distractions at the ready.

Such strategies may not work for every PTSD patient, but being more aware that the explosive celebrations of the holiday might affect those with PTSD is an important step toward ensuring that everyone can enjoy the holiday without fear, anxiety or pain.

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Lessons on How to Hack Your Own Brain

Getty Images

How you can make yourself more confident, more generous, and less likely to succumb to stress

Inc. logo

Would you like to be smarter, more confident, kinder, more resilient under stress, and more successful? Of course you would, and you can. In a fascinating series of TED Talks, social psychologists describe ways we can trick our own brains to make ourselves better in almost every way. Here are some of the most compelling.

1. Stop fearing stress.

A couple of years ago, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal made a disturbing discovery. For years she’d been warning people that stress kills. And it does, new research showed–but only if you expect it to. People who experienced a lot of stress and believed that stress was harmful were indeed much likelier to die than those who experienced little stress. But those who experienced great stress but believed itwasn’t harming them were in no more danger than the stress-free, she explains in atalk that may change your whole relationship with the stressors in your own life.

2. Recognize your own optimism.

How do I know that you’re an optimist? Because we all are, as cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot explains. Being optimistic makes us happier and more resilient–and without a heavy dose of optimism, no one would ever start a business. However, problems arise when we make bad decisions out of excessive optimism, as happened before the financial crisis, for example. The solution? Stay unreasonably optimistic–but keep in mind that you are.

3. Use body language to increase your own confidence.

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains how in this moving talk. Besides communicating confidence to others, when we adopt confident body language we fool our own brains into actually being more confident. Something as simple as going someplace private and adopting a confident stance (legs apart, arms extended) for a few minutes before going into a meeting or making a presentation can make a big difference. Try it and see.

4. Remind yourself to be generous.

A rigged game of Monopoly shows what many have observed in life: The more fortunate and richer you are, the more entitled you feel, and the less likely you are to offer help to those who need it. But, social psychologist Paul Piff tells us, it doesn’t have to be that way. A small reminder, such as a 46-second video on child poverty, is enough to reverse that nasty piece of human nature. So provide yourself with those reminders and you’ll remain a good person, no matter how rich and successful you become.

5. Don’t put too much faith in your own memories.

The number of eyewitness accounts and identifications that have been proved wrong by DNA or other evidence is only one example of how unreliable human memory is, as psychologist Elizabeth Loftus describes in her TED Talk. Not only that, it’s surprisingly easy to implant false memories in people, as some psychologists have unintentionally done when they thought they were unearthing repressed memories. So think twice next time you’re “sure” about something you remember.

6. Surround yourself with people you want to emulate.

Everybody cheats, at least a little, at least some of the time. An elaborate series of experiments explores just how much and when, as described by behavioral economist Dan Ariely in a thought-provoking talk. One intriguing finding: People are more likely to cheat if they see someone doing it who they consider part of their own group, such as someone wearing a sweatshirt with their school’s logo. If the cheater is wearing a different school’s logo, it has no effect. On the other hand, people are less likely to cheat if they’ve been asked to recite the Ten Commandments–whether or not they are religious, and even if they can’t remember most of them.

Obviously, our ideas about right and wrong are not as fixed as we think they are. We’re highly suggestible, and easily influenced by the people around us. We should select those people carefully.

7. Learn to delay gratification.

In a Stanford experiment, 4-year-olds were left alone in a room with a marshmallow. If they could resist eating it for 15 minutes, they were told, they’d be given a second one as well, speaker and author Joachim de Posada tells the audience in this short and entertaining talk (complete with hidden-camera footage of the kids).

Only about a third of the kids had the self-discipline to resist. When researchers followed up more than a decade later, those who had were significantly more successful than those who had succumbed. There’s a lesson here for us all.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

More from Inc.com:

TIME Brain

Alzheimer’s May Begin 20 Years Before Symptoms Appear

168835256
PASIEKA—Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM

The two decade mark is the earliest that scientists have placed the beginnings of the disease. The good news is that gives doctors a long window of time in which to slow down or reverse the condition

The latest breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research focus on the time well before patients even know they might have the neurodegenerative condition. Studies so far have found evidence that the biological processes that cause the mental decline may begin 10 to 12 years before people first notice signs of cognitive decline. But in the most recent report published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, experts say that the disease may actually begin even earlier — 18 years earlier, in fact — than they expected.

MORE: Mental and Social Activity Delays the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

For 18 years, Kumar Rajan, associate professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center, and his colleagues followed 2,125 elderly people with an average age of 73 and who did not dementia. Every three years, the researchers gave the volunteers mental skills tests, and then compared these results over time.

When the looked at the group that went on to receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, they found that these people showed lower scores on their tests throughout the study period. In fact, their scores steadily declined with each test. For each unit that the scores dropped on the cognitive tests, the risk of future Alzheimer’s increased by 85%.

MORE: Many Doctors Don’t Tell Patients They Have Alzheimer’s

Rajan stresses that the results only link cognitive testing scores on broad, group-level risk, and can’t be used to predict an individual’s risk of developing the disease. For one, more research will be needed to find the range of decline that signals potential Alzheimer’s dementia. But the findings do set the stage for studying whether such a non-invasive, easily administered test can, or should be, part of a regular assessment of people’s risk beginning in middle-age.

That way, he says, people may have a longer time period in which to hopefully intervene to slow down the disease process. Rajan plans to study whether brain-stimulating activities like crossword puzzles or learning a new language and social interactions can improve the test scores, and in turn slow the time to diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. At the very least, he says, the current data shows that there is a longer window of time in which people might be able to intervene in these ways and potentially delay Alzheimer’s most debilitating effects.

TIME movies

This Is Pixar’s Secret to Making Moviegoers Cry

"We can’t just add a sad beat because we need a sad beat in the movie"

Editor Kevin Nolting, whose previous credits include Pixar’s Up, reteamed with Oscar-winning Up director Peter Docter on the studio’s inventive Inside Out, which follows an 11-year-old named Riley who moves to San Francisco, and how she’s guided by five emotions inside her head—Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust—which operate inside her “headquarters.”

Nolting talked with The Hollywood Reporter about working with Docter and the Pixar “brain trust” (Pixar’s lead creatives including John Lasseter), how the Inside Out story came together, and how—like with Up—he’s may again bring tears to your eyes.

THR: You made a generation of moviegoers sob during the ‘Married Life’ sequence in Up (during which we see Carl’s life with his wife Ellie before she died). Would you recommend they bring tissues to Inside Out?

Yes, definitely. (laughs)

What’s the secret behind these moments?

I think the secret is the combination of Pete Docter and (co-director) Ronnie Del Carmen. Pete has the initial idea and then he lets Ronny run with it and something magical happens. Also Pete isn’t afraid to go there; he’ll let us go too far and then we dial it back. He’s very conscious about being too sappy, and he has a good sense of that.

[The moments] are always very relatable but we have to earn it. We can’t just add a sad beat because we need a sad beat in the movie. We spend a lot of time making sure we can get to that sad beat, that the audience is ready and that we’re not forcing it on the audience. The character arc has to take you there.

In live-action production, you shoot and then edit. With animation it’s the other way around.

Yes, in animation, at least at Pixar, we spend 2-3 years creating the movie in storyboard form and we generally have 7-8 full screenings for our brain trust, before we go into (animation) production. After each screening, we are willing to rewrite the whole thing or tear it apart or rewrite things. And then in three months we put it up again and see where we’re at. All of the versions have to be edited, with dialog and effects. Essentially we make seven versions of the movie before we go into production, and then once we’re in production, we edit again while in layout, which is camera staging for us. The movie is essentially made first … the last thing we add is the lighting. It’s pretty much completely upside down.

You worked with Pete before. What is the collaborative process like?

Pete is very collaborative, probably the most collaborative director we have here. My editing room is set up so that we can bring in 2-3 story artists who can draw and hear while we’re working, and we have microphones set up so we can record dialog. With him, it’s sort of like making music; he has great ideas and will lay down the base line and bring in different people to add things.

And the brain trust, we screen for them. They give us feedback, positive and negative. Sometimes it’s really hard feedback, but it’s all pointing to making a better movie.

Tell us about editing the dinner table sequence, partly shown in the trailer? (This is a scene during which Riley is having dinner with her parents and the edits move between the dinner table, Riley’s headquarters, and the headquarters’ of her mother and father).

That was one of the first scenes we did, before we really understood what the interchange between the two worlds would be — headquarters and the real world. In that scene we decided to also go inside the parents’ heads and see what happens. That scene evolved over three years, as we learned more about the characters and the construction of the worlds. The challenge was to keep narrative going and the humor going without the audience getting lost, because we were cutting between three headquarters’ with five characters in each, and then out of the dinner table, while making it funny and picking up momentum at the end.

What does this movie meant to you personally?

It means a lot to me, I moved to San Francisco when my younger daughter was 10-years-old. I lived a lot of this movie. I have daughters and experienced their joy when they were young and later when they became more introverted. I think all of the parents that worked on this, had all gone through this.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter

More from The Hollywood Reporter:

TIME psychology

Here Are 3 Awesome Secrets to Happier Memories, Backed By Research

family-jumping-beach
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

You can’t trust your memory.

Memory is fluid. Every time you recall something you’re essentially rewriting it in your head.

Yet you’re prone to stubbornly trusting this copy of a copy of a copy — even if it no longer resembles the original:

Robert Burton describes an experiment in his book On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You Are Not, which everyone with a strong opinion should read. Immediately after the Challenger explosion in 1986, the psychologist Ulric Neisser asked 106 students to describe in writing where they were when they heard, who they were with, how they felt, what their first thoughts were. Two-and-a-half years later, the same students were assembled and asked to answer the same question in writing. The new descriptions were compared with the originals. They didn’t match. People had changed facts about where they were, who they were with, what they felt, what they thought. When confronted with the original essays, people were so attached to their new memories they had trouble believing their old ones. In fact, most refused to revise their memories to match the originals written at the time. What struck Burton was the response of one student: “That’s my handwriting, but that’s not what happened.”

Eyewitness testimony? Often worthless:

Via Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average:

Between 1989 and 2007, for instance, 201 prisoners in the United States were freed through the use of DNA evidence. Of these, 77 percent had been mistakenly identified by eyewitnesses.

But memory isn’t just something to use when taking tests in school. It’s tightly coupled with happiness:

What does one of the foremost experts on happiness say is the biggest cause of unhappiness? My main takeaway from Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert’s bestselling book Stumbling on Happiness was:

Much of our unhappiness springs from the fact that we’re terrible at accurately remembering how things made us feel in the past, so we make bad choices regarding the future.

Ever eat too much, drink too much, or stay up too late, say “I shouldn’t do this because it makes me feel terrible”… and then do it again?

Ever dread Mondays, going to the gym or get-togethers… and then realize they’re really not that bad?

Via Stumbling on Happiness:

We overestimate how happy we will be on our birthdays, we underestimate how happy we will be on Monday mornings, and we make these mundane but erroneous predictions again and again, despite their regular disconfirmation.

So what are the solutions here?

1) Keep a list of what makes you very happy and very unhappy

Stop trusting your memory. Write things down. Feelings are fleeting. Keep a list of things that make you very happy and very sad.

2) Look at how other people react

Gilbert also has a suggestion that is quick and easy: Look at other people, what they do, and how they react in the moment:

This trio of studies suggests that when people are deprived of the information that imagination requires and are thus forced to use others as surrogates, they make remarkably accurate predictions about their future feelings, which suggests that the best way to predict our feelings tomorrow is to see how others are feeling today.

Sorry, you’re not a unique snowflake. We’re more similar to others than we are different. Don’t fight this, embrace it. It can be the key to a much happier life:

The irony, of course, is that surrogation is a cheap and effective way to predict one’s future emotions, but because we don’t realize just how similar we all are, we reject this reliable method and rely instead on our imaginations, as flawed and fallible as they may be.

3) Use your brain’s errors to make memories happier

Yes, your brain is imperfect, but it’s often imperfect in the same ways. You can use it’s errors to your advantage.

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, has shown that your brain consistently remembers only two things about an event:

  1. The emotional peak
  2. The end

Via The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less:

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown that what we remember about the pleasurable quality of our past experiences is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experiences felt when they were at their peak (best or worst), and how they felt when they ended. This “peak-end” rule of Kahneman’s is what we use to summarize the experience, and then we rely on that summary later to remind ourselves of how the experience felt.

So how can you game the system with this information and have happier memories?

Structure events so that the peak is great and the ending is great.

Make sure tomorrow has one thing that will be amazing and that the day ends on a positive note. This is what leads to feeling good about your life in retrospect.

Your brain is not a perfect computer. What you will remember is not the same as what happened.

But you can game it so your memories are better than what happened. And happy memories are one of the secrets to feeling good about your life.

Join over 190,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Why Bank Branches Still Matter

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. If you’re old or poor, bank branches still matter.

By Melvin Backman in Quartz

2. Street-by-street health tracking can help you avoid the flu.

By Patrick Kulp in Mashable

3. Is the U.S. Border Patrol above the law?

By Brian Bennett in the Los Angeles Times

4. How an ex-inmate turned entrepreneur helps families of prisoners stay in touch.

By Teodora Zareva in Big Think

5. The brain’s secret link to our immune system could unlock autism, Alzheimers and more.

By Josh Barney at UVA Today

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Brain

Mental and Social Activity Delays the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

182171167
Rich Seymour—Getty Images

There’s evidence that such activities do little to change the underlying drivers of Alzheimer’s, but doctors say they delay symptoms

Among the many frustrations surrounding an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is the fact that there is little that patients can do to halt or treat the disease. While promising drugs are under development, the only advice physicians give patients is to stay as mentally active as they can — by learning new languages, reading, piquing the brain with puzzles, and maintaining their social life. Such constant stimulation is supposed to keep the healthy parts of the brain as unaffected by the disease for as long as possible. There’s also evidence that a lifetime of such activity can build up so-called reserves, which can compensate for brain functions when Alzheimer’s sets in.

In a report published in the journal Neurology, Dr. Keith Johnson from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and his colleagues reveal that people who report higher levels of intellectual stimulation throughout their lifetimes don’t actually exhibit lower levels of protein plaques and other signs of Alzheimer’s compared to those who don’t. But they also found that staying mentally and socially active can push back the appearance of memory problems and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

So while the results don’t show that mental activity can affect the biology of Alzheimer’s in any way, it can have a meaningful impact on symptoms. And that is “huge,” says Dr. David Knopman, professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, who reviewed the paper and recommended it for publication. “If that resulted in a year or two delay in symptoms across the population, that would be a huge effect.”

MORE: Many Doctors Don’t Tell Patients They Have Alzheimer’s

The study involved 186 healthy volunteers with an average age of 74 years who agreed to report their current and past cognitive activities, as well as undergo a brain scan to measure levels of the Alzheimer’s-associated protein called amyloid and the volumes of specific regions of the brain responsible for memory. The group reporting more intellectual activity over their lifetimes did not show lower levels of Alzheimer’s progression as those who reported less cognitive stimulation. But the former group were able to delay the appearance of symptoms, presumably because their stronger intellectual base compensated for the effects of the disease for a longer period of time.

“If two people had the same amount of Alzheimer’s pathology, and one had higher education and engaged in more cognitively stimulating activities, and one had lower educational attainment and didn’t participate in as many mentally stimulating activities, then the symptoms [of Alzheimer’s] would appear earlier in the person with less cognitively stimulating activity,” says Knopman.

MORE: This Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Could Be a Game Changer

While earlier studies relied on studies on autopsy brains to draw connections between cognitive activity and Alzheimer’s disease, this is among the first to investigate the connection in healthy living people, by using state-of-the-art imaging techniques to pick up protein deposits in the brain and following the volunteers to see if any develop the disease. Next up will be studies looking at whether picking up more cognitive activities after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can have the same effect of slowing memory problems as having a lifetime of such skills.

TIME Innovation

How to Fit a Medical Lab in Your Pocket

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. How to fit an entire medical lab in your pocket.

By Cécilia Carron at EPFL

2. In New Orleans, the future of education is now.

By Richard Whitmire in RealClearEducation

3. The full time job is dead. Welcome to the age of microcareers.

By Kevin Maney in Backchannel

4. Forty-nine states are doing government wrong.

By Charles Chieppo in Governing

5. Tiny injectable electronics will monitor and treat brain injuries.

By Phys.org

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY consumer psychology

Fix These 4 Psychological Traps That Keep You From Saving

brain-shaped maze
Pasieka—Getty Images

Carpe diem doesn't work when it comes to savings.

Nobody likes a love interest that plays “mind games.”

It’s a waste of time, energy, and money. But you may be guilty of something almost as bad: playing mind games with yourself when it comes to saving. There are certain behaviors, inherent to many of us, that increase our chances of spending all of our paycheck. Avoid these top four psychological traps holding you back from saving:

1. Lizard Brain

Sometimes you can just blame it on your genes.

Back in the cavemen era, humans had a really hard time surviving. There was always a violent predator around the corner ready to take a bite out of them. This constant state of imminent danger put one part of our brains in overdrive — the amygdala. Sometimes known as the “lizard brain” (because that’s all a lizard has for brain function), the amygdala is in charge of very basic functions, such as as fight, flight, nutrition, and sex.

The lizard brain made our ancestors act very emotionally and live as if every day was the very last of their lives. Eat every last piece of food now, and leave everything behind at the first sign of danger, it said. The constant threat of danger kept cavemen on their toes and made them act impulsively.

Many centuries have passed and humans have evolved for the better, but the amygdala is still part of our brain, and many of us want to enjoy our money now. Fight the urge to splurge or analyze your financial situation constantly by reminding yourself that unlike your ancestors, you will probably have a long future to plan for.

How to Fix It

Keeping on top of financial needs every single minute of your day will let your lizard brain take control you and make you react emotionally. Set specific dates for review (e.g. every quarter, semester, or year) of your finances and take corrective action after careful analysis. Then, move on.

2. Extrapolation

We are creatures of habit. We all have a favorite movie that we could just watch over and over, or a brand of coffee that we can’t imagine living without.

The challenge with having favorites is that we tend to assume that the same conditions that once made them them our favorites still apply. This is called extrapolating. When you extrapolate your spending patterns without thinking, you ignore how much money you could be saving.

Take, for example, a daily $5 cup of coffee. Let’s assume that you picked up that habit on your first job. You were young, didn’t have a coffee maker, and you would enjoy it everyday on the bus to work. Now that you’re 10 years older, own a home with your spouse, and drive to work, should you still be buying that $5 cup every day? Well, if you were to stop spending $5 a day and put those funds in an investment with an 8% annual return, you would have a cool $28,553.01 by the end of 10 years.

How to Fix It

Don’t just do things for the sake of doing them. Take a look at your daily and weekly rituals and find cheaper alternatives. Then, commit to put those savings in your retirement or savings account. Already doing that? Start or strengthen your emergency fund. (See also: Here’s How Rich You’d Be If You Stopped Drinking)

3. Confirmation Bias

“There is no worse blind man than the one who doesn’t want to see,” goes a popular saying.

When you’re unwilling to seek out information that challenges your beliefs, you’re a victim of confirmation bias. This psychological phenomenon makes you pay attention only to the studies, news, and facts that reinforce your preconceived notions.

By falling victim of your own reality distortion field, you can waste a lot of money by making suboptimal choices. Let’s assume that you really like Mac laptops and you’re looking to buy a new computer. Here’s how confirmation bias would work against you:

  • The only research that you do is to read sites focused only on Mac computers. You ignore sites that cover a wide variety of laptop models, such as Consumer Reports.
  • You only visit an Apple retail store because you subconsciously favor information that confirms what you already believe.
  • You go out of your way to attack any data or evidence that proves that you could get an exact product that performs just as good (or better) at a cheaper price from another brand.
  • When asked about the main reason behind buying Apple, you can only answer “I like it” or repeat an ad or catchphrase from an Apple clerk.

How to Fix It

Don’t make purchase decisions based on a hunch or first result from a Google search. Be open to checking unbiased information from multiple sources, and be ready to dismiss an idea if the data proves you wrong.

4. Carpe Diem

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see somebody quoting “carpe diem” on my Instagram or Facebook feeds.

While the most common interpretation of carpe diem is “seize the day,” the official definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the “enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future.” Or in fewer words, immediate gratification. Given the choice of enjoying $300 right now or receiving $5,000 in six years, most of us would take the $300.

However, our parents were right in teaching us self-restraint. Data from over four decades of experiments has shown that a child’s ability to delay gratification is critical for a successful life. Best known as the The Marshmallow Test, the experiment from psychologist Walter Mischel explains how self-control makes you better prepared to tackle any challenge, including financial ones. (See also: 10 Investing Lessons You Must Teach Your Kids)

One of the most successful investors of all time, Warren Buffett, is a major advocate of learning self-restraint. “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago,” he wrote in a past letter to his company shareholders.

How to Fix It

Studies have shown that the most efficient way to learn or teach delaying gratification to achieve later, greater rewards is to provide reliable experiences. For example, if you promise yourself that you won’t use your credit cards for three years to pay down debt and that at the end of those three years you will take a small trip to Las Vegas to celebrate, then take the Vegas trip if you’re successful.

Not keeping your own word will make you say “I didn’t get anything in the end anyways” the next time you’re trying to reach a financial milestone, and make you abandon your goals. Deliver on your promise to yourself or others.

What other psychological traps are slowing down or eating away at your savings?

More From Wise Bread:

TIME medicine

Memory Loss Not Caused By Cholesterol Drugs After All

128585544
Chris Gallagher—Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM

Some cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, could contribute to short-term memory lapses, but new data suggest that risk may not be real

About 25 million Americans currently take a drug to lower their cholesterol, so it’s no surprise that the most popular among them, statins, consistently top the list of best-selling prescription medications. But recent studies hinting that they were associated with memory problems have led some patients to shy away from them.

According to the latest data, though, there’s probably no need to avoid taking statins for this reason if a doctor prescribes them to protect against heart disease. In a report published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Dr. Brian Strom, chancellor of biomedical and health sciences at Rutgers University, and his colleagues say that while statins may contribute to short term memory issues, these tend to resolve over the long term and that such memory problems are not unique to the statins.

MORE: Who Really Needs To Take a Statin?

Previous studies had reported a possible connection between statins and memory loss, but those studies compared statin users to non-statin users. In his study, Strom included another group for comparison: people prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs that were not statins. Among a large group of 482,543 statin users, 26,484 users of non-statin cholesterol-lowering drugs and 482,543 controls who weren’t on any drugs, Strom and his team found that both cholesterol-lowering drug groups showed short-term memory problems in the first 30 days after they started taking their medications compared to the controls. For statin users, the increased odds of memory lapses was four-fold, and for the other drug group, nearly the same, at 3.6-fold.

Because both groups taking drugs showed similar memory effects, Strom says that it’s unlikely that statins are uniquely to blame for the short-term cognitive issues. And because statins and the other cholesterol-lowering drugs work in vastly different ways, it’s also unlikely that the effect can be blamed on the drugs themselves. Strom proposes that the groups’ short-term memory issues, which were recorded by doctors in the patients’ medical records, is more likely the result of these patients simply being more aware of and sensitive to any changes in their functions after starting a new medication. In other words, people may have been having memory issues before they started their medications, and the problems might have occurred if they had not started taking them, but the symptoms became more noticeable because the users were more attuned to changes after filling their new prescription. The control group might have been experiencing similar memory issues but didn’t report them to their doctors; therefore, the issues might not have been recorded. “People on new medicines are more likely to notice a problem, more likely to blame problems on the drug and more likely to go back to the doctor and report these problems,” Strom says.

MORE: Statins May Seriously Increase Diabetes Risk

While it’s possible that the drug-taking group is also at higher risk to begin with for memory-related problems, since they have more potentially vessel-blocking cholesterol in their blood that can also impede blood flow to the brain, the results remained strong even after the group adjusted for risk factors such as diabetes and other blood-related conditions.

What’s more, Strom and his team also looked at users who might have been prescribed statins, stopped taking them because they were uncomfortable with the short-term memory issues, and then were prescribed them again at a later time. These patients did not report memory problems at the same rate, suggesting that the effect has less to do with the drugs themselves than with a hyper-vigilance for any changes associated with new drugs—the second time around, the drugs weren’t novel any more. “If the memory problems were real, we would expect that those who took statins for the second time would develop memory problems again,” he says. “The fact that we saw this as a problem so infrequently in this group suggests that it was more because the statins were a new drug the first time around.”

Based on the results, Strom says he informs his own patients that for some, statins may be linked to a short-term memory issue but that these tend to disappear over the long term. He also warns that even the short-term problems may not be a true effect of the drugs but rather a misinterpretation of the studies. “People should not steer away from statins because of a fear of short-term memory problems,” he says, “because they probably are not real.”

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com