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The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

So there I was, on a miserable February morning, watching the rain dribble down the windows of the Guardian offices at Kings Place, searching for stories for the feature pages, when I came upon a website belonging to an Australian palliative nurse who had written a fascinating survey. Bronnie Ware had asked her dying patients about their greatest regrets in life and had condensed their wisdom down to produce The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. I read it hungrily, for perspective, for comfort, as anyone would. The features editors weren’t interested in it for...
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Want to Know Yourself? Take Our Test

Want to Know Yourself? Take Our Test

“If I knew myself, I’d run away,” said Goethe, who, incidentally, was Freud’s favourite writer. You might imagine that knowing yourself would be one of the key goals of psychology.  Often it has not been, however. When I was young one of the most distinguished experimental psychologists of his generation Donald Broadbent told me students should realise it was an illusion that psychology would teach them to know themselves better. Perhaps that’s why a paper on Experiential Self Monitoring which I reported in 1980 made such an impression on me. It was given by E J...
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Why Writers Need Retreats

Why Writers Need Retreats

 Most writers develop the ability to block out noise and a certain amount of chaos. Complete peace and quiet is a rare commodity, so in the interests of getting any work done, this is a skill worth nurturing. What writers don’t always manage is to block out the endless nagging feeling that there is something else they should be doing. And this feeling is invariably made worse when the writer is working from home – as so many writers do. The answer of course, is to leave home for a while and go on a retreat. Preferably a writing retreat. A jobbing journalist, as I was...
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Applying to University? Read This.

Applying to University? Read This.

Imagine buying an expensive item for which you have over 40 different choices. A phone, say, or a laptop. You might feel a little anxious about choosing the right one. Now imagine buying an item costing £33,000 which will affect your future, and having over forty thousand choices. Feeling anxious yet? Your teachers won’t tell you this, and your family probably doesn’t know it, but choosing a university course (combined with studying and worrying about your grades) can cause massive stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you follow some simple guidelines. 1....
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Is Your Diet Causing Chronic Inflammation?

Is Your Diet Causing Chronic Inflammation?

When studying nutrition I was initially very taken by the idea, provided by one of my tutors, that inflammation is the seat of all chronic disease. This concept had never crossed my mind before as I had always thought of inflammation as being the acute kind – the pain, heat, swelling and redness that is the result of scraping your knee or cutting your finger. Of course this kind of inflammation is important and, in a place without antibiotics or antiseptics, it is life-saving. This is because it is the body’s primary mechanism for dealing with trauma and...
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The Ground Beneath My Feet: a Fear of the Unknown

The Ground Beneath My Feet: a Fear of the Unknown

I was 13 when I had my first panic attack, though I didn’t know what it was then. I was at a café in Biarritz when I got a chicken bone lodged in my throat. My entire body went white hot; I became convinced I was going to die. The blood drained to my feet, every bit of me screamed to get outside, so I walked around the block eating yoghurt until the fear drained away. When we got back to New Zealand, the same white heat would flow through my body again whenever we would go to a café or restaurant. I had to give myself ‘outs.’ Sit facing the door. Don’t order food....
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