Master Life Faster: Newsletter

How to Look Your Most Beautiful

Posted in Newsletter by Paul Lem, M.D. on July 3, 2009

Volume 2, Issue 7
SOCIAL: How to look your most beautiful
SMART: Intelligence or hard work?
HEALTHY: Why you should be an optimist

“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.

How to Look Your Most Beautiful

weddingIn the United States, a wedding costs an average of $28,800. The price tag includes $2,570 for photography and video, $2,048 for flowers, $1,564 for a wedding gown, and $190 for hair and makeup. When you’re spending that kind of money, you want to look your best.

Foxy and Fertile
The surprising thing is it’s all about timing. Scientists have discovered that women are their most beautiful during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. It’s the time from 5 days before ovulation until 1–2 days afterward.

Consider the evidence:

  1. In the Czech Republic, researchers asked women to wear cotton pads under their armpits for 24 hours. Male volunteers were randomly assigned to smell the cotton pads. The least intense and most attractive odours were from women in the follicular phase of their cycle (Day 1 to about Day 14).
  2. Researchers from the State University of New York recorded women’s voices at four different times in the cycle. Voice attractiveness increased significantly the closer women were to ovulation. There was no effect for women on hormonal contraceptives.
  3. At the University of Newcastle, researchers took photos of women’s faces during the follicular and luteal phases of their cycles. According to male and female volunteers, the most attractive photos were taken during the follicular phase.
  4. In a study of lap dancers, women earned about $70/hour in the fertile phase, $50/hour in the luteal phase, and $35/hour during menstruation. Women on the pill earned about $39/hour, and experienced no midcycle peak in earnings.

The Pill
dancingWhy is there no attractiveness effect for women on the pill? The contraceptive pill contains estrogen and/or progesterone. These hormones inhibit fertility by putting the body in a constant state of “hormonal pseudopregnancy.”

Back to weddings: if you want to look your best, schedule your big day during the follicular phase of your cycle. The ideal time is just before ovulation. If that doesn’t work, then remember the words of Miss Piggy: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

Havlicek J et al. (2006). Non-advertized does not mean concealed: Body odour changes across the human menstrual cycle. Ethology. 112: 81-90. Abstract.

Pipitone RN, Gallup GG. (2008). Women’s voice attractiveness varies across the menstrual cycle. Evolution and Human Behavior. 29: 268-274. Abstract.

Miller G, Tybur JM, Jordan BD. (2007). Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: economic evidence for human estrus? Evolution and Human Behavior. 28: 375-381. Full Article.

Roberts SC et al. (2004). Female facial attractiveness increases during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. Proc R Soc Lond Bio. 271: s270-S272. Abstract.

“Work hard. Be nice.”
-Rafe Esquith

Intelligence or Hard Work?

intelligence-and-how-to-get-itWhen it comes to school, is it better to be smart or hard-working? My dad was a teacher, and he firmly believed in the value of hard work. When I was a kid, he posted a sign in our basement that read: “Hard work is the key to success.”

A new book by Richard Nisbett suggests my dad was right. In “Intelligence and How to Get It,” Nisbett cites a study from the University of Pennsylvania involving 164 eighth-graders. Researchers gave the students a behavioral delay-of-gratification task, a questionnaire on study habits, and a group-administered IQ test.

Results showed that self-discipline was two times better than IQ at predicting final grades, school attendance, and hours spent doing homework. In other words, it’s no use being smart if you don’t study hard and do your homework.

The study’s authors concluded, “We believe that many of America’s children have trouble making choices that require them to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain, and that programs that build self-discipline may be the royal road to building academic achievement.”

“A” for Effort
studyingHow can you encourage your kids to work hard? A proven way is praising them for hard work.  In a study from Columbia University, psychologists Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller investigated the effects of praising fifth graders for effort versus intelligence.

When kids were praised for being smart, they performed worse, didn’t try as hard, and didn’t enjoy working as much. In contrast, when kids were praised for working hard, they performed better, enjoyed the learning process more, and believed they could improve their intelligence by working harder.
It’s natural to be proud of your kids when they do well. But how you praise them may influence whether they continue doing well.

Duckworth AL, Seligman MEP. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science. 16(12): 939-944. Full Article.

Mueller CM, Dweck CS. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 75(1): 33-52. Full Article.

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities, and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.
-Harry Truman

Why You Should be an Optimist

cloudsAre you the sort of person who sees a glass as half full? A silver lining in every cloud? If yes, then you’re probably an optimist. Daniel L. Reardon says, “In the long run, the pessimist may be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.”

Measuring Optimism
Not only does the optimist have a better time, but the trip is also longer. From 1962 to 1965, 839 patients completed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) at the Mayo Clinic. Based on scores from the MMPI’s Optimism-Pessimism scale, 124 were classified as optimistic, 518 as mixed, and 197 as pessimistic.

Better Health
Thirty years later, results showed that optimistic patients were more likely to live longer than pessimistic patients. Patients scoring in the top third of the scale (i.e., more pessimistic) had a 19 percent higher risk of death.

In a similar study from the Harvard School of Public Health, 1,306 older men were followed for 10 years after completing the MMPI. Comparing the top third to the bottom third, optimistic men had less than half the risk of heart attack and heart disease.

As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” You’ll feel better and live longer.

Maruta T et al. (2000). Optimists vs pessimists: survival rate among medical patients over a 30-year period. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 75(2): 140-143. Abstract.

Kubzansky LD et al. (2001). Is the glass half empty or half full? A prospective study of optimism and Coronary Heart Disease in the normative aging study. Psychosomatic Medicine. 63: 910-916. Full Article.

Copyright 2009 by Paul Lem, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it