Last week, PAR staff delivered gifts to a deserving local veteran's family.

All of us here at PAR want to send you our warmest wishes for a very happy holiday season. We look forward to helping you and those you serve in 2014. May your New Year be filled with peace, love, and joy!

This year, PAR staff worked with two organizations to spread holiday joy to those in need, by fulfilling the wishes from an Angel Tree for the children and teens served by the Joshua House and by adopting a veteran's family through Service Source, part of Abilities Foundation. Click on the attached links to learn more about these incredible organizations and learn how you can get involved.
Too shy to order your extra cheese, hold-the-ketchup, no onion, double bacon burger? No need to feel alone. According to new research, people tend to keep their orders simple – not because that’s what they want, but to avoid embarrassment (whether that’s the judgment of the salesperson or the disapproving eye of other customers).

A group of professors researched the methods in which a shift in retail practices reduced human interaction and found that there was a change in purchasing behavior when there was less interaction during the ordering process. Even in situations where there was a low potential for social embarrassment, people would redirect their ordering behaviors in order to limit potential for embarrassment.

Using true-life cases, the researchers first looked at a Swedish liquor retailer. When the stores switched from a model where a clerk had to retrieve bottles for the customer to a self-service model, sales increased 20 percent. Furthermore, sales shifted – with difficult-to-pronounce beverages seeing an increase in sales. Sales of difficultly named drinks increased 7 percent once people did not have to worry about mispronunciation (and the embarrassment that comes along with that).

Next, the researchers looked at a pizza chain. Customers who ordered online weren’t ashamed to load up on additional toppings or ask for complex orders. Pizzas ordered online were 15 percent more complex than those the same customers ordered over the phone (coincidentally, these orders were also more expensive and higher in calories).

Researchers believe that these changes in ordering behavior are due to the fact that social pressure usually pushes people toward the norm. But remove that layer of human interaction and judgment, and people are free to explore new options as well as express their more finicky (or embarrassing) tastes.

Would you be more willing to place a picky order if no one was watching?
Join Lisa Firestone for a continuing education workshop titled “Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice,” January 24-26 at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

This workshop will help you learn to deal effectively with a critical “inner voice” in all aspects of life, teaching participants how to overcome destructive inner thoughts and cope more effectively.

Lisa Firestone is the coauthor of the Firestone Assessment of Self-Destructive Thoughts and Firestone Assessment of Suicide Intent (FAST-FASI), the Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts™ (FAVT™), and the Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts-Adolescent (FAVT-A).


Click here for more information or to register for the workshop.
A new study by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia shows that rates of depression vary significantly from country to country—and patterns of depression worldwide can be quite surprising. The highest rates were reported in the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe, where more than 5 percent of the population suffers from depression. The lowest rates were in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia/New Zealand. The least depressed country is Japan, with a rate of less than 2.5 percent. On average, approximately 4 percent of the world’s population has been diagnosed with depression. The study also calculated the “burden of depression” for each country, that is, the number of healthy years lost to depression or depression-related premature death. Using this metric, depression becomes the second-leading cause of disability worldwide.

The authors of the study caution that their findings were based on preexisting data on the prevalence, incidence, and duration of depression; therefore, factors such as access to diagnosis and cultural attitudes about mental illness may have skewed results. The authors of the study also said that reliable surveys from some poorer countries were not available.

The Washington Post created a map of clinical depression rates based on the Queensland study; click on the link to learn more about these findings.
If you want to be happy, new research indicates that it may simply be a matter of trying to be happier.

Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon published the results of two studies in The Journal of Positive Psychology that present the results of two experiments on this topic. In the first study, participants listened to “happy” music. Those who actively attempted feeling happier reported higher levels of positive mood after the study. In a second study, participants listened to “happy” music over a two-week period. Half of the participants were instructed to try to improve their levels of happiness. The other half were told to simply focus on the music. Those who attempted to improve their happiness levels reported a greater increase in happiness at the end of the study.

These studies challenge earlier research that suggested trying to become happier was counterproductive. According to the researchers, what made the happier group so much happier was both a combination of trying to be happier and using the right methods, suggesting that people interested in becoming happier might need to take a more active role in improving their mindset.

This study supports an assertion by Martin Seligman—one of the psychologists at the heart of the positive psychology movement—who theorized that 60 percent of happiness is genetically determined, while 40 percent is up to the individual.