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Just a teaspoon of olive oil a day is all you need. That is what Harvard nutritionists said when reporting their research findings on the benefits of olive oil in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. They found that this small amount is associated with a 12 per cent reduced risk of death from all causes, compared with people who rarely or never consumed olive oil.

A little more was even better. Consuming just half a tablespoon (7 grams) or more daily was associated with:

  • a 29 per cent reduced risk of early death from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
  • a 19 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality
  • a 17 per cent lower death risk from cancer
  • an 18 per cent lower death risk from respiratory disease.

Why is olive oil so good for us?

Olive oil contains mainly monounsaturated fatty acids (MLFAs). These are known to reduce inflammation in the body – which is associated with diseases ranging from heart disease and Alzheimer’s to cancer and type 2 diabetes. MLFAs can also lower your unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Olive oil is also packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, plant compounds that benefit your health and help fight disease.

Extra virgin oil contains more of the beneficial chemicals than virgin or regular, as it’s the least processed. It’s also the most expensive, so save it for drizzling on salads and vegetables, and for adding to mashed potatoes instead of butter.

Keeping Your Eyes Safe

Your eyes are extremely delicate, and even a minor injury can cause serious damage, even permanent vision loss.

At work – and at home – always think about how a task or environment might affect your eyes, and plan accordingly.

Remember, just wearing normal glasses or sunglasses will NOT protect your eyes. In fact, these can make injuries worse.

Jobs that pose a high risk for eye injury include those that involve:


-dusty environments

-excessively bright lights or UV lights

-compressed air

-machines or tools that chip, chisel, cut, drill, grind, hammer, sand, smelt, spray or weld.

Plus, you need to watch out for factors in your workplace that can increase the risk of eye injury, such as:

-workers not wearing supplied eye protection

-not enough training on eye protection equipment

-badly fitting eye protection, for example, the glasses are loose and allow particles to enter from the sides

-only the operator of the machine wears eye protection, so anyone in the vicinity who is not wearing eye protection is at risk from flying particles.

How to protect your eyes

Always use eye protection that compiles with your national Standards, and choose protection that fits the situation:

-Low impact protection – for tasks including chipping, riveting, spalling, hammering and managing a strap under tension. Recommended protection includes safety glasses, safety glasses with side shields, safety clip-ons, eye cup goggles, wide vision goggles, eye shields and face shields.

-Medium impact protection – for tasks including scaling, grinding and machining metals, some woodworking tasks, stone dressing, wire handling and brick cutting. Choose items appropriate for medium impact protection.

-High impact protection – for tasks including explosive power tools and nail guns. Recommended protection includes face shields, marked as appropriate for high impact protection.

-For chemicals, use protection designed specifically for dealing with chemicals – the protection may differ depending on the chemicals in use.

-For dust, choose protection designed for dealing with dust and fine particles.

All protection should conform to national or international standards.

Empathy and Sympathy Are Not The Same – And It Matters

When you feel for someone’s suffering, do you feel empathy or sympathy? And surely both are good? Scholar, author and presenter, Brene Brown, says they have a very different effect on the person we want to help.

“Empathy fuels connection while sympathy drives disconnection,” says Brown.

“Empathy is I’m feeling with you. Sympathy, I’m feeling for you.”

Brene Brown first talked about empathy and sympathy in her hugely popular video, ‘The Power of Vulnerability.’ She has since written more about them in her new book, Atlas of the Heart.

In ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ video, she says: “I always think of empathy as this kind of sacred space when someone is kind of in a deep hole, and they shout out from the bottom and they say, ‘I’m stuck. It’s dark. I’m overwhelmed.’ And then we look and we say. ‘Hey, I’m coming down. I know what it’s like down here, and you’re not alone.’

“Sympathy is, ‘Oh, it’s bad, uh-huh. Do you want a sandwich?’”

What is empathy?

She says empathy is the ability to understand and echo what someone else feels. It’s like being with someone in their hard times, side by side with them. You can understand their pain, you can communicate that you understand and that you are there for them.

You understand and accept the other person’s feelings, even if they might not be the same feelings you’d have in their place.

Brown says empathy is a choice, and is often a hard choice. To feel empathy, we have to tap into our own difficult feelings such as vulnerability, frustration and failure. We have to feel these again, and communicate them to the other person. She adds that compassion is empathy plus action: It’s the practice of relating to others and, as a result, acting to ease their suffering.

What is sympathy?

Sympathy, says Brown, draws a clear line between the person suffering and ourselves. It’s feeling bad for someone, but being unable (or unwilling) to relate to that person.

She adds that pity is sympathy with a sense of hierarchy: We don’t just feel bad for the person suffering, we feel like they are somehow “less than” we are. It’s less active than compassion – we don’t feel obligated to help people we pity.

Sympathy often involves the words “at least”. We try to find the silver lining for the other person.

Brown gives the example:

“I think my marriage is falling apart” – “At least you have a marriage.”

“John’s getting kicked out of school” – “At least Sarah is an A student.”

How to do empathy

Brown gives four qualities of empathy. Use these as steps to be more empathetic and less sympathetic to people who are struggling.

1. Take perspective: understand their perspective, even if it’s not how you would see it or how you would feel in the same situation.

2. Stay out of judgement: “not easy when you enjoy it as much as many of us do,” says Brown.

3. Recognise emotion in other people: again, even if you feel differently.

4. Communicate the fact that you understand and you are there for them without judgement.

Optimism Bias: Why We Believe Things Are Good Even When They Are Not

Ever met someone so optimistic you think they are deluded? It turns out most of us are unrealistically optimistic – and that can be a good thing.

Why are we so optimistic as humans, even in the face of hard facts to the contrary?

Optimism is the engine that helps us plan ahead and endure hard work for a future reward, and to keep on going when we hit setbacks.

It is what got humans through evolution, helping us leave the cave, go after the woolly mammoth, or try sowing seeds and waiting for them to grow.

But you’d think that these days, with all our nationality and logic, and all our access to accurate data and forecasts, we’d be more realistic in our thinking. It turns out, nearly all of us have a bias towards optimism. In other words, we’re often quite deluded.

What is optimism bias?

Optimism bias is a tendency towards optimism. It’s a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum from “dubiously hopeful” to “blinded by the light”.

Neuroscientist, Tali Sharot, author of Optimism Bias, says our brains are hardwired to look on the bright side.

“We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures. We watch our backs, weigh the odds, pack an umbrella.  But both neuroscience and social science suggest that we are more optimistic than realistic. On average, we expect things to turn out better than they wind up being.” Says Sharot.

She says people underestimate their chance of problems like divorce, job loss or cancer, and overestimate the likelihood their child is gifted. We even overestimate our likely life span – sometimes by 20 years or more.

“When it comes to predicting what will happen to us tomorrow, next week, or fifty years from now, we overestimate the likelihood of positive events, and underestimate the likelihood of negative events.”

On the flipside, people tend to underestimate how long a project will take to complete and how much it will cost.

Optimism bias exists in every culture and age group. Studies consistently report that a large majority of the population (up to 80 percent) have an optimism bias.


Our optimism is irrational

Sharot says that even when we are pessimistic about the state of the world, we remain optimistic about our own little worlds.

For example, we might have felt pessimistic about the covid stats, but we were optimistic about the chances of our family staying safe.

“It seems that our brain possesses the philosopher’s stone that enables us to turn lead into gold and helps us bounce back to normal levels of wellbeing,” says Sharot.

It’s a two-edged sword. While optimism bias might stop us from taking precautions, such as wearing a mask or applying sunscreen, it does help us keep on going even when things are tough.

Researchers studying heart disease patients found that optimists were more likely than non-optimistic patients to take vitamins, eat low-fat diets and exercise, thereby reducing their overall coronary risk.


Without optimism, we’d be depressed

Sharot says the only people who are relatively accurate when predicting future events are people with mild depression.

Healthy people expect the future to be slightly better than it ends up being. People with severe depression expect things to be worse than they end up being. People with mild depression “see the world as it is.”


So should we stay optimistic?

If our optimism is irrational, and goes against logic and facts, should we still go along with believing things will be ok?

Optimistic people live longer, save more and get more promotions at work. They might not be “right”, but they seem to be happy.

Sharot suggests striking a balance: “to believe we will stay healthy, but get medical insurance anyway; to be certain the sun will shine, but grab an umbrella on our way out – just in case.”