Naps Make You Smarter, Increases Learning Ability & Helps Clear Space for New Info

A new study from my alma mater, University of California at Berkeley, shows that a one-hour nap can significantly restore your mental capacity, make you more intelligent and clears out old information to make way for new learning.

On the other side of the coin, the longer you go without sleep, the more we lose mental clarity and become increasingly foggy.  As any new parent knows, interrupted sleep makes one grouchy, irritable, and what’s more, poor sleep makes one less able to concentrate effectively.

When I was in college, I had classmates that would pull all-nighters to cram for finals. I never pulled an all-nighter,  partly because I just couldn’t operate the next day without sleep. The study from UC Berkeley showed a marked difference in the learning ability of students who pulled an all-nighter versus those who got their z’s in. Remarkably, those students who studied all night without sleep showed a 40% decline in their ability to learn new facts due to a shutdown in their hippocampus, a brain area associated with fact-based learning.

The hypothesis which is gaining support from research is that the hippocampus eventually becomes overloaded and sleep gives it a chance to empty itself out, similar to deleting your junk mail  folder in Outlook. Space is freed up so it can be used in new, more constructive ways.

For more information and the full article, please click here.

Have an incredible week!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach

Bay Area, California

Dr. Dave Van Nuys Interviews John Schinnerer, Ph.D. on Shrink Rap Radio – transcript

Shrink Rap Radio #228, January 10, 2010, Positive Psychology Coaching

David Van Nuys, Ph.D., aka ‘Dr. Dave’ interviews John Schinnerer

(Transcribed from by Virl Seribo)


Excerpt: I don’t know how much listeners know about positive psychology in general, but basically it’s not a self help movement, it’s not a fad.  It is a new branch of science based on a mountain of research into how and when people function at their very best.  And I think at last count, maybe a year or two ago, there were about 50,000 peer reviewed studies that are looking at what make people function optimally.  And to me, that’s what really separates it from, you know, Tony Robbins, or Marianne Williamson, and The Secret.  It’s not those things.  It’s grounded in science and it’s a change after roughly 100 years in the medical profession from what is wrong with us to what is right with us.


Introduction: That was the voice of my guest, Dr. John Schinnerer, who uses Positive Psychology as the underlying framework in his personal coaching practice.  John Schinnerer PhD is in private practice helping individuals learn happiness by mitigating destructive emotions and fostering constructive emotions.  Using positive psychology, he helps clients achieve happy, thriving, meaningful lives.  He graduated summa cum laude from the University of California-Berkeley with a PhD in Educational Psychology.  Dr. Schinnerer has been an executive and psychologist for over 12 years.  He’s president and founder of Guide to Self, a company that coaches clients to their potential using the latest in positive psychology, emotional management, mindfulness, and attentional control.  He’s hosted over 200 episodes of Guide to Self Radio, a primetime radio show on positive psychology in the San Francisco bay area.  Dr. Schinnerer’s areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to moral development to sports psychology.  He wrote the award winning Guide to Self: The Beginners Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, which is available at and other online book sellers.  And he’s currently collaborating with the University of New Zealand in a longitudinal positive psychology study, called The International Well Being Study.  You can send Dr. Schinnerer an email via  Now, here’s the interview…


For the entire interview, please click here to go to


Have a fantastic weekend!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach

San Francisco Bay Area, California< -->

Awe-Inspiring Articles Most Likely To Be Shared With Others from New York Times site

I’m always on the look out for short videos to elicit specific emotions when I speak to audiences.

It might be sadness, hope, inspiration, elevation (the feeling you get when you witness another person performing an act of moral courage), laughter, courage, curiosity, or others. I’ve found that it is often useful to have a short video break for audiences for several reasons. I can use the video to put them in a particular feeling state. The video may be used to start discussion. It’s a chance for me to take a sip of water to wet my whistle.

The videos can be used to demonstrate the effect that ‘negative’ emotions such as anger, fear and sadness have on our attention and awareness (e.g, they narrow our focus). Or to show the broaden-and-build effect that positive emotions have on us (e.g., they open our awareness, increase the available thought processes we have, and build internal resources for later use).

So I found it interesting when I came across research from the University of Pennsylvania that showed that the most emailed articles from the New York Times website involved one of two themes: sex or awe (and perhaps awe-inspiring sex!). Folks on the web were most likely to share articles that filled readers with awe, a theme that was noticed after researchers realized the vast number of scientific articles being shared via email.

Definition of Awe

Awe is defined as a ‘feeling of self-transcendence, admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.’ There seems to be two types of awe (at least).

There is the type of awe that comes from watching feats of human strength, ability, balance, and bravery.

I would also argue that there is a type of awe which combines simultaneous feelings of mild fear along with elevation or self-transcendence.

Awe as Self-transcendence Mixed With a Dash of Fear

This type of awe arises due to being confronted with something that is so vast, beautiful, destructive or overwhelming that it leaves one feeling elevated and also slightly scared possibly due to a perceived threat to one’s very existence. So it’s a combination of self-transcendence (feeling connected to a larger purpose or to other beings and/or nature) with a low-level fear. For instance, watching a volcano erupt or standing atop the Grand Canyon might create a feeling of awe which mixes fear and self-transcendence.

Awe as Self-Transcendence and Elevation

Then, there  are events which evoke awe that are more purely ‘positive’ in the traditional sense and solely involve the feelings of self-transcendence, elevation and expansiveness in the chest. Some of the best current examples of awe-inspiring acts include Shaun White’s gold medal run in the half-pipe, followed by his celebration run, Shani Davis winning the 1000m in speed skating, and Lindsey Vonn’s gold-medal run in the slalom on an injured shin.

Watching such acts of courage and athleticism fills me with awe, disbelief, pride and a feeling of being connected to other Americans and human beings in a significant way, a way that whispers to me ‘If they can do that, what can we, as a species, do? What are we capable of? What might we be inspired to create? What problems can we solve? How can we best help one another?’

What’s more, stories that were emotion-laden were most likely to be shared with others. And within the emotionally-laden stories, stories that had to do with positive emotions were more likely to be shared than those having to do with negative emotions. Interestingly, longer articles were more readily shared than shorter articles which runs counter-intuitive to the assumption that we live in a short-attention span culture here in the U.S.

With that said, allow me to share some of my favorite awe-inspiring videos with you. And you can tell me whether or not, or to what degree, these clips fill you with awe and wonder…

Top Video to Inspire Feelings of Awe

Dylan Longbottom Surfing a Monster 12 foot Barrel

I’m having trouble embedding this video. If the video doesn’t come up here is the link…

Killer Whale Jumping Out of Water

Dolphins Playing with Self-made Bubble Rings

Danny MacAskill Trick Riding BMX Bike in Edinburgh Scotland

Awe – some Images In Space from the Hubble TelescopeLet me know if you have other awe-inspiring video clips of your own. I’d love to hear from you!

Have a fantastic weekend!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology coach, author, keynote speaker
San Francisco Bay Area