Researchers say this 5-minute technique could help you fall asleep more quickly

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Image from original link at BPS research Digest

By Christian Jarrett

You’ve had all day to worry, but your brain decides that the moment you rest your weary head upon your pillow is the precise instant it wants to start fretting. The result of course is that you feel wide awake and cannot sleep. Two possible solutions: (1) spend five minutes before lights out writing about everything you have done. This might give you a soothing sense of achievement. Or (2) spend five minutes writing a comprehensive to-do list. This could serve to off-load your worries, or perhaps it will only make them more salient? To find out which is the better strategy, a team led by Michael Scullin at Baylor University, invited 57 volunteers to their sleep lab and had half of them try technique 1 and half try technique 2. Their findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

The participants, aged 18 to 30, attended the sleep lab at about 9pm on a weekday night. They filled out questionnaires about their usual sleep habits and underwent basic medical tests. Once in their sound-proofed room and wired up to equipment that uses brain waves to measure sleep objectively, they were told that lights out would be 10.30pm. Before they tried to sleep, half of the participants spent five minutes “writing about everything you have to remember to do tomorrow and over the next few days”. The others spent the same time writing about any activities they’d completed that day and over the previous few days.

The key finding is that the participants in the to-do list condition fell asleep more quickly. They took about 15 minutes to fall asleep, on average, compared with 25 minutes for those in the “jobs already done” condition. Moreover, among those in the to-do list group, the more thorough and specific their list, the more quickly they fell asleep, which would seem to support a kind of off-loading explanation. Another interpretation is that busier people, who had more to write about, tended to fall asleep more quickly. But this is undermined by the fact that among the jobs-done group, those who wrote in more detail tended to take longer to fall asleep.

“Rather than journal about the day’s completed tasks or process tomorrow’s to-do list in one’s mind, the current experiment suggests that individuals spend five minutes near bedtime thoroughly writing a to-do list,” the researchers said.

Unfortunately, the experiment didn’t have a baseline no-intervention control group, so it’s possible that the shorter time-to-sleep of the to-do list writing intervention was actually a reflection of journaling about completed jobs making it harder to fall asleep. Also, note the current sample didn’t have any sleep problems. Scullin and his team say the next step is to conduct a longer-running randomised control trial of the to-do list intervention outside of the sleep lab, with people who do and don’t have sleep-onset insomnia.

The Effects of Bedtime Writing on Difficulty Falling Asleep:
A Polysomnographic Study Comparing To-Do Lists and Completed Activity Lists

Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest. 

Published on January 18, 2018. To read from original link please click here.

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7 tips on how to kick the habit of indecisiveness

Making decisions
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Image from original link at Psychology Today

When I was growing up I always seemed to choose friends who were “bossy.” They usually knew what they wanted and made all the decisions, and I tended to go along with it. As I grew older, I started to make new friends who were a little more like me: easygoing and not insistent on having the final say. Making plans with these friends would sound something like this:

Me: “Where do you want to go out?”

Friend: “I don’t know. Where do you want to go?”

Me: “I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?”

Friend: “I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?”

That type of conversation would go on for a while. I came to realize that the reason I had always made friends with people who would quickly make decisions about what we would do, is so that I wouldn’t have to. I was so indecisive that even choosing what I wanted to eat was a challenge, so I found it easier to let someone else choose for me. When it comes to simple choices, like where to go eat or what movie to see, isn’t such a big deal to push the decision on someone else. But when it comes to the big choices in life, it can become an issue.

Can you relate to me on this one? Do you believe you lack the ability to make decisions? Do you find yourself asking other people, “What should I do?” “Where should we go to dinner?” “What’s the best decision?” If you’re in a position of having to make a choice in a situation, do you go around asking things like, “What would you do?” Do you poll your smartest friends, family members, and colleagues to help you make the final decision?

Reasons You May Have a Hard Time Making Decisions

People usually struggle to make choices because they don’t believe in their ability to think for themselves; they believe other people are more capable of making the “right” choice for them. When this is the case, they pawn off small and major decisions to others so they can feel more confident in their decisions. The problem with this is that it gives other people control. If you hand over the responsibility of choosing to other people, you let them take over your choices and actions, which you should be taking on yourself. Instead, you should learn to trust in yourself and your ability to make the best choices for you. No one else can make the right choices for you; it’s something you must do for yourself.

 One way to take ownership of your life is to take control of your decisions rather than handing them off to others. This will give you a sense of pride in the choices you make and their potential outcomes.

Some people have a hard time making major decisions because they don’t want to take responsibility for their lives and the results of their choices. You may think, “My husband, wife, partner, parent, or friend made the final decision, so it’s their fault, not mine if things don’t go well.” But the reality is, even if you try to blame the person who made the choices for you, as an adult, you’re still responsible for going along with them. Saying, “Well, he made me do it” no longer works once you’re over the age of 18. Therefore, it’s invaluable to take responsibility for yourself, and one way to do it is by being accountable for your choices, actions, and decisions. Even if you have someone else make your decisions for you, you’re still responsible for what happens, because you chose to go along with another person’s decision; no one forced you to do anything.

Indecisiveness

​“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” –Denis Waitley

If you don’t start to take initiative in your own life, you’ll end up becoming a prisoner of your indecisiveness. You’ll limit your future opportunities, not allowing yourself to be open to changes that could enhance your life based on what you want. Here are some tips on how to kick the habit of indecisiveness:

1. Don’t try to overthink the outcomes of your decisions. Contrary to what we tend to think, it is almost impossible to calculate future outcomes, because people and life are very unpredictable. Therefore, making decisions is usually a crapshoot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still useful to have confidence in the decisions you make; but it’s important to be aware that you have no control over the outcome of them. So don’t overthink things.

2. Don’t make decisions purely on impulse. Some people get so tired of thinking out all the possible outcomes of their choices that they immediately make decisions on impulse instead of dealing with the rough process of making a decision. It’s okay to make a decision quickly; it can sometimes be better than making no decision at all. However, if you have a history of making the wrong choices based on impulse, it’s better to think it out a little more.  

3. Do what scares you. Those who follow the path that they believe will have the least conflict, struggle, or risk usually have zero faith in themselves. This leads them to make the wrong decision out of a fear of failure. When making decisions, you should go with the one that scares you. Author Caroline Myss said it best: “Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.”

4. Follow a balance between listening to your mind and trusting your instincts. When it comes to making the right decisions for yourself, you need to follow both your mind and your instincts. The best outcomes come from striking a good balance between the two. Logic alone will convince you to make the safer choice, which may not allow you to follow your passions. You also may end up stuck making no decision because you’ll convince yourself that more information will help make the choice easier. On the other hand, going completely with your gut feelings can lead you to make impulsive decisions. That’s why it’s important to listen to all aspects of your Self when making major decisions. As the saying goes, “Listen to your heart, but take your brain with you.”

5. Think about a time you said yes to something that turned out to be a great choice. How did you feel when you were making that choice? How did you come to that conclusion? Think about what made it a great choice. Looking back at the positive decisions you’ve made will allow you to see that you’re capable of making good decisions. Once you realize that you’ll be able to find the decision-making strategy that works best for you. I find that I don’t feel much hesitation when I’m making a good decision; I feel centered when I’m confident in my choices.

6. Choose what will give you more options in the future. No one wants to feel stuck limited in the choices available to them. Some decisions limit your flexibility and may cause more unnecessary stress in the future. Try to make the decision that may be the hardest one to go with at first but is likely to pay off in the long run. Allow the excitement about who you can be overcome your fear of making a difficult choice.  

7. Ask the Miracle Question. When it’s time to make a tough decision, ask yourself the Miracle Question from Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: “Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?” By asking yourself this question, you can fast forward to a future in which the decision has already been made, helping you determine whether it’s the right choice for you.

When we find ourselves in a dilemma over making a major decision, our logical mind sometimes convinces us that we need more time, need to ask more people, aren’t yet ready to decide. This may leave us paralyzed in fear of making the wrong decision. When we feel stuck in this way, we don’t make any forward motion. Even deciding not to make a decision is a form of decision-making; therefore, it’s important to go with whatever your mind and instincts are telling you. Listen to that inner voice that chimes in when necessary, because if you’re open to it, you’ll be able to hear it tell you what it is you really want. Once you know what you want, your logical mind can make it happen in a way that has better consequences for your future.

When it comes to making decisions, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to fail and fall, because a lot of the time, the best decisions come from doing what scares you the most. The likelihood is that making the difficult choices will produce the outcomes you’re looking for. Although there’s no way of knowing where life will lead you, it’s important to honor and respect yourself enough to make your own decisions.

Published by Psychology Today on November 5, 2017. To read from original link, please click here.
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Are you your own worst enemy?

Suggestions and advice listed in this article may be even more efficient when practiced or rehearsed from a hypnotic state. Read more about hypnosis in the pages of this blog or contact us (or a therapist near you) in order to learn how to apply hypnosis to your personal work.

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Do you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts about yourself—repeatedly putting yourself down, criticizing yourself, comparing yourself to other people you think are perfect? When you make a mistake, do you think it’s absolutely awful, that anyone else would have done a better job, and that it’s an example of some permanent flaw you have? If so, then, like many people, you are often your own worst enemy, negating everything you do and blowing things up as if your mistakes are the worst that anyone can imagine.

Depression and anxiety are often due to the self-critical voice that defeats you before you start, robs you of any credit for anything that you do, and makes you afraid of trying anything because you fear the loathing and regret that will follow. In this post, I outline seven techniques to defeat this self-critical voice, so that you can feel better about being a real human being.

1. Identify your negative thoughts. 

Your negative thoughts about yourself may be so automatic that you don’t even notice them. But try to catch them, write them down, and then see if there is a pattern. For example, you might say the following to yourself: “I am a failure. I am so boring. Nothing I do works out. I can’t do anything right. What a screw-up I am.” Start catching these arrows directed against you.

2. Define your terms.

Now that you can see the deprecatory comments you direct toward yourself, let’s see if you can define the terms you are using. For example, how would you define “failure”? Is it someone who fails at something? What would be the opposite? Perhaps you might see that you succeed and fail at different things at different times. When you reduce yourself to these all-or-nothing terms, you label yourself in ways that are unrealistic and inaccurate.

3. What is the evidence for and against your self-criticism?

What is the evidence in favor of the label “failure”? Perhaps you didn’t do well on the exam, your date didn’t go well, or you said something you wished you hadn’t say. OK. Now let’s look at the evidence that you are not a failure. Perhaps you have friends, you are doing well at work, you try to be a decent person, and you try to help other people. Weigh the evidence for and against. What do you conclude?

4. What is the advantage of criticizing yourself?

Some people think that they need to criticize themselves to self-motivate. If you have a dog, then you realize that scolding and yelling will get you nowhere. If self-criticism worked, then people who get things done would hate themselves. Is your self-criticism really helping you achieve your goals? Or is it defeating you?

5. Replace self-criticism with self-reward.

Try this for a week: Rather than focus on what you don’t do perfectly, try to give yourself credit for five things every day. This could include simple things like going to work, speaking kindly to someone, eating healthy foods, or making an effort to treat yourself better. If you make some effort at your work or exercise, try giving yourself credit for it — even just for making the effort. The more you reward yourself, the more likely you are to move forward.

6. Do you really need to evaluate yourself?

Has it ever occurred to you that you don’t really need to evaluate yourself? What if we removed that self-critical, evaluating part of your brain for a day? Let’s say, rather than evaluate yourself, you decide to focus on your specific goals — like exercise, getting work done, and doing kind things for other people, including yourself. You can reach your goal without criticizing yourself. Try it.

7. Replace evaluation with observing and accepting.

Rather than measuring, comparing, and evaluating yourself, consider simply observing yourself and then accepting yourself. Take exercise: Let’s imagine that your exercise for the day is to take a walk for 40 minutes. Rather than measuring and criticizing yourself, you decide to observe what you are doing. For me, it might be that I am walking down Third Avenue, I am listening to a tape to learn some Spanish, it’s a sunny day, and I will get to work a little early today. No evaluations.

Try to accept yourself as you are, as you continue to move toward your goal. Accepting yourself means that you see yourself realistically, in the present moment, without judgment. You can free yourself from the self-critic by accepting who you are and saying, “I know I am not perfect, just like everyone I know, but I can accept that. I can accept my mistakes; I can accept my frustration; and I can accept that I have unfinished work to do. I have goals. I accept that.”

Freeing yourself from the self-critic allows you to step away from depression and anxiety and frees you from the burden that you have imposed on yourself. You don’t have to be your own worst enemy.

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Therapy can manage menopausal hot flushes

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A research review has found hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are effective menopause treatments, particularly for managing hot flushes.

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Women can manage their menopausal symptoms without the use

of hormones but not all alternative therapies work.

A review of all the evidence on non-hormonal treatments for me

nopause has found Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and hypnosis are effective treatments.

Professor Martha Hickey from the Royal Women’s Hospital and University of Melbourne, who led the review published in the British Medical Journal, says CTP, in particular, should be considered by doctors as an option to treat women going through menopause.

“There’s growing evidence that you don’t need to take drugs, ba

sically,” said Professor Hickey.

“Cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnosis are both very effective methods for managing hot flushes,” Prof Hickey added.

Hot flushes are the most common and the most problematic symptom of menopause. And while they are a physiological response, the evidence suggests the mind can help alleviate the experience for women.

“It’s about the integration with the mind and the body in a way that nobody really understands,” said Professor Hickey.

“What cognitive behavioural therapy particularly does is it reduces the impact of the symptoms, so women may get the same number or same severity of the symptoms of hot flushes but they’re less troubled by them,” explained Professor Hickey.

Lifestyle changes such as exercise and relaxation can improve general health, although the review did not directly improve hot flushes.

Most common over-the-counter ‘natural’ preparations or products sold online do not work, warned Prof Hickey.

“There is a lot of information on the internet about treatments for menopause, but many of these are not supported by high quality research,” said Prof Hickey.

There is no advice, however, against taking hormones, noted Prof Hickey.

“Hormone therapy is very effective for menopause symptoms but there are many newer options, including psychological treatments such as CBT which can also be effective.

“The message here is really about the effective alternative options that are available,” said Prof Hickey.

Source: AAP
Please clic here to read from original link at SBSnews.
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Our wonderful universe

Sometimes looking at the bigger picture helps getting some perspective over our daily problems.

Published in Youtube on August 1, 2016. Original link by clicking here.

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New evidence shows the calming power of reminiscing about happy times

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Image from original link at BPS Research Digest

You’ve just had a fight with your partner or a confrontation with a colleague. Now your heart’s racing, and you’re struggling to think straight. What should you do?

Psychologists are not short on ideas for how to calm yourself down after a stressful experience. Seek out a friend? Yes, there’s good evidence that can help. But what if there’s no friend to hand? You could try to alter your view of what just happened from “Disaster!” to “Not really so bad”.

But it can be difficult to engage in this kind of “cognitive reappraisal” when you’re in the immediate aftermath of a stressful event – perhaps because acute stress compromises the neural circuitry that’s involved in emotion regulation.

Your brain needs help if it’s to quickly regain control. And, according to a new study published in Nature Human Behaviour, you can provide it by thinking back over good times.

Mauricio Delgado and Megan Speer at Rutgers University, US, made 134 volunteers feel stressed by videoing them while they plunged their hands into icy water. Some then spent 14 seconds reminiscing about a positive experience (like visiting Disneyland) while others reflected on an emotionally neutral event (such as getting luggage ready for the trip).

Afterwards, the group who’d recalled happy memories felt better, but not only that: the expected rise in their levels of the stress hormone cortisol was only 15 per cent, on average, of the surge observed in the neutral memory group. Thinking about happy memories, then, went right to the heart of the physiological stress response.

To explore how, Delgado and Speer used the same technique as before to stress a fresh group of volunteers and then had them reminisce about their own positive or neutral experiences while they scanned their brains using fMRI. The pair found that recollecting good, but not neutral, memories was associated with increased activity in prefrontal brain regions associated with emotion regulation and cognitive control – the same regions suppressed by acute stress – as well as in corticostriatal regions associated with the processing of reward.

“Engagement of cortical regions previously linked to emotion regulatory functions may be significant for enhancing or sustaining pleasant feelings during positive reminiscence, thus dampening the physiological stress response,” the researchers concluded.

The idea that thinking about positive past events, including achievements or successes, can help to improve ongoing mood and resilience to stress is certainly not new. But showing that simply recalling happy memories can combat acute stress at a physical level is important, since there’s plenty of research finding that people who tend to calm down physiologically soon after stressful events are generally healthier, both physically and psychologically, over the long term.

There are a few caveats. This work was on healthy adults. People with depression usually find it hard to recall positive memories, so this technique may not work well for them. And it’s not clear yet whether any technique that makes you feel positive emotions would be effective or if there’s something special about reminiscing. But this is at least a simple method, and one that in theory many people could try.

Reminiscing about positive memories buffers acute stress responses

Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

To read from original link at the British Psychological Society Research Digest, please click here

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Insomnia identity

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Image from original link at BPS: New York, 1953, television comic Wally Cox tries out some innovations at a retailing store that is an insomniac’s paradise – the Lewis & Conger Sleep Shop (Getty Images).

“In the dark, in the quiet, in the lonely stillness, the aggrieved struggle to rescue sleep from vigilance.” This arresting sentence introduces a new review of insomnia in Behaviour Research and Therapy that addresses a troubling fact observed in sleep labs across the world: poor sleep is not sufficient to make people consider themselves to have the condition… and poor sleep may not even be necessary. The paper, by Kenneth Lichstein at the University of Alabama, explores the implications of “Insomnia Identity”: how it contributes to health problems, and may be an obstacle to recovery.

The hallmark of insomnia is regularly having such poor sleep that it affects your daily function. This implies a person with insomnia will have poor sleep, as measured objectively, and that they will complain about their lack of sleep. To get a sense of how poor sleep and reports of insomnia interact, Lichstein reviewed twenty studies that measured each of these aspects separately, with questions like “How long does it typically take you to get to sleep?” on the one hand, and on the other, questions like “Are you dissatisfied with your sleep?” or direct probes into how confident the person was that they struggled with insomnia.

The evidence shows that poor sleep in itself is not sufficient to produce insomnia. A 1995 study looked at 400 community volunteers (age 55 or more), and found that the majority of people who were technically poor sleepers (in this case, six months where it took 30 minutes or more of struggle to fall asleep on at least three nights per week) did not experience distress or consider themselves to have insomnia. These “non-complaining poor sleepers” were no more impaired in terms of daily fatigue than those who got good sleep, nor did they have high anxiety.

Studies using polysomnography (which involves brain wave recordings and other physiological measures of sleep state) and sleep diaries – both considered more accurate ways of establishing quality of sleep than simple recall – have reinforced these findings. One replication also showed non-complaining sleepers had levels of anxiety and depression no higher than the general population. And a large data set of 1700 participants found that whereas short sleep was associated with a 350-500 per cent increase in hypertension (correlated with severity of sleep deficit), this wasn’t the case for people who didn’t consider themselves to have insomnia, for whom there was no relationship between sleep duration and blood pressure. So poor sleep doesn’t inevitably cause the experience of insomnia, nor produce the knock-on health effects associated with insomnia.

On the other hand, poor sleep isn’t necessary for people to complain that they have insomnia. Polysomnography and sleep diary studies show clearly that people whose sleeping patterns do not meet clinical criteria for poor sleep can nonetheless believe that they suffer insomnia. What’s more, these “complaining good sleepers” can have as high impairment in terms of daily fatigue, anxiety and depression as those suffering under a clinical deficit of sleep. Recent work suggests that quality of the sleep you experience has, in itself, no relationship to suicidal thoughts. Suicidal thoughts are instead, related to whether you feel you have sleep problems, regardless of whether or not you do.

Summing across the major studies that separate out sleep quality from insomnia complaint, Lichtstein reports that 37 per cent of individuals complaining of insomnia “do not have poor sleep by conventional standards”. This is not to say that their sleep was flawless, or that it wasn’t worse than average in some way, but it certainly falls in the normal range. On the other hand, many individuals with non-normal levels of sleep problems are able to exist as if free from insomnia. What is going on?
Lichstein suggests that good sleepers who see themselves as insomniac have a kind of “insomnia identity” driven by biases in the way they think about their sleep (consistent with this, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy/CBT, which addresses such biases, is an effective intervention for insomnia) For instance, individuals with an insomnia identity may have acquired unrealistic expectations, seeing a 15 minute period of wakefulness before dropping off as aberrant. Temperaments drawn to hypochondria, or liable to catastrophic thinking (believed to contribute to some chronic pain conditions) may symptomise minor events or exaggerate their implications. If symptoms are in remission, insomniacs may be hypervigilant for even a single night’s poor sleep as evidence that “it’s back”. Such anxieties make sleep harder, and also colour the edges of sleeping existence with the dread that Lichstein alludes to in his opening sentence. In principle, bed-time can become a living hell even if the actual sleeping difficulties are not remarkable, or scarcely different from a poor sleeper who doesn’t attend to it as an issue.

It may be especially difficult for therapists to help people with an insomnia identity – even when a therapist succeeds in helping such a client improve their sleep, it’s likely their belief they have a problem will endure. Research on insomnia stigma suggests that it’s common for sufferers to have their problem doubted: this could produce perverse incentives for hypervigilance among those with an insomnia identity and a resolute sense that their problem is real and severe.

As the diagnosis of insomnia usually begins with a person’s complaint about their sleep, and most medical practices offer at most a token sleep assessment before providing that diagnosis, there may be many people out there suffering because of their insomnia identity rather than an actual lack of sleep. Lichtstein recommends that in addition to CBT, we explore practices like mindfulness and dialectical practices that get the sufferer to question assumptions through questions like: what is normal sleep? Does sleep need to be perfect? Do I need to see myself as an insomniac? In these ways, psychology can conquer an affliction that keeps many in unnecessary misery.

Insomnia identity

Image: New York, 1953, television comic Wally Cox tries out some innovations at a retailing store that is an insomniac’s paradise – the Lewis & Conger Sleep Shop (Getty Images).

By Alex Fradera for the Britis Psychological Society BPS. To read from original link please click here.

Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

The difficulty or impossibility of sleeping affects some thirds of the adult population at some point in life. There are several types of insomnia, short or long term, caused by specific situations or activities, specific events or substances – from alcohol, coffee, to drugs and narcotic drugs.
In the event that insomnia is caused by prescribed medications, the patient will be advised to address the fact with their doctor before attempting hypnotherapeutic treatment.
Hypnotherapy can be used to address changes in habits and behaviors that may be contributing to insomnia, such as exercising just before bedtime, indulging in long nap, or consuming in excess substances such as coffee, alcohol or tobacco. Hypnosis can also help to clarify, lighten or resolve cases of trauma, anxiety or depression, a consequence of which may be insomnia.

 

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