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Sat, 13 Feb 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

Better Earth

Fungi funeral; Infinity mushroom 'death suit' provides eco-friendly alternative to caskets & cremation

© Ted / YouTube
If you are looking for a radical new way to dispose of your body after death, look no further than mushrooms, says TED Fellow artist Jae Rhim Lee. Coming on the market this year, her "death suit" will allow bodies to decompose in an environmentally-friendly manner.

The "death suit," which is actually a pyjamas-like suit containing colonies of specially selected fungi, offers an alternative option to burial or cremation and is also available for pets.

Comment: Affordable and environmentally friendly. A win-win solution for a natural burial.

Pocket Knife

8 overlooked survival skills that kept the Native Americans alive in a once thriving culture

I have a lot of respect for Native Americans — those who populated this land before the first European white man set foot on these shores.

History rarely mentions it, but countless thousands of those Indians were killed by disease and carried in the boats of those early traders. But before that, the American Indian had a thriving culture, in tune with nature and appreciative of the beauty around them.

Of all the cultures referred to as "primitive" by supposedly civilized society, this is the culture we know the most about. Yet at the same time, we know very little about them. Sadly, history and Hollywood has not treated the Native Americans fairly, portraying them as a barbaric culture, mostly responsible for attacking white settlers and committing atrocities on them.

Comment: Today we live in a disposable society where nothing is sacred, not the water we drink, nor the air we breathe. We have trashed our Mother Earth for too long and now she is responding. Time to bring on the comets.


Johns Hopkins study finds: Our brain sabotages all efforts at breaking bad habits

© Francois Lenoir / Reuters
It hardly comes as a surprise that we're our own worst enemies, but new research appears to conclusively prove that our brain is the biggest saboteur of success, and leads to self-deception on a grand scale. The culprit? Dopamine.

As some may know, dopamine is the chemical that gives us pleasure whenever we receive a reward.

So what if you promised yourself to start getting up earlier, or eating dinner at preset times? According to new research from Johns Hopkins University, none of this really matters, because the memory of something much sweeter always lingers in the brain.

"We don't realize our past experience biases our attention to certain things," Professor Susan M. Courtney at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences said.

Comment: Why waste time and energy thinking about 'a pharmaceutical way to address this chemical imbalance'?There are many alternative options for dealing with chemical imbalance and stimulating dopamine naturally:
Also known as arctic root or golden root, Rhodiola Rosea has already been clinically shown to stimulate serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine activity, and support healthy neurotransmitter balance, but human trials have now shown the the herb protects against viral infection.


Giving is better: Helping others uniquely benefits mental and physical health

Social support has well-known benefits for physical and mental health. But giving support -- rather than receiving it -- may have unique positive effects on key brain areas involved in stress and reward responses, suggests a study in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

"These results add to an emerging literature suggesting that support giving is an overlooked contributor to how social support can benefit health," according to the report. The lead researchers were Tristen Inagaki, PhD, of University Pittsburgh and Naomi Eisenberger, PhD, of University of California, Los Angeles.



Combining aerobic exercise with meditation can reduce depression & heal the brain

© KieferPix/Shutterstock
A new study from Rutgers University reports that meditation and aerobic exercise done consecutively can help reduce depression, rumination, and overwhelming negative thoughts. The combination of mental and physical (MAP) training through focused meditation and aerobic exercise is a relatively new concept and clinical intervention for major depressive disorder (MDD).

Depression is estimated to affect approximately 20 percent of the population at some point in their lives. Among other symptoms, the inability to focus your attention in positive ways is a hallmark of depression. Currently, the most common treatment for depression is psychotropic medications and talk therapy.

The researchers at Rutgers wanted to explore the neuroscience behind alternatives to current treatments that would allow individuals to acquire new cognitive skills so they could bounce back more quickly from stressful life events. The team found that learning how-to focus attention through meditation combined with the neurobiological benefits of aerobic exercise created a powerful double whammy for fighting depression.

Comment: Further reading: Overcome depression using your mind


Horses can recognize human emotions, study shows

© Wikipedia
Two young Nokota mares.
For the first time horses have been shown to be able to distinguish between angry and happy human facial expressions.

Psychologists studied how 28 horses reacted to seeing photographs of positive versus negative human facial expressions. When viewing angry faces, horses looked more with their left eye, a behavior associated with perceiving negative stimuli. Their heart rate also increased more quickly and they showed more stress-related behaviors. The study, published today (10 February) in Biology Letters, concludes that this response indicates that the horses had a functionally relevant understanding of the angry faces they were seeing. The effect of facial expressions on heart rate has not been seen before in interactions between animals and humans.


Pride goeth before a fall: How narcissistic tendencies lead us into disaster

© Unknown
Believing that no harm can come your way, no matter what, can lead you to become a victim of the myth of invincibility. There is a reason for saying that "pride goeth before a fall," and that excessive pride or hubris, commonly regarded as a tragic flaw, will lead to your own undoing. Once you've convinced yourself that you're invincible, you fail to see yourself in an accurate or realistic light. Whatever shortcomings you've avoided coming to grips can then come back to haunt you and if they're serious enough, can lead to your downfall.

We see plenty of examples in the media of celebrities and politicians who think they can do no harm. Most recently, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, given the "Superman" designation prior to Super Bowl 50, failed to live up to expectations when the big game came along. Although his team certainly would have gone into that game well-prepared and ready, who knows how much his head, and focus, was turned by the accolades foisted upon him by the media?

Anyone who goes into a competitive situation convinced of his or her own invincibility is liable to suffer a similar fate. Once you see yourself as the inevitable hero or victor, you'll fail to prepare yourself for the reality of what might end up being a very challenging situation. Imagine that you're going into a high-pressure meeting where you need to talk your boss into agreeing to a request or you need to beat out a coworker looking for the same plum outcome. Instead of methodically going through in your mind the rationale of your approach, you gloss over the details, thinking only of how great it will feel to win. When your boss asks for those details, you'll be stumped, and your competitor will carry the day.


Empathy borne of pain and suffering

I recently underwent a relatively minor - but surprisingly painful - outpatient surgical procedure. I spent the next two days crashed out at my parents house in a haze of Percocet, Zofran, and Ibuprofen. On day three I stopped the narcotics, preparing myself to return to work.

But the pain didn't stop.

I spent day three on the couch, certain that once I got past 72-hours post-op, the swelling would subside and the pain would cease.

But the pain didn't stop.

Days four and five were a complete loss. The incision site, near the base of my tailbone, ached with any movement; I missed two days of work because I couldn't walk without feeling as though someone was stabbing my spine. I couldn't sit upright in a chair without a wave of pain crashing over me with such strength that it made me nauseous.

So I spent those days crashed out on my own couch, still unwilling to take narcotics, curled up with Aleve and a heating pad, guilt-ridden about missing work and generally feeling sorry for myself.

Comment: How awful for human beings that we are so often indifferent to the sufferings of others until we have a visceral experience and knowledge of what it's like to be in another person's shoes.


PTSD is as old as the hills

Posttraumatic stress disorder wasn't recognized by psychiatrists until 1980. But soldiers who lived thousands of years ago can give us a deeper understanding of psychological trauma.
There is a story in my family of my grandfather's homecoming from the Korean War. His father, a medic in the German army in World War I, took him into his study. "You saw horrible things over there," he told his son. "But you have to forget them. When you leave this room, you just don't think about it anymore."

I can't say whether my grandfather took this advice, but he kept his memories to himself; my mother didn't know he was a Korean war vet until well into her teen years. Still, whatever he saw in Korea didn't go away. Two years ago, when he was seriously ill in the hospital, my grandfather woke up in tears. Why, he asked my dumbfounded mother, had he lived through the war when all of his buddies had died?

I was stacking frozen corpses like cordwood, he said. Was there a reason I was spared?

Comment: PTSD in war veterans = a normal psychological reaction of people with conscience to being cannon fodder in senseless wars.


One simple way to better understand how you use your time

© Pexels.com
Every so often after finishing a book we may set it down, mentally checking off an outstanding item we've meant to complete. But sometimes our mind continues to process, letting the lessons we've learned percolate long after we've set a title back into our bookshelves or libraries. I had this particular experience upon finishing Lynn Grodzki's Building Your Ideal Private Practice. Interestingly, despite her countless helpful ideas, tips and tricks for business, it wasn't all the practical tools that stuck with me. It was one concept in the final chapter of the book (and discussed only briefly) that made an immense impact on me. Grodzki discussed looking at how our time is organized using 3 simple descriptors: work, spirit, and buffer.

She described work as things that bring you joy and money. Spirit time was something that would rejuvenate your soul, and buffer was everything else. Simple enough. She shared learning about the concept from her coach and using this framework to categorize her own time. She saw that as a busy private practitioner, while her work brought her money, it did not always translate to joy. Weekends involved running errands, extra paperwork, and maybe dinner out and a movie, but not enough to fully re-energize her. As a result, her weeks on end were lots and lots of buffer time.

Comment: Further reading:
We spend a lot of energy looking for shortcuts to save time, and sure, those shortcuts add up. But when I look back, my biggest time regrets aren't spending too much time on Twitter or mismanaging my daily tasks. Those are bad habits, but there are bigger, more systematic time wasters that have really gotten in the way. Fixing these will free up a massive amount of time and energy.

Regrets of the older and wiser: Time wasted on things that don't matter in the long run