Science of the Spirit


Life is full of uncertainty, we've just got to learn to live with it


While it can make negative events worse, uncertainty also makes positive events more exciting.
Experiments dating back to the 1960s show people have less of a reaction to viewing an unpleasant image or experiencing an electric shock when they know it's coming than when they're not expecting it. That's because uncertainty, a long-known cause of anxiety, makes it difficult to prepare for events or to control them.

People vary in their desire to minimise uncertainty. Those who react by worrying focus on potential threats and risks such as "what if I don't get the promotion?" or "what if I get sick?". Worry can be useful when it leads to adaptive behaviours that reduce threat, but chronic worry may cause harmful levels of stress that can affect heart health and the functioning of the immune system, among other things.


Learning to move through avoidance caused by anxiety and stress

Regardless of whether you struggle with anxiety, you probably avoid all sorts of things. We all do. These can include painful feelings; difficult conversations; bills and big projects; or situations where we might be judged or rejected.

We avoid these things for all sorts of reasons, according to Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Marin County, Calif., who specializes in managing stress, mood and relationships. It can be because we're scared or anxious; because we don't feel competent or don't know where to start; or because the problem feels too big.

It's an unconscious habit that worked in childhood when we didn't have the skills or power to change the situation, Greenberg said. (For instance, as a teen you hung out with your friends instead of trying to set limits at home with a critical parent, she said.)

However, when we avoid something today, we don't give ourselves the opportunity to learn new skills or solve problems, Greenberg said.

We don't learn that we can tolerate discomfort, said Sheri Van Dijk, MSW, a psychotherapist in Sharon, Ontario, Canada. We "train our brain that this is something we should be fearful of ... and that we are [incapable] of getting through the difficult situation."

Comment: Learning to manage stress and calm anxiety helps us to unfreeze and to begin to tackle those things that we are avoiding. One of the best tools for overcoming stress is the Éiriú Eolas technique which can be learned here. It will help you to heal emotional wounds; anything that may hinder or prevent you from leading a healthy and fulfilling life.


How music improves brain function

© Thinkstock
While previous studies have found that listening to music (especially classical music) has a positive impact on a person's cognitive ability and brain function, the molecular mechanisms responsible for these benefits had remained unclear - until now.

Researchers from the Haartman Institute Department of Medical Genetics at the University of Helsinki in Finland, the University of the Arts' Sibelius Academy (a music institution) and the Aalto University Department of Information and Computer Science investigated the effect of a musical performance on the gene expression profiles of professional musicians.

"Several neuroscientific studies have demonstrated that the brains of professional musicians and non-musicians differ structurally and functionally and that musical training enhances cognition," the authors wrote in a recent edition of the journal Scientific Reports.

"However, the molecules and molecular mechanisms involved in music performance remain largely unexplored."

They investigated the effect that music has on the genome-wide peripheral blood transcriptome of professional musicians. The research team analyzed the gene expression profiles of members of a professional orchestra (Tapiola Sinfonietta) and the Sibelius-Academy after a two-hour long concert performance, and then again following a "music-free" control session.


Research shows you can build a better brain with exercise and environmental enrichment

Have you ever considered that you can build a better brain for yourself? One that is more resilient and less susceptible to emotional ruts?

Research suggests that you can. Your brain is ready to create more connections, work more efficiently, and process emotions with greater ease.


Recent studies show that you can build a better brain by doing two things:

1) Enriching your environment

2) Exercising

In a new joint study researchers from Cologne, Munich and Mainz have found that enriched environments promote the regeneration of cells in the hippocampus and improve the connectivity of new neurons.

Comment: The brain also needs adequate nutrition to function optimally, so it is important to maintain a diet that minimizes carbohydrates and includes sufficient quantities of good quality saturated fats, and may also include supplementation with essential nutrients.


People can draw energy from each other - the same as plants do

A biological research team at Bielefeld University has made a groundbreaking discovery showing that plants can draw an alternative source of energy from other plants. This finding could also have a major impact on the future of bioenergy eventually providing the evidence to show that people draw energy from others in much the same way. Members of Professor Dr. Olaf Kruse's biological research team have confirmed for the first time that a plant, the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, not only engages in photosynthesis, but also has an alternative source of energy: it can draw it from other plants.

The research findings were released this week in the online journal Nature Communications published by the renowned journal Nature. Flowers need water and light to grow and people are no different. Our physical bodies are like sponges, soaking up the environment.
"This is exactly why there are certain people who feel uncomfortable in specific group settings where there is a mix of energy and emotions," said psychologist and energy healer Dr. Olivia Bader-Lee.
Plants engage in the photosynthesis of carbon dioxide, water, and light. In a series of experiments, Professor Dr. Olaf Kruse and his team cultivated the microscopically small green alga species Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and observed that when faced with a shortage of energy, these single-cell plants can draw energy from neighboring vegetable cellulose instead.

Comment: There is another effective way of maintaining inner resistance and learning proper energy regulation. The Éiriú Eolas breathing program has had profound healing effects in its practitioners due to the stimulation of the vagus nerve and polyvagal system. It helps to effectively manage the physiological, emotional, and psychological effects of stress, helps to clear blocked emotions, and helps improve thinking ability. The program will unlock your social systems and heal imbalances related with depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. You can try it for free at

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Three inner virtues which unexpectedly come with age

© Deviant Art/DannyST
On top of wisdom, there are three inner virtues which unexpectedly come with age.

People become more trusting as they get older, a new study finds.

This is just the reverse of the stereotype of cynical, suspicious, grumpy seniors played on by many a sitcom.

And trust is not the only inner virtue that comes with age.

Dr Claudia Haase, one of the study's authors, said that greater trust may lead to more happiness with age:
"When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss.

But a growing body of research shows that some things actually get better as we age.

Our new findings show that trust increases as people get older and, moreover, that people who trust more are also more likely to experience increases in happiness over time."
On top of greater trust and happiness, people often experience more optimism with age.

Dr Haase said:
"We know that older people are more likely to look at the bright side of things.

As we age, we may be more likely to see the best in other people and forgive the little let-downs that got us so wary when we were younger."
The conclusions come from two groups of people, one huge sample of almost 200,000 people from 83 countries.


My husband convinced me I was insane


Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in "Gaslight"
The writer didn't know what "gaslighting" was, until it happened to her. Here's how a loved one's lies and manipulation can make you believe you are crazy—and potentially drive you to the brink.

An envelope arrived at my house. My heart sank—I just knew what I was about to see: photos of one of my rock-star husband's groupies. I'd suspected for some time that something was up between the two of them. I tried to believe him when he insisted he was faithful. But, c'mon now, what constantly touring musician didn't indulge in extramarital affairs?

Naturally, I opened the package to find photos that indicated she'd spent five days with my husband. When I confronted him—and this wasn't the first time I had—he'd insisted he only saw her once, at a show.


The art of developing patience

Many of us have a problem with patience. That is, we lack it. We might be impatient in all areas of our lives. Or we might get impatient in certain situations.

We might get impatient while waiting in line at the store, or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Or waiting for an email to arrive in our inbox. Or hearing back from a potential employer.

Of course, the pace of our world doesn't help with cultivating patience. Our society's tempo is rapid-fire. We press "send" on an email, and it works in seconds (and how annoyed do you get if it takes a few seconds longer to actually send?). Our food comes with a time guarantee, or it's free.

We're able to walk into a grocery store, walk through any aisle and grab exactly what we need (without waiting hours in line only to find that the item sold out hours ago).

You probably know that being impatient isn't helpful or healthy. When we try to speed things up, we only get worked up and stress ourselves out. Which affects everything from ruining a good meal to pushing people away, said Casey Radle, LPC, a therapist who specializes in anxiety, depression and self-esteem at Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, Texas.


Study finds depression distorts people's perception of time

Most people experience differences in how time is perceived, with or without depression.

For example, 10 minutes in the dentist's waiting-room can seem like an hour.

While an enjoyable conversation with a good friend can pass in the blink of an eye.

What a new study finds, though, is that depressed people have a general feeling that time is passing more slowly, or even that it has stopped.

Dr. Daniel Oberfeld-Twistel, one of the study's authors, said:
"Psychiatrists and psychologists in hospitals and private practices repeatedly report that depressed patients feel that time only creeps forward slowly or is passing in slow motion.

The results of our analysis confirm that this is indeed the case."
The strange part is what happens when people with depression are asked to judge intervals of time.

For example, they are asked to watch a movie and estimate its length.

Or they are asked to press a button after five seconds has passed.

Comment: See also:

Distortion of time perception from emotions offset by sense of control


How the touch of others makes us who we are

© colormetwentysomthing
Not only does touch seem to signal trust and cooperation, it creates them. Our sense of touch does much more than help us navigate the world at our fingertips. It is becoming clear that touching each other plays a fundamental role in our lives. It isn't just a sentimental human indulgence, says Francis McGlone at Liverpool John Moores University, UK. "It is a biological necessity."

Touching gives the world an emotional context. It builds trust and promotes teamwork, wins friends and influences people. But that's not all. Beginning in the womb, it may guide the development of regions in our brain that govern social behaviour. It could even give us our sense of self. The touch of others makes us who we are.

Compared to the other senses, however, touch often gets a raw deal. It receives less attention than sight or hearing, say. And yet the skin -- our touch detector -- is our biggest organ. An average-sized man has some 5 or 6 kilograms of it -- roughly the weight of a bowling ball. As well as regulating our temperature and shielding us from infection and injury, our skin is a communication interface with the outside world. And just as we can lose our sight or hearing, we can go touch-blind.