Science of the Spirit
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Snakes in Suits

The type of people most likely to be manipulative, self-admiring psychopaths

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The type of people most likely to be psychopaths, narcissists and manipulators.
People who have a tendency to stay up late are more likely to exhibit anti-social personality traits, like narcissism and psychopathy.

Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy - menacingly called 'the Dark Triad' - were all linked with the preference for late bedtimes in research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (Jonason et al., 2013).

Dr. Peter K. Jonason, explained:
"Those who scored highly on the Dark Triad traits are, like many other predators such as lions and scorpions, creatures of the night.

For people pursuing a fast life strategy like that embodied by the Dark Triad traits, it's better to occupy and exploit a lowlight environment where others are sleeping and have diminished cognitive functioning."
The conclusions come from an online survey of 263 students which, along with their sleeping preferences, measured:
  • Psychopathy: Characterised by reduced empathy, antisocial behaviour and disinhibition. Psychopaths are often very good at influencing others.
  • Narcissism: Egomaniacs.
  • Machiavellianism: Tendency to manipulate and exploit others without regard to morality.

Comment: More food for thought:


Heart

Meditate to become a healthier, happier and more compassionate human being

© Namita Azad
Meditation is excellent method to maintain our physical and emotional health and well-being
The Challenge: Stress, work and life challenges can get the best of us.
The Science: Research shows that meditation is linked to a host of benefits from happiness to health!
The Solution: Meditate to feel calmer, happier, healthier, more productive and more in charge.

Trying to find a New Year's Resolution that's really worth it? How about one that will boost your resilience?

This coming New Year will hopefully be full of wonderful surprises, but undoubtedly - like every year - will also throw some challenges at us. I started meditating soon after 9/11. I was living in Manhattan, an already chaotic place, at an extremely chaotic time. I realized I had no control over my external environment. And I realized this would always be the case. No matter what we do, we never have full control over our jobs, partners, health, or environment.

However, there is one place we can have a say over: the state of our mind. As a friend once said to me "When my mind is ok, then everything is ok." This statement is so simple yet also so profound. When I started meditating, I realized I was clamer despite any situations I encountered. What I didn't realize, was that it would also make me healthier, happier, and more successful. Having witnessed the benefits, I devoted my PhD research at Stanford to studying the impact of meditation. I saw people from diverse backgrounds from college students to combat veterans benefit. In the last 10 years, hundreds of studies have been released.

Here are 20 scientifically-validated reasons you might want to get on the bandwagon come Jan 1 (if not today!)

Comment: Carl Jung once said that "There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."

These meditation studies show that when we process our minds we can have better health and more understanding of ourselves. Meditation is not about imagining figures of light, but making the darkness -the unconscious mind- more conscious. These studies show that when we increase our understanding of ourselves we'll have more compassion towards others too; we learn to think with our hearts. Try out our meditation program Éiriú Eolas to get the full benefits of meditation.


Bulb

Mind over matter: Mental imagery minimises loss of immobilised muscles

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Regular mental imagery exercises help preserve arm strength during 4 weeks of immobilization, researchers have found. Strength is controlled by a number of factors -- the most studied by far is skeletal muscle. However, the nervous system is also an important, though not fully understood, determinant of strength and weakness. In this study, researchers set out to test how the brain's cortex plays into strength development.

Anyone who has worn a cast knows that rebuilding muscle strength once the cast is removed can be difficult. Now researchers at the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI) at Ohio University have found that the mind is critical in maintaining muscle strength following a prolonged period of immobilization and that mental imagery may be key in reducing the associated muscle loss.

Strength is controlled by a number of factors -- the most studied by far is skeletal muscle. However, the nervous system is also an important, though not fully understood, determinant of strength and weakness. Brian C. Clark and colleagues set out to test how the brain's cortex plays into strength development. They designed an experiment to measure changes in wrist flexor strength in three groups of healthy adults. Twenty-nine subjects wore a rigid cast that extended from just below the elbow past the fingers, effectively immobilizing the hand and wrist, for four weeks. Fifteen subjects who did not wear casts served as the control group.

Clipboard

Use the power of check lists!

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In the modern age, we know more than ever before, and the information has never been so readily available.

And yet individuals and organizations often fail to deliver on the promise of all this knowledge. In fact, we are often the victim, and the architect, of head-slapping displays of incompetence when it comes to delivering what's been promised, or forgetting routine things that have no business being overlooked.

Why is there so often this mismatch between potential and application?

As our knowledge about the world increases, so too does its complexity. And as complexity goes up, so do the opportunities for failure.

Medicine is a great example of where our increased knowledge has made things better, but also more complex, with more possibilities for snafus. Before the mid-20th century, medicine was pretty simple. There wasn't much specialization; when you went to the hospital, there was usually one doctor and a few general nurses overseeing your care.

Now when you go to the hospital, you can have several teams taking care of you. Nurses, nurse technicians, radiologists, dieticians, oncologists, cardiologists, and so on and so forth. All these people have the know-how to deliver top-notch healthcare, and yet studies show that failures are common, most often due to plain old ineptitude. For example, 30% of patients who suffer a stroke receive incomplete or inappropriate care from their doctors, as do 45% of patients with asthma, and 60% of patients with pneumonia.

It's not ignorance or ill-intent that causes these failures. Knowledge abounds among our healthcare practitioners. The problem is that because medicine is more sophisticated and specialized, applying that knowledge correctly across several teams is harder. There are multiple streams of information to remember and manage.

People 2

Could playing Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker' and other music improve kids' brains?

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© Nataliya Hora/Fotolia
Cildren who play the violin or study piano could be learning more than just Mozart. A University of Vermont College of Medicine child psychiatry team has found that musical training might also help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

James Hudziak, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, and colleagues including Matthew Albaugh, Ph.D., and graduate student research assistant Eileen Crehan, call their study "the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development."

Comment: See also: Music therapy reduces depression in children and adolescents


Info

Stress may increase desire for reward but not pleasure, research finds

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Study helps explain why stress often leads to binge eating, relapses in drug addiction or gambling.

Feeling stressed may prompt you to go to great lengths to satisfy an urge for a drink or sweets, but you're not likely to enjoy the indulgence any more than someone who is not stressed and has the same treat just for pleasure, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

"Most of us have experienced stress that increases our craving for rewarding experiences, such as eating a tasty bar of chocolate, and it can make us invest considerable effort in obtaining the object of our desire, such as running to a convenience store in the middle of the night," said lead author Eva Pool, MS, a doctoral student at the University of Geneva. "But while stress increases our desire to indulge in rewards, it does not necessarily increase the enjoyment we experience."

Stress prompted chocolate lovers in an experiment to exert three times as much effort to smell chocolate than unstressed chocolate lovers, but both groups reported about the same level of enjoyment when they got a whiff of the pleasing aroma, according to the study, published in APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.

Comment: If stress leads to binge eating or relapses in various addictions, then one way to prevent such incidents is to work on reducing the stress. And one of the most useful things one can do to off-set, ameliorate and even reverse the effects of anxiety and stress is to learn about and practice the techniques shared in Éiriú Eolas.




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Study shows that focusing the brain on exercising can trick muscles into getting stronger

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New research suggests muscles respond to simple thoughts of exercise; simply imagining exercise can trick the muscles into delaying atrophy and even getting stronger. It's further proof that brain and body, which evolved together, are more intwined than separate.

To demonstrate the power of the brain, researchers at Ohio University wrapped a single wrist of two sets of study participants in a cast - immobilizing their muscles for four weeks. One set was instructed to sit still and intensely imagine exercising for 11 minutes, five days a week. More than just casually daydream about going to the gym, participants were instructed to devote all of their mental energy towards imagining flexing their arm muscles.

The other set of study participants weren't given any specific instructions. At the end of the four weeks, the mental-exercisers were two times stronger than the others.

Researchers also used magnetic imaging to isolate the area of the brain responsible for the specific arm muscles. Participants that imagine exercise not only had stronger arms but also a stronger brain; their mental exercises created stronger neuromuscular pathways

Comment: This begs the question, what else is the brain capable of changing in the body?


Cult

Sam Harris: Is Christian morality psychopathic?

If obeying orders of the Christian God is the only criteria for determining right and wrong, it's hard to argue otherwise.


People 2

Study finds shared pain and suffering can increase cooperation and loyalty in groups

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© Rebekka Dunlap
Last year, Dimitris Xygalatas, the head of the experimental anthropology lab at the University of Connecticut, decided to conduct a curious experiment in Mauritius, during the annual Thaipusam festival, a celebration of the Hindu god Murugan. For the ten days prior to the festival, devotees abstain from meat and sex. As the festival begins, they can choose to show their devotion in the form of several communal rituals. One is fairly mild. It involves communal prayer and singing beside the temple devoted to Murugan, on the top of a mountain. The other, however - the Kavadi - is one of the more painful modern religious rituals still in practice. Participants must pierce multiple parts of their bodies with needles and skewers and attach hooks to their backs, with which they then drag a cart for more than four hours. After that, they climb the mountain where Murugan's temple is located.

Immediately after each ritual was complete, the worshippers were asked if they would be willing to spend a few minutes answering some questions in a room near the temple. Xygalatas had them rate their experience, their attitude toward others, and their religiosity. Then he asked them a simple question: They would be paid two hundred rupees for their participation (about two days' wages for an unskilled worker); did they want to anonymously donate any of those earnings to the temple? His goal was to figure out if the pain of the Kavadi led to increased affinity for the temple.

For centuries, societies have used pain as a way of creating deep bonds. There are religious rites, such as self-flagellation, solitary pilgrimages, and physical mutilation. There are the rites of passage into adulthood, like the Melanesian rite where boys "may be extensively burned, permanently scarred and mutilated, dehydrated, beaten, and have objects inserted in sensitive areas such as the nasal septum, the base of the spine, the tongue, and the penis." There are also the less intense initiation rituals of fraternity houses and military branches, of summer camps and medical residencies. Painful rites seem to be a way of engineering the kind of affinity that arises naturally among people who have suffered similar traumatic experiences.

Comment: There may be a point after all to the pain and suffering endured by the human race on a daily basis. Perhaps it exists to wake us up.


Gift 2

Study finds service dogs reduce symptoms of PTSD in veterans

Service dogs can significantly reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in veterans, according to the preliminary findings of a Kaiser Permanente study.

The dogs were also found to improve veterans' relationships and lower their substance abuse.

Researcher Carla Green led the year-long "Pairing Assistance-Dogs with Soldiers" (PAWS) study and recently shared her findings with legislators at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

"The study is significant because no research has been conducted on how service dogs affect the mental health of veterans," Green said. Although benefits for veterans cover service dogs for physical disabilities, they are not available for help with mental health problems.

Comment: Anything the federal government can do to improve the lives of veterans should be undertaken and funded to the fullest extent possible. These soldiers have endured horrific treatment by the government and the VA, including excessive waiting for health care, inadequate treatment for PTSD, homelessness as a result of their inability to reincorporate into society and the destruction of their families.

Millions of U.S. veterans and soldiers suffering needlessly; suicides, mental illness, poverty

Why Does The U.S. Government Treat Military Veterans Like Human Garbage?