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Sun, 07 Feb 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Evidence suggests that meditation alters cancer survivors' cells

© Giovanni Cancemi/Shutterstock
For the first time, scientists have found clear biological evidence that meditation and support groups can affect us on a cellular level.

We're often told that being happy, meditating and mindfulness can benefit our health. We all have that one friend of a friend who says they cured their terminal illness by quitting their job and taking up surfing - but until now there's been very little scientific evidence to back up these claims.

Now researchers in Canada have found the first evidence to suggest that support groups that encourage meditation and yoga can actually alter the cellular activity of cancer survivors.

Comment: Learn about the numerous mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits of meditation by visiting the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program website, try out the entire program here for free.


Frankincense may infuse users with mild euphoria

© flickrhivemind
Arabian incense burner.
A group of researchers using hard science put frankincense to the test: Does this ancient, fragrant smoke give feelings of exaltation to the practitioners of the many religions in whose rites it has been used for millennia? Further, they asked, could extracts of frankincense or Boswellia be used by pharmacologists to create drugs that would fight depression and anxiety?

Another researcher published an article in October on anti-inflammatory and other health benefits of frankincense, a precious resin from the Boswellia tree that has been traded for more than 5,000 years. Both he and the researchers looking into the mental-health benefits say more study is needed.


Gabor Maté: How to build a culture of good health

Physical well-being depends on more than keeping our bodies fit. Emotions and the people who come into our lives matter just as much.

© Pablo Iglesias
"I never get angry," says a character in one of Woody Allen's movies. "I grow a tumor instead." Much more scientific truth is captured in that droll remark than many doctors would recognize. Mainstream medical practice largely ignores the role of emotions in the physiological functioning of the human organism. Yet the scientific evidence abundantly shows that people's lifetime emotional experiences profoundly influence health and illness. And, since emotional patterns are a response to the psychological and social environment, disease in an individual always tells us about the multigenerational family of origin and the broader culture in which that person's life unfolds.



Tech addiction: Photos depict how modern technology is 'stealing souls'

Addiction to technology "is placing the screen as an object of 'mass subculture', alienating the relation to our own body, and more generally to the physical world."

Antonie Geiger is a 20-year-old photographer from France who has perfectly outlined how our electronics are sucking the life out of us. They consume out attention tricking us into thinking it is about affection and all the while distracting us from living our present physical lives.

When we are not grounded in the present moment we are disconnecting. Since many of us are on a path of seeking connection we need to remember to keep our electronic tools in balance with our interpersonal connections.

People 2

Study finds our beliefs and behaviors influenced by shared social connections

© Andrew Yates / Reuters
Attitudes are contagious. People tend to copy each other's opinions. This is not a new idea, but only now have scientists begun to use computer models to try and understand the mechanism which facilitates this. And they say it has to do with large groups.

Apparently, the larger the group, the more "contagious" an idea is, up to the point where one's memory can become shared with someone who has never had the experience, but with whom the first person shares social connections, Stony Brook University researchers have found.

The need for such research was to advance not only our understanding of how memory and perceptions are formed, but how they are shared; and more importantly, what other life processes this model could be applied to, such as habits, fashion and various fads.

"In large social networks, our model demonstrated that information is 'contagious' in much the same way that behavior seems to be contagious," Christian Luhmann and Suparna Rajaram found. "These results suggest that information transmission is a critical mechanism underlying the social transmission of behavior."


Taking breaks throughout workday can increase productivity

How many times do you sit down to get work done and find yourself "working" and yet getting little completed?

Do you set aside big chunks of time to get work done, only to end up feeling like you've barely made a dent in it? Do you have that one task that always seems to get pushed off to the next day? Do you end your workday feeling drained rather than satisfied with what you've accomplished?

This is a sign that you aren't taking enough breaks -- or aren't taking them effectively. We prize this idea of being busy, and see taking a break or getting distracted as a problem.

In reality, rest and relaxation are tools our bodies and minds are trying desperately to get us to use.

Most of us are aware that taking breaks from physical activity is necessary to recuperate and prevent injuries. Taking breaks in our mental work is equally helpful, and can be a great boost to our productivity as well.


2 + 2 = 4

Healing sex addiction triggers: Five tools for sobriety

If you are a recovering alcoholic or drug addict with solid support and a lot of motivated willingness to get well, you can make it through the rest of your life without taking another drink or abusing an addictive drug. Similarly, compulsive gamblers can live a full and happy lives without ever re-entering a casino, betting on the stock market, or playing fantasy football. But for those who struggle with addictions to otherwise highly life-affirming activities like eating and sex, recovery can at times be a daily battle. After all, compulsive eaters in recovery must still eat on a regular basis. And recovering sex addicts, even if they've previously had enough sex to populate China, usually still want (and deserve) to have a healthy sexual and intimate life in recovery.

However, as mentioned in a previous posting to this site, triggers toward addictive sex are relatively unavoidable. Recovering sex addicts inevitably run into attractive people, see sexual acts depicted in movies and on TV, spot their friend's Victoria's Secret catalog on the coffee table, etc. To be honest, triggers toward sexual addiction are almost infinite in both number and variety, and there is not much that recovering sex addicts can do about that beyond learning to recognize when they are feeling triggered and, equally importantly, how to respond in healthy rather than addictive ways.

Comment: For more on how how sex, and more importantly the obsessive preoccupation with it can turn into addiction and affect the brain, check out these articles.


Mental health habits that bring consistency to our lives, promote wellness and resilience

Parents, teachers, and doctors regularly encourage young people to establish good physical hygiene habits. Here are just a few: Bathe daily. Eat healthy meals. Brush your teeth at least once a day. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom. Clip your toenails before they get too long. These habits become routine after a while.

Most of us probably were not intentionally taught good mental health hygiene habits. These habits also bring consistency to our lives, promote wellness and resilience, and protect us from becoming overwhelmed by mental illness.

While mental health hygiene habits may vary from person to person, it is important to identify those that work best for us and to integrate them into our day — every day — through reminders and practice until they become a routine that we anticipate with pleasure.


How old grows young: Preschools in nursing homes provide new life to elderly residents

Aging can have a lot of issues attached to it: The body is no longer at the top of its game and gravity is slowly but surely drawing the body down to its final resting place. We try not to complain, but Bette Davis probably said it best: Old age is no place for sissies.

As we age, there is also bound to be loss as friends and family age and inevitably cross over. What used to be a huge gathering during holidays and special occasions begins to dwindle, and many will suddenly become part of the nearly 50% of elderly people who feel isolated and alone. Then, when coupled with the physical ailments of aging, which are made worse by feelings of loneliness, emotional issues can turn into a disaster and depression can easily set in.


Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration: The awakening of self-awareness

© DiNo
This is the third in a series of Sunday posts about Kazimierz Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration, using as a starting point his 1967 book, Personality-Shaping through Positive Disintegration, released in a new edition as paperback and ebook. All otherwise unattributed quotations from Dabrowski in this series are from the 2015 paperback edition. You can also purchase the book as part of a larger collection of Dabrowski's works at Bill Tillier's website PositiveDisintegration.com.

Becoming an Adult

A recent Facebook status by a Millennialgeneration friend caught my attention as I was thinking about this week's topic (he gave his permission to share it here):

Comment: Previous instalments to this series: