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Thu, 13 Aug 2020
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Meditation Doesn't Have to Be a Religious Thing

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Really, it's not religious. It is merely the momentary pause of thought. It is as religious as the holding of breath as you dive under water, or the halt of stepping as you pause from a rapid pace. It's as religious as the not eating that sometimes happens between meals. It's as religious as summer vacation, the space between words, or briefly being between jobs.

Meditation is innately human, and certainly in simpler times gone by, meditation came easily to us. Sitting under a tree near the river, listening to the sound of water moving, I suppose thought naturally paused for a few minutes in peaceful, spontaneous harmony. Or while watching the magnificence of the stars emerging in the sky as the world grew dark and quiet, rest undoubtedly came naturally to the mind. Science now tells us that this kind of rest for the mind is healing to the body, and it also helps to rebuild brain tissue and prevent several psychological disorders, including Alzheimer's and ADD.

Question

Sick With Worry?

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© Karen Moskowitz/Getty Images
You're probably familiar with the insidious effects of stress on your sleep quality and its link to anxiety and depression. Now growing body of evidence suggests that stress can take a physical toll, too, damaging everything from your heart to your immune system. It may even shorten your lifespan.

"Chronic emotional stress can affect virtually every organ system in negative ways," says Dean Ornish, M.D., founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif. "But stress is not simply a function of what you do. It's also a function of how you react."

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Briefcase

Psychopaths in suits

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If the word psychopath conjures up serial killers Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, the reality is that the blood-and-guts brigade are unlikely to get you.

The bad news is that there's a sub-species that will not slice you up and savour the wet bits but they're a lot closer to home and, paradoxically, harder to spot.

There is a psychopath on your stoop, on the golf course, in your book club, at your school reunion, between your sheets, even, rather disappointingly, behind the pulpit. In business they suck in their acolytes like a grade five hurricane.

Take Brett Kebble. At the height of his power, 41-year-old Kebble was seen as a colourful character known for his flamboyant lifestyle, overt generosity and a championing of black empowerment.

Although there were dark mutterings about his unorthodox business methods while he was alive, posthumously it was Pandora's box.

Kebble was exposed in the ongoing and protracted court case over his execution as one of the century's major confidence tricksters who dealt with perceived threats -- in the one instance we know of, according to evidence presented at the South Gauteng High Court -- by organising a conveniently debilitating stay in hospital for the "obstacle".

'The role of sociopaths in business'

At an investigative journalism workshop at Wits University in August 2006 on the Kebble story, Martin Weltz, the Noseweek editor, remarked that he had "long been interested in the role of sociopaths in business -- conmen, people who have the most unbelievable skills, like selling fridges in the Antarctic. South Africa also has its own community of conmen in business and Brett Kebble was one."

Weltz used the term sociopath but psychopath seems more apt. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, some psychologists see a sociopath's crimes as typically disorganised and spontaneous, while a psychopath's crimes are well planned. For this reason, psychopaths are harder to catch. Kebble's organisation and reach point to the latter.

Psychopaths may be obvious in a postmortem of the results of their actions but spotting them before the destruction is not that easy. They walk into a room and scan your barcode in minutes, capturing your likes, dislikes, motives, needs and -- most gratifying for them -- your weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Alarm Clock

Prime Time TV 'Objectifies and Fetishizes' Underage Girls, Study Says

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Los Angeles - Long gone are the days when Marcia Brady's sweet smile and Winnie Cooper's brains and beauty were how television represented teen-age girls.

According to a new study conducted by the Parents Television Council (PTC), Hollywood is shockingly obsessed with sexualizing teen girls, to the point where underage female characters are shown participating in an even higher percentage of sexual situations than their adult counterparts: 47 percent to 29 percent respectively.

PTC's report, entitled "New Target: A Study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV" is based on a content analysis drawn from the 25 most popular shows in the 12-17 demographic throughout the 2009-2010 television season.

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Wearing Gucci? Put yourself in a poor man's shoes: Rich people have no idea what you're thinking

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© Frank Franklin / Associated Press
Donald Trump and other upper-class types don't know -- or care -- what you're feeling.
Wondering why your fat cat boss seems so clueless about why you don't want to work extra shifts during the holidays? It could be because he can't understand the dour looks you keep throwing his way.

Upper-class people are less adept at reading other people's emotions than their lower-class counterparts, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

"We found that people from a lower-class background - in terms of occupation, status, education and income level - performed better in terms of emotional intelligence, the ability to read the emotions that others are feeling," says Michael Kraus, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral student in psychology at the University of California, San Francisco.

In other words, if you're looking for a little empathy, you're more likely to get it from a poor person than a rich one (just ask Bob Cratchit)

Family

Dr. Mark Hyman: Breakthrough Discovery on the Causes of Autism

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Imagine being the parent of a young child who is not acting normally and being told by your doctor that your child has autism, that there is no known cause, and there is no known treatment except, perhaps, some behavioral therapy. That is exactly what Jackson's parents were told as their 22-month old son regressed into the non-verbal psychic prison of social withdrawal, disconnection, and repetitive behaviors typical of autism.

While we don't have all the answers, and more research is needed to identify and validate the causes and treatment of autism, there are new signs of hope. A study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by researchers from the University of California, Davis called "Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Autism"(i) discovered a profound and serious biological underpinning of autism - an acquired loss of the ability to produce energy in the cells, damage to mitochondria (the energy factories in your cells), and an increase in oxidative stress (the same chemical reaction that causes cars to rust, apples to turn brown, fat to become rancid, and skin to wrinkle). These disturbances in energy metabolism were not due to genetic mutations, which is often seen in mitochondrial problems, but a condition the children studied acquired in utero or after birth.

Bottom line, if brain cells cannot produce enough energy, and there is too much oxidative stress, then neurons don't fire, connections aren't made and the lights don't go on for these children. In fact, this problem of energy loss is found in most chronic disease and aging - from diabetes to heart disease to dementia. Brain function and neurodevelopment in particular are highly dependent on energy.

This is exactly the problem I documented and found in Jackson when I first saw him. He had a profound loss of energy in his cells (particularly his brain cells), and indicators of severe oxidative stress. This is the same problem many other researchers have found in similar studies.(ii) Despite the evidence, most physicians don't test for mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress or other myriad factors commonly found in autistic children.

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Gene Mutation in Schizophrenia Linked to Mental Disorders

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A genetic mutation that is associated with schizophrenia may also be implicated in other major mental illnesses when the individual's mother experiences an assault on her immune system. That is the conclusion inferred by a mouse study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers.

"Psychiatric diseases have genetic roots, but genes alone do not explain the entire disease," says Mikhail V. Pletnikov, M.D., Ph.D., the study's leader and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In the study, mice who were predisposed to schizophrenia actually developed mood and anxiety disorders instead. This finding suggests that one gene mutation can lead to another kind of mental illness when influenced by the same environmental factor.

Magic Wand

Yoga Better Than Walking For Beating The Blues

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Scientists are now giving serious attention to an idea that yogis have known for centuries: that yoga has a positive effect on your mood. Although it's an ancient mind-body practice, the future of yoga may be in treating mood disorders. For this small study, scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine measured yoga's effect on depression and anxiety versus walking with a brain imaging study. They found that compared to walking, yoga provides a greater improvement in mood, as well as a decrease in anxiety.

The 34 study participants were randomly selected healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 45. They were divided into two groups: those who walked for an hour three times a week, and those who practiced Iyengar yoga (a strenuous form of yoga) for the same amount of time.

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Curiosity's Evil Twin Can Drive You Insane

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It's that time of year again. Gifts are appearing under Christmas trees, and people - especially kids - are itching to find out what's in those boxes and bags. In many homes, curiosity gets the better of a child, as evidenced by hastily re-taped wrapping paper and ribbons in disarray.

There's a real reward to finding out what's under the tree, of course: a new gadget that's yours to keep, or the necklace you've been coveting for months. In other situations, though, the biggest rewards of curiosity are knowledge, stimulation and other intangibles. And for the most part, researchers who study curiosity have seen it as a positive thing, driven by a love of newness and learning.

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Your Brain On Meditation

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If you have never tried to quiet your mind with meditation then you are in for a surprise: your mind is a very noisy place. Brain waves are the electrical movements in our brain, and they always happen, even when we sleep. However, the frequency range of our brain waves fluctuates. Most of us during our waking moments have fast moving beta waves coursing through our brains. To slow down our thoughts, many western doctors are turning to the East and are encouraging the practice of meditation for their patients. Why? There have been various scientific studies that prove regularly practicing meditation has many therapeutic effects including stress reduction. High levels of stress are directly correlated to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health issues.

From a brain wave perspective the goal of meditation is to move the brain waves from beta into a more relaxed frequency like alpha or even theta. Alpha waves are detected when we are awake but involved in a relaxed state, for example while practicing yoga or meditating. Theta waves are a deeper form of relaxation that happen during deep meditations as well as right before we fall to sleep or upon waking.