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Tue, 20 Mar 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Busy hands make happy brains

garage tinkering, hand work brain health
© CBS News
Matthew Crawford tinkering. In the garage, using his hands, he finds that his mind goes into high gear.
Admiring your own handiwork" is a familiar expression containing an important truth about the mind. We handed this particular story to our Tony Dokoupil:

Are you the kind of person who actually likes washing dishes? How about folding laundry? Yardwork?

What all these have in common, of course, is they occupy our hands. And as it turns out, some researchers think that may be key to making our brains very happy.

"I made up this term called 'behaviorceuticals,' instead of pharmaceuticals, in the sense that when we move and when we engage in activities, we change the neurochemistry of our brain in ways that a drug can change the neurochemistry of our brain," said Kelly Lambert, a neuroscientist at the University of Richmond.

She says our brains have evolved to reward us for getting a grip on the world

Comment: See also:


The role of brain waves: Focus attention and keep the information flowing

© GuidoVrola/Shutterstock
CATCH A WAVE Created by collections of busy nerve cells, brain waves may help the brain organize information, new studies suggest.
We can't see it, but brains hum with electrical activity. Brain waves created by the coordinated firing of huge collections of nerve cells pinball around the brain. The waves can ricochet from the front of the brain to the back, or from deep structures all the way to the scalp and then back again.

Called neuronal oscillations, these signals are known to accompany certain mental states. Quiet alpha waves ripple soothingly across the brains of meditating monks. Beta waves rise and fall during intense conversational turns. Fast gamma waves accompany sharp insights. Sluggish delta rhythms lull deep sleepers, while dreamers shift into slightly quicker theta rhythms.

Researchers have long argued over whether these waves have purpose, and what those purposes might be. Some scientists see waves as inevitable but useless by-products of the signals that really matter - messages sent by individual nerve cells. Waves are simply a consequence of collective neural behavior, and nothing more, that view holds. But a growing body of evidence suggests just the opposite: Instead of by-products of important signals, brain waves are key to how the brain operates, routing information among far-flung brain regions that need to work together.


On sovereignty and becoming more resilient

lifting the eye
It might very well be the case that 2018 will be known as the "Year of Jordan Peterson".

If you happen to have read anything that I've written, you will have noticed that I come from a very different place than Dr. Peterson. I spend most of my time in high abstraction, thinking about global systems and long term dynamics. Not about how important it is to clean your room. Accordingly, if you are thinking, you might be puzzled. Just what could I mean by proposing that Peterson is not merely popular nor controversial. But that he is important and precisely of the moment.

In this essay, I will endeavor to explain. Naturally, I will be using my own personal approach to making sense of things. So if you are a Dr. Peterson aficionado, this might be a bit of an odd journey. Perhaps you might consider this an invitation down a particular rabbit hole. I wouldn't be spending the time to write this if I didn't think it worth your time. But, of course, the choice is entirely yours.


What you pay attention to ends up controlling your life

optical illusion ladies lake
One of the best insights on what true productivity means in the 21st century dates back to 1890. In his book The Principles of Psychology, Vol.1, William James wrote a simple statement that's packed with meaning: "My experience is what I agree to attend to."

Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Or said another way: you must control your attention to control your life. Today, in a world where so many experiences are blended together - where we can work from home (or a train or a plane or a beach), watch our kids on a nanny-cam from work, and distraction is always just a thumb-swipe away - has that ever been more true?

Comment: Do you have a time management problem or an attention management problem?


Three guidelines for truth-telling

Word Truth written with words lies
© Inconnu
(Warning - this may get a little philosophical)

Should we tell the truth? At face value, it's a question we all most likely would answer in the affirmative. I believe most people would agree that they should tell the truth but at the same time admit that they don't always tell the truth. Some would even suggest there are certain "exceptions" for when we shouldn't tell the truth - times when it's "ok" to fib a little (Hope Hicks might be one of these people). On the surface, truth seems pretty easy to understand, but when you dig deeper, things can get a little more confusing.

For the sake of argument (which I enjoy, by the way), we might ask, "well what is the truth exactly?" Does it mean telling it like it is, or telling it like we see it, or telling it like we think it should be? And to go further, you might ask if truth is the same thing or within the same arena as reality. In other words, does what we see in reality amount to truth, or is truth something else altogether - something transcendent, something outside of humanity that gives it its authority. Here, we're not talking about the truth as something we can attest to in the real world but about the idea of truth - Truth with a capital T.

Comment: The Health & Wellness Show: Liar, liar, pants on fire!: The truth about lying


Three reasons people botch big decisions

© Desconocido
"It was so obvious! How could you mess that up," you hear your internal voice resound deeply.

Maybe you messed up a critical job interview, a keynote speech, a text to your significant other, an introduction to a new connection, a presentation, or a test.

We've all experienced sizable failures one way or the other.

Are you the type of person to just "go for it and hope for the best?" Here's some advice.


Actually, do go for it, but only after you've thought through and evaluated these three cognitive biases extensively.


Walk off your depression! Exercise often works better than medication to improve mental health

walking, exercise
Two-thirds of people with major depression were no longer depressed after this treatment.

A brisk walk three times a week can actually beat antidepressant medication in treating major depression, research finds.

The results come from a study on three groups of elderly people with major depressive disorder.

One group were given the exercise, another given antidepressant medication and the third both.

The results showed that all three groups improved the same amount.

Comment: Walking may be the new superfood - it can increase your life span by improving cardiovascular health and also improves cognitive abilities. More helpful information to combat depression:

Treasure Chest

Does mind-wandering spur creativity?

mind wandering
© Courtesy Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, Wikimedia
Detail from The Red Balloon by Paul Klee, 1922.
The Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer was regarded by his friends as a master in the art of mind-wandering. He could become 'enwrapped' in his own pleasant reflections, wrote the German humanist Willibald Pirckheimer, at which times Dürer 'would seem the happiest person on Earth'.

Many of us are familiar with mind-wandering in a number of guises: procrastination, reflection, meditation, self-flagellation, daydreaming. But while some mental meandering seems fruitful, on other occasions it has the unmistakeable bite of a bad habit, something that holds us back from reaching our full potential. Reverie can be a reprieve from reality and a font of inspiration, yes. But equally familiar is the mind's tendency to devolve into sour and fruitless rumination when left to its own devices, especially when we're in the grip of depression, anxiety or obsession.

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The Health & Wellness Show: Is anybody home? Dissociation and ......oh, I forgot

© Jared Rodriguez / Truthout
Everyone dissociates whether it be through daydreaming, watching movies, playing games, reading and meditation. The ability to dissociate seems to be hard-wired in humans and is especially prevalent in children during play as one of their primary modes of learning. Dissociation can range from mild forms of disengagement from the surrounding environment to a more severe detachment from physical and emotional experiences. Flights of fancy can be a great wellspring of creativity or a maladaptive escape from reality.

How much dissociation is too much? How can it be used for good? Join us for this episode of The Health and Wellness show for a lively discussion.

Stay tuned for Zoya's Pet Health Segment where the topic is animal spies and how our pet companions have been used for espionage.

Running Time: 01:27:01

Download: OGG, MP3

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Who's got the time? Why time seems to fly - or trickle - by

No one is born with an innate understanding of time, and babies must learn to synchronize and coordinate their behavior with the rest of the world. Until then, they demand attention at all hours of the day and night, completely upending their parents' schedules. And for all of us, travel can be disorienting and disruptive, especially if we visit a place where time is organized quite differently from what we're used to (like in Spain, with its afternoon siesta).

But we're all able to eventually adjust - babies included - by adapting to a system of standard temporal units: minutes, hours and days of the week.

Despite the effectiveness of this system, there's still a big difference in how we perceive the passage of time - how fast or slow time seems to go by. A few minutes may seem to last "forever" when we're waiting for a light to turn green, or we may be shocked to realize that the year is almost over.