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Sat, 21 Apr 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

Magic Wand

Promoting mental wellness in children through mindfulness

kids mindfulness
Unlike 30 years ago, children today are often busy with school, after school programs, tutoring, extended days at daycare, followed by organized weekly activities and planned play dates. They seem to have less and less time for free play, relaxation and spending quality time with family. These factors may have a direct impact on physical, emotional and social learning.

I am a mother of two young children and an occupational therapist who works in both an adult mental health setting and a pediatric occupational therapy clinic. The importance of mental wellness is key to promoting, learning, thinking and social engagement.

There are a variety of tools that can be used to help promote mental wellness in children. Mindfulness is a tool that may help children improve self-regulation, impulse control, attention span, and improve social relationships.

Life Preserver

Concrete processing: A strategy of thinking that could protect people from the effects of traumatic experiences

trauma, medical emergency
People who may be exposed to trauma can train themselves to think in a way that could protect them from PTSD symptoms, according to a study from King's College London and Oxford University.

Clinical psychologists Rachel White and Jennifer Wild wanted to test whether a way of thinking about situations called concrete processing could reduce the number of intrusive memories experienced after a traumatic event. These intrusive memories are one of the core symptoms of PTSD.

Dr Rachel White explained: 'Concrete processing is focusing on how a situation is unfolding, what is being experienced and what the next steps are. It differs from abstract processing, which is concerned with analysing why something is happening, its implications, and asking 'what if' questions with no obvious answer.

'Previous research has shown that emergency workers who adopted the abstract processing approach showed poorer coping. Another study compared abstract and concrete processing of negative events and found that the abstract thinkers experienced a longer period of low mood.'

Dr Jennifer Wild said: 'If we consider groups more at risk of PTSD, like military personnel, emergency workers or journalists in conflict zones, they are all groups known to be likely to experience traumatic events.

'This means they have the opportunity to train themselves in strategies that might protect them from the ill effects. For that reason, we wanted to test whether training people to adopt a concrete processing approach could be one such strategy.'


Emotions & feelings - what's the difference?

Emotions are a rich aspect of being human. We should honor our unique capacity to experience the complexity of humanity's emotional spectrum, instead of bashing those which we sometimes might consider 'bad'.

There are no strictly 'good' or 'bad' emotions. Fear for example, is a necessity for survival. Anger is necessary for engaging the pursuit of justice. Sadness helps us to understand the various loves and ideals we have in life.

Yet we do live in a duality of positive and negative spin. Both parts make a whole. So there are emotions that we process as more positive, like 'happiness', or more negative, like 'grief', yet both play a necessary role in helping us to learn and grow within the earthly context we find ourselves.


When we lose perspective we lose our operational wisdom

"What can you do with a person who says that he is absolutely uncertain about everything, and that he is absolutely certain about that?" — Idries Shah
Our perspective is how we perceive people, situations, ideas, etc. It's informed by our personal experience, which makes it as unique as anything could be. Perspective shapes our life by affecting our choices. But the minute our minds become steeped in worry, perspective goes out of the window. We forget about our triumphs. We stop being optimistic as fear takes the wheel.

Fear gives rise to negative feelings: insecure, critical, defensive, abandoned, desperate, lonely, resentful, overwhelmed, aggressive, and so on. These cloud our minds and consume our thoughts.

When we lose perspective, our operational wisdom is gone. We might as well be little children. Everything we know about coping, adapting, and resilience are lost. Small things appear to be much larger and more dire. Stress mounts.

Everything we've accomplished in life, the lessons we've learned, the hard times we've overcome and the ways in which we've grown are discounted when perspective is lost. We see it happen around us every day, but we rarely label it properly.

Comment: When we find ourselves overreacting, it's time to take a break and re-engage with our deeper selves. Practicing mindfulness, meditating and exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi can help us to regain our perspective.


The stereotypes we hold can distort how our brain 'sees' a person's face

© iStock
The fact that stereotypes seem to be learned, rather than innate, gives reason for hope
The stereotypes we hold can influence our brain's visual system, prompting us to see others' faces in ways that conform to these stereotypes, according to new research.

"Our findings provide evidence that the stereotypes we hold can systematically alter the brain's visual representation of a face, distorting what we see to be more in line with our biased expectations," said Jonathan Freeman, senior author and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at New York University.

"For example, many individuals have ingrained stereotypes that associate men as being more aggressive, women as being more appeasing, or black individuals as being more hostile — though they may not endorse these stereotypes personally," he said.

"Our results suggest that these sorts of stereotypical associations can shape the basic visual processing of other people, predictably warping how the brain 'sees' a person's face."

The neuroscientist notes that previous research has shown that stereotypes seep into the ways we think about and interact with other people, shaping many aspects of our behavior, despite our better intentions.

But the new findings show that stereotypes may also have a more insidious impact, shaping even our initial visual processing of a person in a way that conforms to our existing biases, according to the researchers.



Are brainwaves unique to each person?

Your responses to certain stimuli — foods, celebrities, words — might seem trivial, but they say a lot about you. In fact (with the proper clearance), these responses could gain you access into restricted areas of the Pentagon.

A team of researchers at Binghamton University, led by Assistant Professor of Psychology Sarah Laszlo and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Zhanpeng Jin, recorded the brain activity of 50 people wearing an electroencephalogram headset while they looked at a series of 500 images designed specifically to elicit unique responses from person to person — e.g., a slice of pizza, a boat, Anne Hathaway, the word "conundrum." They found that participants' brains reacted differently to each image, enough that a computer system was able to identify each volunteer's "brainprint" with 100 percent accuracy.
Brain Responses
© Labroots
New research says our thoughts can identify us.
"When you take hundreds of these images, where every person is going to feel differently about each individual one, then you can be really accurate in identifying which person it was who looked at them just by their brain activity," said Laszlo.

In their original study, titled "Brainprint," published in 2015 in Neurocomputing, the research team was able to identify one person out of a group of 32 by that person's responses, with only 97 percent accuracy, and that study only incorporated words, not images.


The need for adaptive fluidity: Be like water

© prezi.com
As the proliferation of staged events and the accompanying fear campaigns and predictable clampdowns ensue, it's always good to take stock of any situation unfolding and assess how best to handle what's transpiring. With the playing field changing at such a rapid rate, locally as well as globally, it's wise to see how to perhaps adjust our sights as well as personal attitudes and outlook, all the while staying completely clear of any reaction with even the faintest smell of fear.

Any wise strategist knows you don't fight today's battles by yesterday's instructions. Surely in big ideas there will be overarching plans that too will need to be adjusted accordingly, but the day-by-day, minute-by-minute decisions require thinking on your feet and being prepared, vigilant and most of all agile and adaptive are the ever present challenge. Not just now, but in the potentially confusing days to come.

Alarm Clock

Treating the 1-in-6 American males who have been sexually assaulted

The following story features interviews and material that address sexual violence and its effect on victims.

Hurt man

It's highly likely that you know a man who has endured sexual violence. But you probably don't know it yet, and might never know.

One in 6 American men will encounter sexual abuse at some point in their lives. According to MaleSurvivor, a nonprofit that helps male survivors of sexual assault heal, after a man is raped, he doesn't tell anyone for, on average, 20 years. When he finally does, his courage is often met with derision, confusion, dismissal and even disbelief.

Comment: Sweden opens Europe's first clinic to treat male rape victims


The lunatic in my mind: Who's really in your head?

Mind games
© Sportsphoto/Allstar
Mind games: the film Being John Malkovich took us inside the actor’s head.
Don't let negative thoughts control your self-image. It's your actions that really define you, says Susan David

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd called it "the lunatic in my head". He was describing the endless stream of internal thoughts and sensations - the inner voice - that we try to weave into a coherent story called "my life". The trouble is, this chattering narrator often gets things wrong, mixing biased reporting with snap judgments and old insecurities with unwarranted dread.

For instance, your first thought may be blandly factual. "I just had dinner with my in-laws" or "I have a project due on Monday." But within seconds that innocent thought has morphed into "My in-laws hate me" or "My job is going down the tubes" or "What waistline?! I look like a walrus!"

Comment: Read more about strategies that help with unwanted negative thoughts


Uncertainty can be stressful, but it can also aid performance

stress and uncertainty
© Roberto David/IStockPhoto
Life is full of stressful situations. But the ones we can predict stress us out less, and may even help us learn, a new study suggests.
The most stressful situation is the uncertain one we can do nothing about

Interviewing for a new job is filled with uncertainty, and that uncertainty fuels stress. There's the uncertainty associated with preparing for the interview — what questions will they ask me? What should I put in my portfolio? And then there's the ambiguity when you're left to stew. Did I get the job? Or did someone else?

Scientists have recently shown that these two types of uncertainty — the kind we can prepare for, and the kind we're just stuck with — are not created equal. The uncertainty we can't do anything about is more stressful than the one we can. The results help show exactly what in our lives freaks us out — and why. But the findings also show a positive side to the stress we feel when not knowing what's ahead — the closer our stress levels reflect the real ambiguity in the world, the better we perform in it.

"There is a bias in the public perception" against stress, says Claus Lamm, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Vienna in Austria. But stress "prepares us to deal with environmental challenges," he notes, preparing us to fight or flee, and it keeps us paying attention to our surroundings.

Comment: While having a certain amount of stress may prove beneficial, having clarity of thought and feeling focused is much better. One of the best ways to deal with uncertainty or stresses of many kinds, is with Éiriú Eolas: The stress control, healing and rejuvenation program par excellence. Try the free on-line program and see if it doesn't make a difference.