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Tue, 06 Dec 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Use of social technology can keep the elderly connected

The answer may surprise you, but it's not the teens, twenty or thirty somethings that are benefiting the most from the incredible rise of social media. It's our elders and those over 80 who are more likely to report mental and physical well-being, according to Stanford research.

"Being socially connected is our brain's lifelong passion," said Matthew Lieberman, a professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. "It's been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years." Research suggests that the elderly are more likely to remember information when they take it in socially.

"Critics say that people might not be able to connect with others as well as they used to because of the spread of new technologies," said Tamara Sims, a research scientist at the Stanford Center on Longevity. "But there really is this bright side of technology, especially for older people, who may not have the opportunity to connect with many family members to the extent they want to due to physical limitations or geographical separation."

Our social nature is so powerful that it even may dictate how effective we are in developing new innovations and producing major societal changes. We are wired to see things and think how it can assist others.

The study specifically found that adults over the age of 80 were likely to report using technology because it helps them connect with friends and family. They also found that those who reported using technology to primarily connect with loved ones reported higher mental well-being. Those who said they used technology mostly to learn new information reported being more physically fit.

People 2

Signs that you lack emotional intelligence, and tips on getting better

When emotional intelligence (EQ) first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into the broadly held assumption that IQ was the sole source of success.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as being the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. The connection is so strong that 90% of top performers have high emotional intelligence.
"No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can't ignore it." - Jack Welch
Emotional intelligence is the "something" in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions to achieve positive results.

Comment: If we're honest, pretty much all of us would do well to practice the above habits more. One other very important one, only half touched on in the above, is to simply get out of your own head more and make more of an effort to understand other people.

Alarm Clock

Science confirms: Do not go to bed angry

Participants found it much harder to suppress memories after sleep, the study found.
A good night's sleep may reinforce negative memories in the brain, researchers said on Tuesday, lending scientific credence to the time-worn caution against going to bed angry.

Slipping into slumber while holding on to a freshly-formed bad memory engraves it in the brain, making it harder to shake off later, a team from China and the United States reported in the journal Nature Communications.

"This study suggests that there is certain merit in this age-old advice: 'Do not go to bed angry'," study co-author Yunzhe Liu, who conducted the research at Beijing Normal University, told AFP.

"We would suggest to first resolve (the) argument before... bed."

Liu and colleagues used 73 male college students to test the impact of sleep on memory.

The participants were trained over two days to associate specific images with negative memories.


Religious ecstacy not much different than sex, drugs & music to the brain

© Getty
The stiumlation of God be a similar rush to listening to music or having sex, a study finds.
The brains of people who feel God's spirit are stimulated in a similar way to the more earthly desires of enjoying drugs, music, gambling and sex, scientists have revealed.

Researchers used MRI scans to look into the brains of Mormons experiencing religious ecstasy.

Scientists from the University of Utah in the U.S. enlisted 19 church-going teenagers to take part in an hour long "exam" with four parts for the study.

The scientists recorded their reactions and studied the parts of the brain stimulated.

This included six minutes of rest, six minutes of a video detailing their church's membership statistics, eight minutes of quotations by Mormon and world religious leaders, eight minutes of reading familiar passages from the Book of Mormon, 12 minutes of church-produced video of family and Biblical scenes and another eight minutes of quotations.

Comment: Religion, drugs affect brain similarly:
Being "high" on Christ and life seems take on a whole new meaning. What about the devout and other deeply religious people, are they addicted? It's certainly possible. John Bradshaw, a former cocaine addict and now self-help guru and evangelical, equated the two experiences' effect on dopamine levels. Dopamine, a chemical produced naturally in the body, plays a key role in pleasure, mood and addiction to other foreign drugs. Cocaine and nicotine employ it to encourage the user to continue use, and now prayer and meditation have been found to raise dopamine levels. Calling out the devout as "addicts" may seem extreme, but when taking into account their commitment to their faith, reliance on scripture and a compelling urge to continue to partake in religious ceremonies, it certainly is not a far leap.


Returning with a fresh perspective: Near-death experiences in intensive care units

I've been reading Near Death in the ICU, by Laurin Bellg, MD, and finding a lot of fascinating material in it. But before I present some examples, I need to offer a caveat. At the beginning, the author says she has done her best to conceal the identities of the patients and family members in the stories told here. That's understandable, but she goes on to say that in some cases she has even created composite stories based on two or more episodes blended together.

I'm not entirely happy about that approach, since it necessarily means blurring the details of individual accounts and suggesting a more elaborate experience than any one person may have reported. Personally, I think that when it comes to NDE accounts, composites should be avoided and the details should be changed as little as possible.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of good stuff here, and I have no reason to doubt the general accuracy of what's being reported. Much of it is consistent with other NDE accounts, but told from a fresh perspective.

One common thread involves seeing a spiritual being (or more than one) in the form of a glowing point of light or a luminous orb. Another feature in common in several accounts is the patient's relocation to an ethereal space of perfect peace.

Comment: See also:


Viktor Frankl, psychologist and Holocaust survivor: The difference between a happy life and a meaningful one

"It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness."

In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents.

Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished — but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived.

In his bestselling 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life.

Comment: If you have not yet read Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, it is suggested that you get a copy for your personal library and read it closely. You will not regret it.


People in happy relationships post less about it on social media

Don't seek external validation
Once upon a time, you'd solidify your adolescent relationship with a shout-out in an AIM profile. Now that we're in the era of "Facebook official" and selfie statuses, it's pretty clear that the comfort we take in being able to definitively label our relationships— something which can often feel so uncertain and be communicated poorly.

Now, it's becoming increasingly common to frequently post about your relationship (and life). If it's not online, you don't have proof that it happened.

If you think of social media as the modern equivalent of a town square, the place where announcements are made and information is posted and communities are bonded over shared experiences, then it only makes sense that you'd be inclined to share the bits and pieces of your life that you perceive to be worthy of documenting. The point is to post the highlight reel. The concept is to share the parts of our lives that those who aren't immediately close to us otherwise wouldn't be able to see — and there is nothing wrong with this.

Comment: Social media has become so prominent in our day-to-day lives that it is affecting our relationships with friends, family and partners. The take home message is that we cannot enjoy the company of each other or our partners if we are constantly distracted by status updates and always concerned about taking selfies and pics to be posted online. If we only live once, you don't need to be living it through a computer screen or cellphone.


Study: Breathing-based meditation practice alleviates severe depression

© Anton Gepolov / Fotolia
The meditation technique studied includes a series of sequential, rhythm-specific breathing exercises that bring people into a deep, restful, and meditative state: slow and calm breaths alternated with fast and stimulating breaths.

A breathing-based meditation practice known as Sudarshan Kriya yoga helped alleviate severe depression in people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments, reports a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study bolsters the science behind the use of controlled yogic breathing to help battle depression.

In a randomized, controlled pilot study, led by Anup Sharma, MD, PhD, a Neuropsychiatry research fellow in the department of Psychiatry at Penn, researchers found significant improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety in medicated patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who participated in the breathing technique compared to medicated patients who did not partake. After two months, the yoga group cut its mean Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) score by several points, while the control group showed no improvements. HDRS is the most widely used clinician-administered depression assessment that scores mood, interest in activities, energy, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of guilt, among other symptoms.

Comment: Éiriú Eolas is a similar breathing and meditation program that is scientifically proven to help reduce stress while also helping to heal emotional wounds. The program is a powerful framework which aids the processing and releasing of "negative" emotions, and helps people to face the reality of themselves and the world without falling into despair. Visit the Éiriú Eolas site to learn more about the scientific background of this program and then try it out, free of charge.

2 + 2 = 4

The politics of kindness in 2016

© Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Kindness matters. But what if our politicians have less than pure reasons for exhibiting kind behavior?
"I am a liberal, and liberalism is the politics of kindness," wrote Garrison Keillor in his 2004 Homegrown Democrat, a book that, according to one reviewer, is Keillor's "celebration of the values mean-spirited Republicans...have attacked." In a 2013 speech, President Obama made a similar statement. "Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. When I think about what I'm fighting for, what gets me up every single day, that captures it just about as much as anything." According to a recent Republican initiative called Challenging the Caricature, "The notion of a caring left and a mean-spirited right has long caused many voters to reflexively oppose conservative candidates on the ground that they are less decent than their liberal opponents." This is the basic premise of every political battle currently being waged in America: Kind liberals want to help X, but mean conservatives don't.

'Make Nice' Program: Is your kindness killing you?


Wired for tribe

I was walking beneath a huge willka tree in the jungle a few months ago when a shiver of realization ran down my spine. This tree relies on all of its branches, leaves, and roots to interface with the outside environment in a harmonious way in order to survive and thrive. There is no one part that is more important than the other, there is no separation among its many constituents. Every inch of this willka has an important role to play, and the health of the surrounding jungle depends on each tree like this one living in full connection with its neighbors.

We're not much different than trees in this respect. The system of life-flow that is so essential to a healthy forest also applies to the two-legged mammals that walk the trails carved into its soil, and can be summed up in one word. TRIBE.