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Wed, 27 Jul 2016
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Science of the Spirit

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Depressed patients do as well with cheaper therapy modal

© Dreamstime
Many people with depression struggle to get treatment for the condition, in part because "talk therapy" can be expensive, and there aren't enough qualified therapists to deliver it.

But now, a new study suggests that a simple and relatively cheap type of talk therapy may work just as well at treating depressionas the current "gold standard" treatment. The findings suggest that using this simpler therapy — called behavioral activation — on a wide scale could improve access to treatment for depression and reduce health care costs, the researchers said.

"Our findings indicate that health services worldwide, both rich and poor, could reduce the need for costly professional training and infrastructure, reduce waiting times, and increase the availability of psychological therapies" by using behavioral activation, said David Richards, a professor of mental health services research at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, who led the study.

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Healing your creativity after trauma and how it affects your imagination

"The man who has no imagination has no wings." - Muhammad Ali
Imagination is one of the great gifts of being human. It gives us profound joy and is like the exotic spices that turn a tasteless meal into a delight. If you've ever witnessed young children turn a trip to the dentist, a dusty walk, or a daily chore into an adventure, you've seen the power of imagination. It gives hope, helps us to forget troubles and focus on what really matters and prevents us from taking life too seriously. This playful capacity of humans brings us into our hearts and connects us with each other. Imagination helps us to create and express our inner world or something beyond ourselves.

"Imagination is absolutely critical to the quality of our lives. Our imagination enables us to leave our routine everyday existence by fantasizing about travel, food, sex, falling in love, or having the last word—all the things that make life interesting. Imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities—it is an essential launchpad for making our hopes come true. It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships." ― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Comment: See also:What modern day healthcare continues to ignore about illness & addiction

Light Saber

Turning setbacks into springboards: How to become comfortable with uncertainty

For most people tolerating uncertainty is about as comfortable as waiting in line. We don't know what will happen, when it will, or most importantly, how we should respond.

Yet some cultures, as a whole, tolerate uncertainty better than others. This tendency was first noticed by Geert Hofstede, author of Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. Hofstede uncovered that some cultures prepare us to feel more comfortable with uncertainty than others.

According to Hofstede, there are several factors that determine whether or not a culture has a high uncertainty avoidance. For example, cultures with a high uncertainty avoidance tend to have more laws and regulations than those with a low uncertainty avoidance. Additionally, cultures with high uncertainty avoidance tend to have more oppressed members, and members display less interest or participation in politics than those with a low uncertainty avoidance. Whereas cultures with a high uncertainty avoidance tend toward very strict and specific laws and rules, those with low uncertainty avoidance have more political interest from members, as participation, and even protest, is seen as a vehicle for change.[i]

In education, cultures that rely heavily on educators to have the answers display high uncertainty avoidance compared to those where children are encouraged to be open-minded. High uncertainty avoidance in family life leads to role rigidity and well-defined patriarchal and maternal figures, while low uncertainty avoidance allows for greater flexibility in family and gender roles.

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Want to appreciate your own abilities? Don't compare yourself to others

Human beings have a tendency to compare themselves to others and it is as automatic as any other human emotion. But the negative effects of comparisons keep us from our growth and embracing our greatest abilities to share with others.

Comparisons are often unfair, biased and almost always puts our focus in a place outside of ourselves. Ratings of our own abilities are strongly influenced by the performance of others, according to a study published in Neuron. Interacting with high performers makes us feel more capable in cooperative team settings, but less competent in competitive situations. Moreover, the degree of "self-other-mergence" is associated with activity in a brain region previously implicated in theory of mind-the ability to understand the mental states of oneself and others.

"We found that although people estimated their abilities on the basis of their own performance in a rational manner, their estimates of themselves were partly merged with the performance of others," says first author Marco Wittmann, a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford. "The findings potentially have implications for social interactions in the workplace as well as clinical disorders such as depression."

Life Preserver

Gateway to the senses: Get to know your amygdala to make choices more consciously

Understanding the Fear Response

There is a whole lot of talk about choosing love over fear as a driving force in our lives. Though this is crucial advice, it is important to acknowledge the importance of the fear response.

The Amygdala is a mass of grey matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions. This is where fear is processed and though fear is not all that it responds to, it is probably the most immediate. Being conscious of this process allows us to break free of a feedback loop of fear-response thus empowering us to consciously make better choices in life.

Gateway to the Senses

These two almond-shaped groups of nuclei located in the medial temporal lobe, known as the amygdala are a gateway of sensory input mostly connected to emotion and reaction. Since danger requires instant response for survival, it overrides all other responses. This response is called a "Pavlovian" mechanism in that this part of the brain works through association.
If a sound in the external world occurs right before something painful happens, you associate that sound with the painful event and then that sound will then later trigger a protective defense response. But if the sound occurs just before food, when you're hungry, then the sound will be associated with that kind of a positive or a repetitive event. -Joseph Ledoux, the Big Think

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Life Preserver

Prolonged exposure to sweet silence benefits the brain

I write this to the soundtrack of a literal chainsaw; there are men at work outside my window attempting to - well, I'm not exactly sure what they're attempting to do. Cut down a tree? Cut down branches of a tree? Whatever it is they're doing, they are making an awful lot of noise as they do it.

Much has been written about "noise pollution," a phrase coined in the 1960s, when scientists discovered that everyday exposure to the loudness of highways and airports was linked with a variety of health concerns: heart disease, sleep problems, high blood pressure, and, least surprisingly, hearing loss. And, as Maggie Koerth-Baker reminds in FiveThirtyEight this week, sounds can become so intense that they can even cause much more immediate damage, strong enough to tear a hole in your eardrums or even bowl you right over.

Comment: Silence: Why it is so good for your brain

Alarm Clock

Why does time seem to speed up with age?

James M. Broadway, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Brittiney Sandoval, a recent graduate of the same institution, answer

© Loren Zemlicka
"Where did the time go?" middle-aged and older adults often remark. Many of us feel that time passes more quickly as we age, a perception that can lead to regrets. According to psychologist and BBC columnist Claudia Hammond, "the sensation that time speeds up as you get older is one of the biggest mysteries of the experience of time." Fortunately, our attempts to unravel this mystery have yielded some intriguing findings.

In 2005, for instance, psychologists Marc Wittmann and Sandra Lenhoff, both then at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, surveyed 499 participants, ranging in age from 14 to 94 years, about the pace at which they felt time moving—from "very slowly" to "very fast." For shorter durations—a week, a month, even a year—the subjects' perception of time did not appear to increase with age. Most participants felt that the clock ticked by quickly. But for longer durations, such as a decade, a pattern emerged: older people tended to perceive time as moving faster. When asked to reflect on their lives, the participants older than 40 felt that time elapsed slowly in their childhood but then accelerated steadily through their teenage years into early adulthood.

There are good reasons why older people may feel that way. When it comes to how we perceive time, humans can estimate the length of an event from two very different perspectives: a prospective vantage, while an event is still occurring, or a retrospective one, after it has ended. In addition, our experience of time varies with whatever we are doing and how we feel about it. In fact, time does fly when we are having fun. Engaging in a novel exploit makes time appear to pass more quickly in the moment. But if we remember that activity later on, it will seem to have lasted longer than more mundane experiences.

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2 + 2 = 4

10 cognitive biases that really screw up your thinking

The human brain is a natural wonder. It produces more than 50,000 thoughts each day and 100,000 chemical reactions each second. With this amount of processing power, you would think our judgment would be highly accurate, but that's far from the case.

Our judgements are often inaccurate because the brain relies on cognitive biases over hard evidence. Cognitive bias is the tendency to make irrational judgements in consistent patterns.

Researchers have found that cognitive bias wreaks havoc by forcing people to make poor, irrational judgments:
  • A Queensland University study found that blonde women earned, on average, 7% higher salaries than redheads and brunettes.
  • A Duke study found that people with "mature" faces experienced more career success than those with "baby" faces. "Baby" faces were defined as those with small chins, wider cheeks, and bigger eyes. "Mature" faces were those with bigger chins, narrower facial features, and smaller eyes.
  • A Yale study found that female scientists were not only more likely to hire male scientists but they also paid them $4,000 more than female scientists.
It's highly unlikely that the people in these studies actually wanted to pay blondes more money, enable people with mature faces to succeed at the expense of those with baby faces, or hire male scientists disproportionally and pay them more money. Our unconscious biases are often so strong that they lead us to act in ways that are inconsistent with reason as well as our values and beliefs.

Let's explore some of the most common types of cognitive biases that entrench themselves in our lives. Awareness is the best way to beat these biases, so pay careful attention to how they influence you.

Gift 3

The gift of being in your body

"Be here now." We see this phrase everywhere, but are we actually embodying it? Are we consciously present and in our experience here on Earth? Often, the most simple of phrases hold the biggest treasures. Now more than ever, we need to be here now. We are in the midst of a global ascension and are experiencing a multitude of energetic shifts both off and on our planet. Being anchored into the Earth allows you to go with the flow of these new planetary changes while remaining safe and secure in your body.

As an energy practitioner, I've observed that the one thing every client of mine has in common is that they are not grounded into the Earth and fully occupying their bodies.

When you are ungrounded, life becomes chaotic and confusing. To be out of body is to be out of control. How can you focus when you're not actually here? My clients suffering from anxiety, nervousness, negative thoughts, paranoia, uncertainty, rage, insecurity, lethargy, exhaustion, and full body illnesses all have one thing in common: they are out of their bodies, and when you leave your body, you invite negative and heavy energies in. Moreover, clients holding trauma in their root chakra are by far the most ungrounded. This is because our grounding cord is located at the tailbone, and our energy streams from the crown chakra down through the root chakra before entering the grounding cord and making its way down to the core of the Earth. Clients with blocks in their root chakra lack the space to allow a healthy flow of energy to connect them from their grounding cord to the planet and release their trauma into the Earth. They go through life like a balloon floating around filled with toxic energies just waiting to pop. Not only is this a dangerous way to live, its not actually living.

Comment: Read more about how Staying in tune with the Earth's pulse is key to our wellbeing:
Grounding, a Proven Healing Method

In 2012, assisted by other researchers, I published a review study on the health implications of grounding in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health. We reviewed and summarized more than 15 studies on grounding, as well as many others on the effects of Earth's electrons on health. Basically, what we concluded from our review is that grounding helps improve cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, nervous, and immune system function by restoring the body's natural internal electrical stability and rhythms.

It also restores the body's healing potential. This study, along with my more than 10 years of research and observations, support that for many, daily grounding activity can:
  • Decrease inflammation as well as assuage its physical symptoms
  • Reduce or eliminate chronic pain
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase energy
  • Thin blood and improve blood pressure and blood flow
  • Relieve muscle tension and headaches
  • Lessen hormonal and menstrual symptoms
  • Speed healing, even after surgery, and prevent bedsores
  • Alleviate or eliminate jet lag
  • Protect the body against potentially health-disturbing environmental electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
  • Accelerate recovery from intense athletic activity
  • Balance the autonomic nervous system by decreasing sympathetic and increasing parasympathetic nervous activity: When dealing with challenges and stressful situations, we use our sympathetic nervous system and expend energy. When we're calm and relaxed, our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, so the body can repair and restore itself.


Dream people of the Amazon: The world view and dream life of the Achuar tribe

An Achuar Tribesman
When tonight's sleep predicts tomorrow's fortunes, it's hard to get any rest

Catholic missionaries who've made themselves responsible for educating the Amazon's Achuar people won't get around to such subjects as Romantic poetry and John Keats any time soon. But when they do, it's likely the Achuar will regard the poet as something of a kindred spirit. Keats developed the term "negative capability" to describe a kind of ultimate artistic license that's intended to free the mind from its reliance on the ordinary. He also used it to explain an aspect of artistic inspiration: how imagery, stanzas and even whole poems come to poets in dreams. Keats could very well have been describing the way of life for the Achuar, who are something of an authority on the art and practice of dreaming.

The Achuar [pronounced in three syllables as A-chu-ar] are a clannish, semi-nomadic people whose name means "the people of the aguaje palm." They are believed to be the last of the Earth's once-hidden indigenous people who currently number at about 11,000 individuals. The Achuar first made their acquaintance with Western man in the late '60s when Catholic missionaries entered the deepest recesses of the jungle along the border of Peru and Ecuador to the Amazon basin, one of Earth's harshest and most unforgiving ecosystems — a land of punishing humidity, floods and all manner of deadly reptiles, poisonous plants and insects. The fact that the Achuar have not only managed to survive but have actually thrived in the jungle for approximately 5,000 years is proof, they say, of their ability to commune with and receive guidance — often including detailed instruction — from the spirit world while dreaming.

It wasn't long after anthropologists and ethnographers arrived on the scene in the late '80s and early '90s that they realized they'd hit proverbial pay dirt in the Achuar as a truly rare subject of study. Here was a tribe whose intense isolation from the rest of the world helped preserve a pristine cultural identity, language and belief system. One of the tribal practices that immediately caught the attention of scientists, and became the reason the Achuar were introduced in academic journals as "The Dream People of The Amazon, was their unique daily morning ritual of "wayusa" or "dream sharing," which has continued into the present.

Comment: See also: The Shamans of the world tell us: "We are not alone"