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Mon, 23 Oct 2017
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Books

Reading rewires your brain for more intelligence & empathy

© Medical News Today
Fitness headlines promise staggering physical results: a firmer butt, ripped abs, bulging biceps. Nutritional breakthroughs are similar clickbait, with attention-grabbing, if often inauthentic-what, really, is a "superfood?"-means of achieving better health. Strangely, one topic usually escaping discussion has been shown, time and again, to make us healthier, smarter, and more empathic animals: reading.20

Reading, of course, requires patience, diligence, and determination. Scanning headlines and retweeting quips is not going to make much cognitive difference. If anything, such sweet nothings are dangerous, the literary equivalent of sugar addiction. Information gathering in under 140 characters is lazy. The benefits of contemplation through narrative offer another story.

Comment: More interesting information about how reading rewires your brain:


Family

More isn't always better: Disrupted sleep is worse for your mood than less sleep that's uninterrupted

More sleep isn't always better for your mood.

In fact, more sleep that's disrupted reduces positive moods more than less sleep that's uninterrupted, a new study finds.

Uninterrupted sleep is particularly beneficial for the positive emotions of friendliness and sympathy for others.

Dr Patrick Finan, who led the study, said:
"When your sleep is disrupted throughout the night, you don't have the opportunity to progress through the sleep stages to get the amount of slow-wave sleep that is key to the feeling of restoration."

Comment: More on this study: Interrupted sleep impacts mood more than lack of sleep, study finds

Some helpful tips for improving sleep quality:


Hearts

Are moods contagious? In a word - yes

The idea that emotions can travel between populations similar to outbreaks of disease is not new. More than 200 years ago, an epidemic of suicides occurred in Europe. Most of the victims had read a book titled The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann von Goethe, in which the hero commits suicide. To stop the wave of suicides, the book was banned in several areas, according to a study published in The Journal of Memetics, which continued:1
"During the two hundred years that have followed the publication and subsequent censorship of Goethe's novel, social scientific research has largely confirmed the thesis that affect, attitudes, beliefs and behavior can indeed spread through populations as if they were somehow infectious."
Fortunately, it's not only negative emotions that seem to spread like wildfire; positive emotions are contagious too. It's an important point to remember when choosing with whom to associate and spend your time, as surrounding yourself with happy people may be key to feeling happy yourself.

Brain

How childhood trauma affects the brain


New research is now revealing what happens to the brain in the aftermath of early-life abuse.
It is not news that people abused as children are more exposed to clinical depression, anxiety, and a higher risk of death from suicide. But now, researchers have begun to reveal what happens in the brain following this kind of trauma.

According to data provided by the Children's Bureau of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, there was a 3.8 percent increase in reported child abuse cases in the country between 2011 and 2015. This amounts to 683,000 cases of child abuse in 2015 alone in the U.S.

Research suggests that this type of trauma in childhood leaves deep marks, giving rise to issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Comment: How Stress Is Really Hurting Our Kids
Fear is a part of everyday life, for all of us. We worry about the mortgage, about the way we look, whether we'll be fired. We worry whether we'll be able to take the kids on vacation, or how we'll afford to pay the bills. The fact is, the more stressed we are, the less healthy we are. Doctors and scientists point out parallels between our growing rates of trauma and questionable decision making, and the fact that they're leading to greater rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. But when it comes to children, the effects of trauma can be much, much worse.

Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease, the new book by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley (respectively, a family therapist and a nonprofit worker with a background in family policy), explains just how profoundly babies and young children are affected by traumatic experiences. In the remarkably researched work, the two women show that early life malnutrition and abuse can affect a kid's nervous system well into adulthood. Children raised in traumatic environments are more prone to cancer, chronic pain and even diabetes. The duo's previous book, Ghosts From the Nursery, looked at the childhood roots of violence, but this new work is no less significant in its conclusions about American culture.



Blackbox

Questions to ask yourself that can change your life

© Getty Images
When things aren't going quite the way you'd like them to, it's often the result of not asking yourself the right questions. Some questions are hard to confront because you're afraid you won't get the answer you want, others because you really don't want to know the answer.

But the best things in life don't come easily, and turning away from life's toughest questions is a sure path to mediocrity. I believe that Socrates said it best:
"The unexamined life isn't worth living."
Socrates' observation also applies to business. When Eric Schmidt was CEO of Google, he famously said, "We run this company on questions, not answers."

Life, like business, runs on questions, not answers. Let's take a closer look at some of the tough questions we should be asking ourselves regularly.

SOTT Logo Radio

The Health & Wellness Show: Got Triskaidekaphobia?

© Anneka | Shutterstock
Are you superstitious? Plan to stay in tonight?
Triskaidekaphobia is the irrational fear of the number 13. Friggatriskaidekaphobia is fear of Friday the 13th, specifically. In honor of this momentous occasion, we at The Health and Wellness Show will be exploring superstitions and strange beliefs, including ghosts, fairies and other types of magical thinking, from all over the world. Superstitious beliefs have a long, yet cloudy, history. Why did they originate and what purpose do they serve? Are humans hardwired for such senseless behaviors or is it all just programming? Grab your lucky rabbit's foot, throw some salt over your shoulder and knock on wood as you tune in to this week's show!

And stay tuned at the end of the show for Zoya's Pet Health Segment where the topic will be food fermentation and preservation for pets.

Running Time: 01:26:56

Download: OGG, MP3


Listen live, chat, and call in to future shows on the SOTT Radio Network!

Brain

Mindfulness has become an over-hyped racket with junk science supporting it, say researchers

© MARK RALSTON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
A yoga instructor leads people in a mass meditation at DisclosureFest in Los Angeles on June 17.
The benefits of meditation may have been seriously overhyped, a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, Buddhist scholars and mindfulness teachers warn-and the evidence to support mindfulness as a treatment certainly has been.

A new study by a multidisciplinary group of researchers at several universities calls out the "misinformation and propagation of poor research methodology" that pervade much of the evidence behind the benefits of mindfulness. They focus in particular on the problem of defining the word mindfulness and on how the effects of the practice are studied.

"Mindfulness has become an extremely influential practice for a sizable subset of the general public, constituting part of Google's business practices, available as a standard psychotherapy via the National Health Service in the United Kingdom and, most recently, part of standard education for approximately 6,000 school children in London," the authors write in their paper, published Tuesday in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Comment: Mindfulness has gotten a lot of attention over recent years, and it's no surprise to hear that there is a lot of hype and poor science surrounding it. Ironically, mindfulness practitioners can use it as an escape and a means of myopically focusing inward while excluding the world around them. This is self-defeating when it comes to genuine awareness and exploring the causes of suffering. It's likely to have some potential benefits in terms of becoming more familiar with body sensations and emotions, but this can also bring limitations when one becomes so focused on the self.

The industries based on meditation, yoga and mindfulness have likely grown so much precisely because they can be easily used to fuel our materially and self-based culture. There is a deception in these practices that imply an inherent spirituality and growth of being. Yet many of the festivals, centers and programs that utilize these practices indulge widespread narcissism.

This is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater because there are some methods that are helpful for health and healing, but proceeding with caution is certainly justified.


Sherlock

Study finds some children may not experience lasting mental scars from bullying

Children who are bullied during their pre-teen years may experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression, but a study of twins suggests that some victims may not experience lasting psychological problems.

Researchers examined data on about 11,000 twins born in England and Wales from 1994 to 1996. The youth completed assessments on their exposure to bullying when they were 11 and 14 years old, and they had mental health evaluations when they were 11 and 16 years old.

At age 11, kids who reported bullying were more likely than children who weren't victims of peer victimization to report anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, inattention and conduct problems, the study found.

Some effects appeared to diminish over time, however. After five years, there no longer appeared to be a link between bullying and anxiety, but an association persisted for issues like cognitive disorganization and paranoid thoughts.

People 2

Research finds positive personality traits make people more physically attractive to others

Beauty really is more than skin-deep, psychologists find. Positive personality traits - like helpfulness and honesty - make people appear physically more attractive, research finds.

Those displaying negative personality traits - like rudeness and unfairness - look physically less attractive to observers. The finding is particularly strong for when women are evaluating men, since women place a little more emphasis on personality.

The finding helps justify those who say that 'inner beauty' is important.

People 2

Seven ways to improve your understanding of others and to be better understood


If you want to develop better understanding of others, you must hear what they’re saying. So, be an active listener.
Being human, we all have certain basic needs. Maslow's hierarchy of needs outlines them quite well and encompasses all that we generally think about when it comes to what we need.

Yet one of our most basic needs, the need to understand and be understood, seldom gets much attention.

It should.

Without the ability to understand what others say or the meaning behind their words, we can miss important cues, lose out on opportunities, fail to see changes in time to appropriately react, and go off in a totally different direction. Worse, if we lack understanding, we're more prone to selfish acts than helping others.

Similarly, without others being able to understand us, we're often left confused, frustrated, overlooked, angry, misinterpreted, and taken for granted. We might even feel sad and depressed, particularly if being misunderstood is a constant and we do nothing to help remedy the situation.