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Thu, 22 Jun 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Top two reasons why people commit suicide

Hopelessness and emotional pain are the two main reasons why people attempt suicide, research finds.

Common beliefs about suicide were not strongly supported by the study.

People were less likely to mention the following reasons:
  • Financial problems,
  • as a cry for help,
  • or to solve some kind of practical problem.
Instead, it was more because the emotional pain they were in was unbearable and they felt that it would never go away.

Comment: See also:

Heart - Black

Touch isolation: Is lack of touch destroying men?

Men need gentle platonic touch in their lives just as much as women do.
Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives

In preparing to write about the lack of gentle touch in men's lives, I right away thought, "I feel confident I can do platonic touch, but I don't necessarily trust other men to do it. Some guy will do something creepy. They always do". Quickly on the heels of that thought, I wondered, "Wait a minute, why do I distrust men in particular?" The little voice in my head didn't say, "I don't necessarily trust people to not be creepy", it said, "I don't trust men".

In American culture, we believe that men can never be entirely trusted in the realm of the physical. We collectively suspect that, given the opportunity, men will revert to the sexual at a moment's notice. That men don't know how to physically connect otherwise. That men can't control themselves. That men are dogs.

There is no corresponding narrative about women.

Comment: The Health & Wellness Show: Healing Hugs and Therapeutic Touch


Waldorf-inspired principles for holistic parenting

Although less well known than the Montessori education philosophy, Waldorf is an alternative education system which focuses on the holistic development of a child. As their website states, Waldorf schools integrate artistic, practical and intellectual content in their curriculum and focus on social skills and spiritual values.

Waldorf education first began in 1919 when the first school was opened in Germany to cater to the children of the employees of a cigarette factory (Waldorf Astoria Cigarette company). It was inspired by Rudolf Steiner's philosophy.

Steiner believed that children learned best when they were encouraged to use their imagination. He argued that education had to take into account physical, behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual aspects of each child.

The research on the real impact of Steiner schools has remained inconclusive because of small-scale studies and the inability to generalize data. The schools have also been criticized for focusing on weaker students and overlooking the needs of more talented students.

However, many benefits have been associated with a Waldorf education. The book Alternative Education for the 21st Century provides evidence that Waldorf schools indeed enable the holistic development of children. Other studies have found that children enrolled in Waldorf schools are more eager to learn new things, have more fun in school and have a more optimistic view of their future than children enrolled in state schools.


Awe engages your vagus nerve

© Sander van der Werf/Shutterstock
Dacher Keltner is founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Keltner has played a pivotal role in putting the vagus nerve in the spotlight as a physiological driver of human compassion, selflessness, and magnanimity. He's also a pioneer when it comes to studying the psychophysiology of awe.

Keltner describes awe most simply as, "Being in the presence of something vast, beyond current understanding." Awe can be inspired by a broad spectrum of stimuli such as panoramic views, being immersed in nature, looking up at the stars, brilliant colors in the sky at sunrise and sunset, remarkable human athletic accomplishments, mind-boggling architectural structures such as skyscrapers or the Egyptian pyramids, breathtaking art, music, etc. The possibilities for experiencing awe are limitless and aren't reserved just for "peak experiences."

In the Living Philosophies anthology, Albert Einstein described the importance of keeping your antennae up and senses open to experience awe. Einstein wrote,
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder or stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

Comment: More information on the study of awe:


Why do we fidget?

© Angela Bragato
Fidget spinner
Hand-held toys known as "fidget spinners" - marketed as "stress relievers" - have become so popular and distracting in classrooms that they are now being banned in many schools. And it's not just kids who like to fidget. Look around your office and you will probably see people bouncing their legs up and down, turning pens over and over in their hands, chewing on things, sucking on their lower lips and pulling bits of their beard out - seemingly completely unconsciously.

But why do we fidget, and why do some people do it more than others? And if it really helps to relieve stress, does that mean we should all embrace it?

These are actually rather difficult questions to answer, as there appear to be various definitions of what fidgeting is and why it happens. However, there are some interesting, if unexpected, theories.

Black Cat 2

Cute aggression? What is that?

© Antoinette vd Rieth
Don’t you just want to hug him to death?
Humans respond to cute. Show us just about any little critter with a big round head and a pair of large, blinking-in-the-headlights eyes and cooing will ensue.

Add to that a set of chubby cheeks, a button nose and teeny-tiny pursed lips and you're almost guaranteed to elicit clucking from the average adult.

The features of cuteness have been painstakingly mapped out and collectively are known as "kindenschema", "kawaii", or the baby schema. Their appeal is near universal, applying across geographical, cultural, and even species boundaries.

The enormous eyes and button noses of Japanese manga characters provide one of the most obvious examples of kawaii preferences manifesting in popular culture - as shown below.


'Love hormone' Oxytocin could help spread kindness between strangers

© Shutterstock/funnyangel
Love hormone injections could help us to be kinder to strangers, new research suggests
An experiment was conducted among wild grey seals given shots of the hormone oxytocin - known to forge emotional bonds between mothers and babies, and romantic partners.

Scientists found that after the jabs, newly introduced seals instantly hit it off, seeking out each other's company and keeping physically close.

Comment: To learn more about naturally producing the stress reducing hormone Oxytocin in the brain, visit the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program here.


The human brain detects disease in others even before it breaks out

© CeiTec
The human brain is much better than previously thought at discovering and avoiding disease, a new study led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden reports. Our sense of vision and smell alone are enough to make us aware that someone has a disease even before it breaks out. And not only aware - we also act upon the information and avoid sick people. The study is published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The human immune system is effective at combating disease, but since it entails a great deal of energy expenditure disease avoidance should be part of our survival instinct. A new study now shows that this is indeed the case: the human brain is better than previously thought at discovering early-stage disease in others. Moreover, we also have a tendency to act upon the signals by liking infected people less than healthy ones.

"The study shows us that the human brain is actually very good at discovering this and that this discovery motivates avoidance behaviour," says principal investigator Professor Mats Olsson at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

Post-It Note

Tips on overcoming confirmation bias

If you have ever heard someone say something that completely disagreed with your own understanding of a topic and immediately dismissed it as, "Oh, that can't possibly be true!" then you have been guilty of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a cognitive process in which the brain unconsciously uses a system of defenses to protect you from potentially incorrect knowledge or information. The mind will automatically try to reject new information and instead seek evidence to support the current belief.

This entire process can happen in a moment, and it can be helpful in quickly identifying direct threats (scams, liars, false reports), but it can also be a hindrance when you need to fully understand a multi-faceted problem and seek potentially conflicting evidence.

Overcoming confirmation bias can be difficult, but psychologists have determined that some biases can be corrected by applying a deliberate process to problem-solving and decision-making. Try these approaches to help you neutralize your confirmation bias in daily leadership activities:

Comment: See also: Daniel Kahneman: How your cognitive biases act like optical illusions

Magic Wand

Gratitude: How it motivates us to become better people

© spineuniverse.com
Gratitude has become a hot topic in recent years. Celebrities from Oprah to James Taylor to Ariana Huffington have promoted an "attitude of gratitude," and gratitude journals, hashtags, and challenges have become immensely popular. Much of this enthusiasm has been fueled by research linking gratitude to happiness, health, and stronger relationships.

Yet there has been a backlash. Some critics and skeptics have charged that gratitude breeds self-satisfaction and acceptance of the status quo. Several articles, including a New York Times essay by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, have recently asserted that gratitude may be selfish and self-indulgent, prompting people to feel satisfied with where they are in life rather than pursuing bigger personal goals or working to help others. The author of a piece in the Harvard Crimson argued that gratitude can "act as a form of complacency" and that the indebtedness engendered by gratitude may "get in the way of progress."

Does gratitude lead to complacency? Do all those benefits of gratitude come at a price—laziness, apathy, and the acceptance of inequities?