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Sat, 29 Apr 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

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Beyond spirituality: Meditation for mental health

© Tezatrataz/Phra Ajan Jerapunyo Abbot of Watkungtaphao
Long-term meditators have larger sections of the brain responsible for regulating emotion.
Meditation has traditionally been associated with Eastern mysticism but science is beginning to show that cultivating a "heightened" state of consciousness can have a major impact on our brain, the way our bodies function and our levels of resilience.

Clinicians are increasingly looking for effective, preventative, non-pharmacological options to treat mental illness. And meditation techniques - such as quietening the mind, understanding the self and exercising control - show promise as an alternative tool to regulate emotions, mood and stress.

Comment: Read more about Reshaping your brain with meditation
  • Brain Scans Prove Meditation "Effective in Curing Mental Illness"
  • The Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program is a form of breathing and meditation techniques designed to be both informative, effective and life changing! Interested in learning more about the numerous benefits of a breathing and meditation program like Éiriú Eolas? Check out the program here and try it today!


Guts, brains, and hormones: The role of inflammation in depression

When a woman experiences fatigue, brain clouding, flat mood, PMS, and constipation, we call it anxiety or stress and we stick her on an antidepressant that she will likely take for the rest of her life. Where in this protocol have we investigated why she is feeling that way? How have we personalized the treatment to her unique biochemistry? What is the plan for side effects including new and different psychiatric symptoms resulting from this prescription? We haven't. We've applied a one-size-fits all treatment to mask symptoms without consideration for the cause.

The Immune System and Depression

Psychiatry has known about the role of the immune system in certain presentations of depression for the better part of the last century, and more recently, pioneering thinkers like Maes, Raison, and Miller have written about the role of altered immune set points and inflammation in models of depression. Our immune systems are largely housed in the gut and the interplay between the gut and the brain is a complex and profoundly important relationship to appreciate.

We all recognize that anxiety or nervousness can impact our guts - most of us have had butterflies before a date or even diarrhea with extreme performance anxiety? We are just learning that this relationship is bidirectional; however, and that the gut can also communicate its state of calm or alarm to the nervous system. We think that the vagus nerve is a primary conduit of information and that inflammatory markers are the vehicles traveling this highway. Scientists have studied the "protective effects" of severing this nerve when animals are exposed to gut-related toxins that normally cause depressive symptoms. We are getting ahead of ourselves; however, because we need to better elucidate why inflammation matters, where it comes from, and why it is the universal driver of chronic illness.


How writing about negative experiences helps you move past them

James Pennebaker, a distinguished professor at the University of Texas, got married right out of college in the early 70s. Three years after his marriage, he and his wife started to question their relationship, and Pennebaker, confused and unsettled, sank into a depression. He ate less, drank more, and started smoking. Embarrassed by what he saw as emotional weakness, he became more and more isolated.

One morning about a month into this decline, Pennebaker climbed out of bed and sat down at a typewriter. He stared at the machine for a moment, then started writing freely and frankly about his marriage, his parents, his sexuality, his career, and even death.


People 2

Intuition can lessen the influence of cognitive biases

© tinou bao/Flickr
Cognitive biases impact all your perceptions and decisions. All of them.
Professionals like to talk with pride about how they make "data-driven" decisions. They express faith in logic and disciplined analysis. Many scoff at others who confess to trusting their gut and going with their intuition.

Today, I'd like to ask a question to all of you highly analytical decision makers:

How do you adjust for the 175 cognitive biases that tend to push all human beings away from rational decisions?

To save time, you don't have to explain to me - or even to yourself - exactly how you compensate for all 175 biases. Since you are a rational, data-driven decision maker, I assume you have memorized all 175 and you have a unique and effective strategy for dealing with each one. But to refresh your memory, please just take a minute and mentally review your strategy for seven of them I've listed here (all taken from this Wikipedia page):

Automation bias: The tendency to depend excessively on automated systems which can lead to erroneous automated information overriding correct decisions.

Comment: See also:


From decapitation to positive psychology: How the vagus nerve connects body, brain & mind

© Shutterstock
The vagus nerve, part of the parasympathetic nervous system.
The relationship between mind, brain and body has kept philosophers and scientists busy for centuries. Some of the first interesting - albeit gruesome - experiments on the role of the body in human consciousness considered life after decapitation.

In 1905, French physician Dr Gabriel Beaurieux believed he had communicated with prisoner Henri Languille after his head had been severed from his body. Writing of the experience, Beaurieux said:
I called in a strong, sharp voice: "Languille!" I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions - I insist advisedly on this peculiarity - but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.
Almost two decades later, Soviet scientist Sergei Brukhonenko reportedly kept a dog's severed head alive for nearly six months using a primitive heart-lung machine. Video footage allegedly shows the head responding to light, sound and citric acid stimuli. But while Brukhonenko's research may have been an important in the development of cardiac surgery - it is also regarded as faked Soviet-era propaganda.

Comment: Read more Nervy facts about the vagus nerve - which looks at how the vagus nerve affects body and mind together: Stimulate the vagus nerve naturally with the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program, check out the online program available for free here


Protecting the brain from the effects of daily screen time

© EtiAmmos/Fotolia
I've written elsewhere how screen-time stresses and detunes the body clock, brain chemistry, and reward pathways, as well as how tech addiction can actually damage the brain's frontal lobe. I've also shared how an electronic fast can reset and resynchronize the nervous system, improving a child's mood, sleep, focus and behavior in a matter of weeks.

In contrast, this post offers evidence-based practices to buffer against some of the changes seen with overstimulation from screen-time. These methods either counteract screen-time's effects directly (such as by helping to synchronize, strengthen, or protect the body clock) or indirectly (for example by facilitating deeper sleep or discharging pent up energy). While this information was originally written with children in mind, these principles apply to adults, too!

Comment: Other useful techniques that can help to disconnect from our always-on tech world:


Undead theories: The sorry state of modern psychology

Science is embattled in a raging replication crisis, in which researchers are unable to reproduce a number of key findings. On the front lines of this conflict is psychology. In a 2015 review of 98 original psychology papers, just 36 percent of attempted replications returned significant results, whereas 97 percent of the original studies did.

"Don't trust everything you read in the psychology literature," reporter Monya Baker warned. "In fact, two thirds of it should probably be distrusted."

How did psychology reach such a sorry state of affairs? Back in 2012, when the replication crisis was just beginning to gain prominence in the popular media, psychology professors Moritz Heene and Christopher Ferguson, respectively from Ludwig Maximilian University and Stetson University, offered a blunt, upsetting hypothesis: The field is sliding towards a state of being unfalsifiable, and its adherents either don't notice or don't seem to care.

Comment: Some of the biggest problems facing science
Scientists say they're forced to prioritize self-preservation over pursuing the best questions and uncovering meaningful truths.

Today, scientists' success often isn't measured by the quality of their questions or the rigor of their methods. It's instead measured by how much grant money they win, the number of studies they publish, and how they spin their findings to appeal to the public.

Scientists often learn more from studies that fail. But failed studies can mean career death. So instead, they're incentivized to generate positive results they can publish. And the phrase "publish or perish" hangs over nearly every decision. It's a nagging whisper, like a Jedi's path to the dark side
See also: Corruption of science: Nearly all scientific papers controlled by same six corporations


The sounds of nature physically changes our mind and bodily systems helping us relax

When listening to natural sounds, brain connectivity reflects an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflects an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
The gentle burbling of a brook, or the sound of the wind in the trees can physically change our mind and bodily systems, helping us to relax. New research explains how, for the first time.

Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) found that playing 'natural sounds' affected the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, with associated effects in the resting activity of the brain. While naturalistic sounds and 'green' environments have frequently been linked with promoting relaxation and wellbeing, until now there has been no scientific consensus as to how these effects come about. The study has been published in Scientific Reports.

The lead author, Dr Cassandra Gould van Praag said, "We are all familiar with the feeling of relaxation and 'switching-off' which comes from a walk in the countryside, and now we have evidence from the brain and the body which helps us understand this effect. This has been an exciting collaboration between artists and scientists, and it has produced results which may have a real-world impact, particularly for people who are experiencing high levels of stress."


Spiritual Bypassing: Ten completely B.S. practices of supposedly spiritual people

“My vibration is so high, man. My chakras are so aligned. Fuuuckkkk, I’m a spiritual beast, bro.”
No one ever told me spirituality could be a self-sabotaging ego trap.

I spent about three years reading about spiritual teachings and incorporating them into my life before ever learning that spirituality has a dark side.

Naturally, I was taken aback. I felt kind of betrayed.

How could something that seemed so pure and good be harmful?

The answer has to do with something that psychologists call spiritual bypassing. In the early 1980s, psychologist John Welwood coined the term "spiritual bypassing" to refer to the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid confronting uncomfortable feelings, unresolved wounds, and fundamental emotional and psychological needs.

According to integral psychotherapist Robert Augustus Masters, spiritual bypassing causes us to withdraw from ourselves and others, to hide behind a kind of spiritual veil of metaphysical beliefs and practices. He says it "not only distances us from our pain and difficult personal issues, but also from our own authentic spirituality, stranding us in a metaphysical limbo, a zone of exaggerated gentleness, niceness, and superficiality."

Comment: Mostly spot on. Unless one can master the basic ins and outs of everyday living, control one's emotions and be capable of maintaining decent relations with others (just to name a few) any claims of ultra-spirituality are false.


A better technique for detecting lies

© Natural News
Until now studies have found that people do no better than chance at detecting lies.

Despite all the advice about lie detection going around, study after study has found that it is very difficult to spot when someone is lying.

Previous tests involving watching videos of suspects typically find that both experts and non-experts come in at around 50/50: in other words you might as well flip a coin.

Now, though, a new study published in Human Communication Research, has found that a process of active questioning yielded almost perfect results, with 97.8% of liars successfully detected (Levine et al., 2014).

The process of lie detection has nothing to do with supposed 'tells' like avoiding eye-contact or sweating, and everything to do with the way the suspect is questioned.