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Mon, 05 Dec 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Sunshine matters a lot to your mental and emotional well-being: Temperature, pollution and rain not so much

© Konstantin Yuganov / Fotolia
Does sunshine make you happy? If you're able to soak up enough sun, your level of emotional distress should remain stable. Take away sun time, though, and your distress can spike.
When it comes to your mental and emotional health, the amount of time between sunrise and sunset is the weather variable that matters most, a new study reports.

Sunshine matters. A lot. The idea isn't exactly new, but according to a recent BYU study, when it comes to your mental and emotional health, the amount of time between sunrise and sunset is the weather variable that matters most.

Your day might be filled with irritatingly hot temperatures, thick air pollution and maybe even pockets of rainclouds, but that won't necessarily get you down. If you're able to soak up enough sun, your level of emotional distress should remain stable. Take away sun time, though, and your distress can spike. This applies to the clinical population at large, not just those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"That's one of the surprising pieces of our research," said Mark Beecher, clinical professor and licensed psychologist in BYU Counseling and Psychological Services. "On a rainy day, or a more polluted day, people assume that they'd have more distress. But we didn't see that. We looked at solar irradiance, or the amount of sunlight that actually hits the ground. We tried to take into account cloudy days, rainy days, pollution . . . but they washed out. The one thing that was really significant was the amount of time between sunrise and sunset."Therapists should be aware that winter months will be a time of high demand for their services. With fewer sun time hours, clients will be particularly vulnerable to emotional distress. Preventative measures should be implemented on a case-by-case basis.

Comment: When exposed to sunlight, you're also exposed to a huge amount of energy that's penetrating your body initiating many important biological processes in the skin. One reason sunlight makes you feel good is because UV rays stimulate epidermal cells to make beta-endorphins.


Psychics help psychiatrists understand the voices of psychosis

© Melanie Ulizio
People with psychosis are tormented by internal voices. In an effort to explain why a Yale team enlisted help from an unusual source: psychics and others who hear voices but are not diagnosed with a mental illness.

They found that the voices experienced by this group are similar in many ways to those reported by people with schizophrenia, with a few big differences: Psychics are much more likely to perceive the voices as positive or helpful and as experiences that can be controlled, according to a new study published Sept. 28 in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.


The practice of direct compassion

I sat across from my father, stared into his eyes for an entire minute and said three words he hadn't heard a lot while growing up in a dilapidated mobile home park in Buffalo, NY.

His eyes teared up and so did mine. I said, "I love you."

A rush of energy flooded through both me and my father. Energy that brought the two of us closer together. Energy that helped us both reach deeper into ourselves.

You see, as a blue-collar man raised in the smoke of the railroad industry, my father grew up like many men. He learned that in order to get the job done, he must hold in his emotions. Life is hard and thick skin is what gets you through the hardships that come along.

True perhaps to some degree, but as Joseph Campbell reminds us, "The fundamental human experience is that of compassion." Compassion — showing love for others and love for ourselves— drives us all further down our own hero's journey. Because remember, the hero's journey isn't Frodo searching for a ring nor is it Luke Skywalker mastering his Jedi skills to overthrow an evil empire.

These are just metaphors for the hero's journey, told through a compelling story.

Comment: Campbell reminds us that we need to practice direct compassion for our self just as much as we do for others:

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Authentic men and women are the real elite

So often in the truth network the term 'elite' is used to describe the people at the top of the shadow power pyramid, however these societal parasites certainly don't deserve that word ascribed to them. This secret government has inflicted untold suffering on all of us, as well as literally murdered millions of people.

They've done the former in many ways, including, but not limited to:
  • turning the money supply into a debt-based model which has enslaved the world's people to a system which funnels much of the resources directly to them;
  • hijacking the banking infrastructure so that most of the profits made by what should be a public utility are not reinvested into local communities, but instead are further enriching themselves;
  • monopolizing medicine so that natural and cheap substances are either vilified or suppressed, which are then replaced with toxin-rich derivatives from plants and bacteria, as well as synthetics in general, that can be patented and sold at prices which further deprive the people of not just their wealth, but their health too;
  • infiltrating governmental affairs so that macro policy decisions are determined by either the puppets they situate, or the corporate lobbyists who write the policy and package it with 'legal' donations; and
  • using their corporate-controlled media to shape the mindset of the masses with false and harmful narratives on life.

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The Power of Yoga: The Mind-Body Connection in Treating Mental Illness and Addiction

© Pixabay/Hannah Wells
Yoga has become exceptionally popular in the past few years, and people are turning to the practice for a multitude of reasons. Most people understand yoga has several health benefits, including increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, and improved respiration, energy, and vitality. Others turn to yoga because it is calming and reduces stress levels. Now, people are turning to yoga to treat mental illness and addiction.

Research Shows Yoga Helps People with Mental Illness

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center set out to determine the effect of yoga on mental health and found that yoga has positive effects on depression, sleep problems, and other psychiatric disorders. Specifically, the team found that yoga improves the symptoms of schizophrenia and ADHD among patients using medication. Some studies suggest yoga affects the body much as antidepressants and psychotherapy do: "yoga may influence brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters (boosting levels of feel-good agents like serotonin), lower inflammation, reduce oxidative stress and produce a healthier balance of lipids and growth factors - just as other forms of exercise do."


The warmth and power of human interaction: The story of Norah and Dan

© Tara Wood, writer
The day before my daughter Norah's fourth birthday, she foreshadowed a remarkable event.

I'd just picked her up from preschool when she cautioned me to mind the elderly person walking across the parking lot at a glacier's pace.

She went on to explain that she has a soft spot for mature folks: 'I like old peoples the best 'cos they walk slow like I walk slow and they has soft skin like I has soft skin. They all gonna die soon so I'm gonna love 'em all up before they is died.'

Sure it got kinda weird and dark at the the end there, but I liked where her heart was.

I was struck by her thoughtfulness and empathy and posted that quote as a status update on Facebook when we got home. I had no idea how much she really meant it.

Comment: Related articles:


Empathy: Rescuing the oxygen of civilization from extinction

'Some people scarcely move when touched. While some are moved with scarce a touch'- Source Unknown
"What, Me Care? Young are Less Empathetic.".1 Empathy, long considered innate, has been unexpectedly challenged by a U.S. study led by Dr. Sara H. Konrath and published online in Personality and Social Psychology Review. In this self-reported study of 14,000 students, the researchers found empathy levels have declined over the past 30 years.

On the other side of the same coin, another self-reported study carried out by psychologists, Jean M. Twenge with W. Keith Campbell, reported narcissism, a psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation and a lack of empathy, has reached new heights. Their book, The Narcissism Epidemic (2009), explores the rise of narcissism in American culture.2 In a TV interview on the Meredith Vieria Show, Twenge describes the U.S. condition as "suffering from an epidemic of narcissism."3

In addition, drawing on a database of more than 75,000 assessments from 2011-2013, a global sample was created by EQ, an organization dedicated to increasing emotional intelligence around the world. The report, "The State of the Heart," also noted emotional intelligence that encompasses empathy and compassion in young people is declining in comparison with people over 40 years of age. 4

What makes these studies particularly relevant in today's world is their association with known character traits expressed, ranging from schoolyard bullying to heinous violence. The problem is widespread among children and youth and, too often, comes with serious consequences.

Comment: Practical ways to boost empathy

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What makes some people more altruistic than others?

Abigail Marsh almost lost her life in a car accident. She was avoiding a dog in the middle of the street, and suddenly found her own life in danger. But a complete stranger stopped, got out of his car, helped her to safety, and then drove off, never even telling her his name.

Why did he do it though? That was the biggest question Marsh found herself asking, and it changed the course of her life. She has since made a career out of understanding the human capacity to care for others; where it comes from; how it develops. Marsh wondered why people do selfless things, and resolved to find out. She soon realized very little work had been done on this topic.

Altruism is a voluntary, costly behaviour that benefits only the other. And Marsh wanted to know what made some people more altruistic than others:

Comment: Further reading:


New study suggests that religious people have less understanding of the world

© Getty Images
The researchers compared believers in God to people with autism, saying both struggle to distinguish between the physical and the mental.
Religious people are more likely to have a poorer understanding of the world and are more likely to believe objects like rocks and paper have human qualities, scientists say.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki compared believers in God or the paranormal to people with autism after finding they tend to struggle to understand the realities of the world around us.

Comment: Right there they have conflated two distinct things and thus potentially corrupted their results. Religion and paranormal phenomena are not equivalent. An uneducated "believer" doesn't really compare to an unreligious parapsychologist with academic degrees, for example. What was the overlap between these two groups? Where there some who believed in the paranormal but not God? Vice versa? How did their results compare?

Religious beliefs were linked with a weaker ability to understand physical and biological phenomenon such as volcanoes, flowers, rocks and wind without giving them human qualities.

Believers were more likely to think that inanimate objects such as metal, oil, clothes and paper can think and feel, and agree with statements such as "Stones sense the cold".

Comment: Funnily enough, that's probably closer to a philosophically sound way of looking at the universe. Stones may not 'think' as humans do, but it's a valid hypothesis that every 'thing', from subatomic particles to humans, 'senses' in some way. Panpsychism trumps materialism any day of the week.

Comment: Despite the overly materialistic view of the researchers (even quantum physics can seem a little mystical) the brains of religious people have been found to work 'differently'.


'Train your brain': Forget apps, learn to play a musical instrument

© Sophie Wolfson
'Music probably does something unique. It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way, because of our emotional connection with it.’
The multimillion dollar brain training industry is under attack. In October 2014, a group of over 100 eminent neuroscientists and psychologists wrote an open letter warning that "claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading".

Earlier this year, industry giant Lumosity was fined $2m, and ordered to refund thousands of customers who were duped by false claims that the company's products improve general mental abilities and slow the progression of age-related decline in mental abilities. And a recent review examining studies purporting to show the benefits of such products found "little evidence ... that training improves everyday cognitive performance".

While brain training games and apps may not live up to their hype, it is well established that certain other activities and lifestyle choices can have neurological benefits that promote overall brain health and may help to keep the mind sharp as we get older. One of these is musical training. Research shows that learning to play a musical instrument is beneficial for children and adults alike, and may even be helpful to patients recovering from brain injuries.

Comment: See also: Musical training accelerates children's cognitive, social and emotional development