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Wed, 31 Aug 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Mindfulness meditation leads to positive brain changes

Mindfulness-based teachings have shown benefits in everything from inflammatory disorders to central nervous system dysfunction and even cancer. Training groups in mindfulness has become a powerful tool in preventative intervention. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) are studying how cognitive therapy that uses mindfulness techniques serve as an alternative to pharmaceuticals.

Mindfulness is "the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment", which can be trained by a large extent in meditational practices.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric conditions affecting children and adolescents. While antidepressants are frequently used to treat youth with anxiety disorders, they may be poorly tolerated in children who are at high risk of developing bipolar disorder.

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Are painting and coloring good for your health?

Who doesn't remember the joy of dipping sticky fingers into paint and squiggling away on paper! Drawing, painting, and coloring are a delightful part of childhood but these simple pleasures are often waylaid as you grow up. Today, however, adult coloring books are all the rage and grownups are rediscovering the joys of painting and coloring - and the health benefits they bring. But did you know that even as early as a hundred years ago, Carl Jung considered the drawing of mandalas to be an indication of self-discovery?

So how does painting or coloring affect the body and mind?


Post-It Note

The best way of empathizing might be a surprise and it's not what your your gut instinct tells you

Most people are wrong about the best way to empathize with others.

Surprisingly, systematic reasoning beats gut instinct for working out what other people are thinking and feeling.

The result is surprising as the same research found that people thought that gut instinct would triumph.

Arrow Down

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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