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Thu, 17 Aug 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Why yoga makes us happy

© University of Washington
Can we really unlock our personal power by adopting "powerful" body postures? Unfortunately, the findings that link these so-called "power poses" beloved of certain politicians with a real sense of power and control are difficult to replicate. We may not yet understand the mechanism through which body postures influence our psychological states, but our recent study suggests that we may draw insights from the rapidly expanding research on the psychological benefits of yoga.

In our study, some participants performed two simple yoga poses for two minutes, while others performed "power poses" for two minutes. Afterwards, those who held the yoga poses reported improved subjective feelings of energy, sense of power, and self-esteem compared to the other group.

Comment: Further reading: An interview with Bessel van der Kolk: How yoga helps treat PTSD


For pain, meditation beats meds

© Juice Images, Ltd
Meditation is just as effective as painkillers in alleviating discomfort, a new study has found.

Just 10 minutes of the trendy Buddhist practice could be used as an alternative to paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin.

Taking up the mindset, which has existed for centuries, improves someone's pain threshold, a small trial showed.

The findings bolster evidence that suggests mindfulness, which helps to calm the mind, does work in boosting the power of the brain.

While it also adds to the growing suggestions that painkillers are largely ineffective and that discomfort is just in the mind.

Comment: And the great thing about meditation is that there aren't any horrific side effects. For a free and effective meditation program try Éiriú Eolas here.

Eye 1

This simple 'scratch test' can help identify narcissism

Criticism makes narcissists aggressive, research finds.

But people with high self-esteem are not particularly bothered by criticism.

This is because, at heart, narcissists often have a strange relationship with their self-esteem, so they hate to be criticised.

Any criticism will usually make them aggressive in response.

Psychologists measured the self-esteem, narcissism and aggressive behaviour of 540 undergraduate students.

Comment: To a narcissist, their reality is the only one that exists. Even mild criticism and simple questions challenging the veracity of a narcissist's claims can be met with disproportional and sometimes outrageous responses. When you question them in this way, you are challenging the narcissist's need for control over the way other people think and behave. This doesn't always relate to self esteem because the ego of the pathological is distinctly different than that of normal or even psychologically wounded people. Unfortunately, many wounded people do adopt the traits and tendencies of pathological types. In fact, there is a whole movement that seeks such exploitation: the Social Justice Warriors.

Life Preserver

Intelligence: The trait that most protects your mental and physical health

It is also a generally protective factor against health problems.

More intelligent people are at a lower risk of suicide, research finds.

In fact, intelligence emerges as a generally protective factor against health problems.

People with higher intelligence are also less likely to suffer heart attacks and have accidents.

Comment: Emotional intelligence is often thought to be as, or even more important than IQ to a person's overall performance because people with high EQ are able to use their emotions constructively to solve problems and complete other cognitive tasks.

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Genes influence ability to read someone's mind by observing the eyes

© elnariz / Fotolia
Can you clearly identify emotions in the eyes of others?
Our DNA influences our ability to read a person's thoughts and emotions from looking at their eyes, suggests a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Twenty years ago, a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge developed a test of 'cognitive empathy' called the 'Reading the Mind in the Eyes' Test (or the Eyes Test, for short). This revealed that people can rapidly interpret what another person is thinking or feeling from looking at their eyes alone. It also showed that some of us are better at this than others, and that women on average score better on this test than men.

Now, the same team, working with the genetics company 23andMe along with scientists from France, Australia and the Netherlands, report results from a new study of performance on this test in 89,000 people across the world. The majority of these were 23andMe customers who consented to participate in research. The results confirmed that women on average do indeed score better on this test.

More importantly, the team confirmed that our genes influence performance on the Eyes Test, and went further to identify genetic variants on chromosome 3 in women that are associated with their ability to "read the mind in the eyes."


What happens when schools meet trauma with compassion and understanding, not punishment

Disciplining children is a controversial subject matter, and there are a lot of opinions that pit people against one another. One of the biggest issues is, not all children are created equal, and therefore one way of learning, and one way of discipling, may not work for another. So how do programs designed with one student in mind work for all students?

This is a question that New Orleans' privately run charters have had to face.

Hurricane Katrina wiped out the public schools, with many turning into privately run charters. Many of those schools took part in the no excuses discipline model, designed to hone in on and stop even the slightest misbehaviour in order to prevent bigger issues from occurring.

The elementary school Crocker College Prep in New Orleans took part in this model, requiring students to sit up straight at their desks and ensure their eyes remained on the speaker at all times. When walking the halls, they had to do so in silence. Any breaking of the rules, or acting out in any way, resulted in punishment.

But what if kids are acting out because of trauma?

Comment: Just imagine what a difference it would make to children's long-term health and mental well-being if more school systems replaced their 'resource officers' with social workers?


Music is medicine: The neurochemical benefits of playing an instrument

A recent study conducted at Baycrest Health Sciences has uncovered a crucial piece into why playing a musical instrument can help older adults retain their listening skills and ward off age-related cognitive declines. This finding could lead to the development of brain rehabilitation interventions through musical training.

400 published scientific papers have proven the old adage that "music is medicine." Neurochemical benefits of music can improve the body's immune system, reduce anxiety levels and help regulate mood in ways that drugs have difficulty competing. Opioids are also responsible for music's myriad effects on mood, pain and well-being, giving clues to how we can harness its benefits even how it affects our aging.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that learning to play a sound on a musical instrument alters the brain waves in a way that improves a person's listening and hearing skills over a short time frame. This change in brain activity demonstrates the brain's ability to rewire itself and compensate for injuries or diseases that may hamper a person's capacity to perform tasks.


Chart Bar

Thank you for being a friend: Friendship more important for health than family as we age, study finds

We may have less time to spend with friends as we get older, but that doesn't mean that close companionship becomes any less important to our well-being. That's because our social circle has a greater impact on our health and well-being than family does, a new study finds.

Researchers at Michigan State University conducted two separate, yet related studies, hoping to find the empirical value of friendship.

The first study analyzed a survey that provided self-reported measures of health and happiness from over 270,000 participants of all ages worldwide. Meanwhile, the second study derived its data on relationships and chronic illness from a survey of nearly 7,500 American adults.

Via the first study, the researchers found that both having healthy relations with family and friends were determinants of good health and happiness in general, but friendship alone was seen to be a solid predictor of positive overall health at later ages.


Dying patients study reveals 'brain surge' in final moments of life

© Adam Knott
Michael Barbato is a retired palliative care expert who has seen hundreds of patients die during his decades in medicine.
Patrick Coghlan was dying. He was peaceful and motionless, and his daughter, Mairead O'Connor, sat by his bedside, knowing the end was not far.

Suddenly — shockingly — he roused from his unconscious state, sat bolt upright, opened his eyes wide, and waved at something or someone only he could see.

Mrs O'Connor likes to think it was her late mother.

"His face looked radiant and happy," she remembers.

"I knew I was witnessing something special."

Moments later, he died.

2 + 2 = 4

Psychotherapy for your body: The role of somatic psychology today

A racing heart and a roiling stomach. Panic attacks, nightmares, or fatigue. The body has myriad ways to manifest the many faces of trauma and fear. And for many people, getting help to cope with the symptoms of emotional distress means going through "talk therapy"—a kind of psychotherapy based on verbally processing thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Now, though, the rapidly growing field of somatic psychotherapy is shifting the paradigm from talking to feeling—and this approach is offering new promise for healing trauma through body-centered techniques, such as Somatic Experiencing.

Comment: Éiriú Eolas may also be a great support. It may help relieve you from stress and gently let go of repressed emotions in the body.

Face life with Éiriú Eolas, a stress relief program