Welcome to Sott.net
Sun, 04 Dec 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Why loneliness is painful: Helping humans survive by motivating us to seek connection with others

© Patrik Svensson
Loneliness not only feels nasty, it can also make you depressed, shatter your sleep, even kill you. Yet scientists think loneliness evolved because it was good for us. It still is — sometimes.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that being lonely ruins health. In one recent study, the risk of dying over a two-decade period was 50 percent higher for lonely men and 49 percent higher for lonely women than it was for those who did not experience feelings of isolation. According to some research, loneliness may be worse for longevity than obesity or air pollution.

Yet according to scientists such as John Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, loneliness has evolved to protect us. He likens it to hunger: "When you get hungry, it increases your attention to finding food. We think that loneliness is an aversive state that motivates you to attend to social connections.

And just like pangs of hunger, loneliness can feel like real pain — at least inside the brain. When people who had been put in a functional MRI scanning device played a computer game that allowed them to be rejected by other players, the areas of the brain that lit up when they were rejected were the same ones associated with physical pain. The experiment, by UCLA psychologist Naomi Eisenberger and colleagues, proved that the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain that becomes more active when we are in physical pain, also switches on when we experience the pain of social rejection.

That pain of loneliness, Cacioppo argues, could have motivated our ancestors to seek connection with other members of the tribe — and thereby improve their chances of survival and of passing on their genes.

Comment: Humans are social animals. We naturally bond and pair as couples in partnerships and marriage. We live together as families and tribes, and we gather as communities. When we are unable to make this connection our spiritual, mental and physical health suffers. A separation from each other is a separation from our selves and from our very life source.


The curious link between mind & feet: Why walking helps us think

In Vogue's 1969 Christmas issue, Vladimir Nabokov offered some advice for teaching James Joyce's Ulysses: "Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom's and Stephen's intertwining itineraries clearly traced." He drew a charming one himself. Several decades later, a Boston College English professor named Joseph Nugent and his colleagues put together an annotated Google map that shadows Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom step by step. The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, as well as students at the Georgia Institute of Technology, have similarly reconstructed the paths of the London amblers in "Mrs. Dalloway."

Such maps clarify how much these novels depend on a curious link between mind and feet. Joyce and Woolf were writers who transformed the quicksilver of consciousness into paper and ink. To accomplish this, they sent characters on walks about town. As Mrs. Dalloway walks, she does not merely perceive the city around her. Rather, she dips in and out of her past, remolding London into a highly textured mental landscape, "making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh."

Since at least the time of peripatetic Greek philosophers, many other writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing. (In fact, Adam Gopnik wrote about walking in The New Yorker just two weeks ago.) "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!" Henry David Thoreau penned in his journal. "Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow." Thomas DeQuincey has calculated that William Wordsworth—whose poetry is filled with tramps up mountains, through forests, and along public roads—walked as many as a hundred and eighty thousand miles in his lifetime, which comes to an average of six and a half miles a day starting from age five.

Book 2

Five ideas for exploring your emotions through writing

The process of writing can be both cathartic and empowering, often freeing blocked emotions.
For many of us actually feeling our feelings is not something we have much experience with. Maybe we've dismissed our disappointment, our sadness, our anger, our anxiety, our grief for years. And that's OK. Because it's something you can work on. One place to start is writing.

Don't worry if you don't think of yourself as a writer (even though you are). Don't worry about creating a beautiful, perfect or profound sentence. Don't even worry about creating sentences at all. Just write from your heart. However it comes out. If you'd like some structure or guidance, below are five ideas for using writing to explore your emotions.

Write about experiencing the feeling in third person.

This gives you some distance from the feeling, and maybe even a different perspective. Margarita has been feeling so anxious lately. Jittery. Restless. On edge. Unglued. It's like her body is pulsing with electricity. It's just so uncomfortable. Everything becomes another thing to worry about, to solve, to do...

Comment: A regular practice of writing not only helps to unblock emotions, but can help us to clarify our thoughts, improve our memories and cognitive abilities:


Double-blind study: 'Real' mindfulness meditation beats 'fake' version

The benefits of meditation have been touted for decades now, with seemingly a new scientific study coming out as fast as you can say 'Aum'. Harvard has proven that meditation rebuilds the grey matter in our brains in as little as 8 weeks, and according to University of Toronto psychiatrist, Steven Selchen, "There's more than an article a day on the subject in peer-reviewed journals now." With such vast research into the study of mindfulness, how do we know if we are really practicing meditation?

Fortunately, researchers unearthed some astounding discoveries about the brain's functioning in 'real' meditation as opposed to 'fake' meditation.

Dr. Creswell, working with scientists from a handful of additional universities, managed to fake mindfulness, in order to observe physiological changes in the brains of participants. Their findings have now been published in Biological Psychiatry, a Journal of Psychiatric Neuroscience.

Comment: Finding the right meditation technique is key to user satisfaction

The Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program is an 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!


9 Tips to stop people pleasing and act in favor of your own destiny

"Be Selfish." It's without a doubt the habit of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers I've gotten the most feedback on throughout the last few years. (You can check out the other nine if you're curious or want a refresher.) The reason, I think, is that it's so unexpectedly radical, so brashly subversive to an almost universally held tenet: good people serve others rather than themselves. You can file it under the "better to give than receive" ethic and the general cult of self-sacrifice that permeates Western moral and work culture. We're supposed to want to help others, to devote our lives to the service of the greater good. To be selfish is to be shallow, vapid—a flimsy, one-dimensional model of what it means to be human. But as modestly proposed in The Primal Connection, we're working here with an unfortunate distortion that can quickly wade into treacherous, life-sucking waters.

To adapt an old proverb, I'd say the road to personal hell is often paved with the well-intentioned pursuit of people pleasing. While there's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to see others happy or making a positive difference in the world, we more quickly meet with a law of diminishing returns than we may admit. Where does natural, feel-good altruism morph into unhealthy self-sacrifice? At what point are we denying our basic needs for the comfort and good opinions of others? And what gets lost when we find ourselves down that dysfunctional rabbit hole?

Comment: Setting reasonable boundaries and saying "no" to maintain those boundaries is necessary not only to one's life and sanity, but also to one's health and well-being. Dr. Gabor Maté covers this in his studies of psychoneuroimmunology:

Snakes in Suits

How psychopaths maneuver their way into positions of power

© Unbekannt
A 2010 study that examined a sample of 203 individuals from different companies' management development programs revealed something interesting. It was found that about 3% of business managers scored in the psychopath range while the incidence of psychopathy in the general population is approximately 1%. So why are there so many psychopaths in senior management positions?

Comment: For a more in-depth analysis of how psychopaths/character disturbed individuals manage to secure positions of influence and power in society, see the following:

People 2

Are outdated childhood survival strategies causing you stress?

© Thinkstock
Human beings, like animals, are born with a primal instinct of survival. As infants and young children we rely solely on the ability of others to keep us safe in our new and unfamiliar environment. No matter what circumstances we are born into or how we are cared for, we must learn to adapt in order to survive. As we learn how to adapt to our environment as helpless infants and young children, we create the basis for how we will adapt to the world as we grow and explore more and more of it.

If it was important as a child for you to always finish your meal before you left the table so you would not be harshly reprimanded by a commanding parent, you may find yourself having a difficult time leaving food on your plate as an adult. As a young child, a part of you created a survival plan that would ensure that you always eat all the food on your plate so that you do not displease the people that are keeping you safe. This survival plan created by you as a small child becomes part of your unconscious memories.

As an adult, being unaware of this unconscious survival plan, you may find it quite frustrating when your belly feels satisfied after eating a good portion of your meal, and yet you continue to eat everything on your plate. You may even become angry at yourself for not having more control. Survival plans set up by us as children remain active into adulthood. The subconscious mind does not know time and does not know true or false, it only records the information and plays it back to you 24 hours a day. Since you are not consciously aware of the information that is being played back to you, you have a difficult time making changes in behavior because your behavior is automatic based on what the subconscious mind is repeating to you over and over again.

Cell Phone

Suffering from nomophobia? You need digital detox

Our daily connection with digital devices can be obsessive for many, and even addicting for others. "Sixty-six percent of us suffer from nomophobia, which is a fear of losing your phone or not having access to your phone," notes Techlicious' Suzanne Kantra. This has lead to a "digital detox" trend. More people are making time to disconnect. For those without the willpower to do it on their own there are retreats that structure time away from tech.

Comment: More on digital detox camp:

See also: Digital heroin: Technology addictions are turning kids into psychotic junkies


Focusing on your strengths can move you through depression and anxiety

When it comes to many things in our lives we all seem to have an intuitive knowledge that our strengths are what will propel us through life with the most advantageous outcomes. We focus on strengths when hiring recruits, looking for a spouse or building a team.

When battling emotional problems however, we often focus solely on the diagnosis, the symptoms of the diagnosis and all the issues that the identified problem causes us.

Positive psychology utilizes and focuses on the concept of strengths in treating depression and anxiety to a great deal. It is in fact a very exciting field and has much to offer treatment based psychology as a practice. Strengths are where our greatest successes can happen, where we will grow the most and where we will experience greater energy and happiness.

Even if you find yourself at a time in your life when you have depression, anxiety and panic or have experienced some terrible event, you have strengths. The focus on these strengths is what will take you through. But if you think about it, these are the times we usually focus on these unpleasantries as they have a way of taking over.

Comment: Further reading:

Magic Wand

Use it or lose it: Frequent dancing makes you smarter

© psychologytoday.com
For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise. More recently we've seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Most recently we've heard of another benefit: Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.

A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages. You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging. Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none. They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

Comment: For more on the benefits of boogie, see: