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Tue, 30 Aug 2016
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Light Saber

Training your brain to use stress to your advantage

It starts off slow. Heart rate building. Dry mouth. A drip of sweat slowly rolling down from your temple to your cheek. And then wham. A punch to the gut.

Stress.

It's inevitable in life. And yet so many of us see it as something we can't control. Or worse, something we should bury and ignore.

Keep Calm and Carry On might work for t-shirts and tote bags, but as advice for real life? It's about as useful as sticking your head in the sand.

Stress affects us in different ways, at different times, but one of the most common situations we've all encountered is right before a big performance. Whether that means talking to your boss, singing karaoke, or playing sports. Pre-performance stress is a real thing. And it kills our ability to act.

But what if there were ways to rewire our brain to use stress to our advantage? To take those feelings of dread and anxiety and transform them into energy, excitement, and focus? To make stress our own version of Popeye's spinach?

Sounds like a dream. But thanks to new research into how our brains handle stress, it doesn't have to be.

Comment: Why you shouldn't always stress about stress


Bulb

Free will experiment suggests: People who meditate are more aware of their unconscious brain

People who meditate are more aware of their unconscious brain activity - or so a new take on a classic "free will" experiment suggests.

The results hint that the feeling of conscious control over our actions can vary - and provide more clues to understanding the complex nature of free will.

The famous experiment that challenged our notions of free will was first done in 1983 by neuroscientist Benjamin Libet. It involved measuring electrical activity in someone's brain while asking them to press a button, whenever they like, while they watch a special clock that allows them to note the time precisely.

Info

Watching someone's face does not help detect lies - it actually hampers your abilities

© Juliana Coutinho
It is notoriously difficult to tell when someone is lying to you.

It may be easier to tell if someone is lying when you cannot see their face, new research finds.

Contrary to most people's expectations, being able to see someone's full face does not help lie detection.

In fact, it actually hurts it.

Dr Amy-May Leach, the study's first author, explained that the reason may be because it helps people focus on important cues:
"The presence of a veil may compel observers to pay attention to more 'diagnostic' cues, such as listening for verbal indicators of deception."

Comment:



Info

Scientists discover what meditation does to your gut and brain and for a wide range of other diseases

Numerous studies have indicated the many physiological benefits of meditation, and the latest one comes from Harvard University.

An eight week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brains grey matter in just eight weeks. It's the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain's grey matter. (1)

"Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day. This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing." - (1) Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychology

Comment: 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.


Hearts

8 traits for a long lasting relationship

Relationships are a beautiful part of life. Whether they are romantic or just friendly, connecting with another human being is undoubtedly one of the best experiences that life has to offer. Of course, within relationships, as with so many other things in life, change is inevitable. I doubt that there are very many of us, if any, that have maintained the exact same partner and/or core group of friends throughout the vast majority of our lives.

Despite this seemingly natural turnover, what is it about certain relationships that makes them outlast many others? I've come up with 8 signs that I think are a great signal that a particular relationship is worth keeping, but be sure to pay attention to the last one I mention, since it alone can override all of the other points, and in my opinion it's the most important.

Comment: See also:


Mr. Potato

The value of boredom: Psychologists recommend children be bored in the summer

© Reuters/ Lucas Jackson
It's important for kids to learn how to entertain themselves.
Do you entertain your kids with chess camp, art school, cooking classes, or tennis lessons during the unstructured summer months? Or perhaps all of them?

There are activities and summer camps galore to fill children's time and supply much needed childcare when kids are out of school. But psychologists and child development experts suggest that over-scheduling children during the summer is unnecessary and could ultimately keep kids from from discovering what truly interests them.

"Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy," says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist in London with a focus on education. "If parents spend all their time filling up their child's spare time, then the child's never going to learn to do this for themselves."

Comment: 'I'm bored!' - Research on attention sheds light on the unengaged mind


Life Preserver

Building resilience: How to weather life challenges and thrive

Life is challenging and we all struggle at times. But scientific research and clinical practice have consistently shown that one thing makes the difference between getting worn down and giving up or working to overcome life's little (and big) roadblocks: resilience.

Resilience is simply the ability to adapt well when faced with adversity, trauma, or stress. From cancer patients and professional athletes to 9/11 survivors and Marines on the front lines, people who exhibit higher levels of resilience have the ability to find a way to embrace life and thrive in the face of strong, painful, and distressing emotions or events.

If resilience seems in short supply for you, here's the good news: It's a skill you can build. Here are a few proven strategies from scientific research and clinical practice.

Comment: Further reading:


Book 2

Sleep through your waking life

Nino Ricci's latest novel, Sleep, inspired by his own sleep disorder, is really more a fun text book on the latest brain research and the blind use of powerful drugs to alter — and possibly restructure (who knows?) — the brain. It's like a 'don't smoke' ad that's actually informative and hilarious, with a classic 'death of a salesman' plot moving it along.

The complexity of the brain and the perilousness of the chemical warfare we casually inflict on it is far greater than, say, sending a man around the moon or deploying star wars 'defense' systems. Imagine your brain: a ball the size of a large fist, crammed with billions of neurons, brain cells, a tiny Mission Control module, with dozens of centres, some highly specialized, some working in tandem with others, a fantastic electrical grid.

People 2

Victims of childhood bullying can have symptoms similar to PTSD

The following is an excerpt from the new book Bullying Scars by Ellen deLara (Oxford University Press, 2016):

In interviewing the people in my research study, I began to notice something unusual. While many of the participants spoke of the bullying episodes they experienced as traumatic and described the impact they felt at the time and what they are left with now in terms of traumatic memories, no one explicitly said they felt like they had PTSD. However, collectively, they listed many symptoms that did fit the PTSD diagnosis. Still others clearly experience what I call adult post-bullying syndrome, or APBS. I have named it this to distinguish it from PTSD.

While APBS can share some symptoms with PTSD, there are distinct differences. One is that there can be both negative and positive aspects to APBS, whereas there are no positive aspects in the research literature associated with PTSD. The negative symptoms of APBS can mimic those of PTSD or the effects seen from child abuse. These effects, similar for child abuse, APBS, and PTSD, and lasting into adulthood , can include shame, anxiety, and relational difficulties. Further, negative cognitions about the self often occur after a trauma. This trauma-related thinking is often inaccurate and serves to support and maintain PTSD. The changes in emotional reactions that characterize PTSD can lead to unexpected and often unpredictable outbursts of anger and aggression. Something can happen to which the person with PTSD just reacts. There does not appear to be an intermediary step of thinking. There is the event, then the reaction. This is a critical difference between PTSD and APBS, where adults do not tend to show this kind of event/reaction immediacy but rather seem more inclined to take no action and instead ruminate on past and present events.

While there are negative aspects of adult post-bullying syndrome, there are some unexpected positives that seem to accompany it also. In interviewing people who appear to experience APBS, I noticed that they have a tendency to exhibit some, if not all, of the following issues:

Self-Esteem Issues and Shame

"I have low self-esteem, a poor self-image, and virtually no confidence in myself."

"Unfortunately, I took right to heart, literally, the hurtful things that were said to me. Now that I am grown up I try to see things differently, but in my core I still believe they are true."

Self-doubt and harsh self-judgment are byproducts of childhood bullying. They leave an indelible mark on self-esteem for those who suffer with APBS. Children take to heart relentless torment through name calling and castigation of their character and looks. Years later, as adults, people can still easily recall what they were bullied about: their weight, their height, their clothes, having acne, the people to whom they were attracted. People with APBS typically report having low self-esteem. They feel a sense of shame connected to the core of their being. People who feel a great deal of shame or who are shame-based can manifest this in arrogant behavior. This can be seen in vacillations in thinking between: "I'm a loser" and "I'm better than all of you."

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Music

Music: How this powerful social glue bonds us together

According to new research, music helps synchronize our bodies and our brains.

At GGSC's recent awe conference, Melanie DeMore led the audience in a group sing as part of the day's activities. Judging from participant responses, it was clear that something magical happened: We all felt closer and more connected because of that experience of singing together.

Why is singing such a powerful social glue? Most of us hear music from the moment we are born, often via lullabies, and through many of the most important occasions in our lives, from graduations to weddings to funerals. There is something about music that seems to bring us closer to each other and help us come together as a community.

There's little question that humans are wired for music. Researchers recently discovered that we have a dedicated part of our brain for processing music, supporting the theory that it has a special, important function in our lives.

Listening to music and singing together has been shown in several studies to directly impact neuro-chemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connection.

Now new research suggests that playing music or singing together may be particularly potent in bringing about social closeness through the release of endorphins.

In one study, researchers found that performing music—through singing, drumming, and dancing—all resulted in participants having higher pain thresholds (a proxy measure for increased endorphin release in the brain) in comparison to listening to music alone. In addition, the performance of music resulted in greater positive emotion, suggesting one pathway through which people feel closer to one another when playing music together is through endorphin release.

Comment: Singing together encourages social bonding