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Mon, 27 Feb 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Dwelling on the past instead of learning from it can ruin your health

Constantly dwelling on the past can negatively effect your health
Dwelling on the past may not only stop you from enjoying each day to the full - it could also be bad for your health.

Research suggests that people who look back at their past experiences full of regrets about missed opportunities or with bitterness about how they have been treated are more likely to fall ill and generally have a poorer quality of life.

Those who look back in anger are also more sensitive to pain, it found.

It also suggested that focusing too much on the future does not harm health - but can stop people enjoying what they have.

Comment: More on how dwelling on the past, which is an inability or unwillingness to live in the present, affects you:


The science of why we fall for scams

© Getty Images
Yes, smart people get scammed. Lots of them.

Peter, a retired lawyer, still can't believe he was scammed out of $2,000, under the premise of keeping his step-grandson out of jail. "I'm much too smart for that sort of thing," he said.

Except that, obviously, he wasn't.

Intelligence alone isn't sufficient protection from a scam. Anyone with a heart, with a family, or with common desires or insecurities can be victimized by the sophisticated mind games used by today's fraudsters.

Americans were scammed out of $1.7 billion in 2014 according to the FTC. Last year the FTC received more than 3 million fraud complaints, and it's been estimated that there were a least another 3 million victims who didn't report their losses.

Peter, one of the many people I interview for my research as a consumer psychologist, spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he was conned. "In retrospect I can see that I just kept filling in blanks and making assumptions instead of challenging what I was hearing," he told me. That's something we all do—especially in stressful situations.

We pay attention to information that supports our beliefs and ignore what doesn't. Peter's scammers had a good idea that he would make these kinds of cognitive errors. Their expertise in amateur psychology is the foundation of their success in ripping people off.

In order to protect yourself, it's wise to understand exactly how people get played. Here are some common scenarios that leave consumers especially vulnerable to scams:


Turns out, faking a smile might not make you happier after all

© Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock.com
Perhaps you've heard that you can brighten your mood just by faking a smile. But that idea, which came out of a psychological experiment from the 1980s, may not be true after all, as scientists were not able to repeat the results in a lab setting in a large, rigorous new study.

The hypothesis, called the facial-feedback hypothesis, dates back to a 1988 study in which participants rated the humor of cartoons while inadvertently mimicking either a smile or a pout. The participants were simply asked to hold a pen in their mouths, either with their lips (which pushes the face into a frown-like expression) or their teeth (which mimics a smile). The participants who used the pen to mimic a smile rated the cartoons as funnier.

Now, a 17-lab effort with 1,894 participants finds no evidence that such an effect exists. It's the latest in a string of failed replications in psychology, including the recent finding that willpower may not be a limited resource, as many psychologists had believed.

Comment: See also:


Well-being linked with when, how people manage emotions

© Cyber School Group
Reframing how we think about a situation is a common strategy for managing our emotions, but a new study suggests that using this reappraisal strategy in situations we actually have control over may be associated with lower well-being. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Our results caution against a 'one strategy fits all' approach, which may be tempting to recommend based on many previous findings regarding reappraisal as a strategy for regulating emotion," says psychological scientist Peter Koval of Australian Catholic University. "Simply using any given emotion regulation strategy more (or less) in all situations may not lead to the best outcomes -- instead, contextually-appropriate emotion regulation may be healthier."

Recent work on emotion regulation has highlighted the fact that flexibility in using emotion regulation strategies is key to healthy functioning. Koval and his research team decided to investigate how situational context might play a role in the relationship between emotion regulation and well-being in people's everyday lives.

Comment: See also:


Does your mind jump around, stay on task or get stuck?

© unknown
During downtime, some of us daydream while others might focus on a to-do list, or get stuck in a negative loop. Psychology has traditionally defined all these thought patterns as variations of "mind-wandering."

But a review of brain imaging studies led by researchers at UC Berkeley and the University of British Columbia offers a new way of looking at spontaneous versus controlled thinking, challenging the adage that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

It suggests that increased awareness of how our thoughts move when our brains are at rest could lead to better diagnoses and targeted treatments for such mental illnesses as depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"It's important to know not only the difference between free-ranging mind-wandering and sticky, obsessive thoughts, but also to understand, within this framework, how these types of thinking work together," said review co-author Zachary Irving, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley.

Comment: Related articles:


Researchers claim that humans have souls which can live on after death

The idea that human consciousness lives on after death has been put forward by a number of well-respected scientists


Lending a helping hand: Volunteers live longer & happier lives

Those who reported at least 200 hours of volunteer work per year were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure.

The following is an excerpt from the book The Giving Way to Happiness by Jenny Santi (TarcherPerigee, 2016):

The first study to intentionally examine the effect of motives of volunteers on their subsequent mortality was conducted in 2011 by a team led by Sarah Konrath of the University of Michigan.[i] Respondents who volunteered were found to be at lower risk for mortality four years later, especially among those who volunteered more regularly and frequently. The study showed that volunteers live longer than non-volunteers—but this is only true if they volunteer for specific reasons.

Comment: Helping others can alleviate your own pain and depression


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: