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Fri, 21 Oct 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Benjamin Franklin's 13 virtues to build character

Benjamin Franklin by David Rent Etter, after Charles Willson Peale, after David Martin (1835)
At the ripe old age of twenty, Benjamin Franklin set out to make himself morally perfect. Having studied the ancient philosophers and their ideas of the virtues required to be an ideal man, he created his own list of thirteen virtues. Like the virtue ethicists of the ancient past and more modern times, Franklin sought to develop his entire character rather than focus on the question of how to act in a certain situation. His hope being that with the perfection of his character, he would never again have to ask how to act, as he would simply act as a virtuous person would by habit. Never again would he commit a fault at any time, he thought.

His selections were ordered by importance, and he saw the earliest ones as being needed to achieve the latter ones. They were also chosen for simplicity, as each covers a small and defined area of character.
1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

13. Humility. Imitate Jesus [Caesar] and Socrates.

Comment: To learn more about improving ourselves and accurately evaluating what's going on inside our minds (and the minds of those around us), read the discussion on our forum based on Timothy Wilson's book, "Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious".

See also: The intelligence of self observation and self-awareness

Dollar Gold

What is it that keeps gamblers gambling even when they lose?

The act of gambling may be as crucial to the buzz as the winning.
No one likes to lose - even pathological gamblers. And yet they keep on betting. If the house always wins, why roll the dice again? People addicted to gambling frequently report that, despite losses stacking up, the buzz keeps bringing them back to the card table or slot machine.

"I wanted to gamble all the time," one former addict recalled to Scientific American in 2013. "I loved it — I loved that high I felt."

And recently, one Wall Street executive admitted defrauding family, friends and others out of $100 million to feed his habit.

"It was just a way for me to get money to feed a gambling addiction," he told the court.

Comment: See also:


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.

Comment: See also:


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.

Comment: Further reading:


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

Comment: Further reading: