Tags: Body & Mind, health, psychology
Upon trawling my mind as to how to define what this article is trying to convey, I decided to visit the World Health Organization’s website to define the area of Mental Health and its many different forms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health (and mental health) as: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Mental health is an integral part of this definition.”
How many of us can actually admit that we can know what our Mental Health is? Yes, that’s correct. There is simply not one single answer because Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and insomnia to name but a few are extremely complex and in many cases an intellectual minefield.
I did something on the way to work a couple of days ago partially out of disbelief but mostly out of frustration. I stopped trying to board a rush hour train and simply slumped my body onto the bench nearest to me. I refrained from being part of this scurry and began being consumed by the panic, havoc, and the general disarray of the many bodies thrusting and cramming relentlessly onto a Path train in order to get into work on time.
The constant rushing from one place to the next, the anxious glances at your wrist watch, the uneasy shuffling on the subway during rush hour, your heart beats faster and becomes more anxious, the perspiration builds on the palm of your hands, another quick glance. Damn, it’s almost 9:00 am and you are not going to make it to work on time.
Now stop for just a moment, if this is you and this happens five times a week on top of handling the heavy workload, on top of raising a family—you really need to be privy to the inner sanctums of your Mental Health.
Some individuals are fully aware and actively promoting a positive mind set within their lives, which is a smart and intelligent move.
But for those that don’t, your ability to handle stressful situations may well dictate the structure and successfulness of your life.
Mental health and anxiety issues can be just as detrimental to one’s well being as any other physical illness, yet we as individuals continuously fail to acknowledge these underlying and very prevalent issues.
When the topic of Mental Health is mentioned the concomitance ensues, which unfortunately is usually one of negativity. The whole spectrum of Mental Health is vast, complex and extremely multidimensional topic.
Not only do many individuals refuse to discuss their Mental Health openly, but in some cases remain in denial that their Mental Health maybe in actual fact be experiencing an overload.
One of the first steps to promoting a positive Mental Health within one’s life starts with actively acknowledging your Mental Health. Equipped with this knowledge one should then be talking steps to ensure your mental attitude is residing within a controlled environment.
Denial is a major component of depression and anxiety with prevents many individuals from taking the first positive steps.
According to Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, ”If you’re in denial, you’re not being realistic about something that’s happening in your life—something that might be obvious to those around you.
Sadly this in turn can lead to a multitude of issues and bottomless pits. These signposts include loneliness, depression, and isolation. They also include loss of self esteem through loss of a job or person through death.
All of the above scenarios are an attack on ones Mental Health and general well being causing individuals to become mentally ill, they feel as if they have nobody to turn to.
The current economic climate is having disastrous effects on individuals and their families, marriages have failed because of arguments about incomes, job losses and pressure to keep the family together in these turbulent times.
Although there are many contributing factors related to Mental Health issues many experts have cited poverty and economical factors as a major contributor including socio economic status. A culmination of the above leaves an individual with not only a feeling of vulnerability and disadvantage but is also seriously damaging to self confidence and belief.
Those who love and support you can see if you look tired, if your humor is mellow, and if you are generally just not being yourself.
These issues combined have a ripple affect essentially undermining ones confidence; this in turn reduces their productivity within their communities.
Tags: Body & Mind, Food, health
There are many herbs and foods that can treat and prevent a wide variety of illnesses and diseases. Many people are beginning to use natural antibiotics and remedies for these illnesses rather than relying on traditional Western medicine with risks and side effects.
Natural antibiotics can be powerful treatments for illnesses, preventing disease and keeping the body’s health in balance. Natural antibiotics, such as honey, ginger and Echinacea, among others, are powerful remedies to a wide variety of illnesses and diseases.
Honey has natural antibiotic properties. Spreading it on wounds and burns can fight infection and promote faster healing. Using locally sourced honey can also combat seasonal or environmental allergies. Since bees use local pollen to make their honey, people with pollen allergies can find relief by consuming local honey. As a natural sweetener, adding honey to tea is an excellent way to get its health benefits.
Garlic is an herb used commonly in cooking, but it can also be used as a remedy to fight off infections and diseases such as ear aches, colds, flus, and pneumonia. The herb can help boost the immune system and reduce risk of heart disease, and it contains lots of vitamin C, which is beneficial to people’s health. Because it is used so widely in cooking, garlic is readily available for anyone who needs it.
Tags: animals, Body & Mind, environmental issues, health, Nature, sustainable development
SYDNEY—California has become the newest region to ban lightweight plastic bags, joining four states and territories in Australia in restricting the use of disposable plastics. The move comes as Australian researchers study the toxicity of plastics, which are polluting the marine environment at a molecular level.
The Californian ban was signed into law on Sept 30, making plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies prohibited from July 1, 2015, with convenience and liquor stores to follow a year later.
In Australia, non-biodegradable lightweight plastic bags are banned in Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, but the legislation does permit the use of compostable, bio-degradable bags.
While the bans on bags represent important progress, researchers are finding the threat of plastics goes deeper than the disposable products we can see. Professor Richard Banati from the the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) says the full lifecycle of plastic is not yet understood and its degradability is questionable, particularly when litter is left to float in oceans.
The present paradigm is “the solution to pollution is dilution” but his research indicates otherwise.
“Dilution has its limits,” he said in a phone interview.
Beyond the Visible
There is no doubt that on a visible pollution level plastic is a huge problem. Scientists have found evidence of plastics choking or smothering many marine animals and ecosystems.
In a report released last month, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found plastic constituted most of the rubbish floating along Australia’s coastline, with densities ranging between a few thousand pieces of plastic per square kilometre to more than 40,000 pieces.
“About three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is plastic,” said CSIRO scientist Denise Hardesty after collating data from survey sites every 100 km along the Australian coastline. “Most is from Australian sources, not the high seas, with debris concentrated near cities.”
Professors Banati’s work, however, looks beyond the visible. Using nuclear scientific methods he is examining a more insidious interaction – plastic contamination at the molecular level.
Following the results of an earlier collaboration with biologist Dr Jennifer Lavers, who was researching plastic in shearwater birds, the two scientists found that when plastic interacts with sea water, it absorbs heavy metals, becoming more toxic as it degrades. Looking at shearwater feathers at the molecular level they have identified the presence of plastic particles.
“Micro plastic particles are perfectly bite sized pieces for things like krill, zoo plankton, filter feeders and all of the marine creatures at the very base of the marine food web,” Dr Laver said.
Professor Banati is now collecting a larger sample for further research, conducting his own survey from Hobart to Sydney Harbour.
His aim is to identify the full life cycle of plastic, its impact on marine life and the food chain.
The forensic method, he said, will make plastic traceable and in that respect make producers and consumers accountable.
It is the increasing use of plastic on a mass level that is the concern. Identifying the full life cycle of plastic will allow for a better understanding for industry and government of how and when it can best be used.
“Traceability will allow us to make policy decisions,” he said.
Tags: beyond science, Body & Mind, psychology, Science
By Tara MacIsaac
The universe is full of mysteries that challenge our current knowledge. In “Beyond Science” Epoch Times collects stories about these strange phenomena to stimulate the imagination and open up previously undreamed of possibilities. Are they true? You decide.
A lucid dream is a dream in which a person realizes he or she is dreaming and is able to consciously interact with the dream. People can learn to dream lucidly through various techniques (discussed later). Some psychologists use lucid dreaming to treat trauma victims, including veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Psychophysiologist Stephen LaBerge, who received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, has also said that studying lucid dreams may greatly help us better understand the phenomenon of dreaming; unclear dreamer-recall has always been a great hindrance to studying dreams, but lucid dreamers are able to remember their dreams with greater clarity. They are also able to perform actions in dreams following the instructions of researchers.
Psychologist J. Timothy Green treated a Vietnam War veteran who had recurrent nightmares about the time he saw his best friend killed in battle.
It was the same every time. His friend would fall, and blood would flow from his neck until he finally died.
“Because his dream was always the same, I suggested he pick one particular moment in the dream and each night as he fell asleep to mentally and emotionally visualize himself back in that particular moment and remind himself that he was dreaming. He decided to use the moment when he found that his buddy had died as the signal he was dreaming,” Green wrote in an article on Therapist-Psychologist.com.
The veteran followed Green’s advice and was able to realize he was dreaming when he saw his friend. He was then able to redirect the dream, telling his friend the war was over and they were going home. The friend didn’t die this time, but instead got up smiling and walked away.
The nightmare that had haunted this man for three decades did not return.
Green hypothesizes that nightmares are either subconscious attempts to make the individual aware of something, or they are “a psychological attempt to end a difficult, even terrifying event, in a less traumatic manner.”
“During lucid dreams, the individual is able to face the frightening images in his or her dreams and have the dream end in a more favorable and less traumatic manner,” Green wrote.
Neuroscientist and science writer Bill Skaggs noted that people who dream more often are also likely to be depressed.
“People who are very severely depressed often show an excess of REM sleep—the type of sleep in which dreams occur,” he wrote in a post on Quora.com. “Reducing the amount of REM sleep is an effective way of reducing the level of depression, at least temporarily.” Whereas eliminating REM sleep—eliminating dreams—is a temporary solution, Green helps patients change the dreams for more lasting results.
The Place of Lucid Dreaming in Dream Studies
LaBerge began studying lucid dreaming more than 40 years ago for his Ph.D. at Stanford. At the time, many dismissed the phenomenon of lucid dreaming as temporary arousals from sleep. The experiments of LaBerge and others, however, showed the physical effects of lucid dreaming on the brain, eye movement, and muscle movement.
The effects on the brain set lucid dreaming apart from waking life, but also from imagining. A lucid dreamer performing a certain action, such as singing, in a dream produced different brain activity than the same person singing in waking life or imagining singing while awake.
Such experimentation was only possible with lucid dreamers. LaBerge directed a test subject to signal to him while in the dream using pre-determined eye-movement patterns. Once the dreamer realized he was dreaming, he would make the eye-movements, which would also cause the eyes of his physical body to move. Then he would sing. When he was finished singing, he would make the eye movements again.
This way, LaBerge could see where the singing began and where it ended and could examine the brain activity data for that exact time period to see how it correlated to the action.
“The fact that recall for lucid dreams is more complete than for non-lucid dreams … presents another argument in favor of using lucid dreamers as subjects,” LaBerge wrote in “Lucid Dreaming: Evidence and Methodology.” “Not only can they carry out specific experiments in their dreams, but they are also more likely to be able to report them accurately. That our knowledge of the phenomenology of dreaming is severely limited by recall is not always sufficiently appreciated.”
How to Realize You’re Dreaming
Green had directed his patient to picture a scene as he was falling asleep and to also be aware that that scene is within a dream. This is one method of training yourself to dream lucidly.
Others have suggested would-be lucid dreamers get in the habit of asking themselves in waking life, “Am I dreaming?” If it’s a habit, you’re more like to ask yourself this question in a dream and realize it is indeed a dream.
Having a predetermined signal in mind can also help. For example, in the film “Waking Life,” which is themed around lucid dreaming, the main character knows that if he flips a light switch and it doesn’t change the lighting level, he’s in a dream. Many lucid dreamers have reported that establishing similar signals for themselves is helpful.
WikiHow gives several other techniques, including marking an “A” on your palm. Whenever you see the “A,” it can remind you to ask yourself whether you’re awake.
LaBerge wrote: “As long as we continue to consider wakefulness and sleep as a simple dichotomy, we will lie in a Procrustean bed that is bound at times to be most uncomfortable. There must be degrees of being awake just as there are degrees of being asleep (i.e. the conventional sleep stages). Before finding our way out of this muddle, we will probably need to characterize a wider variety of states of consciousness than those few currently distinguished (e.g. ‘dreaming,’ ‘sleeping,’ ‘waking,’ and so on).”
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Tags: Body & Mind, Food, health
By Shubhra Krishan, http://www.care2.com
We do know that high blood pressure can cause heart disease. But it does not stop there. This silent killer has been liked to serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, dementia, and kidney failure, among others. It is, in fact, the No. 1 killer in America, affecting almost 25 percent of the population, according to extensive research conducted at the University of New Mexico.
The good news is that high blood pressure can be kept in check, and it need not always be done using drugs. Here are some tried and tested ways to maintain healthy blood pressure:
- Eat almonds: Almonds are low in sodium, which is notorious for sending up blood pressure. At the same time, they area rich source of potassium, which helps the heart muscles contract and nerve transmissions strong. The result of this improved heart function is that your blood pressure does not get a chance to rise above normal levels. Two ounces or one quarter cup of almonds daily is the perfect amount to consume, say nutritionists.
- Drink coconut water: A study published in the West Indian Medical Journal shows that its potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C content make it a very heart-healthy drink. The best coconut water comes from young coconuts, which can be found in health stores and international markets.
- Cook with turmeric: results of a study published in the Nutrition Journal conclusively showed that 80 mg of turmeric per day significantly lowered high blood pressure. Not only that, the curcumin in turmeric was seen to lower the risk of liver disease and Alzheimer’s too. Time to reach out for that bowl of curry!
- Move more: If you exercise regularly, you are unlikely to suffer from high blood pressure. Here’s why: Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure. Moderate intensity exercise performed for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week is adequate for helping you maintain both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, say experts.
- Sing in the shower. Pummel a pillow when you’re angry. Dance. Let your stress find release, but in harmless ways. When you are feeling stressed, your heart starts beating faster. As a result, your blood vessels narrow, and blood pressure shoots up. Prolonged stress can cause long-term hypertension. So, try and be mindful of your stress, and find ways to deal with it before it sets in too deep. I find watching a comedy show or spending time with children very efficient ways of reducing stress. You?
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Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, Food, GMO, health, Science, sustainable development
Despite health concerns authorities push GMO, without fully admitting what they are doing
By Zhang Hong
On Aug. 17 safety certificates for genetically modified GMO varieties of corn and rice were due to be renewed by China’s Ministry of Agriculture, but the deadline came and went with no action being taken.
The failure to act was apparently not an oversight. Huang Dafang, a researcher from the Biotechnology Research Institute and a member of China’s Biosafety Committee, told state-run Xinhua news agency on Sept. 4 that the central authorities have an attitude of “active research and careful promotion” of GMOs.
Because local authorities fear public opinion against GMOs, Huang said, there was “a very slow procedure in getting approval” and the Aug. 17 deadline was missed.
The failure to act in this case amounts to a de facto approval. The curious handling of these safety certificates fits a general pattern of the Chinese regime moving toward a broad adoption of GMO food without publicly acknowledging this is happening.
Although authorities have never approved the commercial distribution of GMO rice in China, the environmental group Greenpeace reported that GMO rice was found in 4 of 15 samples bought by activists in randomly chosen supermarkets in November 2013 in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei Province.
Last year, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily reported that 27 countries in Europe have found GMO-contaminated rice among Chinese exports, including 46 shipments in 2010, and 19 shipments in the first 10 months in 2011. According to People’s Daily, although all of the shipments were returned and supposedly destroyed, they were actually sold on the domestic Chinese market.
On July 31, China News published an article headlined, “GMO Rice Grown in Hubei on a Large Scale, Growers Refuse to Eat It Themselves.”
According to the article, farmers who grow GMO rice sell all of it, refusing themselves to eat it. Instead, they grow a small amount of conventional rice for themselves and their families. As a result, GMO rice has taken over.
A rice farmer named Dong Kejiang told China News, “It is now difficult to find conventional rice seeds.”
Not Just Rice
The Economic Observer, a magazine in mainland China, reported in June 2011 that a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences said at a forum hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture that GMO crops such as corn and rice have been illegally grown in China for a long time.
GMO corn varieties were found all over the country including in the provinces of Sichuan, Hunan, Guizhou, Liaoning, and Jilin, according to the Economic Observer.
Much of the GMO food consumed in China is imported.
Professor Sun Wenguang from Shandong University Department of Economics told Epoch Times the Communist Party imports large quantities of GMO crops to alleviate food shortages, since GMO foods are relatively inexpensive. The Party intentionally conceals data such as the varieties of and lab results for GMO foods, according to Sun.
According to China-based Science Net, Li Guoxiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said China imports over 70 percent of its soybeans and more than 90 percent of its vegetable seeds, and most of them are genetically modified.
The extent to which the state is pushing GMO food can be seen in budgetary figures mentioned in a 2010 report.
China-based Science and Technology Daily quoted a member of the National People’s Congress who is also a director of a research institute for rice as saying that the central government had approved 30 billion yuan (US$4.9 billion) for the research and development of GMO crops, but only 180 million yuan (US$29 million) for non-GMO crops.
The state’s official data doesn’t reveal the extent of the use of GMO in China.
According to the data published by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2013, China has issued GMO Safety Certificates for eight domestically developed, genetically modified crops, including varieties of tomato, cotton, petunia, sweet pepper, chili pepper, papaya, rice, and corn.
However, according to the Plant Genetic Engineering Center in Hebei Province, a government-funded research center, the Ministry of Agriculture has in fact issued as many as 1,110 certificates since 1996.
This plunge into GMOs may have presented Chinese society with a fait accompli.
“GMO has entered so many areas of society, it’s almost impossible to ban it now,” said Li Guoxiang.
The GMO rice whose safety certificate expired on Aug. 17 is named Bt Shanyou 63. It has a protein called Bt added to it, which helps the rice resist pests.
Dr. Wang Yuedan of the Department of Medicine at Beijing University noted that Bt is a type of bacterial protein that kills insects and bugs by dissolving and “melting” their intestines.
“The Bt protein is not a natural component of rice,” Wang said. “It is a bacterial protein. There have not been sufficient laboratory tests on the safety of this variety of rice.”
“We do not yet know what possible effects eating this variety of rice will have on human physiology, especially when this bacterial protein is absorbed into the blood stream,” Wang said. “This bacterial protein, when fully integrated into the human body, may cause allergies and may weaken the immune system.”
After Wang injected his lab rats with the Bt protein four times over a four-month period, he found their immune systems became abnormal, their spleens atrophied, and their white blood cell counts changed. He said this shows the Bt protein seriously affects mammals.
Yuan Longping is an agricultural scientist and popularly known as China’s “father of hybrid rice.” He is also a critic of the Bt rice.
During the China Development Forum 2014 Yuan told Xinhua, “A number of transgenic, insect-resistant rice varieties contain a toxic protein. If insects die after ingesting it, what happens when humans eat it? We have to be especially careful.”
Fudan University life sciences professor Yang Jinshui recently told Shanghai Daily, “The bacteria genes in GMO rice cannot be completely metabolized and eliminated.” Yang is a member of the genetic research team at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
“Rice is the staple food of the Chinese,” Yang said. “If [GMO rice is] industrialized and commercialized on a large scale, there is no turning back in our country. So we have to be extremely careful.”
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Tags: Body & Mind, cellphones, Children, health, IT and Media, psychology, relationships, technology
By Zachary Stieber
Steve Jobs, the Apple visionary, didn’t let his children use iPhones or iPads when he was alive.
Jobs, who helped create many of Apple’s most famous products, was the father of two teenage girls and a son before he passed away in 2011.
New York Times reporter Nick Bilton recently revealed a portion of an interview he once had with Jobs.
“So, your kids must love the iPad?” Bilton asked.
“They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home,” Jobs responded.
“‘m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow,” Bilton added. “Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.”
Jobs didn’t elaborate in the interview, but Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, confirmed that Jobs valued time with his family away from screens.
“Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things,” Isaacson wrote.
“No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”
The NYT article includes quotes from a number of those involved in the tech world who also strictly limit their children’s screen time, including banning all gadgets on school nights.
“My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules,” Chris Anderson, CEO of 3d Robotics, said of his five children, 6 to 17. “That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”
Bilton says that the dangers he refers to include harmful content such as pornography, cyber bullying, and becoming addicted to devices.
Tags: Body & Mind, Nonviolent Communication, psychology, relationships
By Derek Markham, naturalpapa.com
It sometimes feels as if we’re caught between the old model of aggressive and combative manhood, where everything is a battle, and the new, kinder, gentler man, for whom everything is a compromise. And we don’t have a whole lot of examples of men walking the middle path in our modern culture.
It’s either Die Hard or the Simpsons.
So in real life, where confrontations are everywhere, from our kids to our spouse to our boss to a nosy neighbor, how does a good man stay rooted during heated conversations? And does it matter what the age or gender of the other party is?
I’ve also been wondering the same thing…
Anyone else tired of being a yes-man to their boss, their wife, their peers? Are you equally tired of backing down or avoiding confrontations with the know-it-alls, the bad-mouthing gossipers, and the self-righteous proselytizers? Or maybe you’re the one always getting in someone’s face?
Sometimes we don’t even know when we’re being too easy or too domineering in a situation, and in the course of trying to figure some of this out for myself, I came up with some guidelines that have helped me.
A Good Man’s Guide to Dealing with Confrontations:
Know your values. If you focus on what you stand for, instead of on what you’re against, just about any confrontation becomes quite a bit easier. We’re not as concerned with what others think is true for themselves if we’re well grounded in our own values.
Lead, don’t follow. Letting the other person lead you in a conversation or argument is giving away your half of the confrontation. You don’t have to follow. Instead, lead from your values.
Speak softly. Leave the big stick at home. This can be a very hard lesson to learn, and sometimes a painful one. Usually it’s because the other party has a bigger stick. Our deeper voices and tendency to ratchet up the volume when we get angry can also backfire on us by escalating a situation that could best be served by a calm, soft voice.
Toe the line. How would you act if you were in the presence of someone older and wiser than you? If our actions are out of line with our words and our relations, they would call us on it, and we probably need to seriously re-think things.
Keep your cool. Letting anger speak for you will just about always end up with your foot in your mouth (or worse). Cultivate and maintain your own internal reservoir of calm for times when you start to see red, and focus on that instead. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths, and other times, it takes all your effort. But it really, really helps.
Know when to fold or go all in. It seems obvious to say that there are more broke gamblers than rich ones, but I’m still surprised how many of us make bad bets every single day. For me, the difference has been in knowing when to cut my losses and just fold. Not too many times will we come across a situation where we know we need to bet the farm, and getting the guts to do that comes from acknowledging how many times we don’t have to. We can walk away.
Think of the children. Even if our kids aren’t around us at the time, they might be the best guides for us. How would they react to our posture and tone of voice? And is that what we want to embody?
Life is full of confrontations. How we deal with them helps to define who we are. Let’s be good men.
Originally published on NaturalPapa
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Scientific Proof for Karma? York U Study Finds Small Acts of Kindness Have Big Impact on Emotional Well-Being16 September, 2014 at 10:04 | Posted in Body & Mind, Science, Spirituality | Leave a comment
Tags: Body & Mind, psychology, relationships, Science, Spirituality
TORONTO, May 17, 2011 – Practicing small acts of kindness will make you a happier person, and the boost in mood stays with you for months, according to research out of York University.
More than 700 people took part in a study which charted the effects of being nice to others, in small doses, over the course of a week. Researchers asked participants to act compassionately towards someone for 5-15 minutes a day, by actively helping or interacting with them in a supportive and considerate manner. Six months later, participants reported increased happiness and self-esteem.
“The concept of compassion and kindness resonates with so many religious traditions, yet it has received little empirical evidence until recently,” says lead author Myriam Mongrain, associate professor of psychology in York’s Faculty of Health. “What’s amazing is that the time investment required for these changes to occur is so small. We’re talking about mere minutes a day,” she says.
Participants’ levels of depression, happiness, and self-esteem were assessed at the study’s onset, and at four subsequent points over the following six months; those in the compassionate condition reported significantly greater increases in self-esteem and happiness at six months compared to those in the control group.
So why does doing good for others make us feel good about ourselves?
Tags: Body & Mind, China, Food, health, technology
By Lu Chen
In ancient China, as the myths goes, the Emperor would use silver chopsticks to eat his food—because they would turn black if the food they touched contained poison.
Modern China now has an app for that: Smart Chopsticks, which promise to detect contaminated water, “gutter oil,” and chemicals in foods.
The product aims to respond to Chinese peoples’ general wariness about what they eat in the face of constant scandals of fake meat, gutter oil—that is, the stuff produced by underground workshops that use leftover oils and animal fats collected from the gutters outside restaurants—and chemical-laced rice and baby formulas.
Like the newest smartphone, the product was unveiled at a tech presentation held by Robin Li, the chairman and chief executive officer of Baidu Inc., China’s largest search engine. The chopsticks connect to a phone app using Bluetooth.
“Bringing Chinese people healthy living,” the slogan said at the Baidu Technology Innovation Conference in Beijing on Sept. 3.
“They can detect gutter oil,” Li said, to audience applause.
The device has three basic functions: it can analyze the quality of oil it touches and grade it superior, good, or bad. It can identify the pH levels, a measure of acidity or alkalinity, of liquids. Finally, it is supposed to be able to analyze the level of sweetness and even origin of fruits.
Data collected by the chopsticks is then beamed to the phone app, which analyzes the information and sends a conclusion to the chopsticks. An LED on the devices then lights up: blue means good quality, red means stay away.
Baidu released a video of the Smart Chopsticks on April Fool’s Day this year. The video went viral online, but was taken as a prank.
“But now we have the product made,” Robin Li said. Baidu hasn’t given a timeline for when it will be put on the market.
Reaction online was a mixture of excitement at the product and disappointment that such a product was necessary. “If the safety of our food is guaranteed, would we need something like these chopsticks??” wrote cheer_liu.
Food safety has become a major social issue in China in recent years. The regime on Wednesday announced prison sentences for up to eight years of 39 people in 17 food safety cases. They were guilty of adding chemical contaminants, like industrial salt, during the processing of meat, seafood, vegetables, and even medications. The court says one group produced and sold three tons of contaminated bean sprouts per day.
In 2013, police in the coastal city of Wenzhou uncovered 10 underground mills that used massive amounts of chemical additives and coloring agents to clean out-of-date meat and sell it to the public. The Ministry of Public Security in 2013 released a warning to consumers in Shanghai that recent lamb products may have been either rat, fox, or mink meat.
One of China’s biggest dairy companies, the Sanlu Group, was found to have produced baby formula containing melamine, a deadly chemical, in 2008. The poisoning led to the deaths of six babies and illnesses of over 300,000.
“There’s no food for us to eat,” wrote Internet user KathieCANke on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. “Everything’s poisoned.”
Tags: Body & Mind, psychology, relationships, Society, Spirituality
By Susanne W. Lamm
Epoch Times Staff
GOTHENBURG, Sweden—A Swedish prison, specialized in treating drug offenders, offered the inmates meditation – under the label of “mindfulness” – as an addition to their regular treatment program. The idea was that prisoners would be able to cope better with everyday life after their release. The method is called “The Path of Freedom”, and has received high praise from inmates and prison staff alike.
Ulrika Lilljegren, former manager of the Högsbo prison facility, says that inmates seem to be more responsive to the other treatment programs if they are combined with yoga or meditation, for instance.
According to Lilljegren, many inmates most likely suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders, like ADHD, or are damaged from long-term drug abuse. They often find it difficult to focus and concentrate.
“We had a guy like that [in the “Path of Freedom”-project],” she says. “Watching him sit still for half an hour, was a completely new experience. He was always very active, just bouncing around the ward, but he had found something in this meditation practice that allowed him to sit still.
Meditation provides new tools for the participants, helping them to perhaps stop and think before they act. They discover ways to adjust their behavior in a way that helps them not get into trouble all the time.
“Of course, different people had different reactions, but for a couple of them, it had a huge impact, and a great influence,” Lilljegren says.
Pake Hall from the Gothenburg Zen Center led the classes. He thinks the prison is a great environment for meditation.
“It’s such a difficult environment,” he mentions. “But you become aware of the fact that you need to face your own dark sides. They emerge when you’re locked up like that, and have nowhere to go. There is also plenty of time for practice. In many ways, it’s like a monastery.”
Hall feels a connection to society’s less fortunate. He often ended up with people that have social problems, with individuals whose behavior is on the borderline between what is and isn’t functional in society. He worked at treatment centers, and also with children with different kinds of difficulties.
When he began to meditate earnestly, he felt there was something in it he wanted to pass on to others. He thought about all the people who were locked up, who might be interested in meditation, but who don’t have a chance to learn it.
He joined an American network called Prison Dharma Network. Here he became the mentor of a young American man, serving a double-life sentence for gang-related murders, and who had become interested in practising Buddhism. Their exchange was limited to letters, but the Prison Dharma Network later held a class that would allow Hall to hold Path of Freedom-classes at Swedish criminal facilities.
“The Path of Freedom is based on a very simple idea,” he says. “It’s all about helping people who are locked up.
“It’s about questioning whether these walls really are what’s keeping us from being free, or if there is something else standing in our way,” Hall explains. “Maybe we’re stuck in our own prisons, no matter if we’re sitting in our home in Gothenburg, with unlimited freedom, or locked up in a high-security prison? Maybe we’re all trapped by desire and aversion? This is a way to work with these issues, regardless of your surroundings.”
But shouldn’t society’s resources be used for helping people who fall prey to criminals and their actions, rather than the criminals themselves? Hall has a different perspective.
“I see nothing but victims here,” he says. “As soon as we commit an act that leads to another person’s suffering, that person suffers, but we suffer too, because we have to live with the consequences of that action. There are two victims, not one.”
He adds that the prison is in fact a great place for breaking the patterns of human existence. Many people in prison have deeply rooted patterns of hurting themselves and others. If you can somehow help them get out of these ruts, suffering may be reduced, both for them and for those around them.
The class consisted of 12 sessions. In order to motivate the inmates, they were scheduled in the middle of the week, which meant they could attend mindfulness classes instead of working. Each session lasted between 1 and 1,5 hours, and consisted of both theory and practice, one-on-one talks, and sharing experiences with the group.
Subjects like compassion, love, forgiveness, acceptance, and conflict resolution were at the center of the curriculum. Between the sessions, inmates would have “cell practice”, where they put into practice what they had learned.
“You don’t know how these people are going to take what you’re teaching them,” Hall says. “You sow little seeds during these short sessions. It’s a very, very dull environment. We’re in a locked room, with guards present at all times, for security reasons. New people join all the time, and many participants are having major problems with restlessness and anxiety.”
The “us and them”-culture of the prison was also an obstacle. To inmates, it’s important to not appear vulnerable, to be tough and to maintain their status.
“A mindfulness class is very much about just letting go and opening up,” Hall explains. “It’s about looking at what you’ve got, so of course the group can get sensitive at times. Once you’ve done a few sessions, though, something happens. It becomes a safe place, a ‘container’ for sharing things, or just listening to the teacher without making smart remarks to your neighbor. But as soon as new people enter the group, their masks are put on again, more or less.”
Being a neutral, third party in between prisoners, management and staff was also tricky, according to Hall.
“Everyone wants you to be their ally,” he explains. “The guards want to influence the inmates in a certain direction. Some thoughts and ideas are supposed to be ‘wrong’ from their perspective. And during the sharing with the inmates after the meditation, they would vent their anger with the guards. Not agreeing with them, yet not contradicting them, being there with them and not making them feel like you’re distancing yourself or disrespecting how they feel… It was very interesting, the way that game was always on.”
Overall, the project was a success. The response from the participants was positive. One of them wrote:
“My head is like a (…) ping pong game all the time, with balls flying all over the place, and now I’ve realized I don’t need to return all those balls.”
Another participant described how, when another inmate was “eyeballing him” in the cafeteria line, he remembered what he had learned in class, and just moved his attention down to his feet, instead of resorting to violence.
“That’s great, of course,” Hall says. “Those little seeds you sow, and when they tell you that they really liked it, and wanted more of it. It was worth the time I spent there.”
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Tags: Body & Mind, IT and Media, psychology, relationships, Science, sustainable development, technology
Children who spend five days away from their smartphones, televisions and other screens were substantially better at reading facial emotions afterwards, a new study has found.
The UCLA study suggests that children’s social skills are hurt by spending less and less time interacting face-to-face (Uhls et al., 2014).
Professor Patricia Greenfield, who co-authored the study, said:
“Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs.
Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs.
The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”
Tags: Body & Mind, psychology
Tags: Body & Mind, psychology, Science
By Baylor University
Forgiving ourselves for hurting another is easier if we first make amends—thus giving our inner selves a “moral OK,” according to Baylor University psychology researchers.
The research, published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, is significant because previous studies show that the inability to self-forgive can be a factor in depression, anxiety, and a weakened immune system, researchers said.
“One of the barriers people face in forgiving themselves appears to be that people feel morally obligated to hang on to those feelings. They feel they deserve to feel bad. Our study found that making amends gives us permission to let go,” said researcher Thomas Carpenter, a doctoral student in psychology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences.
The research article was based on two studies. In the first, 269 participants recalled diverse “real-world” offenses they had committed, ranging from romantic betrayals to physical injury to gossip to rejection. In the second study, 208 participants were asked about a hypothetical wrong.
In the first study, participants were asked how much they have forgiven themselves for an actual offense; how much they had tried such efforts as apology, asking forgiveness and restitution; how much they felt the other person had forgiven them; and how much they saw self-forgiveness as morally appropriate.
The more they made amends, the more they felt self-forgiveness was morally permissible. Further, receiving forgiveness also appeared to help people feel it was all right.
Researchers said one limitation of the first study was that the offenses varied from person to person. So to further test their hypotheses, in Study 2 they used a standardized hypothetical offense—failing to take the blame for the action that caused a friend’s firing. This study revealed similar results to the first, although—unlike in Study 1—receiving forgiveness from someone else had little effect on whether one forgave oneself.
The research also showed that the guiltier a person felt and the more serious the wrong, the less he or she was likely to self-forgive. Making amends also appeared to help people self-forgive by reducing those feelings, the researchers found. Also, women were generally less self-forgiving than men.
Self-forgiveness may be “morally ambiguous territory,” researchers wrote, and “individuals may, at times, believe that they deserve to continue to pay for their wrongs.” But by making amends, they may be able to “tip the scales of justice.”
Funding for the research was supported in part by a grant from the Fetzer Institute. Study co-authors are Jo-Ann Tsang, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences; and Robert D. Carlisle, Ph.D., an analyst at Mesa Public Schools and formerly of the department of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.
Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, environmental issues, health, Nature, Society, sustainable development
By Hong Jiang
China’s environment has been so thoroughly assaulted by urban and industrial development that pollution in air, water, and soil has reached alarming levels. “It’s on a scale and speed the world has never known,” according to Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center. What do we know? What can be done?
Beijing’s air pollution reached a level so dramatically high in January 2013 that a new word, “airpocalypse,” was coined for it. The word has since been used to refer to the alarming air pollution in Beijing and other Chinese cities.
Beijing’s PM2.5 level reached beyond 500 in January 2013, with the high index recurring in 2014.
The smog-choked city experienced a visibility so low that it put schools and work at a halt.
World Health Organization (WHO) measures PM2.5, particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, as a health indicator, as it can penetrate the blood stream and enter the lungs, causing respiratory disease, lung cancer, and various other ailments. Safe exposure to PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter annually, and 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period—called PM2.5 index 12 and 25, respectively.
A research report released by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in February 2013 ranked Beijing as the second worst in living environment among 40 major cities in the world, according to the Daily Mail. The study considered Beijing “barely suitable” for living due to its severe air pollution.
Smog is especially severe in northern Chinese cities during the winter heating season when coal burning adds to air pollution. In October 2013, the northern city of Harbin had the record PM2.5 index of 1,000, with visibility reduced to less than 50 meters, according to data from China’s environmental protection agency.
China’s unbridled and coal-dependent development serves as the direct cause of air pollution. China consumes half of the coal in the world, used to fuel the world’s second-largest economy.
Air pollution has caused great harm to human health. Based on a “2010 Global Burden of Disease” study published in December 2013 in The Lancet, a British medical journal, air pollution led to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, which is about 40 percent of the global total.
Air pollution has reduced life expectancy by 5.5 years in Northern China, according to a study done by researchers from China, Israel, and the United States and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year.
China’s airpocalypse not only chokes the Chinese cities, but also affects other countries through long-range transport of air pollutants. About 40–60 percent of fine particulate pollution in Japan comes from China, said Hiroshi Tanimoto at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies to New York Times. The effect on Korea is even greater. Pollutants have crossed the Pacific to affect the western part of the United States.
China’s airpocalypse goes hand in hand with China’s rank as the top emitter of greenhouse gases, aiding the driver of global climate change and the threat of global warming.
Water ‘Too Dangerous to Touch’
If air pollution is bad enough, water pollution is an even worse problem and more difficult to resolve, said a report by The Economist.
“There are large parts of the urban water supply which are not only too dangerous to drink—they are too dangerous to touch,” said John Parker, globalization editor at The Economist, in a video interview. “You cannot even wash in them.”
Data from the Chinese government in 2011 shows that over half of China’s large lakes and reservoirs were too contaminated for human use. Groundwater, which accounts for one-third of China’s water resources, suffers similar pollution. Of the more than 4,700 groundwater-quality testing stations, about 60 percent showed “relatively bad” or worse pollution level. Half of the rural population lacks safe drinking water.
Chemical, pharmaceutical, and power plants spew pollutants into waterways, creating dead zones where they flow. A notable example is central China’s Huai River, pronounced dead by Elizabeth Economy in her well-known 2004 book on China’s environment, “The River Runs Black.”
If China’s air pollution makes airpocalypse, water pollution has created incidents that attract international attention. In 2007, Lake Tai suffered from a heavy carpet of blue-green algae that is cancer-inducing, and its gruesome images have circulated on the Web. The 2006 incident of a chemical spill contaminated Songhua River in Northeast China, and the government cover-up was widely criticized. Many more incidents, however, go under reported.
Some incidents of water pollution can be sadly surreal. Urban waterways in the eastern city of Wenzhou were so polluted by chemicals that a lit cigarette set the water on fire, as reported in the Daily Mail earlier this year. This is not the first time a river was on fire, and other images of water pollution show water turning black or red or orange, or carpeted with algae or dead fish.
A report on chinadialogue indicates that in 2012 over half of China’s cities had water of “poor” or worse quality. Ma Jun, an environmentalist who heads a Beijing-based green NGO, told chinadialogue, “Tackling water pollution is as serious and worthy a challenge for the authority as combating air pollution … water pollution poses a bigger health threat to about 300 million people living in rural areas.”
Polluted Soil and Food
China Daily, an English-language newspaper published by the Chinese regime, ran an editorial stated, “Soil contaminated with heavy metals is eroding the foundation of the country’s food safety and becoming a looming public health hazard.”
Nearly one-fifth of China’s farmland is polluted, according to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land Resources. Chemicals such as cadmium, nickel, arsenic, lead, and mercury poison the soil, as they are dumped into waters used for irrigation.
Early this year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection admitted that there are 450 pollution-related “cancer villages” in China. Prior to that, soil pollution and its threat to health and food received limited media attention, and the Chinese government had kept data on soil pollution as a “state secret.”
The change was partly brought about by a recent scandal of cadmium in rice that set off a Hunan rice scare. According to the mainland business magazine Caijing, the city of Guangzhou inspected local restaurants and found excessive cadmium level in 44.4 percent of rice and rice products. Most of the rice came from Hunan Province.
According to Caixin’s New Century Magazine, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other institutions had reported on cadmium pollution in 2009. They sampled 100 rice paddies near mines throughout Hunan Province, and found that 65 percent of the samples exceeded the cadmium safety limit. The contaminated rice had entered the local and national market.
WHO’s website states, “Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal, and the respiratory systems.” The heavy metal is leached from mines and chemical factories in Hunan.
Also under the spotlight are Hunan’s new cancer villages, among which, Shuanqiao. China Youth reported that 26 people in Shuanqiao died of cadmium poisoning. Soil samples there showed cadmium content 300 times the permitted level, and 509 of its 2,888 villagers were tested positive for cadmium poisoning. The chemical came from the Xianghe Chemical Plant, whose pollution villagers have complained about since 2006. This example is just the tip of the iceberg of chemical poisoning in China.
Worrisome ‘War Against Pollution’
Facing catastrophic environmental pollution, the Chinese government has become alert. Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced early this year at the National People’s Congress, “We will declare war against pollution.” Li said, “Smog is affecting larger parts of China, and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”
The Chinese government has plans to clean up the environment. In September 2013, the government launched a $280 billion plan to clean up the air, and early this year, it announced an investment of $300 billion to tackle water pollution. Experts are uncertain, however, whether these investments will change the situation.
What is worrisome is the regime’s persistent attitude of a “war against nature,” that has rendered past investments in the environment limited in their effect. In Mao’s war against nature, draconian actions in agriculture destroyed the fabric of the rural ecosystem. Post-Mao pursuit of economic development has only trumped the past trend with unprecedented pollution in air, water, and soil from industrial and urban growth.
Experts on China believe the root of China’s environmental problems lies with the top-down control by the Communist Party, which has been trapped in corruption and a lack of political accountability and rule of law. Economic incentives for officials have continued to leave pollution unchecked. As some polluting factories are closed, others pop up.
“Environmental problems are one of the main outcomes of a one party-ruled, corrupted, non-humane government,” said Ahkok Wong, a university lecturer in Hong Kong, to the ROAR Magazine.
Environmental pollution has increasingly become a source of discontent and protest in China. In the 1990s, rural protests in China already included pollution-related land loss. Since the 2000s, large-scale protests expanded to cities where citizens reject polluting factories and plants. According to a Pew survey, environmental issues accounted for half of the protests in 2013 in China.
Short of fundamental changes in the political system, it is hard to foresee major environmental improvements.
As Mao obliterated traditional Chinese belief of harmony between human beings and heaven, and as the post-Mao communist regime continues to favor development over the environment, the moral foundation of the Chinese people has also been eroded, aiding corruption and disregard for others and the environment.
Without a rebuilding of a moral system, the Chinese environment will continue to suffer, along with the Chinese people.
Hong Jiang is associate professor and chair of the geography department at University of Hawaii at Manoa. She specializes in China’s environment and culture.
For more photos: China’s Environmental Catastrophe
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