OpenMindPortal is a multi-media on-line information hub about leading a fulfilled life. We create and aggregate various content to cover 4 main areas of personality formation: Intelligence, Emotions, Body, and Experience.
I’m sure you know your brain works better following exercise?
A team of researchers in Ireland made this discovery through a relatively simple experiment. They asked a group of students to watch a rapid lineup of photos.
Each photo included a name and face of a stranger. Then, after a brief break, the students tried to recall the names of the faces that had moved across the computer screen. After this initial test, half of the students were asked to ride a stationary bicycle at a strenuous pace until they reached exhaustion. The other half of the students sat quietly for 30 minutes. Then both groups took the test again to see how many names they could recall.
The group of students who exercised performed much better on the memory test than they had on their first attempt. The group who simply sat in another room did not improve. As part of this experiment, the scientists also collected blood samples, through which they discovered a biological explanation for the increase in recall among the students who exercised. Immediately after the strenuous activity, students in the exercise group had much higher levels of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which promotes the health of nerve cells.
So make some time daily, weekly for that walk, work-out, run, hike etc.
If the brain could brag that’s pretty much all it would do. It’s easily the most complicated organ in your body, and, more than that, the nimblest computer that has ever existed. But the brain has a bug and everyone knows is: memory. No matter how powerful its operating system becomes, its storage system stinks.
Even in childhood, when the brain is as clear and uncluttered as it will ever be, memory is still imperfect, given to random failures, depending on how rested we are, how attentive we’re being and a range of other things. Now, a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests an unusual strategy for improving it: drawing.
As long ago as 1973, investigators were studying the memory-boosting advantage of so-called dual-coding—the way that a combination of both thinking about an object or activity and drawing a picture of it can make us remember it better. Research did show that the strategy worked, but the studies were both sparse and flawed, failing to account for the mere fact that it takes longer to draw a picture than, say, write a word, and whether writing the word in a more time-consuming way—using elaborate calligraphy, for example—would thus boost recall too.
In order to tease out those and other variables, a group led by psychologist Jeffrey D. Wammes recruited sample groups of students and ran seven different trials of essentially the same experiment on them. In all of the trials, the scientists started with a list of 80 simple words—all nouns and all easy to draw, such as balloon, fork, kite, pear, peanut and shoe. A random series of 30 of those words were flashed on a screen along with instructions either to draw the object or write down its name. After the 30 words, they would perform a filler task—listening to a series of tones and identifying whether each was low-, high-, or medium-pitched. That task had nothing to do with the study, except to get the subjects’ minds off of what they had just done, so that the memories could either consolidate or, just as often, vanish. Finally, they would write down a list of as many of the objects from the first test as they could.
In most of the trials, the subjects got 40 seconds to draw their picture, but in one they got just four seconds. In another variation, they would draw the object or write the word or, as a third option, list its descriptive characteristics. In another, the third option would be to visualize the object. In yet another, they would write the word as elaborately and decoratively as possible.
But no matter how many variations of the test the researchers ran, one result was consistent: Drawing the object beat every other option, every single time.
We observed a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written. Participants often recalled more than twice as many drawn words.
said Wammes in a prepared statement.
Just why this is so is not clear. One past theory had been that drawing requires what the researchers call a deeper LoP—or level of processing. But the trial in which the subjects were required to list the characteristics of an object went pretty deep too, and it didn’t make a difference. Another theory had been that drawing simply takes longer, but the four-second trial appeared to debunk that.
For now, Wammes and his group are speaking only generally, concluding that drawing encourages
a seamless integration of semantic, visual and motor aspects of a memory trace,
as they wrote in their paper. It will take more work to put flesh on those theoretical bones. For now, however, they only know that the technique works—providing a long-awaited software patch for the computer inside your head.
I recently attended an all day event at the USC Campus, specifically at the USC Davis School of Gerontology to learn about the latest science on healthy aging from several of the world’s top aging experts. I feel inspired to share with you all what I learned. Many of you may have come across the information that I am about to share, but in case you have not, it’s never too late to learn something new!
1) One of the “hottest” question presented was “Does caloric restriction extend lifespan?” Answer: only sometimes. But if you compare a low fat diet versus a Mediterranean diet (which includes nuts and olive oil), the Mediterranean diet wins! It was shown to prevent cognitive decline and heart problems.
2) Sitting is the new smoking! Incredible to believe but the more hours you spend sitting on a daily basis decreases your health span. It is important to use your break time to get away from your workspace. And if you don’t get any breaks? Get up and take a walk to the bathroom every hour or two. Sitting can cause a multitude of heart problems, whereas smoking can cause lung problems/lung cancer. I guess you pick and choose your poison, or avoid them altogether.
3) Ovaries removed after normal menopause lessens a woman’s risk for dementia. Ovaries removed before normal menopause increases a woman’s risk for dementia.
4) A low protein, high carbohydrate diet is recommended for everyone below 65 years of age. Once you reach 65 and older, moderate (not low!) protein intake is recommended.
5) If you want to live longer and spend your later years without getting a disease or being disabled in any way, adhering to a plant based diet that includes high levels of legumes, vegetables and healthy fats (olive oil, other monounsaturated fats, nuts) is recommended. Waist goals for men to have should be less than 40 inches, and less than 35 inches for women.
6) Take care of your teeth! Get regular dental checkups! Edentulousness (having no teeth) is directly related to nutritional issues and health problems.
7) Watch the BBC video: The Men Who Made Us Fat.
8) Recommended weight loss programs are: weight watchers and TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).
9) Create your own individualized diet/meal plan that takes into consideration your age, gender, weight, and activity levels.
Humans suppress areas of the brain used for analytical thinking and engage the parts responsible for empathy in order to believe in god, research suggests.
They do the opposite when thinking about the physical world, according to the study.
“When there’s a question of faith, from the analytic point of view, it may seem absurd,” said Professor Tony Jack, who led the research.
“But, from what we understand about the brain, the leap of faith to belief in the supernatural amounts to pushing aside the critical/analytical way of thinking to help us achieve greater social and emotional insight.
The countries in the world with the most “convinced atheists.” Countries in grey were not surveyed.
In an analysis of eight experiments, published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers also found people with faith were more empathetic than those without.
The researchers examined the relationship between the belief in god and measures of analytic thinking and moral concern in eight experiments, each using between 159 and 527 adult participants.
Although both spiritual belief and empathic concern were positively associated with frequency of prayer or meditation, neither were predicted by social contact – such as church dinners – associated with religious affilation.
In earlier research, Professor Jack’s Brain, Mind & Consciousness laboratory used an fMRI machine to show the brain has an analytical network of neurons that enables humans think critically and a social network to empathise.
“Because of the tension between networks, pushing aside a naturalistic world view enables you to delve deeper into the social/emotional side,”
Professor Jack explained.
“And that may be the key to why beliefs in the supernatural exist throughout the history of cultures. It appeals to an essentially nonmaterial way of understanding the world and our place in it.”
The researchers said the human brain explores the world using both networks. When presented with a physics problem or ethical dilemma, a healthy brain activates the appropriate network while suppressing the other.
Such suppression may lead to the conflict between science and religion, the researchers added.
“Because the networks suppress each other, they may create two extremes,” said Richard Boyatzis, professor of organisational behavior at Case Western Reserve University.
“Recognising that this is how the brain operates, maybe we can create more reason and balance in the national conversations involving science and religion.”
Half of your brain may be staying awake to keep watch when you sleep in someone else’s bed…
Whether you’re staying in a hotel or having a sleepover, you never sleep quite as well on a bed that’s not your own.
That’s an observable fact. When scientists have people sleep in a lab for an experiment, they often toss out the first night of data because people sleep so poorly. But before now, they haven’t known why.
In a small new study published in Current Biology, researchers from Brown University found out what goes on in the brain when a person sleeps in an unfamiliar place. They measured brain activity during the deep sleep of 35 young, healthy people.
The researchers found evidence that something unique indeed goes on in the brain during the first night: one hemisphere of the brain, the left, shows wakefulness while the other shows sleep.
This alertness during sleep in half of the brain has been observed in other animals—including whales, dolphins and birds—and is thought to act as a kind of night watch.
“The environment is so new to us, we might need a surveillance system so we can monitor the surroundings and we can detect anything unusual,”
says Masako Tamaki, one of the authors of the study and research associate at the Laboratory for Cognitive and Perceptual Learning at Brown University.
We’re most vulnerable when we’re asleep, in other words, and by staying partially awake, our brains might be trying to protect us.
Our brain remain active when we sleep. researchers also found that when they outfitted the people in the study with earphones, the left side showed a larger brain response to high-pitched sounds than the right—suggesting more vigilance in that hemisphere.
The study raises a lot of unanswered questions; researchers don’t yet know why they saw this effect in the left hemisphere and not the right. But interestingly, both of these asymmetries only occurred on the first night—something to keep in mind the next time you can’t fall asleep in a strange place.
Exploring the myth of the Scientific vs. Artistic Mind
It’s a stereotype, but many of us have made the assumption that scientists are a bit rigid and less artistic than others. Artists, on the other hand, are often seen as being less rational than the rest of us. Sometimes described as the left side of the brain versus the right side–or simply logical thinking versus artistic creativity–the two are often seen as polar opposites.
Neuroscience has already shown that everyone uses both sides of the brain when performing any task. And while certain patterns of brain activity have sometimes been linked to artistic or logical thinking, it doesn’t really explain who is good at what–and why. That’s because the exact interplay of nature and nurture is notoriously difficult to tease out. But if we put the brain aside for a while and just focus on documented ability, is there any evidence to support the logic versus art stereotype?
Psychological research has approached this question by distinguishing between two styles of thinking: convergent and divergent. The emphasis in convergent thinking is on analytical and deductive reasoning, such as that measured in IQ tests. Divergent thinking, however, is more spontaneous and free-flowing. It focuses on novelty and is measured by tasks requiring us to generate multiple solutions for a problem. An example may be thinking of new, innovative uses for familiar objects.
Studies conducted during the 1960s suggested that convergent thinkers were more likely to be good at science subjects at school. Divergent thinking was shown to be more common in the arts and humanities.
However, we are increasingly learning that convergent and divergent thinking styles need not be mutually exclusive. In 2011, researchers assessed 116 final-year UK arts and science undergraduates on measures of convergent and divergent thinking and creative problem solving. The study found no difference in ability between the arts and science groups on any of these measures. Another study reported no significant difference in measures of divergent thinking between arts, natural science and social science undergraduates. Both arts and natural sciences students, however, rated themselves as being more creative than social sciences students did.
Going With the Flow
Studies have actually revealed considerable overlap in the cognitive processes supporting both scientific and artistic creativity. The psychological concept of “flow”, pioneered by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in the 1990s, describes a state of consciousness where one is completely absorbed and energized while performing an activity. Flow experience has been strongly linked to peak performance in many artistic and creative domains.
There is also substantial overlap in the use of visualization and mental imagery during scientific and artistic thinking. Great scientists such as Albert Einstein, Michael Faraday and Nikola Tesla all reported that they used mental imagery when describing their thought processes. Studies have also found that mental imagery plays a central role during the construction and evaluation of many scientific “thought experiments”, in which a scientist mentally assesses the implications of a particular hypothesis.
Perhaps more obviously, such mental imagery also features strongly in musical composition, painting and architectural design. The Power of Stereotyping
Convergent and divergent thinking abilities aren’t necessarily innate. A recent study on creative stereotypes asked individuals to complete a divergent thinking task while adopting the perspective of either an “eccentric poet” or a “rigid librarian”.
Those who imagined being an “eccentric poet” performed significantly better on the creative task than those who imagined being a “rigid librarian”, suggesting that the activation of stereotypical views on creative thinking can enhance or inhibit individuals’ performance.
Despite such preconceptions of the ways in which logical and unstructured thinking styles are related to creativity, it is not difficult to find examples of individuals who do not fit the stereotype. Albert Einstein was a keen musician who enjoyed playing the piano and violin while Nobel Prize-winner Richard Feynman worked as an artist using the pseudonym “Ofey”. Musicians Brian May, Brian Cox and Greg Graffin all completed science PhDs.
Case studies of scientists engaging in art and vice versa are often presented as being unusual. However, psychologists recently conducted a comprehensive review of the extent to which Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, members of the Royal Society and US National Academy of Sciences, and members of the US public reported engaging in arts and crafts-based pursuits. They found that members of the Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences were almost twice as likely to report engaging in arts and crafts pursuits as the general public. Eminent Nobel laureate scientists were almost three times more likely to report such activities.
These findings clearly show that the stereotypical view that scientists and other logical thinkers are less likely to be artistic or creative fall wide of the mark. As Einstein himself noted: “The greatest scientists are artists as well.”
When you wake up with a smile on your face it is good indication that you are doing something right. Our simple emotions are like litmus paper – the best indicator of what is going on in our lives. But what if you wake-up drained, apathetic, scared about your future? There are five crucial fields you should check daily.
The body reacts first
The body is born to serve our basic needs and act as a box for the soul (our essence or spirit). Ayurveda practitioners believe that the body is “older” than the mind. Indeed, when one is born he/she is not able to analyse things, because cognitive skills are as yet undeveloped. This is the probably the best period of our existence, as we are still free from that constant, irritating and uncontrollable churn of thoughts that plague us later in life.
The body is the only real means a new-born has of indicating his or her feelings. Being adults we always put rationality first, not paying enough attention to our body’s signals. This is a huge mistake, as the body never lies! All the signals it sends us should be accepted, acknowledged, and taken into account. So, if you suffer a lack of energy, poor focus, or constant fatigue – it is time to change your routine.
Sufficient Sleep + Healthy Eating + Physical Activities + Fresh Air + Sex = Body Wellbeing.
It’s a pretty simple equation, but at the same time, one which is surprisingly difficult for most of us to put into effect.
However, this apparent complexity is just an abstract construction of our mind. If you walk instead of taking the train, car or bus, you have already met two fundamental needs at the same time (activity and fresh air).
Sex is the most well-known source of both endorphins and serotonin (happiness hormones). Of course, not all of us have the possibility to have regular sex – but this isn’t a problem. I don’t believe it was an issue when you were 15 (at least for most of us!). There are so many other ways of getting your daily dose of happiness: Weight training, yoga and deep relaxation, 5 HTP (naturally occurring amino acid acting as a precursor of serotonin), deep tissue massage, and proliferations of other methods, to name a few. You should aim to a rule of thumb to get two separate happiness experiences a day, topping up your levels of endorphins and serotonin.
Healthy Eating is also fundamental. Doing nutrition consulting over years I realized that 99% of people have difficulty in telling apart basic carbs, fat and protein sources. Very frequently we suffer from minor and major food intolerances: Major intolerances can inflict a great degree of pain, and so we are usually aware of them. Minor intolerances are not so obvious, but could nevertheless cause serious health problems. The best way to tackle the problem is to conduct an allergens and food intolerance test to identify the core problems, and then hire a qualified practitioner to design a well-balanced flexible diet to meet your needs. Even if you have a perfect body and don’t plan on losing or gaining weight, a balanced bespoke flexible diet could help you to maximize performance, boost your energy and immune system, and even extend your youth.
So, keep your body in good order and always listen to its signals: It will definitely pay off!
Monster in your head
Have you ever caught yourself thinking almost obsessively about something very unpleasant? I bet your answer is yes.
You are not alone. Obtrusive thinking is a major “defect” of the human brain.
Eckhart Tolle, the author of bestseller “The Power of Now”, and “The New Earth” compares this trait of human cognitive processes with the concept of original sin. In other words, all of us suffer from obtrusive negative thinking. It could be snippets past conversations, fighting with invisible “enemies”, or simply anxieties about possible future events that, most likely, will never happen.
It has been scientifically proven that obtrusive thinking is very energy-consuming. I compare it to a hungry vampire, sucking out your energy, draining you of life. You should remember that this ugly, greedy vampire only exists in your own head.
To many of us it seems like a trap from which we can’t escape, but wait: There are some people who are able to beat the Monster, for a while, at least. How? By focusing exclusively on the present moment. All your negative feelings, fears, anxieties and regrets dwell in the past (which you can’t change) or in the future (that you can’t control). So the present moment is the only safe place you have. Next time when the Monster attacks, do something that immediately requires your full, undivided attention. According to Zen principles and cognitive behavioural therapy practitioners, humans are not really able to successfully multitask, as we tend to believe. It’s an illusion. We are really able to do one thing at any one time, and this is a potent weapon in battling our Monster.
My personal method of combatting my inner, negative voice was to start lifting heavy weights, for instance, and counting reps. Doing this slowly, by flexing my muscles for 10 seconds during every rep, didn’t allow me to pay much attention to the Monster. Try this technique, or your own, and send me feedback.
Through controlling your emotions and managing that inner Monster, you will be able to save your energy for far more exciting and inspiring moments in life.
Just do it
When living each moment, try to extract maximum value from the present. Try to accomplish more, try to get new experiences, learn something relevant and useful to your life, visit new places; do something that you’ve never done before.
You’re probably thinking that you could be disappointed, that the experience may not live up to expectations. You might also worry about being put down by negative people, or failing in some way. Those possibilities exist, certainly, but why don’t we simply accept them, move on, and focus on the positives instead? There will always be experiences in life that disappoint us, which may be unpleasant or cause us to be upset. Your Monster is waiting for these feelings to surface, never sleeping, always ready to thrive on negative emotions. So be smarter than your Monster, and collect only beautiful pictures for your life album. Would you keep an ugly picture next to your bed? I don’t think so. Why are we so selective for our physical environment and not as selective for our inner peace?
Don’t be afraid, and open yourself to new and exciting experiences:
A life filled with wonder is a wonderful life.
Vampires feed your Monster
Celestine Chua, the author of the bestselling book Personal Excellence, states that your level of consciousness and energy levels are an average of the 5-10 people you interact most often.
Keep in mind that having negative, greedy, jealous, judgemental, aggressive or constantly moaning people in your circle is not good for you for three key reasons:
They drag down your level of consciousness. Remember, misery loves company. If you see that someone is suffering from personal problems, and you are in a position to help, don’t hesitate. But in majority of cases such people don’t need your help at all. It is ultimately their life choice to struggle. Try to help, but don’t get stuck in fighting a futile battle – if after a month or two you’re making no progress, walk away. They are simply draining your energy, benefitting neither of you.
Such people feed the Monster in your own head, multiplying anxieties, fears, jealousy and complexes. Have you ever noticed they are always keen to give you so much negative ‘food for thought’?
If you interact with negative people too often, you may also start to perceive other people negatively. If your close ‘friend’ is never grateful, doesn’t appreciate what you do, always tries to diminish your achievements – run away. Otherwise, very quickly, you will start seeing the world as a place full of people like them.
The Power of Words
Words have an incredible power to form our reality. Even the Bible begins with the sentence:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.
Nowadays all of us are drowned in information. We read countless meaningless articles, snippets of news here and there, newspapers, magazines and text messages. We absorb all of this noise, again providing sustenance for the Monster.
On the other hand, books are the best teachers. Reading meaningful texts from positive and reliable sources could help you to acquire new useful knowledge and deeper insights. So, read, read, read, but be selective at the same time. Try to minimize your exposure to negative and meaningless information, or things written by negative people. Take care of your health, energy and purity, and spread positive vibes around to make our world a better place.