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Metaphysics & Psychology

Scientists Show How Gratitude Literally Alters The Human Heart & Molecular Structure Of The Brain

  • The Facts:Scientists have discovered that feelings of gratitude can actually change your brain. Feeling gratitude can also be a great tool for overcoming depression and anxiety. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that the heart sends signals to the brain.
  • Reflect On:Every time we struggle with depression, why are we constantly encouraged to take prescription medication when mindfulness techniques actually show more promise?

Gratitude is a funny thing. In some parts of the world, somebody who gets a clean drink of water, some food, or a worn out pair of shoes can be extremely grateful. Meanwhile, somebody else who has all the necessities they need to live can be found complaining about something. What we have today is what we once wanted before, but there is a lingering belief out there that obtaining material possessions is the key to happiness. Sure, this may be true, but that happiness is temporary. The truth is that happiness is an inside job.

It’s a matter of perspective, and in a world where we are constantly made to feel like we are lacking and always ‘wanting’ more, it can be difficult to achieve or experience actual happiness. Many of us are always looking toward external factors to experience joy and happiness, when really it’s all related to internal work. This is something science is just starting to grasp as well, as shown by research coming out of UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. According to them:

Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant. Now that’s a really cool way of taking care of your well-being.

There are many studies showing that people who count their blessings tend to be far happier and experience less depression.  For one study,  researchers recruited people with mental health difficulties, including people suffering from anxiety and depression. The study involved nearly 300 adults who were randomly divided into three groups. This study came from the University of California, Berkeley.

All groups received counselling services, but the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.

What did they find? Compared to the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counselling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief. (source)

Previously, a study on gratitude conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami randomly assigned participants to be given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another group recorded daily troubles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative. Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the troubled group. They reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more. (source)

Researchers from Berkeley identified how gratitude might actually work on our minds and bodies. They provided four insights from their research suggesting what causes the psychological benefits of gratitude.

    • Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
    • Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it
    • Gratitude’s benefits take time & practice. You might not feel it right away.
  • Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain

The brain part is very interesting. The researchers at Berkeley used an fMRI scanner to measure brain activity while people from each group did a “pay it forward” task.  During the task, the participants were given money by a “nice person.” This person’s only request was that they pass on the money to someone if they felt grateful.

They did this because they wanted to distinguish between actions motivated by gratitude and actions driven by other motivations like obligation, guilt, or what other people think. This is important because you can’t fake gratitude, you actually have to feel it. If you don’t feel grateful or practice trying to feel grateful by taking the necessary steps like keeping a gratitude journal, you may not experience as much joy and happiness.

In a world where emotions aren’t really taught in school and the importance is put on striving for high grades, it’s not abnormal to have difficulty feeling grateful. This is especially understandable if you’ve been brought up in the western world, which is full of consumerism and competition, a world where we’re constantly made to feel we are lacking so we need to strive for more.

Participants were asked to rate how grateful they felt toward the person giving them the money and how much they wanted to pay it forward to a charitable cause as well as how guilty they thought they would feel if they didn’t help.  They were also given questionnaires to measure how grateful they felt in general.

We found that across the participants, when people felt more grateful, their brain activity was distinct from brain activity related to guilt and the desire to help a cause. More specifically, we found that when people who are generally more grateful gave more money to a cause, they showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making. This suggests that people who are more grateful are also more attentive to how they express gratitude.

Most interestingly, when we compared those who wrote the gratitude letters with those who didn’t, the gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner. This is striking as this effect was found three months after the letter writing began. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.

It’s also interesting to note that a recent study just discovered a brain network that “gives rise to feelings of gratitude. The study could spur future investigations into how these ‘building blocks’ transform social information into complex emotions.” (source)

What About The Heart?

The work and research above is great, but where do we actually experience these feelings? They are clearly not a product of our brain, they are products of our consciousness, and when we feel them the brain responds.  Researchers are now discovering that the heart also responds and that it might actually be the heart that’s responsible for sending these signals to the brain.

A group of prestigious and internationally recognized leaders in physics, biophysics, astrophysics, education, mathematics, engineering, cardiology, biofeedback, and psychology (among other disciplines) have been doing some brilliant work over at the Institute of HeartMath.

Their work, among many others, has proven that when a person is feeling really positive emotions like gratitude, love, or appreciation, the heart beats out a different message, which determines what kind of signals are sent to the brain.

Not only that, but because the heart beats out the largest electromagnetic field produced in the body, the Institute has been able to gather a significant amount of data.

According to Rolin McCratey, Ph.D, and Director of Research at Heartmath?)

“Emotional information is actually coded and modulated into these fields. By learning to shift our emotions, we are changing the information coded into the magnetic fields that are radiated by the heart, and that can impact those around us. We are fundamentally and deeply connected with each other and the planet itself.” (source)

Another great point made below by the Institute:

“One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – experiencing stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them are greater mental clarity and ability, including better decision making.” (source)

In fact, the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends in return. What’s even more amusing is the fact that these heart signals (from heart to brain) actually have a significant effect on brain function.

Research findings have shown that as we practice heart coherence and radiate love and compassion, our heart generates a coherent electromagnetic wave into the local field environment that facilitates social coherence, whether in the home, workplace, classroom or sitting around a table. As more individuals radiate heart coherence, it builds an energetic field that makes it easier for others to connect with their heart. So, theoretically it is possible that enough people building individual and social coherence could actually contribute to an unfolding global coherence. –  McCratey

So far, the researchers have discovered that the heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways: neurological communication (nervous system), biophysical communication (pulse wave), biochemical communication (hormones), and energetic communication (electromagnetic fields).

“HeartMath research has demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity (which accompany different emotional states) have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive function. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect. It facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability.” (source)

Gratitude and Positive Feelings Can Change The World

It gets deeper:

Every individual’s energy affects the collective field environment. The means each person’s emotions and intentions generate an energy that affects the field. A first step in diffusing societal stress in the global field is for each of us to take personal responsibility for our own energies. We can do this by increasing our personal coherence and raising our vibratory rate, which helps us become more conscious of the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that we are feeding the field each day. We have a choice in every moment to take to heart the significance of intentionally managing our energies. This is the free will or local freedom that can create global cohesion. – Dr. Deborah Rozman, the President of Quantum Intech (source)

Overall, this type of work suggests that human consciousness in general can change the world.

One study, for example, was done during the Israel-Lebanon war in the 1980s. Two Harvard University professors organized groups of experienced meditators in Jerusalem, Yugoslavia and the United Sates and asked them to focus their attention on the area of conflict at various intervals over a 27-month period. Over the course of the study, the levels of violence in Lebanon decreased between 40 and 80 percent each time a meditating group was in place. The average number of people killed during the war each day dropped from 12 to three, and war-related injuries fell by 70 percent. (source)

Another great example is a study that was conducted in 1993 in Washington, D.C., which showed a 25 percent drop in crime rates when 2,500 meditators meditated during a specific period of time with that intention.

This type of information is heavily correlated with quantum physics, as many experiments in that area as well as parapsychology (telepathy, remote viewing, distant healing) indicate similar findings. (source)

This holds true as far back as 1999. Statistics professor Jessica Utts at UC Irvine published a paper showing that parapsychological experiments have produced much stronger results than those showing a daily dose of aspirin helps prevent heart attacks. Utts also showed that these results are much stronger than the research behind various drugs like antiplatelets.

This type of work has statistically significant implications, yet is heavily ignored and labelled as pseudoscience simply because it conflicts with long-held beliefs we have trouble letting go of … But times are changing.

“For many years I have worked with researchers doing very careful work [in parapsychology], including a year that I spent full-time working on a classified project for the United States government, to see if we could use these abilities for intelligence gathering during the Cold War… At the end of that project I wrote a report for Congress, stating what I still think is true. The data in support of precognition and possibly other related phenomena are quite strong statistically, and would be widely accepted if it pertained to something more mundane. Yet, most scientists reject the possible reality of these abilities without ever looking at data! And on the other extreme, there are true believers who base their beliefs solely on anecdotes and personal experience. I have asked debunkers if there is any amount of data that would convince them, and they generally have responded by saying, “probably not.” I ask them what original research they have read, and they mostly admit that they haven’t read any. Now there is a definition of pseudo-science-basing conclusions on belief rather than data!” – Utts, Chair of the Statistics Department, UC Irvine (Dean Radin, Real Magic)

The Takeaway

Emotions and other factors associated with consciousness have the power to transform our inner world in ways we don’t fully understand yet. These findings show how consciousness can actually transform the physical/material world, and that’s huge. This validates the idea that if we can change our inner world through gratitude, empathy, compassion, and meditation, we can make our outer world more peaceful.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Russia’s paranormal soldiers and military dolphin telepathy revealed by defense ministry magazine

Brendan Cole
Newsweek

An article in the official magazine of Russia’s Defense Ministry has claimed that the country’s military works in tandem with psychics, employs paranormal tactics to aid soldiers and has used dolphins in telepathy experiments.

A piece in the magazine Army Collection headlined “Super Soldier for the Wars of The Future” described how the military has conducted strange experiments, such as one in which psychics managed to read documents that were locked in a safe.

The article was first published in February, but came to prominence this week after reports in the Russian magazine RBC, opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the website Meduza. Commentators were surprised that such claims would be made in a publication sanctioned by authorities.

According to the article’s author Nikolai Poroskov, who served in campaigns in Chechnya and Sierra Leone, Soviet scientists developed paranormal techniques in the 1980s with the aim of the military being able to “extract information from a state of so-called altered human consciousness.”

He wrote how the method was even used during the campaigns in Chechnya “to reveal the enemy’s plan and the composition of the forces and means involved.”

He said that Russia has specialists that use telepathy to quiz prisoners, skills honed in experiments on dolphins.

“They mentally gave the animals the commands that they performed… It turned out that the technique also applied to humans,” he wrote.

The article stated that paranormal tactics have helped soldiers learn foreign languages, treat wounded troops, detect ambushes and even crash computers.

He said telepathic, non-verbal interrogation can help soldiers decide if enemy soldiers are receptive to recruitment. So-called “psychic countermeasures” also taught special forces soldiers how to hold up during enemy interrogation.

Anatoly Matviichuk, the head of the Analytics Department at the magazine Soldiers of Russia, told RBC that Soviet scientists did some work in these fields, especially between the 1960s and 1980s.

“Combat parapsychology really has a place…the technique was developed by the Soviet Academy of Sciences in an attempt to discover the phenomenal characteristics of a person.”

However, the chairman of the commission to combat pseudoscience at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yevgeny Alexandrov, told RBC that “combat parapsychology” is a pseudo-scientific invention.

“Such works really existed and were developed, and were classified… But, as in many countries of the world, such studies are recognized as pseudoscientific, all this is complete nonsense. No parapsychology exists at all, it’s a fairy tale,” Alexandrov said.

“All the talk about the transfer of thought at a distance does not have a scientific basis, there is no such recorded case, it is simply impossible,” he added.

Meanwhile, Vladlen Prilutsky, Army Collection‘s chief editor, told RBC that his publication simply publishes “articles containing research, information, and discussion about military topics.”

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Metaphysics & Psychology

How To Stop Self-Sabotage & Get Out Of Your Own Way

IN BRIEF

  • The Facts:While we all have our fair share of obstacles to overcome in life, in many cases, we are the biggest obstacles standing in our way. Thankfully, there are things we can all do to cut back on self-sabotaging behaviour.
  • Reflect On:How much am I holding myself back from? What, if anything, am I getting from keeping myself in the state I am in?

Whether or not you consider yourself a creative person, we are all creative powerhouses. Proof of this lies within our minds, which are consistently concocting ideas, scenarios, goals and so much more that all play a prominent role in the life that we live.​

While some of us thrive at making the most of the constructive impulses that come our way, the vast majority of us instead seem to excel at running with those that are instead destructive in nature. We may feel as though we live in a world filled with ruthless competition, but in reality our biggest competitor both operates and exists within us.

“Addiction, self-sabotage, procrastination, laziness, rage, chronic fatigue and depression are all ways that we withhold our full participation in the program of life we are offered. When the conscious mind cannot find a reason to say no, the unconscious says no in its own way.” – Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

Here are some of what I’ve found to be the most common ways in which we sabotage ourselves and what we can all do to get out of our own way:

The Problem With Overthinking

One of the most common ways that we sabotage ourselves is by overthinking. Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of situations and scenarios in which reflecting on something extensively is not only beneficial, but often the best course of action. However, the number of times where that is the case is far outweighed by the number of times we opt to overthink.

One second we are excited about a new idea, and within hours, or sometimes minutes, we’ve concretely established three worst case scenarios, two of which have a 0.001% likelihood of ever occurring, and we’ve sold ourselves on the conclusion that we shouldn’t even bother. Sound familiar?

If overthinking is an issue for you, I recommend that you try adding journaling into your daily life. I personally like to follow the protocol outlined in the infamous book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which encourages you to journal first thing in the morning, but taking any time out of your day to allow your mind to metaphorically dump onto the page can be life-changing. Let yourself write literally anything and everything that comes to mind. It may feel counterproductive at first, but you’d be surprised at how often writing things out can make your thoughts feel heard, allowing you to more easily assess the healthy from the unhealthy and move past those that would have previously sabotaged your creativity.

Cut The Comparison

Another common way in which we frequently self sabotage is through comparison, especially in our social media driven world where measuring ourselves against others has never been more prevalent. With a couple of swipes and scrolls we can easily compare ourselves to hundreds of other people, most of which are portraying themselves and their lives inaccurately.

If comparison is your “Achilles heel”, there are two things you can do: 1) cut back on how much time you spend on social media, and 2) actively challenge yourself to celebrate rather than compare yourself to the accomplishments of others.

For example, I could very easily look at the work of someone like Jay Shetty–whose content falls largely under a similar umbrella to mine–and see that it’s being seen by millions of people compared to the thousands that mine is typically consumed by, and allow myself to get down because of that. Or I can alternatively look at his accomplishments, including his recent appearance on The Ellen Show–a longtime goal of mine–and instead be happy for him, seeing his success as living proof that there is an audience for this content.

Sorry, I Was Distracted

A third lesser-known way in which we sabotage ourselves, occasionally even subconsciously, is through distraction. Rather than taking immediate action or even the smallest of steps to further establish the healthy neural pathway that is trying to form, we closet that creativity by opting to distract ourselves from listening to it.

Common ways that we do this include picking up our phones and checking social media, or using our fatigue to justify sitting on the couch and watching some TV, both of which always provide more than enough content for us to engage with in a far less creative manner.

If distraction is your self sabotage speciality, consider setting aside set periods each day where you do not allow yourself to engage with any form of technology. Whether you opt to read a book, meditate or spend some time out in nature, give your mind the daily opportunity to reacclimatize to what that experience feels like, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what it leads to.

Article originally written for and published by Ideapod.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Psilocybin & Magic Mushrooms – The Next Wellness & Legalization Trend After Cannabis?

Makia Freeman, Contributor
Waking Times

Psilocybin, the substance found in 200+ species of magic mushrooms, may be the next health and legalization trend after cannabis. Magic mushrooms have been used in many cultures all over the world for therapeutic and spiritual purposes. Many scientific studies and clinical trials have found positive evidence of their benefits to the human body, especially in the area of mental health. With the state of Oregon and the city of Denver (Colorado) about to vote on legalizing magic mushrooms later this year, will psilocybin become the next trend after cannabis?

Current Legal Status of Psilocybin in the USA

Like cannabis (marijuana), MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly), peyote and heroin, psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug. The definition of this category is substances with no medical use and the high potential for abuse. Possession of psilocybin mushrooms is a felony. Given the incredible benefits which magic mushrooms containing psilocybin offer mankind, this kind of classification is clearly ignorant, heavy-handed and contradictory. How can such benign substances as magic mushrooms be on the same level as the highly addictive, artificially manufactured and deadly heroin?

What the Science Says About Psilocybin

It turns out magic mushrooms are already being closely studied all over the world by many different scientists. So far, the science shows psilocybin bestows many health benefits. In a nutshell, scientific studies including pre-clinical and clinical trials show that psilocybin helps beat depression, anxiety, addiction and even cancer. On a higher level, it helps increase joy, peace and altruism. However, looking closely at the results provides even more insight.

Psilocybin for Autism, Asperger’s, ASD, Depression, Anxiety and PTSD

Autism rates are skyrocketing across the US, with many suspecting vaccines (thimerosal/mercury) and GMOs (glyphosate) as possible causes. Whatever the cause, it’s a serious neurological disorder. Asperger’s used to be considered its own disorder but was recently reorganized to come under the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and is now considered a mild form of autism. Asperger’s is characterized by a rigidity of thought and routine, and by a lack of empathy and social/emotional awareness. Interestingly enough, this is exactly what psilocybin can heal according to a recent January 2019 study, which found that psilocybin increased flexibility, creativity and empathy. Here’s what the author of the study Natasha Mason said:

“Examples of processes that have been found to be decreased in these pathologies include creative, flexible thinking and empathy. Specifically, individuals are characterized by repetitive and rigid patterns of negative and compulsive thoughts, as well as reduced empathic abilities. Thus we wanted to assess whether psilocybin enhanced these processes, and if so, how long effects lasted …We found that psilocybin, when taken in a naturalistic setting, increased aspects of creativity and empathy the morning after, and 7 days after use. Furthermore, psilocybin also enhanced subjective well-being. Interestingly, changes in well-being correlated with changes in empathy after psilocybin use.”

This also has implications for other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, as the study notes in its Introduction:

“Both creative, flexible thinking and empathy deficits have been found in stress-related psychopathologies like depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Breaking Down the Ego and “Default Mode Network”

If you want to learn more about psilocybin and what science is beginning to show about its benefits and effects, check out the work of Michael Pollan, author of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence. He discusses how psychedelics, contrary to a common misconception, actually make you more sane than crazy. This is because substances like psilocybin decrease the activity of a brain network called the default mode network, which is in charge of perception of self. Psilocybin halts the functioning of this network, thus allowing a space for new neural connections – a re-wiring of the brain.

Psilocybin: Naturally in Sync with Our Biology

Another person to check out is Dr. Roland Griffiths, Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at Johns Hopkins University. He has some online videos such as this one where he shows that psilocybin helps people release fear, old patterns and negative beliefs. On a higher level, it helps increase joy, peace and altruism. Studies have also found that it can engender mystical-type experiences in people which are identical to those that occur naturally, suggesting psilocybin is naturally in sync with our biology.

Further Evidence of Psilocybin’s Potential as a Healing Agent

Lastly, take a look at the studies reported here and here on Waking Times. The latter showed that psilocybin strongly helped patients with depression:

“Amazingly, after the participants were given two doses of psilocybin (10 mg and 25 mg), with the second dose a week after the first – their brains showed pronounced, decreased blood flow to the areas of the brain implicated in depression. Researchers also found increased stability on parts of the brain related to depression – and these effects lasted up to five weeks.

The team described the immediate results of patients’ symptoms disappearing after the initial trip as an “afterglow” and a “disintegration” – with the compound also reintegrating brain networks afterward. The afterglow included marked improvements in mood and stress relief. Patients used a lot of computer metaphors to describe how their brains felt afterward – defragged, rebooted, and reset.”

Final Thoughts: Psilocybin is a Gift of Nature which will Hopefully Soon be Widely Legalized

Psilocybin has a long history of use across the world, especially among South American tribes (like the Aztecs, whose word for it was teonanacatl, which translates to “divine mushroom”). There are several prehistoric rock art drawings depicting psilocybin mushrooms, such as the one in Spain, near Villar del Humo, approximately 6,000 years old, another in Tassili n’Ajjer (a national park in the Sahara Desert, Algeria) which is around 7,000-9,000 years old, and the one pictured above from Guatemala. My prediction and hope is that it will become the next health and legalization trend after cannabis, which, for the USA, also started in Denver, Colorado. We shall see.

About the Author

Makia Freeman is the editor of The Freedom Articles and senior researcher at ToolsForFreedom.com (FaceBook here), writing on many aspects of truth and freedom, from exposing aspects of the worldwide conspiracy to suggesting solutions for how humanity can create a new system of peace and abundance. Makia is on MindsSteemit and FB.

**Sources embedded throughout article.

This article (Psilocybin & Magic Mushrooms – The Next Wellness & Legalization Trend After Cannabis?) was originally created and published by The Freedom Articles and is re-posted here with permission. 

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