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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

The Many Forms of Déjà Vu And Possible Scientific Explanations

That eerie feeling of déjà vu is very common, though scientific explanation has far to go before it is able to fully explain this aspect of the human consciousness

Most people, at one point or another, have experienced a feeling of deja vu (French for “already seen”). Whether or not they even realized it at the time, or cared to give it a label, the situation is common: you recognize as familiar something which you know you’ve never seen before. An object, a person,a place, a scene, an event… it is a fairly common experience.

Perhaps in the minds of some people there is something seemingly “supernatural” or sinister and overly thought-provoking about the phenomenon of déjà vu. From a scientific perspective, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Different Types of Déjà Vu

Scientists who study mental phenomenon such as déjà vu have taken it upon themselves (as scientists so often do) to also classify some subcategories of the phenomenon. So, when you are experiencing déjà vu, you may actually be experiencing one of three varieties: Déjà vecu, déjà senti, or déjà visite.

Déjà vecu (“already lived through”), the most common form, occurs when there is a feeling involved in an experience – sort of an “I know that I’ve been here before” feeling.

Déjà senti (“already felt”) is fully mental, without the reliance on the visual aspect of deja vu. The idea of having thoughts that you’ve already had before.

Déjà visite (“already visited”) is perhaps the creepiest of them all. This is the one that gives little children nightmares – it is the uncanny knowledge of a person or place which has been previously unknown to the person. It is walking into a new building and knowing right where the bathroom is. Completely unexplainable, and rather rare. This is the one that is most often attributed to spiritual encounters, out of body experiences or ESP.

Possible Explanations for Déjà Vu

Most explanations agree that there is nothing strange happening in your brain when it plays these sorts of “tricks” on you, nor is there something physically wrong with you (at least nothing too important). It is just a feeling. It is your mind playing tricks on you.

This being said, there are a variety of explanations for déjà vu which do seem to be rather interesting (despite the fact that they avoid “conspiracy theories” and ESP and such things).

For instance, it has been shown that there is a link between one’s mental health and the occurrence of déjà vu. People with mental disorders often see the world a little bit differently, and are prone to such mental abnormalities as the perception of déjà vu.

In addition, certain intoxicating substances also tend to lead to heightened déjà vu awareness, though this assertion doesn’t seem particularly groundbreaking.

More interesting theories are those which deal with real, physical defects in the brain that might lead to déjà vu. Some have suggested (though with little evidence to back it up) that déjà vu might be caused by a delayed firing of neurons somewhere in the brain, inhibiting the message (or at least part of the message) for just a fraction of a second, causing the brain to process the same thought twice in quick succession.

For instance, if your two eyes both saw the same event, but for some reason the message took just a fraction longer to reach your brain from your left eye than it does from your right, there is a chance that your brain may process the same event twice, making you feel like you’ve already seen it, even if it was only a thousandth of a second earlier.

The Opposite of Deja Vu

Most people probably don’t realize that Deja vu (in all of its forms) has an opposite as well. This is called Jamais Vu (“never seen”), and it is quite interesting as well. This is that odd experience wherein you walk into a place you are very familiar with, but have a momentary feeling that you have never been there before.

It is most often suffered by those with amnesia or mental deficiencies, but every once in a while it happens to the average Joe as well. There is a moment of near panic – and then you probably realize that you were just suffering from a momentary lapse of mental functions.

And so, those are the basics of deja vu. It is a phenomenon about which scientists still have much to learn, but which will hopefully be able to offer great insights into just how the complex mechanisms of the human brain truly work.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

Reincarnation, Hypnosis, and How to Recall Past Lives

Reincarnation, like any idea based on faith, is difficult to prove but when studied in depth seems to offer many answers to the questions people have.

Basically, the theory of Reincarnation is that the soul, to use a term all are familiar with, survives the death of the body and in some future time returns as a newborn to live again.

This can happen over and over again with the soul having new experiences and learning new things with each life. The end result is the subject of many interpretations, some believe that as the soul matures it will eventually reach a plane of existence some call Nirvana, or become one with the universe or with God.

Karma

The concept is as ancient as any other belief on this planet. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all believed in some form of rebirth as do those of the Hindu faith. Today the theory is accepted by many primarily because it seems to make sense. The reasoning that something happens because “God wills it” may be comforting to some but not to others.

Reincarnationists believe that everything happens for a reason. Bad things happen to good people because at some time in a past life perhaps they inflicted some pain or suffering upon someone and are now having it inflicted upon them so that they can understand and learn from the experience.

This is known as karma and has the same result as the Christian ideal, “Do unto others and you would have others do unto you.” A person’s behavior in a former life dictates the higher or lower form one will take in their next life.

Phobias and Déjà vu

A belief in past lives can help explain many things. Why does a child, with no experience, wake up screaming in the middle of the night for no apparent reason? Are they recalling an experience from a past life? Why do people have phobias? Does one have an unreasoning fear of flying because they were once killed in a plane crash? Do heights terrify someone because they once fell to their death?

These are just some of the few theories associated with past lives: some believe that past life experiences can be responsible for development of phobias in the current life.

How many people have had the feeling that they had been somewhere before even though they know full well they never have been? There are many documented cases of people how go on vacation to a place they have never been to and yet know more about it that they should be able to know.

Why is it that you can take an instant dislike to someone you have never met before? Or perhaps you did meet them in a different incarnation in a different life and for whatever reason grew to hate them.

Some believe that this phenomenon is the result of experiences from past lives.

Past Lives

In most cases, it’s believed that people recall little or nothing of past lives; many also believe that this is as it should be for learning experiences would be colored if one had that knowledge.

It is thought that the people furthest along in their quest to the end experience are those with the strongest beliefs on reincarnation. Those just beginning the journey reject the theory outright.

Regressive Hypnosis

Much has been written about using hypnosis as a tool to delve into past lives. Many things about the subconscious are still not understood and the recalling of memories from past lives is amongst those in question.

A past life regression is a way to tap into the subconscious mind in order to retrieve memories of past lives. One of the most common ways this is done is with a past life therapist through use of hypnosis.

What Happens During A Past Life Regression?

Initially, the goal is to place a person in a totally relaxed state. This would mean sitting or laying in a comfortable position and then beginning to take some deep, relaxing breaths. Next, the past life regressionist will begin a guided, visualization process in which the person will be instructed to picture a particular scene in their mind.

This could involve descending a set of stairs, with each step allowing the individual to become more and more relaxed.

Another visualization technique involves being in some type of room or building with a series of doors, with each door representing a past life. Different therapists use different techniques.

At this point, the key is to enable a person to be relaxed enough to access memories of past lives from their subconscious mind. It is important to note that even though a person is placed under hypnosis, that individual is still completely aware of everything around them.

Once the person begins to explore a past life the therapist may ask some questions to help determine what sex a person was, where the individual lived, the type of clothing they wore, what they did for a living, and what their family was like. Some people are able to recall memories quite easily, while others may only remember a small amount of information.

Benefits Of Recalling Past Lives

Outside of curiosity or looking for proof that reincarnation exists, there are some true benefits that can come from past life regression. For example, some people have deep fears or phobias without any apparent cause.

Exploring a past life can reveal the reason for those fears. Perhaps a person has a fear of water even though they’ve never had any bad experiences associated with water.

During a past life regression that person could recall drowning in a past life. Although that memory isn’t in the conscious mind, it still exists in the subconscious mind and the fear of drowning bleeds over into the conscious mind. Once the individual is able to get to the root of the fear and understand it, the fear goes away in many cases.

Recalling past lives can also help a person have a better understanding of particular relationships within a current lifetime. It is believed that certain groups of souls incarnate together over different lifetimes.

While in this lifetime it may make no sense why a person is so against a certain family member, particularly because that family member has never done anything malicious to that individual, during a past life regression, that person might recall knowing the family member in the past whereas the family member was cruel or abusive to the individual.

How To Find A Past Life Regressionist

Check to see if there are any hypnosis centers in your area. If so, be sure there is a certified therapist trained in past life regression. A metaphysical bookstore might be able to recommend a therapist. Of course, an internet search should be able to reveal therapists in or around the area.

When seeking a professional to help with past life regression, it’s important to distinguish between a therapist who will place you under hypnosis and a psychic who will psychically tell you about past lives.

A past life regression can be interesting and informative. Sometimes, a person can become emotional while recalling certain memories. It’s worthy to note that nothing can hurt you while under hypnosis.

Whatever has happened in the past remains in the past and for most people, while recalling memories, it’s like watching the action take place on a movie screen. For those who believe in reincarnation, being regressed is like opening a window to the past.

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Metaphysics & Psychology

The Social Engineering of the Meaning of Life

Patrick J. Herbert, Patrick Herbert
Waking Times

We have been fed lies by a system designed to enslave us since birth. It uses deception as its primary means to accomplish this, and it involves institutions that we have been told to trust unconditionally. It is multi-faceted, multi-layered, and its primary means of perpetuating itself is through purposefully designed indoctrination through education. Logic and critical thinking are, by design, removed from the equation. This guarantees that we will only learn what they want us to learn, and think how they want us to think.

In detail, this system can be best described by the adage “garbage in, garbage out”. When the foundation from which a society derives itself is built upon lies, it is an absolute guarantee that the lies will permeate every aspect of that society. Over time, those lies begin to appear as unquestionable truths, and are committed as such in the knowledge base that subsequent generations are taught from.

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