The Kindness Cure A Guest Post by David Desteno

Healer's outstretched open hand surrounded by random wise healing words on a rustic stone effect background
Healer’s outstretched open hand surrounded by random wise healing words on a rustic stone effect background

 

Mindfulness meditation is best known for its positive effects on practitioners’ brains and bodies. My research suggests it may also encourage compassion toward others.

 

How do you cultivate compassion? How do you ensure that at the end of the day, it’s your kindness and generosity for which you’ll be remembered? It’s a good question, for as much as we all agree that compassion is a virtue to be admired, as a society, we don’t seem to be very effective at instilling it. In fact, research by Sarah Konrath at the University of Michigan suggests we’re actually getting worse on this score. In reviewing the results of a standard assessment of empathy and compassion taken by 13,000 college students between 1979 and 2009, Konrath discovered that self-reported concern for the welfare of others has been steadily dropping since the early 1990s. According to this analysis, levels of compassion and empathy are lower now than at any time in the past 30 years, and perhaps most alarming, they are declining at an increasing rate.

Since acting compassionately usually means putting others’ needs ahead of your own, prompting yourself to act with kindness often requires not only vigilance but a bit of willpower. That’s not to say that relying on religious or philosophical guidance to prompt kindness won’t work at times. It will. But any method that depends on constant redirection of selfish urges and top-down monitoring of one’s moral code is apt to fail. Perhaps cultivating compassion situationally—so that it automatically emerges at the sight of others in need—would be more foolproof. As a psychologist interested in moral behavior, I have long wondered if there might be a way to develop precisely this sort of reflexive compassion.

As it turns out, I didn’t have to look too far; a means was hiding in plain sight. Mindfulness meditation involves guided contemplation as a way to focus the mind. It commonly entails sitting in a quiet space for periods ranging from 20 minutes to an hour (depending on your level of advancement) and learning to guide awareness to the current moment rather than dwell upon what has been or is yet to come. The practice has lately been promoted for its abilities to enhance the brain and heal the body, but many of its most experienced teachers argue that its fundamental purpose involves the soul. As Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche, one the highest lamas in the Tibetan tradition, recently pointed out to me, meditation’s effects on memory, health, and cognitive skills, though positive, were traditionally considered secondary benefits by Buddhist sages. The primary objective of calming the mind and heightening attention was to attain a form of enlightenment that would lead to a deep, abiding compassion and resulting beneficence.

Yet for all the emphasis meditation instructors place on kindness, solid evidence linking mindfulness to compassion has been lacking. By historical accident, the first psychologists to study meditation were experts in neuroanatomy, information processing, and physiology, which, as you might guess, meant that these topics were where they focused their research. The result was a decade’s worth of findings confirming that meditation enhances the functioning of brain and body—findings that continue to appear regularly, and serve as the basis for much of the publicity surrounding meditation. Unfortunately, the question of how meditation might influence social behavior wasn’t, until very recently, on anyone’s radar.

A few years ago, my research group at Northeastern University set out to change that. If meditation was indeed capable of fostering compassion—a quality this world seems at times to have in short supply—we wanted to find proof. To do that, we conducted a simple experiment, led by Paul Condon, a graduate student in my lab at the time, and subsequently published in Psychological Science. We recruited 39 people from the Boston area who had never meditated before and assigned them to one of two experimental groups. Those in the first completed an eight-week meditation course led by Willa Miller, a Buddhist lama. Those in the second were placed on a waitlist for the course.

After eight weeks had passed, participants returned to our lab one by one, supposedly to complete measures of attention and memory. In reality, the true experiment occurred in the waiting room, which had three chairs, two of which were already occupied by actors. A few minutes after each participant arrived and took the remaining seat, a third actor appeared, this one on crutches, wearing a boot typically used for a broken foot, and wincing in pain. Upon entering, she leaned against a wall, sighing audibly, as there was nowhere for her to sit. By design, the other actors ignored her. They thumbed through books or scanned their smartphones, paying no mind to her discomfort.

Situations like this—in which other people seem to be ignoring a person in distress—are known to inhibit helping behavior, a phenomenon termed the “bystander effect.” If no one else is helping, why should you? In our study, among participants who didn’t meditate, the bystander effect was on clear display. Only 16 percent of our subjects (or three people out of 19) offered their chair to the actor on crutches. But of those who meditated, half (10 of 20) immediately and spontaneously offered their seat to the woman. It’s important to note that none of the participants had meditated before, and were all equally interested in signing up for the course (even though they knew some might be assigned to a waitlist). The resulting differences, then, didn’t stem from any factors related to a pre-existing interest in or experience with mindfulness. The only difference between the groups was that one meditated for eight weeks and the other didn’t. Nonetheless, eight weeks of meditation proved enough to triple the likelihood of this benevolent behavior, even under conditions known to discourage acts of kindness. And as any research psychologist will tell you, an intervention that can shift human behavior by three-fold holds a lot of promise.

To be certain about this level of promise, however, we wanted to replicate the finding while also examining whether it might be scalable. After all, how realistic is it to imagine that substantial populations of people will seek out a meditation master and sit at her feet to learn the practice of mindfulness? With these questions in mind, we set out to see whether mindfulness training using mobile devices might do the trick when it came to enhancing compassion. To this end, we repeated our previous experiment using a smartphone mindfulness app designed by an individual with Buddhist monastic training. In this version of the experiment, led by my graduate student Daniel Lim and recently published inPlos One, we randomly assigned 56 people to complete three weeks of either mindfulness training using the app, or cognitive skills training using a web-based, brain-training program. When we later exposed our participants to the waiting-room scenario, the results were similar to those from the original experiment: While only 14 percent of non-meditators (four people out of 29) offered their chair to the woman on crutches, 37 percent of the meditators (10 people out of 27) acted to relieve her pain.

Outside of the waiting room, however, there are people everywhere who need compassion. But there’s only so much to go around. As the Yale psychologist Paul Bloom regularly points out, it’s well established that we feel more empathy for single individuals in pain than for larger numbers of suffering masses. Based on this fact, techniques for building compassion might seem futile. And yet, it’s this very contradiction that helps to explain why meditation may be uniquely suited to fostering compassion.

Concern for others tends to nosedive as suffering grows because, thanks to our natural empathic response, distress is a bit contagious. When we encounter people in pain, we not only recognize their discomfort, we feel it—an experience that can quickly become overwhelming. As a result, people can shut down emotionally and turn away, a result known as “compassion fatigue.” Attesting to this fact, research confirms that compassion fatigue is quite prevalent among physicians and nurses whose work centers on oncology and palliative care—specialities that require daily confrontation of suffering, pain, and emotional loss.

But recent research by the neuroscientist Tania Singer and the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has shown that meditation-based training reduces activation of the brain networks associated with simulating the feelings of people in distress, in favor of networks associated with feelings of social affiliation. In other words, shared pain rapidly dissipates, but compassion remains.

This finding appears to offers a neuroanatomical basis for something many long-time practitioners of meditation have observed: a lack of compassion fatigue among meditators. As Thupten Jinpa, a Buddhist scholar and long-time translator for the Dalai Lama, told me “meditation-based training enables practitioners to move quickly from feeling the distress of others to acting with compassion to alleviate it.” Put simply, contemplative training appears to teach the mind to move directly from an observation of suffering to benevolent action, without becoming paralyzed by others’ pain.

In short, then, our research suggests that mindfulness’s most profound benefit may not be the one that’s most often touted—adapting to a stressful, competitive, even unkind 24/7 world. Instead, meditation might fundamentally alter how we treat those around us. Corporations, physicians, and policy-makers who now push mindfulness as a technique for self-enhancement and physical wellbeing would do well to focus more on its potential for preventing everything from bullying to domestic violence to callousness and indifference. To see why, one only need look at the impressive results stemming from a meditation program that the Center for Wellness and Achievement Education recently offered in Visitation Valley School—a junior-high school in one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods where violence was a frequent occurrence. After providing instruction and instituting twice-daily meditation periods known a Quiet Time, a noticeable difference began to emerge. Over a four-year period, school records show that suspensions decreased by 79 percent. It’s important to note that unlike the work from my lab, this was not a scientific study designed to control extraneous factors. Accordingly, it’s possible that the decline may have as much to do with the benefits of meditation as it does with a school culture that decided to adopt Quiet Time in the first place. Either way, though, the result is striking and calls for additional study.

Perhaps most interesting, though, is that when it comes to enhancing compassion, it may not matter much whether you begin the practice for self-advancement, health, or character building. Arianna Huffington, the Huffington Post co-founder and one of today’s most prominent evangelists for mindfulness, emphasizes this point. “It doesn’t matter why you start meditating,” she told me, “as you’ll get all the benefits—those you intended and those you didn’t—if you stick with it.” Both she and Chade-Meng Tan, the creator of Google’s immensely popular Search Inside Yourself course, which teaches mindfulness skills to the company’s employees, compared it to exercise. “Even if you start going to the gym with the purpose of buddying up to the boss,” Meng recently told me, “You’ll gain the benefit of better health if you keep on going. “Mindfulness, practiced correctly, works much the same way.”

Nursing in an Aging America: A Guest Post by Deyanara Riddix and the Team at Nursing School Hub

For every senior over the age of 65 in the year 2000, there will be 2 by the year 2030. Today that is 1 out of every 7 people is over 65. By the year 2022, 32 percent of our workforce will be comprised of seniors over 65. The average american will live 19 or more years past their 65th birthday. The 85 and older population is predicted to triple to 14.6 million by 2040. Most of the seniors’ medical needs will become the responsibility of nurses. Currently there are just more than 1.5 million Nursing Assistants, 738 thousand Licensed Practical Nurses, 2.7 million Registered Nurses, and 151 thousand Nursing Practitioners, anesthetists, and midwives with an 11% growth expected by 2022. The average age of nurses is now 50 years old. From 1982 to 2008, the percentage of nurses under the age of 40 dropped from 54 percent to 29.5 percent. Aging America needs more educated nurses who are versed in some of the more technical areas, such as biometrics, robotics, and electronic records. Use a color-coded state map to see how many nurses are in different areas.

nursingandaging

READ MORE: http://www.nursingschoolhub.com/nursing-aging-america/

10 Ways Gratitude Makes Your Life Better A Guest Post by Tom Casano

Gratitude in word collage
Gratitude in word collage

 

It’s no accident that all of the major world religions employ some form of gratitude in their rituals. It’s simply because it makes our daily life better, even if you’re not religious nor spiritual.

Gratitude is the feeling of being thankful and showing appreciation for what is in our lives. And thankfulness and appreciation are a pathway to a life of happiness and well-being. When you pause and recognize all of the wonderful things in your life, you feel happier. Appreciation keeps us focused on what is already good in our lives, and opens up the doorway to more goodness to flow into our lives. Gratitude also equips us to handle setbacks and failures in a more resilient way. Science is producing mounting research that our lives are much better when we practice gratitude.

And indeed, gratitude does make your life better in the following ways…

1. You Feel More Satisfied
Not completely happy with your life? Gratitude is a lasting feeling that sustains you longer than other fleeting sensations. Grateful people are more satisfied with their lives because they focus more on what they do appreciate in their life. When you practice gratitude, you take time to appreciate the things that you’re thankful for in your life. And this means that you won’t be longing as much for what’s missing in your life, because you won’t pay as much attention to it.

2. You Motivate Others
When you say “thank you” to someone, they feel that you appreciate what you did for them, even if just a little bit. Saying “thank you” is therefore a powerful motivator for others to keep helping you again, because you are rewarding them with your appreciation. Have you ever noticed how it feels when someone doesn’t appreciate what you did for them? It makes you not want to help them again in the future because they don’t appreciate it. Small thank you’s go a long way, whether it’s a simple text message or a thoughtful email, you can never show someone enough gratitude.

3. You’re Happier
Grateful people are happier. They’re more in tune with what’s going well in their lives and focus more on the positive. When you actually count your blessings (I’m grateful for today’s beautiful weather, for my new shoes, for my close friends, etc) it puts you in a positive and uplifting mood. It’s very enjoyable to recognize the things that you might have been taking for granted, and to feel joy for having them in your life.

4. You’re More Resilient
Throughout your life you’ll experience many setbacks and failures. So having good coping skills is vital for us to have a thriving and successful life. When life knocks you down yet you still practice gratitude, you can humbly appreciate the temporary defeat as a learning lesson. When you’re faced with challenges, you can thank God or the Universe for giving you an opportunity to practice your patience and strength. When you’re grateful you focus more on the opportunities that failures give you, rather than its negative consequences.

5. You Deepen Your Social Ties
Gratitude has the power to deepen your social bonds and connections with others. When you live in a state of gratitude, you have better relationships with your peers. It also enhances your ability to form and nurture relationships, as your friends and family members experience the positive vibes of your appreciation for them and for life. Your energy changes when you’re grateful, and you go from being a “downer” to being a positive person. And this is very attractive to everyone else around and strengthens your relationships.

6. You Have Better Health
Gratitude has been linked to better physical health, as well as better sleep and reduced stress levels. You can live a much better life when you’re grateful because as you improve your relationship to the world, you feel better within your body. Grateful people take better care of themselves as they appreciate their health more.

7. You Increase Your Self-control
As David DeSteno says, “When you’re faced with a chal­lenging temptation in the moment, rather than solely trying to exert willpower, simply stop­ping and thinking of some­thing you’re grateful for should enhance your ability to make a wiser decision.” As life coach Peter Lambert says, gratitude gives you more patience and makes you less selfish.

8. Your Relationships Improves
When you’re more grateful and generous to the people who you care most about, your relationships improve. Not only will they feel more appreciated by you, but when they feel more appreciated and cared for, they’ll reflect positive feelings back towards you. As opposed to taking each other for granted, when you truly appreciate your significant other, your relationship becomes more magical again.

9. You’re Less Materialistic
When you appreciate what you already have, you realize that a bigger house or a new car are not the things that will really make you happier deep down. In fact, material things can actually feel sort of empty and meaningless. But when you’re thankful that you have a roof over your head and plenty of food to eat — something not everyone around the world has — you won’t be as tied to physical things anymore.

10. You Enrich Your Children
Research has shown that when you encourage gratitude in children, it has some remarkable effects. It turns out that kids who are grateful are happier, experience less volatile emotions, and feel that life has more meaning to them.

Gratitude is an emotion that’s worth cultivating as it will make your life better. You can start simply, by thinking of five things in your day today that you’re grateful for. There’s no doubt that we all want to be happy, have good relationships, and good health. The only thing you need to do to create more of these good things in your life, is to cultivate the gratitude within you.

Attachment Re-visited: 7 Red Flag Signs of Poor Boundaries Guest Post by Támara Hill, MS

business strategy concept infographic diagram illustration of emotional intelligence components
business strategy concept infographic diagram illustration of emotional intelligence components

 

How do you protect yourself in this world? How do you ensure that the things you care for are protected on a daily basis? One way we protect ourself is by having strict boundaries. Boundaries are extremely important for human beings to maintain. Without boundaries, you are likely to be taken advantage of, manipulated, abused, or “blinded” by the shallow, self-centered people we encounter in our daily lives. As a child, I was often reminded by my parents to maintain appropriate boundaries at all times. I quickly learned that boundaries were a great shield of protection in a world that rarely respects or employs appropriate boundaries. For many of us, we learn in high school and as adults how very important boundaries are to our survival. Sadly, individuals who have traumatic histories or poor emotional attachment often become victims to people who violate boundaries because of their own emotional neediness. Sometimes it is very difficult for these individuals to identify when they need to apply strict boundaries. This article will continue our discussion on poor emotional attachment which often results in poor boundaries. We will also look at 7 major signals that our boundaries need to be adjusted.

The term emotional intelligence (EI) has become ubiquitous in psychology literature. It’s deemed one of the most important aspects of human social connection. Without E.I. it would be almost impossible to survive in relationships or develop appropriate boundaries.  Some people have what I like to call “learned boundaries” which are boundaries that a person has developed over time because of someone else they have observed in their life. For example, children often learn appropriate or inappropriate boundaries from their parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives. However, some people, often because of negative early childhood experiences, lack the ability to apply appropriate boundaries at necessary times and, as a result, is often taken advantage of. For those of us who have what I like to call “inborn boundaries” which are boundaries that we are born with, life is a bit more easier to navigate. Healthy boundaries often result from healthy attachment in early life. Sadly, individuals with poor attachment lack emotional intelligence (the ability to manage your emotions and sometimes others emotions) which tends to result in being harmed in the long-term and may even lead to co-dependency in some relationships.

Individuals who lack appropriate boundaries often struggle with telling others how they feel (for fear of rejection or ridicule), struggle with feeling burdened by how others perceive them (due to a desire to people-please), strive to make everyone happy with  their performance (at work, in school, at home, etc.), and tend to stay in negative relationships (for fear of not finding someone else to love). It’s very easy to identify when we have either little to no boundaries in our relationships because we begin to feel trapped, overwhelmed, or manipulated. I often tell clients the moment they feel trapped or manipulated in a relationship is often the very moment in which they are lacking appropriate boundaries. This is the moment when we need to re-assess where we stand in relation to another person.

 

Dr. Whitebourne, a writer for Psychologytoday.com, says that “successful intelligence…involves having “emotional intelligence” which is being to read people’s feelings- and your own.  With high EI, you can succeed in many areas of your life. Your close relationships can benefit from knowing how to read people’s feelings, regulate your own emotions (especially anger), and understand what you’re feeling, and why.” This is especially important for individuals with trauma histories and poor emotional attachment. Research suggests that a history of abuse (emotional, psychological, physical, sexual), domestic violence, trauma, poor attachment, and parent-child conflict, can affect the development of appropriate boundaries.

It is important to be able to identify when your boundaries need to be adjusted in your relationships (personal and professional). That’s why I developed, with the help of my learning experience, clients, and readers, a list of signs that you may need to employ stricter boundaries:

  1. You are an open book: One really big red flag to look out for is someone who is very open with their life. It is a fact that some people are simply unable to navigate the social arena appropriately and may not know how much information to share. Individuals who have poor emotional intelligence and attachment problems often share way too much information, way too soon or fails to share enough information for others to understand them. The foundation of this could be fear. I have worked with adolescents who are very open and tend to share almost every detail of their life for fear of being characterized as “shy” or “distant.” Sharing everything is not necessary to connect with others or have healthy relationships. But individuals who struggle with interpersonal relationships do not recognize this. Re-invent the wheel. Start over and re-adjust your boundaries where you need to.
  2. You feel someone is walking all over you: Sometimes we have our guard completely down just because we are either tired in general (and off guard) or simply tired of being guarded all the time with others. Whatever the case, some emotionally unintelligent people will take this as a sign of weakness and attempt to manipulate you, harm you, or take from you in some way. I’m sure you have heard people say “don’t take my kindness as weakness.” Sometimes you just need to distance yourself from people who just don’t get you and cannot appreciate your kindness. You owe them nothing, don’t stick around and be manipulated.
  3. You feel you have lost your voice: This is somewhat similar to #2 but  the only difference here is that you have lost so much of your identity or independence in the relationship that you have no ability to stand up for yourself, re-assert yourself in a powerful way, or change things. It might be helpful to find a way to highlight your stronger attributes. For example, if you are good at designing things, find ways to highlight your talents and strengths. If you are really knowledgeable about politics, highlight your strengths here. Show that you have great attributes and you want others to respect them. Find a way to increase your level of confidence and things will fall into place.
  4. No one listens to you: Everyone runs all over you literally and figuratively. You just feel invisible. Some people exhibit a certain level of self-esteem that sets the stage for others to feel they have the right to run over them. This, again, is not your fault. It is the fault of the emotionally unintelligent person who lacks social skills and understanding. In therapy I have engaged my clients in brainstorming ways to re-assert themselves in their social arena and one thing that has seemed to help is the ability to re-align boundaries. By this I mean figure out where your boundaries may be too fluid or weak and try to strengthen them. For example, if you have a work partner who talks all over you in conversation, you may find it useful to stop them and say “I was talking, could I please finish what I was saying?” Or you can simply stop talking which will send them the signal that you are not pleased with how the conversation is going. Sometimes we have to show our firmer side to gain respect.
  5. You are suffering from depressed mood or anxiety: When a person feels his or her social interactions are off balance, everything else in life is too. As stated in previous articles, we are interconnected as humans and when our relationships are suffering, we do too. If you are feeling depressed or anxious because of previous attachment difficulties, poor emotional intelligence, or other social challenges, it’s okay to seek a therapist who can help you explore why your interactions with others affect you so much and how to change things. Sometimes we simply cannot navigate our worlds on our own.
  6. People use you or you feel used: Some people will use you no matter what and never feel guilty. Someone with attachment challenges or poor emotional intelligence will become the victim of someone like this. Manipulators seek people to use for their benefit in some way. They have learned how to flatter you, give you what you want with the goal of taking it back later, or placate you. The moment you feel you have been used, you probably have. Don’t ignore that red flag feeling and seek to be wiser next time.
  7. You just feel awful: Sometimes we can feel  bad about ourselves because something in our communication with others isn’t right. I previously experienced this briefly as an adolescent who was often envied and bullied by other females. I realized by the time I reached early adulthood that my level of confidence and self-esteem were affected by my fear of insulting, harming, or making someone else feel a certain way. My identity was somewhat built on how other’s would interact with me. I realized with more life experience that it wasn’t them who needed to change (because they are who they are) but it was me. Sometimes feeling really bad about how your life is going at the moment, is just the right amount of discomfort to push you forward in a better way.

If you know someone like this, it’s important to keep in mind that emotionally unintelligent people and individuals with attachment issues are not out to get you. They simply cannot navigate their relationships appropriately because of their early life experiences.

In some cases, they are more of a victim than you think. Can you think of a few things that might cause you to consider re-adjusting your personal boundaries? For many of us, romantic relationships, marriage, or having children encourages us to re-adjust our boundaries. In cases such as these we are “forced” to change how we approach life and have allowed others to approach us.

READ MORE: http://psychcentral.com/

Angels Are Indeed Among Us: Do You Believe In Miracles?

Pair of angel wings on heavenly blue background
Pair of angel wings on heavenly blue background

THIS IS DEEP: Do you believe in Miracles? Do you believe in the power of prayer? You may after watching this!

Watch this video which tells of a young woman named Katie, her First-Responder caregivers and the Angel who appeared to assist them. 

https://www.facebook.com/116687955016786/videos/1027025673983005/?fref=nf

Celestial White Noise ★ Earth ★ Real Space Sounds – Sleep Better, Reduce Stress, Calm Your Mind

space_vector_266310

 

Song of Earth (2 Hours) – Real Space Sound (NASA Voyager Recording) – Celestial White Noise for relaxation, meditation, lucid dreaming, astral projection, stress and depresion relief and more…

Sleep Better, Reduce Stress, Calm Your Mind, Improve Focus

Famous, strange and amazing real sounds of space, recorded by NASA Voyager. You are about to hear actual near-Earth space (planets and rings) sounds – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Miranda, Neptune, Venus, Mars, Moon, Earth etc. Prepare to be spellbound by these unreal, but authentic and true space sounds. You can’t find better music for relaxation, meditation, lucid dreaming, astral projection or any sort of mystical or religious expirience. Sit back, put your earphones on and enjoy in this unique expirience!

Although space is a virtual vacuum, this does not mean there is no sound in space. Sound does exist as electromagnetic vibrations. The specially designed instruments on board the various space probes used Plasma Wave antenna to record the vibrations used here, all within the range of human hearing (20-20,000 CPS)

“It turns out that space can make music … if you know how to listen.”

 

 

Meditation, Mindfulness & Spirituality

bigstock-spa-concept-zen-basalt-stones-26930666

Today mindfulness meditation is practiced in schools, prisons and even in corporate America. This show looks at the spiritual roots of the practice and how it can be used to transform society. Featured are Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, spiritual leader of the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and Sharon Salzberg, Buddhist meditation teacher and cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society.

Click on the LINK below:

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/meditation-mindfulness-spirituality/