The Baseline: Happiness Science

A whole lot of marketing focuses on happiness. Almost every advertisement begins with the assumption that you are not happy enough and what is offered will make you happier. People ask all the time, “Are you happy?” Do we know what we are asking about? What is happiness? What makes you happy? How happy can you get? How long can happiness last? Is it good to be happy all the time?

BigThink has some research on this elusive emotional skill, psychology, practice, currency.

“Activities such as exercise, expressing gratitude, altruism, and taking time to savor or appreciate the good things in life have all been shown to influence short-term wellbeing very much, and there is evidence that they can nudge that hedonic set point up the scale in the long-term as well.

Additionally, the hedonic treadmill is due, in part, to processes of desensitization and adaptation — we get used to things. Because of this, variety is a powerful means of combatting the hedonic set point's inexorable tug. Persistently engaging in a variety of positive activities or varying how one performs a given positive activity can trick your stubborn brain into actually feeling good about things.”


Myofascial Memory

Very interesting view on the conversation about cognition, time, and tissue.

LearnMuscles.com

“Research has found that fascia is richly innervated with nerve endings, making it a “tissue of communication.” Under certain dysfunctional conditions, a neuro-fascial interaction may be responsible for the setting of a local tissue “memory” (peripheral sensitization). Thus, touch or manual therapy may “unload” the tissue, causing a change in neural input to the brain which may trigger the memory.”

Exercise vs. Meds

Bigthink.com has an article discussing the benefits of exercise and how it is beginning to reshape how we think about treatment for psychological issues.

“The results were stunning. After leading the patients in structured exercises — each 60-minute session included a combination of strength training, flexibility training, and cardio — 95 percent of patients reported feeling better, while 63 percent reported feeling happy or very happy instead of sad, very sad, or neutral. A whopping 91.8 percent said they were pleased with their bodies during the sessions.”

It also has this lovely gem of a quote:

“Humans were designed to move. Bipedalism offers us serious advantages in lung capacity and communication systems. Humans are generally weak and slow for mammals, but the combination of mental ingenuity and physical dexterity gave us a competitive advantage, one we've exploited so effectively that, thanks to our technology, we now bow to the cult of the mind while abandoning the reality of our bodies. Yet we're paying the price for our conveniences.”

Cognitive Countering

Sam Harris’ Making Sense podcast has a bunch of great conversations. Of particular interest are two that focus on how the mind is built to make mistakes and methods for overcoming our cognitive biases.

Maps to Misunderstanding is a conversation with Daniel Kahneman author of Thinking Fast & Slow. Discover System 1 System 2 and the difference between the remembering self and the experiencing self.

Mental Models is a conversation with Shane Parrish from The Knowledge Project podcast. Which looks like my next info-binge.

How to Deal With Work Bullies

Bigthink has an article discussing sleep problems stemming from personality conflicts at work. The article runs down physiological effects of chronic stressful encounters at work and offers up a few basic ways to mediate the stress: Meditation, exercise, listening to music, taking a walk and volunteering.

Couple thoughts. Anyone who is rude or condescending is afraid of losing power or doesn’t believe they have enough to feel safe. In short they are cowards who are afraid to ask for help. This leaves them with only one option, take power from others. These people have already failed at making others happy. They probably had to deal with some other terrified person that taught them this behavior. Someone who could never be made happy.

So the bully cannot find their power in helping, because they themselves feel helpless. How can they support others when they feel like they are about to fall apart? So instead they gain power, in their minds, by seeing other people in pain. They can achieve at least that and to them that is the false evidence of their power or control. Their behavior reflects the internal aggression they feel toward themselves for not being able to make others happy. But I’m sure this is obvious.

Thought number 2, its not your job to solve their psychological issues. But it is your job to come to terms with the fact that these people rarely change their behavior. And even if you go somewhere else to escape them, there will always be another asshole.

You will have to be the one that changes in some way. Because fighting these people head on does nothing but escalate the stress and feed into their power myths.

First you have to know that they can’t actually take anything away from you. Their fear doesn’t need to be your fear. That’s them getting to set the terms of conflict. Resilience in these moments requires a strong knowledge of what you value. This gets tricky, because when I say value, people think of worth, as in materials or currencies. What I mean by value, is what do you give your attention to the most.

What gets most of your attention is the thing you give the most value. Its what gets the most power from you. If your attention is occupied by something that makes you anxious, then you will fall prey to the power myth.

If you value this person liking you, changing, or providing some kind of positive feedback from your relationship you are fighting their fight, which is a delusion. You are investing in the idea that power can be taken or earned. The trick is understanding that real power can only be given.

Last thought, the fight is not fighting. If there was a real fight it is training your attention. If you understand how much power you have and where it comes from, then you know you it can’t run out and so have plenty to give. Ultimately, this persons bully behavior is coming from a child who can not find enough love to feel safe enough to grow emotionally and play nice with others. That doesn’t mean you should be their parent. Just don’t waste your attention trying to defeat or please them.

Sleep Myths

CNN.com has an article that has sleep experts correcting common misconceptions about sleep.

The quick run down is, you should get more sleep, lots more, but not too much. Here are the 10 myths they cover:

1. Adults need five or fewer hours of sleep.

2. It's healthy to be able to fall asleep 'anywhere, anytime'.

3. Your brain and body can adapt to less sleep.

4. Snoring, although annoying, is mostly harmless.

5. Drinking alcohol before bed helps you fall sleep.

6. Not sleeping? Stay in bed with eyes closed and try and try.

7. It doesn't matter what time of day you sleep.

8. Watching TV in bed helps you relax.

9. Hitting snooze is great! No need to get up right away.

10. Remembering your dreams is a sign of good sleep.

Dreaming and Skill Acquisition

Bigthink.com has an interesting article on the lucid dreaming and learning. Particularly of interest is the conversation about activation of motor neurons and thought.

“Interestingly, Llinás noticed that thinking fires motor neurons, the pathway we use to move our bodies. He believes thinking is an internalized form of movement; what we call consciousness is a mental representation of this phenomenon. Our mental maps allow us to predict how to navigate our environment. Combined with memory, our inner GPS creates and constantly updates this road map of prediction: move here, don’t go there, act this way but not like that.”

I see Internal Dynamic modules as exercises that increase our ability to create better mental maps of our our environments.

Vipassana Notes: Body, Change, Thought, Feeling

There are a whole bunch of different types of meditation practices. I believe these notes are from a lecture on Vipassana. Provides some thoughts and frame work for meditative exercises and how to work with your attention.

Mindfulness of the body:
Be aware breathing in
Be aware breathing out
Breathing knowing short and or long
Experience the whole body breathing
Experience the wholeness of the breath
Calm the breath
Calm the body

Identify other bodily feelings
Meditate on them
Notice their length, Can you sustain you attention there
Do they shift to other places
Does they intensify, or subside

Changing nature of elements
“I am” identifying
What calls your attention becomes the object of the meditation
Notice how things are
How long until it changes
How long until your attention drifts
Be aware of the drift
See if u can catch the drift
As u send your attention
Around the body
Drift and return
What remains
When u are gone
Sounds happen
Sensation is effortless
Return to the breath
Open to your changing sensations
When do you drift
How long have u been gone
Calmly,  softly, gently w humor return and breath and be aware of breathing, there is a body.
End

Mindless of Feeling
Pleasantness, unpleasant, neutral
Feeling tones, habitual desire
Neutral is delusion
Clear recognition of feeling no judgement
Feeling from the physical body
Pleasant and unpleasant and neutral feelings
Contemplating the disappearance
of those feelings

The mind free of wanting
Mindfulness of heart/mind
Be aware Mind states and emotions
conditions
Desire, Greed, aversion, delusion or absence of.

What is and is not skillful. Leads to happiness or suffering.  What to cultivate?
Noticing the mind states. What is the minds attitude right now. Receptive or rejecting, clear or delusional, wanting or not wanting?
Concentrated or directed? Joy, boredom.

When you drift
Return to the body and repeat

Mindfulness of thought
I am aware I am thinking
It wanders naturally
The wandering mind is not the problem but the attitude.
Not prevent thinking but recognize when it arises giving u more space to integrate them
Unaware we act our thoughts
They become our inclinations
Skillfull Mind habits
What is the content of my thoughts
What is a thought
A passing thing
Notice the patterns
Am I Planning
Am I Judging
Am I Remembering
Am I Fantasizing


Notes on Mark Epstein's, Thoughts Without a Thinker

This year I invested in reading, studying and practicing meditation. One of the best books I came across was Mark Epstein’s Thoughts Without a Thinker . Rather than try to regurgitate everything I’m just going to share a set of questions/quotes/statements from my notes.

  • Even pain can be interesting. Sitting in meditation is often about investing in the examination of discomfort. When it hurts is when you start learning. Pulling a way, trying to hide from pain gives it leverage. Welcoming it, trying to look at it closely, it transforms.

  • Other people, our own minds, and death. These are our challenges. Our greatest fear.

  • What are we afraid to learn?

  • Resistance, you are that which u resist.

  • Transitional space, your teddy bear, the security blanket. The totems that carry between the maturation points of our lives.

  • These weeds, these waves, they will help u. The things that obstruct you, you need.

  • Powers of observation, not judgement.

  • How do u contribute to your pain?

  • When something could have happened but did not. This lives in the flesh not the words.

  • Meditation on your mother...carefully tread.

  • The family is the worst invention of God that never existed

  • Meditation has a certain culture bias.

  • Am I lovable? Estranged or enmeshed?

Choking Under Pressure

Bigthink looks at studies of smart people choking and offers advice on how to reframe your goals.

Also, a link to an article discussing the neuropsychological mechanisms of choking.

“Smart people are more likely to choke in high-pressure situations, but interestingly this disadvantage seems to vanish when goals are framed strategically.”

Mindfullness Debate

How do you define Mindfullness?

“To be clear, mindfulness and meditation are not the same thing. There are types of meditation that are mindful, but not all mindfulness involves meditation and not all meditation is mindfulness-based.”

The Search for Meaning

bigthink has an article discussing Joseph Campbell and Alan Watts thoughts on the modern crisis of meaning and purpose.

"More and more each one of us is thrown on to our own resources. This seems to me an excellent state of affairs. So that in a symbolic sense we are back in the forest like the hunter of old who has nobody around him to tell him how to feel or how he ought to use his senses. He therefore must make his own exploration and find out for himself."

America is Hooked on Painkillers

Yahoo has an article that hits close to home. My mother struggled with a painkiller addiction my entire life. It destroyed her many times over. Her addiction got her arrested and institutionalized, more than once. She lost friends and a marriage. Over the years, she overdosed a number of times, until one day she did not wake. My moms’ younger brother, overdosed on the same medication not even a year later.

This is a deeply personal thing. Growing up around people suffering from pain and addiction has made me very sensitive to other’s suffering and I guess that’s why I do what I do. There are two telling quotes in the article that sums up a lot of the issue.

“The results showed that counties where marketing to doctors was heaviest had the greatest incidence of over-prescribing of opioids, as well as subsequent abuse and related deaths.”

and

Direct-to-consumer advertising by major pharmaceutical companies has also had a significant effect on pain management expectations in clients, says Chris Lee, a health care consultant and marketing manager at Family Health Centers of San Diego. “Unlike most countries, the United States allows direct-to-consumer drug ads. ‘Ask your doctor about [drug name],’ they advise patients. This generates demand levels that are simply not seen in other countries.”

Its not the final passing that is so horrible. It is the number of times you see their spirit die before their bodies give in. The article says 70,000 people died last year from overdoses. While the dead may be at peace, the living that loved them is a far greater number and their peace further away.

I miss you mom.

Time For A Mental Upgrade

If you haven’t figured it out by now, the world isn’t always what it seems, and people have a tendency to rationalize a lot of bad decisions they make. It’s simple really, our genes haven’t caught up with our culture and that means our brains are running on out-of-date programs.

What would be interesting is to see how we begin to adapt our education policies in relation to what our real issues are. Namely, understanding our limits and learning to compensate for our biases. Here is a list from BigThink of 200 things your brain is designed to get wrong.

Self Compassion Meditation

BigThink has a research article on the health benefits of Self-Compassion meditation.

Which brings us to a new study, conducted at the Universities of Exeter and Oxford and published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science on February 6. The research team assigned two short-term self-compassion exercises to 135 participants alongside control conditions that involved negative, neutral, and positive valences. The results: people feel better, physically and mentally, when they practice kindness.

Specifically, when practicing self-compassion, the volunteers experienced reduced arousal — heart rate and skin conductance, increased parasympathetic activation, heart rate variability, etc. Their nervous systems responded better when their mindset invoked kindness instead of excitability and agitation. It's an interesting finding, however "the underlying processes for this," as the researchers explicitly state, are still "not well understood."


Sun Style with Resistance Using Theraband

Instagram video of yours truly using a resistance band for form training. Informative for structure, sensitivity, speed, and strengthen.

Tai Chi vs. Crossfit

Times has an article comparing tai chi to crossfit.

“It holds up when compared to other more strenuous types of exercise. “Over time, we see people who do tai chi achieve similar levels of fitness as those who walk or do other forms of physical therapy,” Irwin says. One study in theAmerican Journal of Epidemiology concluded that tai chi was nearly as effective as jogging at lowering risk of death among men. Another review inPLOS One found that the practice may improve fitness and endurance of the heart and lungs, even for healthy adults.”

The Giving Way: Sun Style Tai Chi Notes

The Giving Way

Still mind

Steady feet

Breathe, sink

Time the beats

All doors a trap

Desire the map

Give, facilitate

Occupy the back

Gifts freely given

Cannot be taken

Offered options

Limit choices

Show the way

They want to go

Feeling strong

In a disappearing hand

Extend their range

Let them reach

Make them long

Support what they seek

Corrupt the balance

Change the target

Seeking strength

Opens the gates

Catch them

As they tumble

Stable them

Humble

Striking a gift

Rare, swift

Creating space

Where none exists

Mind Hopeful

Body Supple

Beyond the target

The goal waits


Stretching Treats Inflammation, Does Help with Cancer?

Article discussing the effects of stretching and cancer treatment. Considering the amount of tissue winding and unwinding involved with internal arts method, this allows for a ringing out of the tissue as well as a stretching.