Beginner’s Guide to Meditation » for a positive & productive day (part 1)

This series teaches the basics of mindfulness meditation for beginners. In this episode we practice: finding a comfortable seat, bringing your attention to the breath, and becoming aware of any sensations and thoughts that enter into the mind while meditating. We will explore what to do with these thoughts and emotions in the next video.

FEATURED IN THE VIDEO »
To watch part 2: https://youtu.be/0eKD-mDa3CA »
To watch part 3: https://youtu.be/zFotlhvCzWc »

Where I learned Vipassana meditation: http://satipatthana.ca »
Music “Garden Music” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/b…

Laughing is good for your mind and your body – here’s what the research shows

It’s hard to beat a good laugh with a friend. Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Janet M. Gibson, Grinnell College

Amusement and pleasant surprises – and the laughter they can trigger – add texture to the fabric of daily life.

Those giggles and guffaws can seem like just silly throwaways. But laughter, in response to funny events, actually takes a lot of work, because it activates many areas of the brain: areas that control motor, emotional, cognitive and social processing.

As I found when writing “An Introduction to the Psychology of Humor,” researchers now appreciate laughter’s power to enhance physical and mental well-being.

Laughter’s physical power

People begin laughing in infancy, when it helps develop muscles and upper body strength. Laughter is not just breathing. It relies on complex combinations of facial muscles, often involving movement of the eyes, head and shoulders.

Laughter – doing it or observing it – activates multiple regions of the brain: the motor cortex, which controls muscles; the frontal lobe, which helps you understand context; and the limbic system, which modulates positive emotions. Turning all these circuits on strengthens neural connections and helps a healthy brain coordinate its activity.

By activating the neural pathways of emotions like joy and mirth, laughter can improve your mood and make your physical and emotional response to stress less intense. For example, laughing may help control brain levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, similar to what antidepressants do. By minimizing your brain’s responses to threats, it limits the release of neurotransmitters and hormones like cortisol that can wear down your cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems over time. Laughter’s kind of like an antidote to stress, which weakens these systems and increases vulnerability to diseases.

women laughing together at an outdoor meal
Getting the joke is a good workout for your brain. Thomas Barwick/Stone via Getty Images

Laughter’s cognitive power

A good sense of humor and the laughter that follows depend on an ample measure of social intelligence and working memory resources.

Laughter, like humor, typically sparks from recognizing the incongruities or absurdities of a situation. You need to mentally resolve the surprising behavior or event – otherwise you won’t laugh; you might just be confused instead. Inferring the intentions of others and taking their perspective can enhance the intensity of the laughter and amusement you feel.

To “get” a joke or humorous situation, you need to be able to see the lighter side of things. You must believe that other possibilities besides the literal exist – think about being amused by comic strips with talking animals, like those found in “The Far Side.”

Laughter’s social power

Many cognitive and social skills work together to help you monitor when and why laughter occurs during conversations. You don’t even need to hear a laugh to be able to laugh. Deaf signers punctuate their signed sentences with laughter, much like emoticons in written text.

Laughter creates bonds and increases intimacy with others. Linguist Don Nilsen points out that chuckles and belly laughs seldom happen when alone, supporting their strong social role. Beginning early in life, infants’ laughter is an external sign of pleasure that helps strengthen bonds with caregivers.

Later, it’s an external sign of sharing an appreciation of the situation. For example, public speakers and comedians try to get a laugh to make audiences feel psychologically closer to them, to create intimacy.

By practicing a little laughter each day, you can enhance social skills that may not come naturally to you. When you laugh in response to humor, you share your feelings with others and learn from risks that your response will be accepted/shared/enjoyed by others and not be rejected/ignored/disliked.

In studies, psychologists have found that men with Type A personality characteristics, including competitiveness and time urgency, tend to laugh more, while women with those traits laugh less. Both sexes laugh more with others than when alone.

white-haired woman laughing on a park bench
Laughter has value across the whole lifespan. Steve Prezant/The Image Bank via Getty Images

Laughter’s mental power

Positive psychology researchers study how people can live meaningful lives and thrive. Laughter produces positive emotions that lead to this kind of flourishing. These feelings – like amusement, happiness, mirth and joy – build resiliency and increase creative thinking. They increase subjective well-being and life satisfaction. Researchers find that these positive emotions experienced with humor and laughter correlate with appreciating the meaning of life and help older adults hold a benign view of difficulties they’ve faced over a lifetime.

Laughter in response to amusement is a healthy coping mechanism. When you laugh, you take yourself or the situation less seriously and may feel empowered to problem-solve. For example, psychologists measured the frequency and intensity of 41 people’s laughter over two weeks, along with their ratings of physical and mental stress. They found that the more laughter experienced, the lower the reported stress. Whether the instances of laughter were strong, medium or weak in intensity didn’t matter.

Maybe you want to grab some of these benefits for yourself – can you force laughter to work for you?

A growing number of therapists advocate using humor and laughter to help clients build trust and improve work environments; a review of five different studies found that measures of well-being did increase after laughter interventions. Sometimes called homeplay instead of homework, these interventions take the form of daily humor activities – surrounding yourself with funny people, watching a comedy that makes you laugh or writing down three funny things that happened today.

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You can practice laughing even when alone. Intentionally take a perspective that appreciates the funny side of events. Laughing yoga is a technique of using breathing muscles to achieve the positive physical responses of natural laughing with forced laughter (ha ha hee hee ho ho). Some tips on how to get started with laughing yoga.

Researchers today certainly aren’t laughing off its value, but a good deal of the research on laughter’s influence on mental and physical health is based on self-report measures. More psychological experimentation around laughter or the contexts in which it occurs will likely support the importance of laughing throughout your day, and maybe even suggest more ways to intentionally harness its benefits.

Janet M. Gibson, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Grinnell College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Just Another Political Rant

Assorted international currency notes.Power, greed and deception are the rules and conditions of politics. Almost every single politician is concerned with their own wealth and the power that comes with their elected position. Campaign promises created to get votes and bills filled with hidden earmarks and agendas fill the congress. Healthcare is only affordable by the rich and pharmaceutical companies push the medical industry to use pharmaceuticals to manage diseases instead of educating the patients or surgery.

There is far more money in selling overpriced pharmaceuticals to manage a health problem than to come up with an actual cure. This is not to say there isn’t anyone out there looking for cures, just that funding and priority for finding a cure for a disease is lower than the research for drugs that help manage a disease. Though I will give the present administration a thumbs up for the fact they are pushing the idea of better diet and physical fitness as a preventative measure in keeping good health.

It still gets me quite upset that there are some congress officials and hopefuls looking for a way to increase the retirement age and or diminish the social security plan. For one thing even if the average life expectancy is like 80 it does not mean the majority of humans will survive to that age. The percentage that are lucky enough to live to see retirement are usually not as healthy due to having to work so hard and long. With the fact that it takes the lower and below middleclass citizen 2 to 3 jobs to maintain a decent standard of living only puts more strain on the health of those individuals.

For as Medicare/Medicaid and any federal or state funded health care , it should be limited to legal citizens who have and will contribute to the tax systems both at state and federal levels. The only way illegal aliens could be a part of the system is if the government went to a national sales tax to replace the current income tax. This would insure every individual living in the united states would and could contribute their fair share to the government funds. Of course this federal sales tax should not be on food or necessities of life such as utilities only on luxuries.

One thing I have learned is if it makes sense the government will either ignore the idea or take it and load it down with so many earmarks or amendments it becomes a useless idea and bill/law. Once in a while one might actually slip through with little change but that is becoming a very rare occasion in recent years.

Well enough rambling on about politics and such.
Peace to all Raymond Barbier.

Fresh Produce and a Healthier Diet

Various fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains; ...  I have noticed in the news they have been pushing the fresh fruits and vegetable thing again and I think it is a good idea. Unfortunately most fresh fruits and vegetables are quite expensive compared to the unhealthy foods most of us like and eat. There is one way to cut costs on fresh produce and that is to grow your own and can them yourself. What you don’t eat during the season is still healthier as home canned than store bought canned. Frozen produce has been proven also to be as healthy if not sometimes healthier than the fresh produce at the grocery store. This is due to the fact the produce is frozen close to the harvest time that retains the nutritional levels unlike produce that is shipped and stored which makes it less nutritional due to the time between harvest and consumption. Fresh picked produce is better especially if you were the one to grow it because the fact you would use less pesticides if none during the growing process.

  Even Meat sources that are raised by the consumer would be healthier due to the absence of hormones and antibiotics that commercial farms use. Plus fresh meat tastes better or at least it does to me. Just remember the old saying you are what you eat so when you eat chemicals and additives in processed food your body either has to work hard to remove the toxins or it is storing it in your body fat. Do not always listen to what the media and government tries to say is or isn’t healthy just follow the rule if it is not natural then more and likely it isn’t healthy to eat. And if it is natural is is safe to eat if not healthy. Some natural things are not as healthy as others but if you balance your good with not as good then you can have a enjoyable and healthy diet.

Peace and happiness to you all

Ray Barbier