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How Not to Be a Slave to Your Brain: Mindfulness for Mental Health
One of the classic definitions of mindfulness is that it helps us not cling to what is pleasant and not condemn what is unpleasant.
Mark Epstein, M.D. is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and the author of a number of books about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy, including Thoughts without a Thinker, Going to Pieces without Falling Apart, Going on Being, Open to Desire, Psychotherapy without the Self, and The Trauma of Everyday Life. His newest book is Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard University and is currently Clinical Assistant Professor in the Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis at New York University.
Mark Epstein: One of the classic definitions of mindfulness is that it helps us not cling to what's pleasant and not condemn what is unpleasant. An example would be if you're driving in New York City and someone cuts you off; that's unpleasant and one would instinctively have an angry response. But that's happening all the time and if you have an angry response too often, then you become a nightmare yourself. So what mindfulness is teaching is that the stimulus, which is someone cutting you off, is different; it's distinct from your emotional reaction to that thing. So someone could cut you off; you could feel the anger, but you don't have to act on the anger. So instead of being driven by your reactions there's a little bit of room where you can choose to be a different kind of person. So mindfulness basically helps us tolerate the aspects of the external world and the internal world that otherwise are hard to face.
There are basically two kinds of meditation; one, which is a concentration practice. You focus your attention on a neutral sensation like the feeling of the breath coming in and out of the nostrils or like the repetition of a sound or what's called a mantra. And every time the mind wanders, whenever you notice that it's wandered, that might be five minutes, 10 minutes later when you're lost in thought, but at a certain point you realize, "Oh wait, I'm not watching the breath anymore," then you bring your mind back to the breath. That's called a concentration or a one-pointed practice. And that's the beginning level of mindfulness. When you really start practicing mindfulness, instead of bringing the mind back every time to a central object, you let the attention go wherever the mind goes. So instead of paying attention just to the breath or the mantra, you pay attention to sounds; you pay attention thoughts; you pay attention to the feeling; you pay attention to memories; you pay attention to worries, to anxieties, to anger, to joy; you pay attention to whatever passes through your mind moment to moment. And then what you start to see is that oh everything is changing all the time and you learn to pay attention more to process than to content.
It's really only in the past 50, 60 years that the medical establishment has been exposed at all to what mindfulness is. And for 20, 30 of those years it was like just a new age thing. It was on the periphery. And only through the work of a couple of people like Jon Kabat-Zinn has mindfulness come into the medical establishment. There are a lot of studies that are being done now that are showing the benefit of mindfulness for all kinds of conditions. And some old colleagues of mine have done some very good work showing that the steady practice of mindfulness light up areas of the brain that have to do with modulating emotional reactivity. So I think there's beginning evidence that the brain is plastic, more plastic than we initially thought and that what you feed into the brain actually changes the architecture of the brain so that it's possible to promote, to develop the areas of the brain that are there for kindness, you know, for altruistic feeling and for the regulation of difficult emotions.
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One of the classic definitions of mindfulness is that it helps us avoid clinging to what is pleasant and condemning what is unpleasant. In this video, psychiatrist Mark Epstein relays information about the practice of mindful meditation and its many mental health benefits.
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.