neuroscience & conflict resolution

For many of us, the flood of tribal hate and violence in the news can lead to a feeling of inevitability, that we human beings are inherently at the throats of those unlike us, and that it will be forever so. But for those in the conflict resolution field, there is a quietly growing effort to find hope in a new area: neuroscience.

Some who work with ethnic, racial and religious conflict are pairing with neuroscientists to understand how small advancements in brain research can help explain how we experience emotions like prejudice and disgust and fear. It will be a while before researchers are able to devise many specific strategies for using that knowledge of how the brain works in the peace-building process. But simply teaching people that there is a neurological basis for prejudice has the potential to help them view the deep-seated roots of their conflicts more objectively, says Timothy Phillips, co-founder of the conflict resolution organization Beyond Conflict.

“There is something deeply powerful about knowing it’s not just about culture, race, ethnicity – that all those things sit on an operating system called the human brain, and that that is universal,” says Phillips. “Contrary to social and political science that says humans are rational, we are deeply emotional beings. What drives our behavior is deeply emotionally based but we don’t even have access to what drives us.”

Read the full article HERE.

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difference / differences

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee. Marian Wright Edelman

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Eating your veggies and fruits linked to mental health

A new study published in the BMJ Open suggests eating five a day is linked to better mental well-being.

Woman-holding-fruits
Eating your “5 a day” increases changes of higher mental well-being, the researchers say.

A previous study suggested that consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is the optimum amount for lowering the risk of death from any cause, which contradicts another study that suggested we should be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day.

The researchers from this latest study, led by Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, used data from the Health Survey for England, which included nearly 14,000 adults over the age of 16.

This survey collected detailed information on the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as their health-related behaviors, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.

In addition, the team assessed the participants’ mental well-being using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, putting the top 15% of participants in the “high mental well-being” group, the bottom 15% in the low group, and those between 16-84% in the middle group.

‘The higher the veg and fruit intake, the lower the chance of low well-being’

Overall, the researchers found that high and low mental well-being were typically associated with the participants’ fruit and vegetable intake.

In detail, 35.5% of participants with high mental well-being ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who consumed less than one portion.

Additionally, 31.4% of the individuals from the high mental well-being group ate three to four fruit and veg portions per day, and 28.4% ate one to two.

“The data suggest that [the] higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being,” says Dr. Stranges.

The researchers also considered other health-related behaviors – such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity – and found that only smoking and fruit and vegetable intake were consistently associated with mental well-being.

Dr. Stranges explains:

“Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental well-being in the general population.”

Alcohol intake and obesity were associated with low, but not high mental well-being, the researchers add.

Enhancing well-being while preventing cancer

According to the team, high mental well-being is more than simply the absence of symptoms or illness – it is the condition of feeling good and functioning well. They add that optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships are also part of this mode of being.

According to co-author Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown, mental illness “is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental well-being underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.”

She says enabling people to maintain good well-being is important from a research perspective.

“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to enhance their mental well-being at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer,” she adds.

When asked about whether the study accounted for physical activity, Dr. Stranges told Medical News Today that one of the limitations of the study was that such data “was not available in the Health Survey for England,” leaving room for further study

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Are You Happy Now?

Happy: feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc. : showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. : pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.

 

 

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    Women and Men react differently

    Women react more intensely to negative images than men, a difference that can be seen even when looking at their brains, a new study finds.

    Researchers from University of Basel, whose study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, found that women rated positive and negative images as more emotionally stimulating than men did, and that their brains were more active than men’s when viewing negative pictures.msclip-016

    Such findings seem to support a common perception that women are more emotionally sensitive than men “and provides evidence for gender differences on the neural level,” said lead author Annette Milnik of the University of Basel. Read More Here.

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    the creative individual

    People are more creative than others and are literally bubbling with ideas, while others rarely or never show signs of creativity. What should we look for when searching for creative people? creativity1

    Creativity can quite simply be defined as the capacity to come up with new ideas to serve a purpose. Creativity is thus one of the most important sources of renewal. Creativity contributes to innovation and improvements in working life, commerce and industry.

    No wonder employers want creative employees in areas where it is essential to come up with proposals for new products and services, and new ways of doing things.

    The creative personality

    Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen at BI Norwegian Business School has conducted a study to develop a personality profile for creative people: Which personality traits characterize creative people?

    The study was conducted with 481 people with different backgrounds. The segment consists of various groups of more or less creative people.

    • The first group of creative people consists of 69 artists working as actors or musicians in a well-known symphony orchestra or are members of an artist’s organization with admission requirements.
    • The second group of creative people consists of 48 students of marketing.
    • The remaining participants in the study are managers, lecturers and students in programs that are less associated with creativity than marketing.

    The creativity researcher mapped the participants’ personality traits and tested their creative abilities and skills through various types of tasks.

    creativity-e1352824581399Seven creativity characteristics

    In his study Martinsen identifies seven paramount personality traits that characterize creative people:

    • 1. Associative orientation: Imaginative, playful, have a wealth of ideas, ability to be committed, sliding transitions between fact and fiction.

    • 2. Need for originality: Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude due to a need to do things no one else does.

    • 3. Motivation: Have a need to perform, goal-oriented, innovative attitude, stamina to tackle difficult issues.

    • 4. Ambition: Have a need to be influential, attract attention and recognition.

    • 5. Flexibility: Have the ability to see different aspects of issues and come up with optional solutions.

    • 6. Low emotional stability: Have a tendency to experience negative emotions, greater fluctuations in moods and emotional state, failing self-confidence.

    • 7. Low sociability: Have a tendency not to be very considerate, are obstinate and find faults and flaws in ideas and people.

    Among the seven personality traits, associative orientation and flexibility are the factors that to the greatest extent lead to creative thinking.

    “Associative orientation is linked to ingenuity. Flexibility is linked to insight,” says the professor. The other five characteristics describe emotional inclinations and motivational factors that influence creativity or spark an interest in creativity.

    “The seven personality traits influence creative performance through inter-action,” Martinsen points out.

    Øyvind L. Martinsen. The Creative Personality: A Synthesis and Development of the Creative Person Profile. Creativity Research Journal, 2011; 23 (3): 185 DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2011.595656

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    relapse stages

    I’ve been working with adults in recovery and in active addiction for many years. Going from recovery to relapse is process that could take days, weeks, months. The process is generally not paying attention, getting overwhelmed, ignoring your own thoughts/feelings and the input from others, and decided at some level of consciousness to use again. Below is one of the hand outs I use with relapse prevention groups.

    Step 1: Getting Stuck In Recovery

    Many of us decide that alcohol or drugs is a problem, stop using, and put together some kind of a recovery plan to help us stay sober. Initially we do fine. At some point, however, we hit a problem that we are unwilling or unable to deal with. We stop dead in our tracks. We are stuck in recovery and don’t know what to do.

    Step 2: Denying That We’re Stuckf-263

    Instead of recognizing that we’re stuck and asking for help, we use denial to convince ourselves that everything is OK. Denial makes it seem like the problem is gone, but it really isn’t. The problem is still there. It just goes under ground where we can’t see it. At some level we know that the problem is there, but we keep investing time and energy in denying it. This results in a buildup of pain and stress.

    Step 3: Using Other Compulsions

    To cope with this pain and stress, we begin to use other compulsive behaviors We can start overworking, over-eating, dieting, or over-exercising. We can get involved in addictive relationships. These behaviors make us feel good in the short run by distracting us from our problems. But since they do nothing to solve the problem, the stress and pain comes back. We feel good now, but we hurt latter. This is a hallmark of all addictive behaviors.

    Step 4: Experiencing A Trigger Event

    Then something happens. It’s usually not a big thing. Its something we could normally handle without getting upset. But this time something snaps inside. One person described it this way: “It feels like a trigger fires off in my gut and I go out of control.”

    Step 5: Becoming Dysfunctional On The Inside:

    When the trigger goes off, our stress jumps up, and our emotions take control of of our minds. To stay sober we have to keep intellect over emotion. We have to remember who we are (an addicted person), what we can’t do (use alcohol or drugs), and what we must do (stayed focused upon working a recovery program). When emotion gets control of the intellect we abandon everything we know, and start trying to feel good now at all costs.

    Relapse almost always grows from the inside out. The trigger event makes our pain so severe that we can’t function normally. We have difficulty thinking clearly. We swing between emotional overreaction and emotional numbness. We can’t remember things. It’s impossible to sleep restfully and we get clumsy and start having accidents.

    Step 6: Becoming Dysfunctional On The Outside:

    At first this internal dysfunction comes and goes. It’s annoying, but it’s not a real problem so we learn how to ignore it. On some level, we know something is wrong so we keep it a secret. Eventually we get so bad that the problems on the inside create problems on the outside. We start making mistakes at work, creating problems with our friends, families, and coworkers. We start neglecting our recovery programs. And things keep getting worse.

    Step 7: Losing Control:

    We handle each problem as it comes along but look at the the growing pattern of problems. We never really solve anything, we just put a band-aides on the deep gushing cuts, put first-aide cream on seriously infected wounds, and tell ourselves the problem is solved. Then we look the other way and try to forget about the problems by getting involved in compulsive activities that will somehow magically fix us. 10501634_10152483771078046_6376046067124349017_n

    This approach works for awhile, but eventually things start getting out of control. As soon as we solve one problem, two new ones pop up to replace it. Life becomes one problem after another in an apparently endless sequence of crisis. One person put it like this: “I feel like I’m standing chest deep in a swimming pool trying to hold three beach balls underwater at once. I get the first one down, then the second, but as I reach for the third, the first one pops back up again.”

    We finally recognize that we’re out of control. We get scared and angry. “I’m sober! I’m not using! I’m working a program! Yet I’m out of control. If this is what sobriety is like – who needs it?”

    Step 8: Using Addictive Thinking

    Now we go back to using addictive thinking. We begin thinking along these lines: ” Sobriety is bad for me, look at how miserable I am. Sober people don’t understand me. Look at how critical they are. Maybe things would get better if I could talk to some of my old friends. I don’t plan to drink or use drugs, I just want to get away from things for awhile and have a little fun. People who supported my drinking and drugging were my friends. They knew how to have a good time. These new people who want me to stay sober are my enemies. Maybe I was never addicted in the first place. Maybe my problems were caused by something else. I just need to get away from it all for awhile! Then I’ll be able to figure it all out.”

    Step 9: Going Back To Addictive People, Places, And Things

    Now we start going back to addictive people (our old friends), addictive places (our old hangouts), and addictive things (mind polluting compulsive activities). We convince ourselves that we’re not going to drink or use drugs. We just want to relax.

    Step 10: Using Addictive Substances:

    Eventually things get so bad that we come to believe that we only have three choices – collapse, suicide, or self-medication. We can collapse physically or emotionally from the stress of all our problems. We can end it all by committing suicide. Or we medicate the pain with alcohol or drugs. If these were your only three choices, which one sounds like the best way out?

    Step 11: Losing Control Over Use

    Once addicted people start using alcohol or drugs, they tend follow one of two paths. Some have a short term and low consequence relapse. They recognize that they are in serious trouble, see that they are losing control, and manage to reach out for help and get back into recovery. Others start to use alcohol or drugs and feel such extreme shame and guilt that they refuse to seek help. They eventually develop progressive health and life problems and either get back into recovery, commit suicide, or die from medical complications, accidents, or drug-related violence

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