The time to be happy is now and the way to find meaning in life is to get on and live it as fully and as well as we can.
The time to be happy is now and the way to find meaning in life is to get on and live it as fully and as well as we can.
This video is worth sharing with everyone, especially those searching for happiness elsewhere
“Being rich is not about how much you have, but how much you give. Somehow when you give, you’ll be happier”
I am most fascinated by the “Google effect”. Read on…
As the great psychologist William James said:
“If we remembered everything we should on most occasions be as ill off as if we remembered nothing.”
Here are ten interesting quirks of memory which provide a better insight into what makes us remember — or forget.
1. Context is king
What we can remember partly depends on the situation and mental state we are in at the time.
This is because our memories work by association.
The context itself can refer to all kinds of things: some things are easier to remember in a certain place, others when we experience specific smells, others when we are in particular emotional states.
One striking study which demonstrates this had deep sea divers learning lists of words either 15ft underwater or on dry land (Godden & Baddeley, 1975).
It turned out that when they learned words underwater, they remembered 32% of them when tested underwater, but only 21% when tested on the beach.
Of course our memories are far more complex than lists of words: many will have all kinds of contextual hooks, but the study neatly makes the point that for memory, context is very important.
2. Google remembers for you
If you’ve ever worried about the effect the internet is having on your mind, then this aspect of memory would seem to fuel those worries.
The ‘Google effect’ is the finding that we tend to forget things which we know we can look up on the internet.
In a study by Sparrow et al. (2011) participants were manipulated into thinking they could either retrieve items they were supposed to recall from a computer, or that the items had been irrevocably deleted.
The results showed that people’s memory was worse for things they thought they could look up.
Crucially, though, despite the fact that people’s memory was worse when they could access the information, they were better at knowing where to find it.
Given that you can look most stuff up on the internet, doesn’t that mean we’ll eventually forget almost everything?
Lead author of the study, Betsy Sparrow, doesn’t see this as the beginning of the end, rather a ‘reorganisation of the way we remember things’:
“Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.”
So it’s not a step backwards, but an evolution in how memory works.
3. Negative emotions fade faster
This is a simple — and wonderful — quirk of how memory works.
It’s the fact that, on average, negative emotions are forgotten quicker than positive.
A typical study asks people to write about things that have happened to them over a period of months.
Then they are asked to recall these events up to five years later.
A curious thing happens for most (non-depressed) people: the negative things are forgotten at a higher rate than the positive.
Psychologists aren’t exactly sure why this happens, but it seems to be part of our natural psychological immune system which helps protect against life’s inevitable knocks.
4. Deep processing
This is a very obvious and intuitive quirk of memory, but nonetheless continually ignored by generations of students and others who are trying to learn.
It’s the fact that the deeper a fact or memory is processed, the greater the chance of it being recalled later.
A classic study had people trying to memorise a list of words (Craik & Tulving, 1975).
Some were told to focus on surface details, like the sound of the words or how they were written. Another group, though, had to process the meaning.
You’ll be unsurprised to learn that those who thought about the meaning of the words did the best on a subsequent test.
And yet, students and other learners continue to revise by rote or by just focusing on surface details.
Looking for deeper connections is the way to more strongly fix memories in the mind.
5. Memory distortion
When a memory is ‘misattributed’ some original true aspect of a memory becomes distorted through time, space or circumstances.
Some examples that have been studied in the lab are:
Misattributing the source of memories. In one study participants with ‘normal’ memories regularly made the mistake of thinking they had acquired a trivial fact from a newspaper, when actually the experimenters had supplied it (Schacter, Harbluk, & McLachlan, 1984).
Misattributing a face to the wrong context. Studies have shown that memories can become blended together, so that faces and circumstances are merged.
Memory expert Daniel Schacter suggests that misattributions may actually be useful to us (Schacter, 1999).
The ability to extract, abstract and generalise our experience enables us to apply lessons we’ve learnt in one domain to another.
6. The Zeigarnik effect
The Zeigarnik effect is named after a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, who noticed an odd thing while sitting in a restaurant in Vienna.
The waiters seemed only to remember orders which were in the process of being served. When completed, the orders evaporated from their memory.
Zeigarnik went back to the lab to test out a theory about what was going on.
She asked participants to do twenty or so simple little tasks in the lab, like solving puzzles and stringing beads (Zeigarnik, 1927). Except some of the time they were interrupted half way through the task.
Afterwards she asked them which activities they remembered doing.
People were about twice as likely to remember the tasks during which they’d been interrupted than those they completed.
The Zeigarnik effect, therefore, is that incomplete tasks are remembered better than completed ones.
It’s pretty easy to see why that might be a useful quirk of memory.
7. Childhood amnesia
Most adults can’t remember much, if anything, from before the age of three.
It’s what Sigmund Freud first termed ‘childhood amnesia’.
A new study of childhood memory reveals that childhood amnesia sets in at around the age of seven (Bauer & Larkina, 2013).
The results showed that between 5 and 7 years-of-age, the children could remember between 63% and 72% of the events they’d first recalled at the age of three.
However, by the age of 8 or 9, the children only remembered about 35% of the events.
When children are young the hippocampus–a part of the brain crucial to memory–is still undergoing neurogenesis: new neurons are constantly being produced.
Until this process is complete we find it hard to lay down long-term autobiographical memories.
8. The reminiscence bump
While we may remember little from before around the age of seven, the teenage and early adult years are a completely different matter.
Between about 10 and 30-years-old, most adults experience some of the biggest moments in their lives, all in relatively quick succession.
There’s education, puberty, falling in love, deciding on a career, getting married, having a first child and so on.
While life’s later years can be full of happiness and fulfilment, it’s in these two decades when most people experience the largest changes to their identities, goals and life circumstances.
Naturally, then, people tend to remember this period most intensely — that is the ‘reminiscence bump’, named after the bump on the graph of people’s retrieval of autobiographical memories (in red below).
9. The consistency bias
New experiences don’t fall on a blank slate; we don’t merely record the things we see around us.
Instead everything we do, have done to us, think or experience, is affected by past thoughts and things that have already happened to us.
One strong psychological drive humans have is to be consistent.
This, then, can lead to a consistency bias: we have a tendency to reconstruct the past to make it more compatible with our current world-view.
For example, as people get older, on average, they get politically more conservative.
Despite this people report always having had roughly the same views (Markus, 1986).
10. The recall effect
Many memories which have the scent of authenticity may turn out to be misremembered, if not totally fictitious events, if only we could check.
But, does the long passage of time warp the memory, or is there some more active process that causes the change?
In one experiment participants had memories laid down in a carefully controlled way to test this out (St. Jacques & Schacter, 2013).
The results showed that people’s memories were both enhanced and distorted by the process of recall. This shows that merely recalling a memory is enough to strengthen it.
This is one aspect of the fact that memory is an active, reconstructive process; recalling something is not a neutral act, it strengthens that memory in comparison to the others.
A good memory
Hopefully these ‘quirks’ of memory help to underline the fact that some of what we think of as the disadvantages of memory are really strengths.
As the great psychologist William James said:
“If we remembered everything we should on most occasions be as ill off as if we remembered nothing.”
It has been more than a month since I let you go. It was not an easy decision by any means. In fact, one of the hardest things I had to do. More often than not, I can’t help to think about you; our times together, riding on the fast lane, like there was no tomorrow. Time didn’t exist when we were together. It was pure joy, ecstasy like no other drug. I loved the way I rode you, like a wild horse. How the wind caressed my face , how your raw power vibrated my core. We spent some long years together and I enjoyed every second of them. Too much, I think.
And like everything that is done in excess, it becomes, like an addiction too much to handle.
Like a drug you were demanding more of me. More time to ride, more time away from home, more money to keep up with your high maintenance. I was blinded by your seductive attraction, by your speed by how happy I felt riding you. My world revolved around you and everything else or anyone who didn’t like how much I wanted you, I had no problem turning the other face like I didn’t care.
Everything comes to an end or a pause to take a broader view of the life I was leading and assess my priorities. In my case, it took a unfortunate yet inevitable event for the way I was handling things, to put the brakes on you.
I lost sight of what was important. The veil of freedom and self center righteousness obscured my vision. I didn’t want to hear the truth of reality despite of been ringing into my deaf ears for a long time. I neglected the most important thing in my life for going out with you…my family. By chasing my personal happiness, I was happy but the people most important to me were not happy. I broke the rule of happiness in my marriage: happiness must go both ways.
In retrospect, I could see it coming. From the moment I laid my eyes on you and brought you home you were not welcomed. You preferred to ride with me only and didn’t like her, my wife, to ride along and truth be told she didn’t like you either.
Every time I went out with you, there was always an issue day or night. I didn’t see it before because I was living the single man’s life, justifying my riding and time with you as a reward of my hard work. The bickering became upsetting and riding emotionally painful. It was not much fun anymore. I was not at peace and prefer not to ride anymore.
Only then I realized what needed to be done and took me more time to finally do it. I cried, like a little boy when I let go of you. Watching you being handle by others and away from me brought me to tears. Knowing it will be the last time together, I rode you like I stole you and still letting go was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced.
So, so long my iron horse. I enjoyed the good times riding. Now it’s time for me to take care of the ranch until we get a better horse that we both can ride and enjoy together….the way it should have been in the first place.
If you’re fascinated as I am about how the brain works and it’s power over the body and in dire situations, please read on.
Judging by their ability to meditate for hours on end, to abstain from food for days, and their vows of silence, most us would agree that Tibetan Monks have better control over their minds and bodies than the average person. Still, what’s particularly amazing is some of them can control physiological processes, such as blood pressure and body temperature – feats many medical doctors find astounding.
In one of the most notable exhibits of their skills, a group of Tibetan monks allowed physicians to monitor the monk’s bodily changes as they engaged in a meditative yoga technique known as g Tum-mo.
During the process the monks were cloaked in wet, cold sheets (49 f / 9.4 c) and placed in a 40 f (4.5 c) room. In such conditions, the average person would likely experience uncontrollable shivering and would shortly suffer hypothermia. However, through deep concentration, the monks were able to generate body heat, and within minutes the researchers noticed steam rising from the sheets that were covering the monks. Within an hour, the sheets were completely dry.
Although, the display was fascinating to the doctors, for the monks it was an ordinary occurrence. In fact, new monks use g Tum-mo as a way of proving their meditative strength and hold contests to see who can dry the most sheets in one night.
The Buddhists say the heat they generate is a byproduct of the meditation, since it takes energy to reach a state of alternate reality – a place unaffected by our everyday world.
Multiple personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder, is a mental condition that’s interesting on many levels. Perhaps most intriguing of all is how some sufferers not only exhibit personality and behavior changes as they switch between their different identities, but some also have measurable physiological variations between each persona. For instance, one of a patient’s personalities may need eyeglasses and another won’t. Or, one identity might be diabetic and another will have perfect health. In such cases, it isn’t simply a matter of the patients thinking they need eyeglasses or insulin, their bodies actually go through legitimate alterations, such as differences in intraocular pressure or blood sugar levels.
In one case, published by the American Psychiatric Press, a doctor noted how medications prescribed to a dissociative identity disorder patient had different effects depending on what “personality” took the drug. For example, when a tranquilizer was given to the person’s childish persona, it made the individual sleepy and relaxed. However, when the adult personality was administered the same drug it made him anxious and confused. Similar results were found with other patients and with a variety of different medications. Doctors even noticed visibly apparent traits, like lazy eye, would come and go depending on which personality was present.
This phenomenon is especially fascinating since no one, including the patients, is claiming mysticism is at work. On the contrary, it is a genuine example of the mind altering the body.
A placebo is an inert substance or belief which produces real biological effects in humans. It’s so widely accepted as fact that a placebo variable is included in most medical tests as way of proving if, say, a drug works on its own merits or because people “think” it works.
There are tons of experiments showing the proof of the placebo, but one of the most amusing to watch is a test done by a group of Princeton students who decided to throw a non-alcoholic keg party for their unsuspecting classmates. The experimenters secretly filled a keg with O’Douls (contains about 0.4% alcohol while regular beer has around 5% alcohol) and then watched as their peers acted silly, slurred words, slept on the ground, and generally acted drunk. Although it’s nearly impossible to get intoxicated on O’Douls, these college students had such a strong belief they were drinking standard beer that it affected their behavior.
Curiously, researchers have discovered the placebo effect is somehow getting stronger, and some drugs that have been on the market for years, such as Prozac, are now proving less effective than placebos. Naturally, this is a major issue for big pharmaceutical companies, which has left many scrambling to conduct neurological studies in an effort to come up with new ways to safeguard their industry from ordinary sugar pills. Incidentally, Big Pharma is currently more profitable than Big Oil, so there’s quite a bit at stake.
While placebos are generally associated with positive outcomes, like curing an illness or getting drunk on O’Douls and having fun (if you consider that positive), the nocebo effect produces negative results, such as a cancer patient vomiting before chemotherapy starts or someone breaking out in a rash because they thought they touched poison ivy, even though it was merely an ordinary plant.
One of the most talked about examples of the nocebo phenomenon was an incident published in “New Scientist.” According to the account, late one night an Alabama man, referred to as Vance, went to a cemetery and met up with a witch doctor who told Vance that he was going to die soon. Believing the witch doctor’s prediction, Vance soon fell ill and within a matter of weeks was emaciated and close to death. Vance was taken to the hospital but the medical doctors could find nothing wrong with him. Finally, Vance’s wife told the physician, Dr. Doherty, about the encounter with the witch doctor, which gave the creative physician an idea. The next day, Dr. Doherty told the couple he had tracked down the witch doctor and physically threatened him until the medicine man finally admitted he had put a lizard inside Vance that was eating him from the inside. Of course, the Doctor’s story was completely fabricated, yet he made a big show of injecting the patient with a mysterious substance and snuck in a genuine, green lizard that he pretended to extract from Vance. The next day, Vance awoke alert, hungry, and it didn’t take long before he fully recovered.
Apparently, that story was corroborated by four other medical professionals, and is often cited when explaining why Voo Doo sometimes works (i.e. not because of magic, but because of the nocebo effect).
There are a lot of stories floating around out there about people who experienced an injury in their dreams and then found real, physical evidence of the wound on their bodies once they awoke. For instance, some people have claimed to have been caught in a fire in their dreams and then woke up to find burn marks on their skin. Other common stories involve people being attacked during their dreams and then waking up to find scratch marks somewhere on their bodies. However, most of these stories are found in chat rooms or message boards, so it’s hard to corroborate if they are true.
But, there is one well documented case, reported by famed psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, about an Indian man named Durga Jatav who, during a battle with typhoid fever, had an extremely vivid dream about being held captive in another realm. To keep him from escaping, his dream captors cut his legs off at the knee. Unfortunately, his legs were already severed by the time the captors realized they had the wrong man and didn’t need to keep Jatav after all. When Jatav asked how he could leave with no legs, they offered him several pairs of legs, he picked out his own pair, and then they were miraculously reattached.
While Jatav was having the dream, his body became very cold and at one point his family thought he was dead, yet he revived a few days later. Once he was awake, his sister and neighbor noticed deep fissures around his knees that weren’t there previously. X-ray photographs showed no abnormality below the surface of the skin, which led Jatav and his family to believe the marks came from his dream experience. Dr. Stevenson met Jatav some 30 years later (1979) and took pictures of the still visible scars. Although Stevenson did not witness the event, he apparently believed the story, which was confirmed by all involved, and he even included the account and photographs in his book “Reincarnation and Biology: A contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects.”
Obviously there’s no scientific proof to this intriguing account, but it’s not too far-fetched considering what we already know about the power of the brain over the body.
Like the Tibetan monks, Indian Yogis seem to have an unusual talent for manipulating their physiological processes while in deep meditation. After hearing stories of yogis spending 28 days underground and surviving, in 1936, a French cardiologist named Therese Brosse traveled to India to see if the yogis truly did have such talents. In her experiments, the yogis reportedly slowed their heart down so slow that it was only detectable via an EKG machine.
In the 1950s Brosse’s study was expanded by another group of researchers who traveled through India with an eight-channel electro-encephalograph and various other instruments, which they used to monitor the yogis’ brain activity, respirations, skin temperature, blood-volume changes, and skin conductance. Two of their test subjects were placed in air-tight sealed boxes, on two separate occasions, and were monitored for 8 to 10 hours. During that time the Yogis showed biological characteristics similar to sleep and were able to slow down their heart rate and respiration to low enough levels that oxygen and carbon dioxide quantities inside the box remained virtually in the same proportions as found in air at sea level. Thus, it was shown that by slowing down their bodily processes and not panicking (as most would do) the Yogis could survive a live-burial for far longer than the average person, possibly even weeks longer.
Many athletes claim it helps them perform better when they “play” the game in their minds before ever stepping foot on the field or court. While we might assume doing so is just a mental exercise that enables them to better focus on the game, there might be more concrete changes happening inside the body.
Take, for example, Air Force Colonel George Hall who was locked in a small, dark North Vietnamese prison for seven years. While most would lose their minds in such circumstances, Hall went to his happy place, so to speak, by mentally playing golf every day of his imprisonment. His visualizations were extremely in-depth and included everything from hitting the ball off the tee, raking the sand traps, feeling the wind, and of course tapping the ball into the hole.
Regardless of being weak and 100 pounds lighter than before his capture, one of the first things Hall wanted to do after his release was play a legitimate round of golf. He was invited to the Greater New Orleans Open where he astoundingly shot a 76. When a member of the press suggested his performance was a case of beginners luck, Hall replied, “Luck, I never 3-putted a green in the last five years!”
So, despite his physical deterioration and not stepping on a course in over seven years, his body had developed muscle memory based simply on his imaginings.
Jack Schwarz, a Dutch Jewish writer, also lived in horrific conditions while forced into a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Like so many others, he was beaten, starved, and tortured beyond what most of us can comprehend. To cope with his situation, he began the practice of meditation and prayer, which he developed to the point where he could block out the pain of his torment and subsequently withstand his situation.
After his release, Schwarz continued his mind over matter practice and occasionally demonstrated his skills by putting a long sail-maker’s needle through his arm without injury. He also displayed his ability to regulate his body’s blood flow by causing the puncture hole in his arm to bleed or stop bleeding at will. Schwarz was studied by researchers at the Menninger Foundation who found that he could indeed control many of his bodily processes with only his mind. Furthermore, through an electroencephalograph, they determined his brain had different electrical activity as compared to most other test subjects. According to Schwarz, he could also see people’s auras, which allowed him to gauge their physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental conditions.
Undoubtedly it’s difficult to keep a positive attitude when you’re facing a life-threatening disease, but, based on a variety of medical studies, doing so may mean the difference between living and dying.
For example, in 1989, Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford University conducted a study on 86 women with late stage breast cancer. Half of those women received standard medical care while the other half were given weekly support sessions in addition to the standard medical care. During the sessions the women shared their feelings, talked with other patients, and generally had a positive outlet where they could cope with their illness. At the end of the study, the women in the support group lived twice as long as those not in the group. In 1999, a similar study found that cancer patients who have feelings of helplessness and hopelessness have a lower chance of survival.
In recent years, David Seidler, writer of “The King’s Speech,” claimed to have eliminated his cancer through meditation and imagination. After battling bladder cancer for years and only two weeks away from surgery, Seidler decided to see if he could get rid of the cancer through his imagination. He admittedly thought the idea was a little “woo-woo,” but by that point he figured he had nothing to lose. So, he spent the two weeks leading up to his surgery envisioning a clean, cream-colored, healthy bladder. When Seidler went in for his pre-surgery biopsy, the doctor was stunned to find a distinct lack of cancer – he even sent the biopsy to four different labs for testing. While Seidler believes his visualization were behind the cancer’s disappearance, his doctor labeled it a “spontaneous remission.”
It seems counterintuitive that increasing numbers of people are claiming to put a greater effort into exercising and eating a nutritious diet, yet there are more obese people in the world than ever before. Some researchers think positivity is a missing variable in the weight loss equation, and a lack of it is what’s keeping people chubby.
To prove the point that the mind has a major impact on the body, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer conducted an experiment on a group of predominantly overweight hotel maids who, judging by their daily activity levels, should have been thin. Despite essentially exercising all day long through their work, Langer discovered through a survey that 67% of the maids felt they didn’t do any type of exercise. Langer predicted the maids’ perceptions were hampering their weight loss, so she took half the maids aside and, in addition to taking their physical measurements, explained that through their cleaning work they were exceeding the surgeon general’s definition of an active lifestyle. The other half of the maids were given no information.
A month later, Langer’s team returned to the hotel and reevaluated the maids. They found an overall decrease in systolic blood pressure, weight, and waist-to-hip ratio in the educated group. The other group had no significant physical changes. While some suspect the mere discussion of exercise somehow altered the women’s behavior, Langer said there was no indication any of the maids modified their routines, and she feels the results were due simply to a change in mindset.
Source/Article credits: ListVerse