Saturday, December 3, 2016

Inspirational Quote for December 3, 2016

“It’s not forgetting that heals, it’s remembering.”

Sometimes our emotions become so overwhelming that we try to push them down, ignoring them in the hopes they will go away. And yet, any sadness or upset that we repress always finds a way to come back up. Allowing the feelings to move through us, remembering the positive aspects and gifts that are borne out of any loss or disappointment, gives all our life experience value. Acknowledging the past allows us to move beyond the pain so the healing process can begin.

by Susyn Blair-Hunt

What Great Leadership and Music Have in Common

Management consultant Jim Crupi. who founded and runs Strategic Leadership Solutions, says all leaders should aspire to inspire, just as great music does, pointing out that "Our reaction to a great song can be so visceral that we are forever connected to it reliving a wonderful moment". In this article he outlines seven ways a good leader can make great music to his staff or followers.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Why Is It So Hard to Make Positive Changes?

By Jill Suttie 

A new book examines the common psychological barriers to change—and how to overcome them.

How many of us know people who have trouble stopping behaviors that are causing them physical or emotional harm? How many of us are those people?
If you or someone you know is struggling to make positive change in life, you may want to pick up James and Janice Prochaska’s newest book, Changing to Thrive. James Prochaska, eminent psychologist and founder of the Cancer Prevention Research Center, and Janice Prochaska—both experts in health behavior change—have written a compassionate and informative book for helping people move from being uncommitted to making change all the way to taking action for change and beyond. The Prochaskas’ program has been relatively successful, according to research, often reaching people who might otherwise give up.
The main problem with our current models of change, the authors argue, is that too many professionals ignore the emotional and psychological barriers to change. They assume that if someone is not ready to take action—if they are in what the Prochaskas call “the precontemplation stage” of change—they are immune to programs aimed at helping them. This belief then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“People in precontemplation are often labeled as uncooperative, resistant, unmotivated, or not ready for behavior change programs,” they write. “However, our research showed us that it was the health professionals who were not ready for precontemplators.”
Instead of assuming people don’t want to change when they aren’t taking action, the Prochaskas suggest that helpers (or the people stuck in unhealthy patterns) should address head-on the most common reasons people avoid committing to change:
  • They don’t know how change works, assuming that it’s an all-or-none process, that isn’t incremental and doesn’t involve setbacks;
  • They are demoralized, often because of repeated failures that make them feel stuck; and
  • They are too busy defending their behavior, by denying it’s a problem, rationalizing, withdrawing into a protective stance, or lashing out at others.
All of these barriers, the authors argue, can lead to stagnation; so it’s important to know how to address them before pressing people to take action. Instead of berating people, accusing them of personality defects, or scaring them with statistics, it’s more effective to show understanding and to give them information and hope.
“Providing innovative and more effective solutions for old problems is the best way to generate hope that can lead to the right kind of help,” they write.
Though the Prochaskas’ book goes into some of the research on behavioral change, they are primarily focused on laying out specific steps people can take to make change without getting stuck. Often, they note, the process is non-linear and people encounter psychological barriers—like fear of failure, doubt about the effectiveness of programs, worry about finding the perfect route to change, or the desire for certainty—that keep them from moving forward. Normalizing these reactions to change, giving people ways to reframe fears and disappointments, and providing skills for handling distress are paramount for helping people overcome these barriers, they argue.
Other barriers to change include the serious concerns some people have about the consequences of changing. For example, in a chapter on alcohol abuse, the authors tell the story of a client named David who often drank in the context of work social events. Though he may have worried about the effects on his body of drinking, he was also concerned about how stopping drinking might impact his work relationships. Taking these concerns seriously and creating alternative plans for addressing them—rather than believing that David has to “hit bottom” to change—is a much more compassionate as well as productive means of helping him.
In this example, their route to helping David included accepting his arguments as valid (if misguided), guiding him toward seeing that there were more “pros” than “cons” for stopping drinking, increasing social support in his life for stopping drinking, and making contingency plans for himself if he felt the urge to drink.
Separate chapters in the book are devoted to helping people with the four most common behavioral health issues—smoking, alcohol abuse, overeating, and lack of exercise. While each chapter addresses the underlying psychological barriers to change, they are also full of other tools people can use to help themselves with change.
Taking change one step further, the authors recommend tips for increasing well-being beyond behavioral change. They include several research-based practices to increasing positivity in one’s life, including learning relaxation techniques like meditation for decreasing stress, seeking opportunities to feel awe or to witness human nature at its best (to experience “moral elevation”), practicing gratitude, pursuing personal interests, and finding purpose in life. Each of these, they insist, will help those working toward change to not only address problems but to thrive.
While this book is primarily a self-help book—and not dedicated to outlining the research in this area—it’s nonetheless firmly grounded in Prochaska’s well-regarded theories of change. For those who need a boost in getting started on a healthier lifestyle, this book may be just the one for you.

Inspirational Quote for December 2, 2016

“In life, surround yourself with those who light your path.”

This is the opposite of “misery loves company” I think. And it is so true that the nature of the people we surround ourselves with dictates our own nature. In this holiday season, if we can’t be around people who light our path, let’s BE those people with the lanterns and remind all who cross our path of the joy and light that we all have access to.

by Susyn Blair-Hunt

On Discerning Your Purpose & Letting Your Life Speak

"Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney," young Vincent van Gogh wrote in a letter as he floundered to find his purpose. For the century and a half since, and undoubtedly the many centuries before, the question of how to kindle that soul-warming fire by finding one's purpose and making a living out of meaningful work has continued to frustrate not only the young, not only aspiring artists, but people of all ages, abilities, and walks of life." In these excerpts Parker J. Palmer explores how to navigate this mortal maze with grace.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

14 Best and Worst Foods for Your Liver


Food with lots of fiber can help your liver work at its best. Want one that's a great way to start your day? Try oatmeal. Research shows it can help you shed some extra pounds and belly fat, which is a good way to keep away liver disease.

Stay Away From Fatty Foods

French fries and burgers are a poor choice to keep your liver healthy. Eat too many foods that are high in saturated fat and it can make it harder for your liver to do its job. Over time it may lead to inflammation, which in turn could cause scarring of the liver that's known as cirrhosis. So next time you're in the drive-thru line, think about ordering a healthier option.


Add lots of veggies to your diet if you want to keep your liver healthy. Broccoli can be part of this strategy. Some studies suggest this crunchy food can help protect you from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. If steamed broccoli sounds a little too blah, shred it into a slaw and toss it with sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tangy vinaigrette. It's also delicious roasted with garlic and a splash of balsamic vinegar.


If you can't make it through the day without it, you'll be glad to hear that it may have some benefits for your liver. Studies show that drinking two to three cups a day can protect your liver from damage caused by too much alcohol or an unhealthy diet. Some research suggests it may lower your risk of liver cancer.

Ease Up on Sugar

Too much of the sweet stuff can take a toll on your liver. That's because part of its job is to convert sugar into fat. If you overdo it, your liver makes too much fat, which ends up hanging around where it doesn't belong. In the long run, you could get a condition like fatty liver disease. So do your liver a favor and make sweets an occasional treat.

Green Tea

It's brimming with a type of antioxidant called catechins. Research suggests it may protect against some forms of cancer, including liver. You'll get more catechins if you brew tea yourself and drink it hot. Iced tea and ready-to-drink green teas have much lower levels.


One of the best things you can do for your liver is keep a healthy weight. Get in the habit of drinking water instead of sweetened drinks like sodas or sports drinks. You'd be amazed at how many calories it will save you each day.


Nuts -- especially these -- are good sources of vitamin E, a nutrient that research suggests may help protect against fatty liver disease. Almonds are good for your heart, too, so grab a handful the next time you feel like snacking. Or try them in salads, where they add a nice crunch.

Put a Cap on Salt

Your body needs some salt -- just not nearly as much as you probably get. Early research suggests a diet high in sodium may lead to fibrosis, which is the first stage of liver scarring. There are some easy things you can do to cut back. Avoid processed foods like bacon or deli meats. Choose fresh instead of canned veggies. And keep temptation at arm's length by taking your salt shaker off the table.


Leafy greens have a powerful antioxidant called glutathione, which can help keep your liver working right. And spinach couldn't be easier to prepare. It makes a great base for a dinner salad, and it's also delicious sauteed with garlic and olive oil. When it's wilted, top it with a dusting of fresh parmesan.


hey've got nutrients in them called polyphenols that may help protect you against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which often goes hand in hand with obesity and high cholesterol. If blueberries aren't your thing, other foods rich in polyphenols include dark chocolate, olives, and plums.

Be Moderate With Alcohol

Drinking too much can wreak havoc on your liver. Over time it can lead to cirrhosis. Even occasional binge drinking -- four drinks in one sitting for women and five for men -- can be harmful, too. Try to limit yourself to one drink a day if you're a woman or two a day if you're a man.

Herbs and Spices

Want to protect your liver and your heart at the same time? Sprinkle on some oregano, sage, or rosemary. They're a good source of healthy polyphenols. An extra benefit: they help you cut back on salt in many recipes. Cinnamon, curry powder, and cumin are good ones to try, too.

Limit Packaged Snack Foods

Next time you feel the call of the vending machine, reach for a healthy snack instead. The problem with chips and baked goods is that they're usually loaded with sugar, salt, and fat. Cutting back is a relatively easy diet tweak with a little planning. One good strategy: Bring a stash of healthy snacks with you to work. Try an apple with a single-serve packet of nut butter, or sugar snap peas with a mini-cup of hummus.

Human or Fake? You’ll Know in One Second

By Yasmin Anwar

We can be fooled by androids like Maeve in the TV show Westworld, but not so much in real life, a new study suggests.

It can be hard to tell the difference between humans and androids in such sci-fi TV shows as Westworld. But in real life, beyond our screens, the human brain takes less than a second to tell between reality and fantasy, according to new UC Berkeley research.
The findings, published in the November issue of the journal Nature Communications, show that humans are visually wired to speedily take in information and make a snap judgment about what’s real.
Famous androids: Maeve and Dolores Abernathy from <em>Westworld</em>, and Data from <em>Star Trek: The Next Generation</em>.Famous androids: Maeve and Dolores Abernathy from Westworld, and Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
UC Berkeley scientists have discovered a visual mechanism they call “ensemble lifelikeness perception,” which determines how we perceive groups of objects and people in real and virtual or artificial worlds.
“This unique visual mechanism allows us to perceive what’s really alive and what’s simulated in just 250 milliseconds,” said study lead author Allison Yamanashi Leib, a postdoctoral scholar in psychology at UC Berkeley. “It also guides us to determine the overall level of activity in a scene.”
Vision scientists have long assumed that humans need to carefully consider multiple details before they can judge if a person or object is lifelike.
“But our study shows that participants made animacy decisions without conscious deliberation, and that they agreed on what was lifelike and what was not,” said study senior author David Whitney, a UC Berkeley psychology professor. “It is surprising that, even without talking about it or deliberating about it together, we immediately share in our impressions of lifelikeness.”
Using ensemble perception, study participants could also make snap judgments about the liveliness of groups of objects or people or entire scenes, without focusing on all the individual details, Whitney said.
“In real life, tourists, shoppers, and partiers all use visual cues processed through ensemble perception to gauge where the action is at,” Yamanashi Leib said.
Moreover, if we did not possess the ability to speedily determine lifelikeness, our world would be very confusing, with every person, animal, or object we see appearing to be equally alive, Whitney said.
For the study, researchers conducted 12 separate experiments on a total of 68 healthy adults with normal vision. In the majority of trials, participants viewed up to a dozen images of random people, animals, and objects including an ice cream sundae, a guinea pig wearing a shirt, a hockey player, a statue of a wooly mammoth, a toy car carrying toy passengers, a caterpillar, and more.
Participants quickly viewed groups of images, then rated them on a scale of 1 to 10 according to their average lifelikeness. Participants accurately assessed the average lifelikeness of the groups, even those displayed for less than 250 milliseconds.
In another experiment to test participants’ memory for details, researchers flashed images, then showed them ones that participants had seen as well as ones they had not. The results indicated that while participants had forgotten a lot of details, their “ensemble perception” of what had been lifelike remained sharp.
“This suggests that the visual system favors abstract global impressions such as lifelikeness at the expense of the fine details,” Whitney said. “We perceive the forest, and how alive it is, but not the trees.”

Inspirational Quote for December 1, 2016

“Our greatest battles are those with our own minds.”

Okay, I confess, I cannot make a decision! Being asked to decide between two, or several options, puts me in total panic and I usually seek the opinion of those nearest to me. There is so much goes on in our minds every day, not only while we are awake but also while we sleep. Continual battles rage in our heads daily. Having to make decisions, both minor and major, absorbing information, understanding it, dissecting it, and perhaps filing it away for future reference. This is the “hub” where everything is processed so there are bound to be times when our mind is a battleground, at odds with itself. However, we also possess the ability to bring the battle to an end to our own satisfaction if and when we choose, so all is not lost, is it?


Annie Dillard: On Seeing

Writer Annie Dillard shares more on pennies, life and the richness of seeing.

--by Annie Dillard

When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.

It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kid paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.

…For a week last September migrating red-winged blackbirds were feeding heavily down by the creek at the back of the house. One day I went out to investigate the racket; I walked up to a tree, an Osage orange, and a hundred birds flew away. They simply materialized out of the tree. I saw a tree, then a whisk of color, then a tree again. I walked closer and another hundred blackbirds took flight. Not a branch, not a twig budged: the birds were apparently weightless as well as invisible. Or, it was as if the leaves of the Osage orange had been freed from a spell in the form of red- winged blackbirds; they flew from the tree, caught my eye in the sky, and vanished. […] These appearances catch at my throat; they are the free gifts, the bright coppers at the roots of trees.

It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open.

-- Annie Dillard, from "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Do Feelings Look the Same in Every Human Face?

By Jill Suttie 

A new study sparks scientific debate about emotional expression—and raises questions about what we all have in common.

Emotions give us clues about how to respond to things happening in our environment: Is he dangerous? Does she love me? Can I trust him?
But can we trust our perceptions as we travel around the globe? Can Japanese tourists identify threatening people in Canada? Can a man from Saudi Arabia tell the difference between anger and disgust in Argentina?
A long line of research suggests the answer is basically “yes”—humans appear to express certain fundamental emotions through universal facial expressions that are usually recognizable to people from other cultures. This seems to be true even across cultures that have had little or no exposure to each other.
But, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the theory of the “universality” of emotions may be missing something important. Their findings suggest that culture could play a stronger role than previously thought in how emotions are expressed and recognized. The paper has sparked a scientific debate about the interaction of biology and culture in shaping the expression of human emotion—and raised questions about what we all might have in common.

Finding feelings in faces

Carlos Crivelli and colleagues at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid studied children from two cultures isolated from Western societies—the Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea and the Mwani of Mozambique. They compared their responses to a matched group of Spaniard children, to see if they could identify certain emotions from photographs of Western faces.
The children were shown a group of photos displaying different facial expressions corresponding to happiness [smiling], sadness [pouting], anger [scowling], fear [gasping], and disgust [nose-scrunching], as well as a neutral face, and were asked to touch the photo corresponded to a particular emotion. In a second part of the same study, the Mwani children only were also exposed to short video clips of people displaying different emotions and then asked to select from those the face associated with a particular feeling.
Results showed that Trobriand and Mwani children were able to match emotions to the correct faces on average 32 and 38 percent of the time respectively compared to Spaniards, who could match them 93 percent of the time—a significant difference. Happiness was the only emotion correctly matched to the corresponding face by a majority of the Trobriand children, while the Mwami matched both happiness and fear correctly a majority of the time. The other emotions—sadness, anger, and disgust—did not appear to be recognized by the children of either culture in any consistent way. In addition, there were no significant differences between video facial recognition and still-photo facial recognition for the Mwani children.
The authors suggest that their findings lead credence to the idea that emotions are not universally recognized, but are culturally dependent. They also argue that their methodology is more solid than in prior experiments, because of spending significant time in the societies they studied to identify more accurate translations for emotion words as well as making study participants more comfortable with the experimental design.
“The differences found here concerning emotion recognition reinforce other research showing cultural differences in other areas—research that challenges the pervasive presupposition of universal cognitive processes [like emotion recognition],” they write.

Why studying emotions is tricky

Emotions researcher Disa Sauter of the University of Amsterdam praises the study for focusing on more isolated cultures, but she does question whether the methodology is actually an improvement on prior work, or whether it changes anything about the universality theory.
“I think that the methodology of this study is good, but it doesn’t seem dramatically different to other work in this area,” she says. “It would be extremely rare for a single study to disprove a whole theory.”
She points to a long history of scientific studies finding common emotion expressions in diverse cultures, including her own work with emotional vocalizations. For example, in one cross-cultural study, she found that emotional vocal signals—like screams for fear, and laughs for happiness—produced by two very different cultures were recognized between and within the cultures at very high rates, even when her results were reanalyzed with stricter controls in a separate paper.
Sauter also questions Crivelli and colleagues’ use of children as subjects, as “children are less accurate on many tasks than adults, including emotion recognition.”
Jessica Tracy, a University of British Columbia researcher who studies emotions—pride, in particular—agrees that studying children in emotion recognition tasks can be tricky, especially when children are from small-scale, non-literate societies.
“I don’t think we really know how early children learn how to pair emotion words with their sense of what an emotion is,” she says. “The idea behind universality of emotion isn’t saying that every child is born knowing that a word goes with a particular emotional expression; it’s saying people evolved to understand the emotion behind an expression.”
That’s why researchers who work with children—and even with adults in these kinds of societies—usually have to come up with more ingenious ways to study what they understand about an emotional expression, she adds. For example, in past research many scientists have used stories to give context for an emotion, perhaps by asking a participant to say what face in a group of photos looks like someone who is being attacked by a wild boar.
Using methods like those—as Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen did in 1971—you generally find high levels of emotion recognition, she says. “Given the tons and tons of studies across all kinds of cultural groups done after their initial study showing similar results, I believe we can say that there is something universal about emotion expression.”
Tracy’s own research has also found evidence for emotion universality, including studies involving pride displays in a remote population in Burkina Faso, Africa. She has even found that congenitally blind participants—who’ve never witnessed a pride display—can reproduce it effectively.
“That’s pretty compelling evidence,” she says.

How culture and biology might interact

Sauter has another concern about Crivelli’s research: that it may not be very consistent. For example, in another recently published article in PNAS, Crivelli concluded that Trobianders match “fear” faces to “anger” and “threat” more often than to “fear;” yet in the Journal of Experimental Psychology study above, he wrote that Trobianders matched “fear” faces to the emotion of “fear” more frequently than any other emotion.
“The results of the two studies don’t seem to quite match up,” says Sauter.
Tracy is less inclined to dismiss the mixed findings and rather to look at the PNAS study as a potential aberration—one that we may not fully understand yet. It could be that the researchers made an error, or perhaps there was some misunderstanding by the children, which happens a lot in cross-cultural research, she says. But, if the finding is real—that a fear face actually conveys threat in that culture—it would be a fascinating finding, she adds.
“What I’d like to see is work with anthropologists who might be able to find out what happened to make that culture co-opt this universal fear expression to become more of a signal of threat,” she says.
While Sauter and Tracy both adhere to the theory of emotion universality, neither believes that culture plays no role at all in emotion expression. Tracy points to the work of Hillary Elfenbein of Washington University, who found that the way universal emotions are expressed can have a kind of cultural dialect involving small differences. This might explain why people within one’s cultural group tend to be a bit better at recognizing the expression from someone within their cultural group than from someone outside their cultural group.
She also says that different cultures can have rules about when and where it’s appropriate to express a particular emotion. In the United States, for example, there is a taboo against expressing shame, she says, so you see that Americans will express it much less readily than people in other cultures.
“There can be all kinds of cultural rules around emotion expression,” she says. “But that doesn’t negate universality theory.”
Instead, emotions probably have a biological, evolutionary basis and are influenced by culture. Still, the wealth of research (including that of Greater Good’s faculty founder, Dacher Keltner) suggests that some basic emotions have universal markers, implying that feelings may be a common human language, helping us to survive and communicate important information within and possibly across tribes.
Whatever the case, only more research will really tell us more about emotion expression and its role in our lives.
“Emotions are a basic part of the human mind, and evolved for specific functions, and tons of research based off of Ekman’s findings confirm that,” says Tracy. “I don’t think there’s anyone who disagrees that there’s something universal about emotions. I think the question is what’s universal.”