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Can Silence Heal Your Brain? Science Says Yes 

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.” 

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”. 

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think. 

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence. 

 A 2013 study on mice  published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning. 

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. 

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.” 

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain. 

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence 

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information. 

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.” 

When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues. 

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world. 

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way. 

As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” 

Silence relieves stress and tension. 

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. 

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says. 

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. 

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources. 

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving. 

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills. 

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 

Summation 

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good. 

What do you think? Will you be practicing silence? Let us know in the comments!

Are You Dating a Psychopath? Here's How You Can Tell... 


       In psychology, there is something known as the dark triadic personalities, which includes narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. In another article, we wrote about how you can discern whether or not you're in a relationship with a narcissist. Psychopaths make up about one percent of the general population. The focus of this article will be on traits exhibited by psychopaths and how to spot them. 

        Before exploring the traits exhibited by a psychopath, it's important to define psychopathy and determine how it's different from sociopathy. Many people use the terms sociopath and psychopath interchangeably. This is a topic that is discussed and debated by scholars in the field, and there is still no clear consensus about the difference. For the purpose of this article, we will define psychopaths as different from sociopaths. 

        According to Scott A. Bonn Ph.D., it is believed that psychopaths are a result of genetics ("nature") whereas sociopaths are a product of their environment ("nurture"). Psychopathy stems from a physiological defect that results in the underdevelopment of the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions. Conversely, Sociopathy more likely results from childhood trauma and physical/emotional abuse. Furthermore, sociopaths often seem nervous and easily agitated, and they are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts. They also tend to live on the fringes of society. On the other hand, psychopaths are unable to form emotional attachments and do not feel empathy. Whereas sociopaths are nervous and agitated, psychopaths are generally well educated, hold good jobs and are excessively charming. This is why psychopaths can be so dangerous- because they can charm themselves so easily into your life and before you know it; they've taken over. 

        Together with a team of physicians and psychologists, Robert Hale created the instrument called the "Psychopathy Checklist," which is now used worldwide by clinicians and researchers to distinguish psychopaths from "rule breakers." While it is good to know what these traits are, only a licensed professional can determine if a person is in fact a psychopath.  Below is a list of traits that define psychopaths. Each term will have a brief description with it, and then following the list of traits, we will illustrate how a psychopath could work his/her way into your life, and how to watch out for it.

Emotional/Interpersonal: 

Glib and superficial 

  • Psychopaths are often amusing and great conversationalists, always ready with a clever comeback. They tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They are very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming. 

Egocentric and grandiose 

  • Psychopaths possess a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement. They see themselves as the center of the universe, and are therefore justified in living according to their own rules. 

Lack of remorse or guilt 

  • No matter how devastating their actions may be on others, psychopaths exhibit a stunning lack of concern. They will calmly state that they have no sense of guilt for their actions, and that there is no reason to be concerned. They are often forthright about this admission, as they feel no remorse or responsibility, and they easily come up with excuses for their actions. 

Lack of empathy 

  • Psychopaths cannot put themselves "in the other's shoes." On an intellectual level they may be able to imagine how others feel, but generally they are indifferent to the pain and suffering of others. 

Deceitful and manipulative 

  • Psychopaths constantly construct lies and stories about themselves. Even if they find themselves trapped in a lie, rather than feel embarrassed and admit the truth, they have constructed such a complex web of lies about themselves that they just create a whole new story and rework all the facts to rationalize the lie they were trapped in. 

Shallow emotions 

  • Psychopaths lack a depth of emotion. Often they appear cold and unresponsive. They can pretend to feel passion, but when observed more closely, they appear to be play-acting.


Social Deviance: 

Impulsive 

  • If asked why they did something, a common response from a psychopath is "I did it because I felt like it." The primary aim of a psychopaths modus operandi is to achieve immediate satisfaction, relief or pleasure. 

Poor behavior controls 

  • Psychopaths react poorly to perceived slights or criticism. They can often respond with sudden violent outbursts that are short lived, and as soon as they are over, the psychopath acts as if nothing happened. 

Need for excitement 

  • They live for excitement. They often create their own rules for life and they can often be seen as people who "live on the edge." 

Lack of responsibility 

  • Psychopaths are unreliable - do not count on them for fulfilling obligations or commitments. 

Early behavior problems 

  • Most psychopaths begin to exhibit serious behavioral problems at an early age. These might include persistent lying, cheating, theft, arson, truancy, substance abuse, vandalism, and/or precocious sexuality. It is important to emphasize that the psychopath's history of such behaviors is more extensive and serious than most. 

Adult antisocial behavior 

  • Because they set their own rules, Psychopaths see the rules and expectations of society as inconvenient and unreasonable impediments to their own behavioral expression.

     Now that you have reviewed the checklist of traits that define psychopaths, we will walk you through how a relationship with a psychopath could unfold and how you can identify it. 

1. They reel you in with idealization, love-bombing, and flattery. 

  • When you first meet a psychopath, they oversaturate you with information that makes it seem like you have a lot in common and are perfect for one another. They mirror all your hopes and dreams, and before you know it, you're excited about them, you trust them and you're hooked. They initiate all the communication, they plaster your Facebook wall with posts, shower you with compliments, share songs and inside jokes. Suddenly you're receiving so much attention it can be thrilling, yet overwhelming. 

2. They prey on your emotions with pity plays and sympathy stories. 

  • They quickly find a way into your heart by telling stories that make you trust and pity them at the same time. They talk about how crazy their last ex was and how they want to get away from the drama. The more time you spend with them though, the more you'll realize that drama exists in many facets of their life. 

3. They involve you in their own versions of "love triangles." 

  • As soon as your relationship gets more serious, suddenly the psychopath begins to invite past lovers, exes and potential mates back into their life. People that had previously been denounced as below you are now back in the picture because the psychopath lives for the attention. Before you know it, you begin to doubt yourself and you feel confused with regard to your relationship. The psychopath appears to be in "high demand" and you don't know how you stack up anymore. 

4. They constantly rewrite reality and exhibit other crazy-making behavior. 

  • If you speak with a psychopath about their manipulative behavior they will deny it. If you question their stories they become critical of your attempts to disprove the reality they've created with "facts." Rather than address and change their behavior, they put the blame on you for how you react to their behavior. Suddenly, you feel like the "crazy" one.

5. They accuse you of feeling emotions that they are intentionally provoking. 

  • As you get drawn further into their web, the psychopath will provoke you by blatantly flirting in front of you with other people. When you call them out on it, you will suddenly be labeled as "jealous." Where you previously thought you were a relaxed an easy-going person, you'll find yourself constantly on edge and labeled as "hysterical" by the person you are now dating. You're whole emotional world is flipped. 

6. You've noticed them pathologically lying and making excuses. 

  • Psychopaths do not take responsibility for anything, and they often cast blame on everything but themselves. If you catch them in a lie, rather than feel embarrassed and admit it, they will come up with another story. Rather than change or improve their behavior, they spend their time rationalizing it and coming up with excuses. 

7. They provoke jealousy and rivalries while maintaining their cover of innocence. 

  • With time, they shift their attention to others. Whereas in the beginning they plied you with compliments, inside jokes and songs, now all that energy is going towards others - especially old flames or potential new partners. If you didn't doubt yourself before, now you're really starting to doubt yourself. 

8. They withhold attention and undermine your self-esteem. 

  • Before you know it, the psychopath appears to be "bored" of you. They "love-bombed" you in the beginning, but now that interest has waned. They treat you with silence. When you try and rekindle the passion that existed in the beginning that they created, they get annoyed with you. You've now become a chore.

9. They exhibit selfishness and a crippling thirst for attention. 

  • Suddenly, you realize how drained of energy you feel. This person consumes your life, and you aren't getting anything back from it. You initially thought you were the person, the only person who could make them happy, but as the relationship developed you see that they thirst for attention from anyone and everyone. You can never fill that void - no one can. 

10. You don't recognize your own feelings. 

  • If you've made it this far in the relationship, you've lost all sense of self. Where you were filled with love and compassion, your emotions are replaced with anxiety, sadness and stress. You don't recognize yourself. You used to think of yourself as easy-going and fun, and now you can barely get out of bed in the morning. At the end of it all, you will fell drained, shocked, and empty. You are a shell of your former self. 

       Because psychopathy is a psychological disorder, it is something that cannot be "cured" or "improved" through deep emotional work. Psychopaths simply do not have the capacity to change. Therefore, if you find yourself romantically entangled with a psychopath, the only course of action is to get out of the relationship as quickly as possible. Relationships with psychopaths leave long-lasting damage - such as feelings of doubt about yourself and that you'll never be good enough or deserving of a healthy relationship. The first step in the process is setting boundaries for yourself and cutting off all contact - phone, email, social media, etc. It might be difficult at first, but it's a necessary step in taking back your agency and reminding yourself of your own value and greatness.



 

Results of a 50-Year Study Show that Spanking has Significant Negative Effects on Children's Mental Health 

         Photo Credit: Getty
 

Recently, the University of Texas in Austin and the University of Michigan published a study citing that spanking is linked to aggression, antisocial behavior, mental health problems, cognitive difficulties, low self-esteem, and a whole host of other negative outcomes. The universities used data collected from over 150,000 people over a 50-year period, and concluded that there are no positive benefits to spanking children. Rather, there are 13 significant negative mental health issues that arise from spanking.
 

Elizabeth T. Gershoff, the lead author of the study, told CBS News that by the time children enter school, at least 85% of them have been spanked. She also states that spanking is ultimately a euphemism for beating or hitting one's children. Some people might counter that they turned out okay, or that they need to spank their children in order to clearly define who's in charge. To such comments, Gershoff says that people turned out okay "in spite of being spanked, not because of it," and that there are better, healthier ways to discipline children. 

Children do need discipline in their lives, and a better way to do this is to set clear boundaries, be consistent about the boundaries, be organized, and be a role model. Bottom line, corporal punishment only leads to negative effects on the long term mental health of children and sets a precedent for future violence. 

Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, May 31, 2016

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