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11 Important Tips To Raise Your Consciousness

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What does “raising consciousness” actually mean? It is often portrayed as some sort of super-human accomplishment that will grant us spiritual super powers… but it is simply about becoming freer within ourselves. The freer we feel within – not “because” of this or that – the LIGHTER we are. Becoming enlightened is simply about lightening up. We can now forget about becoming something more “special.” Raising our consciousness is simply the process of lightening up our load of baggage so we can move freely and fluidly as the light beings that we already are! 

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Here are 11 tips and insights (with links to talks and guided clearing meditations) that have personally helped me lighten up my own load and shift my consciousness.

1. Be You In Every Moment

Yep, it’s that simple. Replace pretense with your presence. You don’t have to wait until you feel “good,” “perfect,” “enlightened” or wait for something to happen for you to relax into your own being. You don’t need to look at anothers journey and compare, judge or doubt yourself either. This type of thinking just tricks you out of the perfection of you in this moment anyways. No matter what you are feeling or what the situation is, just be you and let the rest unfold.

“Find that place which is effortlessly at rest within itself. Be there—be one with that.” – Mooji

Talk + Guided Clearing on Judgment & Comparison

2. Let Go of the Fear of Feeling

Open DoorsThis is a big one. Discovering who we are is no different than opening the door of a house – the house being a metaphor for our human mind. It’s a great step, we’re letting some light in! But does it mean we have visited it thoroughly? Does it necessarily mean we have experienced each room, opened every closet, and even spent some time in the “scary” basement? Perhaps we have quickly peaked in each room, but have we taken the time to explore them fully, meditate in them, open the windows to let some light in, and perhaps do a little clean up? Are we okay with leaving the doors open for us and others to see?

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The light of our awareness isn’t limited to entering what is comfortable and acceptable to the mind. It is here to illuminate all rooms – even those dusty closets with all of the old, emotionally charged baggage we have been reluctant to explore. What has laid dormant within each room is often ignored. But now, the winds of change are blowing all doors open and many of us are feeling and re-experiencing many emotions that we have once protected ourselves from feeling again. The only thing that blocks us from seeing the blessing in letting the wind blow us open is the fear of feeling. When we choose to not be controlled and defined by this fear anymore, we naturally keep all of our doors open knowing that it cannot break who we are, but only identities with old patterns that were limiting our inner-freedom and peace anyways.

“The intent of this journey isn’t to ‘feel good,’ but rather to feel whats actually unfolding within us right now. in other words, our intent isn’t to feel better, but to get better at feeling. Our authentic state of presence is joyful, harmonious, peaceful and loving. However, to awaken to our presence initially requires journeying through the current condition of the emotional body.” – Michael Brown, The Presence Process

How to Navigate Emotions + Guided Clearing

3. Identify With Nothing (Not Even a Spiritual Identity)

Just BeingDis-identify from labels: Can you identify as nothing in particular? For example, look at a bunny, a bird or a flower. Is the bunny hopping around thinking it’s a bunny, is the bird singing because it knows “that’s what birds do,” and is the beauty of a flower experienced via it’s name, or is it simply witnessed in silence? The same goes with us. Let’s not dismiss the BEING within the term “human being.” The less we let ourselves be defined by identity, the more space we allow for our own authentic presence to shine through, and the lighter and more alive we feel. Take a moment to breathe in this very moment and identify as NO-THING. There you are…

Dis-identify from thoughts and emotions: This is also a great reminder when it comes to letting ourselves feel. We are currently living in times where a lot of stuff is coming to the surface for release, whether it be belief systems, blocked emotions, trauma imprints, identities and perceptions. The smoothest way to move through it all is to not only release the fear of feeling, but to not always jump to identify with what stories and emotions come through. This can be a challenge, but it helps to know that dis-identifying is not something we DO, but is something we ARE underneath all that we’re trying to do! Underneath the mental noise, we are HERE, observing what passes and feeling all sensations without judging or identifying. When we consciously move from identification to detached observation, we shift from resistance and confusion to peace and clarity.

“Feelings are Just Visitors – Don’t Identify” – Mooji

Talk + Guided Clearing on Letting go of Attachments to Identity, Roles, Definitions, People & the Outside World
Beyond Identity: Guided Meditation

4. Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself

Accept yourself“Raising consciousness” is not a serious mission. There’s no self-judgment or “I won’t make it” kind of thinking required. Remember, we’re here to be human and awaken through this human form – not deny it altogether. We’re not lacking peace because we have allowed ourselves to be human, we lack peace because we judge and resist certain aspects of being human while chasing and overvaluing others. We are not here to make ourselves an enemy and seek to destroy our ego; we are simply choosing to become conscious of how it currently operates and make some adjustments without an ounce of judgment. We can definitely give ourselves a pat on the back, planet Earth is one intense school. But it is with great love and excitement that our souls are intending to make a shift, not with self-judgment.

“Do you really think you can embody your true nature of peace and unconditional love by fighting and judging yourself?” – Higher Self

Talk + Guided Clearing on Lightening Up

5. Don’t Make Personal Growth Into a Means To “Get What You Want”

PeaceWhen we are identified with the ego, we believe in the thought “I lack and therefore must fill” when in truth, we are whole and complete. Even when it comes to our own spiritual development, we can get caught up thinking “if I clear this pattern, I can then manifest the ‘ideal’ relationship, stop that experience and get what I want instead” or “If I clear my fear right now, I can prevent it from happening later.” As much as a shift in consciousness does shift our reality, holding on to expectations still focuses our awareness outside of us and therefore keeps us in the very state we think we want to move beyond.

Notice how in this state of expectation, we still judge our current experience – our very messenger and teacher – and look outside of ourselves for something “better.” When we are truly beyond past fears and insecurities, not “getting what we want” won’t affect our inner-peace because our true source of peace is within anyways. It doesn’t mean we can’t have what we desire, it only means our entire sense of self and inner-peace won’t be dependent on it. In a state of inner-freedom, not only more possibilities will open up to us, we’ll have the eyes to see it!

If I had to invent a mantra about this, it would be this one: I am releasing what no longer serves to be FREE within myself, not to project outcomes.

“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” – Eckhart Tolle

4 Day Event + Guided Meditations on How Manifesting Truly Works

6. Be More Interested in Your Reaction Than In Who/What Triggered It

ReactionIf we tend to always react in the same old ways to specific scenarios, it might be time to question our reactions instead of pointing our fingers out there. I can tell you from experience: focusing solely on external triggers leads nowhere. When we accept that outer circumstances and other souls can play certain roles to make us aware of our sensitivities, we realize it is futile to shoot the messengers. We should actually thank the messengers for the message they bring! Sure, the urge to react can be strong, but this is a perfect opportunity to apply the wisdom and simply sit with our feelings. By allowing what we feel to just be, we are able to detach from our reaction and see things from a higher perspective.

“I reacted this way because I let myself be affected by other’s judgment,” “This person attacked me because of their own insecurity,” “It upset me because it reminds me of a past scenario I have not yet made peace with…” These are examples of what realizations may occur when we take the time to observe what is taking place. When we acknowledge the core beliefs behind of our reactions and let them go, our consciousness naturally raises beyond old patterns.

“We don’t blame the mail carrier for bills that are delivered, just as we don’t blame the mirror for what it reflects. Likewise, it’s pointless reacting to reflections of our un-integrated emotional charge.” – Michael Brown, The Presence Process

P.S. Even when it comes to the corruption of this world, it is not by always RE-ACTING in the same old ways that we are going to CREATE real change. Observing the world instead of reacting to the world doesn’t mean apathy or being passive. It is a complete and neutral acknowledgment of reality, in which we are free to create something different. Reaction tends to go in circles and perpetuate a victim mentality instead of bringing the awareness that we are all co-creators.

Talk + Guided Clearing on Staying Balanced from Within

7. Make Friends With The Unknown

Past FutureAhhh the scary unknown… but what if it’s not that scary? What if the unknown is simply what we haven’t created yet? BINGO! That’s exactly what it is. We create moment to moment from a field of infinite possibilities. We are naturally fluid beings. If we are really afraid of the unknown, we should be screaming right now because we’re in it! But that’s not the state we want to be in.

We want to quit dragging the past along with us and stop projecting an image of what our future should or could look like. When we do this, it is like watching three channels superposed on one screen: we got our past, our present and an imagined future all playing at once. We can’t see clearly! However, when we dis-identify from the past and let the future be unknown, all that is left for us to see is what is real: This moment. In this moment, everything is clear and fresh, everything is for us to experience and create with. Freedom can only be felt in this moment! After all, it’s by constantly projecting a known past into an unknown present that we get stuck in our patterns.

“It is amazing the energy we spend holding on to our past fears in order to predict our future misery. We’d rather be afraid and in control, than to dare fully enjoy the present moment.” – François Lange

Talk + Guided Clearing on Being in the Moment

8. Don’t Over-Analyze 

OverthinkingGonna quote my pal Joe Martino here: “Answers to our challenges are often quite simple. If you find yourself analyzing and re-analyzing all the time, it’s likely you are spending too much time in your head. Get out of your mind! The answers will come when they need to.”

This is a very valuable insight. We tend to believe the mind knows what is best for us and will exhaust ourselves by depicting the moment, a past event or future potential in every angle possible. We can relax; it is not the mind’s job to “figure out” how to receive insight. The mind is a practical tool for tasks that can be completed NOW, but was never meant to go on over-drive when it’s not needed. All creativity, insight and wisdom actually comes from the space between our thoughts – from BEING. So it can save us some time to know that not all answers are found in the mind.

“If we think about it, if we begin to analyze it, if we start to argue with it or try to “figure it out,” we’ll become lost in thought. No one gets anywhere trying to figure out a sunrise. A sunrise is something you just be with. And you get from it whatever you get from it. If you try to analyze a sunrise, the experience the sunrise has for you will go away.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Talk + Guided Clearing on Accessing Inner-Guidance & Trusting Self

9. Be In The Body

BodyOne, if not THE most effective way to connect with the moment, quiet the mind, release resistance, drop judgment, feel our inner-guidance and raise our consciousness is to connect with our body. When we are caught up in the mind, notice how our whole attention and energy seems to be scattered around our head and body – not here, now and within. An effective way to bring us back to reality is to connect with what is naturally present – such as the movement of our breath and the very sensations of our body. This brings our awareness out of the stream of compulsive thinking and into the silent movement of energy within.

“Go into your inner body, feel that your energy field is alive. And you’ll notice, you’re not thinking anymore. You can still listen.” – Eckhart Tolle

Inner Body Guided Meditation

10. Love Freely

Open HeartDo you carry barriers and protections around your heart, preventing love to flow freely? Many of us have adopted the belief that love can hurt, or that conditions need to be met before we can allow love to flow. This one hits home for me since I have often closed myself off when I felt rejected or saw that love wasn’t equally reciprocated. I can see now how this is a very restrictive illusion that actually creates more tension and suffering.

If we truly want to lighten up, we need to let the doors of our hearts open even if this means releasing built up pain from the past. This will not only release our old perceptions of conditional love, but will also give us the opportunity to experience the freedom of unconditional love for others and most importantly ourselves.

The truth is, love always flows effortlessly between all beings regardless of external appearances and roles. We ARE Love, and we are one! When we let go of the fear of feeling and allow energy to flow in and out of the heart, we will realize it is not love that hurts. Unconditional love is our natural state; what is “hurting” are the protections and conditions we build around it.

“How we relate, or rather how well we love, depends on how empty we are of ideas, concepts, expectations.” – Kim Eng

Seminar + Guided Clearings on DeCoding Relationships

11. Look at a Picture of Planet Earth

“You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things In the universe… The result is that you enjoy the life that is before you… It allows you to have inner peace.” – Astronaut Edward Gibson

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Consciousness

Supermoon In Virgo: Balancing Practical Matters With Idealism

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We are having a Full Moon in Virgo on February 19th at 3:53pm Universal Time. This is the peak of the Lunar Cycle that began on February 4th with a New Moon in Aquarius. It will also be a Supermoon, which is when the Moon appears larger and brighter due to its closer proximity to the Earth. For those in North and South America, it appears the brightest on the night of the 18th.

A Full Moon is when we feel a push-pull between the two opposite signs where the Sun and Moon are located, in this case being Pisces and Virgo. It gradually builds up and becomes more noticeable on the day of and days surrounding it. It is also  part of the backdrop of the other astrological energies over the following 2 weeks.

Pisces season begins less than a day before this Full Moon occurs. It is associated with sensitivity, compassion, empathy, spirituality, creativity, inspiration, dreams, imagination, oneness, and idealism. Negatively, this sign can also be unrealistic, flaky, elusive, delusional, deceptive, and is associated with escapism and intoxication.

The Moon brings in the sign of Virgo into the equation which can either be at odds with Pisces energies or could work harmoniously with them in some sort of balance. Virgo is associated with duty, service, productivity, practicality, organizing, analyzing, perfection, cleanliness, and purity. It is systematic, detailed, discerning, and good at problem solving. Negatively, Virgo can be cynical, overly critical, fussy, high strung, and too much in the the head.

Both signs are associated with health, wellness, and healing, with Virgo being more about physical health and physical modalities, while Pisces is more about spiritual/emotional health and modalities. They are adaptable signs and are both about helping others.

Full Moon Trine Mars and Uranus

This Full Moon is in a trine with Mars and Uranus which are separating from a conjunction with each other. Mars just recently entered Taurus on February 14th. Uranus is making its final transition from Aries to Taurus which will happen on March 6th, hours before the next New Moon.

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The Mars-Uranus influence could signify a period of doing certain things differently or acting on new experiences. It could be about applying ourselves in a way that is more liberating, exciting, innovative, unconventional, experimental, or breaking from limitations. Considering that Uranus is changing signs, over the next few weeks there can also be some surprises, significant shifts, and sudden changes which can either be harmonious and supportive or disruptive and challenging.

The Sun will also be travelling while in a close aspect with Mars until early March, but will be strongest from February 27th-28th. With Mars in Taurus, this is a time of asserting ourselves in a way that is methodical, practical, and even sensual in some cases.

Sun and Moon Aligned With Prominent Stars

This Full Moon will be in a tight alignment with the star Regulus which is known as the ‘heart of the lion.’ This star is in the constellation of Leo but moved into the tropical sign of Virgo in 2012 and still on the cusp of those signs. It is about courage, leadership, and prominence. It is daring, proud, and can also be big hearted.

The Sun is aligned with the star Fomalhaut which is in both the constellation and sign of Pisces This star amplifies the qualities of its sign and has magical, artistic, and otherworldly qualities.

The ‘Great American Eclipse’ that occurred in August 2017 and the following Solar Eclipse in February 2018 were near the same spots of where the Sun and Moon are during this Full Moon, yet in different signs. It is possible that you may see some areas of your life get triggered over the next few weeks similarly to areas of your life that were affected over a year long period from mid 2017 until mid 2018. However, it will still be different and those eclipses had more significance overall.

Mercury In Pisces Conjunct Neptune, Sextile Venus/Saturn/Pluto, Square Jupiter and Going Retrograde In Two Weeks

Mercury begins its pre-retrograde shadow period hours before the peak of this Full Moon. Over the next few weeks, much of what plays out or develops will go through a sorting out and adjustment period throughout March until early April. I will be writing a separate article on it, you can join my mailing list here to ensure that you receive my content.

Virgo’s ruler Mercury is in the opposing sign of Pisces which is where the Sun is. It is also aligned with Neptune, a modern ruler of Pisces, which makes it even more Piscean. Mercury doesn’t perform the way it wants to when in this sign. It lessens the analytical, intellectual, and rational qualities of this planet. Instead it perceives things in a more abstract, symbolic, sensory, or intuitive way.

All the Neptune/Pisces energy can make us more dreamy, less in touch with reality, forgetful, and inhibit mental focus. Communications and thoughts can be less direct, confusing, and misunderstood. However it can also be divinely inspired, psychic, compassionate, fantasy based, or directed by emotional energy.

Mercury and Neptune are also in a sextile with Saturn, Venus, and Pluto. Usually Mercury in aspect with Saturn can be good for practical thinking and focus, however, the Neptune influence mentioned is a lot stronger here. If anything this aspect with Saturn can good for constructive effort towards ideals, visions, creativity, selfless acts, or anything to do with spirituality.

Many people can also experience increased social interactions or romantic developments that can have some significance. However, considering that the South Node and an upcoming retrograde is in the mix, some of of this could have to do with the past or perhaps old behaviours and aspirations being triggered.

Mercury is moving towards a square with Jupiter which is the traditional ruler of Pisces. We can be overly broad minded, idealistic, or even judgemental. We can overlook details easily, over-exaggerate, and overextend ourselves. However, this can also be good for learning and expanding our minds. This energy will be strongest on February 22nd in the West, and the 23rd in the East.

Chiron Returns To Aries, Will Be There Until 2027

Chiron has just re-entered Aries where it will be until April 2027. We already got a taste of this energy last year from April to September before it retrograded back into Pisces. This Full Moon is in a quincunx with Chiron, and therefore it is possible that some of the issues below might come up during this period.

Chiron is the ‘wounded healer’, it reflects our wounds, blocks, traumas, and negative patterns. However, it is also the key unlocking our untapped or suppressed potential. Through our own healing and self-awareness, we become more whole and more of who we truly are. This is what Chiron is about, it is both the roadblock and the bridge.

Collectively, Chiron is going to trigger Aries themes for the next 8 years. However, like all other astrological influences, much of how it plays out for depends on how it is interacting with your personal birth chart based on the exact time you were born.

Aries is about self-identity, independence, leadership, initiation, and assertiveness. It can be direct, competitive, combative, hot tempered, impulsive, and forceful. Our wounds and challenges connected to these things could come to help us grow, become more aware, and make positive changes. We will see more of this unfold during certain periods over the upcoming years.

This Chiron in Aries period will be the most significant for those born between February 1969 and May 1976, as well as for those born between early April and mid-October of 1968. For these groups it will bring up deeper core wounds to help facilitate the potential for healing, awareness, and empowerment. It can help to develop a constructive relationship with aspects of oneself that have either been destructive, limiting, distorted, or inhibiting.

Follow me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and YOUTUBE for more astrology related content.

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Looking for astrological insight into what is going on in your life? Or perhaps looking to better understand your life and its potentials? Get a personalized astrology reading with Carmen (author of this article) specific to you based on your exact birth date, time, and location. Click here for more information or to order. Now offering forecast reports at 20% off introductory offer. More information here.

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The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

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Consciousness

Science Says Silence Is Vital For Our Brains

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Studies have shown that excessive environmental noise not only decreases one's quality of life and cognitive function, but also reduces lifespan. The good news is that spending time in silence can reverse these effects.

  • Reflect On:

    Are you living in an environment that is consistently loud? Do you take much time for intended silence? Have you tried the 5 Days of You Challenge?

If you’re the average person, you wake up to the sound of an alarm. That alarm sends you to the bathroom where you quickly get yourself ready for your workday. If you have the time, you might eat something before jumping into your car to listen to music or the radio while you sit in traffic on your way to work.

Once you get there, it’s all people, customers, co-workers, cars, trucks, planes, lawn mowers, construction, phone calls, and tasks for the next 8 hours. These noises that most of us experience in excess send our bodies into stress states, decreasing our quality of life and potentially reducing our lifespan. It appears that noise, in excess, is not healthy for humans. Silence, on the other hand, can have huge benefits, but let’s explore the damage caused by noise before we get to the benefits of silence.

Before we get into the research, I’d like to note that the word ‘noise’ is said to come from the Latin word nausea, or the Latin word noxia, meaning seasickness, sickness, hurt, damage, or injury. Is it any wonder ‘noise’ is not healthy for us?

The Studies

Outside of your anecdotal reflection, there is scientific evidence that supports the negative effects of noise on our health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) examined and quantified its health burden based on a European study that involved 340 million people living in Western Europe. It found that residents were cumulatively losing about a million years off their lives due to noise every year. That’s like one in every three people losing an entire year off their life due to excessive noise!

A study that was published in 2011 in Psychological Science examined the effects Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Professor Gary W. Evans of Cornell University noted that the children who were exposed to noise developed a stress response that caused them to ignore the noise. These children not only ignored harmful noises, but also regular stimuli that are important to pay attention to like speech. Wonder why people have trouble paying attention these days? Perhaps we are exposed to too much noise and too many sounds.

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. – Professor Gary Evans

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Going back to anecdotal evidence for a moment, I always find that staying with my friends who live in cities produces a much more uncomfortable situation for myself than when I’m in more quiet situations, or living at my quiet, somewhat isolated home in nature. I always share with friends that the environment of living in a city seems to be unhealthy; not just the air, but the energy, hustle and bustle, and the noise as well. Reading these studies clearly illustrates that it does not appear to be natural or healthy for humans to live or work in loud environments every day.

Noise has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, tinnitus, and loss of sleep. Living in consistently noisy environments will cause you to experience much higher levels of these harmful hormones. Of course, there is something you can do about this should you take action on it, but it requires that–action.

The Benefits of Silence

Again, pointing to anecdotal evidence for a moment, think back to the moments where you were on your own, retreating to the cottage or somewhere else quiet. Did you notice how often you NOTICED the silence? Not only that, but you likely felt a lot better after 3 or 4 hours of being there.

It isn’t just cleaner air or taking some time away from work, it’s the silence and lack of distraction. This can be observed by playing loud music and partying the entire time at a cottage as well. You’ll realize it isn’t relaxing, but simply another distraction. When you contrast the two different experiences, the benefits become more clear.

An interesting study observed the effects of noise, music, and silence on the brain. The study was published in the journal Heart and found that the two minute pauses randomly placed between the ‘relaxing music’  in the study were far more relaxing for the brain than the relaxing music. The longer the silence, the more benefits experienced by the participants. Study author L. Bernardi found that his ‘irrelevant’ blank pauses were the most important aspects of the study. Silence is heightened by contrast.

What You Can Do & The Takeaway

So, what can you do if you experience a lot of noise and are looking to avoid loud noises or simply take a break? Firstly, the good news is that the brain recovers from too much noise over time. According to the attention restoration theory, the brain’s finite cognitive resources can begin restoring when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input. In silence, the brain essentially lets down its sensory guard and restores some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.

The practical end of this would look like making an extra effort to be or spend time in silence. This means no music, movies, friends, conversations, phone chimes, etc, even if it’s only for 30 minutes or an hour each day.

This silence would not only allow your brain to restore its cognitive functions like creativity, but it can give you the opportunity to disconnect, quiet down and connect with yourself as well.

Years ago, I created a challenge called the 5 Days of You Challenge that’s designed to do just that – help people slow down, reduce noise and distraction, and connect deeper with themselves. Over the years, I have sent 180,000 people through this challenge and it has resulted in an incredible number of positive transformations.

If you’re looking to:

  • Clear emotional blocks
  • Connect deeply with yourself
  • Find more peace in your life
  • Develop greater self-awareness and presence
  • Slow down and enjoy life more

Then this challenge is something I highly recommend. I’ve made this challenge available to everyone to experience for free. You can check it out on CETV here.

Help Support Collective Evolution

The demand for Collective Evolution's content is bigger than ever, except ad agencies and social media keep cutting our revenues. This is making it hard for us to continue.

In order to stay truly independent, we need your help. We are not going to put up paywalls on this website, as we want to get our info out far and wide. For as little as $3 a month, you can help keep CE alive!

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Consciousness

Scientists Show How Gratitude Literally Alters The Human Heart & Molecular Structure Of The Brain

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Scientists have discovered that feelings of gratitude can actually change your brain. Feeling gratitude can also be a great tool for overcoming depression and anxiety. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that the heart sends signals to the brain.

  • Reflect On:

    Every time we struggle with depression, why are we constantly encouraged to take prescription medication when mindfulness techniques actually show more promise?

Gratitude is a funny thing. In some parts of the world, somebody who gets a clean drink of water, some food, or a worn out pair of shoes can be extremely grateful. Meanwhile, somebody else who has all the necessities they need to live can be found complaining about something. What we have today is what we once wanted before, but there is a lingering belief out there that obtaining material possessions is the key to happiness. Sure, this may be true, but that happiness is temporary. The truth is that happiness is an inside job.

It’s a matter of perspective, and in a world where we are constantly made to feel like we are lacking and always ‘wanting’ more, it can be difficult to achieve or experience actual happiness. Many of us are always looking toward external factors to experience joy and happiness, when really it’s all related to internal work. This is something science is just starting to grasp as well, as shown by research coming out of UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. According to them:

Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant. Now that’s a really cool way of taking care of your well-being.

There are many studies showing that people who count their blessings tend to be far happier and experience less depression.  For one study,  researchers recruited people with mental health difficulties, including people suffering from anxiety and depression. The study involved nearly 300 adults who were randomly divided into three groups. This study came from the University of California, Berkeley.

All groups received counselling services, but the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.

What did they find? Compared to the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counselling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

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This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief. (source)

Previously, a study on gratitude conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami randomly assigned participants to be given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week, another group recorded daily troubles from the previous week that displeased them, and the neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative. Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the troubled group. They reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more. (source)

Researchers from Berkeley identified how gratitude might actually work on our minds and bodies. They provided four insights from their research suggesting what causes the psychological benefits of gratitude.

  • Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
  • Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it
  • Gratitude’s benefits take time & practice. You might not feel it right away.
  • Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain

The brain part is very interesting. The researchers at Berkeley used an fMRI scanner to measure brain activity while people from each group did a “pay it forward” task.  During the task, the participants were given money by a “nice person.” This person’s only request was that they pass on the money to someone if they felt grateful.

They did this because they wanted to distinguish between actions motivated by gratitude and actions driven by other motivations like obligation, guilt, or what other people think. This is important because you can’t fake gratitude, you actually have to feel it. If you don’t feel grateful or practice trying to feel grateful by taking the necessary steps like keeping a gratitude journal, you may not experience as much joy and happiness.

In a world where emotions aren’t really taught in school and the importance is put on striving for high grades, it’s not abnormal to have difficulty feeling grateful. This is especially understandable if you’ve been brought up in the western world, which is full of consumerism and competition, a world where we’re constantly made to feel we are lacking so we need to strive for more.

Participants were asked to rate how grateful they felt toward the person giving them the money and how much they wanted to pay it forward to a charitable cause as well as how guilty they thought they would feel if they didn’t help.  They were also given questionnaires to measure how grateful they felt in general.

We found that across the participants, when people felt more grateful, their brain activity was distinct from brain activity related to guilt and the desire to help a cause. More specifically, we found that when people who are generally more grateful gave more money to a cause, they showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making. This suggests that people who are more grateful are also more attentive to how they express gratitude.

Most interestingly, when we compared those who wrote the gratitude letters with those who didn’t, the gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner. This is striking as this effect was found three months after the letter writing began. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain. While not conclusive, this finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.

It’s also interesting to note that a recent study just discovered a brain network that “gives rise to feelings of gratitude. The study could spur future investigations into how these ‘building blocks’ transform social information into complex emotions.” (source)

What About The Heart?

The work and research above is great, but where do we actually experience these feelings? They are clearly not a product of our brain, they are products of our consciousness, and when we feel them the brain responds.  Researchers are now discovering that the heart also responds and that it might actually be the heart that’s responsible for sending these signals to the brain.

A group of prestigious and internationally recognized leaders in physics, biophysics, astrophysics, education, mathematics, engineering, cardiology, biofeedback, and psychology (among other disciplines) have been doing some brilliant work over at the Institute of HeartMath.

Their work, among many others, has proven that when a person is feeling really positive emotions like gratitude, love, or appreciation, the heart beats out a different message, which determines what kind of signals are sent to the brain.

Not only that, but because the heart beats out the largest electromagnetic field produced in the body, the Institute has been able to gather a significant amount of data.

According to Rolin McCratey, Ph.D, and Director of Research at Heartmath?)

“Emotional information is actually coded and modulated into these fields. By learning to shift our emotions, we are changing the information coded into the magnetic fields that are radiated by the heart, and that can impact those around us. We are fundamentally and deeply connected with each other and the planet itself.” (source)

Another great point made below by the Institute:

“One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – experiencing stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them are greater mental clarity and ability, including better decision making.” (source)

In fact, the heart actually sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends in return. What’s even more amusing is the fact that these heart signals (from heart to brain) actually have a significant effect on brain function.

Research findings have shown that as we practice heart coherence and radiate love and compassion, our heart generates a coherent electromagnetic wave into the local field environment that facilitates social coherence, whether in the home, workplace, classroom or sitting around a table. As more individuals radiate heart coherence, it builds an energetic field that makes it easier for others to connect with their heart. So, theoretically it is possible that enough people building individual and social coherence could actually contribute to an unfolding global coherence. –  McCratey

So far, the researchers have discovered that the heart communicates with the brain and body in four ways: neurological communication (nervous system), biophysical communication (pulse wave), biochemical communication (hormones), and energetic communication (electromagnetic fields).

“HeartMath research has demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity (which accompany different emotional states) have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive function. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect. It facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability.” (source)

Gratitude and Positive Feelings Can Change The World

It gets deeper:

Every individual’s energy affects the collective field environment. The means each person’s emotions and intentions generate an energy that affects the field. A first step in diffusing societal stress in the global field is for each of us to take personal responsibility for our own energies. We can do this by increasing our personal coherence and raising our vibratory rate, which helps us become more conscious of the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that we are feeding the field each day. We have a choice in every moment to take to heart the significance of intentionally managing our energies. This is the free will or local freedom that can create global cohesion. – Dr. Deborah Rozman, the President of Quantum Intech (source)

Overall, this type of work suggests that human consciousness in general can change the world.

One study, for example, was done during the Israel-Lebanon war in the 1980s. Two Harvard University professors organized groups of experienced meditators in Jerusalem, Yugoslavia and the United Sates and asked them to focus their attention on the area of conflict at various intervals over a 27-month period. Over the course of the study, the levels of violence in Lebanon decreased between 40 and 80 percent each time a meditating group was in place. The average number of people killed during the war each day dropped from 12 to three, and war-related injuries fell by 70 percent. (source)

Another great example is a study that was conducted in 1993 in Washington, D.C., which showed a 25 percent drop in crime rates when 2,500 meditators meditated during a specific period of time with that intention.

This type of information is heavily correlated with quantum physics, as many experiments in that area as well as parapsychology (telepathy, remote viewing, distant healing) indicate similar findings. (source)

This holds true as far back as 1999. Statistics professor Jessica Utts at UC Irvine published a paper showing that parapsychological experiments have produced much stronger results than those showing a daily dose of aspirin helps prevent heart attacks. Utts also showed that these results are much stronger than the research behind various drugs like antiplatelets.

This type of work has statistically significant implications, yet is heavily ignored and labelled as pseudoscience simply because it conflicts with long-held beliefs we have trouble letting go of … But times are changing.

“For many years I have worked with researchers doing very careful work [in parapsychology], including a year that I spent full-time working on a classified project for the United States government, to see if we could use these abilities for intelligence gathering during the Cold War… At the end of that project I wrote a report for Congress, stating what I still think is true. The data in support of precognition and possibly other related phenomena are quite strong statistically, and would be widely accepted if it pertained to something more mundane. Yet, most scientists reject the possible reality of these abilities without ever looking at data! And on the other extreme, there are true believers who base their beliefs solely on anecdotes and personal experience. I have asked debunkers if there is any amount of data that would convince them, and they generally have responded by saying, “probably not.” I ask them what original research they have read, and they mostly admit that they haven’t read any. Now there is a definition of pseudo-science-basing conclusions on belief rather than data!” – Utts, Chair of the Statistics Department, UC Irvine (Dean Radin, Real Magic)

The Takeaway

Emotions and other factors associated with consciousness have the power to transform our inner world in ways we don’t fully understand yet. These findings show how consciousness can actually transform the physical/material world, and that’s huge. This validates the idea that if we can change our inner world through gratitude, empathy, compassion, and meditation, we can make our outer world more peaceful.

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