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10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

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We are all in search of happiness it seems. For me I prefer to look at it as the search for peace and joy in life as I find happiness can be too conditional and anytime we have to look for or chase something we are looking outside of us. Surely some of this is just semantics but for lack of a better word, happiness in my view is a state of being that comes from within and isn’t fickle.

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I came across this great article about the science of happiness and how researchers have been able to discover that various simple things that we can adjust in our daily lives can bring more happiness to our state of being. Again I believe happiness is a long term thing, not short spurts of emotion that we chase, but something that is born within and sustained naturally in our being.

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study really surprised me. Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!

 You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

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study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes:

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier, as you can see in the image below.

brain_walk

 

2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger.

Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day. Especially this graph showing how your brain activity decreases is a great insight about how important enough sleep is for productivity and happiness:

sleep

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

Sleep is another topic we’ve looked into before, exploring how much sleep we really need to be productive.

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

… while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long-term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how the men’s social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:

The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than your relationships are worth more than $100,000:

Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

The Terman study, which is covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.

Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°C

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes are a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

A UK study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:

Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that happiness is maximized at 13.9°C, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.

The connection between productivity and temperature is another topic we’ve talked about more here. It’s fascinating what a small change in temperature can do.

6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. What about spending our time on other people? A study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

 Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. It’s very easy to spot the difference:

Smiling

According to PsyBlogsmiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

A smile is also a good way to alleviate some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).

One of our previous posts goes into even more detail about the science of smiling.

8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. I believe that this graphic explains it the best:

Before and After Meditation

According to Shawn Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn’t permanent.

We’ve explored the topic of meditation and it’s effects on the brain in-depth before. It’s definitely mind-blowing what this can do to us.

10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where some participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period.

Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Quick last fact: Getting older will make yourself happier

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend togrow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over un-achieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Source

http://blog.bufferapp.com/10-scientifically-proven-ways-to-make-yourself-happier

http://www.social-consciousness.com/2013/10/ten-simple-things-you-can-do-today-that-will-make-you-happier-backed-by-science.html

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Farmer Gives His Cows To A Sanctuary After Seeing Them “Terrified”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A Cattle farmer turned vegan and gave his whole £50,000 herd to an animal sanctuary because he could no longer bear seeing them 'terrified' on the way to the abattoir.

  • Reflect On:

    Why do we subject other living beings to torture, pain, hurt and a terrible life? Why do we not value the life of an animal as much as we do a human?

Billions of animals are raised and killed for slaughter every single year, and that’s in America alone. There is nothing humane about our food industry. It’s quite clear that the majority of animals are tortured, live in extreme fear, anxiety and depression, and constantly have their kids and other family members ripped away from them. Take cows, for example. These majestic, compassionate, empathetic and brilliant beings are basically raped so we can drink their milk.

They are forcefully inseminated, which is odd given the fact that casein, the protein found within the milk of a cow, has been found to increase our risk of cancer and even accelerate the growth rate of cancer . Furthermore, the milk from a cow creates a condition within the body called metabolic acidosis, and as a result the body compensates by leeching calcium from the bones. How ironic is that?

When the cow gives birth, the babies do not get the milk because that’s reserved for humans and big profit. The babies are separated from their mothers and then are either immediately killed or raised for slaughter. This is extremely inhumane, and it represents one of the most heartbreaking genocides in human history. It makes no sense to drink the milk of a cow because it’s meant for cows.

In fact, humans are the only animal that drink the milk of another animal, and we are the only animal to drink milk after weaning. Furthermore, we previously didn’t have the ability to digest the milk of a cow, that’s an ability our bodies eventually developed, given the fact that the milk of a cow is so unnatural to the human body. It makes sense that 65 percent of the planet has some form of lactose intolerance. In some regions of the world it’s an astonishing 90 percent. It makes no sense at all, and it’s quite clear that the big food companies are behind this and have marketed milk as ‘healthy’ simply for the purposes of profit.

The main purpose of this article is to emphasize that all of this is happening because of us. Granted, things have drastically changed over the past decade, and are continuing to change. The profits of the dairy and meat industries are steadily declining, and this is as a result of people waking up to what’s really going on with regards to how these animals are treated as well as the health consequences of human beings over-consuming animal products.

One other thing that seems to be happening is an increase in global compassion. It’s always strange to ask how any human being can be involved in this process. We are talking about living, sentient, emotional, intelligent beings being subjected to extreme pain. How can anybody on the planet be okay with someone else going through such things? The reality is that there are individuals who oppose these industries, and there are those who deem the lives of other animals as insignificant.

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As I said, people are changing, but some people just don’t realize this. Jay and Katja Wilde are the latest examples of how change is spreading.

Pictured above, the 61-year-old farmers just couldn’t take the guilt anymore after spending many years as beef farmers. They recently decided to give their entire herd to an animal sanctuary. It’s interesting because he’s been a vegetarian for thirty years, yet at the same time this was his occupation, and through it he discovered that each individual cow had their own unique personality. They are loving, caring, intelligent and affectionate animals.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, he said:

“I’ve long felt there was a very strong conflict of interest between not eating meat and producing cattle for meat,” he says. “The problem is that when you inherit a farm, it feels like a duty to keep its life continuing into the future. That also means looking after animals, really getting to know them. But then I felt that sending them off was betraying them. I needed to do something differently. Whether they are stubborn, shy, friendly, they’re all different. These traits can pass down generations, too. You can match sons and daughters to their mothers.”

He emphasized how his profession made him much more “acutely aware of taking them to their place of death.” A death that Jay felt sure the cows were fully aware of. “It’s hard to know exactly what they know, but logic suggests everything about that final journey must be terrifying,” he said.

Jay and his wife Katja have now converted their beef farm into an organic vegan one, becoming the first farmers in the UK who are believed to have taken such action.

“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as now they look upon the murder of humans.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

Below is great, heart-warming video.

The Takeaway

Eating meat isn’t healthy. It’s well-established in scientific literature that a meat-free diet, when done correctly, offers tremendous health benefits. Plant-based eating is not only nutritionally sufficient, but helps you avoid chronic illness as well. You can read more information regarding that in the articles linked below.

What we are doing today, raising and slaughtering billions of animals, is not only destroying our health, it’s destroying our environment as well. More importantly, compassion, care, empathy and love must return to our planet, and the food industry is where we need to start showing these qualities that have somehow been made to lay dormant within us. If one suffers, we all suffer.

Related Articles:

9 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Meat

Internal Medicine Physician Shares What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Eating Meat

Studies Show What Happens To Your Heart When You Go Vegan or Vegetarian

Disturbing Aerial Photos Show What Killing Billions of Animals for Meat is Doing To The Environment

Warning: Graphic Images That The Egg Industry Does Not Want You To See

New Study Shows What Vegan Diets Do For Heart Health, Endurance Athletes & Sports Performance

Scientist: Milk From Cows Has “The Most Relevant Carcinogen Ever Identified” & “Turns on Cancer”

Scientist Explains How Cow’s Milk Leeches Calcium From Your Bones & Makes Them Weaker

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Libra: Approaching Changes

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We are having a 2nd Full Moon in Libra on April 19th; however, it will appear fullest on the night of the 18th in the American continents. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began on April 5th with a New Moon in Aries.

This Full Moon happens with the Sun opposing the Moon right at the tail end of Aries and Libra, at the 29th degree, less than a day before we begin Taurus season. The energies of a sign tend to be more heightened at these points. Also, with it being a 2nd consecutive Full Moon in the same sign, it is an ‘Astrological Blue Moon,’ which is something that occurs once every 3 years. This also amplifies the energies of this polarity of signs over an extended period.

During this Full Moon, we can experience either a push-pull or collaboration between the Sun in Aries and Moon in Libra. The energies of it gradually build up and become more noticeable on the day of and days surrounding the Full Moon. It is also part of the backdrop of the other astrological influences/reflections over the following two weeks.

Aries is a fire sign ruled by Mars. It is about action, moving forward, pioneering, independence, self-identity, self-orientation, and leadership. It is bold, courageous, and instinctual, yet it can also be aggressive, impulsive, impatient, selfish, and hot-tempered.

Libra is an Air sign ruled by Venus. It is about relating, relationships, partnerships, codependency, consideration, harmony, balance, fairness, art, creativity, and beauty. It is sociable, diplomatic, and intellectual, yet it can also be indecisive, passive aggressive, vain, and even judgemental.

Full Moon Quincunx Venus, Opposing Sun/Uranus Conjunction

Venus is the ruler of Libra and is in a quincunx aspect with this Full Moon. This could indicate frustrations, challenges between emotional needs, relationship considerations, balance, fairness, or equality with values, finances, or other aspects of our relationships. The solution to this may require adjustments, which may seem complicated.

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Venus is about to change signs just like the Sun and Moon. It is currently near the end of Pisces, which is also the end of the entire zodiac. All of this combined with Uranus being tied into this Full Moon could indicate some sort of change or transition regarding some of the themes mentioned in this article.

The Sun is moving close to Uranus in Taurus with the Moon in opposition to it. This could reflect surprises, instability, and disruptive or separative circumstances. Individual needs connected to freedom, liberation, new experiences, excitement, independence, authenticity, innovation, or rebellion may be at odds with other considerations or relationships.

Jupiter is also in a separating aspect with the Sun and Moon. This could emphasize some of what is mentioned above, but could also bring in themes connected to beliefs, opinions, travel, education, media, and marketing. Considering that Jupiter recently began its retrograde, many people may experience a shift or revisitation around these things as well.

Mars Square Neptune, Mercury and Venus in Aries Conjunct Chiron

Mars, the ruler of Aries, is in Gemini moving towards a square with Neptune in Pisces, which is strongest from April 25th-28th. At best, this energy can be good for asserting ourselves in a spiritual, inspired, imaginative, or creative way. This can also be good for activities that involve water.

However, it can feel harder to take on mundane duties and we can lack direction or even have less energy for physical assertion. We can also feel lazy, scattered, or overwhelmed. Certain efforts might end up not working out due to insufficient execution, lack of attention, or by other means.

Mercury entered Aries a few days before this Full Moon, where it will stay until May 6th. This follows an extended stay in Pisces due to the previous retrograde. We can be more mentally sharp, quick, bold, and courageous in comparison to the last few months, which were a time of heightened absent mindedness, confusion, and less focus.

During the day of this Full Moon and the days surrounding it, Mercury is in a conjunction Chiron. Thoughts and communications could be connected to Chiron themes of healing, wounds, blockages, inadequacies, innovation, bridging, or perhaps some sort of holistic orientation. Venus will also enter Aries and join Chiron from April 21st-24th. Similar themes could play out in our relationships or regarding values, finances, or beauty.

Saturn and Pluto Going Retrograde Near The South Node

Around the time of the previous New Moon, Pluto was aligned with the South Node, and it has been slowing down to go retrograde on April 24th. This could be bringing themes of purging, transforming, and perhaps endings into this Moon cycle. It is also possible that past issues or behaviours could have resurfaced. Themes connected to fears, power, control, manipulation, shadows, sex, or perhaps even death could also come up.

Saturn is also now getting closer to the South Node as it slows down to go retrograde on April 29th. This could extend and accentuate some of the same themes mentioned above such as endings, changes, or obstacles associated with the past.

It can also bring up themes connected to responsibilities, commitments, boundaries, structures, career obligations, barriers, and limitations. This energy will be strong over the coming 2-3 weeks, especially during the days surrounding April 29th. It will also be strong in the early Summer and then early Fall when it concludes.

Things To Consider During This Period

What do you need to do to balance your relationship needs with your individual ones? Are there any adjustments that you need to make? What do you need to do to feel more liberated? What considerations do you need to make before making any changes?

What areas of your life are calling for endings and what aspects of your past do you need to let go of? Do you need to shift your commitments and responsibilities? Are there any unusual solutions coming up that could help you overcome obstacles or facilitate some sort of healing?

These are just some examples of themes that could come up during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out as well.  If you wish to do any sort of intentional release connected to what has come up at this Full Moon, it is best to do so anytime over the two weeks following, when it is waning. The exact moment of this Full Moon is on the night of April 19th at 11:12am Universal Time. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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

astrology, astrology readings, carmen di luccio

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. 

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Consciousness

Embodied Spirituality: The Truth Shall Set You Free

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    There are truths, despite what our president would want us to believe. Subjective and objective domains for truth are largely distinct, and discerning the difference informs a spirituality that honors more than just our convenient worldviews.

  • Reflect On:

    The key is learning how to appropriately identify subjective versus objective truths. When we mix up these domains, we end up not living in alignment with the truth, which is not only anti-spiritual but leads to the demise of the Earth as well.

For myself, spirituality means aligning with what is true, or most likely true. This means looking at what is true through the lens of my unique experience and self-reflection (subjectively) and what is true in the world (objectively).

Living in accord with what’s true means I have to confront lots of things that are tough to stomach and that I’d prefer weren’t true. I practice resiliency by enduring this discovery process. It takes courage, humility, sensitivity, insight, intellectual rigor, emotional intelligence, and flexibility—in essence, all of me.

Why does it require all of me to be honest?

Because we humans have evolved to stick to our beliefs, even though many of them are false. We, in fact, experience a dopamine rush (a feel-good neurotransmitter in our brains) when we affirm our beliefs, even if they are wrong. So, confronting false beliefs about myself and the world means I have to endure some degree of feeling badly, some emotional turmoil, cognitive dissonance, and reorientation of my world. When I challenge many of my false beliefs, I encounter nothing short of transformation on all levels. Sounds like a bona fide spiritual path to me.

The Power of (False) Belief

This being human is a guesthouse,
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

—Rumi

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When we don’t align with what’s true about ourselves, interpersonally, and in the world, we develop false beliefs. And we like to assert these false beliefs. Using evidence and acknowledging reality can help us let go of our false beliefs. We receive this information subjectively through self-reflection and what others share with us (which we also need to sort through for false projections). We receive true information about objective reality by direct observation and through evidence.

Ascertaining inconvenient truths means we have to let go of our self-administered dopamine addiction (by lying to ourselves and others when wrong) and experience feeling badly temporarily. We have to accept new visitors to the guesthouse of our psyche if we want to be more honest. If we can’t do this, we cut ourselves short of our potential.

We can’t be as loving and kind when we’re deluded about what’s true, subjectively and objectively. If I can’t accept that I am more self-serving than I think I am, I will continue to unconsciously put myself first at the expense of others. If I can’t acknowledge that smoking cigarettes, synthetic chemicals in perfumes, or spraying RoundUp is harmful, I am more likely to condone their use, which causes harm.

To change belief structures includes a collapse of our sense of self, trust, safety, belonging, and our perceived survival. This is also why many cling so dearly to their beliefs; even war can seem like a better option than to adjust ourselves to reality. Reality seems pretty powerful this way! If we adopt reality as our guru, we have a powerful teacher on our side to wake us up. So, a willingness to embody our humanness can be a path to greater compassion and peace. Embodied spirituality means being fully human—accepting and working skillfully with all our thoughts, emotions, physical issues, and relationships.

When we don’t embody our spirituality, we don’t take as good care of the Earth, which is the extension of our own bodies. In the age of environmental collapse, an earthy and embodied relationship to life that apprehends what is true helps us heal what’s ill. Like missing a medical diagnosis, how can we treat what what we can’t bear to admit and accurately diagnose? Honesty is therefore the first step to healing and embodying our lives.

Being Human is Very Spiritual

We, in fact, need nothing more than everyday honest living for spirituality to put us on a path of massive transformation.The more we can let go of spiritual loftiness and encounter our ordinary humanness, the more resilient and honest we become. Ironically, it is precisely this difficult growth that has given rise to many spiritual and religious paths that abandon the ordinary, grounded world of embodied living, as complex as it is. These spiritual paths thrive on what is highly likely untrue. They try to escape the pain of everyday living by denying what’s painful, which is called spiritual bypassing. With skillfulness, wisdom, and support we can navigate what’s honestly human while not bypassing.

Learning to welcome and tolerate all manner of emotions and inconvenient truths to our guesthouse allows us to align with reality, especially welcoming what makes us feel badly. It’s important to align both with the good and the ugly because when we ignore the ugly and painful, it goes unhealed and untended. Our precious biosphere suffering under the weight of our pollution is a prime example. What we don’t want to look at, we can’t address. Turning our heads and hearts away from it creates more pain and ugliness.

The New Age dictum, “What you put your attention on grows,” fails to acknowledge the importance of embracing what’s ugly and painful. A wiser, more embodied version might go: “The negative things you put your attention on allow you to see reality and address it before it takes over beyond the point of repair.” Look at the plastic pollution issue or climate change as examples. Acknowledging both sides of the coin is more important than choosing only the bright side of life in order to remain happy, which is short-lived when we’re in denial of the dark side. Wanting to remain happy at the expense of not seeing reality (except when we need a recharge break from honestly facing it) is fear in disguise that ultimately comes back to bite us. It also bites us in the moment because this denial cuts us off from our deeper hearts—our compassion and empathy—which are stirred by painful realities.

We can’t know everything, of course. Nor can we be right all the time. But we can be aligned enough with everyday reality (what matters at the end of the day) to make a difference and eliminate unnecessary suffering. We just have to be willing to be selfless enough to stop avoiding necessary pain to the degree we do.

Science & Critical Thinking

Scientific consensus is the primary arbiter of what’s objectively true in the world; what we subjectively experience is not as good a measure of what’s objectively true. “I like apples” is a subjective truth. No one can disprove this; it’s a personal truth. It is not the purview of science to disprove a subjective experience. Yet, if I claim that everyone likes apples just because I experience their yumminess, this is imposing a personal truth onto external reality. And, it’s not true—we know not everyone likes apples, and nothing is wrong with them for not liking them. It is the purview of science to demonstrate that not everyone likes apples, and simple common sense will do in a pinch.

Of course, there is bad science, like the junk (dishonest) science produced by many corporations such as Big Pharma and Bayer-Monsanto with regard to GMOs. So, when I say science, I mean good, peer-reviewed (and not conflict-of-interest and corporate-funded), consensus science. And yes, many scientific truths are always in flux, but many scientific discoveries do not change because they have stood the test of many challenges. Think about the law of gravity and the laws of thermodynamics. Many who want to protect their sense of self and ego deem all science to be manipulative, dishonest, and just another belief system. This is just not true. If it were, the device on which you are reading this article would not function because it’s constructed as a result of the collaboration of many scientific laws that have not been debunked and instead stood the test of time.

Consider another example: If I experience a vision during a medicine journey or receive a message in a dream one night that has personal meaning to me, I might conclude it’s true for everyone, or true in the world. Let’s say a blue dragon with white polka-dots tells me that aliens are communicating to humanity by way of trees. Well, before I know if this is true or not, I’d have to investigate its veracity. I don’t deem it true simply because I had a subjective experience that conveyed it was. This way, I can tentatively receive this bit of intuitive knowledge and seek to determine if it’s true. Intuition tips me off to what is possible, not necessarily what is true.

Confounding subjective and objective truth is one of the biggest faux pas we make, especially in spiritual circles.

Science shows us what’s most likely true beyond our own intuition, beliefs, and biases. Even with science’s errors and its dishonest publishing politics, good scientific consensus is still the best tool we have for determining what’s true about the natural world, not our subjective experiences. We have to be skillful and aware not to automatically deem our subjective experiences as objective truths. This helps us align with reality, keep an appropriately open mind, and helps everyone get along better because we’re not feuding over what’s objectively true.

“What’s True for Me”

When everyone feels entitled to their opinion—”what’s true for me”—we end up with lots of personal beliefs and memes that aren’t true. “Personal truth” or “what’s true for me” is a subjective truth. Your like of apples doesn’t mean anything about the external world, such as my opinion of apples. If I don’t trust politicians or my landlord, this doesn’t mean they are untrustworthy. I need objective evidence to prove or verify my distrust. Or I can just own this hunch and honestly call it so, while knowing it might not be true. This discernment between subjective and objective truth helps prevent assumptions and dogmas. This also sounds pretty spiritual to me.

If someone sheds distressing light on a politicianI like or my best friend, I’m likely to become defensive because my sense of self and orientation in the world, as well as my emotional security, are invested in these beliefs. If my belief structures are challenged, all of what that belief system keeps in place becomes shaky. And this is just too scary for most of us, so much so that we defend against it or attack and assault others because of it. We often make the mistake of imposing “what’s true for me” onto what’s true for everyone or what’s true in the world.

“What’s true for me”  beliefs can’t automatically be extended to external reality unless we have evidence beyond our own subjective perception to deem them so. If I believe the world is flat and this is “what’s true for me,” that doesn’t fly. This is to make a subjective truth objectively factual. This is what leads to conflict and living in fantasy. Just look at religious and many New Age beliefs as examples. They are not different from our personal beliefs about the nature of reality that are also false and cause us to act in egoic, violent ways.

What’s True “Out There”

Good science to determine the mostly likely and factual objective knowledge offers us the opportunity to dismantle our egos and illusions. Science and critical thinking show us that many of our “what’s true for me” opinions about the world are wrong. Notice I am not talking about personal feelings and preferences, but rather our statements of fact about the world.

Objective truths implicitly challenge us to change, to transform ourselves. It takes spiritual-emotional courage to accept these facts, which builds resiliency the more we practice aligning with what is both subjectively and objectively true. The sun appears to go down over the horizon; the Earth appears flat. Via science, we know these subjective observations are not true. Using my intuition to make such conclusions is a wrong use of this faculty. If my intuition tells me there is more to the story, then I can investigate it for other evidence. This, in fact, is how many scientific discoveries occur. Intuition and science are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are allies as long as we don’t assume what’s subjectively true to be objectively true, and vice versa.

Many people dismiss science precisely because its conclusions fly in the face of what they’d prefer to believe. This results in intellectual dishonesty and spiritual delusion. Our emotional bents and grudges—especially those resulting from our hurt and wounds that have generated anger, fear, pain and thus, bias—prevent us from being intellectually honest, unless we recognize the dynamic by which we deceive ourselves and we set about to be more honest. This requires enduring the discomfort of being humbled and sacrificing a temporary dopamine rush for the truth.

To be able to accept truth therefore requires that we deal with our emotional baggage and triggers, because this is the primary driver for our intellectual dishonesty and spiritual laziness. Many of us would fall apart if we discovered that parts of our worldview are untrue. That could result in a spiritual emergency, akin to a healing crisis, which ultimately improves us and makes us more effective in the world.

Warriorship

This is why spiritual warriorship—aligning myself with what is most likely objectively and subjectively true—requires I be emotionally and intellectually rigorous and courageous. It means that I listen to scientific consensus and not discard it because I’d like to believe something else. It means that I listen to the opinions of others and gain perspective on myself (while also honestly and humbly sorting out projections and displacements of other people’s biases). It means that I genuinely and honestly consider interpersonal facts about which I might have an incorrect opinion. And it means that I notice the whispers inside me that tell me when I am being dishonest or hiding from the truth, with white lies tolerated now and again.

Many spiritual paths involve giving over one’s will and beliefs to a guru. Yet, that guru can be corrupt and deluded and conflate subjective and objective truths. For example, feeling “one with all” in meditation doesn’t mean that we are all one in a black or white way—without appropriate boundaries, individual needs, and different tolerances and sensibilities. In this sense, aligning ourselves with what is most likely true, subjectively and objectively, is a robust spiritual path—because, much like a guru, it forces us to align with truth and withstand the breakdown of some part of our existing paradigm. This is death and rebirth work, for sure. Again, this sounds pretty spiritual to me.

Detachment from reality by remaining stuck in one’s self-centered and deluded beliefs doesn’t help the planet or help us show up for one another. Consider our government’s failure to acknowledge the widespread harm of key pesticides, or the neurotoxic chemicals in perfumes and scented products, despite the scientific evidence and the fact that many of these products are banned in the EU and other, more sensible places than America. This creates crimes of global proportion because of the actions (and inactions) and resulting injury that a denial of the facts causes. Or consider a smaller-scale example. If someone doesn’t appreciate you, despite evidence to the contrary they choose not to see, they will treat you poorly and create unnecessary suffering for you and themselves.

Embodied Spirituality

To live an embodied spirituality—where we are in alignment with reality and what’s as true as we can glean— means we have to give up many of our fantasies and wishful thinking. It means we have to tend intimately to our emotional lives and the hidden aches and wounds that hide us from the truth. We find these hidden places when we descend into and become more conscious of our bodies (this is a key aspect of the “body” part of “embodied spirituality”). We have to practice critical thinking to align with external reality, what’s known as “intellectual honesty.” Emotional and intellectual honesty are the pillars that produce spiritual honesty.

When we practice emotional healing, good thinking, and care for the greater good, we inhabit our bodies more fully. Belonging to ourselves this way connects us to the body of the Earth, so we can treat it with the same integrity with which we treat ourselves . This way, spirituality begins with our (extra)ordinary humanness and self-healing and extends to the ordinary, extraordinary world around us in the same vein of integrity.

It’s easy to live in a fantasy world, believing what’s convenient, what feeds our biases, puffs up our superiority, denies what makes us uncomfortable, and propels our hate. These convenient, false beliefs also protect our core wounds and our need to belong in the world at any cost. The problem is that believing in what’s untrue damages the world because it guides our actions and inaction.

Science and everyday evidence are beautiful because they bypass our bias and opinion; they don’t care what we believe or what injures our ego. They’re impartial. Sounds like the work of a good guru to me. When we get humility, courage, honesty, good thinking, and passion all working in harmony and assuming their appropriate roles for truth-discerning, we get integration, which begets integrity. These psycho-spiritual capacities are the cornerstone of an embodied spirituality, which is simply to be an exquisitely integrated and aware human being who genuinely cares about oneself and the world . . . enough to be willing to suffer disillusionment to align with and serve it.

When we align our subjective and objective truths, we live in more harmony, not only with ourselves but with every other precious, living thing. What better path could we take than to strive for an embodied, earthy life in the age of environmental collapse? For, the collapse of the natural world may indeed be due to our collective, personal collapse of integrity—the abandonment of our own embodiment.

****

Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., M.A., is a Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, and mind-body integration, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. His latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter, where he can also be contacted for medical consultations and life-coaching.

 

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