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Mercury Retrograde In Aries: Redefining Action & Individuality

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Mercury began its latest edition of its retrograde process on March 22nd/23rd, which will last until April 15th. In the weeks and especially days leading up to it, known as the ‘pre-shadow period’, we start to notice its influence as Mercury slows down and comes to a stop before moving the other way.

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If you have read my previous Mercury retrograde articles, the first two sections of this article are nearly the same and you can skip to the third section if you don’t want to re-read all the general themes associated with these periods. The other sections are more specific to this edition of it.

Mercury retrograde is famous for the problematic effects it often has on communication technology, transactions, motor vehicles, anything with moving parts, and commuting in general. Some people even get headaches on or near the beginning of it. We could experience some challenges, misunderstandings, and errors around our communications, numbers/details, and commerce, as well as changes, cancellations, or delays in our schedules. We may also feel more challenged when we are doing excessive analytical work without using our internal guidance.

Although there is a higher probability of experiencing more of these problems during this time, they won’t necessarily apply to every situation. Some people may not notice these energies as much, depending on what types of things they are doing and how the astrology is playing out, unique to the person’s astrological blueprint.

Mercury Retrograde can also be a good time to revisit or redo tasks, projects, ideas, or anything else that was initiated in the past. It can give us a different perspective or shift in thinking that can help us to approach these things in ways we wouldn’t have done so before. This may also be a period of reconnecting with old friends, family, sometimes lovers, or others you haven’t seen in a while.

The Deeper Purpose of Mercury Retrograde

Ultimately, Mercury Retrograde is a time for us to recalibrate our minds and certain areas of our lives. It is a period in which we may receive important insights and see things in a new light. In most cases it can be mildly transformational, but in some cases it can facilitate more major transformations depending on how it corresponds to your personal astrological blueprint.

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During and following the retrograde, certain areas of our lives can go through changes or shifts, or we can experience a reorientation of some sort. In the 2 weeks afterwards, known as the ‘post-shadow’ period,  we move forward with some sort of new awareness and adjustment.

The things that you have been doing or putting into place in the two to three weeks leading up to this period could determine how and where this energy plays out. It is also possible that there could have been changes put in place at that time which may go through a sorting out process during this time. Perhaps in that period there could have been unknown variables, both positive and negative, that were either unseen or hadn’t been conceived yet, which may become apparent over the coming weeks.

The sign(s) and element(s) in which Mercury retrograde travels shows the energy we are re-orienting ourselves with. Also, to go with that, if you are more familiar with your natal astrology chart, your house(s) or any planetary placements being affected will show more specifically what areas of life you will be experiencing its energy in. For the astrologically literate, it began near 17 degrees of Aries and will retrograde all the way to 4 degrees of the same sign, before turning forward again.

This One Is Occurring In Aries, Part of A Series In Fire Signs

Mercury retrograde always occurs in one element for more than a year. The last Mercury retrograde in December was the first of this series to be completely in Fire signs, with previous ones being partially in this element.

Fire is about passion, creativity, instinct, inspiration, assertiveness, courage, confidence, and spirit. This Fire period is about re-aligning ourselves with these themes and expressing them in new or revamped ways. If you are interested in learning more about Mercury retrograde in different elements and how it relates to you, I recommend this recently published book by Gary P. Caton.

Aries is the most ‘self-oriented’ sign. It is about independence, boldness, and leadership. Ruled by Mars, it is all about action as it is a ‘moving’ energy. Aries is competitive, initiating, and  pioneering. Negatively, Aries is associated with anger, aggression, impatience, and inconsideration.

As mentioned, retrogrades are partially about going back and revisiting or readjusting things, which may be connected to both the positive and the negative qualities of Aries. However, ultimately the end result should help us to embody more of the positive energies of this sign.

Mercury Square Saturn In Capricorn

Like the previous Mercury Retrograde period, it will be interacting with Saturn. However, during this run, this interaction will be more significant because Saturn is almost retrograde and Mercury squared it during the pre-shadow period and will return to it during the post-shadow period.

Saturn has been in its home sign of Capricorn since late December and will be there for over two years. Generally speaking, this is a period of putting in the work and discipline towards our long term goals. Being cautious and conservative may also be a theme. It is about taking a serious look at the structures in our lives and shifting what doesn’t serve us. It can also be a period of redefining ambitions and career plans for some people depending on one’s personal chart.

With Mercury Retrograde in Aries interacting with this, it’s a period to consider how our passions, inspirations, independence, drive, and even qualities of leadership need to be applied to our goals and structures. Challenges and blocks may come up during these coming weeks that we will need to pay attention to as they will help to better align us with how we need to apply ourselves to fulfill the Aries/Fire themes in a more structured way.

Saturn will be beginning its retrograde on April 17th/18th, less than 3 days after Mercury’s retrograde ends, and will last until September 6th. Part of what is playing out over the next month will lead in to and contribute to what Saturn’s retrograde means for us. As we get closer to mid-late April, there may be some changes or a shift in perspective around Saturn themes of responsibilities, goals, ambitions, discipline, structures, and perhaps career. Once Saturn’s retrograde period ends in late Summer, another shift will take place with a forward momentum based on what has transpired.

Mars In The Mix With Mercury And Saturn

This Moon cycle began with Mars in a square with Chiron aligned with the New Moon In Pisces. As mentioned in my last article, it can be about dealing with Mars related wounds. It is the ruler of Aries, so therefore it amplifies the overlapping themes and energies of both this sign and planet as well as other areas specific to Mars. This can include anything to do with anger, aggression, the way we assert ourselves, or perhaps wounds somehow connected to desires or sex.

Mars will align with Saturn during this retrograde period which will also be triggered by and directly connected to what Mercury is facilitating for us. For some people this can be a period of needing to get realistic about any Mars related wounds mentioned above.

It can be a time where we are shown that we need to take a more cautious, disciplined, or calculated approach to how we assert ourselves. This can trigger conflicts and obstacles and it is possible that it could even bring some endings. This energy could become noticeable starting from March 30th when the Moon triggers it and will play out throughout the first week of April when the exact conjunction and square with Mercury takes place.

Jupiter In Scorpio Sextile Pluto

During the final week of the retrograde, and in the week following, Jupiter which is now retrograde will be in another sextile to Pluto. This also occurred in January and it is possible that what occurs at this time may be connected to what transpired in that period.

Similarly to Mercury retrograde, this can also help to facilitate transformational energy and perhaps an inward shift. It can also help reveal things to us that were hidden, or help to facilitate some sort of deep understanding. In some cases, this aspect may also bring about developments arounds finances. It may have an empowerment theme which can be a nice way to finish off Mercury’s retrograde.

Mercury Retrograde Timeline

*Below, are some of the dates and information for some of the major astrological configurations during this retrograde. However, I also regularly post about other astro energies happening on my social media via Instagram and Facebook, you can follow on those platforms for more forecast content.

Earlier dates are for those in Western part of the world and later dates for those in the East.

Mar 22/23 – Mercury begins  retrograde at 12:19am Universal Time

Mar 23-25 – Venus Square Pluto, Sun Square Mars. This period can be intense but may also stimulate passion. Conflicts, tension, competitiveness and anger may be triggered through you or around you through others. Perhaps secrets or hidden matters may be revealed in relationships or financial matter, or obsessive or possessive energy around love, sex, money, or values.

Mar 28/29 – Venus conjunct Uranus. Anything to do with with relationships, love, or money may face surprises, changes, shifts, or perhaps even losses or separations. In some cases this energy may even be connected to making aesthetic changes in some area of your life.

Mar 29/30 – Sun square Saturn. Challenges, obstacles, or the need to get real or disciplined may play out at this time. Issues around responsibilities may come up.

Mar 30-Apr 1 – Full Moon In Libra. I will be writing an article about this which will published closer to the Full Moon. Join my mailing list here to make sure that you get it.

Apr 1/2 – Mercury conjunct Sun. This is the halfway point of the retrograde and can be a time of increased realizations, clarity, or understandings around some of the areas being affected in your life at this time. For some people, this can also be a time in which the Mercury Retrograde complications may be heightened as well.

Apr 1 – 5 – Mars/Saturn conjunction, Mercury triggering it.  Details written above in the article. Check ‘Mars In The Mix With Mercury And Saturn’.

Apr 6/7 – Venus trine Saturn. Commitments, responsibilities, or maturity around relationships, money, aesthetics, or values may be highlighted at this time in a positive, productive, stabilizing, or strengthening way.

Apr 8 – 20 – Jupiter sextile Pluto. Details written above in article.

Apr 10/11 – Sun square Pluto, Venus trine Mars. This may be a passionate time in general, perhaps in relationships or otherwise. Potentially some financial developments for some people. We may feel extra assertive in going after what we want, but this energy may also trigger obsessive, possessive, and intense vibes. Combined with the Jupiter-Pluto energy mentioned above, hidden things may be revealed to us.

Apr 15 – Mercury retrograde finishes with Saturn stationary. New Moon is 16 hours later.   At this time and over the following weeks, the areas of our lives that have been affected by this retrograde will start to become more clear and things will fall into place more easily. There will be a New Moon shortly afterwards which helps us with fresh starts as a result of what has transpired. As mentioned in the article, Saturn will also be going retrograde less than 3 days afterwards and so this may also be a period of reflecting or a shift around commitments, responsibilities, disciplines, career, long term goals, or certain structures in our lives.

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Looking for more insight on how this period is affecting you? 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. You can also follow me on INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK for more astrology related content.

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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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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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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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