"Arizona has just announced that you cannot get a building permit for any new homes. No more homes!. The Airbnb market is collapsing. Real estate is falling apart. You are saying hotel owners give the keys back to the banks what’s next?"
“What powers are being wielded in the Wizard Nebula? Gravitation strong enough to form stars, and stellar winds and radiations powerful enough to create and dissolve towers of gas. Located only 8,000 light years away, the Wizard nebula, pictured above, surrounds developing open star cluster NGC 7380. Visually, the interplay of stars, gas, and dust has created a shape that appears to some like a fictional medieval sorcerer.
The active star forming region spans 100 about light years, making it appear larger than the angular extent of the Moon. The Wizard Nebula can be located with a small telescope toward the constellation of the King of Aethiopia (Cepheus) Although the nebula may last only a few million years, some of the stars being formed may outlive our Sun.”
"Time. Of things that have long fascinated me, time is at the top of the list. Even when I was a little kid, time fascinated me. The idea that time, of all of the physical parameters of the world there was the one that we couldn’t control. Humanity has mastered the power of the atom, at least partially. We haven’t tamed fusion, but we can create it, and have several fewer islands in the Pacific because of it.
Humanity has dammed the largest of rivers, giving us power. We have used technology to shrink the world. The first recorded circumnavigation of the world took 1082 days. Magellan didn’t quite make the whole trip, but he still gets the credit on a technicality. Now? The International Space Station does an orbit in 90 minutes or so at 17,150 miles per hour, which is nearly as fast as Haitians are entering Texas.
Humanity has conquered the riddle of steel – we’ve made steel buildings that reach upwards into the sky to please Crom. We have conquered climate – people live at the South Pole in perfect comfort, as well as managing to live in Houston without melting into puddles of sweat.
We can see at night. We can talk, nearly instantly, with people a continent away. My phone buzzes every time there is motion outside my front door – it’s like having a superpower of sensing where and when there is activity at a distance. Another superpower is being able to access obscure facts anywhere on the planet that can reach a cell signal.
But time remains fixed. It flows only one way. And it is the most subjective of our senses. Even Pugsley notices it: “This summer was so short!” He’s in high school. That’s when the transition from the endless summers of childhood begin to transform into the fleeting, never-ending carousel of years that is adulthood. I’ve long felt that I understood why this was. Let me give it a shot.
For a newborn, the second day it’s outside and breathing is 50% of its entire life. For a six-year-old, half of their life is three years – much more. It’s not a big percentage, but it’s much smaller than 50%. For a sixteen-year-old, half their life is eight years. If you’re forty – half your life is twenty years. 1/8 versus 1/20? It’s amazingly different. We don’t perceive life as a line. We’re living inside of it – we compare our lives to the only thing we have . . . our lives. Each day you live is smaller than the last.
But that’s not everything. As we age, novelty decreases. When we’re young, experiences and knowledge are coming at us so quickly that we are presented with novel (new and unique) information daily. New words. New thoughts. New ideas. That’s why babies keep falling for that stupid “got your nose” thing. They don’t realize that I can reattach it. Over time, though, novelty decreases, as does the percentage of your life that each day represents. Ever drive a new route somewhere? When I do it, I have to focus my attention. It seems like it takes longer because I’m having to deal with novelty.
I’ve had my “new” laptop nearly seven years. I had my old laptop for longer than that, yet my “new” laptop still seems like it’s temporary.
There are only so many routes I can drive to work, so much novelty that I can find in a daily drive. Even a commute of an hour begins to fade into a brief moment in time if it’s the same commute, day after day.
Work is similar. Over time, we gain experience. Experience shows us how to fix problems (and sometimes how not to fix them). But that experience of taking a solution and modifying it to fix the next problem isn’t as hard as fixing the first problem.
The fact that each day is a smaller portion of my life, combined with the fact that as I get older, the possibility that I see something new dims. I’ve solved a bunch of problems in my life. Finding a new one is... difficult. Life goes faster, day by day for me. Every endless summer day of youth is in my rearview mirror.
And yet... Each day is still 24 hours. I can still use each day and live it with all of the gusto of a 10-year-old fishing for trout after building a tree fort, playing with his dog, and building a model of a Phantom F-4 to dogfight with the MiG 21-PF already hanging from the ceiling. Even though those 24 hours seem shorter now than at any time in my life, they are relentless in their exact sameness. I get to choose how I spend those moments in my life. I get to choose what I want to produce, and how hard I work to make it happen.
Humanity may never have the ability to crack time – it appears that even today, outside of sands falling from an hourglass, we can only describe time as a fundamental entity, something we measure against. Does the flow of time vary? Certainly. But only if we’re moving at large fractions of the speed of light or are caught in a huge gravity well, but let’s leave your mother out of this.
I have come to the conclusion that I will likely never understand what, exactly, time is, outside of this: Time is all we have – it is what makes up life. We measure our lives in it, because no man can buy an extra hour of life. We have the hours we have. The only difference is what we do with that time.
I mentioned in a previous post that (during the week) I often get by on scant hours of sleep. That’s because I have more things that I want to do in my life than I can fit in a day that’s less than 20 or 22 hours some days. I choose to try to do more, to try to make use of this time, because each moment is a gift.
Maybe I can settle for that definition of time: a gift. Each moment is a gift. Don’t beg for more, or live in fear of losing them. Just make each moment count. Perhaps that’s the secret and precious nature of time. It is the one thing we should never waste, and never wish away."
“O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O, brave new world, That has such people in't!”
- William Shakespeare, “The Tempest” (V, 1)
“Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too - all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides - made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions...”
- “Brave New World: Suggestions from the State”
Freely download “Brave New World", by Aldous Huxley, here:
"When we're headed toward an outcome that's too horrible to face, that's when we go looking for a second opinion. And sometimes, the answer we get just confirms our worst fears. But sometimes, it can shed new light on the problem, make you see it in a whole new way. After all the opinions have been heard and every point of view has been considered, you finally find what you're after - the truth. But the truth isn't where it ends, that's just where you begin again with a whole new set of questions."
“This is going to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
We are going to get through this, I promise,
and we’re going to get through it together. “
- Dr. Jon LaPook
“You know how you can read or hear something dozens of times in dozens of different ways before it finally sinks in? The little truths listed below fall firmly into that category – timeless life lessons that many of us likely learned years ago, and have been reminded of ever since, yet for whatever reason we tend to forget in the heat of the moment. This, my friends, is my attempt at helping all of us, myself included, “get it” and “remember it” once and for all, especially as we collectively cope with the evolving reality of economic and life circumstances.
1. Life is short, and nothing is guaranteed. We know deep down that life is short, and that death will happen to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it happens to someone we know. It’s like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step. You expected there to be one more stair than there is, and so you find yourself off balance for a moment, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is.
LIVE your life TODAY! Don’t ignore death – or the imminent dangers now becoming obvious – but don’t be afraid of life either. Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take positive action today. Death is not the greatest loss in life, neither is illness. The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive and well. Even in these difficult times, be bold, be courageous, be a scared to death, and then take the next step anyway. Just change the way you do it.
Invest your heart and soul into whatever you have right in front of you. Bring passion into otherwise ordinary moments. You don’t have to be surrounded by lots of people. You don’t have to be going anyplace new. You can distance yourself and still passionately engage in each moment.
2. Everything will change again soon. Embrace change and realize in many ways it’s necessary. It won’t always be obvious at first, but in the end most forms of change are worthwhile because they force us to grow. So keep yourself in check right now.
What you have today may become what you had by tomorrow. You never know. Things change, often spontaneously. People and circumstances come and go. Life doesn’t stop for anybody. It moves rapidly and rushes from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds, and happens like this to people every day. It’s likely happening to someone nearby right now.
Sometimes the shortest split second in time changes the direction of our lives. A seemingly innocuous decision rattles our whole world like a meteorite striking Earth. Entire lives have been swiveled and flipped upside down, for better or worse, on the strength of an unpredictable event. And these events are always happening – as they are right now.
So just remember, however good or bad a situation is now, it will change. That’s the one thing you can count on. Accept it. Breathe. Be where you are. You’re where you need to be right now. There’s a time and place for everything, and every hard step is necessary. Just keep doing your best, and don’t force what’s not yet supposed to fit into your life. When it’s meant to be, it will be.
3. Changing your response is what puts you back in control. Have patience with everything that remains unresolved in your head and heart. And realize that patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard to stay true to your intuition and values. This is your life, and it is governed by your choices. May your actions speak louder than your words. May your daily choices preach louder than your lips. May your inner sense of satisfaction be your noise in the end.
And if your present life only teaches you one thing, let it be that taking a passionate leap is always worth it. Even if you have no idea where you’re going to land – even when there are so many unknowns – be brave enough to stand up and listen to your heart. Remember that the most powerful moments in life happen when you find the courage to let go of what can’t be changed. Because when you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself – to grow beyond the unchangeable. And that changes everything! (Marc and I discuss this in more detail in the “Passion and Growth” chapter of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.“)
4. Life’s storms can be a great source of strength. Hard times are like strong storms that blow against you. And it’s not just that these storms hold you back from places you might otherwise go. They also tear away from you all but the essential parts of your ego that cannot be torn, so that afterward you see yourself as you really are, and not merely as you might like to be.
Ultimately, you realize you are here to endure these storms, to sacrifice your time and risk your heart. You are here to be bruised by life. And when it happens that you are hurt, or betrayed, or rejected, let yourself sit quietly with your eyes closed and remember all the good times you had, and all the sweetness you tasted, and everything you learned. Tell yourself how amazing it was to live, and then open your eyes and live some more.
Because to never struggle would be to never grow. You must let go of who you were so you can become who you are. Again, it is within the depths of the strongest and darkest storms that you discover within you an inextinguishable light, and it is this light that illuminates the path forward.
5. You don’t need all the answers right now. Accept the feeling of not knowing exactly where you are going, and train yourself to love and appreciate this sensation of freedom. Because it is only when you are suspended in the air, with no destination in sight, that you force your wings to open fully so you can fly. And as you soar around you still may not know where you’re traveling to. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is the opening of your wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as your wings are spread, the winds will carry you forward.
Truth be told, some of the greatest outcomes that transpire in your life will be the ones you never even knew you wanted. As long as you keep your mind open to new perspectives and yourself moving forward, there really are no wrong turns in life, only paths you didn’t know you were meant to travel. And you never can be certain what’s around the corner. It could be everything, or it could be nothing. You keep gliding steadily forward, and then one day you realize you’ve come a long way from where you started.
All details aside, someday all the pieces will come together. Unimaginably good outcomes will likely transpire in your life, even if everything doesn’t turn out exactly the way you had anticipated. And you will look back at the hard times that have passed, smile, and ask yourself… “How in the world did I get through all of that?”
“So we all ran around in mad, mindless, meaningless circles, as if we were in a cotton-candy eating contest where the grand prize was getting kicked in the face. We were oblivious to everything around us that no truly sane person would ever tolerate. And we needed someone else to tell us to stop it.”
"Wars are often described in the context of the diplomacy between the combatants and the battles that make up the war. Today is the anniversary of the launch of Operation Citadel by the Germans in the Second World War. This battle was part of the larger Battle of Kursk, which featured the largest tank battle in history. This battle, like the war itself, is described by its various operations. It was decided, however, by decisions made by both sides long before the battle took place.
It is those decisions made in advance of war that play the biggest role. The planning of both sides, their assumptions about the other side, as well as assumptions about the course of the war, are the major factors in a war. Once the fighting begins, both sides are often swept up in the action, which is the product of their plans and assumptions interacting with the plans and assumptions of the other side. Fighting becomes a machine with a mind of its own.
We see this with the Ukraine war. Before the actual fighting, both sides were busy preparing for what they assumed would come next. The Russians amassed about 150,000 men on the border of the Donbas. The Ukrainians had been preparing a summer attack on the Donbas but switched to preparing for a defense. Both sides were preparing based on the assumptions they were making about the other. In the case of Ukraine, their assumptions were NATO assumptions.
The Russians were the first to move their pieces on the board. They assumed that the Ukrainians would not want a war. They assumed Europe would jump in to broker some sort of peace deal based on the Minsk agreements in 2014. They crossed the border in Ukraine assuming they would not have to do much fighting. The sight of Russian tanks outside Kiev would conjure images of war, which would cause the Europeans to rush to the table offer a peace deal.
This plan was a total failure for the Russians because they were operating from assumptions about the West that were all wrong. Ukraine was not interested in a deal and the Europeans would not try to persuade them because Washington was not interested in a deal. Washington wanted regime change in Russia, which meant they wanted war with Russia in the Ukraine. Not only that but the Minsk agreements were a deliberate ruse to sucker the Russians.
In the spring of 2022, the Russians had to rethink everything. This meant new assumptions and new plans based on those assumptions. This is when they reorganized their command structure, called up hundreds of thousands of reserves and embarked on an entirely new strategy for dealing with the West. The Russians pulled out a blank piece of paper, wrote down what they knew, what they thought they knew and then built a war plan from what they had on the paper.
On the other side, the West had been preparing for this war since Washington overthrew the government of Ukraine in 2014. Their base assumption was that Russia was too weak to either stop NATO from expanding into Ukraine or two weak to sustain the effort required to halt NATO expansion. They would either put nuclear missiles on Russian’s border or they would get war that would quickly exhaust the Russians, thus ushering in the planned breakup of Russia.
At the start of the war, the Ukrainians were faced with the same choices that faced the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War. When facing a more powerful opponent, you can either make a daring attack on their forces hoping to force a truce, fall back into defense hoping to sap their will to fight or you can look for some way to reduce their ability to conduct the war. This may mean using unconventional tactics to destroy their war production and logistics networks.
In the case of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis preferred the defensive strategy, assuming the North would quickly tire of the war. General Lee preferred to go on attack, largely based on the same assumption. The superior field commanders of the South would quickly drive up the cost of war for the North. Stonewall Jackson, on the other hand, saw the problem in both strategies. He preferred to attack the North’s industrial capacity and logistics. Lee won the argument and lost the war.
Like the Confederates, the West made the same assumptions about the other side’s willingness and ability to sustain the war. They chose two of the three options, by waging a sanctions war on Russia to reduce her capacity to fight and had the Ukrainian army dig in for a long siege. Even to this day, Western media is predicting that the Russians will collapse any minute. The long-promised summer offensive was predicated on this key assumption about the Russians.
In what may go down as one of history’s greatest ironies, the West has made the same mistake that was made by the Confederacy. It turns out that the Russians can wage war for as long as it takes to achieve their goals. Not only that, but Russia also has large untapped resources to supplement what she had on-hand. As some Western analysist have noted, the Russians are stronger now than at the start of the war. The key assumption of the West about Russia has proven to be wrong.
Once the Russians realized their blunder, they found themselves with the same choices as the North in the Civil War. They could sue for peace and accept whatever would come from it. They could ramp up for a massive offensive against the Ukrainians and accept sizable losses or they could prepare for a war of attrition aimed at sapping the ability of Ukraine to maintain her army in the field. The Russians settled on what amounts to a Slavic version of the Anaconda plan.
The Russians appear to have made three key assumptions. One is they assumed the West lacked the military industrial capacity to fight a war of attrition based on artillery and mine warfare. The second assumption was the West could not replace the Ukrainian air defense system once it was depleted. This would give Russia control of the skies over the battlefield. Finally, the Russians assumed that eventually the West would force the Ukrainians to go on offense using NATO tactics.
The first assumption has proven to be true. The West is running out of stocks to send Ukraine and has limited ability to produce more. The American military system is not built for this sort of war. Ukraine uses in a month what the West produces in a year in terms of artillery shells. This is a fraction of Russian production. Added to this is the fact that the Russians are simply better than the West at artillery war. They have better guns, better training, and better tactics.
The second assumption has also proven correct. At the start of the war, the Ukrainians had the second-best air defense systems in Europe. The reason is they were using the same systems as the country with the best systems, Russia. Again, this is not something in the Western toolkit. American strategy is to use air power to control the skies, not ground based missile systems. That missile barrage against power plants was meant to deplete Ukrainian stocks and it has succeeded.
Finally, the long-awaited offensive by Ukraine is looking like what the Russians prepared for over the last six months. Like the German army in the Battle of Kursk, the Ukrainians are running into complex defenses based on slowing them down so Russian artillery and air power can destroy them. That plus the extensive use of mines to entangle Ukrainian forces as they approach has led to scenes like this one during the early days of the long anticipated offensive.
NATO is set to meet this month to discuss where they go next with this war, so the Ukrainians are desperate to find a victory somewhere to show them. They are currently back to hurling infantry at Russian defenses around Bakhmut. Given the Russian understanding of the dynamics of this war, it is possible that Ukraine wins a battle for a village or two at some point along the front. The point is to keep driving up the cost to the Ukrainians in terms of men and material.
To bring us back to where we started, the long promised Ukrainian counter-offensive is looking a lot like the Battle of Kursk. The Russians were prepared and understood what they were facing. Like the Germans, the Ukrainians have misread things and continue to operate from false assumptions about their opponent. The result is the Russian anaconda plan is about turn this offensive into Gettysburg. It is a defeat from which Ukraine can never recover.
"In today's vlog, we are at Kroger and are noticing a lot of angry shoppers in the store. With grocery prices being at an all-time high, we are seeing people with fewer items in their carts and having just an all-around feel of frustration in the air!"
"In this weeks TITN Gerald Celente discusses the latest developments in the Ukraine war, the current decline in the US equity markets and much more. The Trends Journal is a weekly magazine analyzing global current events forming future trends. Our mission is to present facts and truth over fear and propaganda to help subscribers prepare for what’s next in these increasingly turbulent times."
"Major changes are already taking place at US grocery stores, and during the fall and winter, many grocery essentials will become priceless as demand soars but supplies don't keep pace. We haven't seen the worst of food inflation, and big companies like Oreo maker Mondelez are still announcing price increases for the second half of 2023. Lots of popular products such as frozen pizzas, waffles, and snack cakes are about to see some steep price increases that will certainly shock American shoppers in the next few months.
Prepare to pay more for pepperoni, jerky, bacon, ham, sausages, and other packaged meats in the next few quarters. Meat processors are still coping with rising labor costs, fewer workers, and other operational issues that are making the production of packaged meats cost more while output goes down. If you’ve been grocery shopping in recent weeks, you probably already noticed how prices are changing fast, and from this point on, these products aren’t going to get any cheaper. Whenever you find deals at stores, buy some of your favorite packaged meats and a few extra to save throughout the next seasons.
The price of popular and handy breakfast meals is about to go through some seasonal changes. With kids going back to school, and temperatures going down in the months ahead, demand for frozen breakfast foods is expected to rise by 16.43 percent, according to estimates released by the top grocer in the US, Walmart. The price of its Great Value Buttermilk Pancakes is going to rise from $3.93 right now to $4.48 by the end of the third quarter. Meanwhile, Eggo Original Waffles and Kellogg’s Blueberry Waffles are going to see a 40-cent increase, from $4.49 to $4.89 by the beginning of September. Further price increases can take place during the winter, but specific data hasn’t been provided yet. In any case, if you don’t want to feel the pinch of the upcoming price hikes, make some room in your freezer to stock up on these goods while they’re still cheaper.
Great Value Hamburger Dill Chip Pickles are now selling for $2.67 for a 32 fl oz jar. Although that’s only 8.7 percent higher than a year ago levels, in 2023, food makers faced a series of challenges to produce and distribute these products, and the impact of these supply chain problems is about to hit stores and raise the cost of pickles between 12 to 17 percent during the third and fourth quarter. For the year, experts at The Cold Wire.com estimate that the cost of this beloved condiment will jump by 25 percent. Relief is expected by the second quarter of 2024 when production levels are expected to stabilize. Until then, adding a few extra jars to your cart next time you go shopping may help you fight inflation and potential shortages.
Even though Americans continue buying considerable amounts of chocolate each month, slower production and elevated costs for sugar are leading to a decline in supplies, which is quite worrying considering that Halloween is right ahead, and many holiday season recipes require chocolate. CNBC reports that in June, chocolate prices rose by 14 percent. With the cost of cocoa soaring in the global market right now, we should brace for some serious sticker shock in the next few months. For that reason, for this video, we decided to track which products are expected to face higher consumer demand and higher prices for the rest of the year."
“NGC 253 is not only one of the brightest spiral galaxies visible, it is also one of the dustiest. Discovered in 1783 by Caroline Herschel in the constellation of Sculptor, NGC 253 lies only about ten million light-years distant.
NGC 253 is the largest member of the Sculptor Group of Galaxies, the nearest group to our own Local Group of Galaxies. The dense dark dust accompanies a high star formation rate, giving NGC 253 the designation of starburst galaxy. Visible in the above photograph is the active central nucleus, also known to be a bright source of X-rays and gamma rays.”
"In Salley Vickers' novel, "Where Three Roads Meet," the shade of Tiresias, the blind seer of the Oedipus myth, visits Sigmund Freud in London during the psychoanalyst's final terrible illness. In a series of conversations, Tiresias retells the story of Oedipus- he who was fated to kill his father and sleep with his mother- a story at the heart of Freud's own theory of the human psyche. At one point in the conversations, as Tiresias and Freud discuss the extent to which our lives are fated, the question of immortality arises. Freud says of Oedipus that "he made his story into an immortal one, so far as any story is." And Tiresias replies, "But, Dr. Freud, stories are all we humans have to make us immortal."
Oedipus lives on, whether he lived or not in actuality. Sophocles lives in our consciousness as vigorously as ever he did in life. They live because their stories touch something resonant and unchanging in human nature. Vickers suggests that what makes the Oedipal story immortal is not any necessary tendency of humans to act out the Oedipal myth, a la Freud, but rather Oedipus's rage to know the truth- or become conscious of a truth he has known all along and suppressed - even though the truth will be his undoing.
The poet Muriel Rukesyser got it exactly right when she said: "The universe is made of stories, not atoms." Even atoms are stories we tell about the world, having first paid close attention to how the world works. The plays of Sophocles and the other Greek dramatists live on not because their authors were immortal, but because nature endures and their stories tell us something that rings true about enduring nature. And, like Oedipus, we have a rage to know, even if knowledge will unseat some of our more comfortable illusions.
"The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim."
- Gustave Le Bon
Freely download "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind",
"Someone once told me that time is a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, that reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we live it. After all, Number One, we're only mortal."
"I had lived thirty good years before enduring my first food poisoning - odds quite fortunate in the grand scheme of things, but miserably unfortunate in the immediate experience of it. I found myself completely incapacitated to erect the pillars of my daily life - too cognitively foggy to read and write, too physically weak to work out or even meditate. The temporary disability soon elevated the assault on my mind and body to a new height of anguish: an intense experience of stress. Even as I consoled myself with Nabokov’s exceptionally florid account of food poisoning, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming malaise that had engulfed me - somehow, a physical illness had completely colored my psychoemotional reality.
This experience, of course, is far from uncommon. Long before scientists began shedding light on how our minds and bodies actually affect one another, an intuitive understanding of this dialogue between the body and the emotions, or feelings, emerged and permeated our very language: We use “feeling sick” as a grab-bag term for both the sensory symptoms - fever, fatigue, nausea - and the psychological malaise, woven of emotions like sadness and apathy.
Pre-modern medicine, in fact, has recognized this link between disease and emotion for millennia. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Indian Ayurvedic physicians all enlisted the theory of the four humors - blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm - in their healing practices, believing that imbalances in these four visible secretions of the body caused disease and were themselves often caused by the emotions. These beliefs are fossilized in our present language - melancholy comes from the Latin words for “black” (melan) and “bitter bile” (choler), and we think of a melancholic person as gloomy or embittered; a phlegmatic person is languid and impassive, for phlegm makes one lethargic.
And then French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes came along in the seventeenth century, taking it upon himself to eradicate the superstitions that fueled the religious wars of the era by planting the seed of rationalism. But the very tenets that laid the foundation of modern science - the idea that truth comes only from what can be visibly ascertained and proven beyond doubt - severed this link between the physical body and the emotions; those mysterious and fleeting forces, the biological basis of which the tools of modern neuroscience are only just beginning to understand, seemed to exist entirely outside the realm of what could be examined with the tools of rationalism.
For nearly three centuries, the idea that our emotions could impact our physical health remained scientific taboo - setting out to fight one type of dogma, Descartes had inadvertently created another, which we’re only just beginning to shake off. It was only in the 1950s that Austrian-Canadian physician and physiologist Hans Selye pioneered the notion of stress as we now know it today, drawing the scientific community’s attention to the effects of stress on physical health and popularizing the concept around the world. (In addition to his scientific dedication, Selye also understood the branding component of any successful movement and worked tirelessly to include the word itself in dictionaries around the world; today, “stress” is perhaps the word pronounced most similarly in the greatest number of major languages.)
But no researcher has done more to illuminate the invisible threads that weave mind and body together than Dr. Esther Sternberg. Her groundbreaking work on the link between the central nervous system and the immune system, exploring how immune molecules made in the blood can trigger brain function that profoundly affects our emotions, has revolutionized our understanding of the integrated being we call a human self. In the immeasurably revelatory "The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions" (public library), Sternberg examines the interplay of our emotions and our physical health, mediated by that seemingly nebulous yet, it turns out, remarkably concrete experience called stress.
With an eye to modern medicine’s advances in cellular and molecular biology, which have made it possible to measure how our nervous system and our hormones affect our susceptibility to diseases as varied as depression, arthritis, AIDS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, Sternberg writes: "By parsing these chemical intermediaries, we can begin to understand the biological underpinnings of how emotions affect diseases… The same parts of the brain that control the stress response play an important role in susceptibility and resistance to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. And since it is these parts of the brain that also play a role in depression, we can begin to understand why it is that many patients with inflammatory diseases may also experience depression at different times in their lives.
Rather than seeing the psyche as the source of such illnesses, we are discovering that while feelings don’t directly cause or cure disease, the biological mechanisms underlying them may cause or contribute to disease. Thus, many of the nerve pathways and molecules underlying both psychological responses and inflammatory disease are the same, making predisposition to one set of illnesses likely to go along with predisposition to the other. The questions need to be rephrased, therefore, to ask which of the many components that work together to create emotions also affect that other constellation of biological events, immune responses, which come together to fight or to cause disease. Rather than asking if depressing thoughts can cause an illness of the body, we need to ask what the molecules and nerve pathways are that cause depressing thoughts. And then we need to ask whether these affect the cells and molecules that cause disease.
We are even beginning to sort out how emotional memories reach the parts of the brain that control the hormonal stress response, and how such emotions can ultimately affect the workings of the immune system and thus affect illnesses as disparate as arthritis and cancer. We are also beginning to piece together how signals from the immune system can affect the brain and the emotional and physical responses it controls: the molecular basis of feeling sick. In all this, the boundaries between mind and body are beginning to blur."
Indeed, the relationship between memory, emotion, and stress is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Sternberg’s work. She considers how we deal with the constant swirl of inputs and outputs as we move through the world, barraged by a stream of stimuli and sensations: "Every minute of the day and night we feel thousands of sensations that might trigger a positive emotion such as happiness, or a negative emotion such as sadness, or no emotion at all: a trace of perfume, a light touch, a fleeting shadow, a strain of music. And there are thousands of physiological responses, such as palpitations or sweating, that can equally accompany positive emotions such as love, or negative emotions such as fear, or can happen without any emotional tinge at all. What makes these sensory inputs and physiological outputs emotions is the charge that gets added to them somehow, somewhere in our brains. Emotions in their fullest sense comprise all of these components. Each can lead into the black box and produce an emotional experience, or something in the black box can lead out to an emotional response that seems to come from nowhere."
Memory, it turns out, is one of the major factors mediating the dialogue between sensation and emotional experience. Our memories of past experience become encoded into triggers that act as switchers on the rail of psychoemotional response, directing the incoming train of present experience in the direction of one emotional destination or another.
Sternberg writes: "Mood is not homogeneous like cream soup. It is more like Swiss cheese, filled with holes. The triggers are highly specific, tripped by sudden trails of memory: a faint fragrance, a few bars of a tune, a vague silhouette that tapped into a sad memory buried deep, but not completely erased. These sensory inputs from the moment float through layers of time in the parts of the brain that control memory, and they pull out with them not only reminders of sense but also trails of the emotions that were first connected to the memory. These memories become connected to emotions, which are processed in other parts of the brain: the amygdala for fear, the nucleus accumbens for pleasure - those same parts that the anatomists had named for their shapes. And these emotional brain centers are linked by nerve pathways to the sensory parts of the brain and to the frontal lobe and hippocampus - the coordinating centers of thought and memory."
The same sensory input can trigger a negative emotion or a positive one, depending on the memories associated with it. This is where stress comes in - much like memory mediates how we interpret and respond to various experiences, a complex set of biological and psychological factors determine how we respond to stress. Some types of stress can be stimulating and invigorating, mobilizing us into action and creative potency; others can be draining and incapacitating, leaving us frustrated and hopeless. This dichotomy of good vs. bad stress, Sternberg notes, is determined by the biology undergirding our feelings - by the dose and duration of the stress hormones secreted by the body in response to the stressful stimulus. She explains the neurobiological machinery behind this response:
"As soon as the stressful event occurs, it triggers the release of the cascade of hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones - the brain’s stress response. It also triggers the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, or adrenaline, and the sympathetic nerves to squirt out the adrenaline-like chemical norepinephrine all over the body: nerves that wire the heart, and gut, and skin. So, the heart is driven to beat faster, the fine hairs of your skin stand up, you sweat, you may feel nausea or the urge to defecate. But your attention is focused, your vision becomes crystal clear, a surge of power helps you run - these same chemicals released from nerves make blood flow to your muscles, preparing you to sprint.
All this occurs quickly. If you were to measure the stress hormones in your blood or saliva, they would already be increased within three minutes of the event. In experimental psychology tests, playing a fast-paced video game will make salivary cortisol increase and norepinephrine spill over into venous blood almost as soon as the virtual battle begins. But if you prolong the stress, by being unable to control it or by making it too potent or long-lived, and these hormones and chemicals still continue to pump out from nerves and glands, then the same molecules that mobilized you for the short haul now debilitate you."
These effects of stress exist on a bell curve - that is, some is good, but too much becomes bad: As the nervous system secretes more and more stress hormones, performance increases, but up to a point; after that tipping point, performance begins to suffer as the hormones continue to flow. What makes stress “bad” - that is, what makes it render us more pervious to disease - is the disparity between the nervous system and immune system’s respective pace.
Sternberg explains: "The nervous system and the hormonal stress response react to a stimulus in milliseconds, seconds, or minutes. The immune system takes parts of hours or days. It takes much longer than two minutes for immune cells to mobilize and respond to an invader, so it is unlikely that a single, even powerful, short-lived stress on the order of moments could have much of an effect on immune responses. However, when the stress turns chronic, immune defenses begin to be impaired. As the stressful stimulus hammers on, stress hormones and chemicals continue to pump out. Immune cells floating in this milieu in blood, or passing through the spleen, or growing up in thymic nurseries never have a chance to recover from the unabated rush of cortisol. Since cortisol shuts down immune cells’ responses, shifting them to a muted form, less able to react to foreign triggers, in the context of continued stress we are less able to defend and fight when faced with new invaders. And so, if you are exposed to, say, a flu or common cold virus when you are chronically stressed out, your immune system is less able to react and you become more susceptible to that infection."
Extended exposure to stress, especially to a variety of stressors at the same time - any combination from the vast existential menu of life-events like moving, divorce, a demanding job, the loss of a loved one, and even ongoing childcare - adds up a state of extreme exhaustion that leads to what we call burnout.
Sternberg writes: "Members of certain professions are more prone to burnout than others - nurses and teachers, for example, are among those at highest risk. These professionals are faced daily with caregiving situations in their work lives, often with inadequate pay, inadequate help in their jobs, and with too many patients or students in their charge. Some studies are beginning to show that burnt-out patients may have not only psychological burnout, but also physiological burnout: a flattened cortisol response and inability to respond to any stress with even a slight burst of cortisol. In other words, chronic unrelenting stress can change the stress response itself. And it can change other hormone systems in the body as well."
One of the most profound such changes affects the reproductive system - extended periods of stress can shut down the secretion of reproductive hormones in both men and women, resulting in lower fertility. But the effects are especially perilous for women - recurring and extended episodes of depression result in permanent changes in bone structure, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. In other words, we register stress literally in our bones.
But stress isn’t a direct causal function of the circumstances we’re in - what either amplifies or ameliorates our experience of stress is, once again, memory. Sternberg writes: Our perception of stress, and therefore our response to it, is an ever-changing thing that depends a great deal on the circumstances and settings in which we find ourselves. It depends on previous experience and knowledge, as well as on the actual event that has occurred. And it depends on memory, too.
The most acute manifestation of how memory modulates stress is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. For striking evidence of how memory encodes past experience into triggers, which then catalyze present experience, Sternberg points to research by psychologist Rachel Yehuda, who found both Holocaust survivors and their first-degree relatives - that is, children and siblings - exhibited a similar hormonal stress response.
This, Sternberg points out, could be a combination of nature and nurture - the survivors, as young parents for whom the trauma was still fresh, may well have subconsciously taught their children a common style of stress-responsiveness; but it’s also possible that these automatic hormonal stress responses permanently changed the parents’ biology and were transmitted via DNA to their children. Once again, memory encodes stress into our very bodies. Sternberg considers the broader implications: "Stress need not be on the order of war, rape, or the Holocaust to trigger at least some elements of PTSD. Common stresses that we all experience can trigger the emotional memory of a stressful circumstance - and all its accompanying physiological responses. Prolonged stress - such as divorce, a hostile workplace, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one - can all trigger elements of PTSD."
Among the major stressors - which include life-events expected to be on the list, such as divorce and the death of a loved one - is also one somewhat unexpected situation, at least to those who haven’t undergone it: moving. Sternberg considers the commonalities between something as devastating as death and something as mundane as moving: One is certainly loss - the loss of someone or something familiar. Another is novelty - finding oneself in a new and unfamiliar place because of the loss. Together these amount to change: moving away from something one knows and toward something one doesn’t. An unfamiliar environment is a universal stressor to nearly all species, no matter how developed or undeveloped.
In the remainder of the thoroughly illuminating "The Balance Within", Sternberg goes on to explore the role of interpersonal relationships in both contributing to stress and shielding us from it, how the immune system changes our moods, and what we can do to harness these neurobiological insights in alleviating our experience of the stressors with which every human life is strewn.”
Related: "Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song
Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Percent" By Melanie Curtin
Full screen recommended.
"Everyone knows they need to manage their stress. When things get difficult at work, school, or in your personal life, you can use as many tips, tricks, and techniques as you can get to calm your nerves. So here's a science-backed one: make a playlist of the 10 songs found to be the most relaxing on earth. Sound therapies have long been popular as a way of relaxing and restoring one's health. For centuries, indigenous cultures have used music to enhance well-being and improve health conditions.
Now, neuroscientists out of the UK have specified which tunes give you the most bang for your musical buck. The study was conducted on participants who attempted to solve difficult puzzles as quickly as possible while connected to sensors. The puzzles induced a certain level of stress, and participants listened to different songs while researchers measured brain activity as well as physiological states that included heart rate, blood pressure, and rate of breathing.
According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, which conducted the research, the top song produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date. In fact, listening to that one song- "Weightless"- resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants' overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates. That is remarkable.
Equally remarkable is the fact the song was actually constructed to do so. The group that created "Weightless", Marconi Union, did so in collaboration with sound therapists. Its carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener's heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
When it comes to lowering anxiety, the stakes couldn't be higher. Stress either exacerbates or increases the risk of health issues like heart disease, obesity, depression, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, and more. More troubling still, a recent paper out of Harvard and Stanford found health issues from job stress alone cause more deaths than diabetes, Alzheimer's, or influenza.
In this age of constant bombardment, the science is clear: if you want your mind and body to last, you've got to prioritize giving them a rest. Music is an easy way to take some of the pressure off of all the pings, dings, apps, tags, texts, emails, appointments, meetings, and deadlines that can easily spike your stress level and leave you feeling drained and anxious.
Of the top track, Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson said, "'Weightless' was so effective, many women became drowsy and I would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous." So don't drive while listening to these, but do take advantage of them: