How to Feel Good With an Unreasonable Thought

>> Sunday

I AM NOT A DEVOTEE of yoga, but I was reading something Swami Satchidananda (the dude in the throne here) said and it struck me as interesting and potentially useful for those of us who want to feel good more often.

If you have no other basis for knowledge (as you wouldn't a few thousand years ago when yoga was invented), what would be the sanest criteria for what to believe? Whatever makes you feel better or get more done, right? If it leads to a better mood, let us declare it true. If it leads to sadness, anger, or fear, let us declare it false.

Even today, that's not a bad criteria for judging the merit of a proposition. Of course, now it's probably not a good idea to use that as the only criteria. It should also (and most importantly) be tested against real evidence.

But if it doesn't contradict any scientific knowledge, and if it doesn't hurt anyone or yourself, and it leads to a better emotional state, what would be the harm in accepting it (assuming you're not going to then make war against those who don't accept it)?

Here's what Satchidananda wrote that got me thinking: "You are not even breathing by yourself. Try stopping the air coming into the lungs again for awhile. No, it is being forced into you. That means, Somebody is interested in keeping you alive, to do Somebody's job. So you are living to serve."

That's a different way of looking at things, isn't it? It really doesn't contradict anything known in science. A scientist may explain the phenomenon differently, but this doesn't contradict it, and the point of view doesn't hurt anyone.

And it may lead to better moods more often to think that the great Ocean (of which we are all a wave) is making you breathe, keeping you alive to fulfill its mission.

I think if you consider that just entertain the idea as a possibility you will feel yourself relax. You will feel better.

It's kind of a silly belief, and you don't have to become a believer or try to get others to believe it. That wouldn't help you feel good anyway.

But to think of it that way, even once in awhile, leads to a feeling of calm and open contentment, and that's definitely worth something. What do you think?

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What To Do About News

>> Saturday

The Center for Media and Public Affairs did a study on network coverage of murder. Between 1990 and 1995, the murder rate in the U.S. went down 13 percent. But during that same period, network coverage of murders increased 300 percent. If you happened to watch a lot of news during that period, you would have gotten the impression that murders in America were escalating out of control, when in fact that situation was improving.

A research team edited news programs into three categories: Negative, neutral, or upbeat. People were randomly assigned to watch one category of news. The ones who watched the negative news became more depressed, more anxious about the world in general, and they had a greater tendency to exaggerate the magnitude or importance of their own personal worries.

It is a fact that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness cause depression and the health problems related to depression. And studies have shown that the greater majority of network news is about people with no control over their tragedy. "What the evening news is telling you," said Christopher Peterson, one of the first researchers to show that pessimism negatively affects health, "is that bad things happen, they hit at random, and there's nothing you can do about it." That is a formula for pessimism, cynicism, and a generally negative attitude toward the world and the future.

In one study of network news, 71 percent of news stories were about people who had very little control over their fate. This is neither an accurate or a helpful perspective on the world. Highly trained professionals scour the world to find stories like that and the way the stories are presented gives the impression that those kinds of events are more common than they really are.

Professor of psychiatry Redford Williams suggests asking yourself these two questions when you're watching or reading the news:

1. Is this important to me?
2. Is there anything useful I can do about it?

If you answer no to either of those questions, change the channel or find something better to read.

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Feel good more often and become more effective with your actions. Check it out on Amazon: Self-Help Stuff That Works.

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