Improving Someone Else's Mood

Have you ever wondered why more people aren't making an effort to improve their moods and attitudes? Has it ever bothered you? Maybe even frustrated you? There are four common reasons why more people don't try to feel better:

1. They don't realize how foolish it is to stay in a bad mood. They don't understand the far-reaching consequences.

2. They don't know good methods exist and really work.

3. They think positive attitudes are phony, and they don't want to be phony.

4. Even if none of the first three apply, most people know very few good methods for raising their moods, so they feel it's not worth the effort.

So instead of being irritated at the negative attitudes of those around you — and before you go trying to improve their moods — first become a master of your own great attitude.

Let's say another person has a bad attitude, and that makes you irritated. If you asked him why he's in a bad mood, he can tell you. It has something to do with something outside him. Almost never do people think they're in a bad mood because of something he himself is doing.

Step back and see this situation from a distance. You are irritated at him for having such a lousy attitude. In other words, you are in a bad mood because of something outside you — the guy with the bad attitude. If you can't manage to get into a good mood despite his attitude, then you have no right to expect him to overcome his bad mood, which was caused by something outside him.

When you are able to stay in a great mood regardless of anyone else's attitude, then you will have the right and will be in a position to help them improve their own attitude. But you will have no need to do so. You won't need anyone to feel good so you can feel good. But you'll help them feel good anyway, out of pure kindness. And that will really help.

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot

The Moodraising Effect of Comparisons

One way to change your perspective is to change what you're comparing your situation to. This is probably one of the easiest ways to change your mood quickly.

For example, if you're feeling kind of grumbly about having to get up and go to work in the morning, if you gave it even ten seconds thought, you could find many things to compare it to that are much worse. You're not in prison. You're not in a concentration camp. You have enough to eat. You aren't worried about a tribe coming and chopping your arm off with a machete, etc.

You are already comparing your situation to something. Naturally and automatically, we usually compare our situation to something better. Although that's natural and automatic, we certainly aren't stuck with it. A little deliberate comparison can go a long way.

Think of something you are unhappy about. Now notice that the reason it makes you unhappy is that you are comparing it to something better. You're comparing your situation to something more ideal. But try this: Think of someone in this world who would take your situation over theirs in a heartbeat.

Whatever you are unhappy about, you can easily find a worse situation to compare it to. And from that perspective, you are lucky to have the problem you have, even though it is obviously not ideal. Who says the ideal is a legitimate thing to use as a comparison anyway? Something worse is at least as legitimate, and has a benefit too: You feel better.

This is how to feel grateful for what you have. Once you know how, it's very easy and works every time. Read more about this here: Comparison.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Inspiration With Movies

One of the most wonderful positive emotions you can experience is inspiration. That is, having a goal, feeling that you can accomplish it, and feeling excited about the prospect.

A good way to feel inspired is to watch a movie, especially a true story, about someone overcoming obstacles to accomplish an important goal.

When you're watching a movie like this, you can experience it as a metaphor for your own life. You can imagine that the obstacles the hero in the movie overcomes are like the obstacles you will overcome.

And it can help you put your own difficulties in perspective. You have obstacles to overcome, and of course they loom large. Sometimes they may seem insurmountable. But when you see a true story of someone overcoming much more intimidating obstacles, it puts your own in perspective. It makes your goal seem more attainable. It makes you feel that if they can overcome those obstacles, surely you can overcome yours. That's partly what makes these movies inspiring.

Once such movie is Lorenzo's Oil. It's a true story about two parents overcoming tremendous obstacles to accomplish the goal of keeping their son alive. Very powerful.

Other true, inspiring movies I recommend are: Rudy, October Sky, Door to Door, and Antwone Fisher. Watching inspiring movies is a relaxing way to lift your spirits.

Read the story of Lorenzo's Oil.

How Could Anyone Do Such a Thing?

When someone walks into a theater and kills complete strangers, or when someone rapes and kills one woman after another, or when anything horrible like that happens, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, "Who would do that?" How could anyone do something like that? It is literally inconceivable.
But do you know why it's inconceivable? Because you have too much human empathy to be able to even imagine doing something like that. Normal people rarely, if ever, do such things. But sociopaths do.

As I've learned about sociopaths and talked to people about this strange phenomenon, one of the things that comes up again and again in our conversations is the impossibility of imagining it. Normal people can't wrap their head around what it would be like to not feel any empathy for other human beings. Empathy for others is such a fundamental part of us, when we try to imagine what it would be like not to have it, the mind draws a blank.

For the sake of all our sanity, I want you to remember this.

When someone does a horrible and vicious act, all of us try to explain it to ourselves. That's the way the human brain works — we must explain events. The brain will not allow an event to remain unexplained, especially a memorable event.

But the way you explain this event becomes part of your worldview. It becomes something you believe. It affects you, it affects your mood, it affects your behavior. So it's a good idea to make sure you're careful about what conclusions you draw about it.

Is "mankind" just cruel? Is that why those specific people did those horrible things? Is it a "crazy world?" Or is there too much violence on television and videogames? Is that why it happened?

You must remember this: Sociopaths are a small percentage of the population. They have always been a percentage of the human race. There is no evidence to suggest that they are becoming a larger percentage of the population. And they have always had a tendency to do cruel things. Any recent tragedy is another example of a sociopath doing what sociopaths sometimes do.

That explanation is accurate and specific. It makes no thought-mistakes that will make your worldview unnecessarily pessimistic, so it will not lead to needless anxiety or disheartening conclusions. When you learn of bad events in the news, try to make sure you don't pick up any mind-viruses (thought-mistakes), and if you do, make sure you use the antivirus for your mind to get rid of them before they begin to affect your health, your attitude, and your relationships with others.

And do your best to help those around you avoid coming to counterproductive conclusions about bad events. Share with them the antivirus for your mind. And share with them information about sociopaths. Not enough people know everyday sociopaths exist, and very few people are familiar with their characteristics. If more people were aware of these things, some of the tragedies might be prevented.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Good Moods Are Practical, Not Trivial, Especially for Managers, Supervisors, and Team Leaders

The following is from the mindtools web site:

Leadership literature is full of studies attesting to the consequences of a leader's mood. One such study involved 62 CEOs and their top management teams and it showed that the more upbeat, energetic and enthusiastic the executive team was, the more co-operatively they worked together, and the better the company's business results. The study also showed that the longer a company was managed by an executive team that didn't get along well, the poorer the company's market returns.

Perhaps nowhere is a leader's mood more crucial than in the service industry where employees in a bad mood can, without fail, adversely affect business. In one of a multitude of such studies involving 53 sales managers in retail outlets who led groups ranging in size from four to nine members, it was found that when managers themselves were in an upbeat, positive mood, their moods spilled over to their staff, positively affecting the staff's performance and increasing sales. We can all take an inspiration from organizations such as Starbucks who place great value on the importance of creating a positive climate for employees which, in turn, ensures a pleasant customer experience and repeat visits. "We are always focused on our people" is an explicit statement to new recruits on the company's career site.

The pursuit of a better mood is sometimes criticized as a selfish or self-centered activity, but in fact, when you improve your own mood, you raise the moods of those around you, helping to make them more successful.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

Self-Reliance, Translated

In case you haven't read it yet, we've published a Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, Self-Reliance, translated into modern English. I've been studying Emerson's essay for years. I consider it one of the most significant pieces of writing ever published.

I once typed the original essay word for word and printed it out as a booklet for myself because I couldn't find a version of the book that stood alone — it was always in a collection of essays. I wanted only the Self-Reliance.

While I was at it, I looked up all the words I didn't know, and made footnotes of definitions for each word on each page (and there were a lot of them). Then I recorded the essay for myself and listened to it over and over while driving. And I tried to apply it to my life.

Then, to understand it even better, I went over it line by line, trying to write what Emerson wrote in my own words. That rewrite project is what I just published as a (very small) book. I don't think I'm a better writer than Emerson. I love his writing. Some of his sentences were so well-said, I included them in my translation just because I couldn't bear to leave them out. My motivation for translating it came from an experience I had with Cliff Notes.

I had always considered Cliff Notes as a kind of cheating. If you didn't want to read the real book, you could read a condensed version that tells you everything you need to know to pass a test. Then one day I saw the movie Henry V (the one with Kenneth Branagh). I really liked the movie but I only understood about half of what they were saying. They were speaking English, but three things were hindering my understanding:

1. English was spoken differently back then. They commonly used words we are now unfamiliar with.

2. Shakespeare was a poet, so he often inverted sentences and used unusual phrases in order to make things sound poetic.

3. They were speaking with an English accent.

Emerson's essay is difficult for a modern English speaker today for the first two reasons. Emerson used words that, although I could find them in a dictionary, I had never heard anyone say. And he was a poet, so some of his phrases were meant to be savored rather than read only for their direct meaning.

Just by chance, I was browsing in a used bookstore one day, and I came across a Cliff Notes on Henry V. I was curious what it might say, so I read it and found it a revelation. It explained terms and phrases I didn't know. I remember, for example, the phrase, "throwing down a gage." The Cliff Notes explained this. It is an archaic term that means throwing gloves at the feet of someone, which in those days meant you were challenging the person to a duel. I could have watched Henry V fifty times and never figured that out. But after I learned it, I understood better what was going on when I watched the movie again.

That's what I hope happens after people read my translation. I hope they go back and enjoy Emerson's original and eloquent essay, and understand it better, and really appreciate his creative, powerful prose.

Last year, the Domino Project came out with a beautiful hardcover edition of Self-Reliance. You can find it on Amazon here. Amazon's description of their book gives you a sense of why Emerson's essay is so important to read. It says:

With quotes from the likes of Henry Ford and Helen Keller to modern-day thought leaders like Jesse Dylan, Steve Pressfield, and Milton Glaser, we're reminded of the relevance of Emerson’s powerful words today. Emerson’s words are timeless. Persuasive and convincing, he challenges readers to define their own sense of accomplishment and asks them to measure themselves against their own standards, not those of society.

This famous orator has utter faith in individualism and doesn’t invoke beyond what is humanly possible; he just believes deeply that each of us is capable of greatness. He asks us to define that greatness for ourselves and to be true to ourselves.

At times harsh, at times comforting, Emerson’s words guide the reader to challenge their own beliefs and sense of self.  

On the back cover of the Domino version, it says, "Every page of this manifesto will cut you to the bone, inspire you and expose the seduction of blind obedience for what it is: a trap." If you don't own a copy of Self-Reliance already, I recommend the Domino version (and my translation as well to help you understand this important essay).

Get the Domino version here: Self-Reliance.
Get my translation here: Self-Reliance, Translated.

I'll leave you with a quote from Jesse Dylan:

I reread Self-Reliance a few times a year. It's always on my bedside table and I've done it for many years. Emerson's clear and true words ring like a bell. It keeps me on track. It's hard to follow your path or even to know what it is. There are constant distractions. This essay is a guide for how to realize your vision for your life. 

You Think YOU'VE Got Problems!

Three Years Among the Comanches is an amazing book. I was just reading it tonight. The story is a first-hand account, published in 1859 by Nelson Lee, who was captured by the Comanches on his way from Texas to California.

The part I read tonight was how two of his companions died. Most of the people he was traveling with were killed on the spot, but four were taken prisoner (Lee and three other men). One day, all four of the prisoners were tied to poles, facing each other. Two prisoners were side by side, and Lee and another prisoner were tied up facing the first two, who were then slowly tortured for two hours.

It was too painful to watch their friends suffering like that, so Lee and the other prisoner-witness tried to look away, but the Comanches forced them to watch as one by one, warriors came up to the two tortured prisoners to slash them with an arrowhead or take a small piece of their scalp. They sliced deep enough to bleed but not enough to kill the prisoners. One warrior after another came up and sliced in a different place. The prisoners screamed, moaned, begged, and bled for two hours. Finally they were put out of their misery with a hatchet through the head.

As I was reading this horrible, graphic account by someone who witnessed it, I was struck by the pettiness of my own problems. I said out loud, "I think I have problems!" The comparison made me feel that my unhappiness at my own little problems was pathetic.

And it occurred to me that this perspective is true. It is not only true, but it is valuable. Pessimism is a violation of your own integrity, and the perspective here that things could almost always be a lot worse is the honest truth and a powerful insight.

The truth is, your circumstances are only really bad in comparison to something better. And the truth is, you have a choice about what you compare your circumstances to. If you choose to always compare your circumstances to something more ideal, it will prevent you from being as happy as you could be or as satisfied with your life as you could be. Read more about that.

And think about this: Any unhappiness caused that way is directly attributable to your deliberate refusal to see an obvious truth: That things could be worse. For many people, now and in the past, it is a plain fact that things have been much much worse.

If you ever want a reality-check, remember those tortured prisoners. Compared to circumstances like that, your problems are petty. In fact, compared to circumstances like that, your problems probably seem laughable.

It's also true that you would like better circumstance. But if you're going to tell the truth, tell the whole truth, and that includes the facts that puts your problems into perspective.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English).

Imagined Observation

I was listening to an audio program by Brian Tracy the other day. It's called The Power of Clarity. He says that when he's talking to an audience, he sometimes asks this question: "If you knew a team of psychologists were evaluating your note-taking today, do you think that would influence how well you took notes?"

Most people agree that yes, they would do a better job of taking notes. Which means that up until then, they weren't taking notes as well as they were able to. I thought that was an interesting mental experiment, and I went on about my day.

Later that night, after a very trying day, I noticed that my thoughts were rather grumpy and pessimistic, and I had the thought, "If a team of psychologists were evaluating my thoughts right now, how would I score?" And I realized I would be embarrassed at the kinds of things I was saying to myself right then. Which means I wasn't thinking as well as I was capable of, and those thoughts, of course, had consequences on my mood, my actions, and the way I interacted with people.

I immediately began improving my thinking and that also had consequences. I began feeling better and behaving more like the kind of person I want to be.

I pass this idea onto you now. It is very effective: Next time you're in a bad mood, imagine a team of psychologists are evaluating your thoughts. Is there anything you would change? 

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English).

A Game Worth Playing

It has been stated by Thomas Szasz that what people really need and demand from life is not wealth, comfort or esteem but games worth playing. He who cannot find a game worth playing is apt to fall prey to accidie, defined by the Fathers of the Church as one of the Deadly Sins, but now regarded as a symptom of sickness. Accidie is a paralysis of the will, a failure of the appetite, a condition of generalized boredom, total disenchantment — "God, oh God, how weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!" Such a state of mind, Szasz tells us, is a prelude to what is loosely called "mental illness," which, though Szasz defines this illness as a myth, nevertheless fills half the beds in hospitals and makes multitudes of people a burden to themselves and to society.

Seek, above all, for a game worth playing. Such is the advice of the oracle to modern man. Having found the game, play it with intensity — play as if your life and sanity depended on it. (They do depend on it.) Follow the example of the French existentialists and flourish a banner bearing the word "engagement." Though nothing means anything and all roads are marked "NO EXIT," yet move as if your movements had some purpose. If life does not seem to offer a game worth playing, then invent one. For it must be clear, even to the most clouded intelligence, that any game is better than no game.

- Excerpted from the book, The Master Game, by Robert S. de Ropp

What If

What if what we believe about the violent nature of humans and "man's inhumanity to man" is mostly wrong? What if it is caused by a very small percentage of the population who have a specific disorder (and those they manipulate into helping them) that causes most (or all) of the war and violent madness in the world?

And what if people are manipulated into cooperating and participating only because they don't know this very small percentage exist, or even if they know, they wouldn't know how to identify one?

And what if a simple grassroots educational campaign could end "the bloody history of man" once and for all?

Read more: A Practical Way YOU Can Help Create Peace on Earth.

Can Posture Make You Feel Better?

When you change your posture, you can change your mood. Someone who feels down tends to slump. Someone who is happy tends to sit up straighter, walk more upright with the head held up, looking forward instead of down.

If you have been paying attention, you know this already. Posture tends to be a reflection of mood.

What you might not have realized is that it goes the other way too: You can change your posture and it will influence your mood. Experiment today and find out for yourself.

One thing you'll discover is that when you slouch or slump, it is harder to take a deep breath. And the way you breathe influences your mood, too.

When you change anything physical, it might potentially change your mood. A researcher told his volunteers to rate how funny a series of cartoons was in their opinion. They looked at a cartoon, and marked its score, picked up another cartoon, and marked its score, etc. Half of them were told to keep a pen between their lips. The other half was told to keep the pen between their teeth.

The ones with the pen between their teeth rated most of the cartoons as funnier than the other group. Their mouth was in a sort of smile and it changed how amusing the cartoons were to them. Interesting, eh? When you want to raise your mood, your body posture, the look on your face, and how you breathe, are easy things to change without having to even stop what you're doing.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

Mistakes Are What You Make Of Them

A mistake might not be a mistake. You might think you should have done this or shouldn't have done that. But it would be better to ask what advantages your already-done deeds give you and exploit them in the present.

The architect Bonano erected a freestanding bell tower for a cathedral, but he made it on soft subsoil — a bad mistake which made the tower lean over. That mistake created a large tourist industry and put the town on the map. Almost everyone in the world has heard of the leaning tower of Pisa. Galileo conducted his famous gravity experiments from the tower. He was able to use that tower because it was leaning.

The compass and its use in navigation was developed in the Mediterranean because the sailors had several disadvantages: the water was very deep, the winds varied a lot in the winter, and the skies were usually overcast. So you couldn't reliably navigate by sounding, by the wind, or by the stars. Those were the three ways sailors all over the world used to navigate.

In the Indian oceans, they have the monsoon winds which are so regular (they change directions with the seasons) you could tell where you were headed by noticing which way the wind was blowing. And they had clear tropical skies so they could usually navigate by the stars.

In Northern Europe, they are on one of the continental shelves of the Atlantic so the water is shallow enough sailors could drop a lead weight attached to a rope to the sea floor to find their depth, and thus could tell where they were by how deep the water was. This was called "making a sounding," and it was a fairly accurate method of locating one's position in charted waters.

But the sailors of the Mediterranean had to develop some way to navigate without shallow waters, clear skies, or predictable winds. And because they had to develop navigation by compass, Spain, which borders both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, was the first to find and colonize the New World. Without having the know-how to navigate by compass, nobody in their right mind would have sailed across the Atlantic. There would have been no guarantee they'd be able to find their way back without a compass. They'd have no familiar landmarks, no soundings would work, wind directions would of course be unknown, and whether or not they'd have clear skies was unknown.

The disadvantage of having to sail the waters of the Mediterranean turned out to be quite an advantage for Spain.

But of course, given the mind's natural negative bias, I'm sure most people of Spain assumed their sailing conditions were only a disadvantage.

So what are you going to do with what you think is a disadvantage? What are you doing now? Aren't there things in your life right now that you consider a disadvantage? Aren't there conditions you "know" are bad? That you wish would go away?

Choose one of these bad things and ponder this question about it: Could this be an advantage in disguise? Or could I make an advantage out of it? If you don't want to ponder this for weeks, do a little concentrated pondering. Use the problem solving method. Write the question at the top of a piece of paper, "What is good about this?" And force yourself to come up with 15 answers. Write them all out.

Then take another piece of paper. At the top write, "How could I turn this into an advantage?" Make yourself come up with 15 more answers. At the end of this exercise, which will only take you an hour or two, your perspective on the "problem" will be tremendously altered. The "problem" will have lost most of its power to bring you down. This process can undemoralize you. It can give you strength and effectiveness and even good feelings.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English).

Coffee is Good For You

Good news: The case for coffee is stronger than ever. Study after study indicates you could be getting more from your favorite morning beverage than you thought: Coffee is chock full of substances that may help guard against conditions more common in women, including Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.

“Caffeine is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about coffee. But coffee also contains antioxidants and other active substances that may reduce internal inflammation and protect against disease,” says Diane Vizthum, M.S., R.D., research nutritionist for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

There's much more. The above is excerpted from an article on the John Hopkins web site. Read the whole thing here: 9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee Is Good for You.

The Mountains Are Calling

From comes a study about what the Japanese call "Forest Bathing:"

A new report published today reveals that exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.

Populations with higher levels of greenspace exposure are also more likely to report good overall health — according to global data involving more than 290 million people.

Lead author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn't been fully understood.

"We gathered evidence from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people to see whether nature really does provide a health boost."

Read the rest of the ScienceDaily article here: It's Official, Spending Time Outside Is Good For You.

Tea drinkers live longer

Drinking tea at least three times a week is linked with a longer and healthier life, according to a study published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

"Habitual tea consumption is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death," said first author Dr. Xinyan Wang, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China. "The favourable health effects are the most robust for green tea and for long-term habitual tea drinkers."

The analysis included 100,902 participants of the China-PAR project2 with no history of heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Participants were classified into two groups: habitual tea drinkers (three or more times a week) and never or non-habitual tea drinkers (less than three times a week) and followed-up for a median of 7.3 years.

Habitual tea consumption was associated with more healthy years of life and longer life expectancy.

- Excerpted from an article in Science Daily. Read the rest here: Tea drinkers live longer.

Drinking tea improves brain health, study suggests

A recent study led by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) revealed that regular tea drinkers have better organised brain regions — and this is associated with healthy cognitive function — compared to non-tea drinkers. The research team made this discovery after examining neuroimaging data of 36 older adults.

"Our results offer the first evidence of positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure, and suggest that drinking tea regularly has a protective effect against age-related decline in brain organisation," explained team leader Assistant Professor Feng Lei, who is from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

- Excerpted from an article in Science Daily. Read the rest here: Drinking tea improves brain health, study suggests.

Raise Your Mood With Your Hands

* Rates of depression have risen in recent decades, at the same time that people are enjoying time-saving conveniences such as microwave ovens, e-mail, prepared meals, and machines for washing clothes and mowing lawns.

* People of earlier generations, whose lives were characterized by greater efforts just to survive, para­dox­ically, were mentally healthier. Human ancestors also evolved in conditions where hard physical work was nece­ssary to thrive.

* By denying our brains the rewards that come from ­anticipating and executing complex tasks with our hands, we undercut our mental well-being.

The above is a description of an article called Depressingly Easy, written by Kelly Lambert, whose book, Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist's Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain's Healing Power, turns many of the prevalent ideas about what improves your mood upside down. If you have difficulty maintaining a good mood, even when you try mental techniques, I urge you to read her book.

The basic premise is that when you use your hands to make things, it stimulates the motor circuits of your brain, and it stimulates them far more than using any other part of your body. The motor circuits of your brain, when you stimulate them like this, automatically cause your brain to produce hormones that raise your mood.

The amount of your motor circuits devoted to your hands is far more than the circuits dedicated to the entire rest of your body. If you want to stimulate the brain hormones most responsible for feeling good, use your hands to make things. 

Read more about it here:  

Depressingly Easy

How busy hands can alter our brain chemistry

Does manual labor boost happiness? 

The connection between busy hands and brain chemistry

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

How to Deal with Disagreement

The PaulEkmanGroup came out with an article on disagreements over the holidays with family. Paul Ekman is world renowned for his discovery of microexpressions and his mapping of the face, which has led to his team training secret service and FBI on reading faces to assess threat. The show, Lie to Me, is based on Ekman's work. In other words, the following article has serious credentials and is worth your consideration.

Respectful Disagreements

What We Care About

I suspect that some of us will encounter disagreements about the president-elect, the state of the country, the world, and what to do about any or all of it during our holiday gatherings. How can we best deal with disagreements when they are about matters we care about?

When such a disagreement becomes apparent it may not be obvious whether we are both wrong or both right (if each of us is attending to a different facet of the same phenomenon), or one of us is right and the other wrong. Time will tell, but when it does, what should we do about it? Nothing is to be gained (and a lot can be lost) by trying to force the one who was wrong to acknowledge a mistaken judgment. That won’t bring the two of you closer. Our goal when we disagree should be to act now in a way that will not interfere with collaboration in the future on what we can reach agreement about.

Respectful disagreement acknowledges the benefits for each of us to advocate what we believe to be right even if it turns out we were wrong. We usually learn less from those who agree with us than from those who disagree. Exploring our disagreement won’t get anywhere if it is regarded as a zero-sum game. But, if it is pursued without rancor, disagreement can be enlightening to both parties.

The Nature of Emotion

The nature of emotion, as I understand it, makes that difficult. A number of our emotions are aroused when we are pursuing a goal. If the goal is important but is blocked, we're likely to become frustrated. Frustration is the breeding ground for anger, directed at whatever or whoever is seen as blocking us. We won’t be able to resolve a disagreement or remove the block to our pursuit of a goal if we act out of frustration, angry at the person blocking us.

What are we to do? The old adage of counting to ten has its use. We need to calm down and refrain from taking action motivated by the anger arising from our frustration. We need to focus on the actions that are blocking us, not on the actor. Sometimes this means recognizing the need to postpone pursuing the disagreement until the emotion it has evoked has calmed down. Impatience for quick resolution usually should be resisted, not indulged. Instead, we should attempt to learn from the disagreement.


If neither person clings to a position, much can be learned. Remember the other person is just as convinced as you are that he or she is right and you are wrong. Try seeing the situation as the other person sees it. Think of it as role-playing in which you take the other person’s perspective and arguments, articulating them as if they are your own. Could you switch sides, as debaters do? If you do, you will each learn from the experience, knowing better what you disagree about, and perhaps softening the force of the disagreement.

Give it a try.

Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.

What To Do When You Relapse

Do you make New Year's resolutions?If so, please remember this: If you ever feel like you've failed with them, think again. Not only is discouragement bad for your health and bad for your ability to succeed, but at least some of your negative assumptions are very likely to be mistaken.

A therapist once told me he had a client — I'll call him Dirck — who's wife didn't feel loved. The therapist helped Dirck find out what his wife needed to feel loved. She craved physical demonstrations of affection: Hugs, touches, kisses, holding hands. These were things that meant the most to her.

Dirck had been telling her how much he loved her without doing much physical demonstration. So although she "knew" (intellectually) Dirck loved her, she didn't feel loved.

The therapist coached Dirck on how to demonstrate his love with physical affection. Dirck returned a week later to say, "It worked!" His wife felt loved! He was now living in a happy household.

Six months later, Dirck was back. His wife didn't feel loved any more. The therapy apparently hadn't succeeded like he thought.

But with some careful questions, the therapist found that Dirck had stopped doing what he was doing before and was merely professing his love with words again!

As stupid as that sounds, it is not uncommon. We've all made similar mistakes. You have a problem, you decide what to do about it, you do it and it works, and then you forget all about it and stop doing what was working, and the problem returns. You "relapse." Then you explain it to yourself. Dirck's explanation was: "The therapy didn't work."

If you have failed with your resolution, you have already explained it. Your mind will not allow you to go on without explaining the setback. "I guess I don't have any self-discipline," you might think. Or maybe, "I am weak and lazy."

In all likelihood, your explanation is wrong (read more about explaining setbacks here). The explanation for your relapse may be simply: It's hard to notice the absence of a negative condition (except immediately after it goes away).

When things go wrong, it is very noticeable. When things get better, it is less noticeable. You might notice at first, but even then you quickly get used to it. And you won't feel much motivation to continue solving a problem that doesn't exist any more. Your life may be better, but you will soon take your new condition for granted. So you stop doing the work, and for awhile everything is great. And then the problem slowly begins to appear again.

Been there? Yeah, me too. But all is not lost. Not by a long shot.

If you feel you have failed with your resolutions, try this new explanation (it is hard to notice the absence of a negative condition) and start doing again what worked before. That's what to do when you relapse.

Read more: Powertool For Personal Change.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English).

The Surprising Story of Saint Patrick's Humble Beginnings

One morning a sixteen-year-old boy was kidnapped from his house by a band of knife-wielding thugs and taken to another country, there to be sold as a slave. The year was 401 a.d.

He was made a shepherd. Slaves were not allowed to wear clothes, so he was often dangerously cold and frequently on the verge of starvation. He spent months at a time without seeing another human being — a severe psychological torture.

But this greatest of difficulties was transformed into the greatest of blessings because it gave him an opportunity not many get in a lifetime. Long lengths of solitude have been used by people all through history to meditate, to learn to control the mind and to explore the depths of feeling and thought to a degree impossible in the hubbub of normal life.

He wasn’t looking for such an “opportunity,” but he got it anyway. He had never been a religious person, but to hold himself together and take his mind off the pain, he began to pray, so much that “ one day,” he wrote later, “I would say as many as a hundred prayers and after dark nearly as many again...I would wake and pray before daybreak — through snow, frost, and rain....”

This young man, at the onset of his manhood, got a “raw deal.” But therein lies the lesson. Nobody gets a perfect life. The question is not “What could I have done if I’d gotten a better life?” but rather “What can I do with the life I’ve got?”

How can you take your personality, your circumstances, your upbringing, the time and place you live in, and make something extraordinary out of it? What can you do with what you’ve got?

The young slave prayed. He didn’t have much else available to do, so he did what he could with all his might. And after six years of praying, he heard a voice in his sleep say that his prayers would be answered: He was going home. He sat bolt upright and the voice said, “Look, your ship is ready.”

He was a long way from the ocean, but he started walking. After two hundred miles, he came to the ocean and there was a ship, preparing to leave for Britain, his homeland. Somehow he got aboard the ship and went home to reunite with his family.

But he had changed. The sixteen-year-old boy had become a holy man. He had visions. He heard the voices of the people from the island he had left — Ireland — calling him back. The voices were persistent, and he eventually left his family to become ordained as a priest and a bishop with the intention of returning to Ireland and converting the Irish to Christianity.

At the time, the Irish were fierce, illiterate, Iron-Age people. For over eleven hundred years, the Roman Empire had been spreading its civilizing influence from Africa to Britain, but Rome never conquered Ireland.

The people of Ireland warred constantly. They made human sacrifices of prisoners of war and sacrificed newborns to the gods of the harvest. They hung the skulls of their enemies on their belts as ornaments.

Our slave-boy-turned-bishop decided to make these people literate and peaceful. Braving dangers and obstacles of tremendous magnitude, he actually succeeded! By the end of his life, Ireland was Christian. Slavery had ceased entirely. Wars were much less frequent, and literacy was spreading.

How did he do it? He began by teaching people to read — starting with the Bible. Students eventually became teachers and went to other parts of the island to create new places of learning, and wherever they went, they brought the know-how to turn sheepskin into paper and paper into books.

Copying books became the major religious activity of that country. The Irish had a long-standing love of words, and it expressed itself to the full when they became literate. Monks spent their lives copying books: the Bible, the lives of saints, and the works accumulated by the Roman culture — Latin, Greek, and Hebrew books, grammars, the works of Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Homer, Greek philosophy, math, geometry, astronomy.

In fact, because so many books were being copied, they were saved, because as Ireland was being civilized, the Roman Empire was falling apart. Libraries disappeared in Europe. Books were no longer copied (except in the city of Rome itself), and children were no longer taught to read. The civilization that had been built up over eleven centuries disintegrated. This was the beginning of the Dark Ages.

Because our slave-boy-turned-bishop transformed his suffering into a mission, civilization itself, in the form of literature and the accumulated knowledge contained in that literature, was saved and not lost during that time of darkness. He was named a saint, the famous Saint Patrick. You can read the full and fascinating story if you like in the excellent book How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill.

“Very interesting,” you might say, “but what does that have to do with me?” are also in some circumstances or other, and it’s not all peaches and cream, is it? There’s some stuff you don’t like — maybe something about your circumstances, perhaps, or maybe some events that occurred in your childhood.

But here you are, with that past, with these circumstances, with the things you consider less than ideal. What are you going to do with them? If those circumstances have made you uniquely qualified for some contribution, what would it be?

You may not know the answer to that question right now, but keep in mind that the circumstances you think only spell misery may contain the seeds of something profoundly Good. Assume that’s true, and the assumption will begin to gather evidence until your misery is transformed, as Saint Patrick’s suffering was, from a raw deal to the perfect preparation for something better.

The above was excerpted from the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works.

Humor and Health on April Fool's Day

Al Siebert, author of Survivor Personality, says according to his research, a good sense of humor significantly helps survivors cope with extreme stress. “Mental efficiency is directly related to a person’s general level of emotional arousal,” he says. “People are less able to solve problems and make precise, coordinated movements when strongly worked up. Laughing reduces tension to more moderate levels and efficiency improves.”

Anyone in a prolonged stressful situation can attest to this basic principle. Gerald Coffee, for example, was a POW in Vietnam. His captors treated him with unbelievable brutality. At one point he was taken to a “shower.” He hadn’t bathed at all in three months. This shower was littered with garbage. It was small and the walls were covered with slime. The water was cold, came from a rusty pipe, and only trickled out.

As he was trying to wash off, he felt depressed. He hadn’t held up under torture as well as he expected of himself. His head was down and he felt tired and sad and deeply disappointed in himself.

Then he looked up and saw someone had scratched a message on the wall that said, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”

Coffee laughed out loud. The message was so out of place, it was funny. But Coffee also laughed because, he says, he appreciated so much “the beautiful guy who had mustered the moxie to rise above his own dejection and frustration and pain and guilt to inscribe a line of encouragement to those who would come after him.”

Humor can have a powerful affect on your mood and your ability to cope with difficult situations. The man who inscribed the Candid Camera line improved his own mood, and the moods of men who came after him, raising their spirits and making them more resilient.

In experiments, researchers have found humor also improves your cleverness. Imagine someone gave you a box of tacks, a candle, and some matches and told you to stick the candle to a cork board in such a way that the candle doesn’t drip wax onto the floor below. Could you do it? Whether or not you could do it, Alice M. Isen and her colleagues found, might depend on whether or not you’ve just seen the humor in something.

Before they were given the problem to solve, students were shown either a comedy film of bloopers or a film on math (which was not funny at all).

After watching the math film, 20% of the students successfully solved the problem. But 75% of the students who watched the comedy film were able to do it. That's a big difference! The solution is to pour the tacks out of the box and tack the box to the board, and then put the candle in the box.

Isen said, “Research suggests that positive memories are more extensive and are more interconnected than are negative ones, so being happy may cue you into a larger and richer cognitive context, and that could significantly affect your creativity.”

Let's use this insight. Let's raise our level of resilience and cleverness. On April Fool's Day, it is traditional to play practical jokes. It's been a custom in several countries for centuries. It may have its roots in the Hilaria festival of ancient Rome. I'm not making this up.

A good laugh is good for you, and a good practical joke is good for a laugh. I invite you to (safely and in good taste) have some good laughs today. And to get you started in the right direction, enjoy this compilation of practical jokes:

Read more about the value of humor and how to improve your sense of humor: See the Funny.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English).

An Experience of Nature Reliably Lowers Stress

Taking at least twenty minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. That's the finding of a study that has established for the first time the most effective dose of an urban nature experience. Healthcare practitioners can use this discovery, published in Frontiers in Psychology, to prescribe 'nature-pills' in the knowledge that they have a real measurable effect.

"We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us," says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of this research. "Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature."

- The above was excerpted from an article in Science Daily. Read the whole article here: Just 20 minutes of contact with nature will lower stress hormone levels, reveals new study.

Chatterbox: Building Competence Raises Mood For Life

7 year old girl building a Chatterbox smart speaker
Chatterbox is the world's first build-it-yourself, program-it-yourself smart speaker kit designed for kids to learn about artificial intelligence. It's a cardboard box with electronics inside that works like an Amazon Echo — without the privacy violation or "black box" mystery about how it works.

Check out this Vimeo video of what it looks like and kids interacting with it: Chatterbox.

Whether you're a parent or a teacher or just an intelligent, technology-minded person concerned about what technology is doing to children, you should back the Chatterbox Kickstarter project. Here's why:

* The more kids teach Chatterbox skills — like getting the weather, playing child-friendly news, setting timers and alarms, controlling lights, sending messages to or even calling mom and dad — the more kids learn about engineering, problem solving, language construction and critical thinking.

* The computer interface of the future is voice-driven artificial intelligence. Chatterbox prepares kids for this future where a human-like AI is ubiquitous by giving kids the tools and the motivation to create and use their very own AI.

* Chatterbox is screen-free, privacy-centric and both safe and healthy for kids. Chatterbox only listens when the button is pressed. And Chatterbox doesn't gather personal data.

* Chatterbox is also low-cost and environmentally friendly. The enclosure or case is made from 100% recyclable cardboard. Chatterbox’s internal components are powered by the Raspberry Pi computer and a custom-designed Chatter expansion board for microphone and speaker functionality. All internal components are designed to be reused again and again.

* Most or all of the consumer technology in children's lives is designed for passive consumption, engineered to be addictive and distracting. Chatterbox is the opposite, and offers a replacement for laptops, tablets and phones that gives kids an internet-connected computing platform where they are incentivized to learn, adapt and problem-solve using speech technology.

It was invented by my nephew, Kevin Elgan. Here's what he says about the project:

I’ve been focusing on education technology (or technology education) for children my entire career, first at Tynker (which teaches kids to code), then Piper (which is a build-it-yourself computer for children). Since then I’ve had a daughter of my own which has led me to reevaluate the role of technology in my family’s life. Now, more than ever, I’m passionately determined to revolutionize education technology in a healthy and socially responsible way.

I’ve spent the last year creating Chatterbox to help solve the “kids and technology” problem. On the one hand, kids are becoming screen addicts at an early age. On the other hand, smartphones, tablets and smart TVs are “black boxes” and kids have no idea how they work. Today’s technology is neither teaching kids how current technology works, nor preparing them to cope with future technology.

Increasingly, kids are using smart speakers as well — devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePods. According to Commonsense Media, nearly one-quarter of households now have at least one smart speaker in their homes. Today’s toddlers are the first generation to grow up without any memory of the world before artificial intelligence in the home. Kids are treating talking smart devices like people — to be listened to, treated respectfully, and even obeyed.

While kids are immersed in technology, it’s all a big mystery to them. There is a common misconception that “using” technology “teaches” kids how technology works. They’re not learning how it all works, but instead they are learning to become passive consumers in the new world of surveillance capitalism. They’re learning to focus on phones instead of on the people around them. Kids are acquiring habits that will reduce their ability to create, grow and think for themselves.

This is all wrong. Kids should spend less time with screens. And they need to understand how the technology all around them works.

That’s why I created Chatterbox, the smart speaker kids build themselves. Once they’ve built it, they teach it how to talk using a Lego-like, building-block software interface. And they can keep teaching it new skills while learning a whole lot of new skills themselves along the way.

Here’s how Chatterbox solves the problems technology is creating for kids:

1. By building Chatterbox, kids learn what smart speakers are made of
2. By teaching Chatterbox, smart speakers are de-mystified so kids understand them
3. By crafting conversations, kids learn how to communicate clearly with people
4. By using Chatterbox, kids have fun building and creating
5. By making Chatterbox their main computer, kids get their eyes off screens
6. By pressing the Chatterbox button to talk, kids get used to privacy, not surveillance
7. By exploring Chatterbox, kids learn programming concepts like intents, logic, conditionals to build voice apps
8. By re-using Chatterbox, kids learn environmental responsibility (everything is re-usable or recyclable)

Every parent and every teacher wants to prepare their kids for the future. And that future is ubiquitous voice-interaction and artificial intelligence. Chatterbox teaches them to build it, teach it, use it, control it and, above all, understand it.

If you share our belief that technology for kids should be educational, private and respectful of kids, then please join our movement. Stay up to date with Chatterbox news by subscribing to our newsletter and help us change the conversation about kids and technology.

Get more information, see videos and photos and learn how you can support this education revolution on the Chatterbox Kickstarter page!

Subscribe to the newsletter to keep track of the project:

End Worry With This Powerful Technique

Bertrand Russell, the mathematician and philosopher, used a technique on himself to prevent worry, and he recommended it to others in his book, The Conquest of Happiness. "When some misfortune threatens," he wrote, "consider seriously and deliberately what is the very worst that could possibly happen. Having looked this possible misfortune in the face, give yourself sound reasons for thinking that after all it would be no such very terrible disaster."

Of course, most of us would say, "But it would be a terrible disaster!"

Bertrand Russell anticipated this remark. He goes on to say that there are good reasons to honestly assert it might not be so bad: "Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance. When you have looked for some time steadily at the worst possibility and have said to yourself with real conviction, 'Well, after all, that would not matter so very much,' you will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent."

I'd like to point out two things here. He said to look at the worst possibility "for some time." This is not a technique to do for ten seconds. Give it some time. If you really want to ease your worry, it will take a little time.

Also, he said when you can say to yourself it doesn't matter, and say it with real conviction, he does not mean pretending to say it with conviction. He means actually having looked at it enough to be able to legitimately say it really wouldn't matter that much.

He has a little more to say about the technique: "It may be necessary to repeat the process a few times, but in the end, if you have shirked nothing in facing the worst possible issue, you will find that your worry disappears altogether and is replaced by a kind of exhilaration."

This is an effective technique. It actually works, and surprisingly well. Dale Carnegie took the technique one step further and said, "Then try to improve on the worst," which I think most people would do anyway. But you can't skip ahead to improve-on-the-worst part and expect this technique to work. You have to go through a truly honest appraisal of what the worst would be and how bad that would actually be, until you realize with full conviction that even the worst wouldn't be that bad.

If you really do this exercise, you can really and truly cure yourself of a particular worry, and ease the strain on your system that the worry has been causing. 

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English).

Stress is Bad for Relationships

At the Ohio State University Medical Center researchers followed ninety couples for ten years. The couples they chose were free of risky behaviors or psychiatric problems, and the researchers specifically tried to choose only people who were happy with their relationships.

The researchers wanted to find out how stress affects the likelihood of divorce. After the ten-year study, this is their conclusion: The more stress a couple experiences while talking to each other, the more likely they will divorce.

According to the researchers, women register higher levels of stress hormones during conflicts (adrenaline, ACTH, and cortisol) than the men they're arguing with. And women with the highest level of stress hormones during conversations with their spouses did not have higher levels of stress hormones than normal in other circumstances in their lives.

Does this concern you? Do you have stressful arguments with your spouse? You can do something to change it. Here are some things that will lower your stress during difficult conversations with your spouse:

1. Reduce the amount of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar you consume. These substances can increase your body's reaction to stressful circumstances. Reducing or eliminating them may make things worse for a day or two, but then your stress level will begin to drop.

2. Learn better ways to argue. It seems the content — the actual topics — of your arguments would have the biggest influence on how much stress you experience, but the process you use is more important. If you use a good process, the intensity of the argument remains lower, which reduces the stress of that particular argument. So your arguments become more productive, which lowers your stress level over time too.

3. Learn better ways of listening. One of the biggest causes of stress in an argument is the lack of good listening. You cannot make your spouse listen well, but you can change the way you listen, and that's good enough to alter the course of the conversation.

4. Lower your general upset-ability through meditation. Regular meditation makes you calmer to begin with, and makes your stressful reactions less intense during arguments, leading to more productive and less destructive interactions.

Do any of these and you will personally feel better, you'll be healthier, and your relationship will be happier. If you're married, you'll be less likely to divorce. And all this will improve your mood immediately and over time.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It.

Historically, Overpopulation Means Fewer Trees on Earth

Homer speaks frequently of “wooded Samothrace” or the “tall pines and oaks of Sicily,” but these woodlands had largely disappeared from the ancient world. The forests had been cleared by man, and his sheep and goats and cattle had altered forever the nature of the landscape bordering parts of the Mediterranean and Aegean. Even at the time of Greece’s glory, Plato was writing that “What now remains compared with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having been wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left.”

Of an estimated 400,000 square miles of virgin forest that once covered the eastern half of the United States, less than 2,000 square miles might be said to remain in anything like their primeval state. Only the more inaccessible reaches of the Appalachians and a few small scattered areas elsewhere are left to suggest what the whole region was like. For almost the first 200 years of American settlement, pioneers claimed a farmstead by hacking one out of the forest, cutting down trees so large a person might chop for several days before felling one. At best, the pioneer farmer could clear a few acres each year, and one reason so many of the huge trees were girdled was to save the backbreaking toil of swinging an ax day after day.

The above is excerpted from the book, The Secret Life of the Forest, by Richard M. Ketchum.

How Much is the Population Growing?

According to the United Nations' World Population Prospects report:

The world population is currently growing by approximately 74 million people per year. Current United Nations predictions estimate that the world population will reach 9.0 billion around 2050, assuming a decrease in average fertility rate from 2.5 down to 2.0.

Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions, where today's 5.3 billion population of underdeveloped countries is expected to increase to 7.8 billion in 2050. By contrast, the population of the more developed regions will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion. An exception is the United States population, which is expected to increase by 44% from 2008 to 2050.

Habitats Are Shrinking

I just finished watching Planet Earth, a beautiful BBC series on the wild places of the world. But of course those wild places are shrinking as the world population expands, and that means more and more species are going extinct.

It's a very clear ratio: As more land is used by people to grow crops or graze cattle or build houses or roads, less land is available to support the wild creatures who share the planet with us.

Would you like to save the species? The best long-term solution is to reverse population growth.

The fastest, most ethical and most efficient way to shrink the human population is to give women rights where they now don't have them. Read more about that here, and begin today to help make it happen.

Dead Zones Proliferating

Out of sight, and largely out of mind, something deeply disturbing is taking place in the world’s oceans and estuaries: hundreds of dead zones, areas devoid of oxygen and the sea life it supports, are forming.

In recent decades the number of these aquatic black spots has risen steadily. At the latest count there were 479 such sites, distributed along the most populous coastlines of Europe, Asia, the Americas and even Australia. Together they cover an area somewhat larger than Victoria, Australia.

The cause of Dead Zones is well understood: they are driven by the avalanche of nutrients which humanity dumps in the oceans – from agriculture, sewage, leaky landfills, urban stormwater, soil erosion, industrial and vehicle emissions. This rich nutrient soup provides the food source for vast blooms of algae – and as these die off they sink to the sea floor and decompose causing blooms of bacteria which strip the essential oxygen from the water column, often resulting in fish kills – their most visible impact.

The biggest contributors of all are the 110 million tonnes of nitrogen, 9 million tonnes of phosphorus and other nutrients which we unleash into the planetary ecosystem every year as we try to feed ourselves. That is off-the-scale compared with what the pre-human Earth circulated naturally.

- Excerpted from the article, March of the Dead Zones.

What we need is more robust recycling, but also a dwindling population, which could be facilitated by the global institutionalization of human rights for women.

Where Lions Used to Live Versus Where They Live Now

This map (follow the link) shows where lions used to live in Africa (in red). And where lions live now (in blue). This doesn't even mention the complete elimination of lions from other places they used to live, like Europe. The bigger the human population, the smaller the lion population.

Running Out of Fish to Eat

In an article in The Conversation, they ask, "Will there be enough fish to go around?" Their answer: Not if we follow healthy eating guidelines. They write:

Globally, we still catch enough fish to eat – just about. But numbers of fish caught from the sea haven’t kept up with human population growth and unsustainable fish farms have filled the gap. So why are we still being encouraged to eat more fish?

The health benefits are clear: fish protein is typically low in saturated fats and high in nutrients and essential fatty acids. UK and US food standards agencies recommend eating two portions of fish per week, while Australia, New Zealand and Estonia advocate two or three servings per week and Greece five or six.

Yet as our recent research has shown these health recommendations must be set against a backdrop of declining global fish stocks and food security concerns. While in the UK fish constitutes just one choice of animal protein among many, one billion people throughout the world rely upon it as their primary source of animal protein and our global fisheries are in crisis.

Unlimited Growth

In an article in Post Carbon, Richard Heinberg writes:

"The Earth is a bounded sphere, and the human economy is an engine that extracts raw materials and produces waste. If we keep that engine’s operation within the bounds of what our planet can absorb or replenish through its normal ecosystem functions, all is well. But if the economy continues to grow year after year, at some point the planet’s systems will be overwhelmed — even if we’re using renewable energy to extract and transform raw materials. Our uses of energy and materials can be made somewhat more efficient, but only up to a point. If the Earth itself were expanding at an ever-increasing rate, perpetual economic growth would pose no problem. Yet last time I checked, the planet hadn’t gotten any bigger — while our demands upon it continue to increase."

Contraception Husbands Don't Know About

In an interview with Bill and Melinda Gates, Melinda says something insightful about women in some countries: Although condoms are available for contraception, it doesn't do them any good. Their husbands don't want to use them. So what the women want is an injection that can prevent pregnancies. That way, they can do it without their husband knowing about it. So one of the things the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working on is making that injection available to more women that want it. Here's the interview:


Manhattan was once a beautiful island of rolling hills, ponds, forests, streams, etc. Now it is almost entirely asphalt and concrete.

To minimize human beings' impact on the natural world, some suggest we can simply build higher. We can pack more people into smaller spaces in cities, as has been done in Manhattan.

That is not a solution.

Not only do the cities themselves pave over the natural world, but all those people need to eat, and that food must be mostly grown somewhere else.

The simplest, most direct solution is to lower our population, which can be done by simply giving women basic human rights where they now don't have them. It should be done anyway, and the side effect will be a far better world in the long run.

What a Wonderful World

Future Food Shortage Predictions Presuppose Population Growth

In an article in the New York Times, Justin Gillis writes about the recovery of the Costa Rican Forest and similar governmental efforts to stop deforestation and in some cases the reforestation of large areas. It's good news. When forests are cut down, all the carbon that was sequestered in the trees is released into the atmosphere. When a forest recovers, it removes a significant amount of the carbon back out of the atmosphere.

But in the article, Gillis writes, "Around the world, trees are often cut down to make room for farming, and so the single biggest threat to forests remains the need to feed growing populations, particularly an expanding global middle class with the means to eat better. Saving forests, if it can be done, will require producing food much more intensively, on less land."

The most obvious solution to save forests is to no longer have a need for more land. In other words, the answer is to stop populations from growing in the first place rather than figure out a way to farm more intensively on less land. I've seen this again and again whenever future food shortages are mentioned. The one most glaring need (reducing the world's population) isn't even mentioned. It's a taboo subject. But it's taboo only because the answer isn't well known. The solution to overpopulation is something that should be done anyway: To give women human rights where they now don't have them. If more people knew about this solution, reducing the human population and stopping the seemingly inevitable population growth would stop being a taboo topic.

You can help. Whenever you get into conversations and future food shortages are mentioned (or pollution, or climate change, etc.) bring up women's rights. Whenever you read an article online, add your comment. Let more people know about the solution to overpopulation. Let's shatter the silence on this most vital topic.