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The Science of Stress and How Our Emotions Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease

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. Pre-modern medicine, in fact, has recognized this link between disease and emotion for millennia. But no researcher has done more to illuminate the invisible threads that weave mind and body together than Dr. Sternberg writes:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/20/esther-sternberg-balance-within-stress-emotion/

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The Effects Of Negative & Positive Emotions On Our Health – Collective Evolution The existence of the mind/body connection was once completely shunned by mainstream science, with many dismissing it as mere pseudoscience. Fortunately, the conversation has shifted in recent years, thanks in large part to new scientific publications that have made it quite clear that our thoughts, feelings, and emotions play a crucial role in regulating our overall health and biology. There are several examples from different areas of science that prove this. Patti Smith on Time, Transformation, and How the Radiance of Love Redeems the Rupture of Loss – Brain Pickings “Is there anything we know more intimately than the fleetingness of time, the transience of each and every moment?” philosopher Rebecca Goldstein asked in contemplating how Einstein and Gödel shaped our experience of time. A little less than a century earlier, just as the theory of relativity was taking hold, Virginia Woolf articulated in exquisite prose what quantum physics sought to convey in equations — that thing we feel in our very bones, impervious to art or science, by virtue of being ephemeral creatures in a transient world.

Anaïs Nin on Love and Life, Illustrated By Maria Popova I believe that most things worth knowing about life can be learned from the sixteen volumes of diaries that Anaïs Nin (February 21, 1903–January 14, 1977) began keeping at the age of eleven and continued until she died at seventy-four — things that have to do with why emotional excess is essential to creativity, why inviting the unknown helps us live more richly, how our objects define us, personal responsibility, the elusive nature of joy, writing, and the meaning of life. But most enchanting of all are the timeless insights on love and life that Nin — a woman who made her own rules for living as expansively as possible in a society that kept trying to contain her — spilled into the pages of her diaries. Over the past couple of years, those have come to life in a series of collaborations from the Brain Pickings artist series, as I’ve asked artists and illustrators to capture some of my favorite highlights from years of reading Nin’s diaries.

Bertrand Russell on Immortality, Why Religion Exists, and What “The Good Life” Really Means By Maria Popova Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) is one of humanity’s most grounding yet elevating thinkers, his writing at once lucid and luminous. There is something almost prophetic in the way he bridges timelessness and timeliness in contemplating ideas urgently relevant to modern life a century earlier — from how boredom makes happiness possible to why science is the key to democracy. But nowhere does his genius shine more brilliantly than in What I Believe (public library). Published in 1925, the book is a kind of catalog of hopes — a counterpoint to Russell’s Icarus, a catalog of fears released the previous year — exploring our place in the universe and our “possibilities in the way of achieving the good life.” Russell writes in the preface:

You See What Others Can’t: 8 Signs That You Are Highly Sensitive to Energy Every day, more and more people realize that they fall in the category of people with empathy(compassion), highly sensitive to energy and emotions of the environment. Empathetic person is a person who has the ability to grasp the mental and emotional states of others. These people have a high social intelligence and are very good at helping others to solve their problems. Being in a position to recognize that you are sensitive to energy is important, because we often think that what we are dealing with and feeling was created originally in us. What if some of our thought, emotions and feelings are from the people who are in the same room with us?

Desert Solitaire: An Uncommonly Beautiful Love Letter to Solitude and the Spiritual Rewards of Getting Lost – Brain Pickings By Maria Popova “As the desert offers no tangible riches, as there is nothing to see or hear in the desert,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in his exquisite memoir of what the Sahara Desert taught him about the meaning of life, “one is compelled to acknowledge, since the inner life, far from falling asleep, is fortified, that man is first animated by invisible solicitations.” No one captures this invisible animation of inner life more bewitchingly than Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire (public library) — a miraculously beautiful book, originally published in 1968, which I discovered through a passing mention by the wonderful Cheryl Strayed.

The Silent Music of the Mind: Remembering Oliver Sacks By Maria Popova I was a relative latecomer to the work of Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933–August 30, 2015), that great enchanter of storytelling who spent his life bridging science and the human spirit — partly because I was not yet born when he first bewitched the reading public with his writing, and partly because those early books never made it past the Iron Curtain and into the Bulgaria of my childhood. It was only in my twenties, having made my way to America, that I fell in love with Dr. Sacks’s writing and the mind from which it sprang — a mind absolutely magnificent, buoyed by a full heart and a radiant spirit. His intellectual elegance bowled me over, and I felt a strange kinship with many of his peculiarities, from the youthful affair with iron — although the 300-pound squats of my bodybuilding days paled before his 600 pounds, which set a state record and earned him the moniker Dr.

Leisure, the Basis of Culture: An Obscure German Philosopher’s Timely 1948 Manifesto for Reclaiming Our Human Dignity in a Culture of Workaholism By Maria Popova “We get such a kick out of looking forward to pleasures and rushing ahead to meet them that we can’t slow down enough to enjoy them when they come,” Alan Watts observed in 1970, aptly declaring us “a civilization which suffers from chronic disappointment.” Two millennia earlier, Aristotle asserted: “This is the main question, with what activity one’s leisure is filled.” Today, in our culture of productivity-fetishism, we have succumbed to the tyrannical notion of “work/life balance” and have come to see the very notion of “leisure” not as essential to the human spirit but as self-indulgent luxury reserved for the privileged or deplorable idleness reserved for the lazy. So how did we end up so conflicted about cultivating a culture of leisure? Pieper traces the origin of the paradigm of the “worker” to the Greek Cynic philosopher Antisthenes, a friend of Plato’s and a disciple of Socrates.

Daniel Goleman Daniel Goleman (born March 7, 1946) is an author, psychologist, and science journalist. For twelve years, he wrote for The New York Times, reporting on the brain and behavioral sciences. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half, and a best-seller in many countries, in print worldwide in 40 languages. Apart from his books on emotional intelligence, Goleman has written books on topics including self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis, and the Dalai Lama’s vision for the future. A Rap on Race: Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s Rare Conversation on Forgiveness and the Difference Between Guilt and Responsibility – Brain Pickings By Maria Popova NOTE: This is the first installment in a multi-part series covering Mead and Baldwin’s historic conversation. You can read Part 2, focusing on identity and the immigrant experience, here.

Creative Courage for Young Hearts: 15 Emboldening Picture Books Celebrating the Lives of Great Artists, Writers, and Scientists Margaret Mead extolled the value of “spiritual and mental ancestors” in how we form our identity — those people to whom we aren’t related but whose values we try to cultivate in ourselves; role models we seek out not from our immediate genetic pool but from the pool of culture the surrounds us, past and present. Seneca saw in reading, one of the oldest and most reliable ways to identify and contact these cultural ancestors, a way of being adopted into the “households of the noblest intellects.” And what better time to meet such admirable models of personhood than in childhood, that fertile seedbed for the flowering of values and identity?

An Antidote to the Age of Anxiety: Alan Watts on Happiness and How to Live with Presence “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard wrote in her timeless reflection on presence over productivity — a timely antidote to the central anxiety of our productivity-obsessed age. Indeed, my own New Year’s resolution has been to stop measuring my days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence. But what, exactly, makes that possible? This concept of presence is rooted in Eastern notions of mindfulness — the ability to go through life with crystalline awareness and fully inhabit our experience — largely popularized in the West by British philosopher and writer Alan Watts (January 6, 1915–November 16, 1973), who also gave us this fantastic meditation on the life of purpose. If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.”

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