The proverbial devil on our shoulder

The Enemy Within is the side of us that constantly churns out negativity, self-doubt, and apathy. The proverbial devil on our shoulder that tries to undermine our every effort to improve and move forward. We all have a such side of ourselves but some of us hear it more than others which makes life much harder to deal with at times. It is a combination of negative experiences, self-doubt, and feeling overwhelmed by life. It is also all the negative talk we have absorbed from family, friends, lovers, and ourselves through the years.

It is something we must learn to live with but at the same time learn how to reduce its power and influence over our lives. Forgiveness for ourselves and others is part of the process of lessening its power over us. Forgiveness removes some of the guilt we have due to mistakes we’ve made and also helps us let go of and move on from mistakes by others as well. Positive self-reinforcement is another thing we need to practice, an acknowledgment that there are positive attributes about ourselves. That helps beat back the negative self-talk that undermines our self-esteem.

Do things now that you could do tomorrow, and work on being less of a procrastinator and more of a go-getter and get-it-done kind of person. Procrastination leads to things not getting done and that adds to the low self-esteem one may be feeling. Remember to acknowledge that you got things done and tell yourself you did a good job as well. Nothing gives you a boost as good as the feeling of a job well done.

The side of you that is negative is like an onion, it is layered due to the many sources it has and how long it has been forming during your lifetime. It took all these years to become so complex and layered and will take time to unravel it all and to learn how to control or overcome it. Do not get discouraged, it is a work-in-progress kind of thing, and do not fear getting help if you need it. Therapists and counselors can be a great help in coping with such things and could help you come up with strategies to help you along the way to being a better you.


Ray’s Rambilings 3-28-2023

The Effect that one’s self-confidence and self-image have on performance and quality of living is quite apparent. When you have self-confidence and a good self-image you are more likely to hit the zone (increased alpha and zeta waves in the brain) which makes you more focused and able to complete tasks quickly and with better accuracy. In turn, how you feel about yourself (self-image) and how confident you are in your abilities can improve your quality of life both through being more focused which increases the quality of performance, and the emotional factor of either being happy with one’s self or not.

Simply put, the better you are at what you do, the better your self-image is, and in turn, the happier you should be, And the happier you feel influences your quality of life. Then there is the evidence of how happiness, positivity, and laughter are beneficial to one’s health. The fact all three not only enhance one’s quality of life but have also been proven to improve healing times and results as well. That brings us to music, it can alter your brain waves, such as increasing alpha waves and it also can influence a person’s emotional state. Not only that, there has been research into how it affects the heartbeat, and also music can either help increase one’s possible lifespan or decrease it depending on the genre.

There also is some research into sound waves in Australia, showing certain frequencies can cause the cells in your body to regenerate thus possibly being a cure for certain ailments and afflictions. Of course, these are concentrated soundwaves, similar to what they call ultrasound. That would be a good thing if big pharma doesn’t find a way of hiding the results of that study. That was just a sidenote that came to mind due to discussing music and its health benefits. Meditation is another good way of trying to raise your alpha waves and reach the zone, it also helps one to concentrate, relax and destress, and all of those things are beneficial to our mental and physical well-being.

This leads us to the physical aspect of improving a person’s quality of life and self-image as well. Yoga, depending on the type of yoga is mainly stretching and breathing exercises. There is of course way more to it, but for now, we will stick with those basic parts of yoga. The human body requires to be active in order to remain healthy, breathing not only supplies oxygen and expells the Co2 the body makes it regulates the body by controlling the flow of oxygen. The body is a complex organism and each part is symbiotic with the other. Through breathing exercises, you can slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and relax muscles as well. All the wild postures and stretching you do in yoga, not only does it limber up the body but also it helps with blood flow as well. We could get into the metaphysical end of it but I will leave that for another time.

Thai Chi, is very similar to Yoga in the sense that it requires body movement and some breathing exercises. It has been called Moving Meditation, you become totally engrossed in the movements and breathing you wind up getting into the zone, and the alpha waves and theta waves increase during the time you’re doing Thai chi. The good thing about Thai Chi is that people of all ages can do it, it is not very difficult and even elderly people can do it. Even if you are in a wheelchair you can just do the upper body movements and probably can reach the same goals.

There are many ways to achieve that Zone state of mind, even playing a video game can help you reach it. There were studies done by DARPA using such principles and video games to improve a soldier’s shooting skill with great success. They looked at the Alpha and Theta waves of an expert shooter (Marksman) and found ways to get an average soldier to reach the same levels of Alpha and theta waves to see if it improved the shooting score and it had some very impressive results.

Getting into the zone may not fix all a person’s problems, it is just a tool to improve one’s life and build on their quality of life. So much is needed to live a full, healthy, and productive life that was not discussed in this blog post, But we touched on some of the ones I have recently been looking into. Remember, this is your life and more than likely the only life you have. So do the best you can to take care of the body and life you have been given, so you do not wind up regretting letting things slide as you get older. Enjoy life, but make sure to keep a good balance between the wants and needs of your body and mind.

Well, hope you Enjoyed this Post, Blessings, and peace to you all.

Some Thoughts on a Thursday 2/16/23

Life can be trying at times, if we let those trying times get to us and hold on to those times we only add baggage to our emotional state. Live through the trying times, learn the lessons from them, and let it go. There is so much more to life than the bad times that seem to hold us back and pull us down, there is so much we miss out on in life when we dwell too much on the past and on the trauma that we had experienced. I find it odd how many people seem addicted to bad news, drama, and gossip, how can one find entertainment in the suffering of others is a mystery to me.

In my experience seeing other people being happy and if possible being a contributor to their happiness seems far more rewarding. Charity, Compassion, and kindness seem to be far more rewarding in the end than the negatives such as anger, hate, and selfishness. Of course, this is my opinion based on my life experiences and nothing more. I imagine there are those out there that would disagree with me on that. Learning from mistakes and traumatic experiences is how we grow as individuals, but holding on to the pain associated with those experiences is not healthy.

You can either be your own biggest cheerleader or you can be your own worst judge, you can either live in the now or you can be stuck living in the past. The choice is yours and I hope you chose the better path in life over the harder path. Though I doubt anyone could live their life without falling once in a while, So just do your best and focus on doing what is right for you and others as well. If you are religious look to your holy scriptures and teachings, If you are not then read some books on ethics and find your path in life. And if it is in your skillset try meditation or just go sit outside in nature and find some peace for your mind.

I wish you a happy and fulfilling life, I hope we all can find the way to a better world for all of us and our children to live in.

Ray’s Ramblings 1-11-23

Sometimes people get caught up with their everyday routines and forget about the people in their lives. We take others for granted and believe that they will always be there waiting for us to be free to talk or spend time with them. We tend to put more importance on things that really are just trivial and or not very important in the end. Some people are way too dedicated to their jobs or careers, and others are addicted to their electronic devices, social media, and network news channels. Leaving very little time for those in their lives and that causes nothing but trouble and sadness if not loneliness.

It’s all fine and dandy to dedicate a good portion of your time to work and spend some free time enjoying your entertainment, just remember to take some time for those that love you. If you neglect those special people in your life for too long, you may find they either decide to move on or they may not be as loving and receptive to you. Relationships take work and takes time spent together to keep them healthy and happy. Schedule some time for and with your loved ones and friends so that you can enjoy life together and keep your relationships strong.

Employers can come and go, News is always on and social media is there 24hrs a day, but those you concider important to you are here for a undetermined amount of time so enjoy thier companionship while you can. Balance is the key to most things in life and once you learn how to balance things it goes a whole lot smoother.

Be Kind and be Forgiving my friends

Artemis: why it may be the last mission for Nasa astronauts

A camera mounted on the tip of one of the Orion capsule’s solar array wings captured this footage of the spacecraft and the Moon NASA

Martin Rees, University of Cambridge

Neil Armstrong took his historic “one small step” on the Moon in 1969. And just three years later, the last Apollo astronauts left our celestial neighbor. Since then, hundreds of astronauts have been launched into space but mainly to the Earth-orbiting International Space Station. None has, in fact, ventured more than a few hundred kilometres from Earth.

The US-led Artemis program, however, aims to return humans to the Moon this decade – with Artemis 1 on its way back to Earth as part of its first test flight, going around the Moon.

The most relevant differences between the Apollo era and the mid-2020s are an amazing improvement in computer power and robotics. Moreover, superpower rivalry can no longer justify massive expenditure, as in the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union. In our recent book “The End of Astronauts”, Donald Goldsmith and I argue that these changes weaken the case for the project.

The Artemis mission is using Nasa’s brand new Space Launch System, which is the most powerful rocket ever – similar in design to the Saturn V rockets that sent a dozen Apollo astronauts to the Moon. Like its predecessors, the Artemis booster combines liquid hydrogen and oxygen to create enormous lifting power before falling into the ocean, never to be used again. Each launch therefore carries an estimated cost of between $2 billion (£1.7 billion) and $4 billion.

This is unlike its SpaceX competitor “Starship”, which enables the company to recover and the reuse the first stage.

The benefits of robotics

Advances in robotic exploration are exemplified by the suite of rovers on Mars, where Perseverance, Nasa’s latest prospector, can drive itself through rocky terrain with only limited guidance from Earth. Improvements in sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) will further enable the robots themselves to identify particularly interesting sites, from which to gather samples for return to Earth.

Within the next one or two decades, robotic exploration of the Martian surface could be almost entirely autonomous, with human presence offering little advantage. Similarly, engineering projects – such as astronomers’ dream of constructing a large radio telescope on the far side of the Moon, which is free of interference from Earth – no longer require human intervention. Such projects can be entirely constructed by robots.

Instead of astronauts, who need a well equipped place to live if they’re required for construction purposes, robots can remain permanently at their work site. Likewise, if mining of lunar soil or asteroids for rare materials became economically viable, this also could be done more cheaply and safely with robots.

Robots could also explore Jupiter, Saturn and their fascinatingly diverse moons with little additional expense, since journeys of several years present little more challenge to a robot than the six-month voyage to Mars. Some of these moons could in fact harbour life in their sub-surface oceans.

Even if we could send humans there, it might be a bad idea as they could contaminate these worlds with microbes form Earth.

Managing risks

The Apollo astronauts were heroes. They accepted high risks and pushed technology to the limit. In comparison, short trips to the Moon in the 2020s, despite the $90-billion cost of the Artemis programme, will seem almost routine.

Something more ambitious, such as a Mars landing, will be required to elicit Apollo-scale public enthusiasm. But such a mission, including provisions and the rocketry for a return trip, could well cost Nasa a trillion dollars – questionable spending when we’re dealing with a climate crisis and poverty on Earth. The steep price tag is a result of a “safety culture” developed by Nasa in recent years in response to public attitudes.

Image from Artemis-1 launch.
Artemis -1 launch. NASA

This reflects the trauma and consequent programme delays that followed the Space Shuttle disasters in 1986 and 2003, each of which killed the seven civilians on board. That said, the shuttle, which had 135 launches altogether, achieved a failure rate below two percent. It would be unrealistic to expect a rate as low as this for the failure of a return trip to Mars – the mission would after all last two whole years.

Astronauts simply also need far more “maintenance” than robots – their journeys and surface operations require air, water, food, living space and protection against harmful radiation, especially from solar storms.

Already substantial for a trip to the Moon, the cost differences between human and robotic journeys would grow much larger for any long-term stay. A voyage to Mars, hundreds of times further than the Moon, would not only expose astronauts to far greater risks, but also make emergency support far less feasible. Even astronaut enthusiasts accept that almost two decades may elapse before the first crewed trip to Mars.

There will certainly be thrill-seekers and adventurers who would willingly accept far higher risks – some have even signed up for a proposed one-way trip in the past.

This signals a key difference between the Apollo era and today: the emergence of a strong, private space-technology sector, which now embraces human spaceflight. Private-sector companies are now competitive with Nasa, so high-risk, cut-price trips to Mars, bankrolled by billionaires and private sponsors, cold be crewed by willing volunteers. Ultimately, the public could cheer these brave adventurers without paying for them.

Given that human spaceflight beyond low orbit is highly likely to entirely transfer to privately-funded missions prepared to accept high risks, it is questionable whether Nasa’s multi-billion-dollar Artemis project is a good way to spend the government’s money. Artemis is ultimately more likely to be a swansong than the launch of a new Apollo era.

Martin Rees, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How parents can play a key role in the prevention and treatment of teen mental health problems

Early detection is key to treating depression in teenagers. dragana991/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Toria Herd, Penn State and Sarah A. Font, Penn State

More than 44% of teens reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness in the first half of 2021, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The early 2022 report, which was based on an online survey, also found that nearly 20% had seriously considered suicide, and 9% attempted suicide.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a likely contributor to these startling figures, but rates of teen mental illness have been rising over the past decade.

One crucial factor that has received little attention in supporting teen mental health is the role that parents can play.

This is surprising since research has clearly established that participation by a caregiver in their child’s mental health treatment is directly related to a successful outcome. A key reason for this is that parents generally interact with their teens on a daily basis and can model and cultivate coping skills.

Yet, for mental health professionals, it can be challenging to integrate parents into teens’ treatment when there are discrepancies between the perspectives, goals and expectations of teens and parents. In addition, consent and privacy laws sometimes limit providers’ abilities to disclose key details about a teen’s mental health to parents.

As researchers studying childhood trauma and adolescent development, we see parents and caregivers as a critical link in addressing the urgent mental health crisis among teens.

The teenage years can be brutal

Parents often dread the teenage years, anticipating mood swings, risk-taking behaviors and endless arguments. Some of this is developmentally normal: Teens are developing their identities, testing limits and asserting their autonomy. These combined factors can lead to hostility and a lower-quality parent-teen relationship.

Physically, teens are sleep-deprived, in part due to overly early school start times and hormonal changes associated with puberty. As a result, teens can be irritable and sensitive to stressors. They also haven’t developed the self-control to manage their reactions.

And it’s important to note that half of all mental illness emerges by age 14 and 75% by age 24, making adolescence a highly sensitive period for the prevention and treatment of mental health problems.

Signs and symptoms of a mental health concern

Mental health problems in teens can sometimes take unexpected forms. Depression and anxiety can manifest as irritability and noncompliance, which parents may reasonably view as disrespect and laziness. Understanding what is beneath those behaviors is challenging. Teens are quite secretive, so they may not disclose the extent of their struggles.

Traumatic experiences like bullying, dating violence, sexual harassment and assault are unfortunately too common in adolescence and can cause drastic changes in behavior and affect.

Although anxiety is a normal emotional response at any age, about a third of adolescents have some type of anxiety disorder, and about 10% experience severe impairment as a result. Teens struggling with chronic anxiety may experience agitation or irritability, issues with sleep, perfectionist tendencies, or may try to avoid stressful things altogether. Keeping a journal, exercising regularly, and maintaining a sleep routine are three ways for teens to cope with stress.

Among teens, 17% struggle with depression. Depression generally involves a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, but it is more than feeling blue. For teens, symptoms of depression may look like withdrawing from family or social activities, shutting down during conversations or conflict, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, hopelessness about the future or negative feelings of self-worth.

Depression can also be associated with self-harm and suicide.

In determining whether a teen is experiencing a mental illness, parents should consider how behaviors are affecting their teens’ everyday lives and plans for the future. Those who are falling behind in school, damaging important relationships, or engaging in high-risk behaviors may be most likely to be experiencing a mental health issue – as opposed to typical teenage challenges.

A shortage of mental health care

Despite the growing need for mental health care, the U.S. has a dire shortage of professionals to meet the demand. Insurance companies create barriers to accessing mental health care by restricting the numbers of in-network providers and approved sessions. As a result, many providers prioritize patients who will pay out of pocket.

Parents and teens may wait months for an appointment, and the quality and effectiveness of the services they receive are highly variable. All the while, symptoms may worsen, straining the family and compromising teens’ social and academic opportunities.

The powerful role parents can play

This is where parents come in, since they can serve as role models for teens’ coping and emotional development.

While good sleep, consistent exercise and quality meals can often be the first line of defense in preventing and managing symptoms of mental health problems, there are several behavioral strategies for parenting struggling teens. Indeed, foster parents care for children with complex histories of trauma, and many of the behavior management strategies taught to foster parents may be useful for traditional family settings as well.

When teens are unkind or disrespectful, parents may take it personally. But parents who are aware of and able to manage their own triggers can react calmly to challenging behavior, creating opportunities for effective communication with their teen.

Building and maintaining the parent-teen connection, such as by watching a TV show together or other low-pressure opportunities to be together, is key. These experiences create safe spaces and opportunities for teens to communicate about difficult emotions or situations. Parents who assist teens in recognizing, talking about and dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings help them to understand how their thoughts and feelings can affect their behavior. Set up a behavior contract with your teen.

Parents can also help their teens manage negative emotions by reinforcing their self-esteem and strengths and encouraging self-efficacy. Parents who offer praise to their teens who are working hard to overcome challenges – as opposed to focusing solely on the outcome – can help teens see their worth beyond their accomplishments.

At the same time, teens require boundaries that allow them to build self-reliance, exercise independence and practice compromise in certain situations. Behavior contracts – in which teens and their parents agree to certain conditions in writing – can provide a structured way to establish shared expectations.

When consequences are necessary, natural consequences allow teens to learn without parental intervention. For example, if a teen stays up late the night before a big softball game, their coach may bench them for playing poorly. Parents can help teens to connect the frustration and disappointment they experience to their choices regarding sleep, which can be more helpful for their future decision-making than getting into an argument with a parent about their decision or receiving a parent-imposed consequence, such as removing phone privileges.

When natural consequences are not an option, discipline should be specific, time-limited and focused on a specific outcome, such as not allowing preferred activities until homework and chores are complete.

It is also important that parents avoid power struggles with their teens by modeling respectful communication without trying to manage the teen’s reaction or perspective. Teens are unlikely to admit to being wrong – particularly in a heated moment – and if the point is made, there is rarely a benefit to insisting upon a particular reaction such as a forced apology.

Parents can best support their teens by maintaining connection alongside enforcing structure and discipline. While challenging behaviors can be the status quo of adolescence, parents should be on the lookout for signs that might reflect a pervasive mental health issue, since early detection and treatment is crucial.

Toria Herd, Postdoctoral Researcher in Psychology, Penn State and Sarah A. Font, Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, Penn State

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How can you tell if something is true? Here are 3 questions to ask yourself about what you see, hear and read

Emotions can get in the way of knowing what’s true. Elva Etienne/Moment via Getty Images

Bob Britten, West Virginia University

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to

How can I tell if what I am hearing is true? – Adam, age 10, Maui, Hawaii

Have you ever heard a story so exciting you wanted to share it right away? Something like a shark swimming up a flooded highway?

An image that seems to show just that was shared by many people after Hurricane Ian struck Florida in 2022. It was also widely shared after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, in 2017. It’s a fake – a flooded highway image combined with one of a great white shark. The fact-checking website Snopes found it circulating as far back as 2011 after Hurricane Irene slammed Puerto Rico.

Truth can be tricky to determine. Every message you read, see or hear comes from somewhere and was created by someone and for someone.

I teach media literacy, which is a way to think about information you get in the messages you receive via media. You might think media means the news, but it also includes TikTok posts, television, books, advertisements and more.

When deciding whether to trust a piece of information, it’s good to start with three main questions – who said it, what evidence did they give and how much do you want to believe it? The last one might seem a little strange, but you’ll see why it’s important by the end.

Who said it?

Let’s say you’re really excited about a game that’s coming out later this year. You want to be the first to learn about the new creatures, characters and game modes. So when a YouTube video pops up saying, “GAME COMING TWO WEEKS EARLY,” you can’t wait to watch. But when you click, it’s just a guy making predictions. Do you trust him?

A source is where information comes from. You get information from sources every day – from teachers, parents and friends to people you’ve never met on news sites, fan channels and social media. You probably have sources you trust and ones you don’t. But why?

Would you trust your history teacher to tell you something about history? Probably, because they have a college degree that says they know their stuff. But what if your history teacher told you a fact about science your science teacher said was untrue? You’d probably be better off going with the science teacher for your science facts. Just because a source is trustworthy in one subject doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy in every subject.

Let’s go back to the YouTuber. If you’ve watched him for a while and he’s reliably correct, that’s a good start. At the same time, make sure you don’t confuse his having an opinion with actually having knowledge. Just because you like a source doesn’t make it trustworthy.

This is true for websites, too. When a site grabs your attention, take a second to check the source at the top. Some fake sites use names that sound trustworthy – like “Boston Tribune” instead of “Boston Globe” or “” instead of “” You can click the “About” page to see where they’re really coming from, use lists of known fake sites and other fact-checking resources to avoid getting played.

Boy in baseball cap looking at his phone outside on street corner.
Don’t believe everything you see. imtmphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

What’s the evidence?

Evidence is what you show when someone says “prove it!” It’s the details that support what a source is saying.

Primary sources – people or groups who are directly involved with the information – are best. If you want to learn about the release of a new game, the company’s official accounts or channels would be primary sources.

Secondary sources are one step removed – for example, news stories based on primary sources. They aren’t as strong as primary sources but are still useful. For example, most news on gaming site IGN is based on information from game company sources, so it’s a good secondary source.

Can a blogger or YouTuber be a secondary source? If their claims start by referencing primary sources like “Electronic Arts says,” that’s good. But if they start with “I think” or “There’s a lot of buzz,” be careful.

Do you want to believe it?

Emotions can get in the way of knowing what’s true. Messages that make you feel strong emotions – especially ones that are funny or make you angry – are the most important ones to check, but they’re also the hardest to ignore.

Advertisers know this. Many ads try to be funny or make the things they’re selling look cool because they want you to focus on how you feel rather than what you think. And being older doesn’t mean you’re automatically better at spotting false information: 41% of 18-to-34-year-olds and 44% of adults 65 and older admitted to having fallen for a fake news story in a 2018 study. Other research showed adults over 65 were seven times as likely to share articles from fake sites as younger people were.

So if you’ve been eagerly waiting for that new game, and somebody posts a video that says it’s coming out early, your wanting it to be true can make you ignore your common sense – leaving you open to being fooled.

The best question you can ask yourself when you’re thinking about a message is, “Do I want to believe this?” If the answer is yes, it’s a good sign you should slow down and check the source and evidence more closely.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.

Bob Britten, Teaching Associate Professor of Media, West Virginia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Religions have long known that getting away from it all is good for the mind, body and spirit

Rest and relaxation is essential – a lesson religions learned long ago. Maryna Terletska/Moment via Getty Images

Kristen Lucken, Brandeis University

Summer vacations are coming to an end – though not everyone took one.

Under federal law, U.S. companies aren’t required to offer a single paid vacation day, compared to the at least 20 required in the European Union. About 1 in 4 U.S. workers don’t receive any, and even among those who do, few make full use of them. More than half leave at least some vacation days untouched, and almost 1 in 5 say they feel guilty leaving the office, according to a 2019 survey by Priceline.

Americans in lower income brackets are less likely to get away on vacation – a particular concern this summer, with food and gas prices high.

This no-break culture has real consequences for physical, mental and spiritual health. A 2014 Gallup poll found that taking regular vacations with family and friends is linked to a higher sense of well-being, regardless of one’s income. Activities that lead to an improved sense of well-being are positively associated with improved health and productivity.

The importance of getting away from it all isn’t just backed up by contemporary research, though. As a scholar who studies the sociology of religion, I know that religious practices have long emphasized rest and contemplation, which not only improve a person’s mental and physical health, but can also boost a sense of spiritual well-being. And escaping the busyness of everyday life does not have to drain one’s wallet.

Faith, contemplation and rest

Box of Yehuda brand Shabbat candles, used during the Shabbat celebration.
Themes of rest and contemplation are woven through many religious traditions. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam view a day of rest each week as a sacred right and responsibility of believers. The traditional Jewish Shabbat offers a 24-hour period beginning at sundown on Friday when the busyness of everyday life halts. Participants gather to worship, share a meal, study and pray.

Similarly, practicing Muslims celebrate their holy day on Fridays. This is a time when Muslims step away from work to attend a midday jumah, a prayer service at a local mosque, where imams offer sermons on a range of intellectual, spiritual and practical topics and lead congregations in prayer.

Although attendance numbers are declining, many Christians observe the holy Sabbath on Sundays through church attendance, communal worship, music and the sharing of the Eucharist, when Christians consecrate and consume bread and wine representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Christian Sabbath represents a time to rest, pray, worship and spend time with family.

Branches of Islam, Christianity and Judaism additionally call for regular times of prayer and contemplation as part of daily and yearly cycles. In the Islamic tradition, stopping to pray throughout the day represents one of Islam’s five pillars of faith.

Through the practice of meditation, religious traditions quiet the senses to achieve a mindset of rest that they believe brings about heightened consciousness. Hindus, Buddhists and Jains teach the concept of dhyana, which generally translates to “contemplation.”

Through yoga, meditation and other contemplative practices, practitioners can achieve a state of meditative consciousness and self-awareness that can lead to better mental, physical and spiritual health.

Quieting the mind

Religions emphasize the need for rest and quiet reflection so our overcluttered minds can focus on prayer and other contemplative practices. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul discusses how cultivating the “fruit of the spirit” through prayer and contemplation moves us toward patience and away from egocentrism.

Buddhists believe that quieting the mind through meditation can help people recognize that their feelings, perceptions, worldviews and even the self are impermanent features of life that can cause suffering. It can also help people contemplate their connectedness to the world around them.

Rest and contemplation help connect religious people with the deeper sources of meaning they seek to cultivate through scriptural study, meditation and prayer. As the American Trappist monk Thomas Merton explains in his 1948 autobiographical book “The Seven Storey Mountain,” contemplation is a time of rest, the suspension of activity and a “withdrawal into the mysterious interior solitude in which the soul is absorbed in the immense and fruitful silence of God.”

Health benefits of rest and meditation

Medical science has become religion’s unexpected partner in confirming the benefits generated by these religious practices.

Researchers have found an association between downtime, learning and creativity. Sleep, nature walks and exercise offer a number of life-enhancing benefits, including improved memory, productivity and physical health. Recent advances in neuroimaging technologies have allowed researchers to observe brain changes during times of intense prayer, yoga and mindfulness meditation. Scientific evidence suggests that engaging in these practices may lead to improved health and well-being.

A broad range of clinical studies note that regular meditation can physically alter the brain and how it responds to the world. For instance, these practices have been found to transform the brain’s neural pathways and create new neurological networks that can lead to improved health and well-being.

Research on the practices of Japanese and Chinese Buddhist monks reveals benefits for physical and mental health. Furthermore, active meditations, such as yoga, qi gong and tai chi, are found to increase a sense of well-being through the regulation of mood and the reduction in anxiety and depression.

If you can’t break away from work this summer, you can still improve your physical, mental and spiritual health by taking time to rest, exercise, sleep, meditate or pray. Think of these practices as mini “staycations” that allow us to vacate our minds of stress and worry while improving our well-being.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on July 23, 2021.

Kristen Lucken, Lecturer in Religious Studies, Brandeis University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ray’s Ramblings 11-16-2022

Well looks like that here in the U.S.A. are in for 2 years of a get nothing done congress, a bunch of party-motivated investigations, and so on now that it is a divided congress between Republicans and Democrats. The House will waste money and time on vengeance comities to hurt the Biden administration and the democrats that headed up the Jan 6th committee and so on. I really hope the republicans do not go down that road, had enough of comities and investigations from the Democrats and I think their time would be better spent trying to reach across the aisle and make some bi-partisan legislation to take care of all those problems they touted the democrats either failed at, etc.

To be honest, I am about fed up with both parties in our government and all their rhetoric, disdain for each other, and b.s. they exaggerate to pump up their voters, etc. If both parties spent just half the energy and money on fixing issues this country is facing that they put into their campaigns and partisan agendas we probably would be a far better off country than we are. Both sides are leaning too much to the extreme in their rhetoric and policies I think, the days of having moderates that are willing to reach across the aisle are basically a thing of the past. If a party member reaches across the aisle they get labeled as a traitor or a Rino / Dino by their colleagues and that is just unproductive and quite juvenile.

We elected those people in congress to represent us all, not just the base of their party or just their party alone. They need to listen to who they were elected by more than they listen to the party in the end. We need good people in office who serve the people and not just follow the beat of one political party or another. Sure stick by their party’s values and political framework for the most part but represent the people who put them in power and also pay their paychecks. We need leaders in congress, not lemmings that follow the crowd, people who get stuff done and think outside the box that being in a political party puts them in.

Well, that’s my political rant for the end of this year, and it is not aimed at one party or another, both sides have been failing us in many ways. I really hope that politics will soon not be on the news all week and we can return to a somewhat normalcy in the news cycle and in life. I wish my Democrat, Independent, Republican, and third-party brothers and sisters happy holidays and peace on earth.

Peace and blessings to all

How cancer cells can become immortal – new research finds a mutated gene that helps melanoma defeat the normal limits on repeated replication

Melanoma is a particularly aggressive form of skin cancer. Dlumen/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Pattra Chun-On, University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences and Jonathan Alder, University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences

A defining characteristic of cancer cells is their immortality. Usually, normal cells are limited in the number of times they can divide before they stop growing. Cancer cells, however, can overcome this limitation to form tumors and bypass “mortality” by continuing to replicate.

Telomeres play an essential role in determining how many times a cell can divide. These repetitive sequences of DNA are located at the ends of chromosomes, structures that contain genetic information. In normal cells, continued rounds of replication shorten telomeres until they become so short that they eventually trigger the cell to stop replicating. In contrast, tumor cells can maintain the lengths of their telomeres by activating an enzyme called telomerase that rebuilds telomeres during each replication.

Diagram of chromosome with red telomeres at the ends
Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of chromosomes. FancyTapis/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Telomerase is encoded by a gene called TERT, one of the most frequently mutated genes in cancer. TERT mutations cause cells to make a little too much telomerase and are thought to help cancer cells keep their telomeres long even though they replicate at high rates. Melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, is highly dependent on telomerase to grow, and three-quarters of all melanomas acquire mutations in telomerase. These same TERT mutations also occur across other cancer types.

Unexpectedly, researchers found that TERT mutations could only partially explain the longevity of telomeres in melanoma. While TERT mutations did indeed extend the life span of cells, they did not make them immortal. That meant there must be something else that helps telomerase allow cells to grow uncontrollably. But what that “second hit” might be has been unclear.

We are researchers who study the role telomeres play in human health and diseases like cancer in the Alder Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. While investigating the ways that tumors maintain their telomeres, we and our colleagues found another piece to the puzzle: another telomere-associated gene in melanoma. Cancer is a result of uncontrollable cell growth.

Cell immortality gets a boost

Our team focused on melanoma because this type of cancer is linked to people with long telomeres. We examined DNA sequencing data from hundreds of melanomas, looking for mutations in genes related to telomere length.

We identified a cluster of mutations in a gene called TPP1. This gene codes for one of the six proteins that form a molecular complex called shelterin that coats and protects telomeres. Even more interesting is the fact that TPP1 is known to activate telomerase. Identifying the TPP1 gene’s connection to cancer telomeres was, in a way, obvious. After all, it was more than a decade ago that researchers showed that TPP1 would increase telomerase activity.

We tested whether having an excess of TPP1 could make cells immortal. When we introduced just TPP1 proteins into cells, there was no change in cell mortality or telomere length. But when we introduced TERT and TPP1 proteins at the same time, we found that they worked synergistically to cause significant telomere lengthening.

To confirm our hypothesis, we then inserted TPP1 mutations into melanoma cells using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. We saw an increase in the amount of TPP1 protein the cells made, and a subsequent increase in telomerase activity. Finally, we returned to the DNA sequencing data and found that 5% of all melanomas have a mutation in both TERT and TPP1. While this is still a significant proportion of melanomas, there are likely other factors that contribute to telomere maintenance in this cancer.

Our findings imply that TPP1 is likely one of the missing puzzle pieces that boost telomerase’s capacity to maintain telomeres and support tumor growth and immortality.

Making cancer mortal

Knowing that cancer use these genes in their replication and growth means that researchers could also block them and potentially stop telomeres from lengthening and make cancer cells mortal. This discovery not only gives scientists another potential avenue for cancer treatment, but also draws attention to an underappreciated class of mutations outside the traditional boundaries of genes that can play a role in cancer diagnostics.

Pattra Chun-On, Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences and Jonathan Alder, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.