Diet can influence mood, behavior and more – a neuroscientist explains

What we eat matters, and having just the right amount of essential nutrients is key to our overall health. Niusha Shodja and Saina Heshmati, Storylab, CC BY-NC-ND

Monica Dus, University of Michigan

During the long seafaring voyages of the 15th and 16th centuries, a period known as the Age of Discovery, sailors reported experiencing visions of sublime foods and verdant fields. The discovery that these were nothing more than hallucinations after months at sea was agonizing. Some sailors wept in longing; others threw themselves overboard.

The cure for these harrowing mirages turned out to be not a concoction of complex chemicals, as once suspected, but rather the simple antidote of lemon juice. These sailors suffered from scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, an essential micronutrient that people acquire from eating fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C is important for the production and release of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the brain. In its absence, brain cells do not communicate effectively with one another, which can lead to hallucinations.

As this famous example of early explorers illustrates, there is an intimate connection between food and the brain, one that researchers like me are working to unravel. As a scientist who studies the neuroscience of nutrition at the University of Michigan, I am primarily interested in how components of food and their breakdown products can alter the genetic instructions that control our physiology.

Beyond that, my research is also focused on understanding how food can influence our thoughts, moods and behaviors. While we can’t yet prevent or treat brain conditions with diet, researchers like me are learning a great deal about the role that nutrition plays in the everyday brain processes that make us who we are.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a delicate balance of nutrients is key for brain health: Deficiencies or excesses in vitamins, sugars, fats and amino acids can influence brain and behavior in either negative or positive ways.

Vitamins and mineral deficiencies

As with vitamin C, deficits in other vitamins and minerals can also precipitate nutritional diseases that adversely impact the brain in humans. For example, low dietary levels of vitamin B3/niacin – typically found in meat and fish – cause pellagra, a disease in which people develop dementia.

Niacin is essential to turn food into energy and building blocks, protect the genetic blueprint from environmental damage and control how much of certain gene products are made. In the absence of these critical processes, brain cells, also known as neurons, malfunction and die prematurely, leading to dementia.

In animal models, decreasing or blocking the production of niacin in the brain promotes neuronal damage and cell death. Conversely, enhancing niacin levels has been shown to mitigate the effects of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. Observational studies in humans suggest that sufficient levels of niacin may protect against these diseases, but the results are still inconclusive.

Interestingly, niacin deficiency caused by consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to similar effects as those found with pellagra.

Another example of how a nutrient deficiency affects brain function can be found in the element iodine, which, like niacin, must be acquired from one’s diet. Iodine, which is present in seafood and seaweed, is an essential building block for thyroid hormones – signaling molecules that are important for many aspects of human biology, including development, metabolism, appetite and sleep. Low iodine levels prevent the production of adequate amounts of thyroid hormones, impairing these essential physiological processes.

Iodine is particularly important to the developing human brain; before table salt was supplemented with this mineral in the 1920s, iodine deficiency was a major cause of cognitive disability worldwide. The introduction of iodized salt is thought to have contributed to the gradual rise in IQ scores in the past century.

Ketogenic diet for epilepsy

Not all dietary deficiencies are detrimental to the brain. In fact, studies show that people with drug-resistant epilepsy – a condition in which brain cells fire uncontrollably – can reduce the number of seizures by adopting an ultralow-carbohydrate regimen, known as a ketogenic diet, in which 80% to 90% of calories are obtained from fat.

Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for the body. When they are not available – either because of fasting or because of a ketogenic diet – cells obtain fuel by breaking down fats into compounds called ketones. Utilization of ketones for energy leads to profound shifts in metabolism and physiology, including the levels of hormones circulating in the body, the amount of neurotransmitters produced by the brain and the types of bacteria living in the gut.

Researchers think that these diet-dependent changes, especially the higher production of brain chemicals that can quiet down neurons and decrease levels of inflammatory molecules, may play a role in the ketogenic diet’s ability to lower the number of seizures. These changes may also explain the benefits of a ketogenic state – either through diet or fasting – on cognitive function and mood. Some foods can negatively affect your memory and mood.

Sugar, saturated fats and ultraprocessed foods

Excess levels of some nutrients can also have detrimental effects on the brain. In humans and animal models, elevated consumption of refined sugars and saturated fats – a combination commonly found in ultraprocessed foods – promotes eating by desensitizing the brain to the hormonal signals known to regulate satiety.

Interestingly, a diet high in these foods also desensitizes the taste system, making animals and humans perceive food as less sweet. These sensory alterations may affect food choice as well as the reward we get from food. For example, research shows that people’s responses to ice cream in brain areas important for taste and reward are dulled when they eat it every day for two weeks. Some researchers think this decrease in food reward signals may enhance cravings for even more fatty and sugary foods, similar to the way smokers crave cigarettes.

High-fat and processed-food diets are also associated with lower cognitive function and memory in humans and animal models as well as a higher incidence of neurodegenerative diseases. However, researchers still don’t know if these effects are due to these foods or to the weight gain and insulin resistance that develop with long-term consumption of these diets.

Time scales

This brings us to a critical aspect of the effect of diet on the brain: time. Some foods can influence brain function and behavior acutely – such as over hours or days – while others take weeks, months or even years to have an effect. For instance, eating a slice of cake rapidly shifts the fat-burning, ketogenic metabolism of an individual with drug-resistant epilepsy into a carbohydrate-burning metabolism, increasing the risk of seizures. In contrast, it takes weeks of sugar consumption for taste and the brain’s reward pathways to change, and months of vitamin C deficiency to develop scurvy. Finally, when it comes to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, risk is influenced by years of dietary exposures in combination with other genetic or lifestyle factors such as smoking.

In the end, the relationship between food and the brain is a bit like the delicate Goldilocks: We need not too little, not too much but just enough of each nutrient.

Monica Dus, Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan

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


How Stoicism influenced music from the French Renaissance to Pink Floyd

‘All things are possible,’ Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters said of the message contained in the band’s eighth album, ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ David Redfern/Redferns via Getty Images

Melinda Latour, Tufts University

Have you ever turned to music when struggling with a difficult emotion, like sadness, anxiety or anger?

Most people believe that music has some therapeutic power, and that confidence is increasingly backed by empirical evidence. However, there remains little consensus on precisely how or why music has an ability to influence our emotional, physical and mental well-being.

Since ancient times, physicians and philosophers have explored the power of music in human life. Although the writings of Plato and Aristotle are more famous, another ancient school of philosophy, Stoicism, cultivated an interest in music’s therapeutic potential.

Given that the word “stoic” is mostly used to describe a rigid, emotionless person, Stoic musical practices would seem doomed to the boring or bizarre.

But Stoicism – the capital “S” kind – is a school of thought that’s really more about managing turbulent emotions in everyday life. This casts their connection to music in a different light, and it helps explain how Stoicism positively shaped the course of intellectual and music history.

Control what you can

Founded in ancient Athens and peaking in popularity in first century Rome, Stoicism was developed by philosophers like Seneca, Epictetus and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to manage destructive emotions such as anxiety, anger and grief through exercises that shift perspective. The question of control forms the core of this method. The Stoics taught that it is only by recognizing and accepting what is beyond a person’s control that a person can exert maximal control over what is within their power.

Importantly, the Stoic approach does not seek to directly suppress bad emotions but focuses instead on reshaping a person’s worldview, so that when they encounter difficulty or trauma, they will be prepared to experience emotions less destructively.

This strategy of putting things in perspective may seem familiar; the founders of cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the most popular forms of psychotherapy today, directly borrowed from Stoicism.

In recent years – and especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – interest in Stoicism has surged, with people from diverse political and economic backgrounds recognizing the efficacy of this ancient system to address afflictions like anxiety and addiction.

In turbulent times, Neostoicism emerges

So where does music fit into all of this?

As a historical musicologist, I have done extensive research on musical practices inspired by the revival of Stoicism in late-16th and 17th-century France, a movement known as Neostoicism.

Painting of a skull, shells, musical compositions and an hourglass.
Painter Carstian Luyckx depicts Neostoic reminders of the shortness of life: a skull, dying flowers and an hourglass. Wikimedia Commons

Emerging in the wake of the violent French Wars of Religion, Neostoics looked to Stoicism as a remedy for social and political instability. They developed a vocal music repertoire to teach the principles of the system, guiding singers and listeners to “rehearse” Stoic techniques of emotional regulation through informal musical gatherings in people’s homes.

These songs illustrated Stoic principles through musical “text painting,” in which specific words, actions or concepts were musically conveyed through sound – and, sometimes, visuals – in the score.

Take an example from 1582 – “L’eau va viste,” a poem by Antoine de Chandieu that was set to music by Paschal de L’Estocart.

  L’eau va viste en s’escoulant, 
  Plus viste le traict volant, 
  Et plus viste encore passe 
  Le vent qui les nues chasse.
  Mais de la joye mondaine
  La course est si tressoudaine,
  Qu’elle passe encor devant
  L’eau et le traict et le vent.

  Water flows quickly,
  Even faster the flying arrow,
  And faster still passes,
  The wind which chases the clouds,
  But of worldly joy,
  Its course is so sudden, 
  That it passes even before, 
  The water, the arrow, and the wind.

Numerous Stoic writings, such as Seneca’s “On the Brevity of Life,” evoke similar imagery of running water to warn against placing one’s happiness in external comforts and securities, which, like a current, quickly pass.

L’Estocart’s musical arrangement for “L’eau va viste” picks up on this quality of motion. A snowballing rhythm gains momentum with each new example of quick passing.

The river of time

Zoom ahead almost four centuries, and the English rock band Pink Floyd composed a strikingly similar musical reflection in their iconic song “Time” from their 1973 album, “Dark Side of the Moon.”

The album outlines all the major forces and concerns that can drive people insane: aging, death, fear, greed and violence.

Mental health held particular salience for the band. Their founding frontman, Syd Barrett, had a mental breakdown only a few years prior. According to Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, the album is about “life with a heartbeat,” and the band signals this by opening and closing the album with a slow, simulated heartbeat that sounds somehow both mechanical and profoundly human.

The opening of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ features the beating of a heart.

Developing this rhythmic symbolism further, the single “Time” uses numerous musical strategies to draw attention to the fragility of human life.

The track opens with a meandering two-and-a-half minute instrumental introduction, slowly building from a breathy synthesizer drone to the disorienting sound of numerous ticking clocks. Then there’s a cacophony of alarms before listeners hear a mechanical bass click that sounds like a metronome or a mechanical heartbeat.

In ‘Time,’ the opening chaos of sounds eventually settles into a groove.

The entrance of the electric guitar and increasingly regular musical phrases finally set up the arrival of the vocals in the first verse: “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day / fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way.”

This unusual extended instrumental introduction destabilizes a listener’s expectation of musical time and demands greater attention to the moment-by-moment sensations of its passing. The lyrics throughout the song reinforce this initial musical warning –that listeners must pay close attention to the flow of time and to make sure it’s used with purpose and meaning.

“The time is gone. The song is over,” the lyrics conclude, “Thought I’d something more to say.”

An internal store of power

These two musical examples, composed nearly 400 years apart, model a core element of Stoic therapy: By meditating on the fragility of time, Stoics seek not to instill dread, but to reveal death and transience as natural aspects of the human experience that can be faced without anxiety. This calm acceptance offers a release from destructive emotions like fear and yearning that pull our attention to the future and the past. As Marcus Aurelius recommended, “Give yourself a gift – the present moment.”

Stoicism and its abundant artistic echoes are easily misread as pessimistic because of this relentless focus on human mortality and fragility. This negative reading misses Stoicism’s profoundly optimistic and empowering message, which is that our mental freedom remains in our control, regardless of our external circumstances.

Waters highlighted exactly this point in his defense of the humanism of “Dark Side of the Moon,” explaining that “Despite the rather depressing ending … there is an allowance that all things are possible, that the potential is in our hands.”

Music, from this perspective, offers a way to learn about the therapeutic method of the Stoics in a way that goes beyond the contemplation of philosophical lyrics. These examples – and many others in the Stoic tradition that so thoughtfully unite words and sounds – transform helpful Stoic advice into a therapeutic practice guided through the twists and turns of song.

Melinda Latour, Assistant Professor of Musicology, Tufts University

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

Which microbes live in your gut? A microbiologist tries at-home test kits to see what they reveal about the microbiome

You and the trillions of microbes in your gut can live in harmony. Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Benjamin Wolfe, Tufts University

When you hear about the gut microbiome, does it ever make you wonder what tiny creatures are teeming inside your own body? As a microbiologist who studies the microbiomes of plants, animals and people, I’ve watched public interest in gut microbes grow alongside research on their possible dramatic influence on human health. In the past several years, microbiome testing techniques used by researchers like me are now available to consumers at home. These personal gut microbiome testing kits claim to tell you what organisms live in your gut and how to improve your gut microbiome using that data.

I became very interested in how these home test kits work, what kind of information they provide and whether they can really help you change your gut microbiome. So I ordered a few kits from Viome, Biohm and Floré, tried them out and sifted through my own microbiome data. Here is what I learned. Your gut microbiome can be a partner in your health – if you have the right bacteria.

How do gut microbiome kits work?

All gut microbiome kits require you to carefully collect fresh fecal material. You put it in the various tubes provided in the kit and mail the samples back to the company. Several weeks later, you’ll receive a report describing the types of microbes living in your gut and suggestions on how to change your diet or activities to potentially alter your gut microbiome.

What consumers don’t exactly know is how companies generate the microbial profile data from your fecal sample. A typical approach I and other microbiome researchers use is to extract and decode the microbial genetic material from a sample. We use that genetic material to identify what species of microbes are present. The challenge is that this process can be done in many different ways, and there are no widely agreed-upon standards for what is the best method.

Three gut microbiome test kits (Floré, Biohm, Viome) and a roll of toilet paper displayed on a tile floor
Different home gut microbiome test kits can give conflicting results. Benjamin Wolfe, CC BY-NC-ND

For example, microbiome analyses can be done on two types of genetic material, RNA or DNA. If the profile is based on DNA, it can give you a snapshot only of what types of microbes are present, not what microbial genes are active or what activities they are doing in your body. On the other hand, if the profile is based on RNA, it can tell you not only what microbes are present, but also whether they’re playing a role in your digestion or producing metabolites that can reduce gut inflammation, among other functions. Viome generates its profiles by looking at RNA, while the other companies use DNA.

Other data analysis choices, such as how different types of genetic sequences are sorted or which databases are used to identify the microbes, can also affect the level of detail and utility of the final data. Microbiome scientists are usually very careful to point out these nuances when interpreting their own data in scientific papers, but these details are not clearly presented in home microbiome kits.

What I learned about my gut microbiome

Though I used the same fecal sample for each kit, mixed well to ensure uniformity, I was surprised that each of the three products I tried gave me different impressions of my gut microbiome.

Each company gives an overall “score” on how your microbiome compares with what they consider to be “good” or “healthy.” My scores ranged from 39% (not great) to 72% (good). Interestingly, Viome, which infers microbial activity by using RNA, gave the lowest score. It noted that certain microbial activities happening in my gut, such as methane production and digestion efficiency, were not optimal.

I was also surprised by the variation in total microbial diversity each company reported. While there was general agreement in the overall groups of microbes present at the phylum level, a more general biological grouping, there was a huge range of variation at the species level, the most specific grouping. One company reported 527 species of microbes in my microbiome, while another reported 312. One reported only 27.

Diagram depicting taxonomic rankings from species to kingdom
Organisms like microbes can be classified into groups of relatedness, from highly specific (species) to very general (kingdom). VectorMine/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Perhaps the most surprising most surprising finding was that my gut may harbor a microbe that could (there are many caveats here!) pose a problem for me in the future if I experience certain medical situations. Even though all companies explicitly looked for this microbe in my gut microbiome sample, only two actually found it. While I won’t name the exact microbe to protect my health privacy, I am not too worried about this result because more information, such as full genome sequencing of the microbe, is needed to better understand if this is actually a concerning strain of this microbe. But this finding does point to some surprising variation in results across different testing kits.

Can this data really improve your gut microbiome?

Many microbiome scientists like me would probably argue that the data these kits provide are limited in terms of giving you the power to alter your health. This is partly because gut microbiome science is still a new field with many unanswered questions.

One challenge is that different people can have different proportions of microbes present in their gut. This variation has made it difficult for scientists and health professionals to agree on what type of microbial community makes a gut “healthy.” Some specific species, such as the bacterium C. diff, and some broad groups, like Proteobacteria, are usually considered undesirable in high amounts. But there is no clear consensus on why one microbiome might be better than another.

Even if you did try to improve your gut microbiome based on what your gut test told you, the results might not turn out as you hoped. Probiotics or diet changes can alter the diversity of your gut microbiome and how it functions, but studies often find that each person can have different responses to these interventions, possibly because of their own unique microbiome composition. The personalized ecology of gut microbial communities, combined with genetics, diet and other factors, makes it challenging to prescribe universal solutions.

So why bother getting a gut microbiome test? For me, it was illuminating to learn what microbes I carry around with me each day. When I eat my lunch, go for a run or get stressed out, the microbes in my gut respond to changes in my body. Researchers may not completely understand what those changes mean and how to manage our microbial partners, but getting to know who they are is a great first step.

Benjamin Wolfe, Associate Professor of Biology, Tufts 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.

Raymond’s Random Thoughts 8-8-2022

person standing and holding lamp inside cave
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on

The past holds the keys to the present, all of our experiences, words, actions, and inactions of the past are what created the circumstances and situations we face in the now. Just as what we experience, do, and say in the present maps out what the future will bring. There is of course the influence of others and random circumstances that have some effect on where we are and will be in the future, but we are still the architects of our lives in the end. If one produces constant negative thoughts and actions it tends to attract negative people and circumstances their way, the same is to be said if you are a positive producing person. Though occasionally some tragic circumstance comes around and disrupts ones life, it is one of those things we may not be able to control, but we are in full control of how we react to the circumstance and how much it affects our lives.

I believe it is far better to be kind, forgiving, and compassionate than it is to be angry, bitter, and judgemental. Not saying I do not go through rough patches in my life or that I don’t fall into those emotions, I just try to avoid being negative and pull myself out of that pit of emotional darkness as quickly as possible when I do fall in. Being angry, bitter, and negative tends to eat away at your happiness and wastes a bunch of your precious time. It slowly eats away at your energy and keeps you preoccupied with such things as revenge and can lead to depression. Forgiveness is one of the best tools we have as humans to combat anger and bitterness. Forgiving others does not only release them from the transgression they committed but it also releases you from the hurt and anger associated with it. Forgiveness does a dual job as I stated and is the best way to deal with the fact we all are imperfect and make mistakes.

sign texture abstract vintage
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Trust is a double-edged sword of sorts, it can make one secure and feel a sense of peace but if trust is lost it can cause great turmoil, and bring about hate. Yet once again forgiveness can take care of the anger and pain associated with the loss of trust. More than likely trust will never be there again or it will be on a lesser level, but at least the pain and anger will not bring you down or cause you more problems down the line. Just remember, no matter how great of a man or woman one may be, they are only human and are prone to make some pretty poor decisions at times. There is nobody who can say they have never made a mistake or let another person down in life. It is all about how you deal with and make up for those mistakes more than the mistakes themselves. As far as those who do bad things repeatedly with no remorse and never will correct their ways, forgive them but then move on and no longer be associated with them. Best to let go of toxic people who find a twisted sense of pleasure in doing others harm.

There will always be bullies, evil and vile people in this world, they will have much power as long as society accepts them and sometimes glorifies them in movies, tv, and on the news. I think it all starts in the school years, the cool kids usually are mean, bullish, and narcissistic. The regular kids and those that are picked on either fear the cool kids or look up to them only reinforcing the bad behaviors and vanity of those who are popular/cool. Thus when those kids become adults they continue to believe that they can continue being the way they are with no consequences. The average kids continue on to be average adults who still look up to or envy those who are popular and those that were bullied continue on living in fear of rejection and struggle to succeed in life. To be fair many of the kids that were so-called popular and/or cool will grow up and out of that juvenile mentality but there is still a percentage that never let go of it.

letter tiles on white surface
Photo by Faith Giant on

The only solution I myself can think of is to start celebrating and promoting the children that are kind-natured and show distaste for bullies and similar. Being kind and compassionate is not a sign of weakness as some want to claim, it takes a strong person to be kind and compassionate in dire times. Some of the strongest and toughest people I’ve known were very kind and compassionate. Some even took on bullies to protect those who were too timid to stand up for themselves. What a wonderful world it would be if we all were compassionate and kind, the strong would protect the weak, and those with would happily give to those without. Guess I am just a dreamer, and as John Lennon said I don’t think I am the only one.

Well, that is all, enough of my random thoughts for today.

Be blessed and be good to one another

Ray’s Ramblings 08-06-2022

grayscale photo of river in between trees
Photo by Alexey Demidov on

Life with all its wonders and all its pitfalls is full of experiences for all to embrace, like pedals of a flower on the water we float down the stream of life passing by other pedals, and sometimes we even flow side by side. When we are fortunate enough to share the journey down the stream with others, we gain so many experiences and even if it is for a brief moment we get to feel the connection between us all.

fired charcoal
Photo by Engin Akyurt on

We walk the path of life feeling as if we are singular, separate from all others walking the same path, but in reality, we are all one, parts of the whole experience called life. We all are connected to one another in one fashion or another, our every thought, feeling, and action ripples outward and affects the whole experience of life. Every life is like an ember unto a fire, each ember adds its heat and uniqueness to the flames, and each ember is equally important to the fire as a whole. No Ember is greater or lesser, they all play a part in keeping the fire going.

cutout paper appliques of sick and healthy human figures
Photo by Monstera on

So many go through life feeling alone and singular when in fact they are not alone and a part of the great mystery of life. If more people could realize the connection between all living things is real and exists, there would probably be far less loneliness and possibly a whole lot less anger and fear in this world. Forgiveness would come easier and compassion would be more abundant if people realized that everyone is part of the same big family and experience called life.

Is it not interesting how so many religions, philosophies, and ancient texts point to the ideals of compassion, selflessness, and forgiveness, and yet we seem to ignore those things and embrace things such as war, anger, and separatism or elitism? It seems so much easier for one to fear, hate or judge others with no compassion than it is to love, forgive and embrace each other as family. Things such as greed, lust, hate, and fear seem to rule humanity more than one would like to admit, but then in times of disasters and turmoil the good in people can pour out and people can do amazing things in the name of love and compassion. So there is still some hope for us humans still in these trying times.

diverse women stacking hands on wooden table
Photo by Alexander Suhorucov on

Conquer fear, push aside hate and the rest of the negative emotions we have as humans, and reach out to one another. Reassure your brother and sisters they are not alone on this path of life and help one another along. This is how it is supposed to be, we are meant to be each other’s helpers and companions in life. Agree to disagree when you can not find a compromise and always put the well-being of not only yourself but of all life as your highest priority.

Life is not always easy, But this is why we have one another, we need each one of us to get through this life. Together as a whole, there is very little we can overcome or accomplish as a species. So open your minds, and hearts then hold out your hand when others are in need so that when you are in need someone will do the same.

Blessings to all

How Is Your Love (Tonight) by ALLIE FARRIS

How is your love (tonight) from the album you make me smile by Allie Farris is Available at (link to album)

Song and Album are released under Creative Commons Licensing, Click the link to the album for more info.

Boomers, Grandchildren Find Common Ground Through Music

(NewsUSA) – As mayor of D’Lo, Mississippi, one of John Henry Berry’s recent challenges included tracking down errant employees — goats he had positioned to clip the town’s ball fields had wandered off. The quest for the goats is an example of the quirky challenges facing Mayor Berry and featured in the reality series, “Small Town, Big Mayor,” airing on UP TV on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time.The series offers a refreshing escape from the negative attitude surrounding much of politics today with a behind-the-scenes look at a hard-working mayor and his family who want to make their town a better place and to help it survive and thrive in the future.The residents of D’Lo include 456 people, as well as 240 cows. Mayor Berry wears multiple hats, serving not only as mayor, but also as town arbitrator, dog catcher, landscaper, sewer repairman, volunteer fireman, high school football announcer, Parish drummer, and 4H Firearms Instructor, to name a few. He also finds time to be the father of five children: Ashley, Ben, Autumn, Preston, and Josh; and husband to Angie.The fourth-generation resident of D’Lo is known for his positive attitude, white suits, and the inclination to drive around town in a golf cart.”The love of my town inspired me to run for mayor,” says Mayor Berry. “As a native of D’Lo, Miss., I want to improve the town and bring in tourism,” he adds. Specific plans to attract tourists include opening a restaurant, he notes.In addition to the restaurant, his goals include legalizing golf carts in D’Lo, making the town more environmentally friendly, putting D’Lo on Kickstarter, building a library, and launching a campaign to recruit new volunteer firemen.Each episode of “Small Town, Big Mayor” will focus on some aspect of his 95-point plan to revitalize the town.In the meantime, Mayor Berry gracefully juggles daily challenges of small-town administrations.”There’s nothing I won’t do for D’Lo,” says Berry. One surprise: “I had to learn to work on the water well and sewage system to keep things functioning properly without spending money the city didn’t have,” he says.Tune in to “Small Town, Big Mayor” for a taste of genuine community spirit as the citizens rally around the mayor. As Mayor Berry says, “We may be tiny, but we have a lot of heart.”

New Book Explores Link Between Music, Spiritualism, and Science

(NewsUSA) – -In the wake of the ongoing pandemic, many people have taken the opportunity for introspection, and many are exploring spirituality and the meaning of the universe in a new way.For Christians, God is the creator, and a new book explores a unique way of examining creation from the perspective of quantum physics, and the interaction of music, light, and sound.Len Mink, a show business veteran, discovered his personal relationship with Jesus in 1971, a relationship that sustained him through a bout with a potentially terminal blood disease. However, he was cured and continued his work as a composer and performer.Mink has produced more than 30 albums of contemporary Christian music as well as hymns projects.Most recently, Mink channeled his musical background to delve into the relationship between music, science, and the realm of the Spirit.In his book, “The Supernatural Power of Music — A Quantum Leap Into Worship,” he presents the essence of the connection among sound, light, music, worship, and quantum physics.”It seems that ‘quantum speak’ and ‘faith speak’ are one and the same,” says Mink.”Science is the discipline of discovering things that already exist,” he adds. Mr. Mink takes readers on a journey into the musicality of the universe, from quasars to crickets.The relationship between music and quantum physics continues to be an area of intrigue and study.A recent article on the PBS website’s NOVA section notes that, in fact, the universe is built on harmonies, and that mathematical patterns not only define musical scales that make the tunes we love to hear, they also describe the waves and frequencies involved in quantum physics and studied by scientists over the ages.”The well-known phrase, ‘knowledge is power,’ is visibly demonstrated in this treasure chest of revelation, giving us an exciting look into both the macro and micro-universe,” Mink notes.Mink’s goal in writing the book is to awaken the spiritual in all people, breathe divine energy into every level of one’s being, and “unlock the life that your heart has been desperately hungering for,” he says.”We live in an ever-revealing cosmos, teeming with the frequencies of life, bombarding you and affecting your emotions, your moods, your mind, and even your physical body. Open your whole being to the Divine Orchestrator and experience the ‘Supernatural Power of Music,’Mink urges.The book is available in paperback direct from Len Mink Ministries or Amazon, through download on Kindle, and audiobook in MP3 and CD format (read by author).For more information, visit

Music and Dance Drives New Blood Pressure Campaign

(NewsUSA) -Approximately half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, but many don’t know it, according to the American Heart Association. A new public service campaign from the American Heart Association, American Medical Association and Ad Council in partnership with HHS Office of Minority Health and Health Resources & Services Administration encourages all adults to take control by monitoring their blood pressure at home and sharing the numbers with their doctor.The “Get Down with Your Blood Pressure” public service announcement uses catchy music and memorable dance moves to get the attention of people who have and are at increased risk for high blood pressure and negative health consequences associated with it, such as heart attack, stroke and severe complications of COVID-19.The campaign keeps it simple, and encourages those with high blood pressure to regularly follow four easy steps: “Get It, Slip It, Cuff It, Check It.” That means Get the blood pressure cuff, Slip it on, use the band to Cuff your arm, Check your blood pressure with a validated monitor and share the numbers with your doctor. The campaign’s detailed instructional videos are available in English and Spanish.”This new campaign is a fun way to get people engaged in monitoring their blood pressure and keeping it under control — which can often feel daunting to many patients”– and is timely given that high blood pressure puts patients at higher risk of severe complications of COVID-19,” says American Medical Association president Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “We are committed to eliminating structural drivers of health inequities that place Black and Brown communities at increasing risk of heart disease,” Dr. Harmon adds.The campaign emphasizes self-monitoring and encourages individuals to work with their doctors to create a personalized plan to manage and treat high blood pressure. Changes to unhealthy eating habits and increases in physical activity may be all it takes to get your blood pressure to a healthy range. However, sometimes it’s not that simple. If your doctor prescribes a blood pressure medication, be sure to take it as directed.”This campaign is part of the American Heart Association’s National Hypertension Control Initiative,” says Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., ScM, F.A.H.A., president of the American Heart Association, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research and Professor of Preventive Medicine, Medicine, and Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois. “The initiative encompasses direct education and training on blood pressure measurement and management with health care professionals in community health centers and community-based organizations. We are meeting people where they are with access to blood pressure education and resources to reduce high blood pressure in communities that need it most.”Visit for more information about blood pressure management.