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5 Ways to Feel Happier Right Now

Monday, September 8, 2014

Many factors influence happiness, including some that are outside of our control—research suggests that around 50% of individual variation in happiness is based on genetics, and 10-20% is based on life circumstances such as health status and income level. Happiness, in other words, does come more easily to some people than to others.

But there is hope: Research conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues has found that up to 40% of individual variation in happiness is shaped by intentional behaviors—the things we do every day, moment to moment. These behaviors have the potential to diminish or enhance our happiness. 

What kinds of intentional behaviors are more likely to enhance happiness? Here are a few: a few:
  1. Do something active.

    Research suggests that physical activity is one of the more effective ways to increase happiness—so effective that some studies have found that it works just as well as antidepressant medications in alleviating depression—and may have more lasting effects. The problem is, feeling down doesn’t generally inspire one to get up and run. To make exercise seem less daunting, keep in mind that you don’t need to join a gym or run a marathon to reap its benefits. Even walking around the block can make a difference, as can dancing around your living room, stretching in your office, or even cleaning.
  2. Do something new.

    One of the biggest obstacles to improving happiness levels ishedonic adaptation—our tendency to get used to things when we’re exposed to them over and over. When it comes to positive things, this means we enjoy them less. So even if you already have a go-to mood-booster (like watching your favorite Saturday Night Livesketches on YouTube), you may find that it’s less effective the more often you use it. Interspersing new activities with the tried-and-true can add more variety and spontaneity to your routine, reducing the effects of hedonic adaptation.
  3. Do something for someone else.

    One of the surest routes to increasing personal happiness is to look out for someone else’s. Research suggests, for example, thatspending money on others leads to greater happiness than spending money on yourself. To get a happiness boost, you could donate to a cause or order a gift for a friend's birthday. But you don’t need to spend money to reap the benefits—simply sending well-wishes to others can increase well-being. Loving-kindness meditation, which involves directing caring feelings and intentions toward close and distant others, has been shown to increase positive emotions, purpose in life, and life satisfaction. The sustained practice of loving-kindness meditation is more likely to have lasting effects on happiness, but even brief exposure has benefits. Also helpful are gestures that express love, gratitude, or support—for example, you could check in with someone who is going through a hard time, or write a letter of gratitude to someone who has positively affected your life.
  4. Do something enjoyable—and savor it.

    Research suggests that the ability to savor positive experiencesis a key ingredient in happiness. Savoring involves actively paying attention to the pleasure or beauty of an experience as it is occurring, rather than letting your mind wander to other thoughts until you realize it’s already passed you by. Sometimes the best way to learn to savor is to find something small and seemingly insignificant that you might ordinarily not pay much attention to, and try to appreciate it in a new way. You could, for example, try the Raisin Meditation, a classic practice used in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program—you will never look at raisins the same again.
  5. Do nothing at all.

    On the hedonic treadmill, we’re always looking for the next thing that we believe will bring us greater happiness. But while there’s nothing wrong with aiming to improve our lot in life, it’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of endless striving that never feels truly satisfying. Research on affective forecasting suggests that our big wins tend to make us less happy than we expect they will, which can lead to disappointment and regret—and more striving. Sometimes the greatest happiness can be found in those moments when we’re not striving for anything or not wishing that things were any way other than how they are. 

Naturally Black Chicken: The New SuperFood

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Did you know there was such a thing as black chicken? And I don’t mean as in dark feathers, but black skin, bones and even internal organs. There are actually several black chicken breeds in the world, especially in Asia, but the most popular of all has to be the Chinese Silkie.

Silkies are beautiful birds, covered in fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk, but underneath all that fluff they are far less attractive. Their skin is a dark-bluish color, the flesh is dark beige and the bones and some internal organs are pitch black. Although in the Western world silkie chickens are sold mainly for ornamental purposes, in countries like China they are considered a super food and are appreciated for their deep, gammy flavor. Called “wu gu ji” or “black-boned chicken”, the silkie has been prized for its medicinal value ever since the seventh or eighth century. Chinese women consume it after they have given birth to get a boost of energy, but it’s also said to have a positive effect on the yin, blood, lungs and stomach. Silkie meat is rarely roasted. To take full advantage of its curative properties, the Chinese mainly use it to make an amber-colored broth laced with ginseng , dried wolfberries and jujubes.

According to a genetic study published in 2011, the unique trait of silkie chickens, known as fibromelanosis, is caused by an unusual genetic mutation characterized as “a complex rearrangement that leads to increased expression of Endothelin 3, a gene which is known for promoting the growth of pigment cells”. The massive expansion of pigment cells not only makes the skin and bones black, but also causes dark internal organs. Another interesting thing about silkies is their high content of carnosine, a naturally occurring peptide which is sold as a dietary supplement. People take it to increase muscle mass, ward of the effects of aging and alleviate diseases like diabetes or autism. Studies have shown the black chicken is one of the richest sources of carnosine.

If you’re wondering how black chicken meat tastes, most people say it’s no different than traditional chicken, but some say it’s a little sweeter. So, would you embrace the dark side and feast on the dark flesh of a silkie?

Here’s a video of some nice barbecued silkie chicken. Can’t tell if they’re done, or burned to a crisp…

Scientists Get First Look Inside Mysterious Siberian Crater

Russian scientists got their first look inside the mysterious crater in Yamal, Siberia on Wednesday, July 16, while the Siberian Times took a helicopter ride to get another look down into the hole.

Based off of the original video of the crater, it was estimated that the crater could have been up to 80 meters wide. However, Andrey Plekhanov of the State Scientific Centre of Arctic Research told The Siberian Times that the hole is about 30 meters wide and the outer portion that includes the soil emission is around 60 meters in diameter. The researchers were also able to get their first look at the icy lake that exists at the bottom of the 70-meters-deep hole. Soil, air, and water samples have been taken in order to help determine the cause.

Preliminary results indicate that the hole was formed within the last two years and satellite data is being examined to try and identify exactly when it first appeared. Plekhanov told the Siberian Times that it was an ejection from within the permafrost, but it was not an explosion as there was not a release of heat.
Some had initially speculated that natural gas had been trapped underground in ice, as the area had been locked in permafrost for thousands of years. However, as the ground thawed and the gas became warmer, the increased pressure may have ejected outward and caused the hole. The summers of 2012 and 2013 were especially warm in the region, but the researchers still have more work to do before naming a specific cause.

While the world waits for the samples to be processed and analyzed, please enjoy this video that gives a closer look at this mysterious formation:

The Most Creative Sculptures And Statues From Around The World

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Mystery of the Mummies of Venzone

Thursday, May 29, 2014

For hundreds of years, a mystery surrounded the cathedral of Venzone, a small city in the province of Udine, Italy. Instead of decomposing normally, bodies buried in the tombs beneath the cathedral were perfectly preserved and still recognizable decades later, a fact which led the townspeople to periodically retrieve and commune with their dead loved ones.

In modern times, scientists finally traced the source of this wonder to Hypha tombicina, a microscopic, parasitic fungus that rapidly dehydrates the bodies before decomposition can even begin.

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