Saturday, March 31, 2012

No such thing as dragons

Jack Dikian
April 2012

When Billy Bixbee finds a tiny dragon in his bedroom, his mum tells him, “There’s no such thing as a dragon!” This only makes the dragon get bigger. He grows, and grows, and grows, until he’s bigger than Billy’s house.

This is a charming little book with the text and playful illustrations by well-known author-illustrator Jack Kent. The story however delivers an important message practitioners would be well aware of - it demonstrates how a little attention can make a big difference, no matter what size the problem, not to mention the value of validation and acceptance.

As mentioned, Billy awakes one morning to find a dragon, the size of a kitten, on his bed. He pats the dragon on its head and its tail begins to wag. When Billy goes downstairs to tell his mum about the dragon, she yells, "There's no such thing as a dragon."

Billy returns to his room and ignores the dragon since there's no such thing. As Billy continues with his day, the dragon works very hard to make his presence known. It tries on Billy's pajamas, eats his breakfast, takes a nap and chases the bread truck. With great determination, Billy and his mum continue to ignore the dragon even though it has now grown from the size of a kitten to the size of the house. It's Billy who realizes that the dragon simply wants to be noticed and pats the dragon on the head.

This dragon reacts to this and starts to become smaller and once again the size of a kitten. With the dragon laying in mother's lap, she exclaims, "I don't mind dragons this size. Why did it have to grow so big?" To which Billy replies, "I'm not sure, but I think it just wanted to be noticed."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meditation helps reduce depression, anxiety and stress

Jack Dikian
March 2012

A new study by researchers from the Health Psychology Program in UCSF's Department of Psychiatry suggests that an increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior – in particular – through blending meditation practices with current psychological methods for regulating emotions.

Over 80 schoolteachers between the ages of 25 and 60 participated in the study. The work shows that those who underwent a short but intensive program of meditation were less depressed, anxious or stressed - and more compassionate and aware of others' feelings.

Previous research has linked meditation to positive changes in blood pressure, metabolism and pain, but less is known about the specific emotional changes that result from the practice.

A core feature of many religions, meditation is practiced by people as part of their spiritual beliefs as well as to alleviate psychological problems, improve self-awareness and to clear the mind.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reseting the brain

Jack Dikian
March 2012

Tinnitus is a medical condition with patients complaining of a perceived ringing, buzzing, swishing or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. In many cases it is not a serious problem, but rather a nuisance that eventually resolves. Tinnitus is common, however, few risk factors for tinnitus are known. Up to 50 million US adults reported having any tinnitus, and 16 million US adults reported having frequent tinnitus in a period of a year.

Up to 10 per cent of adults are thought to have it to some extent, according to the British Tinnitus Association, although most only mildly.

The prevalence of frequent tinnitus increases with increasing age, peaking at 14.3% between 60 and 69 years of age. Some report that when they are focusing on tasks, conversations or where there is adequate background noise they experience some relief of the symptoms. Many sufferers however never experience pure silence, and struggle with asleep.

Recently a new therapy, Acoustic Coordinated Reset published in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience has shown that it reduces the loudness and annoyance caused by tinnitus in seven out of 10 patients and being made available to British patients, albeit, at a price of about a £4,500.

It’s been found that playing sufferers the same tone which they "hear" in their mind stops auditory brain cells from creating the perceived noise. It is said that the brain manages to "unlearn" the neurological processes which cause it to generate the "phantom" sounds.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bees With Personality

Jack Dikian
March 2012

Significant similarities have been previously found between personality structures and mechanisms across species in at least two broad traits, namely extraversion and neuroticism.

The cross-species similarities between the most broad personality dimensions like Extraversion and Neuroticism as well as other Big Five factors reflect conservative evolution: constrains on evolution imposed by physiological, genetic and cognitive mechanisms.

According to researchers from the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and published online in Science (follow link below) in March 2012 some bees, like some humans, seem to be programmed to seek out new experiences, or novelty. So, they might have individual personality differences similar to our own.

For example, while forager bees are in charge of gathering food outside of the hive, not all of these bees, it seems, are inclined to strike out and go exploring for new flowers. Only about 5-25% actively scout out new pollen sources. The others foragers simply follow these adventurers’ bee dances to find the food.

Image: Tagged foraging bee, image courtesy of Zachary Huang/

Happiness is synthetic so why not harvest it

Jack Dikian
March 2012

We’ve always known that a being a positive person or a negative person is all about repetition – laying neural pathways in our otherwise plastic brains. There are also reward pathways which through diet and drug abuse can lead to addictions.

Not all major lottery winners are happy. In fact, according to the work of psychologists Brickman, Coates, and Janoff-Bulman(1) lottery winners didn't report themselves much happier than people in the general community who hadn’t won the lottery. And while paralysed victims showed to be less happy than people in the general community, the difference was not that big.

It turns out that what makes us happy, what motivates us, follows the philosophy of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. We do things for ourselves that help grow us and are important to us, we do things that we have to struggle with to improve ourselves, and we do things that make us part of a bigger world, and all of these three things have the capacity to make us happy or happier.

So winning the lottery in itself won’t make us happy, but if we use that money to do things that are important to us, that improve us day to day, and that make us part of a wider socially meaningful project it makes us happy.

1. Brickman, P., Coates, D., Janoff-Bulman, R,. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 36(8), Aug 1978, 917-927. Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?