Read Books to Fight Sugar Addiction

“Beyond acting as a form of meditation, reading helps build the neuro-networks that improve our lives immeasurably—including reducing sugar cravings. As mbg Collective member David Perlmutter, M.D., said on a recent episode of the mbg podcast, “100 percent of humans have a sweet tooth. It’s an ancestral trait that allowed humans to survive. Our sweet tooth is a legacy, and now it’s catered to 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, which leads to obesity.” The problem? “When we’re catering to this notion of stimulating the reward part of the brain with sugar, we strengthen that pathway to those reward areas of the brain that are involved with a neurotransmitter called dopamine, and it tends to distance us from connecting to the parts of our brain that aren’t involved in rewarding us moment to moment but are involved in our ability to be empathetic, to make long-term plans, to understand the long-term consequences of our day-to-day choices. We live in a society where we’re catering to the reward system of our brain moment to moment.” Conversely, when we strengthen the parts of our brain that are involved in being empathetic (something reading fiction has been shown to do), we weaken the neural pathways to the reward areas of our brain that make us crave sugar.”

From: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/health-benefits-of-reading

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Survival of the Readest

Book readers enjoy longer, healthier lives. The results of a study 

“suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.

“While most sedentary behaviors are well-established risk factors for mortality in older individuals […] previous studies of a behavior which is often sedentary, reading, have had mixed outcomes. That is, some found that reading reduces the risk of mortality […] whereas others found that it has no effect […] However, previous studies often combined different types of reading material and have not compared the health benefits of reading-material type; also, the mechanism for the possible protective effect was not identified. We speculated that books engage readers’ minds more than newspapers and magazines, leading to cognitive benefits that drive the effect of reading on longevity. In the following study, we were able to build on previous studies by examining the potential survival advantage of books. We predicted that the survival advantage for reading books would be greater than the survival advantage of reading newspapers and magazines.

“Reading books tends to involve two cognitive processes that could create a survival advantage. First, it promotes “deep reading,” which is a slow, immersive process; this cognitive engagement occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented […] Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books […] Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival […] Better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process […]

“The current study hypothesized that book reading provides a survival advantage, and that this advantage is mediated by cognitive engagement. To determine if the advantage is specific to the immersive nature of book reading, we also examined whether there is a survival advantage to reading periodicals (i.e., newspapers and magazines). Cognitive engagement might also occur while reading thought-provoking periodicals, however this engagement is more likely to occur when reading books due to the tendency of book authors to present themes, characters and topics in greater length and depth. Accordingly, we hypothesized that the survival advantage would be stronger when reading books compared to periodicals.”

From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5105607/#R3

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Literature’s Battleground

Literature is “obligated to join the oppressed in the trenches and become a partisan for truth, justice and the higher ideals […], such as tolerance, personal and collective freedoms, equity in the distribution of public wealth and equality of opportunity. In a word, those who love literature have a big role to play in building a just and open society where ideas are free to compete and where it is not criminal to hold divergent views. Literature, indeed all art, is therefore expected to engage in the difficult task of remaking society. It has a responsibility to guard society from what Bob Dylan, the Nobel prize winning crooner, called “the morals of despair”. It also has the onerous duty of standing up to those who seek to “choke the breath of conscience”. As the English Romantic poet, Percy Shelley famously observed, “the most unfailing herald, companion, and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution, is poetry”.

From: nation.co.ke/lifestyle/weekend/writers-stood-up-for-democracy-and-higher-ideals/1220-4317766-7o48im/index.html

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What Is Writing Talent Made Of

“Imagination applied to the human condition is empathy. Good fiction is difficult without it, great fiction impossible. It’s a talent that’s in short supply today, when the ironic take on life, cynicism, scorn, is everywhere triumphant. Many writers have trouble finding empathy for characters who are poorer, less intelligent, less successful than they are; others have trouble finding empathy for characters who are smarter, richer, happier.

It’s why the great Russian writers are still worth reading — Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky. We get the sense that there wasn’t a human being ever born who they couldn’t identify with and sympathize with and characterize from the inside out, in prose so direct and simple the words disappear.

So, verbal facility, world-class imagination, all-embracing empathy; those are the big three of writing talent. There is a fourth without which the first three mean nothing […] All these qualities — at least if a writer has a deeper purpose than merely putting words down on paper — count for nothing unless they are motivated by the fourth and perhaps rarest of the great talents: longing. You have to want to write perfectly and you have to want this more than anything.

From, and more: vnews.com/On-Prose-There-isn-t-much-writing-about-writing-talent-15741133

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Write to be Heard

“while it’s conventional that wisdom exists in literature, creative writing has always been seen as more rarefied or intimidating. It has been celebrated as personally palliative, yes, but it’s never been considered a method to increase participation in society. After all, what good is composing poetry and writing stories when you need a job, or a nation must be founded, or a war has to be won, or cancer is ravaging the bodies both human and politic?

But creative writing can be anyone’s best training for speaking out – and if you’ve ever read novels, heard scripture, watched movies or TV, listened to songs, or learned folklore, then you’ve been studying your entire life how storytelling works. By applying your hand at creating it, you are not just attempting art, you are learning vital skills and life lessons.

Fiction teaches us about characters and empathy, plot and consequences, and the value of nuance to truth. Poetry teaches us how to distil language, value silence, and understand metaphor. Non-fiction (which certainly includes journalism) teaches us accountability to facts, critical thinking about the systems in society, and the importance of getting out into the world to listen to others. These are but a few of the skills one learns from writing creatively.

Are those life lessons not vital to democracy? To have a voice is to have a vote. To have a vote is to be represented in society. To represent ourselves clearly and confidently empowers us citizens to air our own concerns and our community’s grievances, to be accountable for ourselves, and to demand the accountability of our leaders. If we are not trained to articulate our arguments properly, we will never be heard legitimately, and we can be ignored too conveniently.

… while art itself might not change the world, it’s abundantly clear that it can empower those who will.”

From, and read more: http://ewn.co.za/2017/05/11/art-and-literature-are-vital-to-democracy-here-s-why

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Literature Key to Successful Business

“What is the role of literature, or for that matter any form of poetry, art and music, in management education and practice? Is it an engagement in abstraction, an escape from the drudgery of daily life? Is it a flight to fantasy, a leap into the void? Certainly not! The need for mainstreaming inputs from literature, poetry and music in MBA curricula and corporate training modules rises from the acute inadequacy to deal with the complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity and turbulence in the business scenario today. The art of managing people is not a matter of deployment of a set of skills or use of stereotyped formulas but awakening and unleashing our creative potential energy in its deepest and widest sense. Thus the realisation is slowly dawning in leadership consciousness that literature can enliven the spirit within, or otherwise why should Prof Joseph L Badaracco Jr at Harvard be using Sophocles, Joseph Conrad and Arthur Miller in leadership courses and Prof James Maarch at Stanford, who delves into literature after a lifelong journey with Organisational Design and Strategy to unfold the myriad dimensions of life and human behaviour to students and business barons before they deal with the multiple layers of reality within the self, the organisation and the planet at large?

Literature awakens the spirit in an exploratory – rather, evolutionary – and in not a pedantic manner, so that we can outgrow our conventional stereotypes of right and wrong, good and bad, black and white. “The colour of truth is grey,” said French writer Andre Gide.”

From: swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-importance-of-teaching-arts-and-literature-to-the-management-students

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Reading Literature Helps Chronic Pain Sufferers

“A study conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, The Reader and the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals Trust, and funded by the British Academy, has found that shared reading (SR) can be a useful therapy for chronic pain sufferers. ”

“small groups (2-12 people) [come] together weekly to read literature – short stories, novels and poetry – together aloud. The reading material ranges across genres and period, and is chosen for its intrinsic interest, not pre-selected with a particular ‘condition’ in mind.

“Regular pauses are taken to encourage participants to reflect on what is being read, on the thoughts or memories the book or poem has stirred, or on how the reading matter relates to their own lives.”

“Group members participate voluntarily, usually in relation to what is happening in the text itself, and what may be happening within themselves as individuals (personal feelings and thoughts, memories and experiences), responding to the shared presence of the text within social group discussion.”

“The literature was a trigger to recall and expression of diverse life experiences – of work, childhood, family members, relationships—related to the entire life-span, not merely the time-period affected by pain, or the time-period pre-pain as contrasted with life in the present. This in itself has a potentially therapeutic effect in helping to recover a whole person, not just an ill one.”

From: medicalxpress.com/news/2017-03-chronic-pain.html

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For the Love of Writing for Money

“Money obscures one’s relationship to work; it distances us from ourselves and the things we make. … Because the value of goods is dominated by the market, one’s labor becomes subordinate to the ascribed market value, and once we begin to mistake this market value as true value, we lose any genuine connection we might have had to the work. …

Money taints everything, why not writing too? Once its value is determined by the marketplace rather than the writer or the reader, our relationship to literature becomes estranged. From bloated celebrity advances to rejected masterpieces, the market is more than just a poor arbiter of lasting quality: it tends to obscure that quality behind purely economic motivations. Good writing, we’re told time and time again, is born from love, not avarice. But this romantic picture of the writer, toiling without regard to money, is itself a fiction—one whose roots stretch back several millennia, and whose effects we’re still dealing with today.”

From, and more: A Brief History of Writing for Money

https://newrepublic.com/article/139769/cash-words-brief-history-writing-money

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Link

Simplicity and Clarity vs Complexity in Writing

“There are many plausible reasons that the use of million-dollar words would lead readers to believe that an author is smart. Intelligence and large vocabularies are positively correlated. Therefore, by displaying a large vocabulary, one may be providing cues that he or she is intelligent as well. Secondly, writers are assumed to be conforming to the Gricean maxim of manner, ‘avoid obscurity of expression’. If authors are believed to be writing as simply as possible, but a text is nonetheless complex, a reader might believe that the ideas expressed in that text are also complex, defying all attempts to simplify the language. Further, individuals forced to struggle through a complex text might experience dissonance if they believe that the ideas being conveyed are simple. Thus, individuals might be motivated to perceive a difficult text as being more worthwhile, thereby justifying the effort of processing. […]

Why might we believe that the experts might be correct in recommending simplicity in writing? One theory that predicts the effectiveness of straightforward writing is that of processing fluency. Simpler writing is easier to process, and studies have demonstrated that processing fluency is associated with a variety of positive dimensions. Fluency leads to higher judgements of truth, confidence, frequency, fame, and even liking. Furthermore, the effects of fluency are strongest when the fluency is discrepant — when the amount of experienced fluency is surprising. As such, it would not be surprising if the lower fluency of overly complex texts caused readers to have negative evaluations of those texts and the associated authors, especially if the complexity was unnecessary and thus surprising readers with the relative disfluency of the text.

Both the experts and prevailing wisdom present plausible views, but which (if either) is correct? The present paper provides an empirical investigation of the strategy of complexity, and finds such a strategy to be unsuccessful. Five studies demonstrate that the loss of fluency due to needless complexity in a text negatively impacts raters’ assessments of the text’s authors.”

From, and Read the study (PDF): http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/users/psy3001/files/simple%20writing.pdf

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Literature will set us free

“Nothing can defend us better against ignorance, prejudice, racism, nothing better than good literature. […] good books are the best defense that we have against prejudices, against distorted views of people of different languages, different beliefs, different customs. We discover that in spite of all differences, the common denominator among men and women of different traditions is much more important, because we are all humans and we are all challenged by very similar kinds of problems and obstacles that we have to overcome in order to survive, in order to live.

If free and democratic societies are to carry on as such, it is imperative that their citizens be trained by reading good literature not only for the great pleasure the activity affords, but also for its great potential to stimulate the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty.”

From: cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/literature/2016/11/09/mario-vargas-llosa.html

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