Without empathy, there is little hope for collaboration or unity. This human emotion is expressed when we are able to understand someone else’s complex emotions as well as our own. Empaths and Sensitives might be in the regular practice of expressing empathy, but for many people it is a learned skill. How do we express more empathy with ease? Researchers from the Department of Psychology at Cambridge University say it’s as simple as taking deep breaths.
The State of Interoception
When we breathe deeply, this causes a state of interoception. Their published study describes how people who induce interoceptive states are more empathetic than those who aren’t as aware of their internal functioning. Oddly, when we sit and breathe, and create emotional awareness in ourselves, it allows us to better understand the emotional states of others.
An interoceptive state is described as one that allows sentient emotional awareness. This Current Opinions in Neurobiology abstract describes interoception as such:
“This interoceptive system, associated with autonomic motor control, is distinct from the exteroceptive system (cutaneous mechanoreception and proprioception) that guides somatic motor activity. The primary interoceptive representation in the dorsal posterior insula engenders distinct highly resolved feelings from the body that include pain, temperature, itch, sensual touch, muscular and visceral sensations, vasomotor activity, hunger, thirst, and ‘air hunger’.”
For people who are often disconnected from their own bodily sensations, this is excellent news. It means that simply by sitting and breathing while being aware of bodily sensations, we can begin to uncover deeply held emotions within our own physiology. This, in turn, gives us greater emotional intelligence in general, which we can apply as empathy toward others.
This new study also gives support to the idea that the body as a whole is intelligent — that our brightness is not relegated to just the functioning of the brain. Consciousness permeates every cell within us, and as those cells become more consciously aware, they translate to greater awareness of what is “out there,” also.
It is also the first empirical test of its kind to prove that simply breathing deeply can change our social web. Why might this be true?
Yogis are well aware that there is a “muscle” in the brain that is involved in being more compassionate. Certain traditions, in fact, spend decades strengthening this muscle with very specific meditation and breathing practices in order to express more empathy and compassion.
The Right Supramarginal Gyrus – The Compassion Muscle of the Brain
The right supramarginal gyrus is the area of the brain that helps us to distinguish our own emotional state from that of our friends and loved ones.
When this part of the brain is functioning properly, we understand the difference between our own emotional state and that of other people. When it is not functioning properly, we might project our own emotional state into a situation with little regard for anyone else’s emotional state. This often leads to conflict and the inability to find resolution.
We can build this muscle by simply breathing deeply. Yogis often retain the breath to stimulate the nervous system in a way that trains the brain to relax through discomfort. This allows the right supramarginal gyrus (along with other areas of the brain associated with compassion) to grow stronger. This also creates more coherence between the breath and the heart’s functioning, which literally makes it easier to express and receive love.
Developing more empathy, and thus better emotional problem solving skills is as simple as taking a few deep breaths!
You can also try the HeartMath’s Quick Coherence technique offering the same effect (a simple set of steps in which you focus on the heart and breathe into and out of it):
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.