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Counselors Reveal 10 Signs You May Have Nomophobia

Nomophobia is a relatively new and increasingly common psychological condition. This particular phobia stems from the irrational fear of either being separated from one’s smartphone or of being beyond its range.

According to a 2019 article published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, the word is an acronym for “no mobile phone phobia.” The UK Post Office first described the condition in 2008 during a study done to evaluate the prevalence of anxiety disorders in people who were extremely dependent on their cell phones. That study found that 53 percent of male respondents and 47 percent of female respondents felt anxious when separated from their phones. Some volunteers compared their anxiety to “wedding day jitters.”

In 2014, the journal Psychology Research and Management published an article in which researchers proposed adding nomophobia to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).” They described it as a type of specific phobia, which is an irrational fear that is triggered by certain situations. They also noted that changes in society and technology have led to the appearance of new phobias, with technology-related phobias among them.

The researchers further defined the condition as a pathological fear of “remaining out of touch with technology.” They also described it as anxiety or other psychological discomfort caused by not having access to a cell phone or computer.

Symptoms of Nomophobia

1. Anxiety

A person with nomophobia will feel anxious and upset at the mere thought of being separated from their phone, whether it is because they misplaced it or the battery died. The patient will thus go to significant lengths to avoid being without their phone. They might always carry two phones, for example, in case one stops working. They might avoid situations or places, like restaurants where using phones isn’t permitted.

2. Obsessive Behavior

A person with a pathological fear of separation from their phone might have their phone on 24 hours a day, and they may even sleep with it. They will constantly check their phone to see if they have received any calls or messages. They will spend hours using their phone, and they will typically prefer the phone over face-to-face interactions with people. Many patients with this type of phobia find the latter stressful. Some patients will use their phones so much that they incur debts paying for the connection.

A patient with this phobia will also refuse to be parted from their phone. They will take it everywhere with them – even into the bathroom or shower. They will charge the battery even if the battery already holds a full charge. And, they will repeatedly check to make sure that they are carrying their mobile device along with them.

3. Tachycardia

As a specific phobia, nomophobia is a type of anxiety disorder. As such, it causes many of the same symptoms as other anxiety disorders. One such symptom is heart palpitations or the sensations that one’s heart is racing or pounding. Palpitations can be accompanied by an abnormally fast heartbeat called tachycardia. Under normal conditions, a person’s heartbeats 60 to 100 times per minute. If a person’s heart beats more than 100 times a minute, they have tachycardia.

4. Trouble Breathing Normally

Anxiety disorders like phobias cause both physical symptoms and psychological symptoms, with hyperventilating being one of the physical symptoms. Anxiety is actually a pathological version of the fight-or-flight response, in which the body prepares itself to deal with some threat. The fight-or-flight response developed to enable a person to deal with a physical threat like a wild animal or band of hostile humans. A person facing such a threat would hyperventilate to saturate their body with oxygen in preparation for the exertion of fighting or running away. However, doing so can also make the person feel as if they’re having trouble getting enough air – which can worsen their anxiety.

5. Chest Pain

Chest pain is another physical symptom that occurs in anxiety disorders. The pain can vary from patient to patient. It may simply be a feeling of tightness in the chest, or it can be a sharp pain, a burning sensation, or a persistent ache.

Chest pain is also one of the more alarming symptoms of anxiety, for many patients fear they have a heart attack. There are some differences, however, between the chest pain that comes from anxiety and the symptoms of a heart attack.

nomophobia or heart attack
Know the symptoms of heart attacks. Of course, call 911 if you feel you suspect an emergency.

For example, a patient often has a heart attack after some type of physical exertion, while the patient having an anxiety attack may experience chest pain while resting. Anxiety-related chest pain often lasts for only a few seconds, while a heart attack causes constant pain. In addition, chest pain triggered by anxiety doesn’t spread, while chest pain caused by a heart attack often radiates to the jaw or down the arm.

6. Insomnia

Researchers have found that extreme dependence on a smartphone impairs the patient’s ability to sleep. In 2018, the science journal “PLOS ONE” described a study in which researchers studied the habits of 815 young adults for a month. The researchers gave the participants new smartphones programmed to track their users’ habits. They also had the participants questionnaires that included questions about their sleep habits.

The researchers found that 75 percent of the participants used their smartphones within an hour before going to bed. About a third used the smartphones within the first two hours after going to bed, and between 12 and 15 percent used their smartphones in the middle of the night, at least three hours after going to bed. In about 76 percent of the cases, the participants were texting, rather than visiting Facebook or talking to people on the phone.

Insomnia - Nomophobia

The scientists found that 41 percent of the participants experienced “smartphone interrupted sleep” at least one night during the study. The researchers defined “smartphone interrupted sleep” as less than six hours of sleep, not interrupted by smartphone use. Over a third or 36 percent of the respondents had occasionally interrupted sleep, while six percent had frequently interrupted sleep. The researchers defined “frequently interrupted sleep” as four or more nights during the study.

In 2016, researchers at UC San Francisco conducted a similar study. They found a definite link between increased phone use and decreased sleep.

7. Increased Sweating

Many patients with this phobia experience increased perspiration, similar to the symptom you’d see in many types of anxiety disorders. Stress sweat differs from cooling sweat in several ways. When someone is hot or working out, the body sends signals to a type of sweat gland called the eccrine glands. They gradually release sweat that is about 90 percent water.

Anxiety - Nomophobia

Stress sweat, on the other hand, is produced from a different type of sweat gland called the apocrine glands. When a person is feeling anxious, their body produces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline/ In turn, those hormones stimulate the apocrine glands that immediately produce sweat comprised of roughly 80 percent water. Fat and proteins make up the other 20 percent of stress sweat.

8. Agitation

A patient with nomophobia often becomes agitated if they know they won’t be able to use their phone for a while. Agitation is essentially an anxious restlessness accompanied by purposeless and unconscious movements. The patient may pace, shuffle their feet, wring their hands, or pick at themselves.

Agitation accompanies emotional upset, and the patient may express limited control over their impulses. In some cases, they may lash out verbally or even become aggressive. Agitation can develop slowly or appear suddenly. It may last only a few minutes, or it can last significantly longer.

9. Trembling or shaking

Trembling or shaking is another common symptom in many phobias, and it is particularly likely to affect the hands. Like hyperventilation, trembling is triggered by the body’s fight-or-flight response. Stress triggers the fight-or-flight response, which stimulates the production of adrenaline and another hormone called norepinephrine. The muscles tense in preparation for action, and that causes the trembling.

Learn to identify the emotional triggers of your phobia.

10. Comorbidity

Nomophobia can often occur alongside another psychological condition; a phenomenon called comorbidity. For example, it often occurs along with another phobia, especially social phobia. It can also accompany conditions like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or eating disorders. It can also appear with other behavioral addiction disorders like gambling or compulsive shopping.

Final Thoughts on Nomophobia

Phobias, in general, are common, and there are a variety of treatments. In exposure therapy, for example, the therapist will help the patient adjust to not always having their phone with them.

Another technique, cognitive behavioral therapy, helps the patient control frightening thoughts. For example, if the patient fears to lose their phone because they wouldn’t be able to talk to their friends, they could use CBT to remind themselves that they have other ways to stay in touch with people.

Self-care can include establishing rules for when the patient won’t use the phone, like during meals. Similarly, the therapist may recommend other activities, such as taking a walk, reading a book, meditating, trying a yoga class, or playing a sport.

The post Counselors Reveal 10 Signs You May Have Nomophobia appeared first on Power of Positivity: Positive Thinking & Attitude.

These Schools Are Offering Yoga and Mindfulness Class as an Alternative to After-School Detention

Yellow Springs High School in Ohio is offering mindfulness, meditation, and yoga classes as an alternative to punitive after-school detention programs.

The post These Schools Are Offering Yoga and Mindfulness Class as an Alternative to After-School Detention appeared first on Good News Network.

Researchers Reveal How To Boost Your Serotonin Levels

Serotonin is one of eight chemicals that enable neurotransmission or communication between nerve cells. As such, science refers to this chemical as a neurotransmitter. As we will soon see, your serotonin levels drive several critical functions within the brain and body.

The purpose of this article is three-fold – namely, to explain: (1) serotonin and what it does, (2) the role of serotonin in your daily life, and (3) natural ways of boosting your serotonin levels (with no prescription meds!)

So let’s get things rolling by first talking about what serotonin is and what it does!

What is Serotonin?

Scientists refer to serotonin as the “mood chemical” because of its effect on our mental wellbeing. Per WebMD, serotonin also “acts on” the non-mood-related parts of the brain, including the blood vessels and pain control pathways.

Our nerve cells synthesize serotonin, which, in turn, uses the chemical to send signals between nerves from across the entire body. Despite associating primarily with its actions within the brain, the gut actually produces and holds most of your serotonin–about 80 percent!

Our blood platelets also house much smaller amounts of the chemical.

Serotonin production involves the integrated chemical reaction of two types of the amino acid tryptophan.  Research demonstrates that low tryptophan levels directly link to a deficiency of serotonin. Speaking of which, let’s discuss serotonin deficiency.

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Serotonin Deficiency

“When serotonin levels are lower than normal, this is…“serotonin deficiency,” and can result in a variety of symptoms including impaired body functions and…psychological disorders.” ~ Puya Yazdi, M.D. (Source)

Serotonin deficiency might even be a leading contributor to mood disorders. Current neuropsychiatric theories of depression and similar disorders focus on an imbalance of serotonin along with norepinephrine and, to a lesser extent, acetylcholine, dopamine, and epinephrine.

Common symptoms of serotonin deficiency may include:

– anxiety (including panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, OCD)

– behavior problems

– carbohydrate cravings

– gastrointestinal problems

– general pain

– PMS complications

– sleep-cycle disturbances

What Does Serotonin Do?

“The leaves and my serotonin levels are falling.”

~ People who love the fall and despise winter (Hallelujah!)

The primary role of serotonin is to transmit messages between nerve cells throughout the body. Scientists believe that the chemical also contributes to smooth muscle contraction.

Concerning mood, research shows that normal serotonin levels promote calm, concentration, emotional stability, and happiness. Dysfunction of the brain serotonin system is also might trigger “exaggerated fear responses” stemming from anxiety-, trauma- and stress-related disorders.

Proper serotonin levels also help to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, heal wounds, regulate bowel movements, stimulate nausea (which is actually a good thing, as this helps us to eliminate bad food), increase sex drive, and strengthen bones. It also helps to normalize the circadian rhythm (“sleep/wake cycle” or “internal clock.”)

Research also suggests that serotonin may be involved in processes such as breast milk production, cell division (mitosis), bone metabolism, and liver regeneration.

Serotonin is thought to influence the vast majority of brain cells.

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Serotonin and Depression

“People who are clinically depressed often have very low levels of serotonin.” ~ Dr. Daniel Amen, M.D.

Serotonin deficiency may contribute to the onset of depression and anxiety disorders. It’s worth mentioning that recent research questions the “serotonin hypothesis” of depression, arguing that “Simple biochemical theories that link low levels of serotonin with depressed mood are no longer tenable.”

Scientists state that a balance of four neurotransmitters – serotonin, along with dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin – is crucial to feeling happy. In this biochemical balancing act, serotonin is involved in not only perking us up, but supporting feelings of self-confidence, facilitating deep and sustained sleep, and even promoting a healthy appetite and social life.

Regardless, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved multiple classes of prescription drugs purported to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. The most popular class being ‘SSRIs’ – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – which increase serotonin levels in the brain.  Most available prescription drugs that are designed to relieve depression target the serotonin system. These include:

–  SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors),

– Selective serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SSNRIs)

– Tricyclic antidepressants

– Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

The issue with prescription drugs

The problems of antidepressants are well documented. First, there’s the issue of effectiveness. Compared to a placebo (“sugar pill”), antidepressants are as little as 20 percent more effective. However, antidepressants do appear to be potentially better received among those with chronic moderate and severe depression rather than ‘mild depression.’

Second, there’s the issue of cost. In the United States, which lacks a national health coverage plan, brand-name prescription drugs can cost upwards of a couple to a few hundred dollars monthly. Fortunately, most antidepressants offer generic alternatives, which are far less expensive. Still, advancements in depression research and treatment will likely entail high drug prices in the future.

Lastly, there’s the issue of side effects. WebMD cites “a wide range of [common] side effects,” including agitation, anxiety, blurred vision, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness and fatigue, dry mouth, erectile dysfunction insomnia, increased appetite and weight gain, irritability, loss of sexual desire, and nausea. (That’s all?)

How to Naturally Boost Serotonin

1 – Diet

It’s possible to increase serotonin levels through the foods you eat. Just make sure that your shipping list is full of foods that are high in l-tryptophan. Examples: bananas, beans, beef, cheese, chia seeds, chicken, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, lentils, nuts and seeds, oats, peanuts, pumpkin, salmon, tempeh, tofu, tuna, and turkey. Milk is also a good source of the amino acid.

It must be mentioned that a balanced diet, complete with the essentials such as protein (especially protein, as it’s high in tryptophan), whole carbohydrates (e.g., legumes, potatoes, veggies, whole fruit, and whole grains), natural sugars (such as those found in fruit), and plenty of water will most certainly lead to a better mood and, perhaps, more balanced neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

2 – Exercise

Per an article published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, exercise increases serotonin function in the brain.

The researchers cite studies that measured metabolites (substances produced by metabolic activity) that serve as markers for serotonin levels. In one case, researchers found that exercise increased two precursors of serotonin – tryptophan and ‘5-HIAA.’ In another, scientists found that physical exertion directly correlates with “increases [in] the firing rates of serotonin neurons,” which “increased the release and synthesis of serotonin.”

walking to boost serotonin
Discover how walking can boost your serotonin levels.

3 – Keep Your Gut Healthy

Around 80 percent of our body’s serotonin is in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Moreover, recent scientific research has discovered a complex communication network within the gut, extending to the brain. Scientists posit that one job of this network is to relay pertinent information between the brain and gut.

Per an article titled “The gut-brain connection” by Harvard Medical School, “A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain…[and] [the] brain can send signals to the gut…a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.”

In other words, Harvard is saying that your gut health definitely impacts your mental health – and vice-versa. As such, consider taking a quality probiotic, drinking plenty of water, and eating a brain-healthy diet.

4 – Supplement

Nutrients such as Vitamins B6, B12, C, and D3, fish oils, folic acid (folate), magnesium, and zinc, all help to metabolize and utilize serotonin stores more efficiently. While not connected with an increase in serotonin levels, supplementing with magnesium (especially a highly bioavailable form like magnesium gluconate or aspartate, may help to stabilize the mood.)

Other supplements that may aid mood function to a greater or lesser degree include 5-HTP and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – a common fish oil component.

5 – Meditation

According to an important study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, meditation practice raises two serotonin brain receptors called ‘5-HT1A’ and ‘5-HT2A’. The former is involved in the passive coping (“tolerating”) stress, while the latter is part of the active coping (“addressing the source of stress) mechanism.

Besides possibly directly raising serotonin levels, meditation also aids production indirectly through the reduction of stress hormones.

Here are some other research-based ways to elevate those serotonin levels:

– Getting a massage: Massage therapy increases serotonin by 28 percent. Those who embrace the practice also have 31 percent less cortisol (the primary stress hormone) on average.

– Get out in the sun: We mentioned vitamin D, so now let’s talk about its key source: the sun! Yes, there is a clear correlation between exposure to sunlight and serotonin levels!

-Laugh and be positive: Isn’t it funny how laughter seemingly cures everything? That’s because it makes us feel so darned positive and happy. Speaking of happy, a good tip for stimulating serotonin production in the brain: remember a happy time in your life!

– Ask your doctor to check your hormonal levels. Certain hormonal imbalances and sudden changes can lead to a rapid serotonin drop. One example of this is in early menopause, where women (whose body holds about 50 percent less serotonin than men) are particularly at risk of depression.

serotonin and vitamin d
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Final Thought: If it’s depression, don’t go it alone

Depression is a hard, hard disease to deal with. While some people rail against antidepressants and other therapies, they can be lifechanging in some instances.

So here is the bottom line: if you are struggling with your state of mind, seek out some help. Although it may not feel like it now, there is an answer to your “problem” waiting to be discovered.

The post Researchers Reveal How To Boost Your Serotonin Levels appeared first on Power of Positivity: Positive Thinking & Attitude.

Science Explains What Darkness Does To Your Body and Mind 

-In 1962, a French scientist by the name of Michel Siffre conducted an exciting series of experiments. The geologist sent his studies subjects into places of darkness for months at a time.

No clocks or calendars. No light except for one lightbulb subjects used to turn on and off when they woke up and went to sleep. There was also no human contact except for daily check-ins from Siffre’s research team.

While Siffre’s sole goal was to study the effects of isolation, he ended up, also, discovering that humans have a biological clock. Siffre reached this conclusion when his subjects acted rather strangely: staying up for 36-hour periods and sleeping for 12 hours, for example. 

Here’s the kicker: When participants finally learned that the experiment concluded, many believed that they still had weeks – even months – to go.

So here is the conclusion. Darkness has an enormous impact on our bodies and minds. The word of Siffre and a few others form the basis of chronobiology. That term explains the field of biology examining the effects of solar- and lunar- activity on living beings.

In this article, we’re going to discuss what darkness does to the mind and body, including early research. Undoubtedly, you will find this quite fascinating. 

The Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm, our “internal clock,” “body clock, sleep-wake cycle,” or something similar term, is a biological phenomenon. It describes the behavioral, mental, and physical changes during a daily cycle. 

It is thought that the circadian rhythm was first discovered in the 18th century by the French scientist Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan, who demonstrated the presence of an internal sleep-wake cycle in plants. 

Scientists continue to study the circadian rhythm heavily. Just two years ago, a trio of biologists won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for “discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm” in fruit flies. 

Uh, fruit flies? Well, apparently that’s important…(hmm.)

darkness and melatonin

Darkness = Dark Mood

A rather common phenomenon concerning a lack of light and human behavior is the former’s effect on mental states. A mental health condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (or – rather appropriately – ‘SAD’) affects approximately 6 percent of the U.S. population–around 19.6 million people. 

SAD diagnoses are most common around the late fall and early winter months when there is relatively little sunlight. (Although it isn’t unheard of for people to develop SAD spring and summer.) 

Common symptoms of SAD include agitation, changes in appetite or weight, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness and guilt, insomnia, low energy, loss of interest in activities, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Per WebMD, a change in sunlight patterns disrupts the body’s internal clock, reducing serotonin levels and triggering depressive symptoms. Moreover, these weather patterns also interfere with the body’s production of melatonin, which impacts mood and sleep patterns.

In a 2015 study of Swedish and Brazilian workers, researchers found that Swedes are more likely to suffer from insomnia and depression. The scientists posit that this outcome stems from Sweden’s relatively limited exposure to natural light.

Factors that may increase the risk of SAD include:

  • family history of the condition
  • prior diagnoses of bipolar disorder or major depression (both may worsen as the seasons’ change)
  • living far north or south from the equator 

In reality, these statistics understate the problem. Many people – perhaps even yourself – will attest to feeling the “winter blues.” We may not ever be diagnosed with a disorder, but it nonetheless affects us.

Take, for example, a 5-year study of nurses in Anchorage, Alaska. Per the authors, “Medication errors were 95% more likely in midwinter than in the fall.” The study supports the notion that extended periods of darkness can interfere with normal cognition.

darkness and depression

Darkness and Physical Health

Have you ever walked or stayed in a dark room in mid-day? It’s weird. Here’s another question for you: have you ever worked in a dark office space or some other working environment and found yourself sicker than usual? It happens – and it happens often.

Indeed, there’s a strange thing called “sick building syndrome,” a term coined by architects to describe the weird effect that dark buildings (and other poorly maintained structures) have. Namely making people physically ill. Sick building syndrome also describes buildings that are poorly ventilated and are otherwise not “up to code.”

Sick building syndrome is also a phenomenon known to some in the business world. Office workers who sit in darker areas report more instances of sickness than those who aren’t. 

A primary contributor to sick building syndrome is the presence of microbes in air ducts, ceiling tiles, and pretty much any other crevice. Bacteria needs the darkness – along with nutrients and moisture (e.g., humidity or standing water) – to live. Unfortunately, buildings and other structures that are darker tend to be safe havens for microbes and other indoor pollutants.

It must also be mentioned that we do tend to get sicker at night time (it’s not just “in your head”!)—the reason: our circadian rhythm regulates not only sleep but also our immune system

“When the immune system is activated,” says biomedical engineering professor Michael Smolensky, “its infection-fighting cells release a variety of chemicals [which] induce inflammation…[and] it’s highly circadian rhythmic.” 

The inflammation often catalyzes or exacerbates multiple symptoms of illness, including congestion, fever, and sore throat. “You tend to experience [more severe] symptoms … when your immune system kicks into the highest gear, which is normally at night during sleep,” adds Dr. Smolensky.

Darkness and Healing?

“Darkness is like a mirror: It shows you what you don’t want to see.” ~ Anoula Sifonios (Source)

Many of the spiritual traditions emphasize the importance of darkness for holistic health and, more importantly, seeing into the nature of reality. We see this in the Taoist yin and yang to monks who cave dwell for months at a time. 

Specific lineages of Tibetan Buddhists spend an extended amount of time – 49 days – in dark retreat. According to followers of the traditions, dark retreats are conducive for two after-death attainments – the realization of the rainbow body (Google it) and navigation of the Bardos (the transitional states of consciousness following physical death.)

darkest days quotes

So there’s certainly precedent.

Anoula Sifonios spent nine days in complete darkness as part of a meditation retreat. She says (as do many others who undertake darkness retreats) that submersion in darkness produces imagery that originates from the mind. What kind of images exactly? “…geometric patterns, tunnels, buildings that are carefully carved and decorated, symbols from traditions you don’t know…[it’s] the subconscious mind…emptying out.”

Psychologists attribute this stream of consciousness to the near-constant influx of visual stimuli that we experience during our lives. According to research conducted by the company RescueTime, the average person spends an average of 3.5 hours a day on their smartphones. The top 20 percent of users: 4.5 hours. 

Not to mention the steady dose of television that most of us get – about 35.5 hours per week, or just over 77 whole days out of the year.

So, did Sifonios experience the ultimate digital detox? Sure. But that’s perhaps oversimplifying things. Because after emerging from the darkness, she needed less sleep, had more energy, and underwent healthy physical and mental changes.

There’s also accumulating research on the benefits of sensory deprivation tanks. Sensory deprivation tanks are specialized floating tanks that, as the name implies, cuts off all sensory experience. Among some of the scientifically-validated benefits:

  • Enhanced creativity
  • Enhanced concentration and visuomotor coordination
  • Faster reaction times
  • Intense relaxation
  • Reduced stress
  • Relief of various stress-related disorders, including headaches, hypertension, insomnia, and rheumatoid arthritis.
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Final Thoughts: Making Sense of it All

“I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” ~ Carl Jung

Okay, so is darkness “good” or “bad” for us? Well, it depends on the source, apparently!

Science is rather unambiguous concerning adequate exposure to both dark and light, however. Sunlight is paramount for life, not just of human beings but of all species. Darkness is equally essential for health, both mental and physical.

However, the mental health benefits of darkness must be addressed.

It’s rather easy to dismiss any spiritual talk as too subjective and “out there.” But given the obsession that we have with needing to “stay busy” – and our dread of “boredom” – overlooking the potentially enormous benefits of darkness immersion is a mistake.

To the darkness!

The post Science Explains What Darkness Does To Your Body and Mind  appeared first on Power of Positivity: Positive Thinking & Attitude.