Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
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In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning ... Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning. Those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing," Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." Having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. "It is the very pursuit of happiness," Frankl knew, "that thwarts happiness." The pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves ... we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.
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In this small barbershop in Ypsilanti, Michigan, kids pick out a book and head to the chair. It’s like clockwork. That’s because children 12 and under who visit The Fuller Cut can get a $2 discount on their $11 haircut for doing a simple task: reading to the barber. It’s a program owner Alexander Fuller and barber Ryan Griffin started more than a year ago. And parents can’t get enough of it. The pair can’t take credit for the idea. They just happened to hear about other shops around the country taking part in a “read to your barber program,” and they decided to get on board. Fuller and his wife started ordering some books and Griffin brought in a shelf. Customers even joined the cause by donating old and used books. Before the pair knew it, kids were grabbing books off the shelf and hopping into the chair to start reading. Roughly 90 percent of kids grab a book that’s already on the shelf, Fuller says, but occasionally kids bring in books from home or school as well. “It gives them confidence in reading and helps us understand their comprehension of reading,” Fuller said. “The kids love it. It’s one of the best things that has come along for them.” Another bonus, Fuller added, is that it helps kids socialize. Not only does it improve their reading skills, but their manners as well. Whether you can read well or can’t read well, the barbers will help you along the way, Fuller reminds his customers. “It’s been a great experience so far, Fuller said.”
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A breathing-based meditation practice known as Sudarshan Kriya yoga helped alleviate severe depression in people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments, reports a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Researchers found significant improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety in medicated patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who participated in the breathing technique compared to medicated patients who did not partake. More than half of the 41 million Americans who take antidepressants do not fully respond. Add-on therapies are often prescribed to enhance the effects of the drugs in these patients, but they typically offer limited additional benefits and come with side effects that can [prolong] the depressive episode. The meditation technique ... includes a series of sequential, rhythm-specific breathing exercises that bring people into a deep, restful, and meditative state: slow and calm breaths alternated with fast and stimulating breaths. In past studies, the practice has demonstrated a positive response in patients with milder forms of depression, depression due to alcohol dependence, and in patients with MDD; however, there are no clinical studies investigating its use for depression in an outpatient setting. Past studies suggest that yoga and other controlled breathing techniques can potentially adjust the nervous system to reduce stress hormones.
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On a recent Friday morning, a group of about 20 homeless guys warmed up in a parking lot across the street from three shelters in East Harlem. In a circle, they did jumping jacks, twisted their torsos and touched their toes. Fifteen minutes later, they huddled up, chanted the Serenity Prayer ... and took off running. Ryan ... began jogging with the group, known as Back on My Feet, seven months ago. Never a runner, he always wondered what the big deal about it was. Ask him today, however, and he’ll tell you it’s “so natural, almost spiritual.” Back on My Feet is a program that uses running to help the homeless get their lives back on track. In addition to connecting participants with housing and jobs, Back on My Feet is founded on the notion that running can change a person’s self-image. Early morning exercise, three days a week, provides an outlet for pent-up emotions and starts to change the way someone thinks about hard work. If the concept seems hokey or contrived, the program’s numbers show that’s not the case. Back on My Feet’s program has reached 5,200 homeless individuals. More than 1,900 have obtained employment, and 1,300 have moved into independent housing. Waking up so early every morning - whether the thermometer’s bubbling over or when it’s frozen solid - instills discipline and responsibility in the participants. They’re two valuable concepts, but both are hard to teach in the abstract. They need to be lived to be experienced.
[Psychologist Ellen] Langer gave houseplants to two groups of nursing-home residents. She told one group that they were responsible for keeping the plant alive and that they could also make choices about their schedules. She told the other group that the staff would care for the plants, and they were not given any choice in their schedules. Eighteen months later, twice as many subjects in the plant-caring, decision-making group were still alive than in the control group. To Langer, this was evidence that the biomedical model of the day ... was wrongheaded. She came to think that what people needed to heal themselves was a psychological “prime” - something that triggered the body to take curative measures all by itself. Gathering [a group of] older men together in New Hampshire [in 1981] for what she would later refer to as a counterclockwise study would be a way to test this premise. The men in the experimental group were told ... to “attempt to be the person they were 22 years ago.” At the end of their stay, the men were tested, [and] outperformed a control group. They ... showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller. Their sight improved. The experimental subjects, Langer told me, had “put their mind in an earlier time,” and their bodies went along for the ride. Traditionally minded health researchers acknowledge the role of placebo effects and account for them in their experiments. But Langer goes well beyond that. She thinks ... that in many cases they may actually be the main factor producing the results.
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At his graduation from medical school, Kevin Morton Jr. sat beside the woman who saved his life. It was nearly a decade since he was shot in an Arby’s parking lot, sustaining injuries so severe that the early prognosis gave him only a 10 percent chance of survival. But Dr. Dharti Sheth-Zelmanski, the surgeon on call in the trauma unit that night, didn’t let that happen. The care he received over many surgeries and his long recovery inspired Morton to evaluate what he would do with his second chance. The answer came naturally: He’d pay it forward by becoming a doctor himself. In 2012, he ... was accepted to Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. He chose to specialize in general surgery, the same as Sheth-Zelmanski. He did his student rotations at St. John’s Hospital in Detroit ... where he was once a patient. He’ll start his residency there in July — almost nine years to the day he was brought there as a shooting victim. On his graduation day earlier this month, Morton asked Sheth-Zelmanski to hood him, an honor given to a close family member or mentor when receiving an advanced degree. “There’s no greater joy than to realize what I do on a day-to-day basis can create such a change in somebody for the better,” she said. “I feel like I know that if anything is ever wrong with me, I know where I can go.” And that’s Morton’s goal: to be the kind of compassionate and engaged doctor that she was for him.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to other people, sometimes we do. Ronni Abergel a 42-year-old from Copenhagen, Denmark, is trying to change that with the Human Library, a place where individuals can “check out” people, or “human books,” for a 30-minute conversation. Abergel opened the alternative library in Copenhagen in 2000, and has since brought the idea to 70 countries. Human books vary from people who are blind and deaf, bipolar, homeless and, in the case of a Rochester, New York, event, a white woman who grew up in apartheid-era South Africa. That woman, 41-year-old Deb Duguid-May shared her experiences, saying, “What I became so aware of was how fear was used to control people and how fear was used to bond people. Everything I had been taught by my culture was a lie.” In 1993, [Abergel] and a few friends started a successful youth group called “Stop the Violence” after a mutual friend was stabbed. Thankfully the friend survived, but the incident inspired Abergel to help people start open conversations about their differences. When Stop the Violence was asked to develop an activity for a festival in 2000, the group came up with the idea for The Human Library. Abergel hopes to bring his novel concept to all 50 states soon, telling Today: “I figured that if we could make people sit down with a group attached to a certain stigma they don’t like or even know about for that matter, we could diminish violence.”
The Catholic Church in Rwanda has apologized for its members' role in the genocide that saw hundreds of thousands of Rwandans killed in 1994. Rwandan bishops asked for "forgiveness for sins of hatred and disagreement that happened in the country to the point of hating our own countrymen because of their origin," in a statement read after mass in parishes across the country Sunday. In 1994, Hutu extremists in Rwanda targeted minority ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a three-month killing spree that left an estimated 800,000 people dead. Hutu attackers burned down churches with hundreds or thousands of Tutsis inside. Although the church states it did not send anyone to participate in the killings, it acknowledges that its members were active, apologizing for "Christian leaders who caused divisions among people and planted seeds of hate." Four Catholic priests were indicted by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for their role in the genocide in 2001. Among them was Rwandan Catholic Priest Athanse Seromba who was sentenced to ... life imprisonment for actively participating in the massacre of around 2,000 Tutsis who sought protection in his church. The United Nations has criticized the Catholic Church in the past for its failure to apologize for its complicity in the killings.
Traditionally, you wouldn't gift someone a rat. Tanzania-based NGO Apopo, however, thinks rats make excellent gifts. So much so that they've launched an adopt-a-rat program, which allows participants to sponsor the animal. Despite the creatures' reputation for thieving and spreading disease, [Apopo's founder Bart] Weetjens has proven that rats can ... save lives. Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands. They are highly trained to sniff out land mines and detect tuberculosis - two scourges that have had a tremendously negative impact across the African continent. And his rats are fast. A single rat can clear 200 square feet in an hour (done manually, the same area would take 50 hours to clear). A TB-detection rat can evaluate 50 samples in eight minutes (almost a day's work for a lab technician). In 2006, Weetjens started testing his "hero rats," as he dubs them, on the mine fields in Mozambique, a country that at that time was one of the worst affected by landmines, thanks mainly to a civil war that ended in 1992. Since then, Apopo has cleared the country of 6,693 landmines, 29,934 small arms and ammunition, and 1,087 bombs. Mozambique is on track to be free of landmines by the year's end. In 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a TB crisis in Africa. It's a problem Weetjens realized he could address with his sniffer rats. So far, they've analyzed over 260,000 samples from health clinics in Dar es Salaam. They are cheap to train, cheaper to procure, and plentiful.
Earlier this month we brought you the story of a New Hampshire boy who was targeted because of the color of his skin. On Thursday, some special people were rallying around the child, healing the hate with love, and some fun. Horns were honking and engines roaring as seven year old Eze headed for 20 bikers waiting outside his school. Even though he doesn’t know any of them, their kindness means everything. “The best part of today is riding a motorcycle,” Eze says. Police say Eze, who is biracial, was targeted by a series of hate crimes recently. First a racial slur was scratched on his mother’s car, and then another on a saw horse tossed into the yard, and the third when fried chicken and watermelon were thrown onto the car. One of their neighbors is in the Manchester Motorcycle Club. He was horrified when he heard what happened. “Nothing’s ever happened on our road like that and it’s just wrong, and I don’t like it,” says Steve Vachon. The club decided to let the family know they were not alone. So today they made Eze an honorary club member. “We just want to share something with the kid, that he has people who care about him,” Vachon says. They also gave him a helmet, a jacket of his own and the ride of a lifetime. “I think it means the world to him. He knows the town supports him and no one hates him, and that he can walk with pride and he doesn’t have to be scared,” says Jaci Stimson, Eze’s mother.
We’ve got to stop acting out hate. There is no less of it in the liberal media than there is in the right-wing media. It is just better disguised. We are entering a time of great uncertainty. Institutions so enduring as to seem identical to reality itself may lose their legitimacy and dissolve. For many, that process started on election night, when Trump’s victory provoked incredulity. At such moments, it is a normal response to find someone to blame, as if identifying fault could restore the lost normality, and to lash out in anger. Hate and blame are convenient ways of making meaning out of a bewildering situation. If you are appalled at the election outcome and feel the call of hate, perhaps try asking yourself, “What is it like to be a Trump supporter?” Ask it not with a patronizing condescension, but for real, looking underneath the caricature of misogynist and bigot to find the real person. Even if the person you face is a misogynist or bigot, ask, “Is this who they are, really?” Ask what confluence of circumstances, social, economic, and biographical, may have brought them there. You may still not know how to engage them, but at least you will not be on the warpath automatically. We hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not know. So let’s stop making our opponents invisible behind a caricature of evil. This does not mean to withdraw from political conversation, but to rewrite its vocabulary, [and] speak hard truths with love. It is to offer acute political analysis that doesn’t carry the implicit message of, “Aren’t those people horrible?”
We were preparing to celebrate the historic election of the nation’s first female president. Despite the upset, one loss does not devalue another victory. Across the country, women of various backgrounds ... ran on platforms of equality and progressive reform. And they won. Kate Brown has been serving as Oregon’s governor since her [predecessor] resigned. Yesterday, she was elected by the state to serve the next two years of what would have been the rest of former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s term. Brown ... is the first openly LGBTQ candidate to win a gubernatorial election. Tammy Duckworth [was] elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, [and will soon serve as] the first female veteran, the first disabled woman, and the first Asian American woman to represent Illinois [as a senator]. In 2010, Kamala Harris made history as the first female, first Black, and first Asian American to be elected attorney general of California. Now, she will be the first Indian American and first biracial female senator. Soon representing Washington’s 7th congressional district, Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian American woman elected to U.S. Congress. Catherine Cortez Masto is both the first Latina and woman to enter the Senate from Nevada. She [previously] served two terms as attorney general, during which time she worked to provide financial aid for students and strengthen laws preventing sex trafficking. [Elected to the Minnesota state legislature], Ilhan Omar is the first Somali American woman to be elected to public office in the United States.
The Maine Clean Elections Act, originally passed in 1996 and strengthened in 2015, gives candidates the option to finance campaigns with taxpayer dollars. Candidates who choose to run a publicly financed campaign don’t need to spend time courting wealthy donors - in fact, they’re prohibited from raising private money. Instead, constituents show their support through $5 contributions to the Maine Clean Elections Fund made on behalf of a candidate. But that money doesn’t go to the candidate - instead, it shows support and helps fund the public-financing program. Once candidates have raised the required number of donations, they receive a flat fee from the state, which can vary depending on the office being sought. During [State representative Joyce] McCreight’s first campaign, in 2014, the state gave her nearly $5,000 once she’d collected 60 contributions. She won, and by the end of her first term, she’d helped to write a bill that makes it easy for low-income people without insurance to get reproductive health [services]. The bill passed, and McCreight expects it to save the state $2.5 million a year. McCreight’s story ... was made possible by a network of activists who came together in 1995 to draft and support the Maine Clean Elections Act. The Clean Elections system has given Maine the most economically diverse legislature in the nation. About 14 percent of Maine legislators are working class: waitresses, cashiers, machinists. Only 2 percent of the U.S. Congress comes from similar backgrounds.
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Until recently, 8-year-old Arkinya Graham had never met her father. While they have grown close talking over the phone for the past six months, her father Johnny "Trey" Williams is serving 23 years in a Michigan prison for second-degree murder. ABC News' "Nightline" was given access to go behind prison walls ... as Arkinya met her dad for the first time. Their special visit is part of a prison ministry program called "One Day with God" that is designed to help children reconcile with their parents behind bars. The two-day program is part family reunion, part intervention. On the first day, the dads get a seminar on the importance of fatherhood. On the second day, they get to ... spend a rare day doing various activities with their kids. "Children are the silent victims," said One Day with God founder Scottie Barnes. "[There is an] importance of these boys and girls having relationships with their mothers and fathers who are incarcerated across America." Barnes says her own father ... spent most of her childhood behind bars. "I never had a hug. I never even been told 'I love you' by my dad," Barnes said. "The little children ... want to be loved. They want to be somebody proud of them." Children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to end up incarcerated themselves. One Day with God is working to end the cycle of reincarceration. At a time when family programs are being cut in prison systems, this program is operating in seven states, [and] expanding to five other prisons in Michigan alone.
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For a long time, Daniel Au Valencia got the message that she was wrong, wrong, wrong. “There’s a lot of shame around autism,” she says. Last year Valencia heard about an unusual experimental study ... exploring a treatment specifically for social anxiety in autistic adults. Many traditional therapies don’t work for autistic people, says Nick Walker, [a] consultant on the new study, because they reinforce stigma around autism. He sees this new research as a uniquely “culturally appropriate” approach to addressing the “epidemic” of social anxiety in autistic adults. The treatment is MDMA, known more commonly as Ecstacy or Molly. Early studies ... show it can ease or erase symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In one study, 83 percent of study participants treated with MDMA and psychotherapy were cured of their PTSD. Psychologist Alicia Danforth [is] conducting the social anxiety study at UCLA’s Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, along with psychiatrist Charles Grob. Valencia is one of just 12 autistic adults participating in the pilot study. It’s impossible to draw a direct line between the treatment and how Valencia is doing right now, but she says she’s doing great. She’s got a steady full-time job, her own apartment, and she just got married. She says her biggest takeaway ... is more about emotions than social anxiety. She says she’s learned that there’s no such thing as good emotions or bad emotions. “All emotions deserve to exist,” she says.
Note: Learn more about the healing potentials of mind-altering drugs now being explored by the scientific community.
Photographer Niki Boon and her husband, Rob, decided to home-school their four children when they moved to a rural region of New Zealand. Instead of following a fixed and rigid curriculum, each child explores his or her curiosities on the family's 10-acre property in Blenheim, surrounded by waters and bushes and hills. Boon began studying photography so she could represent her children's lives better. Her photo series "Wild and Free" is a dreamy black-and-white glimpse into a childhood spent among nature and the environment. The ... decision to raise her children this way actually stems from a form of education named after Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher. Boon's eldest son, Kurt, is now 13 years old and spent a year at a Rudolf Steiner school. The school did not have computers and encouraged families not to have TVs, Boon says. "We embraced this completely and fully and we loved the idea so much," she said. "We got rid of our TV, and we haven't had one since." Kurt, Rebecca, Anton and Arwen not only don't watch TV, but they don't use any kind of modern electronic devices, either - no computers, no smartphones. Boon ... says her children haven't shown interest in using any kind of technologies yet - but if any of them were to start developing an interest, she and her husband would look into it at that stage. "They live in the minute," Boon said. "They don't want to know what happened yesterday or what happened even that morning. They just want to know what's happening now."
Griffin Furlong is a Florida teenager who knows something about heartaches and joy. The 18-year-old is homeless, but he graduated at the top of his class from Florida Coast High School. Furlong managed to achieve a 4.65 grade point average ... making him the valedictorian. He’ll attend Florida State University in the fall. “Everyone thinks I try to make good grades because I’m smart. Not true,” he told his fellow graduates. “I perform the way that I do in the classroom because I have everything to lose.” Furlong’s mother died of leukemia when he was just 6 years old. Soon afterward, Furlong, his father, and older brother lost their home and ended up in homeless shelters. Furlong said he often went to bed hungry and there were times when he wanted to give up. He sought temporary shelter with his girlfriend’s parents then moved in with an aunt and uncle, who said Furlong had laser-like focus on his school work. “He had nothing else but to study," said his aunt, Nancy Nancarrow. “He didn’t have the things that most children have. He would go to his room when he was home and he studied. That is his entertainment. We’re proud of him.” Now, [Furlong] says he hopes his story inspires other kids who are also facing hardships. “Despite the obstacles I faced, I know that I can actually do something with education.” His only wish, he said, is that his mother could see him deliver his speech. “Don’t dwell on the past, use it as motivation for your future,” he told the graduates. “It’s amazing what you can do with your life when you have motivation, ambition and most importantly, a purpose.”
She could easily be mistaken for someone 30 years younger but this woman is actually turning 105 tomorrow. And she looks incredible. Eileen Ash, who lives in Norwich, spends her days doing yoga and driving around in her signature yellow Mini car. And there’s no sign of her slowing down anytime soon. Her secret? Eating healthy and two glasses of red wine a day she says. The 104-year-old, who once played Test cricket for England women, told BBC Norfolk: "I’d like to know when I’m going to be old. Do you think it will be when I’m 105?" Eileen made her debut for the ladies team at The Oval in London in 1937. She then went on to play for her country until 1949 and has previously said her proudest moment was scoring a century. When asked if she suffers from aches and pains, she cheekily answered: "Not yet, when I’m older, I will apparently, but what is old?" Age is clearly just a number, Eileen. Keep doing you.
Note: Watch a great, one-minute video of this inspiring woman on this BBC webpage.
In many ways, there has never been a better time to be alive. Fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before. How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. Why? A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one ... experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed. Being “needed” does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.” Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives. In Germany, people who seek to serve society are five times likelier to say they are very happy than those who do not view service as important. Selflessness and joy are intertwined. Everyone has something valuable to share. We should start each day by consciously asking ourselves, “What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?” We need to make sure that global brotherhood and oneness with others are not just abstract ideas that we profess, but personal commitments that we mindfully put into practice.
The world’s biggest marine reserve, almost as large as Alaska, will be established in the Ross Sea in Antarctica under an agreement reached by representatives of 24 nations and the European Union. The policy makers and scientists agreed unanimously to create a zone that will encompass 600,000 square miles of ocean. Commercial fishing will be banned from the entire area, but 28 percent of it will be designated as research zones, where scientists can catch limited amounts of fish and krill, tiny invertebrates that provide food for whales, penguins, seals and other animals. The area, which is mostly contiguous and hugs the coast off the Ross Sea ice shelf, will come under protection on Dec. 1, 2017, and remain a reserve for 35 years. The agreement was reached in Hobart, Tasmania, at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Protecting the Ross Sea, in the Southern Ocean, had been on the commission’s agenda for around six years, and conservationists had been arguing for a no-fishing zone there for a decade, said Andrea Kavanagh, a director of the Southern Oceans Sanctuaries Campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington. “This is a great result for quiet diplomacy and honest toil,” New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, said from Auckland. “The fact that an agreement like this can be reached ... when there are so many difficulties, so many other political differences happening elsewhere ... is pleasing.”
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.