Altruism – Why it’s so good to do good

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr
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It’s true that we are hard-wired toward negativity, that we have a ‘built-in negativity bias.’ Rick Hanson explains that as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species — then there may be no more chances to pass on their genes.

However, studies have also shown that we are hard-wired for empathy and altruism as well. This is because cooperative behaviour worked on our behalf and helped our ancestors to survive under harsh conditions. So we reap psychological and physiological benefits when we practice altruism, when we do good things for others. In other words, doing good is good for you.

First of all, what exactly is altruism? It is defined as:

A voluntary, sometimes costly behaviour motivated by the desire to help another individual; a selfless act intended to benefit only the other.

So why would we do something that is of no benefit to ourselves?

Karen Salmansohn explains it like this:

Altruism raises your mood because it raises your self-esteem, which increases happiness. Plus, giving to others gets you outside of yourself and distracts you from your problems.

Here are a few good reasons to practice altruism:

It promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness

Giving to and helping other people releases endorphins, which then activate parts of our brain that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. This chemical reaction in the brain increases the chance that we will be altruistic and do good deeds in the future, thus creating a positive feedback loop of generosity and happiness.

It brings a sense of belonging and reduces isolation

Being a part of a positive charitable social network leads to feelings of belonging and lessens isolation.

It helps to keep things in perspective

Helping others, especially those who are less fortunate, can provide a sense of perspective, enabling us to stop focusing on what we may feel is missing in our own life.

It reduces stress and improves our health

Evidence suggests that helping others can boost our health. Compassion has been shown to help stabilise the immune system against immunosuppressing effects of stress. Altruistic acts may also stimulate the brain to release endorphins, which are powerful natural painkillers. One study found that participating in charitable activities can be better for our health than lowering cholesterol or stopping smoking

It helps reduce negative feelings

People who are altruistic tend to see life as more meaningful. Altruism is associated with better marital relationships, increased physical health, and enhanced self-esteem. Acts of altruism decrease feelings of hopelessness and decrease depression. It may also neutralise negative emotions that affect immune, endocrine and cardiovascular function.

It may actually help us live longer

Helping others has actually been shown to increase our life span. Studies on older people show that those who give support to others live longer than those who don’t.

Quite simply, altruism feels good and is good for you. When you help others, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness. So although it is true that we are hard-wired to notice the negative, we are also hard-wired toward compassion and altruism. So the next time you have a choice between acting from fear or acting from caring and compassion, choose the latter, it’s better for you in every way.

I’ll close with a wonderful TED Talk by Abigail Marsh entitled: Why Some People Are More Altruistic Than Others.

I’d love to hear about how you practice Altruism.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

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Dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and Finding Well-Being

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love.”
– Dorothy Day

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What can we do when loneliness, anxiety and depression take hold. We can hold on to hope.
I explored the Crisis of the Heart that is overtaking so many of us in my latest article on Thrive Global.

There is a crisis of the heart impacting us at the moment. It’s showing up as depression, anxiety, and attention disorders. These are also symptomatic of a cognition crisis. Adam Gazzaley, PhD explains it as:

“A crisis at the core of what makes us human: the dynamic interplay between our brain and our environment — the ever-present cycle between how we perceive our surroundings, integrate this information, and act upon it..”

The numbers of people suffering are staggering. In the United States, depression affects 16.2 million adults, and anxiety about 18.7 million. In New Zealand, it is estimated that one in five women suffers from depression, and about one in 10 men; with about one in six people suffering from anxiety.

Gazzaley describes a sharp increase in the number of teens impacted. American teens have experienced a 33% increase in depressive symptoms, with 31% more having died by suicide between 2010 and 2015. And in New Zealand, the percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds struggling with mental health has been steadily increasing, affecting

11.8 per cent in the past year. The estimated number of youth in NZ experiencing psychological distress has gone up from 58,000 to 79,000 in the past year. And tragically, NZ has the highest youth suicide rate among teenagers between 15 and 19 in the OECD.

What is causing this horrific increase, this crisis spiralling out of control? Grazzaley and many others argue that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being.

“Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment — specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”

But it’s not only our brains that are impacted; it’s also affecting our emotions and our hearts. Jack Kornfield describes this crisis as:

Our Crisis of Heart.

“No marvellous technological developments alone  will stop continuing warfare, racism, environmental destruction, and global injustice. The source of these sufferings is in the human heart. Actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect, and ignorance inevitably lead to suffering.”

Gazzaley echoes this sentiment as he notes that “the increasing complexity, speed, and multitasking of our modern environment has overtaken our capacities, and we live disconnected from our own self and from one another.”

This disconnect from our self and from one another is perpetuating the crisis, and the crisis is spiralling out of control. So how do we get a handle on it, how do we deal with a crisis of the heart? Kornfield asks us to reengage the heart.

If actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect and ignorance lead to suffering, then it makes sense that actions based on their opposites — generosity, love, respect, and wisdom — lead to happiness and well-being.

Numerous studies have shown that there are ways to increase joy, compassion, peace, and gratitude. The benefits of mindfulness and compassion are well researched. The work of Richard Davidson, professor of psychology, is especially interesting. Davidson’s work at Center for Healthy Minds at UW Madison has shown that positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion can be learned. This is great news; these positive emotions can be learned and nurtured to grow.

But the rapid rise of technology continues, and even as we work to hold on to the positive emotions that we are nurturing, the disconnect that Gazzaley described looms.

But there is hope. Kornfield is working with others to bring principles of heart and compassion into the field of technological development:

“Together with technology leaders, neuroscientists, and contemplatives, I have helped co-found something called the Open Source Compassion to bring principles of heart and compassion into all levels of technological development. We acknowledge that the capacities of modern technology are among the most potent of human creations. We are collaborating with companies and institutions around the world and beginning to formulate a kind of Hippocratic Oath for tech, which reads:

· We will not create technology that causes harm to humans and to life.
· If later we learn that it inadvertently does so, we will change it.
· We will strive to create technology that fosters human well-being and respect.
· We can create technology for profit, but not if it contravenes the first three principles.
· Working at all levels, we will act with professionalism and take these responsibilities as paramount.

Ultimately we must have hope; hope that there can be positive change and that love will prevail. Kornfield implores us:

Let these words be a reminder, a call.

Find your way to quiet yourself and tend your heart.

Promote love and spread the power of compassion in your work and in your community.

Have hope.

I’ll close with a wonderful video of Jack Kornfield entitled: ‘Wisdom, Compassion and Courage in Uncertain Times

I’d love to hear about how you deal with a crisis of the heart.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

Exciting Announcement! Interactive Online Workshop Series!

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams”

– Oprah Winfrey 

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Hi Everyone –
I’m so excited to announce a new workshop series! In this interactive online workshop you will learn to:
  • Identify Limiting Beliefs and Move Beyond Them
  • Overcome Obstacles that Prevent You from Moving Forward
  • Move Toward Achieving Your Dreams and Living Your Best Life!

One of the first questions that people have is – What’s the cost?  The answer is simple – Whatever you want to pay. That’s right.  I want this workshop to be completely accessible to everyone that is interested, and I absolutely do not want money to be an obstacle.

This Workshop begins Tuesday May 29th at 6pm PDT
Sign up today to start your journey!
patti@thiswayupbook.com

Want more info?

 

Still have questions?

Please email me at:   patti@thiswayupbook.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Are We All Addicts?

“She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings.
– Ellen Burstyn 

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Are we all addicts?  Well perhaps not all of us, but I’d put forth that there are lots and lots of us!

Life has become so stressful for most of us, that it is almost impossible not to become addicted to something. In the most of the world, much of society not only encourages addiction, but almost demands it. Some addictions, such as workaholism, are actually applauded in our culture – while others, such as nicotine, TV, internet porn, gambling, and sex addiction, are simply tolerated. And I believe that women are pressured hugely to drink wine in most social gatherings.  Wine has become a staple in the “Girls’ Night Out.”  As this article in The Huffington Post points out – Women Have a Complicated Love Affair With Wine.

Anne Wilson Schaef, author of When Society Becomes An Addict,  explains:

“Often unknowingly the vast majority of us collude in a system that encourages addiction and co-dependence – and sees these states as normal. Many of us are addicted to chemicals, not only to alcohol or drugs but nicotine, caffeine, chocolate and overeating in general. Even more of us are involved in addictive processes: workaholism, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex, and so on. The realization of the extent of our addictions, both individually and as a society, is shocking.”

And this book was written before the internet took over as our number one addiction.  If we are using anything to not feel our feelings, and we do it consistently, it is argued, that we are in an addiction process.

In another article in The Huffington Post:

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, author of Start Where You Are, agrees with Anne Wilson Schaef – we all are addicted to something. But she doesn’t blame it on American culture; she says it’s simply part and parcel of our human nature. Chodron explains that we are restless, irritable, and discontent – we find it impossible to just sit still and BE. So we distract ourselves with activity and entertainment: cell phones, texting, video games, iPods, TV, movies, magazines, non-stop busyness to keep us looking everywhere but inside ourselves. We mood-alter with substances (sugar, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, etc.) and activities (shopping, gambling, sex, work, viewing porn, etc.) Chodron says that we are unable to simply be awake and present to life – so we medicate our existential anxiety.

The article points out some sobering numbers regarding addiction in the US. But I’m sure many people will object to the use of the word addiction, but here is one way to decide for yourself (if you can get past the denial!)

 

Russell Brand describes the 12 steps of recovery from addiction in his book Recovery in a very in your face manner that may help some people see their own addiction.  Most people either love Brand or hate him, but I find this confronting, in your face description of addiction and the way out refreshing.

Here are Brand’s 12 Steps:

“Here is how I look at these steps now, and it’s how I invite you to look at them too. It certainly de-mystifies it. I’ve probably overcompensated with the ‘f ’ word, but my point is that this is a practical system that anyone can use.

1 Are you a bit fucked?

2 Could you not be fucked?

3 Are you, on your own, going to ‘unfuck’ yourself?

4 Write down all the things that are fucking you up or have ever fucked you up and don’t lie, or leave anything out.

5 Honestly tell someone trustworthy about how fucked you are.

6 Well that’s revealed a lot of fucked up patterns. Do you want to stop it? Seriously?

7 Are you willing to live in a new way that’s not all about you and your previous, fucked up stuff? You have to.

8 Prepare to apologize to everyone for everything affected by your being so fucked up.

9 Now apologize. Unless that would make things worse.

10 Watch out for fucked up thinking and behaviour and be honest when it happens.

11 Stay connected to your new perspective.

12 Look at life less selfishly, be nice to everyone, help people if you can.

 

For Step One, Are You A Bit Fucked?  Brand describes addiction simply and succinctly:

This is an invitation to change. This is complicated only in that most of us are quite divided, usually part of us wants to change a negative and punishing behaviour, whereas another part wants to hold on to it. For me Recovery is a journey from a lack of awareness to awareness.

A 5-point guide to the cycle of addiction:

1 Pain

2 Using an addictive agent, like alcohol, food, sex, work, dependent relationships to soothe and distract

3 Temporary anaesthesia or distraction

4 Consequences

5 Shame and guilt, leading to pain or low self-esteem . . . And off we go again.

 

I love the simplicity of that 5 point process.

If you can go through that 5 point process and honestly say nope not me, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones.  If not, there is hope in the steps mentioned above.

 

I’ll close this post appropriately with Brand’s own video of the 12 steps.  Enjoy!

I’d love to hear about your own recovery process, whatever that looks like.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Choose to Make Your Life Sacred

“Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness.”

– Rumi 

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Today I choose to make my life sacred. By focusing on the beauty and the sacredness of life, I can move away from the fear and uncertainty.

“It feels good and right to lift our faces to the sunlight.  It feels good and right to follow our hearts. Something in all of us ignites when we live this way.”

Sarah Blondin takes us on a beautiful journey of making our life sacred in her podcast Live Awake. Blondin, the creator of Live Awake focuses on the sacredness of life in her podcasts.

“She decided after waking from what felt like years of sleep, that nature was responsible for loving her awake. She decided the earth breathed its grace up from the roots of her feet. The trees gathered together to give her grounded strength. She decided the wind carried loving whispers from the divine to her slumbering ears. She decided the sky showered her with wisdom and mirrored the boundless nature of every soul walking this earth.  She decided after waking from what felt like years of sleep, that she would live forevermore wide open to all that came to be in front of her. She decided that living awake was a choice, and in that moment she became free. And in that moment she chose to be the beam of light that reaches toward all other life, to be the beam that assists the earth in breathing and loving others awake.”

I invite you to listen to the podcast here, on Soundcloud, Make It Sacred. It’s a beautiful uplifting podcast. There are several Live Awake podcasts available on the wonderful free app –  Insight Timer.  There are hundreds of guided meditations by wonderful teachers available on this app.  I recommend it whole-heartedly.

I’ll close this post with another video from the Live Awake archives, Choosing Harmony.  It is a lovely way to spend nine minutes.

 

 

Let me know your thoughts on how you make your life sacred.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

What the Dying Can Teach Us About Living

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.”
– Leonardo da Vinci 

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Once again, I have so much to be grateful for, in terms of what my sons have taught me. This time, I am grateful that both of them pushed me to explore the wonders of podcasts. Of course I have listened to podcasts, I’ve even been interviewed on several, but it’s been a half-hearted effort. On their last trip home, over Christmas, they downloaded a podcast playing app and steered me in the direction of several podcasts that they enjoyed. And since then, I have been playing podcasts on every trip I take in my car. I’m hooked! Mind you, as most of you know that have been reading my blog for awhile,  I’m an addict at heart, so everything I do, I often overdo! But at this point, I’m loving it and it doesn’t seem to be doing me any harm.

The first podcast that my sons turned me on to was an interview with Frank Ostaseski on a podcast called Waking Up with Sam Harris. But Actually, Tara Brach is much more my style, so I then listened to her interview with Ostaseski on her podcast, Tara Talks.

I was so impacted that I bought Ostaseski’s book, The Five Invitations. A wonderful book that I highly recommend.

In an article in Daily Good, Ostaseski describes his journey:

“Over the past thirty years, as the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project, people who were dying generously invited me into their most vulnerable moments. They made it possible for me to get up close and personal with death. In the process, they taught me how to live. I distilled their wisdom into five heart lessons for living fully and without regret.”

The message in the book has five invitations to us from what Ostaseski has learned from people dying.

1. Don’t Wait.

2. Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing

3. Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience

4. Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things

5. Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind

The idea of the first invitation, Don’t Wait, seems obvious. If you are dying, you can’t wait to do things, there is an immediacy to everything. But this has a message to all of us:

“This idea can both frighten and inspire us. Yet, embracing the truth of life’s precariousness helps us to appreciate its preciousness. We stop wasting our lives on meaningless activities. We learn to not hold our opinions, our desires, and even our own identities so tightly. Instead of pinning our hopes on a better future, we focus on the present and being grateful for what we have in front of us right now. We say, “I love you” more often. We become kinder, more compassionate and more forgiving.”

When I think about the second invitation, Push Away Nothing, that feels very hard. My logical mind says, but what about the horrible stuff? I don’t want to welcome the bad stuff. Ostaseski explains though:

“In welcoming everything, we don’t have to like what’s arising or necessarily agree with it, but we need to be willing to meet it, to learn from it. The word welcome confronts us; it asks us to temporarily suspend our usual rush to judgment and to be open, to what is showing up at our front door. To receive it in the spirit of hospitality. At the deepest level, this invitation is asking us to cultivate a kind of fearless receptivity.”

Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience is a good invitation for me. I often hold back thinking I have nothing to offer here, I don’t know how to deal with this. I believe if I can’t contribute some kind of knowing to something, then I should not contribute. I know this is from ego, that I want to look good if I’m going to contribute. But Ostaseski explains gently:

“We all like to look good. We long to be seen as capable, strong, intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, or at least well-adjusted. Few of us want to be known for our helplessness, fear, anger, or ignorance. Yet more than once I have found an “undesirable” aspect of myself — one about which I previously had felt ashamed — to be the very quality that allowed me to meet another person’s suffering with compassion instead of fear or pity. It is not only our expertise, but exploration of our own suffering that enables us to build an empathetic bridge and be of real assistance to others. To be whole, we need to include and connect all parts of ourselves. Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means no part left out.”

The fourth invitation, Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things, is a wonderful reminder for all of us I think. After listening to the podcast with Tara Brach, I downloaded another app to help remind me to find a place of rest in the middle of thing. The app, Insight Timer, has meditations on my phone to help me find rest in the middle of things, to remind me and aid me to rest.

“We often think of rest as something that will come to us when everything else in our lives is complete: At the end of the day, when we take a bath; once we go on holiday or get through all our to-do lists. We imagine that we can only find rest by changing our circumstances.”

 

And the fifth invitation, Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind is a Zen flavored invite, one that describes a mind that’s open and receptive, one that is not limited by agendas, roles, and expectations.

“It is free to discover. When we are filled with knowing, when our mind is made up, it narrows our vision and limits our capacity to act. We only see what our knowing allows us to see. We don’t abandon our knowledge — it’s always there in the background should we need it — but we let go of fixed ideas. We let go of control. The night before my open-heart surgery, my 26-year-old son Gabe and I had a tender conversation. Our sharing was filled with reminiscing, kindness, and laughter. At one point, Gabe became quite serious and asked, “Dad, are you going to live through this surgery?” Now I love my son beyond words, and like any father, I wanted to reassure him that I would be just fine. I felt into my experience before answering. Then I heard myself say, “I’m not taking sides.” My answer surprised us both. What I meant was that I wasn’t taking sides with life or death. Either way, I trusted that everything would be okay. I don’t know where the words came from; they spilled from me without censorship. I wasn’t trying to appear sage or to be a good Buddhist. Yet we both were reassured by my response. I think it was because we knew we were in the presence of the truth spoken with love.”

These five invitations are a gift to all of us, supportive in our life. They invite us to continue to explore and understand what it means to be alive now; not just to cope with death, but to live. And I whole heartedly agree with Ostaseski, they are relevant guides to living with integrity. Yes, we need to live these invitations, to be truly understood, they need to be lived and realized through action. They indeed are “five invitations for you to be fully present for every aspect of your life.”

The conversation with Tara Brach and Frank Ostaseski is truly inspirational, and I invite you to take the time to watch it now.

 

Let me know your thoughts on these Five Invitations.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Is Love All You Need?

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
― Anaïs Nin

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I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be, after all we were married and he should know . . . he should be able to read my mind . . .

Lennon and McCartney tell us that Love is All You Need. But in the case of romantic love, is that true?

Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

In the past, people married for practical reasons, but in the 1800s, we replaced practicality with the romantic version of love:

“For most of recorded history, people married for logical sorts of reasons: because her parcel of land adjoined yours, his family had a flourishing business, her father was the magistrate in town, there was a castle to keep up, or both sets of parents subscribed to the same interpretation of a holy text. And from such reasonable marriages, there flowed loneliness, infidelity, abuse, hardness of heart and screams heard through the nursery doors. The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.”

Romantic Love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there and it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have that very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from ‘The School of Life.’

We are led to believe that when we find our soul mate, we will never be lonely again, that person will understand us completely and practically be able to read our mind. (flashback to me in the car pouting) We will feel completely understood and loved. This love shall be one long romantic holiday . . .

 

The reality is though that what we are looking for when we fall in love is familiarity. We are not necessarily drawn to people who will make us happy, we are drawn to people who will feel familiar.

“What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes. How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.”

Botton adds:

“The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

For a relationship to last, we need more than that out-dated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that my husband should just know.

But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.

In Atlantic Magazine’s article ‘Masters of Love’, psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.

The masters felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. Whereas the disasters were in a state of ‘fight or flight’ even when they were not fighting. It’s not that the masters had a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

“Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that. People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper.”

Gottman explains that masters have a habit of mind in which they scan the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes. And it’s not just scanning the environment, it’s also scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or wrong; criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.

The Gottmans have found that contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them will eventually kill the love in the relationship. On the other hand, kindness glues couples together. Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated. Kindness makes us feel loved.

So if we are looking to live happily ever after together, we need to ditch the antiquated version of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.

I’d like to close this post with the video by Alaine de Botton that I mentioned above.  It is well worth the watch, both amusing and insightful.

 

Let me know your thoughts on romantic love and what makes a relationship withstand the test of time.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Finding Purpose

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

― Albert Schweitzer

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Almost 60 years old, and most of my friends and I still talk about finding our calling, finding life’s purpose. What are we truly meant to do?

Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps explains:

“Finding your calling — it’s not passive. When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do.  In other words, you don’t just “find” your calling — you have to fight for it. And it’s worth the fight. People who’ve found their calling have a fire about them,”

Isay has listened to thousands of people tell their story and describe fighting to find their purpose.  He describes his amazing work with StoryCorps in this great TED Talk – Everyone Around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear:

 

A wonderful article in Daily Good elaborates on Isay’s findings by outlining the 7 lessons Isay describes in his new book:  “Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work.”

I love this first Lesson:

1. Your calling is at the intersection of a Venn diagram of three things: doing something you’re good at, feeling appreciated, and believing your work is making people’s lives better.

 

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That diagram shows the ‘sweet spot’ – intersecting three things: Doing something you are good at; intersecting with the knowledge that you are making people’s lives better – service; and feeling appreciated for this work.  This idea mirrors Albert Schweitzer’s quote:

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

Your calling takes courage and doesn’t always pay well. But we know it when we are doing it.  We get in the flow; we feel good about ourselves and our work; time flies; and although the pay check may not be great, we keep doing it because we know it is right for us.

So I think it’s quite fitting to close with this video entitled: How to Know Your Life’s Purpose in 5 Minutes!  After all, at almost 60 many of us are running out of time!

I’d love to hear if you’ve found your life’s purpose and how you found it.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

The Power of Forgiveness

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
― Anne Lamott

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Really exciting news – Arianna Huffington, renowned founder of Huffington Post, has launched a new venture called Thrive Global!

Thrive Global’s mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.

Recent science has shown that the pervasive belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success is a delusion. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity and productivity improve dramatically.

Thrive Global’s three interconnected core components are: corporate trainings and workshops that bring the latest strategies and tools around health and well-being to organizations; a media platform that serves as the global hub for the conversation about well-being and performance with an emphasis on action; and, an e-commerce platform that offers a curated selection of the best technology and products for well-being. Together, the three components create an integrated platform that empowers people to make sustainable changes to their daily lives, going from knowing what to do to actually doing it.

Thrive Global is committed to accelerating the culture shift that allows people to reclaim their lives and move from surviving to thriving.

It is an amazing site and I urge you to check it out and if you are so inclined, sign up for their newsletter.  It’s helpful and healing.

I was honored to have an article about Forgiveness in their inaugural edition. And I’d like to share it here:

As we enter the holiday season, many of us will be joining family members and friends that we may not have seen in awhile. Time with family often dredges up old resentment and anger for a lot of us. And especially with the divisiveness of the past election, this holiday season may be rife with tension for many. When I think about the resentments I still carry around, I try to remember that forgiving those people I’m still angry at helps me, it’s for my own healing.

But I believe a lot of us get stuck on the idea of what forgiveness actually means. Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness. Remember the act of forgiving is for you the forgiver, not the person you are forgiving.

Forgiveness does not mean that you gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offence against you. It does not mean forgetting nor excusing what has been done. It does not mean you have to reconcile with the person or release them from legal accountability.

As Anne Lamott puts it: “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.” Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It brings the forgiver peace and hopefully freedom from anger.

I love Jack Kornfield’s definition of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is, in particular, the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love. Forgiveness shifts us from the small separate sense of ourselves to a capacity to renew, to let go, to live in love.

Ok so forgiveness is for the forgiver, but why should we do it in the first place? What’s in it for me? Here are a few great reasons. The Mayo Clinicexplains that letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

We may accept that forgiveness is a good thing to practice in general, and can actually be good for our health, but how do we go about it? What exactly do we do? Fred Luskin is a pioneer in the science and practice of forgiveness. He offers us nine steps toward forgiveness:

1. Understand how you feel about what happened and be able to explain why the situation is not OK. Then discuss it with someone you trust.

2. Commit to yourself to feel better; remember forgiveness is for you and no one else.

3. Remember forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the person who upset you; it does not condone the action. In forgiveness you are seeking peace for yourself.

4. Recognize that the distress now is coming from the hurt feelings and physical upset you are currently suffering, not from what offended you or hurt you when it happened.

5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response. Take a deep breath.

6. Stop expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.

7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.

8. Remember that living well is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.

9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.

So if old resentment and anger is dredged up this holiday season, or if new frustrations and resentments emerge, remember letting go of the anger and practicing forgiveness is for your own peace of mind. Try taking a deep breath and walking away. It’s for your own good.

I’d like to close with a video that I love. It is worth watching again and again. A video by Jack Kornfield called The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness.

I hope you’ll take some time to watch this powerful video. I’d love to hear your thoughts about forgiveness, and how you manage to forgive those who have hurt you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

The Power of Silence

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.”

– Francis Bacon

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Silence. What does that word bring up for you? Does it bring up fear? No TV, no internet videos, no talking! Or does it bring up a craving? No distractions, no barrage of noise.

I’ve been thinking a lot of about silence and sleep lately because of some neuroscience studies I’ve read about recently. Research shows that sleep and silence are much more important for our brains than we imagined.

Much of this research corroborates the research I did for my Creative Positive Reframing (CPR) process. In this process there are three main steps: Identify, Reframe and Embed.

Identify the negative – and then do some ‘Synaptic Pruning’

Reframe with positive messages

Embed with visualization, meditation and silence

We all have lots of negative, limiting beliefs about ourselves and our abilities that exist in our brains.  One of the best ways to stop these beliefs from having a free reign in your brain is to stop focusing on them and focus on something positive instead. But once we are able to stop focusing on them, how does the brain get rid of those negative thoughts that exist in old neural pathways?

Our brains get rid of old pathways with a process scientists call ‘Synaptic Pruning’

“Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.

“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain—they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?

Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy—or prune—the synapse.

This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.”

Perhaps you are not as interested in the science, so suffice it to say, that the more you use a neural pathway, the stronger it becomes. But the opposite is also true, when you use it less, it gets weaker.  So once you identify the negative belief system, STOP focusing on it! But then the brain needs time to do some clean up, getting rid of the old synaptic pathways.

Our brains need time to prune a lot of those old connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep. Our brains do this clean out when we sleep—your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses.

And in fact, you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. It’s the synaptic connections you don’t use that get marked for recycling. The ones you do use are the ones that get watered and oxygenated. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.

So be mindful of what you are mindful of. Replace the negative with something positive, Reframe it. Be conscious of what you focus on.

There is a saying in neuroscience that neurons that fire together wire together. This means the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. Rick Hanson explains this well in his article in Greater Good.  So if you want to take limiting beliefs and creatively transforming them so that they become supportive rather than destructive, this is how you proceed. Hanson explains that ‘You can change your mind, to change your brain, to change your mind for the better!’

Then finally we need some silence to help embed these new neural pathways. Visualization and meditation are key factors. I often talk about the power of visualization and meditation in this blog. So much has been written about it, there is no question that both of these practices are hugely beneficial to the brain and to life!  But what about silence?  More and more research is showing just how important silence is for our brains.

 A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system. In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.  The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence.

I’d like to close with a wonderful TED Talk by Nick Seaver called The Gift of Silence.

I hope you’ll take some time today and give yourself the gift of silence, and the gift of a great sleep as well. I’d love to hear about your experience with silence.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.