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If Losing Your Job To The Pandemic Destroyed Your Identity, Here’s How To Find It

        “If I’m not (insert job title here), then who am I?”

This is the type of question some adults are asking themselves as they struggle through the darkness of losing a job to the pandemic.

Some never realized how tied their identities were to their careers until they lost them. They feel lost mentally and emotionally, as if they’re experiencing a bad breakup. The present is surreal, the future is uncertain, and they’re unsure how to define themselves.

Christa Black, a freelance copywriter from Ashland, Kentucky, said her work shaped her identity.

“I finally felt like a ‘real’ writer, because after several years of trying, I was actually being paid to do what I enjoyed and was good at,” she said. “I started to feel less like an artist and more like ‘a professional.'”

But when the pandemic hit, the work faded away. Black’s income decreased to little to none. She soon felt that she had lost her identity, that she was no longer a professional and that she didn’t fit in with the creative community from which she had come.

That might be because sudden unemployment is a threat to “narrative identity,” said Jonathan Adler, a professor of psychology who specializes in identity and narrative psychology at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.

“Identity is the story of our lives that weaves together the way we reconstruct our past, make sense of the present and anticipate our future,” he said.

That narrative identity is the confluence of you and the culture in which you live. We grow up in a sea of stories about what a typical life’s journey looks like and what moments we’re supposed to hold onto, Adler said, so we take the templates available to us and tailor our experiences to those master narratives.

“We use our stories as the foundation for everything else that we do,” Adler said. “So when you rock the foundation, everything else on top of that crumbles.”

Through some inner work, however, you can take back your worth.

How our identities influence our jobs

For some, jobs provide merely a paycheck. For others, occupations also supply a sense of meaning that holds weight when they think about their sense of selves.

Our perpetually “on the grind” culture defines who we are by what we do for work.

“The first thing we ask when we meet a new person is, ‘What do you do for a living?'” said Nicole Hind, an Australia-based psychotherapist behind the online community, blog and practice Unveiled Stories.

“It’s as though we equate ‘goodness’ with ‘work’ when in fact goodness is so much more than that. It’s important to note that this is particular to our modern industrialized society: the idea that work is all of who we are and that we are not worthy humans if we don’t work.”

Additionally, people who feel motivated and engaged by and passionate about their work might have experienced psychological benefits from finding their calling, Adler said.

In the idealized college-job-promotion-passion trajectory, becoming unemployed isn’t part of the vision. “All of a sudden the end is totally open and uncertain,” Adler said.

Our narrative identities serve two additional functions that make us feel good. They provide a sense of unity, so that we feel we are the same people over time. They also provide a sense of purpose, so we know the meaning of what we’re doing and what our lives are about.

People suddenly faced with job loss are now challenged by a story with a cliffhanger and interrupted senses of unity and purpose — all of which can lead to anxiety, depression and anger.

 

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What to do about it

Finding your identity begins with questioning yourself about three themes that construct life stories and tend to be the strongest predictors of well-being, Adler said.

“It’s not so much what happens to you [that matters]; it’s how you tell the story of what happens to you,” Adler said.

The first is agency, a characteristic of the main character in your story (which is you). Maybe your effectiveness at your job provided your sense of agency. Though no one is in complete control, how much are you in the driver’s seat of your life versus batted around by the whims of external forces?

Give yourself the space to grieve the losses, Hind instructed.

Don’t rush into proclaiming why you’re stronger because of it. Instead, acknowledge what you’re feeling physically, emotionally and mentally. Recall positive moments, too: the times when you advocated for what you believed in or hit a goal.

Summer internships have dried up because of the pandemic. Here’s how to get ahead without one

“People who do what’s called exploratory processing — which means deeply trying to make sense of their experience before creating a redemption sequence at the end — actually do better than the people who just do redemption without exploring the challenge,” Adler said.

Then find something else to prioritize, like a new venture or hobby. Revisit your core values and what really matters: What parts of your job were important to you? What fueled your passion? How can you express those during this period?

You can stay invested in those values whether you’re employed or not, Adler said.

For example, Black, the freelance copywriter, has found her roots again in creative writing. “It has helped me get back in touch with my creativity and given me something enjoyable to focus on while I emotionally recover from everything that came along with the pandemic and its fallout,” she said.

In this way, the underlying value of her job might be fulfilled.

Figure out your own definition of success, Hind said. What do you admire about your role models? Is it their “success” or their skills, compassion, kindness or wisdom?

And our stories aren’t just about ourselves. Communion, secondly, entails a sense of being connected to, nurturing and feeling cared for by quality relationships. Engage with the connections that matter to you.

“Step away from ‘job’ as being the only and step towards appreciating [yourself] and others for everything: the way you take care of someone or the meal you cooked today,” Hind said. “What [do] my everyday life, my interactions and my values say about who I am?”

Taking action and finding community foster the growth leading to redemption — stories that start out bad but end well.

“There’s a lot of research on the theme of redemption. It’s sort of a classic American master narrative,” Adler said. “We have the Puritan settlers finding freedom. We have ex-slaves’ narratives about liberation. We have the rags to riches stories.”

The outcome of finding yourself

Reclaiming your identity requires both a quick shift in mindset and a journey of changing your thought patterns and behaviors — just like setting an intention to lose weight, Adler said.

“That’s something that takes place over time, but it actually happens every moment of every day. You can’t just diet and exercise on the weekends,” he explained. “Changing your narrative identity is like that — it’s a cumulative process that builds up over time, but the intention … is something you do in the here and now every day.”

When we’re focused only on work as a measure of success and what defines us, we lose touch with many other areas, Hind said.

We might devalue our contributions to our families or forget to be present with them, ourselves, pets and other sources of joy. We say we “don’t have time” for leisure and then wonder why we’re so anxious all the time or need a drink to unwind. Then we wonder why we’re unhappy, Hind said.
Just as a threatened identity might have upended every area of your life, a solid identity can also flow into different domains and increase your confidence.

By Kristen Rogers       June 18, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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Ikigai: Your Reason for Being

What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?
When asked what is the single most powerful contributing factor to one’s health and vitality, integrative medical doctor Oscar Serrallach answered without hesitation: having a sense of purpose. Serrallach went on to describe that while some of his patients have developed great regimes of nutrition, lifestyle activities and movement to support their wellbeing; those without a clear sense of purpose in their life experience continuing struggle with physical health issues. The distinguishing quality of many of his healthiest patients – those who  transcend common health challenges despite not having lived by the book, in terms of healthy lifestyle factors – is that they seem to be the most aligned or ‘called’ towards some primary focus of meaning in their life.

Japanese culture actually has a word which addresses this focus. The word is ikigai and translates simply as, ‘reason for being’.

What is Your ‘Reason for Being’?
According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. To find it often requires deep enquiry and lengthy ‘search of self’ – a search which is highly regarded.

The term ikigai is composed of two Japanese words: iki referring to life, and kai, which roughly means “the realisation of what one expects and hopes for”. Unpacking the word and its associated symbol a bit further, ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:

  • What you Love (your passion)
  • What the World Needs (your mission)
  • What you are Good at (your vocation)
  • What you can get Paid for (your profession)

The word ikigai, that space in the middle of these four elements, is seen as the source of value or what make one’s life truly worthwhile. In Okinawa, Japan, ikigai is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning”. Interestingly, while certainly incorporating the financial aspects of life, the word is more often used to refer to the mental and spiritual state behind our circumstance as opposed to our current economic status alone. Even if we are moving through a dark or challenging time, if we are moving with purpose, if we are feeling called toward something or have a clear goal in mind, we may still experience ikigai. Often the behaviors that make us feel ikigai are not the ones we are forced to take based on the expectations of the world around us, but rather they are the natural actions and spontaneous responses that emerge from a deep and direct connection to life.

 

Ikigai

The Question of Purpose
Many ancient indigenous cultures took time to honour the question of purpose through ceremony, vision quest and rites of passage in order to help reveal the essential role that each member was born to play in the greater tribe and story of life; though the space and reverence for this question does not always seem to exist today. For many, our decisions around life-focus unfold in a more reactionary way, propelling us into educational, professional and life-directional paths based less on deep inner calling or soul-inspired vision, and more on societal expectations, so-called ‘practical reality’ and what is required to survive in the systems we’ve created to live in.

The truth is, if there was ever a time on our planet where a sense of true purpose was needed, required, or desperately called for, now would be that time. But amidst the multi-layered pressures of our modern world, how do we peel back the layers and discover why we are here and what we are really supposed to be doing?

American mythologist and author Joseph Campbell shared his view on fulfilling our purpose when he said,

My general formula for my students is,

 ‘Follow your bliss.’ Find where it is, and don’t be afraid to follow it .

Sacred Activism, encourages us on the other hand to find our purpose by ‘following our heartbreak’. Andrew Harvey calls us to discover that which is most deeply disturbing in our world and to use this as a catalyst to propel our actions and discover where we can make the biggest difference.

Meanwhile, philosopher and civil rights leader Howard W Thurman said:

 Don’t ask what the world needs. 

 Ask what makes you come alive and do that… 

 Because what the world really needs is people who have come alive. 

While each of these viewpoints are powerfully compelling in their own right, whether we are following our bliss, following our heartbreak, or that which makes us come alive (or a combination of all three!), for many of us there is also an apparent need to follow that which pays the bills each month and allows us to cover the basic necessities of life. So how do we balance all of these factors in the creation of a life which is meaningful, purposeful and aligned with our true calling? Is it possible to have it all? The essence of ikigai gives us a framework to balance these elements into a cohesive whole.

Passion as a Vehicle for Change and Contribution
As the world moves through massive change on many levels, more and more people are feeling called to align their skills and gifts with a higher cause or sense of contribution. Beautiful examples are emerging in many arenas of social change and activism where people are not abandoning their passion for the cause but rather channeling the thing they most love doing in the direction of positive change – and discovering inspired ways to support themselves along the way.

Sixteen year old rapper, dancer and global youth director of Earth Guardians Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a living example of ikigai, blending his creative gifts and passion for the Earth in the rise of a world-wide youth-lead revolution in support of future generations.  Poet/rapper/Facebook sensation Prince Ea has woven his love and concern for humanity and Earth with a gift for capturing profound messages into powerfully creative 3-5 minute videos – an expression of ikigai which galvanises the energy and support of millions of people online each week. Visionary art therapist and yoga teacher Atira Tan responded to her “heartbreak” witnessing child sex trafficking in Asia and has discovered incredible passion and aliveness through the sharing of her global foundation Art2Healing, bringing justice and transformational healing and movement arts to those who have suffered from this experience.

Youth Director of Earth Guardians, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, in hip-hop expression of ikigaiYouth Director of Earth Guardians, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, in hip-hop expression of ikigai.
The truth is many of the challenges we face in today’s world are not simple, technical challenges. They are complex, multi-dimensional issues which will require expansive, multi-dimensional thinking and action. The type of thinking, action and energy that emerges naturally when we are in the throes of creative expression or connection with others. When we are immersed in any endeavor that brings us into our hearts, that makes us come alive – and we are bringing ourselves fully to it – instantly we become more generative, more magnetic and more dynamic in our ability to navigate challenges and discover pathways of breakthrough.

What is Your Ikigai?
Take a moment to draw your own version of the overlapping circles of the ikigai symbol and consider the following:

  • What do you Love? What aspects of your life bring you into your heart and make you come alive?
  • What are you Great at? What unique skills do you have that come most naturally to you? What talents have you cultivated and what do you excel at even when you aren’t trying?
  • What Cause do you believe in? What breaks your heart or pulls at your gut? What change would you most love to create in the world? What would you give your life for?
  • What do people Value and pay you for? What service, value or offering do you bring, or could you bring, that brings real value to others? Something people need and are happy to pay for or share some value in exchange?

Take a few minutes to write whatever key words, phrases, and ideas come up for you in each circle, then look for areas of natural overlap. Reflect on the sum total of these elements and how they may relate to each other. Bring yourself quietly to the centre of the circles and leave space in your mind for whatever impulse or calling may emerge naturally in the coming days… What is one simple thing you could do or be today that would be an expression of your ikigai?

By Chip Richards        Monday January 14th, 2019
 


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7 Elements of Wisdom That Can Make You Happier as You Age

Despite aches and pains, the wisdom that comes with age can make you happier.

Despite more physical aches and pains as we age—the ‘paradox of aging’ suggests that older people are generally more comfortable in their own skin, feel better about themselves, and grow happier in their lives year after year…decade after decade.

Nora Ephron once said, “Looking back, it seems to me that I was clueless until I was about 50 years old.” As someone who just entered my sixth decade of life, I concur. The inherent wisdom that comes from life experience makes it easier to cope with the pitfalls of aging. Empirical evidence also suggests that lots of people get happier as they get older.

A new study by age researchers at the University of California, San Diego, reports that despite having more physical ailments, older adults living in southern California tend to be happier and have markedly better mental health than their younger counterparts.

The August 2016 study, “Paradoxical Trend for Improvement in Mental Health With Aging,” appears in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

For this study, senior author Dilip Jeste, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Center on Healthy Aging at UC San Diego, and colleagues collected data via phone interviews on the physical health, cognitive function, and other measures of mental health in 1,546 adults, ages 21 to 100 years living in San Diego county.

Jeste emphasizes that this study wasn’t restricted to psychological well-being, but included other markers of mental health. One caveat about this demographic—and the cross-sectional method of collecting information—is that these findings only provide a snapshot of a limited geographic area at one-moment-in-time and are not longitudinal.

The Wisdom of Aging Facilitates an Upward Spiral of Psychological Well-Being
The researchers found a substantial improvement to psychological well-being among older adults that followed a linear trajectory—which improved year after year once people got over the hump of the colloquial “midlife crisis.” The linear nature of the findings surprised the researchers. In fact, the oldest cohort in this study had mental health scores significantly better than the youngest cohort.

Across the board, the participants in their 20s and 30s reported higher levels of perceived stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Alarmingly, this period of early midlife was associated with far worse levels of psychological well-being than any other period of adulthood, which is cause for concern.

These findings turn conventional notions of aging upside down. Aging in the 21st century doesn’t appear to be an unavoidable process of physical and cognitive decline. In a statement, Jeste said, “Some cognitive decline over time is inevitable, but its effect is clearly not uniform and in many people, not clinically significant—at least in terms of impacting their sense of well-being and enjoyment of life.”

In terms of causation, the specific reasons for improved positive mental health in old age are difficult to pin down. That said, below are seven elements of wisdom that I’ve found make people happier as they age based on empirical evidence and life experience.

7 Elements of Wisdom for Aging Gracefully by Bergland

  • Stop holding grudges against yourself and others.
  • Embrace who you are, warts and all.
  • Vocalize your imperfections shamelessly.
  • Practice conscientious emotional regulation.
  • Stay even-keel via equanimity.
  • Apologize wholeheartedly for any wrong-doing.
  • Move on! Let go of negative emotions and regrets.

As we age, many people inherently learn the above elements of wisdom through life experience. That said, over the years I’ve found that having an itemized punch list of target mindsets and behaviors makes it easier to expedite your learning curve.

Conclusion: It Really Is “Getting So Much Better (All the Time)”
From a public health perspective, Jeste is concerned that the rates of psychological distress and mental illness in young people are rising at an alarming rate. Also, other studies have shown that mortality rates among specific middle-aged groups have skyrocketed in the past ten years. In a statement, Jeste concluded,

“Inadequate attention has been paid to mental health issues that continue or get exacerbated post-adolescence. We need to understand mechanisms underlying better mental health in older age in spite of more physical ailments. That would help develop broad-based interventions to promote mental health in all age groups, including youth.”

The latest research reminds us all that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for anyone in an earlier stage of life, or in midlife, who is feeling malcontent or suffering from depression. I’ve lived through this myself. As an adolescent—and again in my late 30s—I suffered major depressive episodes (MDE) that included suicidal ideation. Hang in there. I am living proof that it really does start getting better at a certain point in life. If you are suicidal, please seek assistance: <U.S.> http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/       <Canada>  https://www.suicideprevention.ca/need-help

Below is a passage I wrote for The Athlete’s Way over a decade ago—just months after getting through a harrowing MDE. This advice has continued to work for me over the subsequent years. If you are currently struggling with mental health issues, hopefully, these insights will be helpful for you, too.

“When life throws me a curveball, I have learned from experience to be proactive and reach out to friends and mental health professionals to help me through. When you are in the blackest of blackness, the light seems like it will never enter your brain again. But it will. The light will flicker again. That is the human spirit; it always, always comes back. I’ve been there myself. If you are depressed or suicidal do whatever you have to do to stay vital and get yourself back on track.
You were born to be alive. Don’t isolate. Reach out. Ask for help. There will be sunbeams in your soul again. Ride out the storm—but don’t do it alone. People will take care of you. Let them. And make a vow, when you’re back on top, to give something back.”

 

Christopher Bergland       Aug 29, 2016

 

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Express Gratitude
– Not Because You Will Benefit From It,
But Others Might

The world is currently in the midst of a pandemic where the most useful thing many of us can do is stay at home and keep away from others. Schools, restaurants, office buildings and movie theaters are closed. Many people are feeling disoriented, disconnected and scared.

At this time of soaring infection rates, shortages of medical supplies and economic downturns, there are also examples of people looking for ways to express their gratitude to those on the front lines of fighting the epidemic. In many European countries, for example, people are expressing gratitude for the work of the medical staff by clapping from their balconies. Recently, this same practice has migrated to New York City.

As psychology researchers, we have been working to study the connection between gratitude and well-being.

Gratitude and well-being connection
In 2013, psychologists Robert Emmons and Robin Stern explained gratitude as both appreciating the good things in life and recognizing that they come from someone else.

There is a strong correlation between gratitude and well-being. Researchers have found that individuals who report feeling and expressing gratitude more report a greater level of positive emotions such as happiness, optimism and joy.

At the same time, they have a lower level of negative emotions such as anger, distress, depression and shame. They also report a higher level of life satisfaction.

Furthermore, grateful individuals report a greater sense of purpose in life, more forgiveness and better quality of relationships, and they even seem to sleep better.

In short, grateful individuals seem to have more of the ingredients needed to thrive and flourish.

There are several plausible explanations for the apparent connection between gratitude and well-being. It may be that gratitude serves as a positive lens through which to view the world.

For example, grateful individuals may be inclined to see the good in people and situations, which may result in a more compassionate and less critical view of others and themselves.

Grateful individuals may also be naturally prone to forming mutually supportive relationships. When someone expresses gratitude, the recipient is more likely to connect with that person and to invest in that relationship in the future.

Gratitude exercises have weak effects
However, there is one important caveat to this research. It shows that gratitude is correlated with well-being, but it does not prove that expressing gratitude actually improves well-being.

Psychologists have conducted a number of experiments to see if giving thanks leads to greater well-being. For example, individuals may be asked to perform gratitude exercises at home and then report on their well-being afterward. These exercises include writing a thank-you letter or keeping a journal of things one is thankful for.

Several review papers over the past four years, including our recent paper, indicate that these gratitude exercises have fairly weak effects on well-being.

These review papers combine the findings from multiple different studies, which allows researchers to be more confident that the findings are consistent and can be trusted.

Researchers found that such gratitude exercises only increase happiness and life satisfaction a little bit. Similarly, the effect on symptoms of depression and anxiety was also small.

Express gratitude to help others
We are not suggesting that expressing gratitude has no value. Rather, we argue that gratitude should not be thought of as a self-help tool to increase one’s own happiness and well-being.

Instead, gratitude may be most valuable as a way of honoring and acknowledging someone else. Indeed, researchers have found that expressions of gratitude lead to improved relationships for both the one expressing gratitude and the recipient. The lead researcher of a 2010 study – psychologist Sara Algoe – concluded that for romantic relationships, gratitude worked like a “booster shot.”

During this global pandemic, perhaps it is more important than ever to express gratitude to the important people in our lives – not just loved ones, but the countless public officials, health care professionals and others who are fighting on the front lines.

April 2, 2020 
 
Jennifer Cheavens          Associate Professor of Psychology, The Ohio State University
David Cregg       Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology, The Ohio State University
 
Disclosure statement
Jennifer Cheavens receives funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
She is also under contract with Cambridge University Press and receives compensation for editorial duties from John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
 
David Cregg does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article,
and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
 
Partners
The Ohio State University       /      The Ohio State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

 


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Asking Yourself ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ May Extend It

This essay is part of a column called The Wisdom Project by David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness. The series is on applying to one’s life the wisdom and philosophy found everywhere, from ancient texts to pop culture. You can follow David at @davidgallan. Don’t miss another Wisdom Project column; subscribe here.

“What is the meaning of life?”

It’s one of those enormous questions that’s so important — both philosophically and practically, in terms of how we live our lives — and yet we rarely, if ever, stop to really think about the answer.

Given that you might be able to formulate your response in less than a minute, the wisdom-to-effort ratio for this philosophical exercise could not be more advantageous.

And having an answer may even improve your health and help you live longer.

A new study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry examined the relationship between our physical and mental well-being and the search for, or presence of, purpose in life.

After studying 1,300 subjects from ages 21 to more than 100, the authors found that older people were more likely to have found their life’s purpose, while younger people were more likely still searching. That’s logical, given that wisdom is often born from experience. According to research by Stanford education professor William Damon, the author of “The Path to Purpose,” only 20% of young adults have a fully realized sense of their life’s meaning.

And according to the new study, the presence of meaning in one’s life showed a positive correlation to one’s health, including improved cognitive function, while searching for it may have a slight negative effect. Mental and physical well-being was self-reported, and having a sense of purpose tended to peak around age 60, the study found.

According to two other studies published in 2014 — one among 9,000 participants over age 65 and another among 6,000 people between 20 and 75 — those who could articulate the meaning and purpose of their lives lived longer than those who saw their lives as aimless. It didn’t seem to matter what meaning participants ascribed to their life, whether it was personal (like happiness), creative (like making art) or altruistic (like making the world a better place). It was having an answer to the question that mattered.

The connection to longevity could be causal — having purpose may help one cope with daily stress, as other research has shown — but it could also be that those who think about life’s meaning are more likely to do other activities that promote good health.

Or as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted as saying, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how,” nicely summing up the connection between having purpose and forbearance in one’s life.

 

meaning life

Starting an annual meaning of life resolution

The easiest but perhaps healthiest resolution you could make in the New Year may be to simply ask yourself what the meaning of life is for you. What gives you purpose? Why are we all here?
Every January for more than two decades, I have taken a few moments to ponder the answer to the question.

The reason I ask it annually is because my answer changes over time, which I find interesting and insightful. There is no objectively correct answer, I believe, only answers that are right for you at any given time.

Great thinkers (and celebrities) have given the question thought, so you can look to the words attributed to them for inspiration. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who lived 2,500 years ago, is believed to have written that the essence of life is “to serve others and to do good,” and the Roman philosopher Cicero, born 280 years later, came to the same conclusion. As did Russian author Leo Tolstoy, who wrote, “The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.” And His Holiness the Dalai Lama added, “if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

Scottish rugby legend Nelson Henderson put the same notion poetically when he said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” And actress Whoopi Goldberg’s meaning-of-life metaphor was to “throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.”

“Love” was the conclusion of Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton, and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” actress Julie Benz. Alternatively, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger concluded, “The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.”

My favorite answer, though, is the Zen-like circular reasoning attributed to writer Robert Byrne, who put it, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”

Some have concluded that life’s meaning is subjective. “There is not one big cosmic meaning for all,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary. “There is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”

I agree, which is why I recommend formulating your own answer. “Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: It is something molded,” wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, well-known for his book “The Little Prince.”

Taking a few moments to record your answer to the question “what is the meaning of life?” is the kind of simple exercise that effectively adds meaning to your life.

And then I suggest answering it every year. Looking back at how your thinking has evolved and been influenced by experience tells you something more about yourself. Cumulatively, it gets you closer to a deeper self-understanding.

In 1997, my answer was “the discovery, pursuit and attainment of one’s bliss,” inspired by myth expert Joseph Campbell. A year later, is was to make “the world a better place.” In 2002, the year I got engaged, it was simply “Love.” And the year we conceived our oldest daughter, it was the less-romantic “continuation of one’s DNA to the next generation.” But most years, my answer is some combination of love, legacy, happiness, experience and helping others.

As a practical matter, if you want to do the annual “Meaning” exercise, I suggest not looking at past answers before answering anew, to avoid biasing your answer. I write them down on the same now-yellowing piece of loose-leaf paper, and keep it someplace safe.

The last use of this experiment is to try to turn your answer into action. If you conclude, as Tolstoy and Aristotle did, that the meaning of life to help others, that should help motivate you to do more of it. If “love,” is the answer, then love more. If it’s “find your bliss,” then get searching for it.

This is not a theoretical exercise. Whatever small step you make toward finding the meaning of life is a step toward a more meaningful, and longer, life.

By David G. Allan, CNN        Tue December 10, 2019
source: www.cnn.com


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10 Laws of Success That Can Change Your Life

“Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.” – Oscar Wilde

What are the “Laws of Success?” Well, that depends on you. More specifically, it depends on how you think.

“Success” is an ambiguous word for a reason: it means different things to different people. For some, success is wealth. For others, money is nothing else than a tool. Consider Alfred Nobel.

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, inventor, businessman, and philanthropist. He held 355 patents and accumulated vast sums of wealth. When he died in 1896, most people – including his family – were shocked upon learning that he willed the majority of his fortune into a trust. The Nobel Prizes were born.

“Contentment is the only real wealth,” Nobel wrote.

Now, consider Winston Churchill:

Success is not the absence of wealth nor the experience of failure. Winston Churchill, a British statesman and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Now, consider Thomas Edison:

Edison, who was once told that he was “too stupid to learn anything” become perhaps the most prolific innovator in history, said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work!”

Whether Nobel, Churchill or Edison followed any set of laws or “secrets” of success is unknown. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t embody a “greater purpose” that enabled outstanding success.

Cause and effect govern the laws of the Universe. We, as creations of the Universe (be it God, a “Higher Being,” or something else) are also subject to its laws, are we not? Read this quote by Carl Sagan, considered by many to be the greatest astrophysicist who ever lived:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”

 

10 LAWS OF SUCCESS THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

1. THE LAW OF ACTION
One common (and grave) misperception of LOA is that thoughts are all we need. This is simply not so.

Jim Carrey, the uber-famous comedic actor, once said to Oprah Winfrey: “I wrote myself a check for ten million dollars for acting services rendered and gave myself three, maybe five years … on Thanksgiving (of) 1995 I found out I was going to make 10 million dollars on ‘Dumb & Dumber’…but you can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

Nothing is possible without action. “A body in motion will stay in motion, while a body at rest will remain at rest.”

2. THE LAW OF POTENTIALITY

Dr. Deepak Chopra made a commitment that he would allocate “30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening” to meditate. He got to the point where he was so adept at mindfulness meditation that he could, without interaction, “sit silently and watch a sunset…listen to the sound of the ocean…or simply smell the scent of a flower” and it was pure ecstasy.

When we realize the potential of our mind, the possibilities are endless.

3. THE LAW OF VIBRATION
Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the commercial telephone, predicted telepathy a century before neuroscientists even acknowledged the possibility?

“Our brains become magnetized by the thoughts we hold in our minds. These magnets attract to us the forces, the people, the circumstances of life which harmonize the nature of our dominating thoughts.”

4. THE LAW OF GIVING

Dr. Chopra writes “Today, bring whomever you encounter a gift: a compliment or flower. Gratefully receive gifts.” Wealth is not measured in money, but in affection, appreciation, caring, and love. Some of the poorest people in the world are the richest in heart. It’s all a matter of perspective. Giving, simply put, is as beautiful as it is powerful.

5. THE LAW OF CAUSE AND EFFECT (KARMA)
As mentioned, nothing is possible without the law of cause and effect. The Universe was “born” from cause (the “Big Bang”) that produced the beautiful planet which now we call our home.

Most scientists attribute the creation of the Universe to an immediate, extraordinary amount of energy (a “singularity”) that birthed the entire cosmos. We too are products of this miraculous event – one of cause and effect. We too possess capabilities just waiting to be acknowledged and discovered.

6. THE LAW OF PURPOSE
Every human being, whether they’ve realized it or not, have a special gift or talent to give. When we consciously direct this purpose to the service of others, humanity will evolve for the better.

If you’ve ever felt the uncomfortable gnawing for you to seek something greater, it’s because you’re meant to find something greater. (This writer has had the exact same experience.)

Do not settle for something that is beneath you. Fulfill your spirit and your destiny by following your heart’s path.

7. THE LAW OF DETACHMENT
On the surface, the word ‘detachment’ may be interpreted as feelings of isolation, or worse, a carefree way of living.

Detachment, in the appropriate context, is explained by Dr. Chopra: “In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty … in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the PRISON of past conditioning.”

Acceptance, responsibility, and tolerance are foundational to this Universal Law. We’re free to be ourselves and allow others to live as they are. Or, we may cast judgment and proclaim our ignorance. The choice is ours.

8. THE LAW OF INTENTION

Humans possess a remarkable ability to make conceive, construct, and take action on our intentions and desires. “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

Without intention or ambition, we will not achieve our life purpose. With such knowledge, our abilities are nearly limitless. The mind, as demonstrated by Laws of the Universe, is capable of expansion. Need proof? Do this writer a favor and Google ‘neuroplasticity’.

9. THE LAW OF MORALITY
Did you know that homo sapiens are the only species capable of consciously discerning right from wrong? Outliers aside, we possess an “inner voice” that tells us “how” to act in any given situation.

Morality is not some accident. Morality is a journey that will lead to a destination. We’ve, very sadly, witnessed a disproportionate amount of evil in the world. It is fair to say that our race may be on the tipping point.

Will we choose to care for our planet as it has cared for us? Will we allow others to “live and let live?” The Universe, in all its glory, has also experienced a fair share of Chaos. We can – and likely will – weather this storm if we choose right over wrong.

10. THE LAW OF SPIRITUALITY
We are not going to rant about some religious dogma. Even the most ardent “non-believer” does indeed exercise the notion that human beings are spiritual in a sense. How else does one explain things like charity, environmentalism, compassion, selflessness, or sacrifice?

Some (albeit a minority) will attribute these feelings to neurochemical reactions. So be it. We’re not here to judge. But if you consider some of the most influential people to have ever walked this earth – Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, and Muhammed – they all had one thing in common: loving one another and a belief in something greater than ourselves.

In closing…

Success is not gained through wealth, possessions, or power. Success is self-defined. If we, to the best of our abilities, make the conscious decision to follow the Laws set forth since the Universes’ inception, we will always be successful.

Love, Positivity, and Happiness to all of our Dear Readers. Thank you for what you do, and Thank You for your support.

REFERENCES:
HTTP://WWW.CHOPRA.COM/ARTICLES/THE-7-SPIRITUAL-LAWS-OF-SUCCESS#SM.0000BP0LEL39CE4JW0Z12E4X9BJIA
HTTPS://WWW.AMAZON.COM/PROLOGUE-TELEPATHY-ALEXANDER-VIBRATIONAL-FREQUENCY/DP/B00P7DNZHA
HTTPS://WWW.SPACE.COM/25126-BIG-BANG-THEORY.HTML
HTTPS://WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/WATCH?V=NPU5BJZLZX0


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9 Secrets Of The World’s Longest Living People

What is the secret to longevity, and why do some people attain it while others don’t? Is it sheer luck, or are there some key factors at play here? Are we all born with the same potential to live a long and healthy life or is that determined solely by genetics?

Interestingly, it seems as though people living in specific regions of the world tend to live longer than those living elsewhere. So, what is it about these specific regions that offer people a chance to live a full life? This was the question that National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner wanted to answer.

Through his research, Buettner identified five geographic locations where people have been observed to live the longest. He has identified these regions as “Blue Zones,” and found that even though these zones differ widely geographically, the diets and lifestyles of their residents share much in common.

You don’t have to live in one of these areas to ensure longevity, however, and if you are looking to live a long and healthy life then you may want to consider the following observations.
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What Are the Most Effective Ways to Achieve Longevity?

In Western society, the idea of growing older is not necessarily celebrated or anticipated. It is actually often feared, as we associate old age with chronic pain and disease. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and with some awareness and vision, we too can have a long and purposeful life despite our geographical location.

In the following video, Dan Buettner reveals what he has discovered are the secrets to longevity and the habits and traits shared by those who live the longest. Some of them might shock you, but as Buettner says, “If you ask the average American what the optimal formula for longevity is, they probably couldn’t tell you.” This is a pretty telling statement — many of us are simply unaware of the key lifestyle factors that contribute to health and vitality.

Here are the nine things we can take away from this presentation.

1. Slow Down and Deal With Stress

Common amongst those living in blue zones was effectively dealing with stress when it arises, and in many cases living lifestyles that do not cause a lot of excess stress in the first place. Taking time to slow things down and enjoy life was a common theme throughout Buettner’s studies.

2. Have a Purpose

Having a reason to get out of bed every day, especially for seniors, was essential. Simply put, finding something to do on a regular basis keeps us happy and helps us live longer.

3. Eat Less

Buettner observed the eating habits of various cultures in these regions, and all ate sparingly. The eating habits of the Okinawans specifically demonstrated an aversion to excess. They know that the feeling of fullness comes after the meal is completed so, rather than stuffing themselves until they feel full, they stop eating before they feel full, knowing the feeling will come after. They also eat off small plates and prepare small portions.

4. Eat a Variety of Foods and Lots of Plants 

Common among all Blue Zones was the amount and variety of plant-based foods that were being consumed. Having a diet consisting of predominantly plant-based foods proves to be a key factor in longevity regardless of your geographical location.

5. Be Social

In America, elderly people are often put into care homes and lead very lonely and isolated lives. Something all of the Blue Zones have in common is a strong sense of community that includes the older people. Instead of shunned and forgotten, older people are celebrated and included.

6. Have Faith

A large percentage of those living in Blue Zones had faith. They believed in a higher purpose for life, be it religious or spiritual.

7. Drink in Moderation or Not At All

It seems this one was a bit of a toss up. People either enjoyed a glass of wine or two daily or didn’t drink at all. In either case, Buettner did not see people drinking to excess.

8. Move Naturally

People who live in Blue Zones tend to move a lot throughout the day, but they aren’t making a point to do it — it just comes naturally. Their daily activities include gardening, walking, and spending time outdoors.

9. Put Loved Ones First

People in Blue Zones tend to stay close to their family members. Parents and grandparents play a big role in the lives of their children and they stay connected and close by, remaining an integral part of each other’s lives.

 

ALANNA KETLERMAY 18, 2017


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10 Ways to Become More Resilient

10 Ways to Become More Resilient

Build Your Resilience and Coping Skills With These Tips

Resilience can often mean the difference between handling pressure and losing your cool. Resilient people tend to maintain a more positive outlook and cope with stress more effectively. Research has shown that while some people seem to come by resilience naturally, these behaviors can also be learned. The following are just a few of the techniques you should focus on in order to foster your own resilience.

1  Find a Sense of Purpose in Your Life

After her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Candace Lightner founded Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Upset by the driver’s light sentence, Lightner decided to focus her energy into creating awareness of the dangers of drunk driving. “I promised myself on the day of Cari’s death that I would fight to make this needless homicide count for something positive in the years ahead,” she later explained. In the face of crisis or tragedy, finding a sense of purpose can play an important role in recovery. This might involve becoming involved in your community, cultivating your spirituality, or participating in activities that are meaningful to you.

2  Build Positive Beliefs in Your Abilities

Research has demonstrated that self-esteem plays an important role in coping with stress and recovering from difficult events. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. Becoming more confident in your own ability to respond and deal with crisis is a great way to build resilience for the future.

3  Develop a Strong Social Network

Having caring, supportive people around you acts as a protective factor during times of crisis. It is important to have people you can confide in. While simply talking about a situation with a friend or loved one will not make troubles go away, it allows you to share your feelings, gain support, receive positive feedback, and come up with possible solutions to your problems.

4  Embrace Change

Flexibility is an essential part of resilience. By learning how to be more adaptable, you’ll be better equipped to respond when faced with a life crisis. Resilient people often utilize these events as an opportunity to branch out in new directions. While some people may be crushed by abrupt changes, highly resilient individuals are able to adapt and thrive.

5  Be Optimistic

Staying optimistic during dark periods can be difficult, but maintaining a hopeful outlook is an important part of resiliency. Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the problem in order to focus on positive outcomes. It means understanding that setbacks are transient and that you have the skills and abilities to combat the challenges you face. What you are dealing with may be difficult, but it is important to remain hopeful and positive about a brighter future.

6  Nurture Yourself

When you’re stressed, it can be all too easy to neglect your own needs. Losing your appetite, ignoring exercise, and not getting enough sleep are all common reactions to a crisis situation. Focus on building your self-nurturance skills, even when you are troubled. Make time for activities that you enjoy. By taking care of your own needs, you can boost your overall health and resilience and be fully ready to face life’s challenges.

7  Develop Your Problem-Solving Skills

Research suggests that people who are able come up with solutions to a problem are better able to cope with problems than those who cannot. Whenever you encounter a new challenge, make a quick list of some of the potential ways you could solve the problem. Experiment with different strategies and focus on developing a logical way to work through common problems. By practicing your problem-solving skills on a regular basis, you will be better prepared to cope when a serious challenge emerges.

8  Establish Goals

Crisis situations are daunting. They may even seem insurmountable. Resilient people are able to view these situations in a realistic way and then set reasonable goals to deal with the problem. When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by a situation, take a step back to simply assess what is before you. Brainstorm possible solutions, and then break them down into manageable steps.

9  Take Steps to Solve Problems

Simply waiting for a problem to go away on its own only prolongs the crisis. Instead, start working on resolving the issue immediately. While there may not be any fast or simple solution, you can take steps toward making your situation better and less stressful. Focus on the progress that you have made thus far and planning your next steps, rather than becoming discouraged by the amount of work that still needs to be accomplished.

10  Keep Working on Your Skills

Resilience may take time to build, so do not become discouraged if you still struggle to cope with problematic events. According to Dr. Russ Newman, “research has shown that resilience is not an extraordinary thing but is rather ordinary and can be learned by most anyone”. Psychological resilience does not involve any specific set of behaviors or actions, but can vary dramatically from one person to the next. Focus on practicing some of the common characteristics of resilient people, but also, remember to build upon your existing strengths.

 
By Kendra Cherry    May 10, 2016 
source: www.verywell.com 

Characteristics of Resilient People

Why are some people better able to cope with crises than others?

While people vary dramatically in the coping skills they use when confronting a crisis, researchers have identified some key characteristics of resilience. Many of these skills can be developed and strengthened, which can improve your ability to deal with life’s setbacks.

Resilient people are aware of situations, their own emotional reactions and the behavior of those around them. In order to manage feelings, it is essential to understand what is causing them and why.

By remaining aware, resilient people can maintain control of a situation and think of new ways to tackle problems.

Another characteristic of resilience is the understanding that life is full of challenges. While we cannot avoid many of these problems, we can remain open, flexible, and willing to adapt to change.

Here are some other characteristics of people who have strong coping skills.

A Sense of Control

Do you perceive yourself as having control over your own life? Or do you blame outside sources for failures and problems? Generally, resilient people tend to have what psychologists call an internal locus of control. They believe that the actions they take will affect the outcome of an event. Of course, some factors are simply outside of our personal control, such as natural disasters. While we may be able to put some blame on external causes, it is important to feel as if we have the power to make choices that will affect our situation, our ability to cope, and our future.

Strong Problem-Solving Skills

Problem-solving skills are essential. When a crisis emerges, resilient people are able to spot the solution that will lead to a safe outcome. In danger situations, people sometimes develop tunnel vision. They fail to note important details or take advantages of opportunities.

Resilient individuals, on the other hand, are able to calming and rationally look and the problem and envision a successful solution.

Strong Social Connections

Whenever you’re dealing with a problem, it is important to have people who can offer support. Talking about the challenges you are facing can be an excellent way to gain perspective, look for new solutions, or simply express your emotions. Friends, family members, coworkers, and online support groups can all be potential sources of social connectivity.

Identifying as a Survivor, Not a Victim

When dealing with any potential crisis, it is essential to view yourself as a survivor. Avoid thinking like a victim of circumstance and instead look for ways to resolve the problem. While the situation may be unavoidable, you can still stay focused on a positive outcome.

Being Able to Ask for Help

While being resourceful is an important part of resilience, it is also essential to know when to ask for help. During a crisis, people can benefit from the help of psychologists and counselors specially trained to deal with crisis situations. Other potential sources of assistance include:

  • Books – Reading about people who have experienced and overcome a similar problem can be both motivating and good for ideas on how to cope.
  • Online Message Boards – Online communities can provide continual support and a place to talk about issues with people who have been in a similar situation.
  • Support Groups – Attending support group meetings is a great way to talk about the challenges you’re facing and find a network of people who can provide compassion and support.
  • Psychotherapy – If you are having trouble coping with a crisis situation, consulting a qualified mental health professional can help you confront the problem, identify your strengths, and develop new coping skills.
By Kendra Cherry   October 03, 2016


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How To Sleep Well: Fill Your Life With Purpose, Study Says

Though we may constantly feel tired, sleeping isn’t always easy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016 found that one in three Americans doesn’t get enough sleep. This can lead to a host of health problems, and more and more Americans are resorting to sleeping pills to ensure they’re able to get a good night’s rest. The American College of Physicians has recommended against using prescription drugs to treat insomnia, if possible, and now there may be hope for sleeping well without popping a pill. According to a new study, the best way to get through the night in peace may be to simply have a solid sense of purpose in your life outside of bed.

The study, conducted by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, found that people who felt their lives had purpose experienced better sleep quality than those who didn’t. They were also 63 percent less likely to suffer from sleep apnea, and 52 percent less likely to suffer from restless leg syndrome. The aim of the study, published Monday in the journal Sleep Science and Practice, was to examine the relationship between purpose in life, overall sleep quality and the presence of sleep disorders in a bi-racial sample of older adults: people who are more likely to have problems sleeping.

“Helping people cultivate a purpose in life could be an effective drug-free strategy to improve sleep quality, particularly for a population that is facing more insomnia,” said Dr. Jason Ong, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies.”

To conduct the study, the Feinberg School’s team of researchers gathered 825 people between the ages of 60 and 100. Participants were given surveys on their purpose in life and their sleep. The average age of the participants, 79, was high because people have more trouble sleeping as they get older (almost 40 percent of older adults suffer from a sleeping disorder). Trouble sleeping is also more common among African Americans, which made up more than half of of the pool of participants. None of the study’s participants suffered from dementia.

Through establishing a link between purpose in life and sleep quality, researchers found that the idea of purpose in life may be applied in a clinical setting, and recommended further research into the connection between positive psychology and sleep health. The more this is studied, the more effectively treatments like mindfulness therapy can be used to curb issues like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, which means fewer people will have to rely on prescription pills to make it through the night undisturbed.

BY RYAN BORT                   7/10/17


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Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness

What would you rather have: a happy life or a meaningful life?

You can both be happy and lead a meaningful life, of course. But most of us, consciously or not, choose the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of meaning. “Happy holidays,” we wish each other; “Happy New Year,” we say. If you’re like 45 percent of Americans, you are setting New Year’s resolutions with the aim of leading a happier life: One of the most popular, according to Nielsen, is to “enjoy life to the fullest.” In surveys, most people list happiness as their top value, and self-help books and life coaches make up part of a multibillion-dollar industry.

But should happiness really be the only goal that motivates us?

Research by the two of us shows that the happy life and the meaningful life differ — and that the surest path to true happiness lies in chasing not just happiness but also a meaningful life. Psychologists have started to look more closely at how seeking happiness affects people, and unearthed some unsettling trends. The pursuit of happiness, it turns out, negatively affects our well-being.

In one study by the behavioral scientists Jonathan Schooler, Dan Ariely, and George Loewenstein, participants listened to a piece of emotionally ambiguous music, Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” The researchers told some participants to try to feel as happy as possible while listening; the others were simply asked to listen. The people who tried to feel happy ended up unhappier after the experiment than those who listened without trying to boost their mood. In another recent study, Iris Mauss of Berkeley and her colleagues found that people who highly value happiness — as measured by their endorsement of statements like “Feeling happy is very important to me” — reported feeling lonelier on a daily basis, as assessed in diary entries over two weeks. By contrast, the pursuit of meaning leads to a deeper and more lasting form of well-being.

The distinction between happiness and meaningfulness has a long history in philosophy, which for thousands of years has recognized two forms of well-being — hedonia, or the ancient Greek word for what behavioral scientists often call happiness, and eudaimonia, or what they call meaningfulness. The happy life is defined by seeking pleasure and enjoyment, whereas the meaningful life is bigger. In a new book that will be published next month, one of us (Emily) reviewed hundreds of empirical papers from the growing body of research on meaningfulness — as well as the writings of great thinkers from Aristotle to Tolstoy to Camus — and found that the defining features of a meaningful life are connecting and contributing to something beyond the self, which could be your family, your work, nature, or God.

But because meaning involves investing in something bigger, the meaningful life is often characterized by stress, effort, and struggle. In a survey of over 2 million people in more than 500 jobs by the organization PayScale, those who reported finding the most meaning in their careers were clergy, teachers, and surgeons — difficult jobs that don’t always cultivate happiness in the moment, but that contribute to society and bring those doing them satisfaction.

When people say their lives are meaningful, it’s because they feel their lives have purpose, coherence, and worth.

Of course, you can have both happiness and meaningfulness. In one analysis of five data sets comprising nearly 3,000 people, Veronika Huta of the University of Ottawa found that 20 percent of respondents reported being happy and leading meaningful lives — while another 20 percent were low on both. Among those remaining, 33 percent were high on happiness and low on meaning and 26 percent were high on meaning and low on happiness.

In two studies tracking over 400 Americans and published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, one of us (Jennifer) and her colleagues studied the type of people who fell into the last two groups — high on happiness but low on meaningfulness, and high on meaning but low on happiness —and found important differences in how they led their lives. Those in the happy group tended to avoid difficult or taxing entanglements, described themselves as relatively self-oriented, and spent more time thinking about how they felt in the moment. In contrast, those high in meaning spent more time helping others, being with friends or taking care of children, and thinking about the past, present and future.

purpose_quote

Though different people have different wellsprings of meaning, meaningful lives share three features, according to a paper published this year in the Review of General Psychology. After conducting an extensive review of the literature, the psychologists Login George and Crystal Park of the University of Connecticut identified the three features as purpose — the degree to which you feel directed and motivated by valued life goals; comprehension — the ability to understand and make sense of your life experiences and weave them into a coherent whole; and mattering — the belief that your existence is significant and valued. When people say their lives are meaningful, in other words, it’s because they feel their lives have purpose, coherence, and worth.

But meaning isn’t something you either have or don’t have. It’s an approach to life — a mind-set. People can choose to pursue meaning as well as happiness. In a recent paper, Veronika Huta and Richard Ryan discovered that people behave very differently depending on which they emphasize, and that in turn affects their well-being. In one study, college students were asked to pursue either meaning or happiness over ten days by doing at least one thing each day to increase meaning or happiness, respectively. Some of the most popular activities reported by people in the meaning group included forgiving a friend, studying, and helping or cheering up another person. Those in the happiness group listed activities like sleeping in, playing games, and eating candy.

Although the students in the happiness group experienced more positive feelings and fewer negative ones immediately after the study, three months later their mood boost had faded. The students focused on meaning, meanwhile, did not feel as happy right after the experiment, which makes sense: meaningful pursuits, like helping a friend, require sacrifice and effort, and can even be painful in the moment. Yet three months later, the picture was different. The students who had pursued meaning said they felt more “enriched,” “inspired,” and “part of something greater than myself.” They also reported fewer negative moods. Over the long term, it seemed, pursuing meaning was more deeply satisfying than chasing happiness.

Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, would not have been surprised. “To the European it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’”

Our goal this coming year shouldn’t just be happiness. Our goal should be meaningfulness. Instead of picking projects, hobbies, and relationships based on how happy they will make us, let’s focus on those things that make our lives more significant and worthwhile. If happiness ensues, great. But if it doesn’t, we can still take comfort in knowing that our lives matter and are contributing to the world in some way.

By Emily Esfahani Smith and Jennifer Aaker

Emily Esfahani Smith is the author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, to be published in January by Crown. Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

source: nymag.com


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Lao Tzu’s Four Rules for Living

How to Live an Inspired and Peaceful Life

Many centuries ago, Lao Tzu, spoke of the four cardinal virtues, teaching that when we practice them as a way of life, we come to know the truth of the universe. The ancient Chinese master said that living and practicing these teachings can open you to higher wisdom and greater happiness, as they realign you to the source and enable you to access all the powers that source energy has to offer.

“When you succeed in connecting your energy with the divine realm through high awareness and the practice of undiscriminating virtue, the transmission of the ultimate subtle truths will follow.”  Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu means ‘Old Master,’ and he was believed by some to be a God-realised being. The Four Cardinal Virtues are found in the Tao Te Ching, a collection of sayings expounding the principal Taoist teachings. It has 81 short poetic verses packed full of universal wisdom for politics, society, and personal life, and aims to support personal harmony through the right view and understanding of existence. The Tao (also known as the Way or the Dao) has baffled its readers for centuries with its cryptic and deliberate contradictions, yet it offers a profound contemplation to seekers, lending itself to varied interpretations and inner questioning.

lao-tzu
Lao Tzu means ‘Old Master,’
and he was believed by some to be a God-realised being.

“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The Tao is both named and nameless. As nameless it is the origin of all things; as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery; ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations. And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.” ― Wayne W. Dyer, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

The Tao Te Ching is the basic text of Taoism, but it has also influenced Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism, and is among some of the most translated works in world literature. This powerful text of the Tao, road or way of life, reflects the force of the universe and even the universe itself. While many have tried to make sense of its mystery, one man immersed himself in this text, literally living its wisdom, and then distilled the essence of these ancient mystery teachings for a modern audience.

In 2006, the late Wayne Dyer was inspired to spend his entire 65th year reading, researching, and meditating on Lao Tzu’s messages, going into retreat to practice them and ultimately write down the insights he felt Lao Ttzu wanted us to know.  Dr Dyer researched ten well respected translations of the text and the result of that life-changing year was his best-selling book Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao.

Affectionately known as the Father of Motivation, Dr Dyer says Lao Tzu’s four cardinal virtues represent the surest way to leave habits and excuses behind and reconnect to your original nature. “The more your life is harmonised with the four virtues, the less you’re controlled by the uncompromising ego.”

Dr Dyer says
Lao Tzu’s four cardinal virtues
represent the surest way
to leave habits and excuses behind.

The Tao encourages us to be in touch with our own selves, particularly our deepest selves, for when you know who you really are, that is when you discover eternal peace. Lao Tzu liked to compare different parts of nature to different virtues. He said, “The best people are like water, which benefits all things and does not compete with them. It stays in lowly places that others reject. This is why it is so similar to the Way (Dao).” Each part of nature can remind us of a quality we admire and should cultivate ourselves—the strength of the mountains, the resilience of trees, the cheerfulness of flowers.

We enter life with a seemingly clean slate, a spectacular pathway ahead of us with unlimited potentials and choices. To navigate our lives and get a handle on the challenges and gifts life will throw at us, it is useful to have some sort of compass so that we don’t end up on the rocks or lost at sea.

For many people this may be religion, morality, or the belief systems passed down by their family, and they may derive a sense of strength and direction through their strongly held inner compass sourced in this integrity. No matter what happens in life, they’ll always fall back on that maxim, whether it be, for example, to lead from the heart, or to be kind.

“To realise the constancy and steadiness in your life is to realise the deep nature of the universe. This realisation is not dependent on any transitory internal or external condition, rather it is an expression of one’s own immutable spiritual nature. The only way to attain the Universal Way is to maintain the integral virtues of the constancy, steadiness and simplicity in one’s daily life.” – Lao Tzu

The four cardinal virtues, or rules for living life, can provide a framework for a life filled with inner peace and purpose.

1. Reverence for all Life

This virtue manifests as having unconditional love and positive regard for all creatures in the universe, starting with ourselves, then this will naturally flow out to all others. This reverence is for all life, not just some forms. It is honouring all forms of life, and at its core has an innate spiritual understanding of how the universe truly works – that we are all sparks of the one fire. When we live with reverence for all life, we surrender our need to control and to dominate. We naturally come into heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for all of life. This first virtue is the key to diminishing the ego.

“Affirm this as often as you can, for when you see yourself in a loving way, you have nothing but love to extend outward. And the more you love others, the less you need old excuse patterns, particularly those relating to blame.” Wayne Dyer

2. Natural Sincerity

This virtue encompasses kindness and authenticity. To me, it has a feeling of compassion and an all-encompassing love for all beings. When we are sincere and act with integrity, we move towards peace and inner tranquility. Our conscience clear, we don’t have the inner niggles over our dishonest actions that can erode a peaceful mind. Much of these four pillars relate to karma, the law of cause and effect, and maintaining equilibrium and impeccability. This virtue is honesty, simplicity, and faithfulness, says Wayne Dyer. It is about being true to yourself and walking your talk.

According to Dyer, if you find this challenging, try affirming, “I no longer need to be insincere or dishonest. This is who I am, and this is how I feel.”

kindness_wisdom
Having unconditional love and positive regard
for all creatures in the universe.

 

3. Gentleness

Gentleness is a deeply powerful trait. Often interpreted as weakness, gentleness is sensitivity, respect, and reverence for all life. Perhaps this virtue can be summed up by the Dalai Lama who often says; “my religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.” In life, it is far more important to be kind than to be right, and to be kind rather than important. Gentleness is an umbrella for forgiveness, acceptance and love. It is much like the yogic term ahimsa, or non-violence. When we give up being right and being superior, we start accepting ourselves and others, and so much conflict in our lives drops away.

“Gentleness generally implies that you no longer have a strong ego-inspired desire to dominate or control others, which allows you to move into a rhythm with the universe. You cooperate with it, much like a surfer who rides with the waves instead of trying to overpower them. Gentleness means accepting life and people as they are, rather than insisting that they be as you are. As you practice living this way, blame disappears and you enjoy a peaceful world.” – Wayne Dyer

4. Supportiveness

When we are supportive of ourselves, with kind words, loving actions and self-care, we are naturally supportive of others. This virtue is the basic tenet of humanity. We are naturally social beings and, at our core, we want to be with others and to help others. Many experiments show how humans are motivated by connection and will move towards this rather than other things. When we give to others, share and support others, we become happy.  Our lives become meaningful and our hearts full. Supportiveness is about service. Open hearted service for the sake of helping others and benefiting others, with no thought to our own gain. Supportiveness is also about holding space for another, listening to another, and being there for others. It is radical loving kindness in action. This quote by the poet, Hafiz, sums it up: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth ‘you owe me.’”

“The greatest joy comes from giving and serving, so replace your habit of focusing exclusively on yourself and what’s in it for you. When you make the shift to supporting others in your life, without expecting anything in return, you’ll think less about what you want and find comfort and joy in the act of giving and serving.” Wayne Dyer

Let these four virtues fragrance your life, and notice the grace and ease that will come your way. For each one of these virtues brings in a way of being that is light, graceful and flowing and will help you shed destructive, self defeating patterns that sabotage your inner peace and happiness.

“The four cardinal virtues are a road map to the simple truth of the universe. To revere all of life, to live with natural sincerity, to practice gentleness, and to be in service to others is to replicate the energy field from which you originated.”  Dr Wayne Dyer

 

By UPLIFT on Saturday January 7th, 2017