Category Archives: Living life to the fullest
My friend, Jennifer, thought of me when she read a New York Times article last week: “No Time to Think” by Kate Murphy. Jennifer thought of me because I am not like the people described in the article—people who are so afraid of being alone with their thoughts they actually administer electric shocks to themselves if left alone with nothing but their thoughts for as little as 6 minutes.
Jennifer is the friend who coined the “Laughing Thinker” phrase I use as part of my bio; I take it as a compliment that she sees me as both profound and happy. I love to think. During the day when I am at home, I never turn on radios or TVs. I live in silent contemplation all day, and I love it.
During the Christmas season I work part-time at a bookstore in a shopping mall. Many of the younger solo shoppers enter our store with ear buds in both ears. I think, “They can’t even go shopping without some din in their ears?” Are they really so afraid of their own thoughts? Apparently so.
Why is this a problem? What does it matter if people shut themselves down? According to researchers, the main reason people don’t want to think too much is they don’t want to dwell on the negative or ruminate on their problems. But if we don’t allow ourselves the time to sort ourselves out, it hampers ability to empathize with others.
Lost creativity is another cost. Murphy writes, “. . . an idle mind is a crucible for creativity.” Thinking about problems outside of reality adds new dimensions to the issue and allows for novel solutions to challenges.
Empathy and creativity melt away so many negative issues. At this time of year, it’s tempting to rush, rush, rush and party, party, party. At this time, some of the negative family, friends and financial stuff we suppress the rest of the year raises its unavoidable ugly head for us to deal with. So, at this time of year it’s more important than ever to foster thinking time.
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were onto something: Think, think, think, and laugh a little too.
I know the world is getting better and better. My evidence: Puppy rooms.
My daughter brought this to my attention. It’s exam time at universities, and these institutions of higher learning have started providing therapy dogs to help students deal with stress.
Oh, how I wish such a thing were available when I was in university.
Of course, every good idea must have its detractors, and at least one columnist suggested that work is the ideal solution for extreme stress. Give that man a puppy!
This story reminded me of an entertaining TED talk video featuring Hans and Ola Rosling. These Swedish researchers discuss “How not be ignorant about the world”. At the TED conference, the Roslings asked audience members to answer with their predictions about three topics:
- How did deaths per year from natural disaster change in the last century?
- Women aged 30 spent how many years in school?
- In the last 20 years the percentage of people living in extreme poverty . . . increased, stayed the same, or decreased?
The respondents tended to take a dim view of societal events.
In general, we believe everything is getting worse, we believe in a large, increasing gap between rich and poor, we believe countries need to be rich before they can improve social conditions, and we exaggerate the number of people harmed by things that scare us. But in every case the results were better than people expected and improved today over what happened in the past.
The Roslings suggest if we want to interpret the world, to “turn our intuition into strength,” we might follow their “rules of thumb” and assume that:
- Most things improve
- Most people are in the middle economically
- Most countries improve their societal conditions and then benefit economically
- The things that scare us (terrorist, shark attacks) harm few people.
My unscientific examination of the societal conditions in Canada suggest that this country is indeed a better place today than it was three decades ago. My evidence: Three decades ago my university had no puppy room; today my daughter’s university does.
I rest my case.
TED Talk: Hans and Ola Rosling –
Fifteen years ago on this date at about this time in the morning, I received a phone call. My mother told me my father had dropped dead of a heart attack.
I reeled upon hearing the shocking news. I sat on the family room couch in a daze.
I was home with my five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. My daughter quickly figured out that all was not well. I pulled her close and told her the news. Without saying a word, she left the room.
A short time later she returned and handed me this picture. “Now you’ll always remember what your father looked like,” she said.
I framed the soul-laden picture and hung it on the wall in my office. It is one of the many pieces of art on our walls that holds great meaning and tells a story.
Is the art on your walls soul-laden?
An article by Emily Esfahani Smith published in The Atlantic and Business Insider outlined the research of John Gottman and Robert Levenson at “The Love Lab” at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson watched newlyweds interact with each other and then checked in with them six years later to see where the relationships ended up.
Gottman and Levenson divided the pairs into two groups: masters and disasters. After six years, the masters still maintained stable relationships but the disasters were separated, divorced or struggling.
When observing the two groups, Gottman and Levenson noted the physiological responses. The disaster couples’ hearts beat quickly and their sweat glands activated, but the masters stayed calm. They affectionately behaved kindly to one another, even in disagreement.
The physiological reactions can be explained by the kind of “scanning” couples choose. Partners either scan their environment and their partner seeking things to appreciate and say thank you for, or they can scan looking for partners’ mistakes. Disaster couples’ bodies reacted in a way that prepared them “to attack or be attacked.”
Wanting to know more, Gottman invited 130 couples to a retreat to watch them interact. Esfahani Smith writes:
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 . . ..
Turning toward or turning away from partners affects the relationship. Disaster couples turn toward only 33 percent of the time. Masters show the kindness of turning toward 87 percent of the time.
Generosity comes into play around “shared joy.” Master couples actively celebrated the joyful news of partners. Disaster couples either ignored it or diminished it. Apparently it is just as important to be present for our partners when things are going right.
What frequency is your scanner set to?