Ikigai is Japan’s secret to longer life and a greater sense of well-being.

October 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Click here to learn more about Ikigai.

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Different Generation – Different Use of Phone! Don’t assume you know what someone else is using it for!

October 4, 2017 Leave a comment
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Placebos and Your Brain

September 27, 2017 Leave a comment
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Reading Rewires Your Brain for Emotional Intelligence

September 22, 2017 Leave a comment
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Rejoice For No Reason!

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the greatest stumbling blocks to happiness is that we often feel that there must be a tangible reason for us to BE happy.  But there is an innate difference between “being happy” and “being happy about” something. They are two completely and significantly different states of being.

Being happy about something is an ephemeral state of being which comes, not from within us but, from an external source. For example, we can be happy because we earned a raise at work or because our significant other paid us a compliment or because of a specific achievement.  And yet each of these examples carries with it the ability to completely disappear and then where are we?

Even worse, these things don’t need to actually disappear from our lives in order for them to lose their happiness-inducing potential. Psychologists call it “habituation” or “sensory adaptation”. This is the tendency for the human brain to become used to something’s presence and to no longer take note of it in the same way; somewhat like your ability to smell your perfume when you first put it on and not notice it at all an hour later.  That is sensory adaptation or habituation at work.  If our brains did not filter out old information, we would become inundated by incoming sensation.

When we rely on external sources for our state of happiness, it is never a secure or dependable feeling. Learning to look deeper within ourselves in order to simply BE happy offers us greater potential longevity for our feelings of happiness.

The Dali Lama encourages us to, “Be happy without reason.  If you are happy with a reason, that reason may be taken away from you, and you’ll lose your joy. If you are happy without reason, nobody can take your happiness away.”

So, I encourage you to use this day well!  Be like a child! Find your Joy in the Journey rather than in the destination and not matter what your age, gender or life situation …

Rejoice for no reason!

Valentine’s Day ~ Happiness & Well-Being

February 10, 2012 Leave a comment

“To get the full value of a joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.”

Mark Twain.

Valentine’s Day…a day to celebrate the importance of relationships in our lives…or just another “Hallmark Holiday”?  Originally the christianization of a pagan fertility celebration, St. Valentine’s Day has now come to be the day when we recognize the most important relationships in our lives with cards, candy and other demonstrations of caring.

More and more research is pointing towards the importance of social relationships to human beings’ health, happiness and even to our longevity.

Harry Harlow  (click on his name to watch a video of this experiement) was instrumental in showing how important the attachment of infants to their mothers is to their later ability to successfully parent their own offspring.  Subsequent research points out that secure children are more apt to actively explore and interact with their worlds and are also more likely to be engaged and successful in the classroom.

The research of Ed Diener and Martin Seligman,(click on his name to watch a TED video by Dr. Seligman)  whose work in positive psychology is becoming very popular, links people’s happiness to the quality of their long term relationships.  And numerous other studies show that many types of social connectedness  may also be important to health, well-being and longevity.  People who are regular members of religious institutions and those who volunteer regularly enjoy a heightened sense of well-being.  It is speculated that a sense of social support and belonging are the keys to why these types of activities lead to positive emotions and their attendant benefits.

This idea of relationship has been explored in the area of film lately by producer, studio president and independent film maker, Lindsey Doran.  During her exploration of what really makes people love a movie, Ms. Doran has employed Dr. Seligman’s 5 pillars of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment (PERMA) and has found some really surprising truths about what constitutes a popular film.

We apparently don’t need a happy ending to love a movie; we don’t necessarily need the protagonist to overcome all obstacles.  Surprisingly, what we care about most is the relationships that are developed throughout the movie.  Accomplishment is great but if there is no relationship in which to share it, we don’t engage the same way that we do when we see people share their victories within the bonds of strong relationships.

Matt Damon’s triumph in the recent hit, We Bought a Zoo, would not have had the same emotional impact for us had he not reconnected with his emotionally estranged son, played by Colin Ford.

When an almost 70 year-old Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) sets a land speed record in The World’s Fastest Indian, we are thrilled for him but it is in watching the people who have come to love him, cheer him on in spite of almost insurmountable odds that we fully engage with him and become an actual part of his epic quest.

It is these relationships which feed us in the real world, in the literary world and in the world of film.  They may be our keys to:  better health, a heightened sense of well-being and to actually extending the number of years that we have to enjoy them.

So while February 14 is the customary celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, perhaps we would do well to internalize Mr. Twain’s sentiment, that joy is greatest when shared with someone close to us.  Perhpas we can decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day more often than just on February 14th and with more of the people who are important to us!

References:

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row, 1990

Diener, E., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13 (1), 81-84.

Harlow, H.F. Early social deprivation and later behavior in the monkey. Pp. 154-173 in: Unfinished tasks in the behavioral sciences (A.Abrams, H.H. Gurner & J.E.P. Tomal, eds.) Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins. 1964.

Koenig, H.G., Cohen, J. (2002) The Link Between Religion and Health:Psychoneuroimmunology and the Faith Factor. Oxford University Press;London.

McKinney, William T. (2003). Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 2254-2255.

A Picture is Worth….

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment



We went out kayaking with friends over the weekend and took some great photos.  I couldn’t wait to post them on Facebook so that I could share my photos with them and hopefully they would do the same with photos they took of us.  It got me thinking about how important photos are to us and why that is true.  After all, the saying that, “A picture is worth 10,000 words” has endured for generations now and has lost none of its truth.

When we consider why we like to take photos, many truths come to light.  We love visiting people and places that are special and preserving the occasion by taking a photo. We love reliving those times when we go through the pictures we have taken.   But isn’t there something special about sitting down with someone and sharing our pictures with them?  Somehow the captured moments seem brighter and more alive when we share them with someone else.  Facebook, Flikr and other photo sharing sites certainly understand this psychology well!

Acting as photographers, we portray truths about; our perception of what is important,  our creativity, our emotions, our identities but even more importantly, we portray truths about our relationships.

I was watching Christmas pictures being taken of the different segments of a blended family recently.  One side of the family posed naturally so that each person was touching at least two other people and the group was definitely seen as one cohesive unit.  The other side of the family needed a little more encouragement!  They originally posed without one single person touching anyone else!  When the photographer chided,”Act like you like each other!” one of the adult sons whacked another over the head and then they all held hands and grinned at the camera as a family unit!  It turned out to be one of the family’s favorite pictures from that Christmas!

This is what’s important…. the relationships. Sometimes it’s about the relationship among the people in the picture, sometimes it’s about the relationship between the photographer and his subject and still other times it’s about the relationship between the two people who are viewing a photograph together. Photographs cement relationships.

The joy that comes from looking at a picture isn’t always about happy memories.I remember arranging to have a four-generations picture taken with my grandmother, my mother, me and my children, one of whom was an infant. Everyone was dressed in Sunday best, everyone put his or her best face forward until our littlest member lost it, just as we were called in to sit for the photographer. She started screaming at the top of her lungs and there was nothing that any of us could do to make her stop.  Finally we decided to just go ahead and try to just get a picture anyway.  This poor man did his best but in every single shot, she was either screaming bloody murder or she was photographed when she had paused to catch her breath and she was blotchy, swollen and red-faced from crying.  Whenever we look at that picture, those of us who can remember the incident always laugh, though it certainly wasn’t funny at the time!

I have another photograph of my father in a life vest. Now my father was in the Navy,  is an excellent swimmer and taught each of his children how to swim and dive well enough so that they were able to compete on high school and college teams.  When I was growing up, my family always had a boat and this one photograph is the only time I’ve ever seen my father don a life jacket.  We were on a rented boat, off the east coast of South Florida, in a storm so ferocious that it had knocked out the steering on our flying bridge.  We couldn’t see 2 feet in front of the boat and we were lost. Seeing my father put on a life jacket, I just knew I was going to die! My sister and I ate our last meal together (cold SpaghettiO’s out of the can!) and were thoroughly surprised to actually live through the experience when the fog and rain lifted and we were in the middle of the Miami shipping channel!

The joy of looking at pictures isn’t necessarily about what was going on in the picture, it’s about the relationships that are forged before, during, after and at the time of viewing them.  So let’s take pictures and not forget to share them, all the while remembering that we are strengthening precious bonds between ourselves and the people who are important to us by doing so!

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