Saturday, May 27, 2017

Inspirational Quote – May 27, 2017

“A tree that is unbending is easily broken.”

Now this is quite straightforward isn’t it? We all know that trees are usually firmly planted and sturdy don’t we? However, when a gale force wind blows and the tree doesn’t “give” in order to cope there is every chance that the wind will persevere until the tree is just ripped from the earth and blown whichever way the wind chooses. Just like the beautiful trees we are buffeted occasionally by situations, people, or stress, and if we don’t bend and adapt in order to deal with these, we too may be broken in spirit.

Helping Young Adults Successfully Transition out of Foster Care

For children reaching the age at which their foster care ends, transitioning to adulthood can be extremely difficult. While other young adults can rely on their families for advice or financial support, these youth are entirely on their own. First Place for Youth is an organization that is offering 'a hand up' in the transition to adulthood with housing and support to help those who 'age out' of the foster care system to succeed. According to the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall Center for Children, 24 percent of young people are homeless after leaving the system and almost half end up in prison within two years. Providing an apartment with a covered security department and rental fees, First Place for Youth has four main goals for the foster children it supports: find stable employment, locate housing that matches their income, complete two semesters of community college or a certificate program and, finally, achieve "healthy living," which means avoiding arrests, unintended pregnancies and substance abuse.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Why Kids Need to Learn How to Forgive

By Hank Pellissier

Peacemakers, poets, and researchers agree: Forgiveness heals hurts and is good for the forgiver—even the young one.

It’s been more than four decades, but I still can’t forgive what they did to me that summer afternoon. I was 14, strolling in the mall with my two “friends,” Roger and Carson. I had introduced them to each other the week before and now they were jabbering back and forth, leaving me out except to occasionally tease me.
“Hey Hank,” said Roger. “Go in this store and see what the milkshakes cost.”
“We’ll wait here,” said Carson.
Dutifully, I did what my pals suggested. When I returned, they were gone. I looked up and down the pathways, I yelled their names, I waited for them to return. Finally, it dawned on me…I’d been ditched.
Forty-two years later, Carson died of injuries caused by a motorcycle crash, the bad blood between us unresolved. Roger? I have 4,922 Facebook friends, but he’s not one of them. I delete his every request.

Revenge isn’t so sweet

Vengeance is a powerful emotion; the desire to hurt those who wrong us is a universal trait of human nature, claims Michael E. McCullough, author of Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct. But it exacts a toll.
“An eye for an eye only makes the world blind” is an aphorism frequently attributed to Gandhi about what happens when nations battle over long-held grudges. As for holding on to individual hurts, research associates not forgiving with depression, anxiety, and hostility. Multiple studies find a higher rate of compromised immune systems and heart problems in adults who hold grudges. Conversely, children and adults who are able to let go of angry feelings when they’ve been wronged experience greater psychological well-being.
“Bitterness is like cancer,” the poet Maya Angelou told Dave Chappelle in an interview. “It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.”

No hard feelings

Forgiveness has roots as both a spiritual and a secular teaching in Western culture. In the last 40 years, it has become a subject of academic study as researchers have investigated the impact of forgiving—and not forgiving—on the relationships, health, and happiness of those who have suffered a range of traumatic experiences. But despite the evidence that forgiving is good for you, forgiveness has an image problem, which stems, say researchers, from a misunderstanding of what forgiveness is and isn’t.
According to the American Psychological Association, forgiveness is a voluntary, deliberate change in feeling toward someone who has caused you hurt or harm; it involves letting go of negative emotions toward the offender and results in a decreased desire for retaliation or revenge.
It’s not saying that the offense was okay. Forgiveness is often thought to be a weak response that condones, minimizes, or excuses wrongdoing. These are all misconceptions, says Loren Toussaint, professor of psychology at Luther College and co-editor of Forgiveness and Health: Scientific Evidence and Theories Relating Forgiveness to Better Health.
Forgiveness doesn’t require that the other person apologize. And it doesn’t have to (and sometimes shouldn’t) result in reconciliation. Forgiveness simply means you’re letting go of feelings of resentment and vengeance. You’re refocusing your thoughts on positive emotions; perhaps even feelings of understanding, empathy, and compassion toward the person who hurt you.
“Forgiveness is not making up with a wrongdoer if they are likely to hurt you again,” explains Toussaint. “Forgiveness is about feeling better as a person.”
If your child is hurt by a sibling or a bully, it is critical that the hurt party is protected and the perpetrator is disciplined appropriately. But, assuming the offense is dealt with justly, when a child feels lingering anger and hurt, forgiving is what will help them recover—from that hurt, and maybe others as well.
A study of six to nine year olds in Belfast conducted by Robert Enright, professor of educational psychology at University of Wisconsin–Madison, found that students who learned to forgive reduced their anger in general toward everyone, not just toward the person who harmed them.

Why forgiveness works for kids

When kids are wronged and don’t forgive, they remain “stuck” in the traumatic situation when they felt victimized. Every time they recall the hurtful event, they re-experience their stress response. If they dwell on their resentment, they continue to release stress chemicals, such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine into their brains. This activates the amygdala and other primitive brain regions involved in survival emotions such as fear and rage. The result is an inhibition of the brain’s problem-solving ability, creativity, reasoning, and impulse control.
What happens in the brain when a person forgives is a very different picture. In University of Sheffield research using fMRI scanning, forgiveness exercises helped activate brain regions that feel empathy and make moral judgments. A University of Pisa study found that participants who contemplated forgiveness exhibited activation in five brain regions, indicating an increase in positive emotions, cognitive morality, understanding of the mental states of others, perception, and cognitive control of emotions. Although the research participants were young adults, studies indicate kids’ brains are wired similarly for moral reasoning and empathy.
Children who learn how to forgive also gain an edge academically, and the reason may be as simple as having more energy available to focus on constructive pursuits. Their brains aren’t fuming, recounting the hurt, and plotting revenge; instead, they’ve got a clean slate where they can organize information and think creatively.
A study conducted by Enright found that counseling sessions dedicated to teaching forgiveness had significant academic benefits for at-risk teenagers. Twelve middle school students who had each experienced life-altering hurts were tested before and after a 15-week program in Forgiveness Counseling, with astounding results. The kids showed measured improvement in written English, math, and social studies; in their attitude toward school and their teachers; and in their relationships with their parents and other kids.
“Research supports the connection between forgiveness and improved academic functions,” Toussaint says. “The negative emotions of unforgiveness can be powerful detractors from children’s attention and focus in the classroom and in their individual studies.”
Okay. I will, finally, let go of one of my half-century resentments. It’s not cool that Carson and Roger ditched me. But I’m moving on. Roger, I accept your Facebook request…hi.
This article is part of a new GreatSchools series on how the science of character development can help parents promote honesty, diligence, gratitude, generosity, forgiveness, and curiosity in their children. It was originally published on GreatSchools. Read the original article.

Inspirational Quote – May 26, 2017

“Your mind is not a cage. It is a garden…and it requires cultivating.”

Now doesn’t this make perfect sense? Our mind is only a cage if we allow it to be and therefore why would we choose to do that to ourselves? Like a garden, our mind nourishes and grows only what we choose to “plant” in it. We also have the ability to “weed” when necessary and pluck out and discard those things growing that we realize serve no purpose or, indeed, hold us back or hinder us in the cultivation of our fertile, expanding mind.

Spotlight on Kids Who Are Changing the World

We live in challenging and stressful times and may wonder how our children must be feeling when we are struggling ourselves.  But, even as we try to shelter and protect them, we discover that children and young adults are remarkably resilient and that the things that help us to cope in difficult situations are often the very things that make challenges more bearable for them as well. Moving from a sense of helplessness toward action, using our failures and struggles to reach out to others, and pushing ourselves against our limitations all make us stronger, more compassionate people. The same is true for our children-- often in remarkable ways. In this Daily Good Spotlight, we take a fresh look at past features on young people who faced challenging times and situations in inspiring ways.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Inspirational Quote – May 25, 2017

“A heart that reaches out with love can heal a soul, and change a life.”

Many of us don’t realize just how powerful love is and the magic it is capable of. Isn’t it wonderful and empowering to be aware that we all possess this magic within us and are free to choose how we use it? Love is born within us as we emerge into this world of ours and, if we’re fortunate, we’re brought up surrounded by the love of those around us. There will be many times throughout our lives when we can, by utilizing this love, heal those who suffer and perhaps even change their lives forever for the better. Such power, such responsibility, such willingness to reach out and give freely……

Annie Dillard: Living Like Weasels

Annie Dillard tells us we could learn from weasels "something of the purity of living in the physical sense and the dignity of living without bias or to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will...yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn't "attack" anything; a weasel lives as he's meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity." 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Who Experiences the Most Awe?

By Alex Springer

The results from our Greater Good awe quiz reveal which people feel the most wonder and amazement in life.

Do you marvel at the wonder and beauty of life? Do you feel a positive emotional connection to nature?
If so, you might be prone to awe, that goosebumpy sensation that we get in the presence of something profound: something greater, more powerful, or more eternal than ourselves. It arises when we encounter things that challenge our sense of what’s normal or possible. Awe is feeling moved by remarkable art, expansive nature, incredible ideas or people, or acts of mind-blowing skill, among other things.
But you don’t need to visit the Grand Canyon or the Taj Mahal to feel awe; a 2015 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that watching an awesome nature video or even gazing up at very tall trees can do the trick. And feeling awe has been linked to generosity, humility, better health, and sharpened thinking, among other benefits. Basically, awe makes the world a better place.
Last year, we created an online awe quiz and invited readers to take it. It measures how much awe a person tends to experience in life, and more than 6,000 people have taken it so far.
The results suggest that you readers are an awesome group—the average score was 63 out of 75, putting you in the “high awe” range. This high score suggests that you feel wonderstruck regularly, and tend to be comfortable with the uncertain.
But do some people feel more awe than others? Who in the Greater Good community experiences the most awe? Based on our analysis of the quiz responses, here’s what we learned.

The older you are, the more awe you feel

While we sometimes describe awe as feeling “childlike” wonder, adults feel awe, too. In fact, the older you get, the more awe you tend to feel. Among those who took the quiz, awe increased significantly until around age 60, at which point it seemed to plateau. That’s something to look forward to!
We asked Dr. Paul Piff, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine, to speculate on this pattern. He reasons that “a sense of novelty and gratitude for the world seems positively associated with age.” One theory of motivation suggests that we tend to direct our resources toward more emotionally meaningful goals and activities as we get older, Piff notes, and “in the world of meaning, experiences of awe are among the most meaningful people can have.”
awe scores by age

Gender makes a difference

Women’s awe scores were greater than men’s: Women scored 64 out of 75 on average, compared to men’s 61. While it may be tempting to conclude that women are extra awesome, these results don’t necessarily imply a deeply rooted or biological sex difference, because people were answering surveys about themselves.
In fact, women tend to score higher than men on most Greater Good quizzes, which could be less reflective of their levels of well-being-related traits and more reflective of the way they tend to respond to online quiz questions. For starters, responders for this quiz were overwhelmingly women: 78 percent vs. 21 percent men (37 people indicated their gender as non-binary.)
When we asked Piff to weigh in on why women scored higher in awe, he speculated that it could come down to how awe tends to make us feel small.
“Men score higher on dominant traits like narcissism and entitlement, and they tend to be more status-seeking and power hungry—cultural norms play a big role in all this,” he says. “But awe, by virtue of making you feel less powerful than something else, may not be something men prioritize or value; maybe it even threatens their masculinity.” So maybe social norms steer men to avoid feeling awe.

Your income and location matter less than you may think

Where you live doesn’t seem to matter at all. We did not find any notable difference in awe scores between people who live in rural areas, suburban neighborhoods, or cities.
How much money you earn doesn’t seem to make a big difference, either—though people who make less than $25,000 per year did report lower levels of awe. The good news is that if you make $25,000 or more, whether your annual salary is $50,000 or $150,000, you are likely to experience similar levels of awe (among Greater Good readers, at least).
In his own nationwide study, Piff found that higher income may be related to less awe. “If income relates to feelings of power and entitlement, those are inimical to feelings of awe, which relate to feelings that one is part of something greater than oneself,” he says. “Wealthier individuals may be less prone to awe and less likely to seek out awe-inspiring experiences for those very reasons.”
awe scores by income

Spirituality and awe are connected

The Greater Good awe quiz results show a clear link between awe and spirituality—that is, how people answered the question, “How spiritual are you?” The more spiritual you say you are, the more awe you tend to feel.
Spirituality is often described as a feeling of connectedness to something greater than ourselves, and typically involves a search for meaning and personal growth. Extremely spiritual people scored an average of 67 out of 75, whereas people who see themselves as not at all spiritual scored 59 on average. That’s a 13 percent difference in awe scores.
awe scores by spirituality
How can you become more awe-some? Start by scheduling in more awe-inspiring moments, such as spending time in nature or around your favorite art. Our website Greater Good in Action can help you build awe with a collection of activities that take as little as four minutes:
What do you think of our findings? Were they shocking or predictable? Let us know in the comments below—and be sure to take the awe quiz if you haven’t already.

Inspirational Quote – May 24, 2017

“Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart.”

There’s certainly a lot out there to catch our eye isn’t there? Whether it’s on TV, bill posters, social media, etc. etc., it’s impossible not to be constantly noticing what’s around us. Indeed we live in a consumer obsessed world surrounded by hype urging us to buy things we don’t really need, sign up to deals that profit other people, or promoting ways we can be more or look more like so called “celebrities”. These things are transient, they have no substance, and they’re unrealistic…… Try to look past all this and then you’ll see the true beauty that’s out there, within your grasp. The love of family, true friendships, the beauty to be found by just looking around and being aware of the miracle of nature and the animals inhabiting this wonderful world of ours. All we need to enrich our hearts and souls for the taking with no price tag attached.

The Vibrations of Conflict

"Cole Porter clearly got it right. But what exactly is it that changes from major to minor when we say goodbye? What permits music to express and stimulate our moods so precisely? How does it ignite or dampen our spirits, make us feel romantic or cynical, lighthearted or blue? Why do simple sequences of musical notes or complex symphonic strains cause us to weep with sorrow, waltz with elegance, march in disciplined military formations, or swirl sensuously across a dance floor? And what does any of this have to do with conflict?" Kenneth Cloake specializes in mediation, negotiation and the resolution of complex organizational, interpersonal, and public policy disputes. He shares more in this thought-provoking excerpt.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How Gratitude Motivates Us to Become Better People

By Christina N. Armenta, Sonja Lyubomirsky

Some critics charge that gratitude is selfish and breeds complacency. But research by Christina Armenta and Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests otherwise.

Gratitude has become a hot topic in recent years. Celebrities from Oprah to James Taylor to Ariana Huffington have promoted an “attitude of gratitude,” and gratitude journals, hashtags, and challenges have become immensely popular. Much of this enthusiasm has been fueled by research linking gratitude to happiness, health, and stronger relationships.
Oprah receiving the 2013 Presidential Medal of FreedomOprah receiving the 2013 Presidential Medal of
Yet there has been a backlash. Some critics and skeptics have charged that gratitude breeds self-satisfaction and acceptance of the status quo. Several articles, including a New York Times essay by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, have recently asserted that gratitude may be selfish and self-indulgent, prompting people to feel satisfied with where they are in life rather than pursuing bigger personal goals or working to help others. The author of a piece in the Harvard Crimson argued that gratitude can “act as a form of complacency” and that the indebtedness engendered by gratitude may “get in the way of progress.”
Does gratitude lead to complacency? Do all those benefits of gratitude come at a price—laziness, apathy, and the acceptance of inequities?
Based on research conducted over the past two decades, and recent findings from our lab at UC Riverside, we believe that the answer is no. In fact, we have found that gratitude is not just a pleasant, passive emotion but rather an activating, energizing force that may lead us to pursue our goals and become better, more socially engaged people.

Gratitude triggers self-improvement

For years, studies have been challenging the misconception that gratitude promotes self-satisfaction and acceptance of the status quo; these studies suggest that gratitude can motivate behaviors that ultimately lead to self-improvement and positive change.
For instance, a 2011 study by Robert Emmons and Anjali Mishra found that people feel motivated and energized when they experience gratitude, and that gratitude encourages them to make progress towards their goals. In this study, students were instructed to list the goals they wanted to accomplish within the next two months and were then randomly assigned either to count their blessings, to list their hassles, or to complete a neutral writing activity each week for 10 weeks. Those in the gratitude group reported making relatively more progress towards their goals. In addition, a 2009 study led by Nathaniel Lambert suggests that gratitude leads people to believe they deserve positive outcomes for themselves and are capable of achieving them.
Indeed, gratitude has been linked with success and achievement in multiple life domains, including health and academics. In a 2003 study by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, participants who counted their blessings reported fewer physical symptoms of illness and spent up to 1.5 more hours exercising each week. In addition, grateful students tend to have higher GPAs, participate in more extra-curricular activities, and have a stronger desire to contribute to society. Importantly, gratitude has also been linked with less risky behaviors in adolescents, including decreased substance use and less risky sexual behaviors. These findings suggest that gratitude may motivate people to engage in better, healthier activities that may contribute to their success.

Gratitude also inspires us to perform kind acts for others. For example, in a 2006 study led by Monica Bartlett and David DeSteno, people induced to feel grateful—by receiving help from someone else—later exerted more effort to help their benefactors than did people either induced to feel amused or not induced to feel any emotion at all. Interestingly, people induced to feel grateful were also more likely to help complete strangers! These findings suggest that feeling grateful not only prompts people to want to pay their benefactor back directly but also to “pay it forward” by helping others. Gratitude, therefore, motivates us not only to improve our own lot in life but also the circumstances of the people around us. 
Together, these findings suggest that gratitude is a motivating emotion that spurs an individual to action. However, little research has directly explored precisely how gratitude might motivate us. Why does gratitude inspire positive action rather than breed complacency?
Recently we set out to answer that question. Building on prior work, we wanted more concrete evidence for how and why gratitude impels people to make positive changes in their lives and in the world around them.
We identified four distinct pathways through which expressing gratitude can motivate people to improve themselves and their communities.

1. Connectedness

We believe that feeling grateful compels us to reflect on our relationships and leads us to feel closer and more connected to others. Importantly, this increased closeness helps motivate and sustain our efforts at self-improvement.
Supporting these ideas, we found evidence that people experience greater feelings of closeness and connectedness to others when they perform one of two different gratitude activities (recalling a grateful experience or writing a letter of gratitude) than when they recall a time when they felt relief or list what they did the previous week.
In addition, we did a study with 9th and 10th grade students and found that students who expressed gratitude to parents, teachers, or coaches felt closer and more connected to them, which then increased their desire to improve themselves, as well as their confidence and competence in working toward this self-improvement.
Why might this be the case? Think about it this way: By strengthening our social bonds, gratitude rewards us with a strong network of support and encouragement, thus leading us to feel that we are capable of tackling big challenges. For example, a woman may feel grateful to a friend who helped her recover from an illness. This may make her feel closer and more connected to this person, as well as prompt her to want to eat healthier and exercise more to prove to her friend that the time she spent helping her get better was not wasted. This feeling of connectedness may also remind the woman that people care about her and want her to be healthy.
Feeling close and connected to others may motivate us to improve ourselves and become better people because we want to prove that we are worthy of our relationships and because we feel encouraged, supported, and inspired by the people in our lives.

2. Elevation

“Elevation” is scientists’ name for the uplifting feeling we get when we see people performing great acts of kindness; it is associated with a warmth in one’s chest and feeling moved to be a better person. Importantly, feeling elevated inspires people to be more generous, perhaps to emulate the moral acts of others.
We believe that gratitude makes people feel elevated—which then bolsters their motivation and effort towards self-improvement.
Notably, we have found evidence for this idea among both undergraduates and working adults. In one six-week study, we prompted undergraduates either to write a letter of gratitude each week to someone who did something kind for them or to list their daily activities. All of the students were then instructed to do acts of kindness for others as a self-improvement activity. Students who expressed gratitude reported feeling more elevated—and these feelings of elevation were linked with exerting more effort on their kind acts for others. Therefore, elevation may be one way that expressing gratitude can motivate students to try harder to be a better, kinder person.
In a similar four-week study, we prompted corporate employees to write weekly gratitude letters to someone who either helped them in general, helped them with their work, or helped them with their health. These employees were then encouraged to try to improve themselves by either becoming kinder, excelling at work, or improving their health. Employees in a fourth group were instructed only to list their daily activities each week and focus on general self-improvement. All employees had the freedom to choose which steps they took to improve themselves.
Notably, relative to employees who only listed their daily activities each week, employees who wrote any of the three types of gratitude letters felt moved, uplifted, and inspired to be better people—which then increased their productivity at work and boosted their sense of autonomy at the end of the study. These findings suggest that elevation—that is, feeling inspired and uplifted—may motivate us not only to become healthier, more generous people but also better, more productive workers.

3. Humility

We believe that gratitude spurs us to become more humble because expressing gratitude takes the focus off of ourselves and forces us to recognize that our successes are due, at least in part, to the actions of other people.
Sure enough, our lab has found evidence that gratitude promotes more frequent humble feelings. For example, in a 2014 study led by our colleague Elliott Kruse, participants were randomly assigned either to write a letter of gratitude or to write about what they did during the previous two hours. All participants then had to imagine someone was angry with them and describe their reaction to that person. Those in the gratitude condition wrote more humble responses—for example, they were more inclined to consider the other person’s point of view and were more likely to accept blame.
Because humility enables us to see clearly how others have supported us, it may encourage us to engage in positive behaviors, such as helping others and bettering ourselves, to pay back the people who have helped us along the way. For example, a student may feel humbled by all the time his math teacher spent encouraging him and making sure he understood how to solve math problems. This feeling of humility may motivate him to want to do better in school—such as by taking advantage of tutoring services or extra-curricular activities—to (once again) prove to himself and to his teacher that the time and energy spent on him was not misplaced.

4. Indebtedness

Not all of the thoughts that accompany gratitude are pleasant; some may even be awkward and unsettling. Reflecting on how much people have helped us may lead us to feel obligated to repay them for their help, uncomfortable because we needed help in the first place, and guilty for not thanking them sooner. Research from our lab has found evidence that expressing gratitude leads to the simultaneous experience of both positive and negative emotions, including feeling both uplifted and indebted at the same time. 

But these mixed feelings may help lead us to positive action. Indeed, in one study, we found that expressing gratitude led high school students to feel more indebted to the people who helped them—which then increased their motivation, competence, and confidence towards self-improvement.
This finding suggests that although they don’t feel pleasant, some negative emotions—particularly indebtedness—may be especially motivating to us, lighting a fire in our bellies to reciprocate the good that others have given us—and thus rid ourselves of the psychological debts we carry.
Taken together, then, the evidence strongly suggests that rather than leading us to relax, stagnate, and become complacent, gratitude often motivates us to strive for our goals and become better people.
Of course, the research in this area is still emerging. But from our results so far, we believe that the feelings of connectedness, elevation, humility, and indebtedness resulting from gratitude may then motivate us to put forth more effort towards school, work, our communities, and our relationships, perhaps even prompting us to strive for goals we would otherwise not have thought possible.
Gratitude may, therefore, have the power to do more than make us happy and motivate us to improve our own lives. It can inspire us to become more productive members of society and better citizens of the world.