Saturday, July 22, 2017

Inspirational Quote – July 22, 2017

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

Now who wouldn’t want to be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud? Not me! This tells me that the people I encounter every day, whether family, friend, colleague or just a stranger I exchange a smile or a few words with in passing, may be having a “cloudy” day. By this I don’t necessarily mean weather wise but rather that they might not be having the best day of their lives for whatever reason. If this is the case, when recalling their day at bedtime, wouldn’t it be nice if they fell asleep with a smile on their lips just because you or I became their very own rainbow for a brief moment in their cloudy day?

Gardens & the Art of Delayed Gratification

Alanda Greene grew up having spent time nurturing a deep connection with nature through gardening -- planting seeds and watching them grow. She remarks that even now, "no matter how many times I plant seeds, these small, hard beads of potential, I am thrilled when the signs of growth emerge. It is as if I never really believed it would happen this time. Seems just too improbable that those tiny pieces would transform as they do...Without an understanding of delayed gratification, the connection between the green leaves emerging to the seeds that went into the ground might never happen." Here, she shares the valuable lessons of surrender, patience, and faith that gardening and the practice of delaying gratification impart.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Why Do Your Happy Memories Fade?

According to a new study, people overestimate how much they’ll recall from a good time in their life—but there's a way to boost your memory.

“We’ll always have Paris.” Or will we?
new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that hoping for lifelong memories of a happy time might only be wishful thinking.
While it’s common to anticipate the joys of looking back on something as special as a romantic trip to Paris, for instance, the study finds that we often overestimate how much we will actually think of, or talk about, these pleasant memories. Indeed, it suggests that the more people expect to remember, the higher their overestimation will be.

Darn those distractions!

Part of the problem is that we forget to remember. We think we will remember this experience forever—but don’t factor in the distractions of everyday life, which render that fond memory harder and harder to access.
Stephanie Tully, assistant professor of marketing at USC Marshall, and Tom Meyvis, marketing professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, conducted two experiments. They found that participants who thought about a future experience predicted they would think about and talk about their experience more often than other participants reported actually having done for a past experience.
The authors then demonstrated these effects in longitudinal studies, where they could examine the same participants across time. In one study, participants went to a U.S. Open tennis tournament and one day later predicted they would reminisce much more than they reported doing two months later. Moreover, the more they enjoyed the tennis matches, the more they overestimated.
In other studies, Tully and Meyvis found that this overestimation extended to other forms of retrospection, like looking at photos from an African safari and tweeting about Beyond Wonderland, an expensive music festival.
The studies indicated that this effect isn’t because people lose interest.
“Importantly, the desire to retrospect does not change over time,” Tully said. “Instead, past experiences become less top-of-mind over time, and, as a result, people simply forget to remember.”

Buy a memento

In a final study, the researchers looked at the impact of buying mementos. Specifically, people who purchased merchandise or professional photos of the studied event (a fun run) did not predict they would recall or talk about the race more than others, but two months later they did report talking about the experience and looking at photos more often. Importantly, having access to digital photos was not as effective.
“These results are consistent with the view that actual retrospection is strongly dependent on the accessibility of the experience, which is aided by visible mementos,” Tully and Meyvis wrote.
In other words, if you want a souvenir, go for it. With that miniature Eiffel Tower sitting on your desk, you’ll definitely always have Paris.

Inspirational Quote – July 21, 2017

“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”

We’re all guilty, at one time or another, of speaking or commenting without firstly engaging our brain first aren’t we? I’m sure I’m not alone in this. It would really serve us well to think carefully before allowing what is in our head to pass our lips because once it’s said, it can’t be unsaid. No matter how much you protest and try to explain you didn’t mean it, it came out all wrong, they’ve taken it the wrong way, etc. etc., it’s out there and could have consequences or repercussions that may reverberate down the tunnel of time. So, my friends, the next time you are tempted to let it “all out”, ask yourself the above three questions first….. If the answer is no, keep it zipped so to speak or rather, don’t speak!

Joserra Gonzalez: A Re-Love-Ution Blooms in Spain

"We are at the verge of many changes, and if we stay together in this journey, we can really face this big current which is taking us in a direction we don't know" Joserra's first question was "How can I serve?" He soon found the answers to why humans suffer and how to lessen our own suffering and that of those around us. From spending two years working in the slums of Ahmedabad, India to becoming a pilgrim, Joserra shares his inspiring journey towards living a free life, one which brings peace and harmony to earth. With conviction he strives to lead a life in alignment with his values. A life which involves experiments living on gift and organizing a community through Karma Kitchen and Awakin Circles. Check out some more about his journey towards the Re-love-ution!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to Deal with Social Awkwardness

Psychologist Ty Tashiro explains why some people are more socially awkward and how they can use their strengths to connect with others.

Many of us have experienced awkward moments, where we don’t understand a particular social situation and put our foot in our mouths. While these social faux pas are certainly unpleasant, they don’t necessarily impact our social relationships too much.
But for some people, awkwardness can be a way of life, punctuated by regular experiences of painful misunderstandings that lead to social exclusion. This not only hurts them, but can be hard for their colleagues and loved ones.
For those who suffer from awkwardness—or know someone who does—look no further than psychologist Ty Tashiro’s recently published book, Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome. In his book, Tashiro explains some of the neuroscience behind how awkward people see the world and why they tend to miss important social cues. His book not only provides guidance for how to manage awkwardness, but also points to the particular strengths of awkward people.

Inside the awkward brain

According to Tashiro, awkward people tend to see things differently, shining a spotlight of attention on parts of their perceptual world that others tend to look past. This means that they might spend hours poring over spec sheets for their computer, but miss the subtle cues—like foot-tapping or arm-crossing—that let them know someone is bored or impatient.
The reasons for this difference lie in the brain. Neuroscience research suggests that awkward people—who are somewhat similar to people with “high-functioning autism” or Asperger’s Syndrome—have less activity in their “social brains” and require extra cognitive effort when interpreting social cues. This is not only difficult and draining for them; it can also cause anxiety, which is probably why awkward people sometimes choose to withdraw from social contact altogether.
Clearly, this is a problem, given the importance of social contact in a happyhealthy life. But Tashiro has ideas of how awkward people can feel more at ease in social situations, including cultivating curiosity and worrying less about being clever.
“When you show your genuine interest in what others have to say, the deeper message you send is that you are invested in their well-being,” he writes. Even awkward people can learn to stop talking and ask questions to further the conversation, he suggests.
In addition, he suggests that awkward people can be taught to pay attention to social cues like eye contact during conversations, and not interrupt when someone else is speaking. And, recognizing that social faux pas happen in life and aren’t the end of the world can also aid socially awkward people in moving past them.

Raising an awkward kid

<a href=“”>Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome</a> (William Morrow, 2017, 288 pages)Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome (William Morrow, 2017, 288 pages)
Tashiro gives helpful advice to parents of awkward children. While awkward children may subconsciously say or do things that others will interpret negatively—such as correcting people’s grammar or strictly adhering to rules and routines (which helps them to function well, but can be perceived as inflexible)—parents can act as coaches, helping to point children to behaviors that will ease their social interactions.
“Parents need to calmly show empathy about their awkward children’s tendency to become overwhelmed by social situations and find ways to coach their reluctant children about social scripts that help them fit in seamlessly to social situations,” he writes.
One way is by teaching their awkward kids manners—social expectations for dress, behavior, and talk that may not be obvious but can be learned and rehearsed. Tashiro also mentions the importance of helping awkward kids find their passions and connect with others who have similar interests. And, while our modern-day preoccupation with social media can be a boon to the nerdy kid, he suggests encouraging awkward kids to use social media more for setting up face-to-face time with friends than to escape social encounters.
Tashiro kindly offers his own story of being an awkward kid to illustrate how he learned to connect better. A particularly poignant lesson came from a tennis partner in high school—a kid who was somewhat nerdy, but had lots of social capital—who displayed unusual kindness toward him after an embarrassing situation when he couldn’t hit a tennis ball during practice. This taught Tashiro the importance of displaying kindness, consideration, and loyalty himself when forming friendships.
“If I was consistent about maintaining these prosocial attitudes, then I built some cushion for those times when I inadvertently bungled some social situations or mishandled an expectation in ways that offended others,” he writes.

The upside of being awkward

Of course, being a nerdy kid or adult is not all bad. In fact, Tashiro writes of how a spotlight attention can help awkward people to develop expertise and think outside the box. He points to famous examples of socially-awkward people—like Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein—whose obsessive interests helped fuel innovation and new knowledge.
“Although awkward people are missing important social information that falls outside
© Photo by Sidney Perry on Unsplash
of their narrow aperture, what they do see is brilliantly illuminated and this gives them a deep, nuanced perspective about things that no one else takes the time to notice,” he writes.
While not all awkward people have special gifts, Tashiro explains, awkward people may be more likely to excel at systematic problem-solving tasks, as in math or science; to recognize patterns in a complex visual environment; and to persist in the areas that interest them. This suggests that awkwardness may have some evolutionary advantages, perhaps leading to insights or engineering breakthroughs that helped groups survive over time.
So, while his book is particularly instructive for awkward people negotiating their social world, it also calls upon the rest of us to have greater appreciation and empathy. If we all reached out with more understanding toward those who struggle socially—rather than judgment or rejection—we would benefit from a wider circle of friends and create a more inclusive society.
As Tashiro writes, “When awkward people take the responsibility to work hard to improve their empathic capacity and others show some patience and encouragement, awkward and socially fluent people can find an unusual brand of emotional connection.”
As someone with socially awkward people in my community of friends and family, I’m inclined to agree.

Inspirational Quote – July 20, 2017

”Spirituality is a personal relationship with the Divine. Religion is crowd control.”

I only came across this quote recently and I must admit it did strike a chord. It really made me think more deeply about Spirituality and Religion. I have always believed that there is “something”, a higher power if you like, that inspires and challenges us all. However, I also believe that we are all entitled to our own individual, personal belief, which should be respected by everybody who knows us. To me that is Spirituality. On the other hand, I have found “Religion” to be the result of somebody else’s interpretation of how we should behave and think, and does not tolerate (however much it professes to) any deviation from its teaching. I dislike the hypocrisy involved. I will continue to live my life as spiritually as I can, as individually as I can, but that’s just me, what about you?

One Sapling at a Time

In Bikaner, Rajasthan, northern India the landscape is mostly desert, making it a challenge to grow fruit bearing trees and other plants. In 2003, Professor Shyam Sundar Jyani and his students began working on some local neem trees, which were struggling. From this work, Shyam went on to found Familial Forestry in 2006, an organization that donates saplings of fruit bearing trees to villagers with the idea to 'treat the tree as a family member.' These trees provide shade to the families, food for them and for their livestock, and the seeds from the fruit can be used to grow more trees. To date, over 625,000 saplings have been planted in over 2,500 villages, utilizing a type of grafting that increase fruit yield and allows the trees to flourish with little more than natural rain water. Shyam was awarded for his exemplary services towards nature conservation by the President of India in 2012.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Four Reasons Why Endings Can Make You Happier

New research suggests that anticipating the end of a good experience is an effective—but counterintuitive—way to enjoy it more.

A last bite, a last chapter, a last meeting, a last kiss—every day, good things in our lives come to an end.
Endings are sad, but they also seem to have a clarifying effect, one that often highlights the good. Now, research is exploring just how powerful endings can be for our well-being. It suggests that by simply imagining that things are coming to an end—a stage of our lives, our time in a certain place, a relationship—we may be able to better appreciate them before real endings loom. 
In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Kristin Layous and her colleagues recruited nearly 140 college freshmen for a peculiar month-long experiment. Half of them were instructed to live that month as if it were their last in their college town, paying attention to the special people and places they would miss when they left. The other half, a control group, simply went about their days as usual. Each week, the students journaled about how they had spent their time.
Before and after the experiment, all the students filled out surveys about their well-being: how satisfied they were with their lives and how much positive and negative emotions they were experiencing. They also reported how much their fundamental psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and connectedness were being met—how free, capable, and close to others they felt.
Compared to the control group, the group who imagined they were leaving soon increased in well-being, partly through the satisfaction of their psychological needs. The prospect of college ending didn’t sadden them, but in fact seemed to enrich their experiences.
“Imagining time as scarce prompted people to seize the moment and extract greater well-being from their lives,” Layous and her coauthors write. “When people take action to savor their surroundings, including their nearby friends, family, and colleagues, they may feel like they are just where they want to be.”
This study—together with some prior research—suggests that imagining endings is a sneaky way to increase happiness. We tend to assume it’s bad for us, but, in fact, the opposite appears to be true, write the researchers.
But what’s going on, psychologically, to make it work? Here are four ways anticipating the end can improve your life.

1. Endings help us stay in the present

One explanation for this intriguing phenomenon comes from Laura Carstenen’s “socioemotional selectivity theory,” which looks at how our sense of time affects our goals and relationships.
When we perceive time as vast and expansive, the theory goes, we tend to prefer knowledge-seeking activities: attending school, going to networking events, learning new skills. These activities are an investment in the future, often involving some degree of difficulty and struggle. When we perceive time as short and limited—in other words, when endings seem near—we tend to prefer activities that feel good or meaningful now, like hanging out with our best friends or enjoying our favorite foods.
“Young or old, when people perceive time as finite, they attach greater importance to finding emotional meaning and satisfaction from life and invest fewer resources into gathering information and expanding horizons,” explains Carstenen.
In other words, it’s possible that endings drive us toward the very things that will boost our happiness in the present.

2. Endings can bring us together

How does that effect manifest itself? Contemplating the end seems to make us prioritize social connections, which a great deal of research shows can increase our well-being.
In one study, for example, researchers recruited nearly 400 California residents, split up into three groups: young (averaging 23 years old), middle-aged (46), and older (72). They asked participants whom they’d like to meet with if they had a free half hour: a family member, a recent acquaintance, or an author of a book they had read.
Spending time with family falls into the category of a feel-good activity: It may not involve novelty or challenge, but (at least according to the researchers’ surveys) does tend to be relatively pleasant. Meeting the acquaintance and author, meanwhile, represented opportunities for the students to learn and grow: knowledge-seeking activities.
Under normal conditions, 65 percent of young people chose to spend time with the acquaintance or the author, while 65 percent of older people—with less expansive futures ahead of them—chose to spend time with family. When asked to imagine that they were moving across the country in a few weeks, though, 80 percent of young people chose a family member—supporting Carstenen’s theory that endings drive us to pursue different goals.
“The introduction of anticipated social endings induces younger people to mimic the social choices of older people,” the researchers explain. “Older people…are primarily concerned with the immediate [emotional] rewards and costs of interaction.”
In another study, researchers observed a momentous event in Hong Kong’s history where this theory played out society-wide.
In 1997, Hong Kong became part of China, an end-of-an-era that was heavily anticipated in the media and associated with great uncertainty. One year before the handover, young Hong Kong residents answering the “free half hour” survey clearly preferred to spend time with an acquaintance or author, just as their American counterparts had.
But a few months before the transition, they said they’d rather see a family member, now looking more like young Californians anticipating a cross-country move. A year after Hong Kong was integrated with China, no longer facing a political “ending,” young people returned to their normal preferences.
These findings suggest that endings don’t have to be personal in order to exert a psychological influence. A whole group can experience an ending at the same time, and their values and behaviors may temporarily shift as a result—one reason, perhaps, for all the cheer and goodwill around the end-of-year holidays?

3. Endings help us to let go of the past and focus on goals

Under Carstenen’s theory, our present happiness sometimes competes with gains we might realize in the future, like knowledge and new relationships. But it can also compete with investments we’ve made in the past—and here, too, research suggests that imagining an impending ending could give us some clarity. 
In another series of experiments, when young people imagined having little time left to live, they became less vulnerable to the sunk-cost fallacy. The sunk-cost fallacy is a form of poor decision-making where we undervalue our present preferences based on time or money that we’ve invested in the past—“sunk costs” that we can’t get back. For example, we might continue a relationship with a friend we don’t particularly like because we’ve known them for so long, or be hesitant about changing careers because we don’t want to “waste” our education.
In this study, young people anticipating death tended to put more weight on their present happiness than their past investments compared to young people whose thoughts weren’t so morbidly inclined. Analyzing a series of scenarios, they were more likely to stop watching a bad movie even if they paid for it, for example. This was particularly true for relationships they had invested time in.
“When temporal horizons are restricted, people are motivated to maximize their current experiences in the ‘here and now,’” explain the West Virginia University researchers. “Time is viewed as a limited resource not to be wasted on unfulfilling pursuits.”
When endings loom, in other words, our minds seem to tune into the present, shedding distractions from the past and the future that have little bearing on our happiness now.

4. Endings provoke mixed emotions—and so create more meaning

But aren’t endings sad? At the very least, they can be bittersweet—so while they may boost our happiness, they aren’t a recipe for pure bliss.
Indeed, a 2008 study suggested that endings bring about mixed emotions. In one experiment, participants—both young (averaging 20 years old) and older (77)—imagined being in a location that was meaningful to them, like their favorite cafe. Both groups felt more mixed emotions—less happiness and more sadness—when they imagined being there for the last time, compared to being there as usual. In a second experiment, graduating seniors reported more mixed emotions when they were reminded that it was their last day as a student of the university.
Endings seem to inspire a particular mixed emotion called poignancy. It occurs when we realize that something we used to have is (or will soon be) gone—and it’s reasonable to believe that real endings are even more poignant than imagined ones. These mixed emotions, suggests at least one recent study, open the door to greater meaning in our lives.
“Possibly, because time was not actually limited for our participants, they were able to extract positivity from their environments without the poignancy or stress that accompanies real endings,” Layous and her colleagues note about their month-long experiment.
In a sense, imagined endings may offer more of the benefits and less of the drawbacks of facing a true loss.
“Imagining time as scarce prompted people to seize the moment and extract greater well-being from their lives”
―Kristin Layous et al.
One hospice nurse famously reflected on the top regrets of the dying, based on her experiences at their bedsides. Among them are the regret of working too much and losing touch with close friends.
Whenever I reflect on this, I’m struck with a kind of urgent confusion: Why don’t we prioritize the right things in our lives? Why do we get bogged down in stresses and annoyances rather than treasuring everything we have?
Although these questions are still perplexing, this research at least suggests a potential, counterintuitive solution: Imagine that the thing you love will soon be coming to an end. Far from making you unhappy, this exercise may give you the capacity to better appreciate the here and now, and perhaps avoid regret later.

Inspirational Quote – July 19, 2017

“The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.”

This really resonates with me on a personal level. When I find that I am beginning to feel overloaded with whatever is going on in my life, the only thing that always invigorates and restores me, is either a nice amble in the countryside or, even better, time spent at the seashore. Fortunately, we live only a 10 minute walk away from the sea so how great is that? I believe that nothing can restore the human spirit more than spending time in the great outdoors, away from houses, cars, crowds, etc. Our spirit thrives on being “free” from the restraints of modern life and takes on new life and vigor from being allowed to commune with the very basics necessary to sustain life.

Neema Village: A Place of Hope

In Tanzania, East Africa, a baby rescue center called Neema Village has saved over 100 abandoned, orphaned, and at-risk infants in just 5 years. The list is long of places the infants have been found -- by the roadside, in a yard, a gravel pit, a hotel, a latrine... Mostly they are the babies of mothers who have died or were unable to care for them. Doris Fortson, co-founder of Neema Village says, "My husband and I were moved to do something about it for many reasons, including that we were retired and that I had been raised in an orphanage from age four to 18." "You're never too old to make a difference," she adds.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Three Ways to Inspire Kids to Share

New research provides insight into what matters to kids when they decide to give.

I recently stumbled upon a reinvention of one of my favorite childhood candies, the fruit chew. Eating one, I am eight years old again. I remember keeping all the cherry and strawberry squares for myself and sharing the less-desirable lemon and orange squares with my sisters—if I shared at all.
Could my parents have done anything to encourage me to be more generous? New research says yes.

When are children more likely to share?

Kids are more likely to share in certain conditions, suggests a recent study—using fruit chews!—of four- to nine-year-olds by Katherine McAuliffe and colleagues.
They found, first of all, that environment matters—in other words, children’s behavior is shaped by what other people are saying or doing. If kids in the study heard suggestions to be generous, they’d give more of their fruit chews to other kids. If they heard suggestions to be selfish, they tended to keep more fruit chews for themselves.
As you might expect, kids who didn’t hear any suggestion about what to share were not as selfish as the kids who heard the suggestion to only give a small fraction of their fruit chews.
Age made a difference, too. Younger kids were more likely to follow suggestions, but older kids gave more than younger kids did. Although kids rarely gave all of their candies when advised to do so, older kids shared half their candies more often than younger kids.
But are kids more responsive to cues from adults—or from other kids? In a different study, Azzura Ruggeri and colleagues presented a similar dilemma—deciding how many chocolates to share—to nine- and 12-year-old kids in various circumstances. The result? Nine-year-olds were more influenced by adults than peers, but the opposite was true for the group that was entering adolescence—the 12-year-olds exerted more influence on each other than adults did.
The adolescents also experienced much stronger alignment between their values, actions, and emotions: The ones who shared at least as much as they thought was fair were happier compared to adolescents who shared less than they thought was fair.
This alignment starts to develop at an earlier age, according to yet another recent study by Markus Paulus and Chris Moore of three- to six-year-olds. They found that kids expected to be happier when they decided to share than when they decided not to share.
They also found that kids who felt sadder when they didn’t share gave more generously during later opportunities to share compared to kids who felt less sad. According to Paulus and Moore, these findings may explain one possible motivation for kids to share: anticipating a “warm glow” feeling that comes with being generous.

What could these findings mean for parenting?

Taken together, these findings suggest some fairly specific guidelines for parents when encouraging kids to share.

Parents can influence kids’ decisions about giving—but they shouldn’t take it too far.

Kids respond to clearly stated, gentle suggestions about what is acceptable when it comes to sharing. In the study above, researchers framed their generous or selfish suggestions to kids by saying, “Most kids give…”
Kids are also more amenable to suggestions that match what they already believe to be appropriate. Encouraging them to share beyond a 50/50 arrangement may cross into unfair territory. Recognizing upper bounds when setting the bar helps parents anticipate their kids’ generosity.

Consider your child’s age

Sharing behavior changes as we age. Acknowledging age differences helps parents set appropriate and achievable expectations for their kids. Keeping in mind that it’s easier to persuade younger kids to be selfish and older kids to be generous helps parents align their goals with their kids’ development.
When it comes to decision making about sharing, adults are more influential to younger kids; peers are more influential to adolescents. Parents of adolescents should try to highlight inspiring moments of generosity by same-aged peers in a way that fosters positive motivation, rather than implying negative judgment or comparison.

How does the child feel right then?

Parent-child discussions about giving that involve modeling how to talk about and label emotions may enrich kids’ vocabulary about feelings, which may in turn promote greater awareness of themselves and others. This may give kids opportunities to interpret and internalize the impact of their and others’ generosity—for example, noticing the positive emotions than giving may encourage in the giver and the recipient, and perhaps some of the negative emotions that deter from giving. Parents noticing and expressing praise for their kids’ and others’ acts of generosity have the potential to reinforce their kids’ decisions to share. 
So, would I have shared more fruit chews if my parents had applied these insights? Perhaps not right at that moment, but down the line—yes, I think it would have had an impact. These days, I hardly ever keep all the candies to myself!