Showing posts from June 23, 2019

How to Build Connections in a Dehumanized World

A new book explores why dehumanization might be increasing in modern society—and what we can do about it.

By Elizabeth Hopper

Thanks to technology, we can work remotely, interacting with colleagues online rather than face to face. We can order our groceries and meals through delivery apps, so we don’t have to go out to stores and restaurants. We can look up information online, instead of asking someone else for answers.

While technology offers us more convenience, it has a downside: It has decreased our contact with others, creating a society where we’re more independent—but also potentially lonelier and less empathic toward the people around us. Adam Waytz, of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, explores the implications of this societal change in his new book, The Power of Human: How Our Shared Humanity Can Help Us Create a Better World.

“I realized that a human-less experience is greatly deficient compared to a more human one, even if it comes at the expense of…

Coastal Communication: A Mother and Son's Moving Collaboration

When New York based author and social activist, Jane Jackson suffered an aneurysm, it affected both her memory and language skills. Over the months that followed she recovered through the unconditional support of her family, and the power of poetry. As a way to promote healing and reestablish language skills, she and her son began writing poems together. The poems were crafted line by line in emails sent back and forth across the continent. Together they wrote about the simple memories they shared and of the beautiful and difficult moments they were experiencing as her mind regained facility with words. Their unique collaboration resulted in a book of over 70 poems titled Coastal Communication. The following excerpts from it reveal not just the healing power of words, but also the power of love to find a way through our greatest challenges.

Being Empathic Doesn’t Make You a Pushover

A new study finds that more prosocial people are less aggressive in competition—but they tend to win out in the long run.

By Jill Suttie

Looking back at the financial collapse of 2008, I often wonder: How could investors have been so greedy? It seems as if they were so bent on “winning” that they made pretty dumb investments, which cost them—and the rest of us—dearly. In fact, history is filled with examples of people behaving aggressively for short-term gain, only to pay a long-term cost. Why do we keep behaving this way?

My question is at the heart of a new study by Carsten de Dreu and colleagues published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Their findings give us insight into the relationship between aggression, empathy, and decision making.

In the study, participants played an investment game called “Predator-Prey Contest”—similar to the old board game Risk—which measures how much people will invest to win money off of others versus defending their own holdings. Participants we…

What We Can Learn About Happiness from Iceland

Governmental psychologist Dóra Guðmundsdóttir explains what makes a society flourish.

By Jill Suttie

The World Happiness Report comes out every year, providing some data about how well-being varies from country to country and how it shifts within a country from one year to the next. But what makes some countries happier than others?

Dóra Guðmundsdóttir is one of many researchers around the world studying happiness and well-being at the population level. By analyzing large data sets, she has helped to uncover the “epidemiology of well-being”—how different groups within a country are faring in response to changing social and economic forces, such as inequality, recessions, and education policies.

By understanding these effects, she helps a country’s politicians and policymakers make better decisions to support the well-being of their citizens. To date, she has worked with the government in her home country of Iceland, where she is the director of determinants of health and wellbeing at the …

What We Should Know About Animals

It's easy to assume that animals experience happiness (just think of a dog wagging its tail), but what about higher-level emotions and qualities like selflessness, empathy, or even love? In "Beyond Words: How Animals Think and Feel," conservationist Carl Safina shares stories from decades of observing animals and combines it with new brain research to paint a picture of animals' emotional landscape that sounds remarkably like our own. In this interview, he shares a story about a wolf who selflessly tries to distract other wolves from attacking his sister, and a whale who saves a seal. He also suggests that animals' experience of life is not a limited version of our own, but rather a more vivid one. These theories are just part of a growing body of evidence that there is much more to our living environment than previously thought, and knowing this, we cannot continue on the same path.…

How to Decipher the Emotions Behind Your Child’s Behaviors

Being open to your child's thoughts and feelings can help with the trickiest parenting struggles.

By Jessica Borelli, Jocelyn Lai

My four-year-old daughter: You CAN’T comb my hair!
Me: It’s late—we have to leave for school in five minutes. I need to comb your hair.
My daughter: I’ll never let you comb my hair! I want wild hair!

Some version of this battle occurred daily over a very long three weeks, during which I tried five different types of brushing implements—from wide-toothed combs to wet brushes—three different kinds of spray-on conditioners, myriad forms of distraction (songs, books, TV), and, of course, the promise of lots of rewards. Yet nothing worked, for this kiddo did not want to have her hair combed. It was no use.

Quite often, we parent in what could be considered non-ideal circumstances—when we’re physiologically and emotionally running on empty and tending to many other demands. Understandably, this can result in us becoming frustrated and upset when our children refuse…

A Primer for Forgetting

"We live in a culture that prizes memory--how much we can store, the quality of what's preserved, how we might better document and retain the moments of our life while fighting off the nightmare of losing all that we have experienced. But what if forgetfulness were seen not as something to fear--be it in the form of illness or simple absentmindedness--but rather as a blessing, a balm, a path to peace and rebirth? A Primer for Forgetting is a remarkable experiment in scholarship, autobiography, and social criticism by the author of the classics The Gift and Trickster Makes This World. It forges a new vision of forgetfulness by assembling fragments of art and writing from the ancient world to the modern, weighing the potential boons forgetfulness might offer the present moment as a creative and political force. It also turns inward, using the author's own life and memory as a canvas upon which to extol the virtues of a concept too long taken as an evil." …

The Table of Voices

Richard Kamler was drawn to art's potential to touch people deeply and, in that way, bring about real change. In this interview, he talks about the evolution of his work with prisoners. "During that first year, I began to change - dramatically. I began to really think about art, and in a much different way than I did when I went to school. I began to see art as something that really could reveal things, reveal inner aspects about one's life - and certainly that could heal."

Cellist Plays Bach in the Shadow of the US-Mexico Border

With powerful words, performing music by Bach, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma reminds us of music's unique power to connect and unite everyone. At the border between sister cities Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, he quotes from the poem by Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free...". Like the Statue of Liberty, Yo-Yo Ma and his music exhort us to remember that "in culture we build bridges, not walls."

Meet Fadak: Australia's Inspiring Refugee Advocate

Fadak Alfayadh spent her childhood in Iraqa country that shifted from one world to an entirely different, unliveable one seemingly overnight. 15 years ago Fadak sought refuge with her family in Australia, where they received little support from the system but were welcomed by their community in Dandenong, Victoria. Today, Fadak is paving the way for the refugees who have arrived in her wake. Her Meet Fadak tours combat the misperceptions that the Australian community holds about those seeking asylum and the narratives we so often hear in mainstream media, while her work as a community lawyer helps support and settle refugees so they can have a more supportive experience than she and her family did.

The Gift of Humility

The act of receiving a gift from another requires recognition of our dependence on those around us. Yet it can be difficult for us to live in a space where we're confronted with the notion of giving up control. "From the air we breathe, to the body we each inhabit, we are living a profound gift, and yet, we can struggle to see and relate to life as a gift," writes Colette Lafia, a San Francisco-based spiritual director, workshop leader, and writer. In this article from, Lafia examines how we can bring more gratitude into our lives by accepting humility as a component of our humanness, and offers a practice to cultivate greater togetherness.

Happiness Experts on Why Mind Wandering Can Be So Miserable

In the last 15 years, the science of mind wandering has become a popular topic of scholarly study, thanks in part to advances in brain imaging. It turns out that our brains are wily, wild things, and what they do when we're not paying attention has major implications for our happiness. In 2010, Matt Killingsworth, then a doctoral student at Harvard University, designed an iPhone app that pinged people throughout the day, asking what they were experiencing at that very moment. You'll want to know his surprising discovery!