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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Happy Father’s Day

The story of Rick and Dick Hoyt is one of the greatest love stories of all time, as the Host on NBC put it, “its the story of a Father who climbs mountains and goes to the end of the Earth and back to give his son a better life, a life that transcends the limitations of his body.” Rick has celebral palsy, caused by loss of oxygen to his brain at birth because his umbillical cord was  wrapped around his neck.

Rick & Dick compete together in marathons and triathalons.  To date Team Hoyt have run over 950 races including some 60 marathons and triathlon competing in 6 iron mans, the ultimate test of strength and endurance.  Dick carries him in a special seat up front as they bike, pulls him in a special boat as they swim, and pushes him in a special wheelchair as they run.  The Hoyt’s motto is “you can” and they’ve made so many believe anything is possible.

The doctors told Rick and Judy Hoyt that their son would never be able to walk or talk.   They said forget Rick put him away in an institution he’s going to be nothing but a vegetable for the rest of his life.  But Rick and Judy said “no we’re not going to put Rick away, we’re going to bring him home and bring him up like any other child.”

While in high school Rick learned about a five mile charity run for a paralyzed teenager and he told his Dad “I have to do something for him, I have to let him know that life goes on”, for Dick this was a call to action as a Father.  Rick told his Dad “when I’m out running I feel like my disability disappears”  and that was all Dick needed to hear.

When asked what one thing Rick wished he could give his father, his reply was “The thing I’d most like is that my dad would sit in the chair and I would push him once.”

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Lines That Divide US

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”  These words, spoken by Aristotle, are too often ignored and the price we pay is high .  When street gangs substitute for families and schoolyard insults end in stabbings it is a sure sign of a lack of empathy.  Being able to empathize is a crucial ability that forms part of Emotional Quotient (EQ) and matters immensely in terms of how we do in life.  Empathy has to do with knowing another person’s feelings, feeling what that person feels and responding compassionately to another’s distress.

Empathy acts as a buffer to cruelty and is a quality known to be lacking in child molesters and psychopaths.  Empathy is also known to lead to acts of altruism which is known to activate emotions that are vital to the maintaining of good health.

Schools that develop emotional literacy programs, designed to help children learn to manage anger, frustration, and loneliness see lunch time fights, for example, decrease from two or three a day to almost none.

How much happier would we be, how much more successful as individuals and civil as a society, if we were more alert to the importance of Emotional Quotient?

Aristotle also wrote: “Anyone can become angry, that is easy, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and the right way — this is not easy.”

The good news is that empathy is an innate quality that can be shaped by experience.  The greater your ability to empathize the greater your EQ.

Adriano

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Helper’s High

There is no shortage of studies that show that happier people live longer.  They are also less likely to suffer heart attacks, strokes and pain from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.  It is also well documented that people who express positive emotions come down with fewer colds and flus after being exposed to the virus than those who express negative emotions like anger sadness or stress.  So how can we get “happy” and stay there?

In their book, The Healing Power of Doing Good, Allan Luks and Peggy Payne talk about the “helper’s high,” a feeling of exhilaration and a burst of energy similar to that experienced after intense exercise, followed by a period of calmness and serenity.

For the book, Luks studied over 3,000 Americans involved in volunteer services to find that these do-gooders reported a helper’s high that lasted several weeks and improved other aspects of their lives. They also report that the euphoric sensation returned when they remembered the action of helping others.

The benefits of charity go beyond improving sensations and emotions.  Of the group Luks studied for his book, 90% reported that volunteering acted as an antidote to stress, chronic pain, and even insomnia.

Another study found that members of volunteer organizations lived longer and experienced better health. The volunteers experienced noteworthy decreases in levels of blood pressure, stomach acid and cholesterol counts. Harvard University in a similar study dubbed the “Mother Teresa effect” showed 132 students a film about Mother Teresa’s work among the Calcutta’s poor, and than measured the level of Immunoglobin A, present in the saliva.  The test revealed increased levels of immunoglobin A which is the body’s first defense against the common cold virus – all after simply witnessing somebody else involved in charity work.

These studies show how important acts of altruism are in boosting a sense of well-being and maintaining good health.  It also shows why we should never pass up a chance to deliver a thank you note to someone who has been especially kind or helpful but never properly appreciated, or why it would pay to be there for someone even though it is not convenient.  But perhaps most importantly it also supports the dictum that the surest way to happiness is to lose yourself in a cause greater than yourself.

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Does Social Networking help us live longer?

Can social networking sites like facebook and myspace actually help us live longer?  Facebook claims to have over 400 Million active users and that the average user has 130 friends.   As of yet, no studies have examined a direct connection between online social networking and physical health but there are decades of research demonstrating links between social support and health.

“The more connected you are with other people the healthier you will be both physically and emotionally.  The less connected you are the less meaningful your life”.  This from a study by C. Norman Shealy, M.D. and Carolyn Myss, Ph.D.,  they found that love and being loved is a factor in improving the immune system, adding to life expectancy and creating overall happiness.  Their research shows that even bad habits like smoking and overeating have less of an impact on those who are relationally connected and have a loving support system.

Another study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, ran for 10 years and was done on the older population of South Australia.  It also found that people who keep up with their BFFs have longer life expectancies.

In the study researchers collected the names of men and women over age 70 from electoral rolls and recruited 1,477 to be in the study. Using surveys and questionnaires, they asked participants to rate the quality of their relationships with their children, other relatives, friends, and confidants and how frequently participants had contact with those individuals. To control for other potential contributors to premature death, researchers also asked about their health problems and other lifestyle factors (smoking, drinking, or depression, for instance). After 10 years, roughly 40 percent of the original participants were still living. The authors found that those who remained were more likely in their survey responses to have reported having friends and confidants than did the individuals who had subsequently died.

Being social and having deep connectedness with other people is what we we are made for and its an indispensable condition for human flourishing.  Although simply having a rolodex full on names or thousands of friends on your Facebook profile won’t guarantee you a longer life, the evidence certainly seems to be clear that as human beings we are hardwired to connect with others and that those who master the skill of cultivating great friendships will live the most rewarding and fulfilling lives.

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The Dark Triad – Part 4 Psychopath

Skip to: Part 1 Intro –       Part 2 Narcissist –      Part 3 Machiavellian

The hallmark of psychopathy is a lack of empathy.  In fact when it comes to empathy, psychopaths have none; they have special difficulty recognizing fear or sadness on people’s faces or in their voices.

In a 2002 Study, David Kosson and Yana Suchy, asked psychopathic inmates to name the emotion expressed in each of 30 faces; compared to controls, Psychopaths had a

significantly lower rate of accuracy in recognizing disgusted facial affect.

Psychopaths are glib and superficially charming, and many psychopaths are excellent mimics of normal human emotion.

The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth.  It is estimated that one percent of the general population are psychopaths.

For Psychopaths other people are just a mark, to be duped, used and discarded.  They lack any sense of guilt or remorse for any harm they may have caused others, instead rationalizing the behavior, blaming someone else, or denying it outright.

Psychopaths also feel no anticipatory fears, they are virtually oblivious to the threat of punishment.

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The Dark Triad – Part 3 Machiavellian

Skip to: Part 1 Intro –        Part 2 Narcissist –        Part 4 Psychopath

Hello Machiavellian

Deriving from the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolo Machiavelli, Machiavellianism is defined as “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct”.

For the Machiavellian, the ends justify the means, no matter what human pain he may cause.  They tend to be cynically calculating and arrogant, readily behaving in ways that undermine trust and cooperation.  They see others strictly as things to manipulate for their own ends.

A Machiavellian may not consider his actions to be selfish or evil; he may come up with convincing rationale, even one he believes.  People like North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, for example, may justify his tyranny as needed to protect the state from some sinister enemy, even if only a concocted one.

Some talents of the “Mach” (shorthand) are glib charm and confidence.  They can remain coolheaded in their social interactions, but are uninterested in establishing emotional connections.

Although the Mach shares many traits with Narcissists and Psychopaths such as disagreeable nature and selfishness, he stands alone in his ability to remain realistic about himself and others, neither making

inflated claims nor striving to impress.  The Mach prefers to see things clearly, all the better to exploit them.

Daniel Goleman, in his book Social Intelligence, describes Machs  as having tunnel-vision empathy:  they can bring someone’s emotions into focus mainly when they wish to use that person for their own ends.  Otherwise, Machs are generally poorer at empathetic attunement than others.  The coldness of the Mach seems to result from this core deficit in processing emotions – both in themselves and in others.

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The Dark Triad – Part 2 Narcissist

Skip to: Part 1 Intro –       Part 3 Machiavellian –       Part 4 Psychopath



Hello Narcissist

Narcissists are driven by dreams of glory.  They flourish in the face of difficult challenges  and shine when performance under stress counts the most.

Many Narcissists are drawn to pressured, high-profile jobs where they can use their talents well and the potential laurels are great – despite any risks.  Michael Maccoby, a psychoanalyst who has studied (and treated) narcissistic leaders, observes that the type has become increasingly common at the top echelons of business today as competitive tensions have escalated.

Healthy narcissistic leaders have the ability to analyze their performance and are open to criticism.  But unhealthy narcissists crave to be admired more than to be loved.  They are very much driven to succeed, not because of some standard of excellence but because they want the glory that comes with such success.  They feel free to pursue their goals aggressively, without any thought about how their actions may effect others.

Unhealthy narcissists are not very good empathizers, usually ignoring those who do not feed their striving for glory.  They can lay off multitudes of employees without feeling any sympathy for those for whom those decisions are personal disasters.  In short they have no regrets and are indifferent to the need or feelings of others.

Typically the Narcissist also lacks feelings of self-worth and avoids even constructive criticism in any form.  Rather than listen they prefer to preach and indoctrinate.

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