Category: Relationships

Relationship is a source of worldly happiness

Relationship is a source of worldly happiness

Very often we work so hard to build a career that we forget to spend time to build relationships. Someone once told me that whatever it is in life that you want, you will find that it eventually has to come from someone else. Thus, your success and happiness in life – and I am referring to worldly happiness here – is dependent on someone else.

When we are able to see that, we can start to remove the non-essential things and focus more time and energy on what is truly important in our lives.

This short video clip below reminds us of what is truly important in our lives.

Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong

Why It’s So Hard to Admit You’re Wrong

Despite your best intentions and efforts, it is inevitable: At some point in your life, you will be wrong.

Mistakes can be hard to digest, so sometimes we double down rather than face them. Our confirmation bias kicks in, causing us to seek out evidence to prove what we already believe. The car you cut off has a small dent in its bumper, which obviously means that it is the other driver’s fault.

Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance — the stress we experience when we hold two contradictory thoughts, beliefs, opinions or attitudes. For example, you might believe you are a kind and fair person, so when you rudely cut someone off, you experience dissonance. To cope with it, you deny your mistake and insist the other driver should have seen you, or you had the right of way even if you didn’t.

“Cognitive dissonance is what we feel when the self-concept — I’m smart, I’m kind, I’m convinced this belief is true — is threatened by evidence that we did something that wasn’t smart, that we did something that hurt another person, that the belief isn’t true,” said Carol Tavris, a co-author of the book “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me).”

She added that cognitive dissonance threatened our sense of self.

“To reduce dissonance, we have to modify the self-concept or accept the evidence,” Ms. Tavris said. “Guess which route people prefer?”

Or maybe you cope by justifying your mistake. The psychologist Leon Festinger suggested the theory of cognitive dissonance in the 1950s when he studied a small religious group that believed a flying saucer would rescue its members from an apocalypse on Dec. 20, 1954. Publishing his findings in the book “When Prophecy Fails,” he wrote that the group doubled down on its belief and said God had simply decided to spare the members, coping with their own cognitive dissonance by clinging to a justification.

“Dissonance is uncomfortable and we are motivated to reduce it,” Ms. Tavris said.

When we apologize for being wrong, we have to accept this dissonance, and that is unpleasant. On the other hand, research has shown that it can feel good to stick to our guns. One study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, found that people who refused to apologize after a mistake had more self-esteem and felt more in control and powerful than those who did not refuse.

“In a way, apologies give power to their recipients,” said Tyler Okimoto, an author of the study. “For example, apologizing to my wife admits my wrongdoing; but apologizing also gives her the power to choose whether she wants to alleviate my shame through forgiveness, or increase my shame by holding a grudge. Our research has found that people experience a short-term increase in their feelings of personal power and control after refusing to apologize.”

Feeling powerful may be an attractive short-term benefit, but there are long-term consequences. Refusing to apologize could potentially jeopardize “the trust on which a relationship is based,” Mr. Okimoto said, adding that it can extend conflict and encourage outrage or retaliation.

When you refuse to admit your mistakes, you are also less open to constructive criticism, experts said, which can help hone skills, rectify bad habits and improve yourself over all.

“We cling to old ways of doing things, even when new ways are better and healthier and smarter. We cling to self-defeating beliefs long past their shelf life,” Ms. Tavris said. “And we make our partners, co-workers, parents and kids really, really mad at us.”

Another study, from the Stanford researchers Carol Dweck and Karina Schumann, found that subjects were more likely to take responsibility for their mistakes when they believed they had the power to change their behavior. This is easier said than done, though, so how exactly do you change your behavior and learn to embrace your mistakes?

The first step is to recognize cognitive dissonance in action. Your mind will go to great lengths to preserve your sense of identity, so it helps to be aware of what that dissonance feels like. Typically, it manifests as confusion, stress, embarrassment or guilt. Those feelings do not necessarily mean you are in the wrong, but you can at least use them as reminders to explore the situation from an impartial perspective and objectively question whether you are at fault.

Similarly, learn to recognize your usual justifications and rationalizations. Think of a time you were wrong and knew it, but tried to justify it instead. Remember how it felt to rationalize your behavior and pinpoint that feeling as cognitive dissonance the next time it happens.

Mr. Okimoto said it also helped to remember that people were often more forgiving than you might think. Traits like honesty and humility make you more human and therefore more relatable. On the flip side, if it is undeniably clear that you are in the wrong, refusing to apologize reveals low self-confidence.

“If it is clear to everybody that you made a mistake,” Mr. Okimoto said, “digging your heels in actually shows people your weakness of character rather than strength.”

Source: New York Times

A Look at the Principle of Mutuality

A Look at the Principle of Mutuality

The Principle of Mutuality is a universal principle that says that every interaction we have with another is based on mutual agreement. By this, we mean that the interaction must be fair and beneficial to both parties. Only in this way can the interaction become truly meaningful and healthy.

The acceptance of this principle is implied in every relationship. Problems arise when this principle is violated. Violation can be at the conscious level or the unconscious level.

Taking What is not Given

At the conscious level, we violate this principle each time we consciously intent and act to take from others what is not given. This includes the taking of intangible as well as tangible things. Tangible things are things like properties, belongings, money and even this body. Intangibles are things like life, rights, space, time, self esteem, choices, values and trust. Avoiding taking tangible things from others without their explicit permissions is easier as it requires coarser awareness. Avoiding taking intangible things from others, on the other hand, requires more awareness and attention on our part.

We also often violates the principle of mutuality in an unconscious way. By this I mean that we are not fully aware of having violated this principle. Perhaps we did not have the conscious intention to take what is not given to us but due to our lack of self awareness, we nevertheless violated it. To prevent this unconscious violation requires a much higher level of self awareness from us. It requires courageous introspection and the examination of our habitual mental tendencies. Only then can we eliminate this unintentional violation of the principle of mutuality.

Giving Away our Power

Another source of problems with this principle is when we ourselves give away our power to the other party. Most often, we do this unconsciously and unintentionally. When we do not know how to be assertive with our rights, we dis-empower ourselves. When we do not even know our own rights, we do not know what we have given away. Thus, knowing our rights and being assertive are two essential elements to empowering ourselves. Knowledge is required for the former and courage for the latter.

Two to Tango?

The principle of mutuality is a spiritual principle that governs relationships. When adhered to, it can bring forth spiritually fulfilling encounters and outcomes for everyone in the relationships. This is the ideal spiritual relationship. It is a win-win and is conducive to growth and personal transformation.

Although every relationship involves two or more parties, it does not mean that if the other party chooses to violate this principle, you on your own cannot adhere to it. In fact, irregardless of whether the other party is aware of or adhere to this principle of mutuality or not, you can continue to live in accordance with it.

The Right Attitude

All it needs to succeed with this principle is to have the right attitude. What is the right attitude? When interacting with another, ask yourself “How can I make this interaction beneficial, meaningful and fulfilling to all concerned?”

I see this approach working out very well in my work as a general practitioner. As soon as a patient walked into my consultation room, I ask myself “How can I make this encounter a wonderful experience for him/her?” Most people are already quite apprehensive when they see a doctor, so simply by being warm and friendly, and making them feel at ease begins the process of healing for them.

I believe this approach is suitable for all types of interactions, including personal, social and business, and strongly encourage that you give it a try. You would be amazed at the results.

 

The Principle of Mutuality in Relationships

The Principle of Mutuality in Relationships

There is a universal rule or principle that, if properly practiced and adhered to in every layer of societies, will bring about peace, prosperity and justice for all. This principle is called the principle of mutuality. Elsewhere in the scriptures, it is also known as the Golden Rule or “do unto others as you would want others to do unto you”.

The principle of mutuality is based on the recognition that life is precious to all living beings and that every being has the equal right to life, liberty and self expression, provided that in expressing yourself you do not trample on another being’s similar rights. For this principle to work effectively, there is a need for openness, honesty and courage, and the realization that we are all subjected to the universal law of cause and effect. You reap what you sow.

In practical terms, what this means is that you have the same universal rights as everyone else. You do not have more rights than another. Neither do you have less rights than others. This is irregardless of whether you are rich or poor; a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Jew; a European, Asian, African or Aborigine; a male or female; or whether you are smarter or dumber than others. Likewise, in corporations and governments, you have these same rights to demand for equal justice, regardless of whether you are the governed or the governor.

In our relationships with others, this principle is particularly important in bringing about an equal and enriching partnership. When adhered to, it brings about respect for each other, fair play and sharing of roles and responsibilities. It encourages personal and mutual growth, as well as spiritual development. However, putting this principle into practice is not easy as it requires a high degree of self awareness, a non-judgmental attitude and especially the taming of the ego.

The ego has this attitude that “I am more important than you”. Thus we often see how it tries to manipulate every relationship to its own advantage at the expense of others. In a position of power, it will abuse its power. We see this in government and institutional leaders as well as in homes and families. We see this in teacher-student relationships as well. Even among friends, we need to be aware of this dynamics.

If I ask you to examine your own key relationships, such as husband-wife, parent-child, and employer-employee relationships, are you able to honestly say that these relationships are equal and fair for all concern, or are they heavily leaning to one side? One simple way to know whether our relationship is balanced is to see how happy the two persons in the relationship are. If it is well balanced, then both are equally happy. If either one is unhappy or both are, then an unequal dynamic exists. The more it diverts from the center, the more unhealthy the relationship is, and the more important it is for you to do something about it. Leaving such one-sided relationships in status quo only serves to perpetuate this inequality in your relationships as well as in society. In addition, inaction on your part breeds contempt for yourself and squashes your personal and spiritual growth.

Now is as good a time as any to re-examine all your relationships.

2 traits scientifically proven to make your relationship last

2 traits scientifically proven to make your relationship last

Love is all about feelings, right? We lead with our hearts and ignore our heads. Not exactly. It turns out there is a lot of physiology and psychology involved in falling in love and maintaining relationships. If you want to make yours last, you might want to read up on current scientific findings.

Husband and wife psychologists John and Julie Gottman, who study marriage stability and run The Gottman Institute, have spent 30 years learning about what makes relationships last. Amazingly enough, they’ve been able to disseminate years of research and identify just two traits that determine relationship success.

After studying hundreds of couples in a “love lab” located at the University of Washington, Gottman and his colleagues determined how to predict how long couples would stay together, with 94 percent accuracy, just by watching for certain behaviors. The two traits most important in making your relationship last: kindness and generosity.

What? That’s too simple, right? Kindness and generosity are traits taught to toddlers then reinforced throughout life. Applying them to marriage and long-term loving, intimate relationships is more complex, but the basic idea still applies.

The Gottmans talk about “masters” and “disasters” as they categorize couples. The masters have learned to apply kindness and generosity to nearly every interaction they have with their spouses, while disasters employ hostility and contempt instead.

Consider how you respond when you reconnect with your spouse after a long day. Are you genuinely interested in the events of his day, mundane or exciting? I’ve run into this with my husband. He knows a lot about accounting and financial empirical research. I know almost nothing. Rather than tune out and literally “turn away” from him, something the Gottmans tracked, I’ve tried to gain a basic grasp of his work and world economics so that we can have discussions.

My willingness to learn and his patience with my ignorance of things that are simple to him have allowed us to grow closer over something that is crucial to both of our lives: his career. This example shows both kindness and generosity.

Another example: Your wife leaves her clothes all over the closet floor causing you to have to step over a big mess to reach your clothing. This bothers you. It’s important to remember that your spouse doesn’t have malice in mind when she does something that annoys you. Perhaps your wife had to leave quickly to get the kids to school on time or had to take an important phone call. As you discuss issues with kindness, leaving criticism out of the conversation, you show generosity by giving your loved one the benefit of the doubt.

Developing the traits of kindness and generosity in your relationship will take effort and time. It’s important to be kind not only during difficult times, like during an argument or when you feel stress, but also during the happy times, like when your spouse has success in her career or reaches an important goal. Employing kindness and generosity throughout life means you’ll be a master of your meaningful relationship with the one you love.

Source: FamilyShare.com.

Secrets to a Happy Life

Secrets to a Happy Life

By George E. Vaillant
This article appears in the Greater Good Science Center
This essay is adapted from Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

At 19 years old, Godfrey Minot Camille was a tall redheaded boy with a charming manner who planned to enter medicine or the ministry. In 1938, Camille enrolled in a study that would follow him for the rest of his life, along with 267 other Harvard College sophomores deemed by recruiters as likely to lead “successful” lives.

Only gradually did the study’s staff discover that the allegedly “normal” Godfrey was an intractable and unhappy hypochondriac. On the 10th anniversary of his joining the study, each man was given an A through E rating anticipating future personality stability. When it was Godfrey’s turn, he was assigned an “E.”

But if Godfrey Camille was a disaster as a young man, by the time he was an old one he had become a star. His occupational success; measurable enjoyment of work, love, and play; his health; the depth and breadth of his social supports; the quality of his marriage and relationship to his children—all that and more combined to make him one of the most successful of the surviving men of the study. What made the difference? How did this sorry lad develop such an abundant capacity for flourishing?

These are the kinds of questions that can only be answered by a study that follows participants over the course of a lifetime, and the study in which Camille participated—known as the Grant Study, because it was originally funded by entrepreneur and philanthropist William T. Grant—is now the longest longitudinal study of biosocial human development ever undertaken, and is still on-going. Through reviews of Camille’s and his Harvard peers’ medical records, coupled with periodic interviews and questionnaires exploring their careers, relationships, and mental well-being, the study’s goal was to identify the key factors to a happy and healthy life.

I arrived at the Grant Study in 1966. I became its director in 1972, a position I held until 2004. The single most personally rewarding facet of my involvement with the Grant Study has been the chance to interview these men over four decades. I’ve found that no single interview, no single questionnaire is ever adequate to reveal the complete man, but the mosaic of interviews produced over many years can be most revealing.

This was certainly the case with Camille, whose life illuminates two of the most important lessons from the 75-year, 20-million-dollar Grant Study. One is that happiness is love. Virgil, of course, needed only three words to say the same thing, and he said it a very long time ago—Omnia vincit amor, or “love conquers all”—but unfortunately he had no data to back them up. The other lesson is people really can change. As we see in the example of this man’s life, they really can grow.

Up from a bleak childhood

Camille’s parents were upper class, but they were also socially isolated and pathologically suspicious. A child psychiatrist who reviewed Camille’s record 30 years later thought his childhood one of the bleakest in the Study.

Unloved and not yet grown into a sense of autonomy, Camille as a student adopted the unconscious survival strategy of frequent reports to the college infirmary. No evidence of tangible illness was found at most of his visits, and in his junior year a usually sympathetic college physician dismissed him with the disgusted comment, “This boy is turning into a regular psychoneurotic.” Camille’s constant complaining was an immature coping style. It didn’t connect with other people, and it kept them from connecting with him; they didn’t see his real underlying suffering and just got angry at his apparent manipulations.

After graduation from medical school, the newly minted Dr. Camille attempted suicide. The Study consensus at the time of his 10-year personality assessment was that he was “not fitted for the practice of medicine,” and, unloved as he was, he found taking care of other people’s needs overwhelming. But several sessions with a psychiatrist gave him a different view of himself. He wrote to the Study, “My hypochondriasis has been mainly dissipated. It was an apology, a self-inflicted punishment for aggressive impulses.”

Then, at age 35, he had a life-changing experience. He was hospitalized for 14 months in a veterans’ hospital with pulmonary tuberculosis. Ten years later he recalled his first thought on being admitted: “It’s neat; I can go to bed for a year, do what I want, and get away with it.”

“I was glad to be sick,” he confessed. His illness, a real one, finally ended up giving him the emotional security that his childhood—along with his hypochondriacal symptoms and subsequent careful neutrality—never had. Camille felt his time in the hospital almost like a religious rebirth. “Someone with a capital ‘S’ cared about me,” he wrote. “Nothing has been so tough since that year in the sack.”

Released from the hospital, Dr. Camille became an independent physician, married, and grew into a responsible father and clinic leader. His coping style changed as the decades passed. His transitional reliance on displacement (the unconscious avoidance of emotional intensity) was replaced by the still more empathic involuntary coping mechanisms of altruism and generativity (a wish to nurture others’ development). He was now functioning as a giving adult. Whereas at 30 he had hated his dependent patients, by 40 his adolescent fantasy of caring for others had become a reality. In vivid contrast with his post-graduation panic, he now reported that what he liked most about medicine was that “I had problems and went to others, and now I enjoy people coming to me.”

When I was 55 and Camille was almost 70, I asked him what he had learned from his children. “You know what I learned from my children?” he blurted out, tears in his eyes. “I learned love!” Many years later, having seized a serendipitous opportunity to interview his daughter, I believed him. I have interviewed many Grant Study children, but this woman’s love for her father remains the most stunning that I have encountered among them.

At age 75, Camille took the opportunity to describe in greater detail how love had healed him:

Before there were dysfunctional families, I came from one. My professional life hasn’t been disappointing—far from it—but the truly gratifying unfolding has been into the person I’ve slowly become: comfortable, joyful, connected, and effective. Since it wasn’t widely available then, I hadn’t read that children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, which tells how connectedness is something we must let happen to us, and then we become solid and whole.

As that tale recounts tenderly, only love can make us real. Denied this in boyhood for reasons I now understand, it took me years to tap substitute sources. What seems marvelous is how many there are and how restorative they prove. What durable and pliable creatures we are, and what a storehouse of goodwill lurks in the social fabric. . . I never dreamed my later years would be so stimulating and rewarding.

That convalescent year, transformative though it was, was not the end of Camille’s story. Once he grasped what had happened, he seized the ball and ran with it, straight into a developmental explosion that went on for 30 years. A professional awakening and a spiritual one; a wife and two children of his own; two psychoanalyses, a return to the church of his early years—all these allowed him to build for himself the loving surround that he had so missed as a child, and to give to others out of its riches.

At 82, Godfrey Minot Camille had a fatal heart attack while mountain climbing in the Alps, which he dearly loved. His church was packed for the memorial service. “There was a deep and holy authenticity about the man,” said the Bishop in his eulogy. His son said, “He lived a very simple life, but it was very rich in relationships.” Yet prior to age 30, Camille’s life had been essentially barren of relationship. Folks change. But they stay the same, too. Camille had spent his years before the hospital looking for love, too. It just took him a while to learn how to do it well.

How to flourish

In 2009, I delved into the Grant Study data to establish a Decathlon of Flourishing—a set of ten accomplishments that covered many different facets of success. Two of the items in the Decathlon had to do with economic success, four with mental and physical health, and four with social supports and relationships. Then I set out to see how these accomplishments correlated, or didn’t, with three gifts of nature and nurture—physical constitution, social and economic advantage, and a loving childhood.

The results were as clear-cut as they were startling.

We found that measures of family socioeconomic status had no significant correlation at all with later success in any of these areas. Alcoholism and depression in family histories proved irrelevant to flourishing at 80, as did longevity. The sociability and extraversion that were so highly valued in the initial process of selecting the men did not correlate with later flourishing either.

In contrast with the weak and scattershot correlations among the biological and socioeconomic variables, a loving childhood—and other factors like empathic capacity and warm relationships as a young adult—predicted later success in all ten categories of the Decathlon. What’s more, success in relationships was very highly correlated with both economic success and strong mental and physical health, the other two broad areas of the Decathlon.

In short, it was a history of warm intimate relationships—and the ability to foster them in maturity—that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.

We found, for instance, that there was no significant difference between the maximum earned incomes of the men with IQs of 110–115 and the incomes of the men with IQs of 150-plus. On the other hand, men with warm mothers took home $87,000 more than those men whose mothers were uncaring. The men who had good sibling relationships when young were making an average of $51,000 more a year than the men who had poor relationships with their siblings. The 58 men with the best scores for warm relationships made an average of $243,000 a year; in contrast, the 31 men with the worst scores for relationships earned an average maximum salary of $102,000 a year.

So when it comes to late-life success—even when success is measured strictly in financial terms—the Grant Study finds that nurture trumps nature. And by far the most important influence on a flourishing life is love. Not early love exclusively, and not necessarily romantic love. But love early in life facilitates not only love later on, but also the other trappings of success, such as high income and prestige. It also encourages the development of coping styles that facilitate intimacy, as opposed to the ones that discourage it. The majority of the men who flourished found love before 30, and the data suggests that was why they flourished.

We can’t choose our childhoods, but the story of Godfrey Minot Camille reveals that bleak ones do not doom us. If you follow lives long enough, people adapt and they change, and so do the factors that affect healthy adjustment. Our journeys through this world are filled with discontinuities. Nobody in the Study was doomed at the outset, but nobody had it made, either. Inheriting the genes for alcoholism can turn the most otherwise blessed golden boy into a skid row bum. Conversely, an encounter with a very dangerous disease liberated the pitiful young Dr. Camille from a life of loneliness and dependency. Who could have foreseen, when he was 29 and the Study staff ranked him in the bottom three percent of the cohort in personality stability, that he would die a happy, giving, and beloved man?

Only those who understand that happiness is only the cart; love is the horse. And perhaps those who recognize that our so-called defense mechanisms, our involuntary ways of coping with life, are very important indeed. Before age 30, Camille depended on narcissistic hypochondriasis to cope with his life and his feelings; after 50 he used empathic altruism and a pragmatic stoicism about taking what comes. The two pillars of happiness revealed by the 75-year-old Grant Study—and exemplified by Dr. Godfrey Minot Camille—are love and a mature coping style that does not push love away.

Above all, the Study reveals how men like Dr. Camille adapted themselves to life and adapted their lives to themselves—a process of maturation that unfolds over time. Indeed, I have always regarded the Grant Study as an instrument that permitted the study of time, much as the telescope uncovered the mysteries of the galaxies and the microscope enabled the study of microbes.

For researchers, prolonged follow-up can be a rock upon which fine theories founder, but it also can be a means of discovering robust and enduring truth. At the outset of the Study in 1939, it was thought that men with masculine body types—broad shoulders and a slender waist—would succeed the most in life. That turned out to be one of many theories demolished by the Study as it has followed the lives of these men. To benefit from the lessons both of the Grant Study and of life requires persistence and humility, for maturation makes liars of us all.

5 ways adult children hurt their parents without realizing it

5 ways adult children hurt their parents without realizing it

What are you doing to brighten the lives of your aging parents? Bringing a little light and happiness into their lives will leave a legacy of love your own children will emulate.

An article by Gary and Joy Lundberg

Most people love and appreciate their parents. We don’t doubt that. The problem is, parents can’t tell this unless you show it by the way you treat them. Sometimes adult children can bring heartache to their parents without realizing what they’re doing. We’ve boiled it down to five main ways this happens. If you are a parent of adult children, you may recognize some of these. If you’re the adult child, you may be in for an awakening. As parents age, their physical needs may change but their need for your love never does. Check to see if you’re doing any of these.

1. You don’t call them much

Time just flits by, and you realize it’s been a month since you last called your parents to check on them or to share what’s happening in your life. You may be thinking, well, they can call me anytime they want. There’s no question; parents need to call their children, as well.

Here’s the thing, they don’t know your schedule, and they don’t want to interrupt you at the wrong time. Or they don’t want to trouble you with their problems. And yet, they want you to care. You need to take the initiative and call them, at least some of the time. Even just a short call to see how they are feeling. Ask them what they did that day then share what you are doing. Be sure to include some good news. Too often, the only news shared is the bad. Being in on at least part of your life will bring them more happiness than you can imagine. If they lay on a lot of unwanted advice, just say, “Thanks, Dad, I appreciate your concern. I was just thinking about you and wanted to know how you’re doing.” Don’t forget to say, “I love you.” That’s music to their hearts.

 2. You ask them for money

Some kids only call when they need money. Don’t do that. In fact, don’t ask them for money at all. You’re an adult and capable of providing for yourself and family. Your parents have worked hard for what they have, and they deserve to keep it for their needs. As their lives wind down they have no idea what expenses lie ahead. They need that retirement nest egg for the unknown. It’s comforting to them to have that security. We know some children who’ve bled their parents dry, and then when the day came and the parents needed the money to live on it was gone. That’s not fair. Don’t ask your parents for money. If you owe them for some you’ve already “borrowed,” pay it back as soon as you can. Lovingly help them protect what’s theirs. They need to be able to enjoy it in their later years.

 3. You forget their birthdays

Parents love to be remembered on their special day. It doesn’t have to be a fancy celebration, just a remembrance. You know how you feel when you receive a gift from them. They aren’t much different. They like it, too. Find out the things they enjoy. A young couple we know gives their parents a gift card to their favorite restaurant, and they thoroughly enjoy it. If you don’t have the money for a gift, you surely have the money for a card. Receiving a card in the mail from an out-of-town child brightens any parent’s day. A phone call is great, too. If you live nearby, drop by with a hug and good wishes. Let them know you’re thinking of them, and wish them a happy birthday. You might even add, “I’m sure glad you were born. I love you, Mom.” Some children invite the family over to celebrate a special birthday. Turning 70 is a lot more fun when you’re surrounded by those you love.

 4. You don’t offer them your help

You may be thinking, hey, I told Dad to let me know if there’s anything I can do for him, but he hasn’t told me of anything. He’s probably hesitating because he thinks you’re too busy, or he’s afraid you didn’t really mean it. How about suggesting something to him? Look around and see the needs. Older people are advised to stay off ladders because their balance is impaired, and it’s too risky. How about offering to come over, climb that ladder and clean out their rain gutters. A friend’s son recently did that for his parents, and they were extremely grateful for the help. A little help from you will go a long way in helping your parents feel loved.

 5. You don’t include them in your family events

They don’t need to be included in everything but for the main events, invite them. They want to be part of special occasions, such as holiday dinners, a baptism, a concert your child is in, weddings or a vacation. Let them enjoy being with you and your family when it fits. Sometimes just an invitation to Sunday dinner at your house will brighten their day. If they invite you and your family over for dinner, accept the invitation and show up.

Is this what you want?

Look at how you are treating your parents and ask yourself if this is the way you want your children to treat you when they’re grown. They are learning how by watching the way you treat your parents. It’s a lesson they won’t forget. If you’re not measuring up, it’s not too late. You can make a change this very day. Begin by picking up the phone and calling your parents right now.

5 Ways Giving is Good for You

5 Ways Giving is Good for You

By Jason Marsh and Jill Suttie

This essay originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

1. Giving makes us feel happy. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier). Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, saw similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.

These good feelings are reflected in our biology. In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

2. Giving is good for our health. A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly. In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventative medicine at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.

A 1999 study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers, even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking. Stephanie Brown, now a researcher at Stony Brook University, saw similar results in a 2003 study on elderly couples. She and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbors, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t. Interestingly, receiving help wasn’t linked to a reduced death risk.

Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.

3. Giving promotes cooperation and social connection. When you give, you’re more likely to get back: Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.

These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. As researcher John Cacioppo writes in his book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection . . . the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.”

What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

4. Giving evokes gratitude. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, pioneers in the scientific study of gratitude, have found that teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall. A recent study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person.

Barbara Fredrickson, a leading happiness researcher, suggests that cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” she writes in her book Positivity. “And in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”

5. Giving is contagious. When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community.

A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (also released during sex and breast feeding) that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. In laboratory studies, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathy towards others, with “symptoms” lasting up to two hours. And those people on an “oxytocin high” can potentially jumpstart a “virtuous circle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s,” says Zak.

So whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity, your giving may help you build stronger social connections and even jumpstart a cascade of generosity through your community. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness in the process.

Jason Marsh is editor-in-chief and director of programs at the Greater Good Science Center and the course producer for “The Science of Happinesss.” Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good‘s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine.

Marriage: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Marriage: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

By Ocean Palmer

Whether at work or home, relationships erode because of four things:
1. Criticism
2. Contempt
3. Being too defensive
4. Stonewalling.

Criticism
Criticism is marked by attacks and negativity, the usual tricks of a bully. These stinging attacks hit especially hard on those whose personalities are meek or submissive, or who do not possess a confident self-image.

Contempt
Contempt is shown through put-downs and disdain. Belittling and disrespect are used to make us feel inferior. Often the sender of these messages does so in order to boost his or her own self-esteem, which is typically low to begin with. They try to make themselves feel better by making someone else feel worse.

Being too defensive
Becoming defensive occurs when someone challenges the negative feedback they are receiving by responding with mean, negative retorts aimed back at the initiator. This is a counterproductive “lashing back” technique that plays out like a tennis volley at the net, with both people trading shots.

The television show Seinfeld built an entire episode – The Jerk Store — around this concept. George Costanza took a verbal shot from a co-worker and was determined to think up something wittier to fire back. He failed miserably and never did.

Stonewalling
Stonewalling involves the silent treatment and/or the refusal to share information of emotional value during “clear the air” discussions.

This is called “selective disclosure” and selective disclosure erodes trust. The refusal to come clean on true feelings and relevant information are barriers to rebuilding a relationship.

Stonewalling can involve withholding information, revealing issues of emotional importance, or both.

Those four’s cumulative cost
Each of those irritation techniques will, over time, take its toll. Together they will accelerate hard feelings and cause drama and stress — which will eventually lead to bitter and resentful confrontation.

Excerpt from an article by Ocean Palmer

In contrast, 4 other qualities are good for a happy marriage:

1. Humour
2. Gratitude
3. Forgiving
4. Emotional Disclosure

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