Let’s first look at the science of the necessity to connect with others. The Social Baseline Theory, developed by James Coan, posits that social contact and relatedness-rather than isolation and aloneness -are the natural or "baseline" conditions of the human brain, and that individuals' proximity to and interaction with others serves to regulate important aspects of the neural response.
SBT suggests the human brain expects access to social relationships that mitigate risk and diminish the level of effort needed to meet a variety of goals. This is accomplished in part by incorporating relational partners. By contrast, decreased access to relational partners increases cognitive and physiological effort.
These relational partners can be a spouse, a friend, some kind of significant other. When we have someone or someones we are close to, it has a positive effect on our physical health, emotional health, ability to regulate stress. When we are isolated, our immune systems weaken, it takes more effort for the brain to regulate stress. People can and do adapt to times when a partner of some kind is unavailable. It does take more effort and the development of strategies for coping.
Because our brains are hard wired for social connections and relationships, it is essential to find creative ways to connect while we are sequestered. Here’s where the up side of social media comes in. We are fortunate to have this technology which can help mitigate the isolation. Besides texting, e-mailing, phoning , video chats (the latter 2 being the more important), we have access to some of the amazing things people are posting or uploading. There are music lessons, cooking lessons, a variety of art projects, musical performances. The list goes on and on.
Checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram 300 times a day, passes the time away, but we need to have a more purposeful day. There are 2 things that make a difference. They are structure and imagination. Structure refers to maintaining some sort of routine every day. For instance, arise the same time every morning, make the bed, do your hygiene rituals, have breakfast, meditate. Do whatever works for you as a general routine that gives structure to your day. Then use your imagination to fill in the blanks.
It is important to set goals for each day. This might be the opportunity to Marie Kondo one of your rooms. You might experiment in the kitchen. Confiscate a child’s water color set and try your hand at painting. There are a gazillion possibilities. The goal needn’t be anything monumental. Start very small if that is more comfortable. Play with it. Have fun. Let your imagination run amuck.
Stay optimistic. Phone or video chat with someone every day. Stay in the present, taking one day at a time. Include gratitude. Humans are naturally resilient. We will all get through this together.
Comments are welcomed.
Letting go is not about having strength. It’s about understanding. Often when we come to believe we need to let go of something, whatever that something is, has gotten inside of us. It may be rumbling around in our thoughts, emotions, how we relate to others, how we live our lives. That letting go process may be a difficult one. One option we might strongly consider is heading such a situation off at the pass. What I mean by that is when things come our way that cause anger, irritation, frustration, ill will, we can take action of letting it pass by or letting it be.
A few years ago I read a book by David J. Pollay entitled The Law of the Garbage Truck. Following is his experience that inspired his book and is about today’s topic.
“Sixteen years ago I learned this lesson. And I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here’s what happened.
I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, the car skidded, the tires squealed, and at the very last moment our car stopped just one inch from the other car’s back-end.
I couldn’t believe it. But then I couldn’t believe what happened next. The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us. How do I know? Ask any New Yorker, some words in New York come with a special face. And he even threw in a one finger salute! I couldn’t believe it!
But then here’s what really blew me away. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly. So, I said, “Why did you just do that!? This guy could have killed us!” And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck®.” He said:
“Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you. So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier”
Sometimes it is just plain hard to let things go. At least having the awareness of what is happening when “garbage” comes at us can make a difference. To paraphrase Jon Kabat-Zinn, It’s not always a matter of letting go. We would if we could. Instead of saying ‘let it go,’ we can say ‘let it be,’ and move on.
Comments are welcomed.
I finished writing this blog early last week. As the days went by and our lives were changing at warp speed, I felt strongly that I needed to speak about it.
We all are going through very worrisome, fearful, difficult times in our planet’s history. Covid-19 is a world wide crisis. Due to the uncertainty and unknown, many of us may be feeling anxiety, panic, fear. We are experiencing a concentrated version of the uncertainty and change that has always been a part of life. Anxiety is usually about the future, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. A better question is, how are we right now? Do we have enough right now. We can prepare for what might be, yet focus on the now. These “interesting times” are also creatives times. Perhaps putting our energy into our resources, community, helping others; perhaps, how we adapt (which might be the key) to the ongoing change and uncertainty; perhaps, as we can stay in the now, see opportunity, find a little levity, we will feel more of a sense of calm, stability and even a modicum of happiness.
Moving on. March has a myriad of noteworthy days and events. I would like to focus on Friday March 20. March 20 presents us with 3 awesome events. Actually, one of these events occurs just before and the other just after the 20th. Last year they were all on the 20th so I am taking literary license to lump them together again.
The first is the one most of us have been looking forward to. It is the Vernal Equinox which is also the first day of Spring 2020. To be precise, the first day of Spring begins on the 19th at 11:50 pm. It’s so close to midnight we can say the 20th is the first day. An interesting fact is this year is the earliest Spring Equinox in 124 years. How this happens can easily be found in the Farmers Almanac or elsewhere on Google. My preference is to consider what else this is about. Spring is hope, opportunity, rebirth on so many levels. The sun has come out of it’s winter retreat and is with us on a more regular basis. The air is fresher, especially after a spring rain. Gardens are being tilled. It seems like everyone and everything has come out of the woodwork into the light. There is a feeling of infinite possibility.
The second is International Earth Day on March 22. This is becoming more important with each passing year considering the existential threat of climate change. The web site earthday.org has excellent information on all the contributors to the devastation of our planet and what we can do. An example: “Food waste is an enormous ‘hidden’ contributor to climate change. In fact, if global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the U.S. The carbon footprint of this wasted food is about 3.3 billion tons of CO2. Luckily, there has never been a better time to join efforts to reduce our carbon footprint through food choices. Enjoy more plant-based meals, reduce your food waste altogether, and compost your food scraps.”
The third event may be my favorite. It is the United Nations International Day of Happiness which is on March 20. It is all about spreading happiness. Spreading happiness comes in many forms and takes such little effort. Some examples: smiles, random acts of kindness, lend a helping hand, offer compliments, give thanks and show appreciation, let those you care about know how much they mean to you, phone someone you haven’t connected with in awhile and let them know you are thinking about them. The list is endless. That said, stay safe, optimistic and calm.
My apologies because I need to vent. I don’t know about you, but I’m so done with the time changes. It takes several days for my body to adjust to the DST change which, as everyone knows, took place yesterday. Is it not time to get rid of it? A couple of provinces here in Canada and a couple of states in the U.S. don’t change. In fact 39 states have written to eliminate the time changes. So why do we have to continue to suffer?
Before I make my case for staying with one time or the other, here’s a little history. The first recorded time change in the modern era took place July 1, 1908 in Port Arthur, Canada. Gradually some other places adopted the practice. It wasn’t until 1916 that Germany incorporated DST. Soon other European countries followed. At the time it was to save the use of fuel during the war. When the war ended, they returned to standard time. DST wasn’t used again until WW2.
Although modern DST has only been used for about 100 years, ancient civilizations are known to have engaged in comparable practices thousands of years ago. For example, the Roman water clocks used different scales for different months of the year to adjust the daily schedules to the solar time
Now for reasons to cancel one of the time changes. A century ago, when DST was introduced, more daylight was a good thing because it meant less use of artificial light, helping to save energy. Modern society, with its computers, TV-screens, and air conditioning units uses more energy, no matter if the Sun is up or not. Today, the amount of energy saved from DST is negligible.
When Indiana decided to introduce DST in 2006, a study found that the measure actually increased energy use in the state.
Changing the time, even if it is only by 1 hour, disrupts our body clocks or circadian rhythm. For most people, the resulting tiredness is simply an inconvenience. For some, however, the time change can have more serious consequences.
Studies link the lack of sleep at the start of DST to car accidents, workplace injuries, suicide, and miscarriages.
The early evening darkness after the end of the DST period is linked to depression.
The risk of suffering a heart attack is also increased when DST begins.
Setting your clock forward 1 hour for DST in spring might mean losing an hour of sleep on the morning after the change. For some people, this may just be a minor annoyance. However, the lack of sleep can have unfortunate effects in those predisposed.
A Swedish study found that the risk of having a heart attack increases in the first 3 weekdays after switching to DST in the spring.
Tiredness induced by the clock change is thought to be the main cause for the increase in traffic accidents on the Monday following the start of DST.
On Mondays after the start of DST there were more workplace injuries, and the injuries were of greater severity compared with other Mondays.
I would like to add the poignant words of my good friend, Ben Franklin. “Lost time is never found again.” You got that, you who make us turn the clocks ahead.
Losing 1 hour of afternoon daylight after setting the clocks back to standard time can trigger mental illness, including bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression.
A Danish study found an 11% increase in depression cases after the time seasonal change. The cases dissipated gradually after 10 weeks.
Australian study found that male suicide rates increased the days after the spring and fall DST shift.
I’m sure there some positives to the time changes. However, they are not convincing enough to make me change my position. So government people, Father Time, Clock Men,* the Mad Hatter or whoever’s in charge, it’s time to stop messing with time. Give us either Standard time or Daylight Saving time* and let it be. End of vent.
*The Clock Men are a pair of robot masters with time manipulation abilities.
*To be accurate, there is no ‘s’ at the end of ‘saving.’
Comments are welcomed.
What would you say to being able to add 7 ½ more minutes of life to each day? Sound good? It is easier than you might think. It has also been scientifically proven. And, we know, if science says so, it must be true, right? In this case it is true. Before I give you the magic formula, here is a little more from the world of science on longevity.
Geneticists might say that the length of one’s life is mainly determined by how long his or her ancestors lived.
But Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, authority on longevity, disputes the geneticists. “Good genes give you an edge,” he says, “but this doesn’t account for people who live 30 to 40 years beyond the average life expectancy. A strong sense of purpose and commitment to higher values, as well as lifelong physical and mental activity, play a more important role in longevity than purely biological factors such as hormonal changes.”
He asserts that the single most important predictor of longevity is enthusiasm for life: staying busy, being curious, feeling that you are accomplishing something worthwhile.
In addition, studies have also shown that of all the things we have control over in our lives, the number one predictor of longevity, is social connections. Positive interactions with others greatly improves our health and well being. This all makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
Okay. Now back to the 7 1/2 minute formula. It is more of a challenge on 4 fronts – physical, mental, emotional, social. No groaning. It is much simpler than you might imagine. Here we go.
Challenge #1: Pick one: Stand up and take three steps, or make your hands into fists, raise them over your head as high as you can for five seconds.
That is physical resilience, which means that your body can withstand more stress and heal faster.
We know from the research that the number one thing you can do to boost your physical resilience is to not sit still. That’s all it takes. Every single second that you are not sitting still, you are actively improving the health of your heart, lungs and brain.
Challenge #2: snap your fingers exactly 50 times, or count backwards from 100 by seven’s. That's mental resilience, which means you have more mental focus, more discipline, determination and willpower. We know from research that willpower actually works like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. So tackling a tiny challenge without giving up, even one as absurd as those just given is actually a scientifically validated way to boost your willpower.
Challenge #3:Do a quick YouTube or Google image search for your favorite baby animal.
What you are feeling is emotional resilience, which means you have the ability to provoke powerful, positive emotions like curiosity or love, which we feel looking at baby animals. If you can manage to experience three positive emotions for every one negative emotion over the course of an hour, a day, a week, you dramatically improve your health and your ability to successfully tackle any problem you’re facing.
Challenge #4: Shake someone's hand for six seconds, or send someone a quick thank you by text, email, Facebook or Twitter.
That is social resilience, which means you actually get more strength from your friends, your neighbors, your family, your community. Now, a great way to boost social resilience is gratitude. Touch is even better. Shaking someone's hand for six seconds dramatically raises the level of oxytocin, the trust hormone, in your bloodstream. That means that if you’ve shaken hands with someone, you are biochemically primed to like and want to help each other. - (CAUTION: it would be wise to bump elbows instead while Covid 19 is going around.)
These 4 challenges will give you 7 and 1/2 min. more of life each day. What do you say? I say, “Let’s go for it.”
Comments are welcomed.