It seems nearly impossible to have a conversation, or even write a blog, without mentioning the pandemic at one point or another. Whatever the topic of conversation or whatever is going on with everyone of every age, the pandemic and it’s affects play a major role. Try as I may to skirt this issue, it underlies this week’s topic.
Here's the thing. I have a tendency, like many of us to be self critical. “I should do more, be more…” I do a lot of ‘shoulding’ on myself. Those shoulds get us every time, don’t they?
They say timing is everything. As I was in this funk of being self critical, one of the newsletters from Lea Waters, a positive psychologist I subscribe to came in. She was talking about the very same issue. She was reminding us of the importance of self- compassion, especially in these difficult times. This newsletter put me in mind of Kristin Neff’s work. Neff is one of the leading researchers in self-compassion which is the antidote to self- criticism and downward spiraling.
Here are her 3 steps for developing the practice. The three steps are mindfulness, universality, and kindness.
Let’s look at mindfulness first. As you go about your life, you want to try to be alert to times when you are being self-critical, when you hear that harsh voice in your head. When you notice it, the first thing to do is to recognize the moment of difficulty. Tell yourself what’s going on. “I’m being self-critical here. But I can choose to intervene. This is a chance for me to practice self-compassion.”
The next step is universality. Kristen Neff’s research indicates that it is very powerful at this point to remind ourselves of our shared human condition. Whatever it is that we’re criticizing ourselves for, we can tell ourselves, “I’m not alone. Other people go through this. Whatever has happened, is part of being human.”
The third step is kindness. Here we want to tell ourselves “I can be a good friend to myself in this situation. May I be kind to myself and give myself the compassion I need.”
It is like turning the Golden Rule towards ourselves, do unto ourselves as we would do unto others. Or, Tal Ben Shahar’s Platinum Rule, “do not do unto yourself what you would not do unto others.”
Comments are welcome.
Robert Frost once said, “I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life in 3 words. It goes on.” And so it does, as things continue to hit the fan. What to do? The answer might be found in humor. Much has been written about the benefits of humor physically, mentally and emotionally. Here are some examples.
A series of recent trials by scientists confirm that laughter is the most effective and inexpensive “drug” on the market. Here are some good reasons to carry on laughing.
Stationary Jogging - Imagine being prescribed laughter for weight loss. It is not as silly as it sounds. Dr William Fry Jr coined the terms “internal aerobics” and “stationary jogging” to describe the physical effects of a good belly laugh. His research found that laughter, like physical exercise speeds up heart rate, expands circulation and enhances oxygen intake. In fact, he calculated that 100 to 200 belly-laughs a day is the equivalent of a high-impact workout that can help you burn off as many as 500 calories.
Internal Massage - Laughter is the ultimate chill pill. We instinctively turn to laughter and humour when we need to rest and relax. Medical researchers have found that while we laugh our upper body is exercised, and after we finish laughing, we experience a physical afterglow in which we relax muscle tension, reduce stress in the nerves, massage the lungs, restore a full and flowing breathing pattern and gently expand our circulation once more. Laughter is the perfect “internal massage”.
Comic Relief - Laughter is a natural pain killer. Norman Cousins is known as the modern Father of Laughter Therapy. In his famous article for the New England Journal of Medicine, Cousins told how he used laughter to heal himself of a painful spinal disease called anakylosing spondylitis. He wrote that he made “the joyous discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly-laughter had an anaesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” Subsequent research verifies that laughter can produce a feel-good chemical called “endorphins” which help to kill pain.
Happy Cells - The repeated research experiments of Dr Lee Berk at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, CA, shows that laughter, happiness and joy “inspire” the immune system to create white “T” cells, commonly called “happy cells”, which help to prevent infection.
Stress Buster - Laughter is a very effective stress-buster. Psychologists describe people who are prone to frequent bouts of stress as “Type H” personalities. The “H” stands for hostile, hurried and humourless. These people are too busy to be happy, too busy to smile, and too busy to laugh. Dr Patch Adams, the subject of the movie Patch Adams played by Robin Williams, prescribes laughter as a stress buster. “Overseriousness is a medical emergency,” he says. “Morbidity blows problems up, but laughter blows problems off”. Physicians have discovered that the “mirthful laughter experience” physically reduces the serum levels of cortisol and other stress hormones in the body.
Merry Heart - Since time immemorial, sages and physicians have advocated a “merry heart” as the finest medicine. Modern medical research had discovered that laughter is a good medicine for the heart. Cardiologists are keen for heart-attack survivors to rediscover the therapeutic power of humour, laughter and play. Whereas emotions like “anger” can damage the heart; laughter has a positive effect on heart rate and blood pressure.
Shock Absorber - Humour and laughter are excellent shock-absorbers that increase personal resilience during testing times.
It appears that the message is the antidote to those terrible, awful, very bad, no good days is to hunt humor. If we can’t find anything to laugh about, I suppose we can always laugh on credit.
Comments are welcomed.
It is essentially a redundancy to say how difficult it has been for everyone these past couple of years. Each one of us has our own personal set of circumstances to deal with. I want to acknowledge that for all of you and extend my best hopes for better things ahead.
For myself, a rather large amount of dark substance has been hitting the fan the past couple of weeks. Consequently, the days clunked by and I suddenly realized I had nothing for this week’s blog. My heart, spirit and right brain have not been in the game. You know how it is. Things happen. Plans change. Under the circumstances, calling an audible made the most sense. See you next week. Be well and stay safe. 💝