1. How to Maintain Positive Thinking Even When Being Criticized

    May 10, 2014

    How to Maintain Positive Thinking Even When Being Criticized

     

    Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen have written a book that offers a sensible approach to anyone who wants to enjoy a more meaningful life. Their book examines the ideal response to give to any type of constructive criticism.  The book’s primary message concerns the recommended thinking for the recipient of such criticism. According to Stone and Heen, that recipient ought to focus on thinking positively.

    The opening phrase in that book’s two-part title highlights the nature of the recommended response. Here is that phrase: Thanks for the Feedback. In other words, the two authors have put-forward a most unusual suggestion. The two of them have suggested that the target of any constructive criticism ought to be thankful for those decidedly pointed remarks.

    To the average person, that simple suggestion can seem like a huge challenge, especially if the received feedback has been given following performance of an action that was meant to be helpful.  Typically, the act of helping others is viewed as one that can inject more meaning into the life of the person who has chosen to be helpful. Yet, if that offered action has not been appreciated, then it fails to accomplish that goal. It is for that reason, that it becomes difficult to say these two words to the giver of constructive criticism: Thank you.

    The readers of the text by Stone and Heen should learn that remarks that relate to performance of an act do not have to be viewed as demeaning. In fact, such comments ought to be seen as a statement that serves to underline the value of the person who was the target of the constructive criticism. Development of the skill that is known as positive thinking stands as a meaningful accomplishment, one that allows a person to ascertain the sometimes hidden value in clearly-stated criticism.

    The person who has learned how to think positively does not take-on blame for the mistakes made by an entire team. By the same token, the person who has become skilled at thinking positively does not refuse to acknowledge a mistake, choosing instead to shift the blame to others. In both instances, the target of the constructive criticism has failed to examine each aspect of the offered feedback. Usually, the failure to take that approach invites the type of thinking that allows the offered remarks to accumulate unwanted nuances and interpretations, the way a snowball gathers snow, as it travels down a slope.

    That is not a healthy situation, and is one that ought to be avoided. It encourages the belief that a given mistake has managed to bring-on a catastrophe. The person who has formed such a belief has been turned-away from the path that leads to discovery of a more meaningful life.

    Now, while the second half of this text (The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well) does not make mention of advice for the critique-maker, such advice can be found between the books’ two covers. In fact, one piece of advice really resonated with this writer, a grandmother who was once a parent. That one piece of information concerned the ideal means for linking praise and criticism.

    Such a linkage can prove quite useful, when a parent wants a son or daughter to work-on developing certain virtues. Literature that is meant to guide such a parent recommends the praising of a virtuous act, followed by the word “but,” and then a reference to a virtue that must be developed further. According to Stone and Heen, that suggestion was insightful, and it also needs to be altered a bit, in order to get the targeted child thinking in a more positive fashion.

    Notice that in the above statement the praise was followed by the word “and,” rather than the word “but.” The use of “and” aids the formation of a more positive-sounding comment. It helps to open the door to realization of the fact that the person targeted by that particular comment remains valued. Such a realization then aids formation of the type of thinking that allows a person to continue to make progress on the road that leads to enjoyment of a more meaningful life.

     

     Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sahdblunders/7566255092

     


  2. Rock or Classical Music? Which One Makes You Happy?

    May 6, 2014

    Rock or Classical Music? Which One Makes You Happy?

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

    You’re in your room. It’s raining outside-practically a monsoon. You want to lift your down mood but can’t seem to find the right thing. Movies? Maybe later. Computer game? Nah, you have to pay to advance to the next level and the game is not that good anyway. MTV? That’s a big ol’ pile of NOPE. Who wants to watch pregnant teens anyway? AH, the radio! It’s been FOREVER since you last turned it on. You dash over and press the power button.

    “Classical? Since when did I ever listen to classical?” You wonder as you turn the dial. It Smells Like Teen spirit spills out of the bug eye shaped speakers.

    “And I’m definitely NOT from Seattle. Pass…” you turn the dial a few more times getting more and more frustrated. Whatever happened to good music? That kind of music that-YES! The Cars! Shake It Up from The Cars blasts through the speakers and soon you’re dancing around like it’s high school all over again.  Your arms flail about, your feet excitedly jab at the floor and you KNOW you look freakish. But you don’t care-your mood is suddenly higher then the highest note that seems to flutter at your ears. Ah…

    Dopamine Dream

     

    Music. We all love it. We all dance to it. Find our favorite song on the radio and we’re bound to bust a move! So what makes music so enjoyable? And why are upbeat songs so good at lifting our feet AND our mood? Dr. Yana Ferguson was wondering the same thing.

    She and a group of researchers at Northwestern University set out to answer this question by conducting two studies. In the first two-week study they asked volunteers to listen to music from American composer Aaron Copland before switching to music from low-key European composer Igor Stravinsky. In the next two week-study volunteers only listened to toe-tapping tunes while a control group in BOTH studies listened to nondescript songs. It is unclear whether the volunteers had their brains scanned during the listening, or after, but what WERE clear were the results. Upbeat music activates both the frontal and rear striatum, areas of the brain that deal with awaiting rewards and pleasure. Both these areas also got doused in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that gives you that oh so happy feeling.

    So the next time your feeling down turn those tunes up and do the dance to a better mood!

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sicoactiva/3676952605

     

     

     


  3. The Interplay of Intention and Meaningfulness

    April 30, 2014

    The Interplay of Intention and Meaningfulness

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    As a rule, someone who hopes to inject more meaning into an otherwise ordinary life does not aim to become self-involved. Yet one author, Barbara Ehrenreich, had to put-aside that avoidance of seeming self-involvement, because she decided to use the contents of an old journal as the basis for a book. When speaking with David Ulin, a book critic for the Los Angeles Times, she explained that journal was proof that by the age of 17, she had formed a sense that there was some sort of intention behind what was taking-place within the world.

     

    In most of her earlier works, Ehrenreich has dealt with issues that concern the here and now, the material world. However, when she wrote about the contents of her old journal, she had to seek answers to an anomaly. As Ehrenreich re-read the entries in her journal, she recalled feeling filled with something that she could not explain. She remembered having the sense that she was confronting something that was unseen, yet alive. At that point, she wanted to view that certain something more closely, but she did not know how to accomplish that feat.

     

    That feeling did not persist, and eventually that young journal-writer tried to resume her former life, as though nothing had happened. Still, she could not shake the perception that she had experienced earlier. She found herself questioning the meaningfulness of day-to-day chores. She had become more aware of their lack of meaning, if such jobs are not done by someone with the best intentions.

     

    Indeed, even the smallest job can be used to perfect a virtue. That observation has not been stated in one of Ehrenreich’s books; rather it was noted by the leader of a religion, a man who once visited the United States. One day, when he was sweeping the entrance to a shrine, someone asked him what he was doing. This was his answer: I am practicing patience.

     

    The man who made that statement had grown-up surrounded by adults who held a strong and undying belief in a Creator. That same environment did not exist in Barbara Ehrenreich’s home, when she was a teenager. Both of her parents were atheists. Hence, when she got to the stage in life where she felt compelled to ask questions, she had trouble finding anyone who could help her to find some answers.

     

    Fortunately, she chose to become a reporter, someone who has been trained to ask questions. In that way, she managed to uncover the sort of guidance that she had been seeking. In fact, her choice of career may now help others who are trying to lead a more meaningful life.

     

    The thoughts presented in Ehrenreich’s journal could not have been analyzed and summarized in the format of a book, if that young journal-writer had not elected to become a reporter. As a reporter, she saw each of the journal’s pages as being something that must be shared with others. Her commitment to reporting on the journal’s contents freed her from any guilt that she might feel, because she had become so self-involved. She viewed her personal musings as a source of questions, rather than as the disclosure of a mystical experience.

     

    That approach allowed her to overcome a major hurdle, one that slowed her initial progress on her planned book/memoir. At first, she struggled to put-into-words an experience that looked very much like one that would be of interest to mystics, the experience that she had been forced to deal with , while just a teenager. Eventually, though, she managed to formulate questions from the notes that she herself had written years earlier.

     

    By using those questions, she could put-together a book, one that other young people might use as a guide, while trying to inject more meaning into their lives. She encouraged them to have a very practical approach to discovery of something that seemed to have come from a mystical realm. She encouraged them to seek-out the identity of the thing/spirit that had come into their lives, and then to report back to others on those findings.

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/elainegreycats/48057915/


  4. Never Stop to do Acts of Kindness

    April 25, 2014

    Never Stop to do Acts of Kindness

    by Sue Chehrenegar

    This past week, I gained a greater insight into the meaning of life by helping a writer with a limited command of the English language. He had contacted me through my husband. Like that struggling writer, my husband had grown up speaking Persian, long before he had begun to converse in English.

    The man who sought my help with writing a short essay first asked for a better way of referring to the act that he called “making good.” I suggested that he use “doing a favor.” Then my husband indicated that the essay writer wanted to say something like this: Never stop to do a favor. At that point, I recommended that he re-phrase the sentence, changing it to this: Never stop to do an act of kindness.

    The essay writer liked that suggested sentence, but he wanted to learn if the same thought could be expressed in a few other ways. I was asked to send him an e-mail, and to include in that e-mail two or three ways for urging someone to be kind/make good. While I was writing that e-mail, my husband offered some suggestions, and that was when I gained a greater insight into the meaning of life.

    First my husband explained to me that the essay writer wanted to make sure that someone who had chosen to perform an act of kindness did not get discouraged easily. He realized that someone who has been rebuffed after trying to be kind might get discouraged. With that thought in mind, I added to the sentence I had suggested earlier.

    This was my first entry in the e-mail that I had been asked to write: Never stop to do acts of kindness, even if you should get hurt. If that happens, pray or meditate about what happened, and they try a different way of showing your kindness. That was helpful, but my husband indicated that it was a bit too long. He asked me to try condensing my suggested words of guidance.

    At that point, I added a second sentence to my e-mail. I wrote this: Never stop to behave in a way that shows how much you want to be kind to another person, even if you get hurt. As I sought to come-up with yet a third means for conveying the same thought, I heard my husband say something like this: Never stop to enjoy the beauty of life.

    That was when I realized that a readiness to be kind to others adds meaning to life and makes it more beautiful. That realization helped me to add two more sentences to the group that I was planning to send to the struggling writer. The first sentence that I added was this one: Never stop to behave in a way that shows how much you want to be kind to another person, even if you get hurt. Then I added this sentence to my e-mail: Keep meaning in your life, and never hold-back from performing an act of kindness.

    By helping that one gentleman, I had gained a keener sense of the significance of a quest for meaning. It represents an attempt to enhance the beauty of existence on this earth. For some people efforts that are aimed at protection of the earth’s natural beauty have made their lives more meaningful. I will write more about protection of the environment in another article.

    For others, the beauty enjoyed by the humans who live on this earth is only possible when men agree to cooperate with one another. Those are the people who seek to contribute to the development of a great civilization/society. Their ability to make such a contribution has made their life more meaningful.

    Of course, there are many ways to contribute to the development of a society. That can be accomplished by creating works of art, by voicing an opinion on an important issue, by teaching young people, by healing those who are sick, by aiding the sharing of information or by helping to build various structures, just to name a few.

    Perhaps you have a skill or ability that you can use to make the earth even more beautiful. Maybe you are ready to start working on learning a new skill. Take whatever skill or knowledge you have learned and use it in a kindly fashion, but recall this one last sentence that I sent to the essay-writer: Do not be disturbed by what has resulted from an act of kindness that you have shown to another. If you do that, you are sure to feel that you have a meaningful life.

     

     Image Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/7824209576

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  5. An Author’s Experiences Give Her Life Greater Meaning

    April 24, 2014

    An Author’s Experiences Give Her Life Greater Meaning

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    As a children’s writer, Emily Lockhart can relate to the thinking of children. When interviewed by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, she shared memories of her own childhood, of a time when she did not feel pushed to take life seriously. Later, like so many of the youth that pass-through the age of adolescence, Lockhart experienced an awareness of increased freedoms. For a time, she relished those new-found freedoms. Then, as she grew older, she began to take view life more seriously.

    Lockhart’s altered pattern of thinking copied that of many younger adults. It provoked thoughts that focused on the meaning of life. Her mind had become attuned to such thoughts by the age of 17, when she realized that people did not see her as someone who was capable of challenging their own thoughts and actions. Consequently, she felt decidedly underrated and wanted to add some meaningfulness to her existence.

    At that point, Lockhart began to lose interest in those things that had been providing her with intermittent periods of joy. Such actions included the application of make-up, while staring into a mirror, the refusal to abide by specific codes of conduct and the willingness to give-in to less-than-virtuous behavior. Lockhart realized that by choosing to pursue such actions, she allowed adults to view her as someone who is a tad silly, maybe even close to incompetent. Hence, she wanted to fill her life with greater substance/more meaning.

    At that point, the acquisition of added substance became her goal, one that she went-after while in college and graduate school. Eventually, she did get people to give serious consideration to what she had to say. Moreover, as that change took-place, she found that she was treated with a greater amount of respect. Still, she did not appreciate the degree to which she had to deal with on-going competition from others in academia, in order to retain the level of respect that she then enjoyed.

    Lockhart’s observations pushed re-think the wisdom of copying the pattern that had been adopted by her associates. She decided to have-a-try at the craft of writing for children. She even managed to get some of her writing published. However, it was not long before she discovered that within academia, a writer of children’s literature did not enjoy an appreciable amount of status.

    She found that within the highest echelons of academia, people tend to be serious on an almost continual basis. Their attention seldom turns to subjects that do not fall-in-line with the stated ideals of the most respected members of academia. Yet Lockhart did not view that approach to life as one that she could use, in order to make her existence more meaningful. That was why she chose to follow her own path, as opposed to the one that had been presented to her those with whom she had been interacting.

    She chose to retain what she viewed as the most meaningful aspect of her life, and she did that by seeking to excel in a discipline that gave her great pleasure. That was the craft that required development of writing skills, particularly the skills of a children’s author. Contrary to any advice she may have received from others, Lockhart’s choice did not deprive her life of meaning. She has authored books that young people read and loved.

    As a loved children’s writer, Lockhart did not allow herself to compose material that sounded a bit like a sermon. Still, she realized that she could get young minds thinking. Hence, she managed to write books that helped younger readers to begin to think more seriously about their own pathway into the future.

    Lockhart does not recommend that every child follow the pathway that she has chosen. Still, she realizes that, at some point, every child becomes a teenager and then a mature and thinking adult. She hopes to get younger readers thinking seriously about how each of them can go-about living a more meaningful life.

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/floringorgan/4694122800

     

     

     

     


  6. How Can You Live Your Life in the Flow?

    April 21, 2014

    How Can You Live Your Life in the Flow?

    by Daniela Aneis

    Flow is a very important concept in Positive Psychology. It was conceptualized in 1975 by researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and it is an important part of the optimal experience. But what exactly is flow? Flow is a state of mind in which we are fully focused on the task at hands and time and space seem irrelevant and we feel we can perform the task and it represents a challenge we can face. The pleasure of performing such task derives from an intrinsic motivation, we do it simply because we enjoy it. Imagine this: you love gardening. Whenever you have the time, you go to your garden to do things. You could spend a whole afternoon there and only realize it’s been a couple of hours when it gets dark or someone calls you for dinner. Ever happened to you?

    Why is it important to feel flow?

    People who experience flow often report higher levels of subjective well-being. Whether it is at work, at home, during their leisure time, with friends and family. You may not experience happiness during the experience of flow itself because it would be a distraction, but studies have shown that after performing a flow activity individuals report higher levels of well-being, sense of accomplishment, and purpose and meaning.

    Just so you know, flow experiences have been reported in reading a book as being more engaging than watching TV. So you might want to think about reducing your TV watching hours and devote your time to other activities.

    Positive psychologists advocate that a full life is a life where we are truly engaged, aware, and fully involved in our lives. And isn’t a flow an involving activity? So flow can be a really important part of finding your “happiness”.

    How can I identify a flow experience?

    According to Csikszentmihalyi’s years of research the experience of flow is quite universal and it has distinct characteristics from other types of experiences. But first we should, as the author did, distinguish the flow experience from the popular “go with the flow”. Going with the flow refers to a spontaneous attitude of letting things happen and not contradict the events in place. On the other hand, flow experiences are chosen (by us) and involve using our skills, concentration and perseverance. We choose to do sports instead of working around the house, we choose to do volunteer work instead of going out partying with friends. Not that these experiences are mutually exclusive, just serve as examples.

    So what makes a flow experience? Csikszentmihalyi (1999) says that two important characteristics must be present:

    1)      People should know what to do moment by moment while performing the task

    2)      The abilities of that person to act match the opportunities for action

    Breaking it down, when experiencing a flow activity you should know what you’re doing and what to do next and have instant feedback. But what makes this a challenging task is that you may have the ability but it still represents a form of challenge for you. If it’s too easy you’ll find it boring, if it’s too hard you’ll soon want to give up.

    Creative activities are easy to spot as flow experiences. Take for instance painters, writers, musicians. Don’t you see them fully engaged in what they’re doing taking the pleasure out of what they’re doing?

    How can I introduce more flow into my life?

    A few tips according to Csikszentmihalyi (1997) from his book on “Finding Flow”:

    • The activity has a set of goals and requires certain actions. Take chess, poker, and any kind of sport. The rules help you set your mind to a flow state because there is no need to question them.
    • You’re fully involved in the challenge. It’s not too hard to overcome but just enough to make you push harder and learn new things. Can you think of anything like that?

    Can you think of anything in your life that represents a flow experience? Just so you know, adults often report more flow experiences at work than during their leisure time. That has to do with the clear set of rules and goals at work. Happiness can be found at work as well.

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/james_sickmind/5448335436


  7. Positive Emotions Help You Build up Resilience

    April 16, 2014

    Positive Emotions Help You Build up Resilience

     

    Why do some people endure despite all? Why do some people can still see the bright sunny day despite everything bad that happens to them? How come there are people who can still stand tall when everything seems crumbling down? Why does someone, after a violent passing for instance, gives in to alcohol while another chooses to help others survive like they did? That is the question many researchers are trying to answer. What makes people thrive despite adversity?

    Being resilient

    Resilience is a key concept. Being a resilient person doesn’t mean that events don’t hurt the same as it would hurt anyone else. It just means you have more resources to stand up and fight the negativity in our life, despite all the hurt it may cause you. In the end you will use that hurt is an adaptive and constructive way.

    Why is resilience so important? It serves as a mental health protection. In face of tragedy, resilient people will not perish and give in to depression, helplessness or despair. Of course not everyone is as resilient as their next door neighbor and that’s ok. Because resilience is also something that can be built.

    “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”

    The famous sentence by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche applies here when discussing resilience. Actually the more though situations you go through, you are more likely to have both the experience and the ability to answer once that same challenge is presented to you a second time.

    But what if positive emotions could also serve as a fuel for resilience? Fredrickson’s broaden-and-built model of positive emotions argues that positive emotions broaden our scope of action and thought, and also build up as resources to be used in stressful situations.

    In their study Cohn, Fredrickson, Brown, Mikels and Conway were able to link daily positive emotions experiences to ego resilience. Ego resilience is a “fairly stable personality trait that helps people adapt to their environment by identifying opportunities, adapting to constraints and bouncing back from misfortune” (page 362). In their study they found that experiencing daily positive emotions helps build ego resilience and deal with mild to moderate stressors, in a more constructive way. Ultimately growing your ego resilience will also help you experience higher levels of life satisfaction. But, as the authors of this study warn us, in cases of extreme psychological pain or psychopathology these results are not able to be seen.

    How can you be more resilient in your life?

    • Focus on the positive. It has to do with the kind of lenses you use to see the world. If we wish to focus solely on the negative, then we will find no reason to live and endure the kind of pain there is in the world. But nothing is ever just bad or just good. But focusing on the good will help attract more good things your way.
    • And search for it. We sometimes have a tendency for self-destruction and self-pity. But what if you decide to break the cycle and start searching for the positive emotions in your life? It may take a while but you’ll soon find more reasons to look on the bright side.
    • Keep feeding the positivity cycle in your life. Experiencing positive emotions in your life will decrease your stress levels, which in turn will help you build more resources, which will make you seek for more positivity in your life in a constant cycle.
    • Learn from experience. Staying in touch with the philosophers, Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. The way I see it, it means that thinking life through will help you grow and not repeat the same mistakes again, making you a better person. So, if you examine your life and learn from your experience, you will learn how to seek positive emotions and build your resilience.

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisschoenbohm/9916669806


  8. Gratitude as a Coping Mechanism

    April 14, 2014

    Gratitude as a Coping Mechanism

    Gratitude is a powerful feeling. It makes us appreciate all the good we have in our lives and enjoy it for what it is, instead of craving for the next big thing. Which in turn will leave us constantly unsatisfied with our lives, because there will always be something more to crave for. Gratitude is a characteristic of people experiencing higher levels of well-being with known reports of 67% of grateful people experiencing gratitude “all the time” and up to 60% reporting that expressing gratitude “made them feel very happy” (Gallup: “Survey results on gratitude, adults and teenagers“). But can gratitude also function as a coping mechanism? Can it helps us deal with life’s biggest adversities and still flourish?

    Researchers Wood, Joseph and Linley set out to answer just that.

    Gratitude is correlated to happiness  and well-being

    Research done so far has shown that dispositional Gratitude has the highest correlations with life satisfaction and well-being. And consequently negative correlations with depression and envy. Which makes sense, if grateful people are focused on their achievements and value them, their sense of self-efficacy is higher and they will not envy what others have achieved that much.

    Others studies have shown that inducing gratitude during weeks in people has proven to have improvements on happiness, depression and even physical health (for a revision of studies check Wood, Joseph and Linley’s 2007 article).

    What seems to be in place here, is that not only gratitude is an important mechanism in well-being and optimism but it can also serve as a coping mechanism during stressful situations. Being grateful might actually help you deal in a more constructive way with stress and life’s adversities, making you flourish as a person.

    Gratitude is a Positive Emotion

    According to Fredrickson’s (1998, 2001) broaden-and-built model of positive emotions, positive emotions can serve as resources for building up resilience in people, as those positive emotions are stored to be used in stressful or threatening situations. But also, positive emotions are key aspects in pushing us towards an action. And given that, positive emotions helps push forward instead of holding us back.

    Gratitude seems to correlate to a higher social approach strategy, as studies have shown that grateful people are also likely to express extroversion, agreeableness, forgiveness and empathy. Which are important characteristics to consider in social interaction because they make others want to approach us.

    Grateful people see the world as a hospitable place, deemphasizing (not ignoring) the negative side of life which in turn may help them deal actively with problems they may encounter.

    But the question is: Do grateful people have more psychological resources?

    According to Wood, Joseph and Linley’s (2007) findings coping mechanisms mediate the relationship between stress and gratitude. But it also showed important differences between grateful people:

    1)      Grateful people tend to seek out emotional and instrumental social support as a coping mechanism, make use of positive reinterpretation and growth and planning

    2)      Grateful people used more positive coping mechanisms, like approaching problems instead of avoiding them

    Inversely, gratitude was negatively correlated with behavioral disengagement, self-blame, substance abuse and denial. Which can all be seen as negative coping mechanisms as they are meant to avoid problems and not fix them.

    This means that grateful people tend to use more positive strategies to deal with stress and their issues by reaching out to friends and family for support, which in turn helps decrease their levels of stress and depression and function as an active way to solve problems instead of avoiding them.

    Can being grateful be a good thing for you? It sure can. Not only because it increases your levels of well-being and life satisfaction but it can also help you cope with stress. Now the question remains: how can you be more grateful?

     


  9. Surviving Breakup or How to Smile Away Stress

    April 12, 2014

    How to Smile Away Stress

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

     

    “But why?” Jen asked, her heart breaking, “Why are doing this to me before school? I can’t teach art like this!” She dabbed her face dry and hoped her mascara wasn’t ruining her perfect face-her perfect morning already ruined by the impromptu breakup.

    “I’m sorry,” Henry sighed, “I just… think we’re too different. I’ll move my stuff out before you get home.” And that was that. Three years of solid bliss dissolved away in a single morning. SINGLE. The one word she hated hearing and now it defined better then a dictionary.

    On the way to work Jen couldn’t shake the horrible feeling that was growing in the pit of her stomach-her happy memories with Henry curdling faster than expired milk. She wanted to turn back and sleep this off but she also wanted tenure. So, once parked in her spot at school, Jen dried her face again and put on the largest fake smile she could muster. She held this expression for a few beats more as she imagined all the neat little projects her art students would be doing today. Clay sculptures, mixing paint pallets, and maybe, if there was time, Jen could show her students her latest experiment with her kiln.

    “This won’t be so bad,” Jen sighed to herself, “It’s not great, but not bad. Not really.” As she continued to smile she noticed her mood was slowly improving. Her gut mellowed and soon she was able to enter her classroom like it was any other morning. There would be time to grieve for the breakup, she knew that. But for today, Jen would grin and teach.

    While this situation it completely fictional it has a completely nonfictional use in the real world. But how? Was it Jen’s happy thoughts that made her smile? Or was it her smile that made her think happy thoughts? According to Fritz Strack and others, the answer is all “About Face.”

    In 1988 Strack and his colleagues did an experiment to study the faces relationship to our emotions. In this experiment they split their volunteers up into two groups. In one group Strack asked participants to hold a pencil in their mouth with only their lips, which created a frown. They asked the next to group to hold the pencil with only their teeth, which created a smile. They then asked both groups to read a cartoon and rate its hilarity. Shockingly, the volunteers whose pencil forced them to smile rated the cartoon funnier than those whose pencil forced them to frown.

    But what about stress? Could a smile be strong enough to lessen the anxiety of a situation? Psychologists Tara Kraft and Sara Pressmen seem to think so! They conducted a similar experiment with 169 participants. In this study they asked the university aged volunteers to form three groups. In one group they asked them to hold a chopstick with their mouth to produce a neutral expression. The other two groups held chopsticks to produce a simple smile, and a Duchenne (also known as a genuine) smile.

    Once the expression was mastered they then asked volunteers to complete a stress-inducing task such as holding their hands in ice-cold water or tracing a star from a mirror with their non-dominant hand. They measured heart rates and got volunteer reported stress levels along the way and discovered that those who smiled had lesser levels of stress then those who didn’t.

    So the next time you are feeling blue, we know exactly what you should do. It’s may be totally cliché, but go ahead, smile away! Turn that frown upside and soon you’ll be the happiest in town!

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!

     

    Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33406464@N05/8123609502


  10. Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    April 9, 2014

    Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    If you are searching for the meaning in your life, it can help to study the sunlight reflected in a mirror. Of course, a mirror does not really produce the sun’s rays; it simply reflects them. In the same way, a virtuous and goodly person has the ability to reflect the spiritual qualities that he or she has developed by relating to and sharing with others. In fact, those who strive to achieve that particular goal have managed to discover the meaning in life.

    Obviously, the human body does not possess a reflective surface. Still, that does not mean that those who search for the meaning in life would be foolish to consider the fact that mirrors prove most useful when they have been polished properly. In fact, those who are willing to view the heart as a mirror can best understand how to ensure their ability to create a clear reflection of their spiritual qualities.

    Polishing removes the dust from a mirror’s surface. It allows the reflected light to shine-threw more clearly. Sometimes the spiritual qualities of the human heart remain unrevealed, because those same qualities have been covered-up by the results of an effort that has failed to focus on life’s true meaning.

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