1. Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    March 20, 2014

    Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    by Daniela Aneis

     

    Dinosaurs have lived millions of years ago often leaving nothing but their fossilized footprints behind. What if you could also leave a psychological footprint behind? The term psychological footprint used by Whitbourne and Whitbourne (2014) refers to the positive or negative influence you have on others and how that affects their lives and the environment around you. We’ve all had the nature vs. nurture discussion in our lives at some point: is it nurture that defines me or is it nature? But what about your influence in nature and nurture? Your influence in what’s around you? How to measure that?

    Leaving something of yourself behind.

    You may not see it or even realize it, but you have an impact on your environment. Just by existing at this time and place, you’re changing what’s around you. Let’s try a difficult exercise. Can you imagine what it would be like for everyone you’ve ever met if you had never existed? What would they be missing out? Though one to think through? Don’t worry, that’s just our egocentrism at work. We just can’t imagine a world where we wouldn’t exist! Let’s try an easier one: have you ever asked a close friend what have they learned from you? What has meeting you made them different? Ask and be surprised with the answers. Usually in life it’s the little things that leave great impressions.

    What psychological footprints do you have on yourself?

    Think about all the people that have inspired and touched your life. Parents, grandparents, your first teacher, your neighbors, your minister, your childhood friends… Ever tried writing them a thank you letter for all the precious moments you’ve had with them? This a powerful exercise that Martin Seligman (the father of Positive Psychology) often does in his classes. At the end of each semester he promotes a little get together between students and the receivers of the letters, where the letters are read out loud and it’s not unusual for tears of joy to run. It’s a very powerful tool in therapy as well specially in grief counselling.

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  2. Personal development by Volunteering: Getting more than what you Give

    March 18, 2014

    Personal development through Volunteering

    It’s common among regular volunteers to hear them say that: “When volunteering, the volunteer often receives more than what he/she gives of their time.” What is it about volunteering on a regular basis that makes this activity so meaningful and fulfilling? How can spending your time “working for free” (as some might put it) make anyone happy?

    Living your life in an altruistic way will make you happier. Don’t believe me? Believe the Science. Studies have shown that nuns have happiness levels higher than any other group! Why is that? What makes devoting one’s life to others such a fulfilling one? It gives you a sense of belonging, purpose in life and increases your sense of community. But most of all, it helps you realize you’re not alone in the world and small random acts of kindness do change the reality around you.

    According to Viktor Frankl’s theory of Logotherapy, the search for meaning and purpose in life is one of Man’s greatest dilemmas but also it is achieving the knowledge of what’s the meaning of your life and taking responsibility for it, that will “set you free” for any psychological restraints you might have.
     

    Sense of community, purpose and belonging

     
    By no means does this article intend to make you join a religious organization in order to make you happier and satisfied about your life! I brought up the studies about nuns as just an example. But what these multiple studies really demonstrate is that living inside the bubble surrounding your life (job, home) will leave you with a sense of emptiness and disconnection from everyone else. Since birth, all we human beings seek is to belong, to connect with other human beings at a deeper level. It’s not the amount of time shared with someone that will give a sense of fulfillment, it is the quality of the time shared with someone, and the depth of human relationships.

    Sharing your time with others will provide you with a deep sense of belonging to a community, where the word solidarity will still mean something. Soli-what? Yes, giving just for the sake of doing it without expecting anything in return except for some gratitude! Again you don’t believe me? Try this simple exercise in your life: have an spontaneous act of kindness to anyone – a smile, a comforting word, hold the elevator for someone – and see what happens. You might just make someone’s day.
     

    Should I do some volunteering work to feel happier?

     
    That’s up to you. Like any other activity, if it doesn’t satisfy you, don’t do it. Volunteering can only be a rewarding experience when done with genuineness. It has to come from the heart to work. And don’t think that volunteering will magically heal all your problems, you have to feel good about yourself in order to help others. Again take responsibility and don’t expect others to be happy for you.
     

    A few tips for the volunteer wannabe:

     

    1. Start with small activities. Why don’t you try getting engaged in a small volunteer work in your community or even job? There are many one-day volunteering activities that you can try out.
    2. Areas of interest. What are your areas of interest and what kind of people do you see yourself working with? Do you love children, the elderly? Are you keen on sports or worried about the environment or love animals? Answer this question first, then start looking for volunteer projects near you.
    3. Willingness to commit. You cannot volunteer to anything if you’re not committed to it. Volunteering is not like a job but it requires responsibility. After all, there are people depending on you.
    4. Feeling satisfied about it. If volunteering does not fill your heart with joy or take too much of your time, it’s not a rewarding experience. On the other hand, if you feel like it makes you a better person and you feel like you’re making a difference in the world, then you’re on the right track. Keep doing it!

     
     
    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25000888@N08/2536175241


  3. Yoga Helps you Discover Meaning in Life

    March 1, 2014

    Yoga Helps you Discover Meaning in Life

    by Melisa Marsett

    Have you ever thought why yoga gains popularity every day turning into one of the most popular spiritual practices? The person who is deeply in love with yoga will immediately answer this question. In addition to incredible health benefits, yoga gives at least general understanding of the meaning of human life. Yoga helps to find answers on the range of important questions that occur every day in the thoughts of people seeking for truth and the real purpose of our existence.

     

    Meaning in Feeling

     

    What’s the most important thing in life? Where and how we live our lives? According to yoga, we live in so-called “I”, we live our lives in our own feelings and everything else has no real relation to life. As strange as it may sound, but our life is our feelings, mood and emotions. When we have a good mood, we are inspired by everything – the world around us, people, atmosphere and even things. When we have a bad mood, nothing can force us to feel pleased and satisfied, even the most “valuable” and vital things which usually lead to happiness. When we are happy, the whole world is in harmony, everything brings joy to us, and vice versa.

    Therefore, generally speaking, the meaning of our life is to be happy. In other words, the meaning of life is to experience the feelings which give force, pleasure and joy. No matter how rich we are, money, power, houses, cars and sex mean nothing if all these do not please us. At the same time, if we live in harmony with the Spirit and experience the feeling of joy and life satisfaction, we will be happy even living, for example, in a cave and eating one spoon of rice per day. To improve the statement that the meaning of life is hidden in our feelings, we only should to look closely at our everyday life and feel the influence of our emotions.

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  4. Facing my Anxiety and Making Difficult Decisions

    February 20, 2014

    Facing my Anxiety and Making Difficult Decision

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

     

    3AM. My husband was sleeping soundly beside me while I lay awake. I wanted to sleep more than anything but couldn’t seem to do it. It was like I had drank twelve cups of coffee when I haven’t had a drop of regular in years. My hands shook as I puttered around my iPhone listlessly, hating that I’d be spending the next day at work with keyed up nerves. Why was this happening to me? What was going in my life that was making sleep nothing but a dream?

    If this sounds a little too familiar you might be one of the millions of anxiety sufferers losing sleep today. Like pain, sleeplessness and numerous other anxiety symptoms are often a sign that something is up. Unlike pain, however, the “up” doesn’t always have to be physical. It could be almost anything. But some psychologists believe that prolonged anxiety and depression are caused by a subconscious dissatisfaction of life. Weather you know it or not, something is not working out like you had hoped. So, how can you fix this?

    First, Take a deep breath. Deep breathing can lessen the feelings of panic and help make this process easier.

    Second, you have to look into yourself and ask a lot of important questions. Is this what I expected my job to be like? Am I really happy with my spouse or partner? Is there a sad anniversary coming up that I’m forgetting? This may take a long time, or no time, but it is always important to do.

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  5. How To Find Meaning In Your Day To Day Life

    August 31, 2013

    In search for meaning

    by Amanda O’Donnell

     

    Maybe when it comes to meaningful life you’re already set and have your goals defined. Maybe you have several things you’re working towards long term that you know will eventually bring you great life satisfaction. Maybe you’re raising kids and providing for a family. Maybe you have two years until that big promotion, or five until retirement. Maybe… Regardless if you’re lucky enough to have definite direction, playing out your daily life can be disheartening. Reminding yourself of your eventual accomplishments or the future enjoyment you’ll take from your life can get less and less easy. Your mind wanders, fills with doubt. What if this isn’t worth it? What if you never make it to the part of your life you’ve worked for? What if you’re wasting the right now?

    Finding solace in the everyday life can offer you relief from what can sometimes feel like the mundane passing of days and tasks. Here are some simple steps in the direction of your personal fulfillment.

     

    Remind Yourself Of Your Good Fortune

     

    Create a schedule or some system of expressing appreciation and thankfulness that best works for you. For instance set aside five minutes three times a day to sit and ruminate about the good things in your life. If your mind wanders and a good thing leads you to a less good thing and then a bad, refocus. Allow one good thing to lead to another good thing. Fifteen minutes a day might not seem long at all, but you’d be surprised about how many things you can give thanks for within a five minute of meditation. If you’re more comfortable writing the things down then do so. If you feel that actually saying the things aloud would mean a little more to you, then give yourself time in the morning to hear yourself say them. What might feel silly at first can really develop into a regular pattern of thought. Focusing your thought flow into a purely positive, appreciative stream (even if only for a few minutes) can make you more likely to naturally return to those thoughts later. You’ll find yourself thinking more positively about your life and situation, even when your five minutes are up!

     

    Make An Effort To Go Out Of Your Way

     

    Time and time again it’s been proven that people experience another level of fulfillment when helping others. It’s repeated back at us so often it’s become easy to write off this advice as cliched or empty. If you can’t see yourself taking all that much from an afternoon at the soup kitchen, then don’t spend an afternoon there. Sit down and really ask yourself what causes, groups of people or situations you have a vested interest in, and then think about what you could do to help. If you’re truly interested in the cause you’re helping, you’re more likely to know better how to help! And if you find yourself drawing up blank, then take it upon yourself to find something you have a passion for and make yourself of use. However, don’t think that helping people need always mean signing a volunteer list or setting aside three hours to hand out fliers on Saturdays. There are all sorts of ways you can lend a hand in your day to day life; take advantage of them! Bring a coworker coffee, hold the door open, ask someone who looks down how they’re feeling and offer an ear. When you start training yourself to consider others in various situations you’ll find yourself less focused on your own issues or dissatisfaction.

     

    Challenge Yourself

     

    Often feeling dissatisfied with your life or situation can just be a response to boredom. It makes complete sense. As your brain adjusts to the routine of your life and comes to expect certain daily things, the less stimulation you experience and the less chance for experiencing positive feelings! Some of the best feelings come from true accomplishment: setting out to do things we’re not entirely capable we can do and then doing them. You can challenge yourself and offer yourself these experiences in or outside of your daily routine. For instance, set personal goals for yourself in your daily work or at home. Assign yourself to create something. You haven’t read about something before? Do so! Set physical feats. Take weekend trips to places you haven’t been and do things you haven’t done and (better yet) are maybe afraid to do. Give yourself every opportunity to take something from your life and from each day.

     

    Author Bio: Amanda O’Donnell is a freelance writer for Zimmet Vein and Dermatology.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/76029035@N02/6829334723

     


  6. On Meaning In Life and Logotherapy – based on “Man’s Search for Meaning”

    May 18, 2013

    meaning in life and logotherapy

    “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for”. —Viktor Frankl

    by Amanda Greene

     

    An analysis of Viktor Frankl’s book on meaning of life and Logotherapy style of psychoanalysis.

     

    Psychiatrist, neurologist and social visionary Viktor Frankl developed Logotherapy/Existential Analysis (LTEA). In this school of thought in psychology, the search for a meaning in life is identified as the primary motivational force in human beings.

    Frankl’s approach is based on three philosophical and psychological concepts:

    • Freedom of Will
    • Will to Meaning
    • Meaning in Life

    The motivation for Frankl’s path in life as a psychiatrist was born of his own struggle and grief. He was imprisoned in four different Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, between 1942 and 1945. He beat some amazing odds and survived the ordeal although his parents, brother, and pregnant wife all fell victim to the horrors. Over three years’ time, with all that he witnessed in the death camps, he was able to turn his awful experience and the observations he made during it into a positive lesson for spiritual survival; he dedicated his life to helping and others through their psychological troubles and inspiring millions through his books.

    His most popular book, a recounting of his experiences during World War II is “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  It is also considered an influential self-help book that illustrates his school of thought, which is prevalent in psychotherapy practices still today.  The book has been translated into twenty four different languages and, at the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, his book had sold over 10 million copies. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is listed among the ten most influential books in America according to a reader survey that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life”.

    A recent Psychology Today  article explains Frankl’s message is “ultimately one of hope: even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanizing situation, life can be given a meaning, and so too can suffering.” His experiences in the horrendous conditions of a concentration camp were the catalyst of forming his school of thought in psychology that still applies today. What was no doubt some of the worst conditions imposed upon humans brought him to the deduction that human motivation in life is meaning. This was very different than the previous schools of thought from Freud and Adler who were also Viennese psychotherapists. Freud maintained that human motivation was based on pleasure.  Adler’s way of thinking was that power was the basis of human motivation. After his release Frankl founded the school of Logotherapy, which is often referred to as the ‘Third Viennese School of psychotherapy’ because it came after those of Freud and Adler. Logotherapy’s name comes from the Ancient Greek word logos meaning ‘reason’ or ‘principle’. The goal of Logotherapy is to carry out an existential analysis of the person and, in so doing, to help him discover meaning for his life. Frankl, believed that meaning can be found in the following three ways:

    • Creativity or giving something to the world through self- expression,
    • Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
    • Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

    Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues, “we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.” LTEA circles around the idea of the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful. He did not question why all of those innocent people died in the concentration camps, but pondered why any lived. It was not a question of wanting to live for many; it was finding meaning and purpose. According to Frankl, “The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in life.” He listed the three ways he believed individuals could achieve this: work (doing something significant), in love (caring for someone), and finding courage in difficult times. He maintained the idea that suffering in itself is meaningless; it is the way in which we respond to suffering that gives it meaning.

    Perhaps the most powerful message from Frankl that we can all learn from and can be applied to all events past, present and future is that forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except for one thing and that is the freedom to choose how you respond to a situation.

    His theories apply today, especially with the many unfortunate incidents that occur in our daily lives, personal tragedies and national incidents that make most question how and why. Senseless shootings, environmental accidents, threats of war, and depletion of Earth’s resources all contribute to negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Yet people still find meaning in the world and meaning in everyday life. When someone sets up a charity to honor loved ones lost so that others can be helped and when the father of a fallen US Soldier hands out American flags to promote pride of our country, they are doing something significant and not letting the circumstances out of their control interfere with responding in a way that has meaning.

    Born in Vienna in 1905 Viktor E. Frankl earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. He published more than thirty books on theoretical and clinical psychology and served as a visiting professor and lecturer at Harvard, Stanford, and elsewhere. In 1977 a fellow survivor, Joseph Fabry, founded the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Frankl died in 1997.

    His therapeutic techniques are still used by many psychologists and psychiatrists today in an effort to help people help themselves. This is achieved through self-analysis with the help of a psychotherapist and guided self-observation. The therapist revisits the improper behaviors in an exaggerated fashion so that it can be evident to the patient. The goal is to get to the point where patients can distance themselves from situations enough it can help them see the wrong thought patterns and inappropriate behaviors. Patients are then guided to making conscious decisions to find meaning in all situations and restore productive living.

     

    Author Bio: Amanda Greene is author and Brand Manager for RHL, online dorm essentials supplier. She enjoys writing about college life, psychology and education topics.

    Image Credit: Sheldon Wood