Brighten Someone’s Day With Some Feedback

Positive words to another person can really go a long way. Humans are social beings and our words are powerful things. In fact there are entire fields of psychology and philosophy dedicated to language and social interaction. When we are talking to people we can make ourselves and the other person feel pretty good, sometimes with a few simple words.

Research shows that compliments stimulate the part of the brain associated with performance and according to CARLA (Center For Advanced Research on Language Acquisition) compliments can have a variety of uses:

A great majority of compliments are addressed to people of similar age and status to the compliment giver (Knapp, Hopper, & Bell, 1984 [©]).

The way a compliment is received is dependent on the context in which it is given and the self-esteem of the receiver. People with a low self-esteem aren’t as receptive to compliments as people with a normal or high self-esteem.  Culture and upbringing can also affect this. For example there are cultures where it is more acceptable to compliment children or cultures where it might not be acceptable to compliment a person’s spouse…etc. Depending on upbringing, ideology and circumstances compliments may or may not be well received.

However when the situation allows it a compliment can go a long way to helping ourselves and the other person feel great. One study shows it stimulates the part of the brain responsible for a feeling of reward

Compliments are little gifts of love They are not asked for or demanded. They tell a person they are worthy of notice. They are powerful gifts.

Hara Estroff Marano

Even constructive criticism (i.e. You are doing it too fast, slow down a little and you will notice more detail or you’re soup will taste a lot better with a bit more onion…etc.) can be very positive. We must be careful to keep this kind of feedback positive but when carefully worded constructive criticism is often a practical way to help someone improve their job or life somehow.

Never be afraid to give someone a compliment. Even if the compliment is not well received no one in their right mind would ever get or stay angry and we have a much greater chance of brightening their day and your own.

 

 

 

 

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Journal Sunday August 26th, 2018: A New Resource Page

As ardent web surfer I have discovered so many great websites and resources I thought it was high time to start sharing them all. So this site will soon include a hope and happiness resource page.  I will likely do overviews of the really good ones individually before adding them because some warrant exploration and praise above and beyond others. The page will also include media resources such as books, movies and journals and links to people and organizations that can provide hope and happiness in some way.

It’s truly amazing the hope and happiness we can bring to each other and ourselves. We don’t need the external help of unproven entities, religious dogma or superstition. We don’t need the false promises of charlatans who lie and cheat and lighten our wallets. There are countless websites, people and organizations that can do that for us and in ways based on the sciences and the humanities. Bringing as many of these together in one resource page would be very useful indeed.

 

 

 

 

Acceptance and Action Part 2: Assessing the Possible

In part one of this series we discussed two possible approaches to a given situation: acceptance and action. The first and most important is action. Action is literally the only way to change anything, this is true on a physical and psychological level. As soon we have made a decision to act we have taken the first step in improving our situation. To take action we must first know what we can and can’t do and that is different for everyone but there are some universal rules to this:

What can you action and what can’t you?

  1. The Impossible: Some things really are impossible. Inspirational speakers and other motivators have been shouting ‘anything is possible!’ from the rooftops for decades. It is hard to go on the web these days and not see some variation of this somewhere. However, it’s not entirely true.  There are at least three things we can not do:
    1. We can not defy the laws of physics: This is common sense but warrants mentioning. There is no point wasting your time trying to invent a time machine if time travel is not possible according to the laws of physics.
    2. Human Law: Laws exist to help create a safe and peaceful environment. We can defy the law if we want to but we must be ready to face the consequences both legally and with our conscience.
    3. Ethics: Another we can defy but shouldn’t. This is listed as impossible because in ideal circumstances we would never defy our own moral code.
  2. Nearly Impossible: Even though we can not fly to the moon unassisted we could follow a career path that makes going to the moon a possibility. We could go to university, we could become a pilot or an astrophysicist and then we could apply to NASA, we could get accepted for a manned flight to the moon and achieve the goal of going to the moon. This is a good example of a nearly impossible goal. It is seemingly impossible but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
  3. Very Unlikely: The first stage within the scale of possibilities in which an idea, action or goal becomes achievable. When something is very unlikely the odds are very against a person trying to change a situation or achieve a goal but this can still become a reality with proper strategies and perseverance.
  4. Unlikely: This is the stage in the realm of possibilities in which have a very real opportunity to make something happen despite the odds being against it.
  5. Likely: At this stage there is no apparent reason to believe something won’t happen. We, generally speaking, don’t need to do anything to bring about the event or goal we desire.
  6. Very Likely: At this stage of possibility an action or circumstance has strong outside factors helping it become even a reality.
  7. Certain: Even external factors are unlikely to prevent this from happening. The sun rising or babies being born are good examples of things that are certain to happen everyday.

It can be difficult trying to determine how possible goal or action is but when that goal or action is important we really need to understand how possible it is. Once we know this we can use

goal setting

strategies to achieve our desired ends. The most basic strategy is to simply list obstacles

and use our critical thinking skills to determine whether or not those obstacles can be bypassed.  It’s also important to remember that time and circumstance can change how possible something is so even if it is impossible now we can always reassess later and so have no reason to give up something completely. That fact will keep us motivated and a little bit more hopeful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance and Action Part 1

Determinism has it’s fair of supporters and deniers but what they all have in common is a desire to have a solid answer to the philosophical question of fate’s existence. Supporters say that everything, even our choices, are the result of some other cause or causes such as natural laws or our biology.  These causes can be explained or unexplained, understood or not understood but there is always a cause. In the extreme case fatalists believe that these causes are entirely out of our control, that our lives are at the mercy of the Gods or some other supernatural force.

Indeterminism or freewill rejects the idea of fate and predictability, especially so with our choices. Supporters of free will say that our choices are ours to make and that we have a moral responsibility to make the right choices as much as possible. Even in circumstances beyond our control such illness or the death of a loved one we can still choose how we handle whatever our circumstances are in some way (i.e. instead of mourning the death of our lost loved one we can choose to remember how lucky we were to have them in our life).

Most people accept that our lives are some combination of determinism and free will. What degree of determinism and/or freewill we have is a debate as old philosophy itself. There exists two ways of handling each situation we find ourselves in:

Action: The first and most important step in shaping our lives. This is what we do when we use our power to make things better. Even by deciding to take action we reject determinism and take responsibility for our own lives. This has three parts:

  • Knowledge: We use our cumulative knowledge to asses our situation.
  • Experience: Drawing on past circumstances to help us determine the best course.
  • Morals: Doing our best to be sure the decision we have made falls within our boundaries of what’s right.

Acceptance: When circumstances are out of control there is always one option: acceptance. Acceptance takes back our power even in the most unpreventable of circumstances because we can always choose to accept our situation. We must be careful with acceptance because it’s a dangerous slippery slope to apathy and so acceptance is a last resort but it is always a feeling that we can choose to have.

Free will most certainly exists when we understand that acceptance is always an option. Some things are extremely hard or impossible for us to accept for many reason but the choice is, at least fundamentally, ours. So we therefore always have some power to control how we feel. Choosing what to accept and when to take action is a complicated matter but will be covered in future articles. Just  remember you can always choose acceptance and take back your power to be content no matter what situation you find yourself in.

 

Journal July 22nd, 2018: Potential for Greatness

Another bit of a hiatus is over. Time to start thinking of moving the site to the greatness it could become. Work and family obligations have made it difficult to be as serious as I need to be in order for the site to reach as many people as I like. There are two great things that could come out of reaching more people:

  1. Giving Hope to People: At the very least providing a start to finding meaning in life and showing how it is possible to be a happy, productive person without the need for religion or superstition, a happiness based on the humanities. Sharing of information of all types is extremely important, especially when the information has so much penitential to positively impact people.
  2. Financial: The reality is websites aren’t free. I don’t mind paying because I enjoy doing it and I am lucky to be able to share something positive with the world, that makes me feel pretty good. The ideal situation would be to be making a profit and start giving to charity or be able to dedicate more time to the blog.

My personal situation changes in the fall so more regular posting should be possible, I hope so because there is so much potential for greatness.

 

Image result for there is no heavier burden than a unfulfilled potential

 

 

Purpose worksheet: A Start To A More Meaningful Life

There are almost as many different kinds of purpose in life as there people on the planet but finding the one that makes us happy and content is not always easy.  Everyone is in a different set of psychological and environmental circumstances and so it’s impossible to list all of the reasons someone might not have found their purpose yet but there are some common obstacles:

Psychological: Some types personality traits are ‘hard-wired’ into a person’s brain and they may be unable to find the happiness or satisfaction that comes with purpose even if they found something they are good at and/or enjoy doing. Mental illnesses, personality disorders and brain injuries can compound this issue.

Social: Feeling pressured into a certain lifestyle or career choice by friends and/or family. For example some people feel obligated to follow in their family’s footsteps or carry on a tradition for some reason.

Cultural: Socio-economic circumstances can force people into certain jobs and/or lifestyles. Such as being conscripted into the military or caring for a sick loved one because no other care is available.

There billions of people in billions of different circumstances and so sometimes people do not find their purpose. However if you don’t know your purpose or can’t find it professionals have developed ways to help. Like the following worksheet created by unstuck.com

 

It has 4 parts:

  1. Pinpoint Your Values: It really does start there. You need to understand what is important to you.
  2. Consider Your options: This is always a good thing to do. We don’t often enough stop to think about what our options are.
  3. Make Room For What You Love: Need I say more?
  4. Filter By Purpose: Do your decisions tie in with your purpose in life?

The worksheet is fantastic, the folks at Unstuck.com did a  great job. It’s a great first step to leading more fulfilling life. The full worksheet.

Some more reading:

Why It’s So Hard to Find Your Life’s Purpose

Why It’s Hard To Find Your “Life Purpose” In Today’s World

 

 

 

Nature’s Power To Make Us Happy

Most of us know the relaxing feeling of being in nature. Being in a natural setting can be empowering, calming and can make us more focused and energized. Even a simple stroll in the neighborhood park can have this affect. These affects are well documented:

‘ Urban public greenspaces form the arena of many people’s daily contact with nature and such contact has measurable physical and psychological benefits.’

This study reveals a pathway by which nature experience may improve mental well-being and suggests that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.

The reasons for this effect are unclear; but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces. A few studies have, however, looked into the root cause and all of them have suggested that nature triggers the parts of your brain responsible for relaxation and calm. In one study for example scientists used fMRI technology to measure the affects of nature of rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self), a known risk factor for mental illness. They measured participants before and after a 90 minute walk in a natural or urban setting

“Even so, participants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety—a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.”

A 2013 study using an EEG  ‘showed evidence of lower frustration, engagement and arousal, and higher meditation when moving into the green space zone; and higher engagement when moving out of it. (Source)

We don’t even necessarily need to be in nature. Videos, pictures and audio can also have this affect. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that

“Viewing green scenes may thus be particularly effective in supporting relaxation and recovery after experiencing a stressful period, and thereby could serve as an opportunity for micro-restorative experiences and a promising tool in preventing chronic stress and stress-related diseases.”

So even when we are busy taking a few minutes to enjoy some pictures, audio and/or video can help us stay relaxed and focused. Thanks to the internet these things are widely available. Here are five ways to easily keep nature in your life:

  • Get outside:  Even in big cities there are nearly always parks and trails nearby most homes and all you need is a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths and you you will feel much better.
  • Decorate your home: You don’t need to be extravagant but a couple of plants or nice pictures on your wall can help you stay in touch with nature.
  • Set your device background: Most of us has access to a cell phone, tablet or computer. Set your background to something nice.
  • Watch: YouTube and other video sources have plenty of great, relaxing nature videos.
  • Listen: Nature sounds are  available in all forms of audio from dvds to mp3s. Some are set to calming music to help you relax.

Best of all this kind of relaxation is free. The planet has given of us plenty of free nature to enjoy and relax in. No matter what you do keep nature part of your life and you will always be, at least a little bit, healthier and happier.

Here are some good free sources online:

YouTube Channels

Johnnie Lawson

Somerset Entertainment Home of Nature Sounds pioneer Dan Gibson’s Solitudes

Soothing Relaxation

Audio:

https://www.calmsound.com/

http://meditationroom.org/free-nature-sounds/

 

 

Journal April 16, 2018

Looks like a new theme might be in order for the website because the homepage is not loading for me. It doesn’t work in any browser or on mobile. I contacted support and they said (with proof) that it’s working fine for them but I asked a couple of friends and it’s not loading for them either. So posts are going to be a bit infrequent until I decide on an appropriate theme.

The name ‘Never Thought To Question’ is the last remnant of a blog that was once so much more negative and aggressive in it’s approach. The title comes from a song (Judith by a Perfect Circle). It was the perfect match for two main reasons:

1. The song is very anti-religion: So was the blog. At one point the blog was specifically anti-theist. I told myself it was about the religion and not the people following it. I soon realised this wasn’t always true and began to give serious thought to how unproductive that kind of talk is. It helps no one to constantly criticize, make fun  of and belittle anything or anyone. So I changed my approach and it honestly feels a lot better. As such if I change the theme I will be changing the name to Happiness is Free. I will also add a new tagline that I haven’t decided on yet.

2. People not questioning their beliefs is the root of religion and superstition: Not entirely but true but a fairly common reason. I felt that if I could just get people to question their beliefs even for a moment then maybe I can rid the world of religion and superstition. This aggressive and negative attitude hung around for far too long. It made sense to me at the time though.

So with a change of heart, a more positive and helpful approach and a much clearer conscience a name change seems appropriate and with technical problems a new theme too. I look forward to many more positive changes.

 

Forgiveness Is…

When one considers the stress of carrying all the resentment, anger and hate that goes with not forgiving “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” (Louis B. Smedes). Forgiveness is important for many reasons and Positive psychology says forgiveness is:

“a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

It’s also important to recognize what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness doesn’t mean idly accepting wrongdoings or forgetting that a person has a tendency to act badly in some way. ‘You do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.’ (Greater Good Berkeley)

Psychology Tools has an excellent PDF defining what forgiveness is and what it is not:

Once we understand forgiveness the next step is practicing it and lucky for us experts like Robert Enright have defined a process for doing this. Enright’s  Eight Keys to Forgiveness:

  1. Know what forgiveness is and why it matters: We understand what forgiveness is and what it is not (see above). So why does it matter? Psychologically it relieves us of the burden of resentment, anger and hate. Depending on the situation forgiveness also allows for a rebuilding of damaged relationships,  closure in unfortunate situations (moving on), and the learning that goes with positive reflection on a wrongdoing.
  2. Become “forgivingly fit: Forgiveness, like most things, improves with practice. “It’s important to cultivate this mindset of valuing our common humanity, so that it becomes harder to discount someone who has harmed you as unworthy.”
  3. Address your inner pain: Know who has hurt and why. Acknowledge the bad feeling or harm that person has caused you and address it in a healthy way (i.e. talk to someone or seek professional help) “There are many forms of emotional pain; but the common forms are anxiety, depression, unhealthy anger, lack of trust, self-loathing or low self-esteem, an overall negative worldview, and a lack of confidence in one’s ability to change. All of these harms can be addressed by forgiveness; so it’s important to identify the kind of pain you are suffering from and to acknowledge it. “
  4. Develop a forgiving mind through empathy: Research shows that forgiving someone activates the parts of your brain responsible for empathy. When we forgive we begin to see why the person responsible did what they did and what issues they might be dealing with that caused them to do you harm. It works both ways: when we understand we can forgive and when we forgive can begin to understand. “Recognizing that we all carry wounds in our hearts can help open the door to forgiveness.”
  5. Find meaning in your suffering: This can be hard to do when feeling angry, resentful or hurt by someone but an important part of the process. We can learn from what went wrong and ‘try to see how our suffering has changed us in a positive way.’ Some people see it as learning experience (i.e. that’s a person I can’t trust or that person doesn’t like it when I so such and such or I need to be better prepared next time….etc.). Some people view suffering as a building of their ability to cope (resilience) “To find meaning is not to diminish your pain or to say, I’ll just make the best of it or all things happen for a reason. You must always take care to address the woundedness in yourself and to recognize the injustice of the experience, or forgiveness will be shallow.”
  6. When forgiveness is hard, call upon other strengths: Forgiveness can be hard, even seemingly impossible and in these times we can call upon other supports to help us.  We can do this by first accepting that we aren’t perfect either and forgiveness will not always be easy. We can then call upon other supports in our lives to find the courage to forgive.
  7. Forgive yourself: We can be hard on ourselves when we are the ones who have done wrong in some way. However when we forgive ourselves we “offer to yourself what you offer to others who have hurt you: a sense of inherent worth, despite your actions.”
  8. Develop a forgiving heart: I’m not one to simply copy and paste content but I could not find better words:When we overcome suffering, we gain a more mature understanding of what it means to be humble, courageous, and loving in the world. We may be moved to create an atmosphere of forgiveness in our homes and workplaces, to help others who’ve been harmed overcome their suffering, or to protect our communities from a cycle of hatred and violence. All of these choices can lighten the heart and bring joy to one’s life. Some people may believe that love for another who’s harmed you is not possible. But, I’ve found that many people who forgive eventually find a way to open their hearts. If you shed bitterness and put love in its place, and then repeat this with many, many other people, you become freed to love more widely and deeply. This kind of transformation can create a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone.” (Enright, 2015)

As a humanist the sentence “a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone” as a lot of meaning.  Humanists like myself don’t believe in the afterlife as described by religion.  Our only eternal life is the one that resides in people’s memories of us and so we strive to make that afterlife a good one and it must include forgiveness.

 

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

https://psychologytools.com/positive-psychology.html

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/forgiveness/definition#what-is

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/forgiveness/

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