Category Archives: Happiness

How Dogs Help People Get Along Better

How Dogs Help People Get Along BetterI have had many dogs in my life, and I have often experienced the mood boost and support that can come from spending time with a furry creature. Their warmth and fluffiness have been life-supports in times of need. This article explains the research suggesting why dogs help people and can be a benefit in many types of situations.I also had a dog named Casey who was the most friendly and loving dog I ever knew! – Terri

How Dogs Help People Get Along Better

By Jill Suttie | March 6, 2017 A new study suggests that when dogs are around, groups are closer, more cooperative, and more trusting.  

My dog, Casey, is one of my favorite beings on the planet. Not only is he extremely cute, his presence calms me, makes me happy, and helps me to meet new people…especially when I take a walk with him.

My husband and I often joke that if everyone had a dog like Casey, there simply wouldn’t be any wars—the assumption being that everyone would just get along if he were around. Now, a new study suggests that we might be onto something.

Researchers at Central Michigan University gave small groups tasks to do with or without a companion dog in the room. In the first experiment, groups generated a 15-second ad and slogan for a fictional project—a task requiring cooperation. In the second experiment, groups played a modified version of the prisoner’s dilemma game, in which individual members decide whether to cooperate with one another or to look out only for themselves. All of these interactions were videotaped.

Afterward, participants reported on how satisfied they felt with the group and how much they trusted group members. In addition, independent raters analyzed the video recordings, looking for displays of cooperation, verbal and physical signs of bonding or closeness, and expressions of vulnerability that indicated trust.

Regardless of the task, groups with a dog showed more verbal and physical signs of closeness than groups without a dog. Also, raters observed more signs of cooperation during the first task, and group members reported that they trusted each other more during the second task, if a dog was in the room.

These results suggest that there is something about the presence of a dog that increases kind and helpful behavior in groups.

“When people work in teams, the presence of a dog seems to act as a social lubricant,” says lead author Steve Colarelli. “Dogs seem to be beneficial to the social interactions of teams.”

Why would that be? Could it be that dogs make us feel good, which then impacts our social behavior?

To test that idea, the researchers asked independent raters to watch 40-second videos of the groups edited from the first study—with the sound off and no evidence of the dog in the room—and to note how often they saw indicators of positive emotions (like enthusiasm, energy, and attentiveness). The raters noticed many more good feelings in groups with a companion dog in the room than in groups with no dog, lending some support for their theory.

Although the dogs didn’t seem to impact performance on the group tasks during this short experiment, Colarelli believes that the observed social and emotional benefits could have impacts on group performance over time.

“In a situation where people are working together for a long period of time, and how well the team gets along—do they speak together, have rapport, act cooperatively, help one another—could influence the outcome of the team, then I suspect a dog would have a positive impact,” he says.

Of course, not everyone likes dogs, and some people may even be allergic. Colarelli says that we shouldn’t just start bringing dogs into every workplace—there would be a lot of factors to consider.

But his work adds to a body of research that suggests that dogs impact social interactions and personal well-being. Past studies have shown that people accompanied by dogs tend to elicit more helpful responses from others and that dogs in the workplace can reduce stress. Though most of this kind of research has been done on individuals or pairs, Colarelli’s study shows the positive impacts of dogs may extend to groups.

While the study is relatively preliminary, Colarelli believes that his results tie into another area of research finding positive effects when people are exposed to natural elements—which he thinks could include dogs and other animals—on wellness in the workplace.

Perhaps it’s time I consider letting Casey come to our next staff meeting…for everyone’s sake.

The Secret to a Happy Life

By Terri Mudge

When I stumbled upon this Ted Talk, I had to share. After watching this video, I immediately ran to my husband and hugged him!  This video is worth the watch, and it will tell you the secret to happiness!!

Robert Waldinger is the fourth person to lead this research study that has been going on for 75 years! Essentially, since 1938 they compared and tracked 724 men in two groups, and their children, now over 2000 people, to see how their lives turned out. Comparing and contrasting a group from the poorest area in Boston with a group of sophomores in Harvard College.

Robert Waldinger says, “The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. We’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.”

“The clearest message that we get from this study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
Robert Waldinger-Video

 

Nature – The Best Kept Secret – It’s Better Than Drugs

023By Terri Mudge

Nature is Captivating!

I have been captivated by the power of nature! When I stumbled on some research that proved its power in restoring our wellbeing, I paid attention. Here’s what I found.

Studies at a hospital in Pennsylvania from 1972-81 generated some interesting data about the power of nature. Identical hospital rooms on either side of the building were the same except the view from the windows–one side faced a brick wall, while the other side faced a small stand of trees.  Over many years, the patients facing the natural environment required less pain medication and recovered a day sooner than those facing the brick wall. Patients gazing out at a natural scene were four times better off than their counterparts!

In another study, psychologists studied a group of parents living with their children in upstate New York. While many of the families experienced hardships and stresses when their children were growing up, those that lived in more natural environments seemed to withstand stresses better and show a higher level of self-esteem and lower stress.

Another study asked hundreds of parents of children with ADD (attention deficit disorder), again and again reports showed that those playing outside in nature or even simply viewing nature from inside, were happier and more likely to interact with friends.

Nature Draws Us In

What is it about the natural environment? How does this work? William James, an early psychologist from the 1800s explained “involuntary attention” as something that gets our attention without any mental effort on our part. Our natural environment is full of things that capture our attention involuntarily, such as water rippling in the wind, breezes blowing clouds across the sky and ocean currents sending waves ashore. And this restores us! In the same way food and water restore our bodies, we can benefit from nature restoring our mental functioning that takes a beating in everyday life.

Nature Restores Us

Psychologists refer to this as the “Attention Restoration Theory” (ART).  One article by Adam Alter explains it this way:

“According to ART, urban environments are draining because they force us to direct our attention to specific tasks (e.g., avoiding the onslaught of traffic) and grab our attention dynamically, compelling us to “look here!” before telling us to instead “look over there!” These demands are draining — and they’re also absent in natural environments.”

Our natural environments demand nothing and yet they are ever-changing. When they move and shift, they grab our attention, require nothing, and provide an opportunity to restore our exhausted minds. Let’s challenge each other to take some time out this week to spend a couple hours with nature without any agenda of doing anything specific or urgent. Just be. Just soak it in and take note of how it changes your mood and mindset.

Prescription For Nature - Video Screenshot

Posted by 4biddenknowledge on Tuesday, February 2, 2016

 

Source: Alter, Adam. “DailyGood: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies.” DailyGood: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies. DailyGood, 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

The Zen of Basketball

basketball in the spotlightIt was Nov. 23, 1991, and towering NBA rookie Dikembe Mutombo was facing off against the league’s reigning star, Michael Jordan, for the first time in his career. Earlier that season, the Congolese center had declared that Jordan would never dunk on him.

Never one to back down from some good trash talk, when Jordan went to the free throw line to put the finishing touch on a Bulls victory that night, he chirped, “Hey Mutombo, this one’s for you,” before coolly stepping to the line, closing his eyes tight, and sinking the free throw—nothing but net. “Welcome to the NBA.”

It is a classic example of Jordan’s legendary competitiveness. But it also points to another skill His Airness might have had on the court: mindfulness, the moment-by-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness has been getting a lot of attention lately, with cutting-edge research suggesting it can help people do everything from quit smoking to reduce racism.

But to professional athletes, mindfulness is really nothing new—it’s key to getting “in the zone,” where their senses are heightened and their minds and bodies are in perfect sync, to the point where they can sometimes even sink a free throw with their eyes closed. And over the past few years, studies have been documenting what Jordan and other elite competitors have long known first-hand: that mindfulness can give players a leg-up on the court. As the NBA heads into its Finals—where Jordan won six championships and six MVP awards— and the Warriors and Cavaliers are looking for any advantage they can get, it’s a good time to take stock of what these studies have found.

At George Mason University, researchers recently offered the men’s basketball team a voluntary, five-week mindfulness training, and studied the results. Over eight 90-minute sessions, the 13 players on the team learned basic mindfulness techniques like mindful breathing, where they simply focused on their breath going in and out of their body, and mindfulness exercises like noticing how their body reacts when they experience stress or counting backward from 100 by sevens while listening to a partner tell a story—a way to sharpen their focus. They also did an hour of yoga after each session.

Before and after the training, the players also completed a variety of surveys measuring their levels of mindfulness and other skills. The group was relatively small, and the researchers didn’t measure the athletes’ performance on the court before or after the training, but the study points toward statistically relevant benefits for athletes who undergo mindfulness training: By the end of the five weeks, the results showed that they were experiencing greater mindfulness, reported more enthusiasm and energy in pursuing their goals, and felt less stress.

This study also builds on older research showing similar results.

For instance, a study published in 1990 out of the University of Winnipeg found that a group of women basketball players improved at a specific defensive skill after practicing a series of exercises designed to enhance their relaxation and focus. The players worked on visualizing certain actions and tasks specific to their sport (a technique called “imagery rehearsal”) and on improving their “self-talk”—their inner dialogue, with an emphasis on positive reinforcement.

Another specific skill studied by mindfulness researchers is free throws; with their heavily mental component, it’s no surprise why.

A 2009 study found Division I college basketball players who scored higher on a mindfulness survey performed better at the free throw line during games.

“[M]indfulness-based interventions could thus be expected to result in a substantial and meaningful increase in free throw percentage, an amount that would likely impact a team’s overall win/loss percentage dramatically,” the authors, Amy Gooding and Frank Gardner, conclude.

Jordan, a career 83 percent free throw shooter, is one of the greatest basketball players in history, but his coach was also Phil Jackson, the “Zen Master” who taught his players mindfulness on his way to collecting 11 NBA championship rings. Mutombo, meanwhile, never even cracked 70 percent on his free throws, well below the league average of 75 percent.

Jackson taught his players meditation and would try things in their training routines that were designed to sharpen their skills of mindful awareness and perception, like having them practice without talking or with the lights turned down low.

A more recent study, published in March, indicates that Jackson may have been on to something. It found that the best free throw shooters have exceptionally high “proprioception,” an intuitive sense of how their limbs and joints are positioned, even while blindfolded. In the study, French researchers had people take 100 free throws, 50 while standing and 50 while seated. They also blindfolded the study participants and put their elbows and wrists in various configurations, then saw how well the participants could reproduce those physical configurations on their own—a way to measure their bodily awareness, a skill related to mindfulness.

There were significant correlations between subjects’ free-throw shooting ability and their sense of body positioning for their wrist and elbow joints, noted the study’s authors, Violaine Sevrez and Christophe Bourdin.

The growing body of evidence suggesting the benefits of mindfulness on individuals’ and teams’ athletic performance could be meaningful for everyone from rec-league chuckers to the high-flying professionals. During the first round of the NBA playoffs this year, the San Antonio Spurs purposefully fouled Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan at the end of games. Jordan, a 70 percent shooter from the field, morphs into an awkward, fumbling, 45 percent shooter at the foul line. Advice has poured in from several “shot doctors,” and Jordan tweaked his pre-shot routine—to no avail.

Phil Jackson teamed with George Mumford, a sports psychologist and meditation teacher, to impart mindfulness to his players, including Michael Jordan, because he felt it helped the players manage stress, stay in the moment, and maintain focus.

“As much as we pump iron and we run to build our strength up, we need to build our mental strength up so we can focus … and so we can be in concert with one another in times of need,” the coach told Oprah Winfrey in a 2013 interview.

Maybe all the Clipper’s Jordan needs is a visit from the retired Jordan’s old coach.

How Awe Makes Us Generous

~ Greater Good Science Center ~

 

Child in awe

What do the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel, and gazing at distant stars all have in common?

They can awaken a deep appreciation for the world around us and inspire a profound sense of awe. This sensation is often accompanied by an awareness of something larger than ourselves—that we play a small part in an intricate cosmic dance that is life.

But is that experience strictly personal? New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

“For hundreds of years, people have talked about the importance of awe to human life and interpersonal relations,” says Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. “And just now we are beginning to devise tools for testing it and understanding it.”

Piff and his team conducted a series of experiments to investigate the types of experiences that inspire awe, how awe facilitates positive behavior towards others, and how these effects are distinct from those of other pro-social emotions.

In the first study, participants were asked to rate the frequency that they generally feel awe, and then completed a test that measured generous behavior. Results showed that those who experience more awe tend to behave more generously, even after accounting for other positive emotions like compassion or love. While this finding was highly encouraging, the team had yet to prove that awe directly led to positive behavior towards others.

In a second study, participants recalled a time they felt awe—such as the view from a mountaintop or a brilliant ocean sunset—and then were asked to complete an ethical decision-making task. Once again, those who experienced awe demonstrated significantly more ethical behavior as compared to those who recalled other emotions such as pride.

Participants consistently reported that awe produced “a reduced sense of self importance relative to something larger and more powerful that they felt connected to,” says Piff. And subsequent analysis confirmed that this feeling of the “small self” was responsible for their ethical behavior. This seems to suggest that experiencing awe prompts people to help others.

Yet another experiment exposed different groups to an awe-inspiring nature video such as Planet Earth, a funny animal video, or a neutral video. Once again, people who experienced awe reported a feeling of a “small self” which triggered more generous behavior.

And these effects were shown to be applicable outside the lab, as well. After gazing up at a grove of towering eucalyptus trees for one full minute, participants were more helpful when a researcher “accidentally” dropped a box of pens on the ground than those who just stared at a large building.

But does awe continue to have its beneficial effects on social behavior even if the stimulus is threatening or isn’t associated with nature at all? Indeed, after exposure to videos of threatening natural disasters (e.g. volcanoes) or beautiful close-up slow motion footage of colored drops of water, participants also showed a greater tendency toward fairness when distributing resources between themselves and another individual.

“Even these minute droplets remind you of the intricacy and complexity of natural world, and in so doing bring about feelings of awe and the small self,” says Piff. “And that is one of the remarkable qualities of awe. You don’t have to climb a huge mountain and take in a grand view to feel it.”

Piff is now investigating whether awe can spread between people, the degree to which these positive effects are seen in those who vicariously experience awe, and if these effects apply universally across cultures.

“When people experience awe they really want to share that experience with other people, suggesting that it has this particularly viral component to it,” says Piff. “Maybe this is yet another way that awe binds people together—by causing people to want to share their positive experiences collectively with one another.”

 

Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude – Appreciation – Thankfulness

Image Credit: Fotolia

Image Credit: Fotolia

Today, I get to wake up late, go for a run, have a long leisurely breakfast, and then spend time with people I love.

The things I am grateful for: puppy dogs, a warm bed, people to love, kids, smiles, laughter, silly things to say and do, going for walks with friends or alone, reading a funny book, Nature – turtles, trees, butterflies….

So, just like Julie Andrews suggests… ‘these are a few of my favorite things.” And, if I take the time to acknowledge these, to be grateful for them instead of forgetting and just being aware of the things that annoy me, then life looks a lot brighter.

Have you heard about the 40 day Gratitude challenge? The idea is to take time to journal every day on 1 thing you are grateful for. I began this more than 40 days ago, and here’s what I found… almost every time I sat down to write about one thing, I found that I couldn’t stop writing. I was just amazed at how rich this was. Any topic, especially people, I would just begin to say one thing, “I am grateful for my kids”, and then I could write a page or more of things I appreciate in them.

So, I do encourage you to try this. You may be amazed at what you already have.

Doing my best to …. Live Life on Purpose…

Terri Mudge