I’ve mentioned before that I follow the Greater Good Science project done at Berkeley University. I subscribe to their newsletter and today I was reading through a few articles and came across the book below:
According to Strecher, the strength of one’s life purpose—which involves a combination of living according to your values and goals, and striving to make a positive difference in the world—can be measured, and it correlates highly with psychological wellness and even markers of physical health and longevity.
I’m not sure I have a life purpose except that when I gave up work full-time I felt much, much happier and healthier. I’m not making a difference in the world, and what Strecher makes clear is that it isn’t easy.
“Of course, giving lip service to having a purpose in life is not going to cut it. It has to be genuine and to truly reflect your goals and values. Also, there is a difference between finding your purpose and acting upon it, says Strecher.
“The dynamic process of aligning yourself with your life purpose requires energy and willpower: wind in your sails to move you forward, and a strong rudder to prevent being blown off course,” he writes.”
He goes further,
“If I were you, I wouldn’t wait around for more research. I’d just get a purpose,” writes Strecher. “The scientific evidence supporting the benefits of one is extremely promising, and, at the risk of sounding a bit alarmist, we need it.”
Not sure I have the willpower or a purpose but I am more grateful generally and living more keenly in the present. Mindfulness needs to be practised not just thought about so willpower is definitely important for me. I was tired this morning and not very focused so when the Greater Good Science email came through it helped me get back on track. I also read about the more detailed specifics about a gratitude diary. At the moment I just tear off the next page of my calendar and write it on the back and put it in the box the calendar came in.
Apparently, when you dig into the research, you find that gratitude journals don’t always work—some studies show incredible benefits, others not so much.
Emmons, a professor at the University of California, shared these research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from your gratitude journal.
- Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
- Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
- Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
- Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
- Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
- Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counter intuitive, but it is how the mind works.”
So all this year I have been doing it wrong…for me though it is having the time to just stop and think and I know I couldn’t persevere at all if I was working full-time. Now I can rethink the journal and adjust how I do it. Friends who are working full-time find it really hard to fit daily practices in of any kind when they are working so hard.
Last night I watch all four episodes of Why Am I? based on the longitudinal study of over one thousand babies born in Dunedin in 1972 (which is why I’m tired but I just couldn’t help ti, they were addictive). Forty years later 94% of participants are still in the study. In terms of scientific research this is very unusual. It is gripping viewing and the research out of it is incredible-something like one published paper every two weeks for forty years.
I can’t remotely summarise it here but some of it is what we intuitively know and it can be hugely mitigated if we put resources and weight behind the research. The most obvious is that a happy, secure childhood is absolutely critical to an adult’s well-being. Teaching children self-control is also highly possible and important. The outcomes for Moko if he had survived look grim.
Other results are really surprising and ground breaking and they seem to apply the world over. Our very high suicide rate is inexcusable and unacceptable. The really surprising outcome for me was that children raised in poverty cannot escape their past. Even if they go on as adults to live prosperous and healthy lives, the poverty legacy remains and the health outcomes don’t change. The inflammation in childhood stays in the body. So the millions it costs in combating crime, poor health, victim impacts, the economy, etc etc could be minimalised by focusing on and resourcing babies and the under fives. I can do without a damn tax break, I want my money put into children.
It is completely absorbing and compelling viewing. Let me know what you think if you watch it.
I went to Christchurch for a few days this week and getting to and from the Auckland Airport was a nightmare. Pouring rain, heinous congestion and 2.5 hours before I actually walked into the airport. However, once I reached Christchurch I loved the proper autumn weather and even the autumn chill. Having four clear seasons is rather lovely. The Riccarton market in Dean’s bush is still my favourite as it doesn’t just have the luxury extras like chutney, it has gorgeous greens and fresh vegetables of all kinds.
I did experience a little shake though…no-one else even noticed but it was there on Geonet.
I’ve just finished God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson’s follow-up novel to Life After Life. They are both fantastic if you need a good read. My father was a radio man flying Sunderlands in the war and this gave me a real insight into the whole horrendous bombing raids over Germany.
Any way, it’s stopped raining for a bit so on with a raincoat and off for a walk. Doris Lessing probably has it right. Have a good week, FG