Namely, the part where he criticizes Obama for calling Americans “exceptional.”
In Putin’s words, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”
While there are obviously parts of the letter that warrant an international face palm, on this point I have to agree. Because the things that get us into the most trouble and make us the most miserable tend to start with some form of separation.
Comparison traps, for example, are just personal measurements against someone else’s “specialness.”
Anger is rooted in division, e.g. “You did this.”
And let’s not forget, the Middle East wouldn’t even be in this mess if there were no attempts to make one form of religion more “exceptional” than another.
That thought system is backwards.
So what if — right now — we stopped viewing everyone and everything as “separate” from ourselves?
The colleague you despise? How would you treat her differently if you genuinely believed she were no different than you?
The family member or ex you never forgave? Same thing.
Now let’s make it really interesting.
Terrorists, traffickers, prisoners, child abusers, Westboro Baptist Church members… we view these groups and many others as the scourge of the earth, but what if we could see through even the thickest layers of darkness to the equality at our core?
What if we could accept everyone — regardless of how heinous their crime — as a human being no more or less special than anyone else?
Think about that for a moment.
If this idea makes you insolent and outraged, guess what? That’s your darkness and, to truly be mindful, you have to face it.
In other words, you have to get honest about what’s going on there because only honesty can create the vulnerable state required for growth.
Darkness can’t drive out darkness, remember?
That’s precisely the thinking that got us here in the first place.
I know this is hard work and — believe me — my job is not to excuse illegal, aggressive, or hurtful behavior. There are indeed times when the best course of action is to cut someone out of your life, change companies, hire a good lawyer, or all of the above.
But it IS my job to help you get rid of perspectives that aren’t useful and separation is among the most damaging.
So condemn the act.
Condemn the darkness.
Condemn the circumstances that drove the vicious behavior.
But free the person.
Because only in freeing them will you free yourself — and only then will you have the mental white space to ask the questions that matter most.
What am I supposed to learn here?
How can I use this to benefit others?
Very few of us will ever reach this point, but the good news is you can — and when you do you’ll be participating in the solution versus just feeding the problem.
Now, wouldn’t that be exceptional?
In his 2004 Ted Talk, Seligman describes three different kinds of happy lives: The pleasant life, in which you fill your life with as many pleasures as you can, the life of engagement, where you find a life in your work, parenting, love and leisure and the meaningful life, which “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.”
After exploring what accounts for ultimate satisfaction, Seligman says he was surprised. The pursuit of pleasure, research determined, has hardly any contribution to a lasting fulfillment. Instead, pleasure is “the whipped cream and the cherry” that adds a certain sweetness to satisfactory lives founded by the simultaneous pursuit of meaning and engagement.
And while it might sound like a big feat to to tackle great concepts like meaning and engagement (pleasure sounded much more doable), happy people have habits you can introduce into your everyday life that may add to the bigger picture of bliss. Joyful folk have certain inclinations that add to their pursuit of meaning — and motivate them along the way.
They surround themselves with other happy people.
Joy is contagious. Researchers of the Framingham Hear Study who investigated the spread of happiness over 20 years found that those who are surrounded by happy people “are more likely to become happy in the future.” This is reason enough to dump the Debbie Downers and spend more time with uplifting people.
They smile when they mean it.
Even if you’re not feeling so chipper, cultivating a happy thought — and then smiling about it — could up your happiness levels and make you more productive, according to a study published in the Academy of Management Journal. It’s important to be genuine with your grin: The study revealed that faking a smile while experiencing negative emotions could actually worsen your mood.
They cultivate resilience.
According to psychologist Peter Kramer, resilience, not happiness, is the opposite of depression: Happy people know how to bounce back from failure. Resilience is like a padding for the inevitable hardship human beings are bound to face. As the Japanese proverb goes, “Fall seven times and stand up eight.”
They try to be happy.
Yep — it’s as simple as it sounds: just trying to be happy can boost your emotional well-being, according to two studies recently published in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Those who actively tried to feel happier in the studies reported the highest level of positive moods, making a case for thinking yourself happy.
They are mindful of the good.
It’s important to celebrate great, hard-earned accomplishments, but happy people give attention to their smaller victories, too. “When we take time to notice the things that go right — it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day,” Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D. told The Huffington Post in May. “That can help with our moods.” And, as Frank Ghinassi, Ph.D. explains, being mindful of the things that do go your way (even something as simple as the barista getting your coffee order right) can make you feel a greater sense of accomplishment throughout the day.
They appreciate simple pleasures.
A meticulously swirled ice cream cone. An boundlessly waggy dog. Happy people take the time to appreciate these easy-to-come-by pleasures. Finding meaning in the little things, and practicing gratitude for all that you do have is associated with a sense of overall gladness.
They devote some of their time to giving.
Even though there are only 24 hours in a day, positive people fill some of that time doing good for others, which in return, does some good for the do-gooders themselves. A long-term research project called Americans’ Changing Lives found a bevy of benefits associated with altruism: “Volunteer work was good for both mental and physical health. People of all ages who volunteered were happier and experienced better physical health and less depression,” reported Peggy Thoits, the leader of one of the studies.
Givers also experience what researchers call “the helper’s high,” a euphoric state experienced by those engaged in charitable acts. “This is probably a literal “high,” similar to a drug-induced high,” writes Christine L. Carter, Ph.D. “The act of making a financial donation triggers the reward center in our brains that is responsible for dopamine-mediated euphoria.”
They let themselves lose track of time. (And sometimes they can’t help it.)
When you’re immersed in an activity that is simultaneously challenging, invigorating and meaningful, you experience a joyful state called “flow.” Happy people seek this sensation of getting “caught up” or “carried away,” which diminishes self-consciousness and promotes the feelings associated with success. As explained by Pursuit-of-happiness.org, “In order for a Flow state to occur, you must see the activity as voluntary, enjoyable (intrinsically motivating), and it must require skill and be challenging (but not too challenging) with clear goals towards success.”
They nix the small talk for deeper conversation.
Nothing wrong with shootin’ the you-know-what every now and then, but sitting down to talk about what makes you tick is a prime practice for feeling good about life. A study published in Psychological Science found that those who take part in more substantive conversation and less trivial chit chat experienced more feelings of satisfaction.
“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings,” is one of the top five regrets of the dying — a sentiment that hints at the fact that people wish they’d spent less time talking about the weather and more time delving into what it is that makes their heart swell.
They spend money on other people.
Maybe money does buy happiness. A study published in Science found that spending money on other people has a more direct impact on happiness than spending money on oneself.
They make a point to listen.
“When you listen you open up your ability to take in more knowledge versus blocking the world with your words or your distracting thoughts,” writes David Mezzapelle, author of Contagious Optimism. “You are also demonstrating confidence and respect for others. Knowledge and confidence is proof that you are secure and positive with yourself thus radiating positive energy.” Good listening is a skill that strengthens relationships and leads to more satisfying experiences. A good listener may walk away from a conversation feeling as if their presence served a purpose, an experience that is closely connected with increased well-being.
They uphold in-person connections.
It’s quick and convenient to text, FaceTime and tweet at your buddies. But spending the money on a flight to see your favorite person across the country has weight when it comes to your well-being. “There’s a deep need to have a sense of belonging that comes with having personal interactions with friends,” says John Cacioppo, Ph.D., the director of the Center of Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Social media, while it keeps us in touch, doesn’t allow us to physically touch, which harvests the warm-and-fuzzies and even decreases feelings of anxiety.
They look on the bright side.
Optimism touts plenty of health benefits, including less stress, a better tolerance for pain and, as HuffPost Healthy Living recently reported, longevity among those with heart disease. When you choose to see the silver lining, you’re also choosing health and happiness.
Seligman summed up perhaps the greatest characteristic of the optimist in one of his most acclaimed books, Learned Optimism:
The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.
They value a good mixtape.
Music is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy. Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages. Choosing the right tunes could be an important factor, however, as a happy or sad song can also affect the way we perceive the world. In one experiment where researchers asked subjects to identify happy or sad faces while listening to music, the participants were more likely to see the faces that matched the “mood” of the music. Click here for a few of our favorite mood-boosting jams.
Whether by meditating, taking a few deep breaths away from the screen or deliberately disconnecting from electronics, unplugging from our hyper-connected world has proven advantages when it comes to happiness. Talking on your cell could increase your blood pressure and raise your stress levels, while uninterrupted screen time has been linked to depression and fatigue. Technology isn’t going away, but partaking in some kind of a digital detox gives your brain the opportunity to recharge and recover, which — bonus — could increase your resilience.
They get spiritual.
Studies point to a link between religious and spiritual practice and mirth. For one, happiness habits like expressing gratitude, compassion and charity are generally promoted in most spiritual conventions. And, asking the big questions helps to give our lives context and meaning. A 2009 study found that children who felt their lives had a purpose (which was promoted by a spiritual connection) were happier.
Spirituality offers what the 20th-century sociologist Emilie Durkheim referred to as “sacred time,” which is a built-in, unplugging ritual that elicits moments of reflection and calm. As Ellen L. Idler, Ph.D., writes in “The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Spiritual/Religious Practices,”:
The experience of sacred time provides a time apart from the “profane time” that we live most of our lives in. A daily period of meditation, a weekly practice of lighting Sabbath candles, or attending worship services, or an annual retreat in an isolated, quiet place of solitude all of these are examples of setting time apart from the rush of our everyday lives. Periods of rest and respite from work and the demands of daily life serve to reduce stress, a fundamental cause of chronic diseases that is still the primary causes of death in Western society. Transcendent spiritual and religious experiences have a positive, healing, restorative effect, especially if they are “built in,” so to speak, to one’s daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual cycles of living
They make exercise a priority.
A wise, albeit fictional Harvard Law School student once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, thanks to the the various brain chemicals that are released that amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation. Plus, working out makes us appreciate our bodies more. One study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that exercise improved how people felt about their bodies — even if they didn’t lose weight or achieve noticeable improvements.
They go outside.
Want to feel alive? Just a 20-minute dose of fresh air promotes a sense of vitality, according to several studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. “Nature is fuel for the soul, ” says Richard Ryan, Ph.D, the lead author of the studies. “Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” And while most of us like our coffee hot, we may prefer our serving of the great outdoors at a more lukewarm temperature: A study on weather and individual happiness unveiled 57 degrees to be the optimal temperature for optimal happiness.
They spend some time on the pillow.
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed isn’t just a myth. When you’re running low on zzs, you’re prone to experience lack of clarity, bad moods and poor judgment. “A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety,” Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center told Health.com. “You get more emotional stability with good sleep.”
You’ve heard it before: Laughter is the best medicine. In the case of The Blues, this may hold some truth. A good, old-fashioned chuckle releases happy brain chemicals that, other than providing the exuberant buzz we seek, make humans better equipped to tolerate both pain and stress.
And you might be able to get away with counting a joke-swapping session as a workout (maybe). “The body’s response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise,” explained Dr. Lee Berk, the lead researcher of a 2010 study focused on laughter’s effects on the body. The same study found that some of the benefits associated with working out, like a healthy immune system, controlled appetite and improved cholesterol can also be achieved through laughter.
They walk the walk.
In the experiment, Snodgrass asked participants to take a three-minute walk. Half of the walkers were told to take long strides while swinging their arms and holding their heads high. These walkers reported feeling happier after the stroll than the other group, who took short, shuffled steps as they watched their feet.
But what else made you smile today?
We asked the awesome HuffPost Teen Twitter followers to share ONE thing that made them happy this past week. Scroll down below for 20 of their responses, then share yours with us in the comments below or by tweeting #onethingthatmakesmehappy @HuffPostTeen!
So I did what I could do: I fell apart. Not so much that looking at me you would know (or maybe you would). I still took showers and walked my dogs three times a day. I still brushed my teeth and washed my clothes. But inside, I was dying. I lost 20 pounds because I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I couldn’t sleep without a sleeping pill. I had no idea who I was anymore. If I wasn’t a daughter, a wife, a mother (in the practical sense), if I wasn’t a worker, then who was I? I had no idea.
I felt like a blank canvas. Someone told me, “It’s like a forest fire burned everything in your life, and like a forest, it will all grow back eventually.” Eventually? Like in a week? A month? Two years? Ten years? When? Exactly when will this hell pass?
Actually, at times it felt like hell, and at other times the grief, the tears, the anguish, felt kind of good. I can’t say why exactly, but it felt alive. I felt. For so many years I had squashed many feelings with food, or anger, or shopping, or work, or drugs, or whatever I could get my hands on, and then suddenly, nothing really stopped the feelings, the tears were like Niagara Falls, they kept flowing. I honestly thought they would never stop. But each time I cried, I felt better. The pressure eased.
And then one day I read this quote in A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle:
Whenever tragic loss occurs, you either resist or you yield. Some people become bitter or deeply resentful; others become compassionate, wise and loving. Yielding means inner acceptance of what is. You are open to life. When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension opens up. If action is possible or necessary, your action will be in alignment with [God]. Circumstances and people then become helpful, cooperative. Coincidences happen. [And] if no action is possible, you rest in the peace and inner stillness that come with surrender. You rest in God.
When I read that, it somehow touched something in me that felt true. I came to an inner acceptance of what was happening at that moment and I yielded to life. I rested in whatever I could think of as some power greater than myself. In fact, for the first time in my life, I honestly felt that power with a certainty I’d never felt before.
Despite the fact that my favorite book when I was growing up was Pippi Longstocking and I prided myself on never needing any help, I found a community of people who understood the grief I was going through and I went there for my comfort. (Friendsindeed.org) I listened to other people’s stories which were equally tragic, or more tragic than my own, and I knew that I was not alone. That helped me more than almost anything. I had a place to cry, to talk, and to heal.
I read everything I could get my hands on about divorce, death, loss and spirituality, and I really dug into my meditation practice. I found comfort in reading all these books because I knew that as painful as this experience was, it was important. And I knew that in the silence I would find some comfort too.
I forgave myself for all the mistakes I blamed myself for — not being a better wife. Not being a perfect parent. My mother’s death. After years of being so diligent about “do not resuscitate” and every other health care directive — my mother underwent a horrible seven-hour surgery to put a rod in her leg — and then died a week later. I felt tremendous guilt for putting her through that, but then I learned that most of us have regrets about the end of our parents’ lives, or anyone we love. We all feel we could have done it better, made better choices. So I forgave myself for that.
I forgave myself for a ridiculous divorce that wasted thousands of dollars and kept my ex-husband and me trapped in anger for too long. Three months ago, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, and we were finally able to talk again. That is a miracle and another miracle is that after 10 weeks of really difficult treatment, his tumors have shrunk 80 percent. What that will mean is still a question, but the fact that we can now communicate with kindness is, for me, a tremendous gift. I spent 24 years of my life with this man, and he is the father of my child. I will always love and care about him.
I learned compassion. I learned that you cannot do life alone. I learned that pain is part of life and it cracks you open in ways that make you a more compassionate person. I learned that the obstacles on the path ARE the path.
I learned that it wasn’t my career, or my home, or my money, that really mattered — it was that my heart was broken, and then broken open, and in that empty place that had been so frightening, a new kind of love could enter my life. Gratitude for what I had, thankfulness for what I have now, and a great deal of love for all the people who witnessed my burning to ashes, and helped me rise.
For more by Robin Amos Kahn, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.
The Intermountain coal-fired power plant in Delta, UT. Image Credit: arbyreed/flickr
This was originally posted on EDF Voices.
In the debate over President Obama’s proposal to address climate change, at least one important question has been overlooked. Opponents of his plan should have to answer this:
“Is it responsible to have NO limits on carbon pollution from power plants?”
That is the current situation — there are zero limits on carbon pollution from power plants, which are the largest sources of this type of pollution, emitting about 40 percent of carbon emissions in the United States. As far as I can tell, all Members of Congress who have announced opposition to the president’s plan also opposed the 2010 legislation to limit carbon pollution through a market-based system. None of them have since proposed a policy that would lead to any substantial reductions in carbon pollution. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that they are content with the status quo of no limits at all on this dangerous pollution from its largest source.
Although few of them seem to have been asked this question on the record, we can predict their responses:
Immediately Fall Back on Their Talking Points: That the president’s plan will harm the economy and sacrifice jobs. This response doesn’t address the crucial question, and is the same tired argument that’s been made against every major environmental proposal in history–and then disproven. For instance, environmental protections put in place under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments have generated benefits to Americans that exceed costs by more than 30 to 1. And this response ignores the much higher costs of allowing climate change to proceed unchecked — Hurricane Sandy alone may cost $65 billion. (Storms such as Hurricane Sandy are exactly what climate scientists have been predicting will occur with a changing climate.) Then there are the wildfires that burn twice as many acres as they did forty years ago and the costly droughts in agricultural areas, both of which are intensified by man-made climate change. There are many other costly impacts, as well. But mostly, the economic talking points of opponents to the president’s plan don’t answer the question.
Claim that Man-Made Climate Change Hasn’t Been “Proven”: There’s little to say about this response except that it’s false. The National Academy of Sciences and the science academies of every major developed nation have endorsed the scientific consensus on climate change. As have all the major American scientific professional organizations. As have 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific studies. Members of the public who don’t have time to follow the science may have questions (though most of them agree climate change is happening anyway), but Members of Congress have no excuse to continue to deny what scientists are telling them. This “unproven” line is simply a dodge to avoid having to accept the need to act.
Point Out that Carbon Pollution in the U.S. Is Dropping: While it is true that there has been a temporary drop in industrial emissions due in part to the natural gas boom and slower economic growth, emissions are still at dangerously high levels.
Claim that Carbon Is “Not a Pollutant”: Well, actually, the Supreme Court says it is. But, even so, this is a semantic argument. The carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we produce are trapping more and more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, with dangerous consequences.
Claim that Other Countries Aren’t Acting, So Why Should We: This is false and backwards. The European Union already has a climate pollution limit which guarantees that — whatever the temporary fluctuations due to market conditions — their pollution will be cut by 1.7 percent every year, 80 percent to 95 percent by 2050. China has begun to test cap and trade systems in key cities and provinces. In fact, 10 percent of the world’s population and a third of its GDP now come from areas limiting pollution. They need to do more, but the United States – historically the world’s largest emitter, and still the largest per capita — has to lead. Is it ever the case that the U.S. goes last in the face of an international threat?
So, please, ask opponents of the president’s plan: “Is it responsible to have NO limits on carbon pollution from power plants?” And, if not, what’s their plan? There are probably lots of other good approaches to be found — from both parties and across the political spectrum. Let’s start having that debate.
Below are Food Tank’s “must read” Fall 2013 selections for those who are passionate about a more sustainable food system!
From practical tips on sustainable agriculture on a warming planet to insight on how to make jam, these reads will provide plenty of food for thought.
These 18 books are listed in alphabetical order:
1. 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World by Howard G. Buffett with Howard W. Buffett and Foreword by Warren E. Buffett
2. 66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life by Marie Viljoen
3. Blessing the Hands that Feed Us: What Eating Closer to Home Can Teach Us About Food, Community, and Our Place on Earth by Vicki Robin
4. Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth by Judith Schwartz with Foreword by Gretel Ehrlich
5. Eat Drink Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics by Marion Nestle
6. First Food: A Taste of India’s Biodiversity by Sunita Narain and Vibha Varshney
7. Food DIY: How to Make Your Own Everything: Sausages to Smoked Salmon, Sourdough to Sloe Gin, Bacon to Buns by Tim Hayward
8. Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction by Parke Wilde
9. From the Ground Up: A Food Grower’s Education in Life, Love, and the Movement That’s Changing the Nation by Jeanne Nolan with Foreword by Alice Waters
10. Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm by Forest Pritchard with Foreword by Joel Salatin
11. Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews by Marilyn Hagerty with Foreword by Anthony Bourdain
12. Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty by Gary Paul Nabhan with Foreword by Bill McKibben
13. Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith by Fred Bahnson
14. The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities by Will Allen with Charles Wilson and Foreword by Eric Schlosser
15. The Modern Peasant: Adventures in City Food by Jojo Tulloh
16. The No Nonsense Guide to World Food by Wayne Roberts
17. Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal by Abigail Carroll
18. What has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Grows on Trees by Tony Juniper with Foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales
Please note that several of these books are forthcoming and based on review copies, but they’ll be available soon!
In the heart-squeezing video above, the couple leaps out of a plane together and then the man, identified only as Robin, asks his girlfriend, Ashley, to be his bride. As the pair plummet toward the ground in an exhilarating free fall, Robin can be seen revealing a series of words embroidered and hidden in layers on the forearms of his skydiving suit. “Ashley, I love you. Will you marry me?” read the messages.
An amazed Ashley says “yes” to the gravity-defying proposal, and Robin pulls a ring out of its hiding place — also in the forearm of his suit — and places it on his beloved’s finger in mid-air.
“That was the plan and it worked,” says Robin once the couple is safely back on land, grinning from ear to ear at the success of his risky and wonderfully elaborate scheme.
Watch the video above to see more on Robin’s proposal, then click through the slideshow below to see 10 of the greatest viral marriage proposal videos ever made.
#alkalinity #alkalinitymovement #7.2 #sevenpointtwo