Based on research, people in general are happier and have a greater sense of well-being the less time they spend alone. A recent study adds to that understanding. People who engage in more meaningful conversations, rather than small talk, have a greater sense of well-being. But small talk may be the path to having those deeper conversations. You may need to have small talk to move on to closer relationships.
For emotionally sensitive people, this is a difficult issue. Small talk can seem meaningless. Engaging in small talk, unpleasant for most, can feel as miserable as a migraine for the emotionally sensitive. Yet it’s not likely that you can meet a new friend for coffee and then immediately discuss your shame about the affair you had last year or even how inadequate you feel around the have-it-all-together neighbors. It happens, but it’s not likely.
Medicine has had its moments of magic, like the polio vaccine and penicillin, where the discovery practically wiped out a major health problem. Some believe the “magic” of medicine may have reached its limit and advancement now will be in people actively working to prevent illness through the choices they make, such as nutrition and exercise.
The moments of magic may have misled many people into being passive about their healthcare and constantly looking for a new approach or a new medication without careful thought as to how the new treatment makes sense and why the old treatment isn’t working.
People often ask, “What did the doctor do?” rather than “What are you doing?” when change is needed.
All the work our body does during sleep is still a mystery. We are just beginning to understand some of the reasons sleep is so important to us. There are many ways that lack of sleep affects our functioning and our health.
1. Obesity. One study found that by age 27, those who sleep less than six hours a night are 7.5 times more likely to have an unhealthy Body Mass Index, and other studies support the connection between short sleep hours and being overweight. The connection is related to the effect of sleep loss on the hormones that control appetite. .
2. The ability to make decisions, even simple ones, or recall obvious facts drops off severely. For example, exhaustion appears to be related to numerous tragedies and accidents that occur in the military and in the private sector. Investigations into the March 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City, a suburb of Houston, found many reasons for the explosion, including workers who were so sleep-deprived that their brains were unable to recognize the signs that they were nearing a major catastrophe. In 2010, many international oil companies agreed to install a fatigue management system at every major plant.
Children learn words for things from others, maybe the adults in their lives or older siblings or friends. Mom might point to an animal and say “dog.” The child then points to a horse and says “dog” and Mom says, “No, that’s a horse.”
Children are not born knowing the names of emotions. They learn their emotions in much the same way as they learn the names of animals. When adults are careful and label emotions accurately, the process works smoothly. When the family is not comfortable with emotions, they may mislabel, omit, or refuse to recognize certain emotions and the child doesn’t learn to accurately label his emotions.
Being able to label your emotions is a step in being able to manage them. There are several ways to identify what emotion you are experiencing.
It’s no surprise that managing your emotions is an important part of happiness. Even though it’s not easy, the good news is that regulating emotions can be learned. The first step in regulating is becoming aware of what triggers your emotions and what emotions you are experiencing.
Knowing the Cause
Part of understanding what you are feeling is knowing the reason for the emotion. Let’s say you are feeling fear. If you believe the fear means something horrible is about to happen, you will build it up.
If you can identify what is about to happen that is scary, then you can take action, such as buying water and boarding up the windows for an anticipated hurricane.
If you realize the fear is because someone you love is going into surgery tomorrow, then you will know your fear is based on fact, and you know it is time-limited. The information as to what the fear is about helps you act on the emotion, not just sit with the fear and have the fear build on itself, and taking appropriate action seems to help regulate the emotion.
The first key of mindful communication, according to Chapman (2012), is having a mindful presence. This means having an open mind, awake body and a tender heart. When you have a mindful presence, you give up expectations, stories about yourself and others, and acting on emotions.
You are fully in the present moment; your communication isn’t focused on the “me” and what the “me” needs, but the we.
Mindful listening is the second key to mindful communication. Mindful listening is about encouraging the other person. This means looking through the masks and pretense and seeing the value in the person and the strengths he or she possesses. It’s looking past the human frailties and flaws that we all have to see the authentic person and the truth in what that person is attempting to say.
How many people have been in relationships that they knew weren’t right for them, but stayed anyway? My guess is more people have done that than haven’t. Such relationships may be boring, more work than they are rewarding, emotionally painful, lacking intimacy or sharing and feel forced. Instead of adding to the joy and happiness in your life, a bad relationship may find you feeling sad, anxious and thinking hopeless thoughts.
These relationships may even be neglectful or abusive. A big part of mindless relationships is you have to give up part, or most, of who you are to stay in the relationship. That’s a very high price to pay.
Most people know that not being true to themselves and what they want and need is a really bad idea. To stay in such a relationship they often have to numb themselves, be un-mindful of their needs and wants and un-mindful of the pain they feel. It’s like going into a cocoon; hiding and believing that by doing so they are safe in some way from what they fear.
Maybe those in bad relationships fear no one will ever love them so they settle for what isn’t safe and intimate to avoid living without a partner. Maybe they are afraid of being alone so they settle for being with “friends” who aren’t supportive or caring.
Certainly there are situations in which it is important to protect yourself emotionally. At the same time, there are many every day situations in which the threat is only to our egos and our need to see ourselves in a certain way or to be right.
When we feel emotionally threatened by statements made by close friends, partners, or even people we’ve just met, we tend to automatically act to protect ourselves, usually with painful results.
We don’t like to be vulnerable, to risk being hurt or risk more hurt. We may become angry, leave the conversation and maybe the relationship, avoid the person, or numb ourselves in some way.
Maybe we pull deeper into ourselves and put on the mask of politeness. We stop listening with openness. We no longer accept the other person’s ideas. We no longer communicate mindfully. We stop showing gratitude or appreciation for the relationship. We’re in self-defense mode and want to protect ourselves. We focus on ourselves and what we need and want and how we see the situation.
Most of the time these defensive actions harm our relationships, and can even destroy them.
1. Learn how to validate. When emotionally sensitive people are upset, their emotions are more intense and last longer than those of other people you know. No one thinks clearly when emotionally dysregulated.
During those moments, the brain is focused on survival and threat, not on seeing options or thinking through the best way to express ideas. Validating their point of view and their emotions can help them get back to their wise mind. Remember, validating that their thoughts and emotions are understandable does not necessarily mean you agree.
2. Whenever possible, wait until both you and your loved one are calm before discussing any important topics. Communication is rarely effective when either party is emotionally upset. Attempting to discuss important concerns when upset often creates a mess.
Imagine you drop by your neighbor’s house for a morning cup of coffee. She tells you that her adult son just lost his job because he was late to work for the third time. What thoughts are you likely to have?
Maybe you think badly of your friend, because she must have spoiled him when he was younger. Maybe you think badly of him, like how irresponsible he is or that he is too selfish to consider how hard it is for his mother to take care of him.
Maybe a friend has recently done something to hurt your feelings, such as cancelling lunch plans for the third time. You may view her actions as meaning she wanted to hurt you because she’s jealous of your new job or resents your new relationship.
Fundamental Attribution Error
If you did have thoughts like those described above, then you are not alone. Most people interpret others’ behavior in a specific situation as reflecting basic personality characteristics. This is called Fundamental Attribution Error. Even when people know about this tendency to interpret someone’s actions as personality characteristics, they still do it.