Archives for Social Issues
I am a firm believer in the value of practicing mindfulness in everyday life for mental, emotional and physical health, and know that many other people could benefits if they only understood more clearly what it is, and how it offers benefits. Fortunately I stumbled upon The Mindful Manifesto, a new book by Dr. Jonty Heaversedge and Ed Halliwell, exploring the uses of mindfulness meditation for physical and mental health, addiction and emotional regulation, as well as areas such as decision-making in business and helping kids focus at school. The Manifesto includes much more than this practical knowledge, as it delivers a message that meditation is breaking out from the hippie new-age tag thanks to the raft of good science showing how it operates and leads to significant health benefits. Furthermore, the authors examine how encouraging governments and other powerful institutions to take a mindful approach could bring more health and happiness to our world. Here is the interview I had with author Ed Halliwell about The Mindful Manifesto.
I'm sure when you think of "teenagers" there is a tinge of stress. We have all heard horror stories of the argumentative teenager with mood-swing and a know-it-all attitude. Fortunately, most youth will be well-adjusted, happy, enjoy life, believe they can cope effectively with stress, and value school and work. But, what about the smaller percentage who end up going down an unhealthy and risky path? All youth can learn to be confident, connected, and contributing members of society, though at-risk youth are particularly in need of help with realigning their focus and values. Thankfully, there is growing recognition that successful development includes both the absence of risk and the presence of positive attributes. This is what the field of positive youth development (PYD) emphasizes. Problem-free does not necessarily equate to fully prepared for life. The idea becomes one where we can learn to help youth thrive instead of just survive. PYD focuses on all youth; however, working with at-risk youth in this framework has particular benefits.
Dedicated researchers offer us empirical evidence about what we can do to enhance our positive emotions, find purpose and meaning, and ultimately increase our well-being. Sharing this message with the general public so it can be applied requires social initiatives and organizations dedicated to this mission. I recently came across one such organization that I am ecstatic to share with you! The organization is called Action for Happiness, and is a movement of people committed to building a happier society. As the site explains, they "want to see a fundamentally different way of life where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others."
As the holiday season closes in, it leads me to sympathize with the many communities that lack caring, kindness and unity. It's easy to go through life with our own personal priorities and forget about everyone else. We can have so many things to do with so little time to do them, that we forget to look at the bigger picture beyond ourselves. Though more than ever, our society is in need of caring and responsible citizens willing to help others and give back to the greater good. I don't believe the holiday season has to be stressful and commercialized. The purpose of the holiday season is to really embrace the joy, hope, and generosity that surround us.
Mental health has long been defined as the absence of psychopathologies, such as depression and anxiety. However, the absence of mental illness is only a minimal outcome from the perspective of positive psychology. The absence of mental illness does not necessarily constitute complete mental health. Someone may not have a mental illness but they may not be satisfied with their life or striving to reach their potential. They may be surviving, but not thriving. According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." Within this definition there is an emphasis on the idea of living optimally and gainfully, which relates to a term applied to complete mental health called flourishing.
Research reveals positive emotions and psychological well-being play a role in our physical and mental health. Positive emotions help us to be more resilient and mediate our ability to cope with stress and manage mental health concerns. Simply put, being happy can actually lead us to be healthier and live longer. (he majority of these studies are based on Western (middle-class European American) samples, however, and haven't revealed clear insight about how culture plays a role in this process. I wrote a previous article exploring how important the context and situation is to the value of positive emotions, and it's not necessarily one size fits all. A further research study I came across applies this same notion to the construct of culture, and asks if positive emotions are just as positive culture to culture?
I came across a very inspiring video that offers insight into an important topic of positive psychology. You can watch the video below. In this recent TED talk, author, ecologist, teacher, and Zen Buddhism priest Joan Halifax shares the virtues of compassion and empathy, and how these traits are necessary for our existence and a fruitful future. Compassion is how we connect with others in times of grief and despair. It allows us to take action and have the strength to alter others' suffering. It also supports us in being resilient and persevering through difficult times. Compassion allows us to make our community a better place. It connects us to others' pain in a way where we want to make a positive difference in their lives. Compassion can benefit almost any relationship, though there are many areas where a compassionate nature can be utilized most constructively. If you work in a social services field or are a teacher, compassion can help you maintain the strength to encourage others as you benevolently serve them.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Positive Youth Development (PYD) expert Marilyn Price-Mitchell PhD. She is a developmental psychologist, educator, researcher, and writer who studies how today’s youth grow into healthy, successful, and engaged adults. She synthesizes multidisciplinary research in psychology, education, sociology, child & adolescent development, social psychology, and neurobiology to bring evidence-based research to parents, teachers, civic leaders, mentors, coaches, and all those who support positive youth development. She was kind enough to provide her insight and wisdom on this ever growing and valuable field. Whether you are completely unfamiliar with PYD or a proponent and advocate for it's expansion, there is a great deal of knowledge to be gained below. 1. What unique value do you feel positive youth development offers society? It gives us the opportunity to view children and adolescents more holistically. Child psychology, much like medicine, focused on a disease model, looking at ways to treat deficiencies in development instead of how to achieve well-being.
Students today are more stressed, have more distractions, and often don't have an effective outlet to cope with daily tension. It's all too easy for teenagers to turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, and the media as a way of escaping the pressure of being a young adult. Meditation is a simple and effective practice to help reduce stress, and been shown to have many other positive psychological effects. So, would it be valuable for school districts to integrate meditation programs in their schools? There are many schools around the nation that have already done so, and it appears that meditation can provide a positive outlet for youth. Here are a few ways meditation can have a positive impact. Research has show meditation improves academic performance and results in improvement in intelligence.
In this day and age the concept of "survival of the fittest" doesn't apply. There are many people who devote their life to helping others improve their life and get their needs meet. Why do people desire to prevent others suffering? Why do we sacrifice for others? Is it human nature and in our best interest to support and revive each other in times of need? There are, of course, different perspectives about this. Some people are bleeding hearts and will do whatever it takes to achieve equanimity and with everyone receiving a fair share. On the other hand, what is fair? And how do we take into consideration the ideas of personal responsibility, determination, and tenacity when it comes to getting our life where we want it to be? This second perspective may not be so compassionate and giving. Neither view is right or wrong of course, and I personally see some value to both perspectives. It's very healthy to have a sense of determination and drive, however it's hard to deny that with a little more generosity and giving the world would be a vastly better place. It's difficult to find a balance.