Saying Hello is Good for you Health

I remember when Dali first joined our family, we lived in a downtown area.  She was about six months old, maybe close to a year and filled with energy.  She loved saying hello to people, all people.  She would go up to everyone and greet them.  And most people responded in kind, although there were always some who were busy or didn’t want to be bothered, which was no problem for Dali.  She would just move on to the next person.  Though she is nearing 14 years old, she still goes out of her way to greet people and it is clear how happy this interaction makes her.

Social interaction makes a big difference in our health.  It is as important as eating healthy and exercising.

In this seven-minute segment, Shankar Vedantam focuses on the health impacts of social isolation for men, but it has good information for everyone.

 

Researchers Examine What Social Isolation Can Do To Men’s Health

https://www.npr.org/2018/08/21/640437965/researchers-examine-what-social-isolation-can-do-to-mens-health

 

Take time to connect with other people.  Say hello to others on the bus or subway.  Or when you’re on line.  Strike up a conversation with a bank teller or cashier.  I know from my experience, though brief, these interactions can boost my mood.

 

 

 

(Professional Website:  http://www.BethLevineCounseling.com)

Laugh Out Loud

Oskar has a sense of humor.

 

 

He will stand at the top of the stairs and push a tennis ball to me at the bottom.  When I get it, I throw it back – down the hall – so he has to run and get it.  He’ll go back to the top of the stairs and wait for me to sit down on the couch and then he will push the ball down the stairs again, so I hear a thump, thump, thump as the ball bounces down the stairs.

As he grew up in our family, and I would give a chew treat to both him and Dali.  He would hide his treat when I wasn’t looking and then give me this look like something happened to his chewy and he didn’t know what it was.  I was thinking maybe Dali was taking it so I’d give him another.  Until one day, I don’t remember why, I thought to look around the house and saw that he was hiding them.  When he realized I was on to him, he stopped his prank.

There are other things he does in the moment and I find myself cracking up.  I look at him and he has a big smile on his face.  We connect over the moment of playfulness and I feel lighter and joyful.

Laughing boosts the immune system and relieves stress, depression, anxiety, pain and social conflict.  Be sure to watch a funny video, movie, spend time with friends who make you laugh, or find other things that make you LOL on a regular basis.

https://www.webmd.com/women/especially-for-women-15/video-balance-laughter

 

 

 

 

Professional Website:  http://www.BethLevineCounseling.com

Healing from a Broken Heart

 

I have written about connection and attachment and love, but what about when that romantic bond is broken.  What about heartbreak?

I thought I’d share with you my take away from the TED Talk, How to fix a broken heart, by Guy Winch, shared below.

Whoever came up with the term “heartbreak” was right on.  Heartbreak is painful like a heart that is broken.

Heartbreak is an injury.  It is complex and psychological in nature.  It can cause insomnia, intrusive thoughts, and immune system dysfunction.

When we are recovering from a heartbreak, our brain tries to make the pain go away by figuring out what happened, what went wrong:  as if it is a math problem with a solution that will provide a soothing balm to our wound.

But indulging in that craving is actually a way of feeding our love addiction when we can’t get the real thing.

Brain studies show that the withdrawal of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in our brain that are activated when addicts go through withdrawal from cocaine or opioids.

We get a hit by thinking of all the good times, hoping our romantic interest will come back to us, trying to figure out why the breakup happened, and/or idealizing our ex or the relationship.  To beat the fix, we need to:

  1. accept the reason they gave us, or make up one of our own
  2. refrain from looking our ex up on social media or contacting him/her
  3. keep a list of all the things that were wrong with the relationship and why that person was not the one for us

In addition, we need to rebuild our lives and get back to who we are, what we’re about.  We need to make efforts to fill in the missing links of our social lives and invest in activities that interest us.  We need to leave ourselves open to connection by learning about ourselves in relationship.

Recovery from a breakup is an arm wrestle we win in a multitude of ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.BethLevineCounseling.com)

Reflecting on this Past Year*

 

 

Even if you don’t like making New Year’s Resolutions, the beginning of a new year can be a good time to reminisce on the passing year.  It can be beneficial for us to highlight certain memories.  Specifically, we can benefit from reflecting on:

  • a time when we successfully dealt with a challenging situation, and
  • an experience that shaped the person we are today.

Research shows that this exercise is uplifting because it promotes resilience and self-exploration.

You might want to take a few minutes of quiet time to come up with at least one example of  each of the above situations.  Maybe you would like to journal your examples.  It might be fun to gather with one or two friends and share your responses.  Of course, feel free to share below.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

*From How to Find Happiness When You Reflect on the Past Year (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_happiness_when_you_reflect_on_the_past_year?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=d4b50f449d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_January_Theme&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-d4b50f449d-52221859)

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Happiness

I was feeling down one recent weekend.  As luck would have it, I was doing some research on what makes us happy.

Turns out, we are not very good at knowing what brings us happiness.  Research by Dan Gilbert bears this out.

One of the best kept secrets on what makes us happy is doing for others.  Material goods or achievements are no match for giving of ourselves in promoting our long term happiness.

A 2012 study by Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues at the University of British Columbia shows that toddlers under the age of two are happier when giving treats to others rather than receiving goodies themselves.  But the good news about our capacity for feeling good about giving doesn’t stop there.  The study showed that children are happier when they give their own treats away than giving an identical treat away that doesn’t belong to them.  (http://news.ubc.ca/2012/06/19/giving-makes-young-children-happy-ubc-study-suggests/)

The results of United Healthcare/Volunteer Match Do Good Live Well 2010 on-line study shows that 96% of respondents report feeling happier as a result of volunteering (http://unlimitedloveinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ITS-GOOD-TO-BE-GOOD-2014-Biennial-Scientific-Report-On-Health-Happiness-Longevity-And-Helping-Others.pdf)

So, when my husband came home from his volunteer efforts, taking photographs of cats to increase their likelihood of getting adopted, I asked him to show me his pictures.  Immediately, I felt better as I supported and encouraged him in his efforts and hobby.  I discovered, firsthand, how taking the focus off of me and my ruminations and putting my energies, instead, into helping someone else is a free and easy way to get my happy on.

I highly recommend you give it a try and if you like, share your experience.

If my example didn’t inspire you, this video of Lilica, the dog, and what she does for her family surely will.

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Positive Qualities of Relationships

 

I am sitting on the couch with Oskar, next to me and he moves to get more comfortable and drapes his leg across my leg.  It is comforting to me and I imagine comforting for Oskar since he put his leg there.

This was after Dali and Oskar and I went to a local park. exploring woods we hadn’t been to before.  We all enjoyed the adventure and I felt closer to my companion animals.

According to research, physical affection and doing new things together are qualities of a long-term love.

 

In your relationships, human and nonhuman, make time for contact comfort and exploring the world together.

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Helping Others

 

The other day I was returning to home after walking with my dogs and I heard someone crying.  I looked around and saw the postwoman sitting in the postal truck crying.  I went over to her to see what was wrong and if I could offer her help. She explained, through tears, by removing  tissues from her mouth, to show me two big gashes on her lips from a dog bite.  She was waiting for her supervisor to come get her.  I told her that I would wait for her and let her know that it must have been very scary, but that she was going to be alright.

We waited for about 10 minutes and no one came.  She tried to call the supervisor again but couldn’t get through and was distraught and in pain.  I suggested that I take my dogs home which was about a three-minute walk from her and come back with the car and if her supervisor hadn’t arrived by then, I would take her to the emergency room.  She agreed.  And that’s what happened.  I took her to a local urgent care and afterwards, delivered her keys for the locked postal truck to the post office.

Afterward, I had such a good feeling.  Helping someone out really made my day. Here’s a video on how helping others help ourselves:

This surge of well-being is a similar feeling when I’m a source of comfort to either Dali or Oskar.

Recently, Oskar woke me up to go eat grass outside.  It seemed as if he had a stomach ache.  When we came back in, he wanted to sit on the couch and cuddle.  He lifted his paw for me to hold – he likes that – and then, over time, tucked his paw and my hand under him and put his head on my lap.  I felt so happy being a source of comfort to him..

And this good feeling is true when I take a spider outside.

Or feed the squirrels and birds and raccoons.

I believe the feeling of positive well-being of caring for others has no boundaries.

Helping others makes you feel good.   What are some of your examples of feeling good when you help others?

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Speaking your truth

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I joke around that Oskar is my boyfriend (who could resist that face?). If I go upstairs, Oskar goes upstairs. If I go downstairs, Oskar goes downstairs. When he comes in from a walk that I haven’t taken him on, the first thing he does is run to find me. He’s very attached to me and that’s why I was so surprised that he went to bite me when I was wiping his paws after he was out in the snow, ice and salt that they put down to prevent people from falling, but if it is not dog friendly, can really hurt their paws.

Oskar didn’t actually bite me. He just went to bite me, but I scolded him more from being so startled that he would actually try to hurt me. He looked so sheepish afterward. Maybe it was from being misunderstood, I don’t know, but the way he looked got me thinking. I knew he didn’t want to hurt me and I realized that he must have been hurting and wanted me to stop and it was the only way he had to tell me.

Something similar happened on one of our walks. A small rock got in between his paw pads and he couldn’t walk without hurting. So I went to take it out but was only using one hand because it was so cold out I didn’t want to take off my other glove. I didn’t realize at the time that in only using one hand, I was rubbing the rock against his pads while trying to remove it. In a flash, he turned his head around and put his teeth on my hands.

This time, I didn’t scold him. This time, I apologized and said to him he must be hurting and I realized I needed two hands to make sure I didn’t cause him any more pain. He gave me a kiss.

I later thought to myself if I can be so understanding toward Oskar and why he might lash out at me, maybe I could be understanding with myself when I get angry with friends or family when I’m hurting. That happened to me the other idea. I felt rejected and instead of telling my friend I was feeling hurt, I got angry with him. And then I felt terrible for getting angry and putting him on the defensive and feeling rejected.

After the now infamous Oskar incident, I was able to be compassionate with myself and know that I was not a bad person for getting angry, my anger came from a genuine place of feeling hurt. That helped to let go of the shame I was feeling. What a relief! Afterward, I also felt more capable of being vulnerable and telling my friend straight-up the next time I was feeling hurt. It’s a lot easier that way.

Sara Bareilles song, Brave, captures the theme of this post beautifully and with a lot of flare.  I hope you enjoy dancing to this as much as I do.

Don’t Take “No” for an Answer and the Joys of Making the Best out of a Situation

If Dali were to write a book on living life, I think her first principle would be:  Don’t Take “No” for an Answer.

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Don’t let this picture fool you.  She looks pretty cute and innocent, but she can be incredibly determined and stubborn.  I once asked my husband, Irwin, what kind of work Dali would do if she were human.  We came up with some kind of artist because she has a gift for expressing her emotions.  But, Oskar does, too.  It’s just that he is much more easy-going.  If he doesn’t get his way, he makes the best out of the situation.  Not Dali.  Dali sulks.  If we don’t go the direction she wants, she can stop and smell the grass every two seconds.  We make no progress.  She has made her displeasure known.  Sometimes she’ll loop back towards home and we end up walking a very short walk because we didn’t go the way Dali wanted to go.

Even though these qualities seem kind of opposite to each other, I see value in them both and learn from my two companions.  Knowing what you want and going for it is certainly a helpful quality to have.  I have different projects I’d like to accomplish, and sometimes I get stuck in figuring out which project to work on and what step should I take next.  Dali is an inspiration.  She plows straight ahead and figures things out as she goes along.  Dali makes her own path.

And I learn from Oskar, too.

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It is a real strength to be flexible and be able to change courses when the situation warrants.  He is more of a team-player and that comes in handy in our social world.  I’ve gotten better at that throughout the years.  I’ve learned that although whatever situation I might be in, even if it is not my favorite, like finding myself at lunch or dinner with people I don’t know or don’t like, I can make the best out of the situation.  I can make that my goal and when I do that, I feel good about myself and often find I have a better time than I expected.

I hope Dali and Oskar have picked up some of my better qualities.  🙂

 

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)

Compassion

Well, I ended up taking Dali to the vet because I felt like she was walking slower than she should even with aging.  Maybe she had arthritis that could be relieved with pain medicine.  I noticed her being careful about walking up and down curbs.  I watched as she chose to walk down where there was a gentle slope to the street for wheel chairs.  The vet said Dali is experiencing some lumbar pain and we’re waiting to get blood test results to see if the discomfort is associated with some other problem.

I decided to make an appointment with the vets after a particularly slow walk. Oskar was pulling me to go faster and Dali was clearly doing the best she could.  Oskar turned around a couple of times to see what was going on with Dali.   Interestingly, after a bit, Oskar retreated from the lead and chose to walk side-by-side with Dali.  I imagine he recognized that Dali was not just being obstinate, as she can be, but picked up on her discomfort.  How astute and kind of Oskar.  And I sensed Dali took in his support.

I don’t know how much of an active choice Oskar made to give up his desire to go at his pace and instead be compassionate, but we have a choice.  Research shows our first instinct, as adults or children, is to help others, not compete with them.  Unfortunately, cultural factors get in the way of our innate desire to be compassionate.  Research also shows that when we are kind to others, we are mentally and physical healthier.

I know for myself, whenever I choose the Golden Rule, whether it is with nonhuman animals (animals) or people, I always feel better about myself.  Just this morning, my husband, Irwin, and I started to get into an argument.  I thought he was being ridiculous.  And I thought of this quote by a child that I read recently.  I can’t remember it exactly, but it is something like:  When I’m acting badly I need your compassion the most.  So I put my arm around Irwin and said I knew he was tired and had been working so hard and done so much for the family.  He hugged me back.  Compassion turned a moment of disconnect into a moment of connection.  I’d say we both felt better.

What is a time when you acting compassionately and you noticed feeling happier or good about yourself?

 

(professional website:  http://www.bethlevinecounseling.com)