Although the percentage of Canadians who identify as religious as declined, the majority still consider themselves spiritual in some way. According to the 2001 census, 65% of Canadians consider themselves spiritual people and 66% indicate that they believe in God. The 2011 census did not ask this quite the same way, but it did find that 76% of Canada identified with some community of faith.
Not all of these people who are saying they are Spiritual are actually open to the Spirit. That is, it is very possible that you might be saying yes to the Spirit with your mouth and still have little openness to the Spirit actually influencing your body, mind, behaviour, decisions etc.
This idea of saying one thing and feeling or acting another is not a new concept in psychology. Often people will describe an experience of wanting one thing with their mind and another thing with their heart. For example, someone might say that they don’t want to be in an abusive relationship, and mean this quite sincerely, but then still admit that they are in love with the person and won’t actually leave.
This seems to be similarly true in the spiritual realm. One metaphor to describe this experience would be to say that individuals in this situation have an open door in their mind, but a closed door in their heart. It is also possible to have an open door to the Spirit in your heart, but a closed door to the mind. Here is a description of people who have different relationships with the Spirit.
Having a closed spiritual door is quite common, especially in the Western world. Many are quite closed in almost every way. They deny the existence of the spiritual, which leaves little room for the influence of spirituality in their lives.
An example of this might be an atheist who leaves no room in their thoughts, emotions, or behaviour for spiritual realities. Their lives are lived in a way where they are attempting to purge themselves of any spiritual influence.
That being said, a totally closed spiritual person is actually rare. Even the most ardent denier of spirituality will often have subtle influences of the spiritual in their lives. For example, research that has found that people who say they don’t believe in the God are still generally reluctant to pray against things things they desire. If these individuals really don't put any stock in the spiritual world, why are they reluctant to pray that they never get a new car? Deep down, people often can't fully put away niggle that there may be something out there beyond the natural.
Closed Spirit, Open Mind
These individuals are open to the influence of spirituality in their mind, but close the door to these influences in their Spirit. These individuals may be involved in spiritual practices, sometimes even heavily, but will approach spirituality with their minds. They may think about spiritual forces and the ways they work in the world etc. They may even use these principles to make decisions in their lives. An example of this might be a someone who believes in a powerful God, but doesn't feel God’s presence.
It is also interesting that some individuals would say they are open to spiritual realities, but aren’t really that open at all. They say they are open to the Spirit doing things in their lives, but won’t actually seek it out and may actually resist any spiritual forces that might impact them. For example, they may say the believe in healing, but would never actually seek a spiritual healing and may resist someone who wants to spiritually heal them.
Open Spirit, Closed Mind
These individuals are open to the influence of the Spirit, but do not engage in a this process with their minds. They would likely mentally accept that there are spiritual forces, but haven't really thought about how those forces work or perhaps consider spiritual realities as completely unknowable. Their decisions, bodies, and emotions would be influenced by spiritual forces at varying levels, but they would likely not engage in a process of attempting to understand these forces.
An example of this might be someone who enjoys and seeks after spiritual experiences, but likely doesn’t commit to any one spiritual practice. They would also not engage in any kind of personal thought journey in regards to spirituality. Instead, they would take these experiences as they come, from wherever they come, in a more spontaneous manner.
These individuals experience spirituality and engage this with their minds as well. It is likely that they have some ideas about how spiritual forces operate and continue to grow in this understanding over time. They will seek out spiritual experiences and try to understand the experiences and how they fit in the spiritual world.
Opening the Door
Becoming open to the Spirit is a decision everyone has to make in their own spiritual journey. If you did decide to become more open, this process is not automatic. The desire to be open to the Spirit can be an important first step, but there are other factors that influence that definitely effect the process.
One of the first factors is our personality. Some individuals adopt new things slowly and other adopt them more quickly. Openness to experience is one of the big five personality traits. If you were born as a person generally closed to experience you likely have a strength in being more stable in various areas of your life. However, adopting new practices will take more time and effort. On the other hand, once you make changes in your spirituality, they will likely be more stable and lasting as well. So you may make slower progress, but that progress will be solid and stable.
Becoming Open by Paying Attention
What we pay attention to is usually more likely to change. This is not just a spiritual reality. In our minds, our brain changes parts of our minds depending on what we are paying attention to. For example, if you pay attention to math, your brain will start to become more mathematical.
This principle seems to also apply in spirituality. Paying attention to spiritual forces will likely make you more aware of their influence. However, it is important to pay attention with the different parts of yourself. For example, it is possible to just pay attention with your mind. This might be thinking about spirituality for longer periods of time. It is also possible to just pay attention with your spirit. An example of this might be to meditate on the Spirit, to try to feel a spiritual presence or force.
Most people have some openness to spiritual forces and everyone approaches it differently. Some approach spirituality in a mental way, others in a more emotional way. Becoming a balanced spiritual person is often about opening parts of yourself to spirituality in ways that may not feel natural at first. To do this it is important to spend time paying attention to the Spirit both in a mental and emotional way. In practice this could look like journalling, thinking, and attempting to feel the Spirit. Another good first step would be to simply ask the good Spirit that wants good things for you to reveal more of himself to you. This can be an exciting and very fulfilling process. May you be blessed as you experience more of the Spirit.
There is a lot of fear out there - especially right now. Trump has surprised many by winning the election. Masses of people are afraid of being deported, of being marginalized, of having their dreams taken. Others are excited about a different direction.
Spiritually there is also a growing awareness of future trouble. I was at a conference and two out of three speakers referenced that there would be a season of severe difficulties in the near future. This awareness of coming trouble in the world is not just in spiritual circles. Just as I was thinking about this topic, I watched a sitcom and that particular episode was all about preparing for disaster - the "preppers movement".
That’s perhaps the wide angle, but there are always the intimate personal fears people have. Some of the fears that have come up lately in our circles have been feeling afraid of being alone, having a meaningless life, losing their relationship, losing their health, being betrayed, being beaten, that they are crazy, that their child will forever be out of control, etc. I'm sure that a number of you are also afraid. Afraid of something in your life, anxious about the future, concerned about your job or your family or your health. The future is uncertain and many things can go wrong.
Anxiety is one of the main obstacles between a person and living out their destiny. It often takes courage to live spiritually connected and to move forward in a healthy way. Fear makes us shrink back. The most extreme fears prevent people from even leaving their house. Fear can make someone shrink back from the difficult tasks that make a healthy meaningful life. So how do we deal with this anxiety and use spirituality to help us move forward?
Follow the Leader
The first thing to know about fear is that we aren't meant to handle it on our own. In North America, our culture is one of independence. However, almost everybody I talk to looks outside of themselves for something that will help them with their fear. We look to our money, education, family, our social circle, our government, etc. All of these things help us to feel confident, assured, and powerful.
We look to institutions and people that appear powerful and confident to soothe ourselves. We look to these things in order to guide us in a path that we can feel good about, a path that is anxiety free. A recent example would be Trump. There are many people who are afraid of him, but there are many people who are being built up and feel confident because of putting their trust in him. Again, this is a natural thing for people to do. People find something greater than themselves that looks unafraid and strong in order to feel better and feel less anxious about the future.
This principle is clearly found in psychology. In a series of experiments children were asked to imitate clowns who did different behaviours. It was clear that they imitated the powerful, the successful and sometimes violent leaders. Modelling a important way that we learn. Although we have had powerful leaders in the past, more blatant power plays by leadership will likely make this principle more obvious as people begin to mirror these behaviours.
We all look outside of ourselves to find comfort, but it is dangerous not to be aware of this principle. If you don't realize that this is how we work, you will be less aware of the choice. If you know this is how the human spirit works, at least you can be more aware and make this choice more consciously.
In the Spirit realm these principles work the same way. We look outside of ourselves spiritually to find comfort because we aren't meant to handle anxiety on our own. People find gurus, teachers, institutions and gods who are bigger than them because this is like spiritual water. It gives comfort, life, vibrance to move into new spiritual realities and experiences. It relieves our anxieties to feel connected with something bigger and powerful.
The Bible talks about this principle. In one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians it says, "Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." Paul is talking about how when we see the spirit (faces uncovered) we become like the Spirit. This makes us better and better. We become like the things that we are in awe of, the things we find comfort in and feel are powerful.
What Do You Follow
There are many people, institutions and spirits that we can look to to help us with our fears. It is up to us to choose. Not making a choice is not really an option. People who don't make a choice will often follow the things that those in their social group are following. They will be led by the crowd they are in.
If you're not aware of what you're following, it might be good to look at what you spend time doing. Do you spend time reading about celebrities? Do you spend time doing yoga? Do you watch politics? These things may bring comfort. You may read books and trust intelligence. You may be following a philosophy of independence - the idea that the human spirit will conquer. This way of living may seem like you are following nothing, but it is actually a fairly well defined belief system generally called humanism. This philosophy has its leaders and is supported by a large group of people, which often brings some comfort.
People will make their choice based on their upbringing, personality, and, perhaps most importantly, their own personal choice. What most people don't realize is that they are making a choice and that choice has consequences for the shape of their personality, behaviour and spiritual reality.
This principle of modelling after powerful figures is becoming even more obvious as Trump looks to take office. There are two reasons Trump will be a figure that will draw a great deal of people who will model their behaviour after his. The first is that he inspires anxiety. People become more likely to model when they are uncertain and afraid. The second reason is that he appears confident and unafraid. People model themselves after authority and find confidence in figures that appear to have power and appear to have confidence. This is a dynamic combination. Trump creates the anxiety that he then soothes with his confidence. He contains both elements in one persona.
As Trump gains authority and displays it in his inauguration and acts of authority in office, he will become more established and compelling. This will likely lead to a greater and greater movement of people becoming "Trumpish". This will sometimes happen in subtle ways and it will also likely occur in ways that are more obvious and unsophisticated. For example, people will behave in ways that they think Trump would approve of, when Trump may actually find their behaviour abhorrent. Although it is true that people model their behaviour after powerful figures, they don't always do this in an accurate or healthy manner. There are positives and negatives to any human model, but letting people be your primary model is often a bad idea because they aren't perfect.
Judge By Results
How should we decide what to model ourselves after? This is a lifelong journey. Sometimes people avoid the journey. They move forward in the direction they started in and let the momentum of life carry them forward. Depending on their initial direction this can have positive or negative results.
This journey is sacred, and it is one of the things in life that no one can do for you. We would offer three pieces of advice to help you along the way.
The first is to take the journey seriously. The first step is to realize that it is a journey that you are on and that it makes a big difference to how your life goes. Part of this is to become more spiritually aware of the people around you, the decisions you make, and the goals of your life.
The second piece of advice is to judge by evidence. Although we don't believe that everything in life conforms to the scientific method (repeatable and predictable), we do believe that you can judge spirits and people by the things their lives produce. A way of living or a person that may sound good may not actually produce good things. Communism may be a good example of this. It sounds good to create laws that make wages the same, but the product of this is terrible.
The third piece of advice is that the ways of the Spirit aren't always clear. The spiritual world often goes against the prevailing winds of our society. Living an authentic spiritual walk will likely mean going against the grain of human thought. This can also mean that the way that initially seems full of light may actually be false.
We look outside of ourselves for powerful connections that bring comfort and this can be dangerous if we are not aware of what we are choosing. We can live life consciously or we can just follow whatever is in front of us. Take on the challenge to look at your spiritual life and take the next step in a conscious way. It's possible you will make a mistake but you'll learn for the next time. Our hope is that your journey will be filled with truth and love and that your spiritual connection will produce good things for yourself and those around you.
We all know that after the age of 65, lots of things change. If you had kids, they are likely out of the house and have families of their own. You have likely reached the age of retirement, and must consider when and how to transition out of the workforce. A host of lifestyle changes begin to crop up: This can range from something as drastic as a full transition into a home or assisted living facility all the way down to enjoying the senior discount at certain shops and stores.
In short, 65 is one age that can mark the line between adulthood and old age. Psychological researchers have taken increasing interest in this stage of life, as the number of seniors in most developed countries is projected to double between the years of 2010 and 2050. With such a significant percentage of the population in this stage of life, it becomes all the more important to understand the challenges that seniors face. In response, the field of gerontology (the scientific study of old age) has seen an explosion in funding and popularity in recent years.
One of the most important issues facing gerontology researchers is the cognitive decline associated with old age: how it can be prevented, and how it can be ameliorated. None of these issues is more difficult than memory loss, and recent research may have discovered one important way to delay memory loss in seniors. Let’s take a look at the general effects of aging on cognitive ability, the new research, and what it all means.
Cognitive Decline with Aging
It’s important to be able to tell the difference between the normal, universal effects of aging, and a pathologic cognitive decline that requires medical attention. With the prevalence rates of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease on the rise, many seniors can experience a feeling of fear that prevents them from addressing any symptoms of cognitive decline.
On the other hand, the most effective seniors are able to recognize and admit to the general cognitive failings that accompany old age, and make allowances to address them. Some of these normal changes accompanying typical old age include decreases in memory, processing speed, and conceptual reasoning. In general, cognitive abilities based on what is called “crystallized intelligence” (i.e. general knowledge, vocabulary) don’t change much over time. However, abilities that fall under the heading of “fluid intelligence” (i.e. problem-solving, attention, reasoning) are subject to decline.
Specific to memory, the specific type of memory that begins to decline once old age hits is called “semantic memory,” which encompasses language use (particularly the meaning of words) and practical knowledge such as general information recall. When these changes occur, more often it is not the ability to retain old memories that has declined, but rather the ability to access new ones.
It is not easy to know when this general memory loss crosses the line into something that could require serious attention, and it differs for every single person. One general test that can indicate whether memory loss is normal or pathologic is to note how familiar the information is that was lost. Forgetting the name of a new acquaintance or forgetting a fact that you learned last week on Jeopardy is much less concerning than forgetting how to drive about in very familiar areas or how to perform a routine task. However, individuals with any degree of concern over any memory loss should consult a physician.
The Effects of Volunteering on Memory
When a senior is able to take in this information about what types of memory loss are to be expected in old age, they become able to accept the problem as something real, and begin looking for ways to improve it. There are a host of resources out there about strategies that can help seniors with memory loss to not let the changes in memory slow them down, to work around the difficulties, and to continue to lead productive, fulfilling lives.
A recent research study has added to this wealth of scholarship by revealing the impact that volunteering can have to prevent memory loss in seniors. The study, published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, showed that seniors who volunteer generally enjoyed better physical and emotional health, tended to live longer, and showed a 27% decrease in risk of developing cognitive decline. This was true even if the seniors had other risk factors, including inactivity and smoking.
The study was conducted by researchers at Arizona State University in the United States, and followed more than 13,000 seniors (over age 60) for a period of 14 years. Seniors were asked every 2 years if they had volunteered at least one time, for any reason, over the last 12 months. The seniors also came in regularly for testing on various markers of physical and emotional health.
Importantly, these volunteering effort not only hold personal benefit for the seniors who perform the service, but they also combine together to make an enormous social and economic impact. For retirees with open workday hours to devote their efforts to improving the community can cause a positive spiral for everyone involved.
Making the Effort to Try
In the final analysis, volunteering is simply one way among many for seniors to improve their quality of life and prevent the memory loss that accompanies cognitive decline. The authors of the study went so far as to suggest that perhaps physicians should consider giving seniors a “volunteering prescription.” This idea is apt, because it illustrates the point that many different activities can lead to the positive effects demonstrated in the study.
What’s most important is that seniors make an effort. It can be easy for seniors to avoid the challenges of trying new things, learning new skills, meeting new people, and pursuing physical exertion. However, it is precisely this effort that contributes to a positive health spiral of physical, social, and emotional well-being.
In the end, lots of things change at the age of 65, but the ability to lead a full, rich life does not have to be one of them.
Spirit Room Team
Infurna, F. J., Okun, M. A., & Grimm, K. J. (In press). Volunteering is associated with decreased risk for cognitive impairment. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Harada, C. N., Love, M. C. N., & Triebel, K. L. (2013). Normal cognitive aging. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 29(4), 737-752.
Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires consistent work and commitment by both partners in order to keep it on a successful path.
“The key to a relationship is communication” is a long- held cliché. There is however, a great deal of truth in this old adage.
The differences between you and your partner as well as the many stresses and strains of life can impede communication. It’s so easy to fall into bad habits or to neglect communication altogether.
Sometimes we may not even be able to identify the errors we are making. This short list will highlight some of the more common pitfalls of marital communication, and give some pointers as to how to improve the dialogue at home.
Learn To Listen
This is another cliché but one that therapists and marriage counsellors can't emphasise enough. So many of us skim over advice on how to listen, thinking we have it down, when in reality our skills need updating.
Listening is so much more than just hearing what the other person is saying! Try to be an active listener. This means not only understanding the content of your partner’s words but actively trying to understand how they feel and see things from their perspective.
You may not be as deeply interested in your partner’s current work project as they are, but put yourself in their shoes. If it matters to them it should matter to you.
It also really helps to show signs that you are listening. Show signs of acknowledgement and if unsure, repeat back what you have heard in your own words. Your partner can then correct you if you have misheard.
This may not be as easy as it seems. When your partner brings up a difficult issue, it can trigger emotions that make it challenging to listen and respond non-defensively. Working on yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually can help you to manage your reactions more effectively.
Taking this approach goes really far in terms of helping you and your partner understand each other. It can also help to smooth over any arguments or grievances as you will both be able to air your thoughts calmly and without interruption.
It Is Not a Competition
When you are having a difficult discussion or argument with your partner, it can be easy to slide into being argumentative and competitive, particularly if we are this way inclined by nature.
You and your spouse are on the same team however, and you should not be embroiled in competition with each other.
Remember, when it comes to marriage you do not always have to win and you do not always have to be right. As part of the same team you should be working together to achieve a compromise. It is important to know that often time it only takes small changes in behaviour to make a large difference in the relationship. For example, you may think your partner is overly demanding with cleaning, but it may turn out that a relatively small cleaning task is enough to show that you care.
Obviously, if you are being required to give way on anything unethical or that compromises your personal values or safety then that is a different matter.
In terms of the smaller things however, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Work alongside each other and not against.
Be Open About Your Vulnerability
When we are embarrassed or feel vulnerable about something, it is all too easy to conceal our feelings and become defensive and outraged instead.
This habit is absolutely destructive in a marriage as it blocks the lines of communication and paves the way for misunderstandings and arguments.
For example; your partner said something this morning that hurt you but you think this is embarrassing or petty on your part. Later this evening you find yourself becoming passive aggressive over dinner before blowing up in anger when he/ she makes a similar comment.
This situation could easily be avoided by some honesty. By opening up about your hurt feelings and using the first person, “I felt hurt when you said..”, your partner would know the effect of their words.
This avoids the need to let feelings simmer and resort to negative emotions at a later stage. It’s not embarrassing to show your vulnerable side to your partner - in fact it is extremely healthy in a relationship. When you take the first steps to emotional honesty your partner will start to reciprocate. Likewise, be open to your partner’s vulnerability and always encourage this sharing.
Examine How You Talk to Your Partner
You and your partner have a unique way of talking to each other. A marriage is a relationship like no other and particularly as the years go by, you may have developed certain patterns and habits. Sometimes these issues can go beyond just habits and actually be a result of the way we process language. Speech pathologists would say that individuals can have difficulty producing language in various ways and that this can effect the ability of individuals to process communication, even with familiar individuals like spouses.
We are all more familiar with family members but this should never be to the detriment of being civil and respectful. Next time you have a negative encounter with your partner listen to yourself and how you have spoken to them. Have you been irritable, bossy, condescending or sarcastic? If so, this is probably not a once- off. Although it can be hard to face- up to our own flaws it is the first step in change.
If you realise you have a habit of being condescending towards your partner when you are tired for example, become more aware of it and make a conscious effort to change.
Involve your partner in the process. Openly discuss the bad habits you have both acquired and explore why these have slipped in.
Although it’s difficult to change these patterns doing so will make a massive difference to your relationship.
Psychologists propose that one of the best tests of a marriage is to compare the ratio of negative to positive exchanges. Think about how your marriage rates using these criteria and try to introduce more positive and supportive dialogue.
These are just some basic tips recommended to improve the lines of communication in your marriage. Obviously, there are many more and this is not a one- stop solution.
Communication is a project which both you and your partner must work on. Doing so can be difficult at first but also extremely rewarding. Try out some of these tips above. If your marriage needs more expert intervention however, make sure to seek out professional help and support.
By Dr. Syras Derksen, a Winnipeg psychologist that provides assessment and therapy services for children and adults.
Whitchurch, G. G. (1992). Communication in marriages and families: A review essay of family communication textbooks. Communication Education, 41(3), 337-343.
Spirituality is such a broad term and one which is hard to define. In a general sense, it refers to having a belief and or/ connection to something we view as bigger than ourselves. Often this may include a search for the meaning of life or ways to grow and become better people.
Whatever our creed or belief we have probably all had brushes with spirituality at some point or another and will have entirely different perspectives on the matter. This innate desire to make meaning is unique to humans as a species and is truly fascinating.
It begs the question why humans have this deep need for a spiritual life, and how it affects us.
Scientists have also asked this question and have had some interesting findings.
Spirituality/ Religion and Well- being:
A number of studies have found a connection between religion and subjective well-being. A study conducted by Ellison (1991) found that those with a strong religious belief reported higher happiness and life satisfaction levels. Many studies have replicated these findings and found that religious people tend to be happier.
Dr. Edward Diener proposes that the explanation for this is “positive spirituality”. This includes a range of emotions including wonder, respect, gratitude and love. He argues that when we experience these emotions we feel connected to others and have a “higher purpose”. This can reduce stress levels and prevent us from worrying about day-to-day issues.
Organised religion or involvement in a spiritual group has other benefits for the individual. It provides an automatic social network which is often supportive of its members. Being involved in a religious/ spiritual organisation can help stave off loneliness. Many church groups also organise social events or have religious holidays throughout the year, this provides social structure and engagement to many who may otherwise be isolated.
Some psychologists also argue that a belief system which provides support for an afterlife prevents us from fearing death. This acceptance may lead to greater overall well-being.
Some studies have had conflicting findings however. One recent study has linked belief in a “punitive God” i.e. one who punishes, to certain mental disorders such as social anxiety and paranoia. It is not clear what the take-away finding of the study is, but it has been proposed that those with emotional problems may be more distressed by the idea of a negative higher power. It seems that our perspective on God really has an effect.
Benefits of Prayer
Taking time to reflect can have many benefits. Research has found that those who pray are less likely to suffer the negative physical effect associated with stress. Interestingly, benefits were more evident when people are praying for others.
Getting in touch with one’s inner self and taking time to invest in ourselves spiritually and mentally reaps a range of psychological rewards.
Some form of meditation or prayer would appear to give us relief from stress and improve well-being. In addition, incorporating gratitude, forgiveness and spirituality into our lives is of massive benefit to our mental health. There would also appear to be benefits to the community aspect of spirituality. A level of spirituality allows us to feel connected to others and may even provide a social outlet. This leads to a question of why spirituality helps. It may be evolution or we may have been created with this spirituality to seek a real Spirit. Exploring this question is a journey we encourage everyone to explore.
Spirit Room Team
Ellison, C. G. (1991). Religious involvement and subjective well-being.Journal of health and social behavior, 80-99.
Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Well-being. The foundations of hedonic psychology.
McBride, J. L., Arthur, G., Brooks, R., & Pilkington, L. (1998). The relationship between a patient's spirituality and health experiences. FAMILY MEDICINE-KANSAS CITY-, 30, 122-126.
Have you ever noticed that whenever you go on a hike, walk in a forest, bask in the sun along the shore or just spend a night lying on a bed of grass and looking up at a starry sky, you feel like something heavy has been lifted off of you? You feel more relaxed, and your stress seems to have gone with the wind. Simply being in nature puts you into a meditative and mindful state.
This is known in many names, including green therapy, nature therapy, earth-centered therapy and ecotherapy. It has recently been gaining the attention of the scientific community. A number of studies are trying to understand how outdoor immersion can alleviate depression and improve one’s overall mental health.
Green and Urban Life
There are times when the mind cannot keep up anymore with the fast-paced urban life. The stress you constantly get from work, the pollution you have to go through every day, and the suffocating feeling of simply living in the city can take their toll on your health both physically and mentally.
The study conducted by Ryan, R. et al. (2010) showed that spending at least 20 minutes outdoors and in nature per day can boost one’s energy levels. As the lead author said, “Nature is fuel for the soul.” Moreover, the findings of the research prove that nature does not only recharge the body when it feels depleted but also makes it more resilient to various physical illnesses.
Nature and Depression
Being sad and anxious are normal human emotions. Sometimes you feel like you’re on top of the world, but sometimes the world seems to be against you. However, when you constantly feel these negative emotions, they can lead to clinical depression. And it can sap the motivation and liveliness out of you.
This mental disorder has been linked to different health issues. In fact, an international team of scientists have found that suffering from depression for a long period of time can cause brain damage (Schmaal, L. et al., 2015). It can also cause back pain (Pinheiro, M. et al., 2015).
Researchers from the University of Essex conducted a study about how nature can affect depressed people (“New research shows benefits of ecotherapy,” 2013). Their findings show that taking a walk in nature had reduced the depression scores in 71 percent of the participants. This is only one of the many more studies that have linked the positive effect of nature to depression.
Nature and Happiness
A dose of nature may just be the right prescription for happiness. MacKerron, G. & Mourato, S. (2013) claims that happiness is actually greater in natural environments. Their study shows that the participants demonstrated significant and substantial evidence of happiness when they are outdoors among greens compared to when they were placed in an urban setting. Their findings have further strengthened existing studies that had also proven the positive effects of nature to one’s happiness and well-being.
This may be explained by the theory that we haven’t been fully alienated from nature. It’s only been just over 200 years ago when we started confining ourselves in the jungle of concrete and modern living, which started during the Industrial Revolution. That’s just a small fraction compared to the hundreds of thousand years we have lived and evolved within the freeing space of nature. Many believe that our separation from our natural habitat is what has caused many of our mental problems today (Walsh, B., 2009).
As our world becomes more digital and industrial, it is no wonder that more and more people are dreaming to travel and discover nature.
Ryan, R. et al., 2010. Vitalizing Effects of Being Outdoors and In Nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology. June 2010 30(2): 159–168; doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2009.10.009
Schmaal, L. et al., 2015. Subcortical Brain Alterations in Major Depressive Disorder: Findings from the ENIGMA Major Depressive Disorder Working Group. Molecular Psychiatry. 30 June 2015; doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.69
Pinheiro, M. et al., 2015. Symptoms of Depression and Risk of New Episodes of Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Arthritis Care & Research. 27 October 2015, 67(11): 1591-1603; doi: 10.1002/acr.22619
New Research Shows Benefits of Ecotherapy for Mental Health and Wellbeing. 23 October 2013. In Mind. Retrieved from http://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/new-research-shows-benefits-of-ecotherapy-for-mental-health-and-wellbeing/#.Vv655aR97IU
MacKerron, G. & Mourato, S., 2013. Happiness is Greater in Natural Environments. Global Environment Change. October 2013 23(5), 992-1000; doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.03.010
Walsh, B. (2009, July 28). ‘Eco-Therapy’ for Environmental Depression. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1912687,00.html
How do you make the important decisions in your life? Is it a long process that involves serious analysis of the pros and cons? How about your intuition? Do you trust your gut feeling, the initial inkling that usually happens to be the right one?
Intuition is a powerful tool, if you’re willing to sharpen and utilize it.
Intuitive Decision Making: What is it?
Intuitive decision making refers to trusting that inner voice and making decisions on the basis of your gut feeling, experience and knowledge. Quite often, we mess things up when we listen to others and when we’re hesitant about committing to one opportunity or another.
Some of the best entrepreneurs and decisions makers know what it takes to practice intuitive decision making and how to keep this sense in a top condition. Yes, there are exercises that can strengthen the intuition but we’ll get to them in a minute.
Intuitive decision making plays an important role in the business world. It’s quite the opposite of rational decision making – assessing the pros and the cons, doing analysis and using the data to choose the more favorable outcome. Various tests and experiments prove that intuition can be just as valuable for decision making as a rational approach.
According to the researchers, intuition is most powerful when people have to make a broad decision in an area that they have a lot of experience in. Very often, top managers have to make quick judgments and choose an outcome in a situation where analysis is impossible. These are the people that will benefit the most from intuitive decision making but needless to say, they’re not the only ones.
The Benefits of Trusting Your Gut
Making a conscious decision to trust your intuition can become one of your most powerful tools. The benefits of an intuitive approach are many:
A Guide to Developing Your Intuition
People that are reluctant about using an intuitive approach may fear that their intuition isn’t that strong or well developed. Luckily, there are exercises and basic techniques that can be practiced to develop a strong intuition.
Some people are intuitive by nature. Others will need to work consciously on getting in touch with their sub-conscious. Strengthening the intuitive response to all kinds of life situations isn’t that difficult:
Some call it existential depression, others are simply focused on making their existence more meaningful and they’re dissatisfied with the current sense of purpose. Are you one of those individuals? How often do you ask yourself about the meaning of life? How often do you feel lost? Most people go through such sentiments.
If you want to be a good human being and you want to accomplish something, chances are that every once in a while you’ll feel that life is completely meaningless. It’s crucial to fight these negative emotions. Finding a purpose in life is possible, as long as you manage to overcome the effect of those negative voices in your head.
Why Life Feels Meaningless
Even the biggest of optimists can feel once in a while that their life has no purpose, that it’s empty of meaning.
Burnout is one of the most common causes of desperation. Though most people associate burnout with their career, it can impact just about every aspect of life. Burnout has a couple of easy to distinguish symptoms:
In other instances, people begin pursuing a dream that isn’t clearly defined or that’s not the one thing that they’d like to accomplish in life. With the passage of time and the realization that the dream isn’t “it,” it’s possible to start feeling like life has no purpose and meaning.
Important Questions to Ask
It’s possible to discover meaning and purpose, even if you’ve been completely disillusioned. Taking a break from the everyday existence and coping with chronic stress are both essential for getting to feel complete once again.
Stop trying to keep yourself busy without being productive. Stop relying on the routine that feels comfortable but that keeps you drowning in a sea of meaningless chores. A few days of relaxation can help you regain your mental clarity and see that it’s not all lost.
Asking yourself a couple of important questions is also wonderful for finding the meaning and the purpose once again:
So, What should You do When Life Feels Meaningless?
You’ve slowed down and you’ve asked yourself the most important questions. You’ve taken steps to counter chronic stress. Now what?
It’s interesting to point out that people who survived disasters and overcome highly unfavorable circumstances believed in their life’s higher purpose. This phenomenon is known as the Stockdale paradox. So, it’s not about how you came into existence, the bigger questions is why.
Instead of focusing on happiness and positive things in life, you may want to focus on what’s wrong and making it better. Happiness will be a natural consequence of fixing injustices, no matter how big or small. Happiness as the purpose of life is going to be empty of meaning, it has to be a byproduct of the things that you do. The very same thing applies to success, whether in your personal or professional life.
People often search in different places for meaning. In a spiritual search, people may visit psychics or mediums, investigate religions, and try praying. In finding a purpose, it is important to find something to serve, something bigger than yourself. A spiritual life can be a great place to find this connection.
Once you see a higher purpose and you begin understanding the connections between people (the way in which the things you do are affecting others), you will get to experience the fulfillment and satisfaction that will make your life meaningful once again.
A hedonistic approach isn’t going to cut it. Try being altruistic and chances are that you’ll see major changes.
Many feel like they are going through a bog of shadows and laconic activities due to this conundrum. It is no secret that having a solid purpose does well for our survival. It is a highly crucial need that is sometimes overlooked or fulfilled in unhealthy ways which may unfortunately lead to more dysfunctional habits. Ergo, establishing your life purpose is something worth reflecting on.
Goals Are Not the Same As Purpose
Before we dig deeper, let us differentiate goals from purpose. Though they are often understandably interchanged, we need to draw the line for a hopefully, more meaningful reverie.
Basically, you work towards a goal because of a purpose. Goals have certain parameters such as time, quantifiable results, and distinct effort. On the other hand, a purpose is much more encompassing as it is shaped by your values and principles. Unlike goals, your life purpose has no particular target. For instance, your goal which is to land that promotion is your purpose to provide well for your family. Hence, your purpose is undoubtedly vital in enjoying a well-lived existence.
The Power of Purpose
Having a purpose prevents boredom and depression. By having that mindset, you are less likely to entertain nonsensical thoughts. Furthermore, it helps you focus on something external which makes you less egocentric. Note that being self-absorbed is a huge precursor of negative emotional states such as misery and anxiety. In fact, Patrick Hill of Carleton University stated, “Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose. So the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur” (Association for Psychological Science, 2014). Assessment from more than 6000 research participants verified that a grander purpose was an indicator of lower mortality risks. Interestingly, this inference was observed across the lifespan (younger, middle-aged, and older).
Here are some questions that can help you gain more insights about having a more meaningful existence:
1. What are the Top Three Principles of Your Life?
Since your beliefs play a major role in your purpose, having a clear view of your values can lead to a more vivid resolution as well as goals. Exploring your spiritual beliefs can be important in finding purpose.
People are interested in the afterlife and sometimes even visit mediums to try to understand death. The future is a mystery and people are curious and sometimes visit psychics to understand how life will unfold. We want to feel that connection with something outside ourselves. Purpose can come from serving a spiritual purpose and exploring these realities is important. Often the first step is reaching out in our spirit and asking for greater understanding.
2. What Makes You Have a "Flow" Experience?
What kind of activity makes you so focused that time literally flies by? Hungarian Psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines this motivating experience as a single-minded immersion where your emotions are positively united with your task. As this results to joy, flow has been linked with happiness (Csikszentmihalyi & Hunter, 2003). Your moments of flow can certainly guide life changing decisions such as college degrees and professions.
3. How Can You Employ Your Talents and Skills to Help Others?
Much meaning is drawn from what can we contribute to the improvement of external elements. This higher purpose is a need that causes void in a number of individuals. Knowing that your life has somehow made others’ lives better certainly fosters more connectedness, hence significance.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014). Having a sense of purpose may add years to your life. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/having-a-sense-of-purpose-in-life-may-add-years-to-your-life.html
Csikszentmihalyi, M. and J. Hunter (2003). "Happiness in everyday life: the uses of experience sampling." Journal of Happiness Studies, 4, 2, pp.185-199
As a rational person, you have a difficult time believing that negative energy impacts your life. The truth of the matter is that scientists have done research on the topic and they’ve come to the conclusion that negative energy can have a detrimental effect on the way you feel and the things you do.
From your health to your relationships with others, energy will impact just about every aspect of your life. You can learn to control the negative energy for a more meaningful and fulfilling existence.
How Negative Energy Affects You
Negative energy and negative thoughts, whether coming from within or directed towards you, can have numerous serious effects on your life.
Detecting and Overcoming Negative Energy
In order to overcome the impact of even a medium amount of negative energy, you’ll first have to learn how to detect it.
Very often, blocks and hindrances that have a negative impact on who we are and what we do are related to past experiences and negative occurrences in life. We have certain “shortcuts” for processing information and these are based on what has happened to us. If you’re getting in a situation that leads to pessimism and an immediate negative response, you’ll need to think about the factors that contribute to the specific way of handling the issue.
Detecting the signs of negative energy and thoughts coming from other people is a bit more challenging. Usually, you’ll feel unsafe and troubled in such situations. Off-putting vibes are connected to the negative way in which others see you or the world that surrounds them.
Negative energy is also the cause of sluggishness and lack of focus. Here’s a simple example – if you don’t like your job or the relationships that you have with colleagues, chances are that you’ll have no desire to get up in the morning and go to the office. Everyday work activities will be connected to anxiety and it will be so difficult to complete the process quickly.
The Best Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy
Now that you’ve identified your own bad thoughts or the negative impact that other people have on your life, it’s time to come up with a strategy for overcoming those influences. Here’s how to do it:
Of course if negativity moves into depression, it can be helpful to seek the help of a psychologist or if you see this in one of your children, a child psychologist. Having an outside perspective can help you evaluate your thinking and bring a new perspective to your situation.