The Antidote to Witnessing the Recent Presidential Campaign

>> Monday

An interesting article this week described the results of several experiments showing that feelings of awe might be an effective salve for the disturbing feelings we have had of late. Below are some excerpts from the article (read the whole thing here):

2016 was rough.

America's grueling presidential campaign was full of anger, searing accusations, and fear. In its wake, our country's darkest differences have been brought to light. Many families and friends have been pitted against one another. We are exhausted. We are divided. We are perhaps even a little bit depressed.

So allow me to offer you some good news.

I'm here to tell you, downtrodden countrymen (and women), that there is a remedy for our particular affliction. It can be found in the flutter of a hummingbird's wings, or the determined eyes of a crouching snow leopard. It's in the gallop of a giraffe as it's pursued across the tundra, and the heroic leap of a penguin from razor-sharp cliffs. Mix in a cinematic score by Hans Zimmer and the soothing sounds of David Attenborough's voice, and the formula is complete. Lift your eyes to the TV screen, my weary friends. What we need now, perhaps more than ever, is a hefty dose of Planet Earth.

I'm a nature nerd and an awe junkie. Regular injections of natural beauty help keep me afloat in a world that would otherwise drag me down. I need brushes with wonder to maintain my sanity. I need that swelling in my chest and goosebumps down my spine, that tear-jerking act of kindness, or brilliant full moon, or stirring speech. Awe and wonder just make me feel good.

And I'm not alone. Scientists believe awe might actually be good for our physical health. In one groundbreaking study, researchers measured participants' levels of something called interleukin-6, a molecule known to promote inflammation in the body. Elevated levels of this stuff have been linked to chronic ailments like depression and autoimmune diseases. The theory is that the lower your levels of IL-6, the better your overall health. In the study, awe was "the strongest predictor" of lower levels of IL-6, the authors write, even stronger than regular brushes with other positive emotions like love and joy.

"We know positive emotions are important for well-being, but our findings suggest they're also good for our body," says positive psychology researcher Jennifer Stellar, the study's lead author.

Read the whole article here: The Scientific Reason You Should Be Watching Planet Earth.

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Your Mood Makes a Difference to Others

>> Friday

Do you think improving your mood is a selfish indulgence? Do you think you should stop trying to feel better and do something productive instead? Well, get ready to overturn your thinking because a new study shows that your good mood has a strong influence on the happiness of others.

Improving your own mood does something valuable for the people who know you.

Using the voluminous data collected in the Framingham Heart Study, researchers looked at 5000 people over a period of twenty years. Many of the participants knew each other, so the researchers fed all the connections and their mood data over the two decades, and discovered something deeply heartening. Each person's happiness ripples out into others' lives.

In other words, your happiness — your good mood — causes a ripple of good moods for the people you know, and the closer people are to you, the stronger the effect.

Here's another uplifting finding from this study: Good moods have a greater ripple effect than bad moods. In other words, your good moods have more of a positive effect on others than your bad moods have a negative effect on them. And their good moods influence you more than their bad moods.

This is good news all around. Your good mood has a measurably positive effect on the people you know. And good moods are more influential than bad moods.

So from now on, take your mood more seriously, and encourage the people you know to do the same.

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot

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