Pay Attention, Class. . .
The biggest fear of being
K I N D
is someone will
. . .funny,
T H A T
continues to be my
daily prayer. . .
BE KIND WHENEVER POSSIBLE. IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE
Who Cares - What Matters
Pay Attention, Class. . .
The biggest fear of being
K I N D
is someone will
. . .funny,
T H A T
continues to be my
daily prayer. . .
BE KIND WHENEVER POSSIBLE. IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE
COVID19 pushed me back to books
(not that I have ever given them up)
but I’m way ahead of my yearly quota. . .
I even went back to an old one I read
nearly 45 years ago:
THE LORD OF THE FLIES
In the novel Lord of the Flies, a group of young boys are shipwrecked on an island and eventually turn savagely against each other. The book is a cautionary tale about humanity’s underlying cruelty and the need for civilization to tame our darker impulses—a message that resonates with many people today.
But that’s not what happened to a real-life group of shipwrecked kidsin 1965. Unlike the fictional Lord of the Flies characters, they developed a game plan for survival that was cooperative, fun, and peaceful, resulting in lifelong friendships.
In other words, the boys didn’t turn into devils when left on their own—far from it!
The journalist, Jill Suttie recently wrote about how Dutch historian Rutger Bregman recounts this story in his new book Humankind, arguing against the Lord of the Flies’s unreasonably dim picture of humanity. The key message in Bregman’s book is that humans are basically good, when left to their own devices.
That’s not to say there aren’t characters who will act badly, especially if encouraged (or manipulated) to do so or when under duress. But the vast majority of us are happy to work together cooperatively. This, he writes, is the only possible conclusion to make from the scientific and historical evidence.
And, he argues, it’s something we desperately need to understand if we want to work together toward creating a better society for all; especially during these pandemic times.
Some of the most famous evidence for our pessimistic view of human nature comes from the Stanford Prison Experiment done by Philip Zimbardo in the early 1970s. In this experiment, Zimbardo brought students into a lab and had them act out roles as prisoners and guards. Soon the experiment turned sour, as guards began acting too harshly toward prisoners, and it had to be shut down.
The experimenters concluded that people are sadistic underneath veneers of normalcy and can easily be manipulated to do harm. But Bregman points out that the results came about because the “guards” were encouraged from the start to be harsh toward “prisoners.” By enacting their roles, they thought they were contributing to science—a kind and helpful intent. Also, one student “prisoner” in the experiment, who supposedly “broke down” and had to be removed, confessed to faking his hysteria in order to get back to studying. The whole study and its conclusions were misrepresented.
“What’s fascinating is that most guards in the Stanford Prison Experiment remained hesitant to apply ‘tough tactics’ at all, even under mounting pressure,” writes Bregman. In fact, a later “prison experiment” mounted by the BBC, where guards were not told what to do, had very different results. The guards soon became reluctant to take on their authoritarian roles and became friendly with “prisoners” instead.
Actually, research suggests that people are quite unwilling to harm others—even in war situations—without strong coercion, which explains why leaving people to their own devices would produce different results.
Bregman takes readers through many experiments and events that seem to point to our flawed natures, and debunks them one by one. For example, we learn that the famous story about Kitty Genovese—a woman who was brutally raped and murdered in Queens, New York, while neighbors supposedly did nothing to help—is largely fiction, perpetuated by the New York Times coverage of her death. It turns out that the Times’s claim about 37 heartless bystanders was false, and people did come to her aid, including a neighbor who held her while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
Still, this story of unconcerned bystanders is retold over and over as proof of human indifference and, like the Stanford Prison Experiment, graces many social psychology textbooks. Therein lies the problem.
The danger in continuing to repeat false conclusions from flawed research is that it feeds a narrative that doesn’t serve us. People hearing these findings start to believe that sadists lurk among us and they can’t trust others, when most of the time they can. It also supports the idea that only through strict social control from on high—dictatorships or police states, for example—can we stop our communities from devolving into chaos. Humankind: A Hopeful History(Little, Brown and Company, 2020, 480 pages)
According to Bregman, it’s important to understand that our true nature is (mostly) good, because it can encourage us to create institutions with less hierarchical structures and less stifling leadership. And these ways of organizing ourselves can have better outcomes.
For example, he highlights the home nursing program Buurtzorg, created first in the Netherlands, in which nurses cut out the management and created a cooperative that has been cost-effective and provides better patient care. He mentions city governments in Brazil that enacted public budgeting processes—where citizens had more say in how city funds were spent—that resulted in more health care spending, fewer infant deaths, and more civic engagement. And, he writes, schools that are less punitive and more cooperative, and allow students to be more in charge of their education, help improve students’ intrinsic motivation—one of the most important factors for learning.
The “tragedy of the commons”—the idea that public resources shared by many (like air, water, and land) can be depleted if people use them in a self-interested way—has long been an influential idea in economics. But Bregman points to the work of Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize–winning economist, who studied how people around the world actually manage the commons when left to their own devices. Her research paved the way for understanding that once certain elements are present, people act cooperatively and don’t require social control—a finding that resonateswith many economists today.
This positive view of human nature can inform us about how police should handle crime prevention and prison reform, too, writes Bregman. Too often people believe that getting “tough on crime” and giving harsh prison sentences are what lead to crime reduction. But, Bregman argues, police departments that follow tough-on-crime tactics (like arresting people for minor violations) increase incarceration rates without reducing crime. Meanwhile, prisons that treat their prisoners humanely—by keeping sentences short and focusing on creating a more natural, community-based system inside the walls of the prison—prevent more crime and recidivism and are more cost-effective than those that don’t.
The book is full of other fascinating examples of places and programs being remade based on human goodness and trust. Bregman’s take-home message is that our better nature will win out, if we can only recognize its ubiquity.
That means recognizing the potential for goodness in everyone, even groups of people who look, think, or act differently from us whom we might be prejudiced against. One way to do so, research suggests, is to work on building positive contact across groups—like friendships and cooperative work relationships—that will increase our trust for others.
Bregman lists several other tips at the end of his book that people can use to see the goodness in humanity—things like “When in doubt, trust first,” “Temper your empathy, train your compassion,” and “Avoid the news.” If we take the view that we are born to be good, we can make a society that is fairer and freer for all, he says. That doesn’t take optimism; it just takes paying attention to science and experience.
“To believe that people are hardwired to be kind isn’t sentimental or naïve. On the contrary, it’s courageous and realistic to believe in peace and forgiveness,” he writes.
And this leaves us where. . . ?
that’s better than maybe what we’ve been imagining
with all of the unrest that’s making us feel anything but
r e s t f u l
because the evidence-based data
is kind of letting us know
that there’s some serious
i n h e r e n t
goodness in each of us. . .
S T I L L :
Ever since early MARCH 2020
when we entered into our COVID19 Pandemic
our heads have been jammed back with
F A C T S
some somewhere in-between
and it’s all been enough to literally make your head
E X P L O D E
so when you think you are literally
going out of your mind
real it all back in
(no duct tape necessary)
You’re not alone—people around the world are depressed, anxious, and stressed, some more than others.
KIRA M. NEWMAN is the managing editor of GREATER GOOD which is all about reeling it all in as it appears to be falling all out shares with us some great DO’S and DON’T’S. . .
Epidemiologists and virologists around the world are scrambling to understand and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. There is another group of researchers who are concerned about a slightly different foe: the mental health pandemic.
Facing an infectious disease, we have been forced to maintain distance from each other, all while going through levels of fear, uncertainty, job loss, and grief that are unprecedented for many people.
“In an ironic twist, many of the strategies that are critical to ensuring our collective public health during this pandemic may put people at greater risk for . . . mental health issues,” write Frederick Buttell and Regardt J. Ferreira at Tulane University in a recent, special issue of the journal Psychological Trauma.
In brand-new studies coming out of China, Spain, the United States, and other countries, researchers are discovering in real time how we are collectively coping with this worldwide event. The results are not uplifting, but they aren’t surprising either. We are suffering, some of us worse than others. You don’t have to have lost a job or a loved one to be affected. Humans are complex, and so are emotional responses to the pandemic.
When this all started, we learned how viruses spread and how to wash our hands like pros. Now we have lessons to learn about what happens to mental health in a crisis like this, so we can find ways to address it.
As COVID-19 spread through China in January and February, researchers were already sending out questionnaires to citizens locked down in their homes. In half a dozen studies with over 10,000 respondents, they found that people were experiencing worse mental health problems than before the pandemic—high symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Up to half showed serious signs of depression (depending on the study), while up to 35 percent showed serious anxiety.
One survey followed over 1,700 people in 190 Chinese cities from late January to late February. During the height of the pandemic, their stress, anxiety, and depression didn’t change. Their symptoms of PTSD declined slightly—but they were still high enough to be worrisome. People weren’t getting worse, but they also didn’t seem to be getting used to pandemic life.
The results look no better in other countries. In late March, nearly 3,500 people were surveyed in Spain, when the country ranked second in the world in COVID-19 deaths. Many people met the criteria for clinical mental health problems: 19 percent for depression, almost a quarter for anxiety, and 16 percent for PTSD. Within a week after Slovenia declared an epidemic, over half of the thousands of people surveyed had high stress levels. In April, 14 percent of Americans were experiencing serious psychological distress, more than triple the rate in 2018.
And studies find that this stress and anxiety fuels poor sleep, creating a vicious cycle. The more we lay awake at night during the pandemic, rehashing worries we have no control over, the worse our mental health becomes.
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing have left many people isolated, so it makes sense that we would be feeling lonely. And, indeed, nearly 1 in 7 U.S. adults said they were often or always lonely in April 2020, up over 25 percent from 2018. But when another group of researchers surveyed over 1,500 people in the U.S., they were surprised to find “remarkable resilience.” Not only did people not become lonelier over time, but they actually gained a greater sense of support from others from January to April.
All the phone calls and video chats with family and friends may be helping, write Martina Luchetti and her coauthors from Florida State University, as well as a new sense of togetherness. “Many people have felt part of community-wide efforts to slow the spread of the virus. The feeling of . . . being in this together may increase resilience.”
However, this hasn’t been true for everyone. People who are younger or living alone, or who have a chronic health condition, are lonelier than other groups. In fact, one study in the U.S. in April and May (before any restrictions were lifted) found that almost two thirds of people under 30 had high levels of loneliness, and 37 percent felt they had low support from their family.
“Feeling cut off from social groups may lead one to feel vulnerable and pessimistic about one’s circumstances,” write Cindy H. Liu and her coauthors.
In early April, the United Nations called for immediate global action to combat the increasing violence against women and girls during the pandemic.
While older people have greater health risks from COVID-19, it seems to be younger people who are struggling emotionally. According to studies from Spain, China, and Slovenia, younger people tend to be more depressed, anxious, stressed, and traumatized in the era of COVID-19. The same is true for women, who may also be more lonely.
There’s no clear explanation for why this might be true, but researchers have some speculations. Women tend to have worse mental health in general, and certain stressors right now—like the added burden of caregiving and the risk of losing jobs—may fall more heavily on women.
For younger people, it could be the disruptions to their routines that are to blame, particularly for college students who have had to adjust to online schooling. In studies across both China and the United States, the more the pandemic was affecting people’s daily lives, the more anxious they felt.
Personality also influences how we fare in tough times. Two related traits that seem to matter during the pandemic are our ability to tolerate uncertainty and our ability to tolerate distress. While it’s hard for anyone to struggle or face the unknown, some people are less comfortable with it than others. And right now, it’s those people who seem to be ruminating more, feeling more afraid, and experiencing more depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
In studies across the world, researchers investigated what else might make people vulnerable to mental health problems during the pandemic. They found a few key factors that put people at risk.
For one, people with poor health or chronic diseases tend to have higher symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD, several studies found. Of course, this might be because these are also the people with greater health risks from COVID-19.
Your income and education matter, too. The less stable your income and the less educated you are, studies suggest, the more anxiety, depression, and stress you will experience. The pandemic is threatening the economy, affecting everyone’s financial future, but the situation is worse for people who were already struggling. In a very real sense, we’re not all in the same boat.
“It is an inescapable fact that people lower on the socioeconomic ladder are struggling more”
―David Sbarra, Ph.D.
A Pew survey of nearly 5,000 Americans in April found that the lowest-income people were most afraid of getting COVID-19, too. “[While] Americans may be struggling with the emotional challenges of the pandemic, it is an inescapable fact that people lower on the socioeconomic ladder are struggling more,” says psychologist David Sbarra.
Those unequal effects extend all the way to who lives and who dies.
In fact, Black people are more likely to be infected, less likely to be tested and treated, and less likely to survive if they get COVID-19. According to Andrea King Collier in an article for Greater Good, a history of racism means the Black community is confronting the pandemic with worse health, less access to care, and more distrust of the medical system.
That means they have more reason to be fearful for their own lives, and they are more likely to experience loss. In fact, Pew research suggests that more than a quarter of Black Americans know someone who was hospitalized or died from COVID-19, compared to 1 in 10 white Americans.
These hardships worsened after the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota. His death catalyzed nationwide protests for racial justice—but at the same time, many observers say, it made the pandemic even harder for many Black Americans.
“Black people have been hit on all sides with the threat of loss of life,” saysRiana Anderson, assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. “It is exhausting. Depleting. Depressing. And absolutely an additional stressor.” She argues that family and community support is a strength of the Black community, but physical distancing restrictions have made it more difficult to access that power.
Other people of color are suffering disproportionally under the pandemic, too. Nearly one-fifth of Latino adults were experiencing serious psychological distress in April 2020; the CDC estimates that Latinos make up over half of the U.S. agricultural workforce, a group of essential workers whose jobs put them at greater risk of infection. Discrimination against Asians has risen since the pandemic started in Wuhan, China.
YOUR WORK SITUATION MATTERS
One of the biggest disruptions to our daily lives today is how the pandemic has affected our work.
Doctors, nurses, and paramedics are taking on the urgent task of caring for COVID-19 patients, while other essential workers are putting themselves at risk to sell food, deliver mail, and pick up trash. Many office jobs have transitioned to remote work, asking employees to isolate at home, with many precariously juggling work and care for children or elders.
Other people have been unable to continue work during the pandemic, waiting for the time when they’ll be called back, while some have been laid off entirely. Unemployment in the U.S. more than quadrupled from February to April, leveling off in July at 10 percent.
A Chinese survey in mid-February examined some of these work situations, though not all. What was clear is that people who are unable to work temporarily—even if they don’t get laid off—have worse mental health. And while working in an office might seem risky, it was the people working from home who were actually more distressed and less satisfied with their lives.
There’s a lot we don’t have control over in this situation, which is stressful in and of itself. You may have some of the risk factors mentioned above, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
But what can you control? That’s the first question to ask.
For example, research from 28 countries conducted in mid-March found that the more people used social media, the more fearful they were. Frequent social media users in China were more likely to feel both depressed and anxious at the same time. Part of the reason may be because, particularly when the pandemic was ramping up, it was the main topic of discussion online. If being on Facebook doesn’t feel good, consider putting limits on social media time.
Does that mean ignorance is bliss? No. Finding the right sources of information is key. In fact, Chinese people who were highly satisfied with the health information they got about COVID-19 tended to have lower stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Being informed helps reduce uncertainty and anxiety—but overloading ourselves with information can also be unsettling. Online or offline, reading news or imagining worst-case scenarios with family, the people who spent three or more hours a day focusing on COVID-19 were more anxious.
Besides taking breaks from news and social media, practicing basic safety and hygiene could go a long way for your mental health. In Chinese studies in January and February, people who engaged in proper hand washing, wore masks, and avoided sharing utensils tended to experience less depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD.
Since March, Greater Good has been sharing tips for well-being during COVID-19. For the most part, these are nothing new. In normal life and in a pandemic, we fare better when we try to stay connected in our relationships, cope with stress in healthy ways, and find a sense of agency.
But we can’t self-improve our way out of the pain and difficulty. What we’re going through right now is a trauma, or at least a major stressor on a global scale. This is one of those times when life really is harder by a little bit or a lot, depending on your situation. Feeling bad is part of being human—and right now, that’s something many of us need to face, even as we work to feel better, stay connected, and help others.
There are no quick fixes
literally is happening in real time
with no time for
trials or errors
evidence based data
r e s u l t s
It’s a blend of our
HEART AND HEAD
that’ll give us
the best of what we
to not just
but actually revive what COVID-19
THE HUMAN SPIRIT
How’s that for some
I know. . .
I know what you’re thinking
N O W
and every 25th of every month
when I proclaim
(usually with a Christmas scene)
MERRY PRACTICE CHRISTMAS
(usually with how many more days until Christmas)
which usually elicits this resounding response:
But wait. . .
CHRISTMAS IN JULY
wasn’t my idea
so much as me picking up the
and making sure it flies
U N F U R L I N G L Y
before you. . .
Werther, an 1892 French opera with libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet, and Georges Hartmann, had an English translation published in 1894 by Elizabeth Beall Ginty. In the story, a group of children rehearses a Christmas song in July, to which a character responds: “When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season.” It is a translation of the French: “vous chantez Noël en juillet… c’est s’y prendre à l’avance.” This opera is based on Goethe‘s The Sorrows of Young Werther. Christmas features in the book, but July does not.
In 1935, the National Recreation Association’s journal Recreation described what a Christmas in July was like at a girl’s camp, writing that “all mystery and wonder surround this annual event.”
The term, if not the exact concept, was given national attention with the release of the Hollywood movie comedy Christmas in Julyin 1940, written and directed by Preston Sturges. In the story, a man is fooled into believing he has won $25,000 in an advertising slogan contest. He buys presents for family, friends, and neighbors, and proposes marriage to his girlfriend.
In 1942, the Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. celebrated Christmas in July with carols and the sermon “Christmas Presents in July”. They repeated it in 1943, with a Christmas tree covered with donations. The pastor explained that the special service was patterned after a program held each summer at his former church in Philadelphia, when the congregation would present Christmas gifts early to give ample time for their distribution to missions worldwide. It became an annual event, and in 1945, the service began to be broadcast over local radio.
The U.S. Post Office and U.S. Army and Navy officials, in conjunction with the American advertising and greeting card industries, threw a Christmas in July luncheon in New York in 1944 to promote an early Christmas mailing campaign for service men overseas during World War II. The luncheon was repeated in 1945.
American advertisers began using Christmas in July themes in print for summertime sales as early as 1950. In the United States, it is more often used as a marketing tool than an actual holiday. Television stations may choose to re-run Christmas specials, and many stores have Christmas in July sales. Some individuals choose to celebrate Christmas in July themselves, typically as an intentionally transparent excuse to have a party. This is in part because most bargainers tend to sell Christmas goods around July to make room for next year’s inventory. (from Wikipedia)
I KNOW. . .
TOO MUCH INFORMATION, Right. . . ?
It kind of puts the
B L A N K
B L I N K
But so too often
is not always
WE LIVE IN A SNOW GLOBE’D WORLD
often turned upside down
U N S E T T L E D
and just when we think we
GET THE MESSAGE
s i l e n t l y
“all is calm, all is bright. . .let heaven and nature sing,
JOY TO THE WORLD
So I don’t know what really
L I G H T S
your tree. . .
but whatever it is
make sure it stays lit in this dark world
and even better. . .
S H A R E D
IT LITERALLY GLARED AT ME. . .
The car with
THAT LICENSE PLATE
was right in front of me
at a Red Light
and reading it
BROKE MY HEART. . .
I wanted to honk long before the Light turned
to get the Driver’s attention
or just get out of the car
by pounding on the window
I just sat there
w o n d e r i n g
until the guy behind me
threw his arms up in the air
after honking because the Light had turned GREEN
and he saw my car wasn’t going as fast as my
m i n d
THERE’S A LOT
B R O K E N
and now the
and it’s not just
. . .it’s SHOUTING
that BROKEN-HEART SYNDROME
is very, very real. . .
During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have found a significant increase in patients experiencing stress cardiomyopathy, also known as “broken heart syndrome,” which has symptoms similar to a heart attack, according to a new study from the clinic.
“Especially when it comes to the loss of a job and economic stressors, those are things that the COVID pandemic is affecting in many people,” said Dr. Grant Reed. “So it’s not just the virus itself that’s causing illness in patients.”
Heartbreak is a common thread in movies, pop culture, and music but Cleveland Clinic cardiologists are warning patients about the serious effects of a broken heart and the possible connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No one really expected to be in this situation and the pandemic has put dramatic, unprecedented stressors on our life,” Reed said. “These are patients that are coming in presenting very similar to how patients come in with a heart attack. They have EKG changes consistent with a heart attack and they have chest discomfort.”
Researchers said stress cardiomyopathy happens in response to physical or emotional stress, which causes dysfunction or failure in the heart muscle.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about multiple levels of stress in people’s lives across the country and world. People are not only worried about themselves or their families becoming ill, they are dealing with economic and emotional issues, societal problems and potential loneliness and isolation,” said Ankur Kalra, M.D., a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist in the Sections of Invasive and Interventional Cardiology and Regional Cardiovascular Medicine, who led the study.
Patients with this condition have experienced symptoms similar to a heart attack, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, but usually don’t have acutely blocked coronary arteries.
“The stress can have physical effects on our bodies and our hearts, as evidenced by the increasing diagnoses of stress cardiomyopathy we are experiencing,” said Kalra.
Patients can also experience irregular heartbeat, fainting, low blood pressure and cardiogenic shock, which happens when the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s demand due to stress hormones.
Researchers have admitted the causes of stress cardiomyopathy are not fully understood.
Between March 1 and April 30, cardiologists looked at 258 patients with heart symptoms coming into Cleveland Clinic and Cleveland Clinic Akron General. Researchers compared them with four control groups and found a “significant increase” in patients diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, reaching 7.8% compared with pre-pandemic incidence of 1.7%, the release states.
All patients diagnosed with stress cardiomyopathy tested negative for COVID-19. Those with the condition since the COVID-19 outbreak had a longer hospital stay compared to those pre-pandemic. Doctors said patients with stress cardiomyopathy patients generally recover in a matter of days or weeks, although the condition can occasionally cause major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular events.
“For those who feel overwhelmed by stress, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider. Exercise, meditation and connecting with family and friends, while maintaining physical distance and safety measures, can also help relieve anxiety,” said Grant Reed, director of Cleveland Clinic’s STEMI program and senior author for the study.
Reed said a number of factors can cause heart function to deteriorate, which include loneliness, financial stress, or overwhelming feelings of uncertainty brought on by stay-at-home orders.
“You have to recognize when you need to seek help and say, ‘Okay I need to take a step back.’ Maybe disconnect from social media and not read so much because that can stress us all out,” Reed said.
Researchers noted that additional research is needed in this area, especially if this trend in cases is present in other regions of the country. . .
But it still begs the legitimate, honest, lopsided
Q U E S T I O N
WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT. . .
WHAT’S THE CURE. . .
Could it be as simple
as readily accessible
literally at the end of our arms
Maybe it’s time to battle the urge
that took me to task
afternoon at the Red Light
. . .Maybe a little more
W A N D E R I N G
(toward the Brokenness)
w o n d e r i n g
(away with my idling ‘what if’ing’ daydream)
Maybe a little more
and a lot less of
It just may be the kind of vaccine that’s needed to eradicate
A BROKEN HEART
(A REAL THING)
and it can come
from none other than
A Compassionate Caring
Y O U
(A REAL THING)
W I S H L E S S N E S S
is a Buddhist term
that kind of means
Y O U
don’t have to have something in front of you
to run after
IT’S ALEADY HERE
. . .Just walk your Path
Which took me down the tracks
The Carrot doesn’t need to be dangled
The Road doesn’t need to be traveled
The Gold doesn’t need to be mined
The Silver doesn’t need to be refined
The Prize doesn’t need to be won
The Treasure doesn’t need to be unearthed
Enter into the rarely journeyed
newly undiscovered World of
to experience the uncharted
n o w
and find it’s not just an Everything
but an ALL
that needs no
r u n
t h a t
r e a c h
for the hands
c l a s p i n g
This past Fourth of July weekend, I read an article from the New York Times that tell us, Acts of kindness may not be that random after all. Science says being kind pays off. . .
And my first thought was,
“SERIOUSLY, DO WE NEED THIS RESEARCHED OUT TO FIND OUT IF IT’S TRUE; THAT IT’S REAL. . . ?”
Research shows that acts of kindness make us feel better and healthier. Kindness is also key to how we evolved and survived as a species, scientists say. We are hard-wired to be kind.
Kindness “is as bred in our bones as our anger or our lust or our grief or as our desire for revenge,” said University of California San Diego psychologist Michael McCullough, author of the forthcoming book “Kindness of Strangers.” It’s also, he said, “the main feature we take for granted.”
Scientific research is booming into human kindness and what scientists have found so far speaks well of us; especially during this pandemic time.
“Kindness is much older than religion. It does seem to be universal,” said University of Oxford anthropologist Oliver Curry, research director at Kindlab. “The basic reason why people are kind is that we are social animals.”
We prize kindness over any other value. When psychologists lumped values into ten categories and asked people what was more important, benevolence or kindness, comes out on top, beating hedonism, having an exciting life, creativity, ambition, tradition, security, obedience, seeking social justice and seeking power, said University of London psychologist Anat Bardi, who studies value systems.
“We’re kind because under the right circumstances we all benefit from kindness,” Oxford’s Curry said.
When it comes to a species’ survival “kindness pays, friendliness pays,” said Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare, author of the new book “Survival of the Friendliest.”
Kindness and cooperation work for many species, whether it’s bacteria, flowers or our fellow primate bonobos. The more friends you have, the more individuals you help, the more successful you are, Hare said.
For example, Hare, who studies bonobos and other primates, compares aggressive chimpanzees, which attack outsiders, to bonobos where the animals don’t kill but help out strangers. Male bonobos are far more successful at mating than their male chimp counterparts, Hare said.
McCullough sees bonobos as more the exceptions. Most animals aren’t kind or helpful to strangers, just close relatives so in that way it is one of the traits that separate us from other species, he said. And that, he said, is because of the human ability to reason.
Humans realize that there’s not much difference between our close relatives and strangers and that someday strangers can help us if we are kind to them, McCullough said.
Reasoning “is the secret ingredient, which is why we donate blood when there are disasters” and why most industrialized nations spend at least 20% of their money on social programs, such as housing and education, McCullough said.
Duke’s Hare also points to mama bears to understand the evolution and biology of kindness and its aggressive nasty flip side. He said studies point to certain areas of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex, temporal parietal junction and other spots as either activated or dampened by emotional activity. The same places give us the ability to nurture and love, but also dehumanize and exclude, he said.
When mother bears are feeding and nurturing their cubs, these areas in the brain are activated and it allows them to be generous and loving, Hare said. But if someone comes near the mother bear at that time, it sets of the brain’s threat mechanisms in the same places. The same bear becomes its most aggressive and dangerous.
Hare said he sees this in humans. Some of the same people who are generous to family and close friends, when they feel threatened by outsiders become angrier. He points to the current polarization of the world.
“More isolated groups are more likely to be feel threatened by others and they are more likely to morally exclude, dehumanize,” Hare said. “And that opens the door to cruelty.”
But overall our bodies aren’t just programmed to be nice, they reward us for being kind, scientists said.
“Doing kindness makes you happier and being happier makes you do kind acts,” said labor economist Richard Layard, who studies happiness at the London School of Economics and wrote the new book “Can We Be Happier?”
University of California Riverside psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky has put that concept to the test in numerous experiments over 20 years and repeatedly found that people feel better when they are kind to others, even more than when they are kind to themselves.
“Acts of kindness are very powerful,” Lyubomirsky said.
In one experiment, she asked subjects to do an extra three acts of kindness for other people a week and asked a different group to do three acts of self-kindness. They could be small, like opening a door for someone, or big. But the people who were kind to others became happier and felt more connected to the world.
The same occurred with money, using it to help others versus helping yourself. Lyubomirsky said she thinks it is because people spend too much time thinking and worrying about themselves and when they think of others while doing acts of kindness, it redirects them away from their own problems.
Oxford’s Curry analyzed peer-reviewed research like Lyubomirsky’s and found at least 27 studies showing the same thing: Being kind makes people feel better emotionally.
But it’s not just emotional. It’s physical.
Lyubomirsky said a study of people with multiple sclerosis and found they felt better physically when helping others. She also found that in people doing more acts of kindness that the genes that trigger inflammation were turned down more than in people who don’t.
And she said in upcoming studies, she’s found more antiviral genes in people who performed acts of kindness.
What is it about this song that it touches the heart of so many of us? How did this song become such a classic moment in Muppet history?
It all started in 1978 when Jim Henson was searching for a composer to write the music to The Muppet Movie. Since being a good friend of Jim’s since his appearance on The Muppet Show, the young Paul Williams got the job. “Rainbow Connection” was written to be the song to the Muppets as “When You Wish Upon A Star” had been to Walt Disney. In many ways, “Rainbow Connection” is also very similar to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from Jim Henson’s favorite film, The Wizard of Oz (1939), which was “an opening establishment driving urge for something more.”
Rainbow Connection was the first Oscar nomination for the Muppets, at the 52nd Academy Awards. Sadly, the song lost to “It Goes Like It Goes” from Norma Rae. While the Muppets would gain various other nominations throughout the years, it would be another 32 years until the Muppets would win an Oscar for best song (“Man Or Muppet” in 2012).
The song has had over 30 covers by noted singers including Sarah McLachan, Judy Collins, the Carpenters, Weezer, Willie Nelson, Jim Brickman, Jason Mraz, and many others. It was also performed by the Muppets themselves in The Muppets at Walt Disney World, The Muppets, The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years, and many more.
For many, the song is truly about finding yourself and following your dreams. This is the beginning for most Muppet fans, and where it all started. It’s where Kermit decides to leave the swamp and make millions of people happy, and the rest is history. Another reason might just be that Muppet fans know that they now have an entire screening of The Muppet Movie ahead of them.
This song gives the same message as Disney’s Pinocchio gave, which is really in essence, to believe in yourself, and follow your dreams. It sounds a little cheesy when I explain it like that, but that’s how I feel about it personally.
At the end of the film, when Kermit builds his family of all his friends who believe in him and share his dream (after the set gets blown to pieces), a rainbow shines through the hole in the ceiling, showing that Kermit had finally found his “Rainbow Connection” and is exactly where he wanted to be.
S T I L L
. . .the real question especially during our COVID-19
hazy, crazy Fog
isn’t so much
WHEN WILL THE SUN SHINE
so much as:
What message do you think
The Rainbow Connection
is giving off
FOR YOU. . .
and maybe even more:
IS IT SHAREABLE
IS THIS SAFE ENOUGH?
What to do
When to do it
HOW TO DO IT
WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO BE SAFE
AND TO KEEP THOSE AROUND US SAFE. . .
Buzz Sentences and remarks these days, huh?
So is this:
WE HAVE GIVEN UP ON COVID-19
BUT COVID-19 HAS NOT GIVEN UP ON US
So let’s simplify this
A G A I N
especially as we ready ourselves
for the upcoming 4th of July weekend
Journalist JILL SUTTIE with Time Magazine helps us navigate the not-so-complex into a simpler new NEW as we individually attempt to care for others enough to take COVID-19 down. . .
It’s frustrating to see people not comply with health advisories—and it’s worrying. Health experts report that wearing masks and keeping our distance are clearly effective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Washing our hands regularly, avoiding crowded spaces, and staying home when we feel ill are also ways of supporting public health goals.
How can we CARINGLY encourage people to take these seriously, especially when it’s inconvenient to them?
Luckily, science suggests that there are many ways to nudge people in the right direction. Since we so badly need to keep this virus under control—especially once we have more freedom of movement—it becomes more important than ever to figure out what works. Here are five ways research has identified to encourage people to protect themselves and each other from the pandemic.
As a species, we humans naturally care about others’ welfare and will often act cooperatively for the benefit of our group. In fact, research shows that our first instincts in a disaster are to act “prosocially”—meaning, acting to benefit the welfare of others rather than doing what benefits us.
In a recent study from Sweden, researchers measured participants’ prosociality by having them fill out a questionnaire and play an economics game in which they could avoid exposing others to risk for their own benefit; then, they collected information about what kinds of steps participants had taken to prevent viral spread. Their findings suggest that people with higher prosociality scores were more likely to follow guidelines about hygiene and social distancing, and they were more likely to buy masks, donate, or spend more time reading about the virus.
As many of us have prosocial instincts already, appealing to that side of us might be important in a pandemic, as another recent study found.
In that study, conducted in the United States at two points in time during the viral outbreak, researchers tested different messaging to see how it affected participants’ intentions to comply with preventative measures—like washing their hands frequently, not touching their face, staying home whenever possible, or stocking up on cleaning supplies.
In the first experiment in March, they tested different messages about COVID prevention: to protect others in one’s community, avoid becoming ill or dying oneself, or protect oneself and others (a combination). A fourth message did not emphasize potential victims at all.
Results showed that people were significantly more willing to take precautions if the message focused on benefiting others, with the combined message being no more effective than the prosocial message alone. This suggests that people may be most motivated to prevent the spread of the virus when primed with concern for other people.
These results were somewhat surprising, says lead author Jillian Jordan, given that it could have gone either way. “There’s a lot of research suggesting that while people do care a great deal about themselves and are self-interested, people also care a lot about other people and those social motivations are big part of our behavior,” she says.
In a follow-up experiment within the same study—conducted a month later, as coronavirus cases spiked in the U.S.—these differences around messaging effects tended to disappear, with appeals to promoting public or personal health being equally effective. Jordan isn’t sure why—it could have been small differences in her methods or the changing national conversation around the pandemic. But, whatever the case, prosocial messaging was surprisingly robust.
“The key takeaway is that prosocial messages are no less effective than self-interested messages,” she says. “That reaffirms the idea that prosocial motivation does have some power.”
Unfortunately, there will always be people who are tempted to forego protections, especially the longer the risk period lasts. For those who are at less risk of serious illness, the temptation may be even stronger.
Researchers who study cooperative groups call these folks “free riders,” because they take advantage of others’ cooperative behavior to benefit themselves. For example, they may decide that with everyone else staying at home or wearing masks in public, they can safely go outside mask-free with little chance of infection.
“When we leave our own homes, we are looking around and noticing if other people are wearing a mask”
―Dominic Packer, Lehigh University
Unfortunately, “free riders” can poison cooperative action. After all, being “good” comes at a cost of personal freedom, and, especially in a more individualistic society, that’s a hard lift. To see other people flaunting the rules could make compliant people feel they are being taken advantage of.
How to discourage free riders and make compliance the norm?
As one of the paper’s coauthors, Lehigh University psychologist Dominic Packer, argues, we’re subtly influenced by the behaviors of those around us. So, if we are exposed to people who are generally adhering to recommended guidelines, we are more apt to adhere to them ourselves, and that behavior can spread in a community.
“When we leave our own homes, we are looking around and noticing if other people are wearing a mask or showing up to grocery stores and waiting in lines, and we’re using that to inform us about how much other people are listening to the CDC and thinking it’s a good source of information,” says Packer.
Our tendency to go along with what we see others doing depends on our personal identities, too, says Packer. For example, in the U.S., social distancing and mask wearing has been embraced more by liberals/Democrats and eschewed more by conservatives/Republicans.
“Our politics are so polarized that we don’t just look at what members of our own group are doing and say, ‘Oh, I should do that’; we also look at whatever the out-group is doing and say, ‘Well, I shouldn’t do that,’” he says.
That’s why shaming people who don’t comply with norms probably won’t work well, says Packer. While shaming can get people to change their behavior when they identify strongly with the person shaming them—let’s say, your church group telling you to wear a mask—it can backfire and increase your opposition if you don’t identify with the person shaming you.
What can we do instead? It’s important to highlight our common humanity and remember our shared moral values. If this messaging isn’t coming from national leadership, we can encourage people to remember their other, non-political identities—as Americans, parents, or community members, for example—to help the norm spread, says Packer.
In spite of political bickering, he is encouraged that the norm of being careful has spread as much as it has. Creating a new norm around behaviors like wearing masks or staying indoors—which are foreign to most Americans—is pretty remarkable, he says.
“Given that we can’t draw on prior experiences and that we’re getting a lot of conflicting information from news outlets and government authorities, the amount of behavior change we have seen in such a short period of time is truly astonishing—like, unprecedented.”
Prosocial messaging may help to keep people focused on being cooperative rather than looking out for themselves. But, with the messaging around the virus changing rapidly—and, in the U.S. at least, the messages being skewed for political reasons—it’s more difficult to keep that spirit of unified action alive.
Messaging matters when it comes to individual behavior. For example, one recent study found that when you frame the dangers from the coronavirus in economic costs rather than public health costs, people are less willing to take precautions to protect themselves or others from the virus. The study also found that when messages of precaution came from an authoritative source (in this experiment, President Trump), people were more willing to follow them than when they came from an expert source (the CDC).
This means that consistent messaging from authorities about the importance of maintaining social distancing and other forms of protection is helpful for encouraging ongoing compliance. Unfortunately, that’s not happening in the United States, where the pandemic has (at this writing) killed over 129,000 people—in part because of confused messaging. We can at least take responsibility for controlling our own messaging—to our kids and family, coworkers, and followers on social media. Perhaps our leaders will follow suit.
People need to hear that their actions are making a difference.
In a recent paper synthesizing decades of research, scientists suggest that we can encourage compliance with prevention measures by reporting on the benefits of accrued cooperation—meaning, let people know that their actions are resulting in lowered hospitalization and death rates. People are more likely to continue with difficult advice when they feel that it’s actually making a difference.
There’s also a good way to recognize each other’s efforts: gratitude. Saying “thanks” to other people who adhere to wearing masks and social distancing can also help, the researchers argue. Not only does gratitude make people feel good about what they’re doing, but it can also encourage them to “pay it forward” and to want to do more to help others. I actually tell those that I see with a mask, “THANK YOU FOR TAKING CARE OF ME”
Public displays of gratitude—as well as offering opportunities for people to help one another through neighborhood groups or community organizations—can build community, too, and bring momentum to the movement to continue taking precautions as time goes on.
“Doing so would spotlight the cooperation at the heart of social distancing and implement the reciprocity shown to generate cooperation in social dilemmas,” the study authors write.
All of these steps—appealing to our prosocial natures and common humanity; being a good role model; consistent, authoritative messaging; and making impact visible—can help us to do the hard work of protecting others and increasing the common good. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to think of ourselves as one big human family all trying to fight this virus together. It’s really not a SMALL WORLD so much as just a BIG LIVING ROOM of which we all share a sacred space made even more hallowed by the care we can show for others just by MASKING UP
I’ve never been much of a
but I don’t mind
that it doesn’t mean a whole lot
if I do for you what
I THINK YOU NEED
instead of what you’re telling me
WHAT YOU REALLY NEED
. . .that’s the true difference between
C A R I N G
a p a t h y
M A S K I N G
is about 4 years old. . .
Someone gifted it to me and I have never fully read it through;
I’ve thumbed through it,
the following before putting it on
for further reading
and I picked it up over these past few days and read it’s own
Would you like to change the world but feel like there’s nothing you can do? What if you discovered you could change everything with just five breaths and one kind thought? Want to help heal America? Our planet? The Global Kindness Revolution is the way forward. You don’t even have to get out of bed to join. You only need to take five breaths and think a kind thought, each day, at noon. Kindness at Noon, Everyday, Everywhere is a call to action to all, regardless of beliefs, background or religion, who are craving a kinder, gentler world.
This is a guide to exploring those aspects of ourselves we’re unaware of, such as suppressed anger and racism, that keep us in the dark and prevent us from embracing our neighbor, or what we perceive as the “other.” Scientists call the primitive part of our brains the “lizard” brain from the times when we hunted dinosaurs. Now, in this tumultuous era where viciousness and apathy fills the airwaves, The Global Kindness Revolution aims to elevate our collective mindset, to nurture the “Kind Mind” where empathy and compassion are on automatic.
The book provides exercises and guidance for incorporating a kindness lifestyle. It includes practices to enhance our connection with Mother Earth, and perspectives on what it means to be kind to oneself. It drills down into social issues that impact us individually and as a whole, and how we can navigate our social interactions with more compassion. It suggests ways to improve our personal relationships and our community, and how to maintain a healthy existence with the domination of technology.
The magic of this revolution is its global appeal calling on millions around the world to pause for Kindness at Noon. More are joining the cause to diminish the violence, racism and meanness humanity has continuously been plagued with. What began as a simple experiment in a Pennsylvania prison has expanded into a global initiative making a mark in countries like Nepal, Afghanistan and Egypt, directly addressing the refugee crisis, violence against women, and other injustices in dire need of change.
Kindness at Noon, Everyday, Everywhere. Join us!
r i g h t. . . ?
A N D
nothing against this fine book
and the exercises it implores us to use,
B U T
now’s not the time for words
filled with them. . .
far past needing books about
h e a l i n g
right on time about
B E I N G
A Volume of
. . .funny, huh,
THESE TOO, ARE WORDS. . .
and we need to not only be carriers of
INFESTERS OF THIS LOVE
antidote or vaccine
. . .A time
to stop drawing lines in the sand
to be sided against
BUT CREATORS OF CIRCLES
e x c l u d e
This is to be
A Caring Catalyst
BUT A LIVE
Circle making inclusive
one compassionately kind act at at time
For Now. . .
It’s not a time to do things by
and if words be necessary at all. . .
May it be
that we are all more
and way less