4 years, 10 months, and 10 days. Looking out for #1 … isn’t necessarily a good thing. Learn to be grateful for others make you happier and healthier.

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Why gratitude is good for youth

Although gratitude, as a social emotion, has long been considered a powerful ingredient of health and well-being for both individuals and societies, for a long time no systematic attempt had ever been made to deeply explore its development in youth.

However, initial research demonstrated that, when compared with their less grateful (and more materialistic) peers, grateful youth are happier and more satisfied with their lives, friends, family, neighborhood, and selves. They also report more hope, greater engagement with their hobbies, higher GPAs—and less envy and depression….

How gratitude builds relationships

In describing the design of his curriculum, Bono writes, “Gratitude interventions…should let students appreciate the different benefits and benefactors in their lives for themselves. Let’s go beyond lists and dry journals. When people ‘get’ us and help us through tough times, gratitude grows.”

As students learn gratitude, they are also learning about the concepts of intention and benefit: how others deliberately take actions that make our lives better, inspiring us to feel grateful. As Bono and gratitude researcher Jeffrey Froh explain:

  • Acts of kindness that inspire gratitude are usually done on purpose, with intention. Someone has noticed us, thought about what we need, and chosen to do something to meet that need. Reflecting on the intentions behind these acts deepens our sense of gratitude.
  • Each act of kindness has a cost to the person who performs it. The cost may include time, effort, or something that was given up, as well as any financial cost. When we understand those costs, we gain a deeper appreciation of the person who acted in a caring way.
  • Others’ acts of kindness benefit us personally in ways that may be material, emotional, or social. Noticing and acknowledging the ways we benefit from others’ actions enhances our gratitude.

https://shoshandjaialai.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

On days when I’m heart-heavy, like today, I turn to music and Greater Good Magazine to help lift me out of my funk.  Self-care is important.  Do what it take to survive and fight another day.

This may seem at at odds with the title of this post, but it is not.  It is complementary.  If you are down in the dumps, you are no good to anyone — including yourself.  Take care of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health first.

But, in the course of that effort, you will find that being grateful and helping others go a very long way in making you happier and healthier, and lifting your spirits.  It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true.

And, don’t forget to listen to good and meaningful music.

Five Ways Music Can Make You a Better Person

Can listening to music change your behavior for the better?

People in the United States spend an average of 32 hours listening to music each week, an increase of five and a half hours over last year. That’s a lot of time—more than ever before. Has this influenced your behavior or the behavior of those around you?

Some people certainly think it can have a negative impact—remember Tipper Gore’s crusade against swear words and “the indecent liberties some entertainers take with [our] children”? However, studies have also explored possible relationships between music and positive social behaviors.

In particular, research suggests that three aspects of music—its emotional resonance, its lyrical content, and its unique way of synchronizing groups of people—may have the power to invoke good deeds. Here’s a list of the research-tested ways music can have a positive impact on you and your world.

1. Listening to uplifting music may make you happier—and possibly more generous

We’ve all felt strong emotions listening to music. Sad songs may bring us to tears, while joyful music can make us feel euphoric. While melancholy music can move us in fascinating ways, there is power in that second category, too. Indeed, one way music may make us better people is by making us happier—and therefore more likely to give of ourselves.

In a study by Adrian North, Mark Tarrant, and David Hargreaves, over 600 users of a university gym listened to either uplifting, top-20 singles or annoying avant-garde computer music while they worked out. They were later asked either to sign a petition in support of a charity (an easy task) or to distribute leaflets for the charity (a more demanding task).

While almost all participants from both groups signed the petition, significantly more of the participants from the up-tempo music group agreed to help distribute leaflets, suggesting that some music may make you more willing to expend energy and time to help others.

Other research shows that there is a feedback loop between happiness and generosity—feeling happier makes people more likely to give and vice versa. So, while more studies are needed to confirm the relationship, the results from the gym study suggest not only that music may be a good way to make people feel happier but also that this increased happiness may make people more generous.

2. Songs with “prosocial” lyrics may make you more helpful and empathic

Happy lyrics from upbeat songs may not have as much of an impact on people’s behavior as “prosocial” lyrics advocating kindness and helpfulness—think Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.” While sometimes these lyrics may seem sappy or saccharine, they also may have the ability to change the way we think and act—at least in the short term.

For example, one study by Tobias Greitemeyer found that people who had listened to music with prosocial lyrics (such as “peace on earth to everyone that you meet”) were significantly more likely to think prosocial thoughts compared to those who had listened to songs with neutral lyrics. If a person was presented with the cue “g_____e,” they were more likely to suggest a positive word such as “give” over a neutral word like “guide” if they had listened to a song with prosocial lyrics. The impact went beyond word associations: The people who heard prosocial lyrics were also more likely to donate money they earned from participating in the experiment.

In another study by Greitemeyer, people who had listened to music with prosocial lyrics picked up more pencils for an experimenter who pretended to spill them accidentally, were more likely to agree to do further unpaid experiments and spent more time doing them, and gave more money away in an economic game when compared with people who had listened to music with neutral lyrics. Further analysis found that this effect was due to increased interpersonal empathy in the people who had listened to the prosocial lyrics.

When you tell someone to heal the world through song lyrics, it appears as if they’re actually more likely to try.

While both of these studies were limited in that they looked only at the short-term effect of listening to songs with positive lyrics, Greitemeyer suggests that repeated exposure to prosocial media might prove to have profound effects.

“Repeated encounters with prosocial media may yield long-term changes in personality through the development and construction of knowledge structures,” writes Greitemeyer. In other words, “when people may repeatedly listen to prosocial songs, the positive effects on prosocial behavior might be even more pronounced.”

3. Listening to prosocial songs may change how you spend your money

In one experiment, almost 800 French restaurant customers ate lunch or dinner while listening to music with prosocial lyrics or music with neutral lyrics—or music not selected for its lyrical content. Restaurant patrons who had listened to the prosocial music were significantly more likely to leave a tip—and their tips were bigger than the others’.

However, a more recent study by Nicolas Ruth found that guests who visited a German café while listening to music with prosocial lyrics tipped the same amount as those who listened to songs with neutral lyrics. That said, Ruth observed a different positive behavior: Guests who listened to the prosocial lyrics were significantly more likely to buy organic fair trade coffee.

In his paper, Ruth suggests a couple of possibilities for why this experiment failed to see an increase in tipping: Maybe it’s because tipping is viewed differently in Germany, or perhaps the prosocial impulse led people to choose to support fair trade coffee farmers and the environment, when given the option.

4. Song lyrics may change your attitude towards people different from you

Indeed, listening to these songs may make us less aggressive, more accepting of differences, and even—yes, for real—more likely to respect women.

A study by Ruth and colleagues, for example, found that participants who had listened to Bruno Mars’s “Count on Me”—a song with prosocial lyrics—had fewer aggressive thoughts (but not fewer aggressive feelings) compared to those who listened to Mars’s “The Lazy Song,” which is more neutral.

Another study by Greitemeyer found that German participants who listened to neutral lyrics were significantly more likely to help a student with a German-sounding name pass out pamphlets for a project than a student with a Turkish-sounding name, whereas participants who had listened to pro-integration lyrics were equally likely to help both.

In a similar vein, another study by Greitemeyer and colleagues found that participants who had listened to songs with pro-equality lyrics—such as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin—showed evidence of more positive attitudes and behavior toward women compared to those who had listened to neutral lyrics.

It is important to note that these studies have limitations. Most used small numbers of college students as their participants, tested only a few songs, and looked only at short-term effects. Thus, it’s unclear whether these results are due to priming, which might affect short-term decisions without influencing how people see the world in general. Even so, it is possible that listening to more prosocial songs could lead to long-term changes in attitudes and behavior for the better.

5. Making and moving to music may boost cooperation and connection

It’s not just listening to music that can change our behavior for the better—moving to music helps, too. But it’s not the movement of dancing itself that inspires kindness and helpfulness (although it might contribute). Instead, it’s the way music helps to synchronize us with other people.

There are several studies that suggest dancing to music with others (as well as jointly making or listening to music) can boost prosocial behavior. In one study by Sebastian Kirschner and Michael Tomasello, four-year-old children behaved more cooperatively and prosocially after making music together compared to children who were engaged in another activity with similar levels of social and linguistic interaction.

Another study by Laura Cirelli, Stephanie Wan, and Laurel Trainor found that even younger children—14-month-olds—were significantly more likely to help an experimenter after bouncing synchronously with her to the Beatles song “Twist and Shout” than after bouncing asynchronously (an effect achieved by the experimenter listening to a sped-up track on headphones).

This increased cooperation isn’t limited to children. Studies have found that adults who did synchronous singing cooperated more in an economic game, and that people who participated in synchronized drumming were more likely than others to pick up pencils for an experimenter who had dropped them.

A recent study by Jan Stupacher and colleagues suggests that just viewing synchronized movements can influence how we see others. In this study, adult participants watched videos of two people figures walking side by side and imagined that they were one of the people. When music accompanied the videos, participants were more inclined to see the two figures as close and they liked the other one better, compared to when a metronome or silence accompanied the video. Why? Perhaps the music made them happier (as in the gym experiment), suggest the researchers—or maybe music plays a unique role in social bonding.

Interestingly, messing with the synchrony between the music and the figures changed people’s impressions. In some versions of the experiment, the two figures moved out of sync with one another. When the other figure was moving out of phase with the music, but the figure the participant was pretending to be was moving in phase, participants rated the other figure as less likeable compared to the opposite situation (other-figure in phase and self-figure out of phase). Could this mean that moving to the beat could help you find a new friend at a party? Further research is needed.

So, music can do plenty of good, it seems—but can it really “Heal the World?” It’s hard to say, given that research into the prosocial impacts of music is still in its infancy. But this smattering of studies suggests that there are ways music may indeed help.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_ways_music_can_make_you_a_better_person#

All my love, always,

Dad

 

 

 

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4 years, 8 months, and 3 days. Be wary of social media. It is unhealthy.

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I started the research for a book I am writing on how the external world affects our mental health. I wanted to acknowledge the downsides of social media, but to argue that far from being a force for ill,it offers a safe place where the insanities of life elsewhere can be processed and articulated.

But the deeper into the research I went, the harder it was to sustain this argument. Besides the Daily Mail screeching about the dangers, other people – scientists, psychologists, tech insiders and internet users themselves – were highlighting ways in which social media use was damaging health.

Even the internet activist and former Google employee Wael Ghonim – one of the initiators of the Arab spring and one-time poster boy for internet-inspired revolution – who once saw social media as a social cure – now saw it as a negative force. In his eyes it went from being a place for crowdsourcing and sharing, during the initial wave of demonstrations against the Egyptian regime, to a fractious battleground full of “echo chambers” and “hate speech”: “The same tool that united us to topple dictators eventually tore us apart.” Ghonim saw social media polarising people into angry opposing camps – army supporters and Islamists – leaving centrists such as himself stuck in the middle, powerless.

The evidence is growing that social media can be a health risk, particularly for young people who now have all the normal pressures of youth (fitting in, looking good, being popular) being exploited by the multibillion-dollar companies that own the platforms they spend much of their lives on.

Kurt Vonnegut said: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/06/social-media-good-evidence-platforms-insecurities-health (emphasis added).

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

I have always taught you to be your own man and to think for yourselves.  Unfortunately, America is becoming a country of sheep.  Everyone is busy keeping up with the Jones.  Everyone copies the latest fads being religiously followed by everyone else.  Each is afraid to be different from the others for fear of ridicule.

How ironic.  In a country where individualism is touted as the ideal, peer pressure, marketing, and social forces run counter to that ideal, and those who are different are ostracized and rejected.

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But, remember, “a tiger doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.”  Ignore the small-minded. They are insecure and feel good about themselves only by putting others down.  They are nothing.  Give them pity, and no more.  They are not worth your time.

Instead, focus on what you love and on pursuing your dreams.  You will never have to work a day in your life if you do what you love.  I have been blessed in that sense.  I have enjoyed my work and, for the most part, the people with whom I work.  I wish the same for you.

Jonas Salk said, “I have had dreams and I have had nightmares.  I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.”  Dare to chase your dreams, my boys.  The world is full of timid people who live forgetful lives.  Be not like them.  Be like Hunter Thompson.

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!

Hunter S. Thompson

Get off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all the other junk.  Those “friends” and “followers” aren’t really your friends.  They won’t recognize you from Adam if you should ever bump into them on the streets.  They neither know your nor care about you and will never lose sleep over your everyday struggles.  Let them be.  Leave them to their virtual worlds.

Live life.  Go outside.  Meet people.  Make friends.  Give a hand to someone in need.  Live!  You’ll be glad you did.  Your life will mean something and will be worth retelling.

All my love, always,

Dad

4 years, 8 months, and 1 day. Human desires are bottomless pits and trying to fill them is an unending task. Don’t indulge in such inexhaustible pursuits.

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[The problem is we are getting t]oo much dopamine and not enough serotonin, the neurotransmitters of the brain’s “pleasure” and “happiness” pathways… Despite what the telly and social media say, pleasure and happiness are not the same thing. Dopamine is the “reward” neurotransmitter that tells our brains: “This feels good, I want more.” Yet too much dopamine leads to addiction. Serotonin is the “contentment” neurotransmitter that tells our brains: “This feels good. I have enough. I don’t want or need any more.” Yet too little serotonin leads to depression. Ideally, both should be in optimal supply. But dopamine drives down serotonin. And chronic stress drives down both.

Too many of our “simple pleasures” have morphed into something else – a 6.5-oz soda became a 30z Big Gulp drink; an afternoon with friends gave way to 1,000 friendings on Facebook. Each of these momentary pleasures is just that – momentary. But chronic dopamine from your favourite “fix” reduces serotonin and happiness.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/09/pursuit-of-pleasure-modern-day-addiction

My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:

Beware of the elusive and destructive “pursuit of happiness.”  Don’t buy into the lie.  Happiness is like a butterfly.  No matter how fast you run and how hard you work, it will continue to elude your grasp so long as you chase it.  However, if you bathe, wear bright clothes, find a peaceful spot in the garden, and sit still, you’ll find that butterflies may come to you.

Happiness is like that.  When you are too busy chasing after the things that make you happy, you get caught up in the chase and fail to slow down to enjoy the moments that make up life, those moments in which happiness is hidden and waiting to be discovered.  For example, happiness is being with you, watching you play, hearing you tell your stories and your discoveries, seeing the brightness in your eyes.  The activities in which we are engaged in those moments are unimportant.  If I over-emphasize those activities and put too much import in making sure they are perfect (as we are apt to do), I would have overlooked those moments of happiness from simply being in your presence.

Tips for Getting a Butterfly to Land on You

If you’re lucky, a butterfly might land on you while you are in the exhibit. Though there’s no guarantee this will work but, you can do a few things to increase your chances. The best rule of thumb is to act like a flower:

  • Wear brightly colored clothes. I have a bright yellow and orange tie-dyed shirt that always seems to lure butterflies to me.
  • Smell sweet. If you’re wearing a skin lotion or perfume that smells a bit like flowers, that attract a hungry butterfly.
  • Stay still. Flowers don’t move, so you won’t fool a butterfly if you’re walking around. Find a bench and stay put for a while.

https://www.thoughtco.com/prepare-for-a-visit-butterfly-house-1968200

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgDy-WQnC5M

But, worse, in truth, the “pursuit of happiness” in modern time has turned into nothing but the unrelenting pursuit of pleasure.  We stuff ourselves with Doritos, sodas, and other junk food because food scientists at Frito-Lay, PepsiCo, and elsewhere found the exact chemical formula to ensure those chips, drinks, etc. stimulate our taste buds and ensure we cannot stop at eating just one chip, one sip, etc.  See, e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html.  Gaming companies spend billions of dollars and countless hours scouring psychological studies and techniques to ensure their games produce the optimum mix of reward and chance to ensure that players would spend hours hooked to the game.  Social media giants are no less devious.

As stated in the Guardian article above, dopamine is the reward neurotransmitter that tells our brain Doritos taste good and you should have another.  Unfortunately, that way lies food addiction and obesity.

On the other hand, serotonin is the contentment neurotransmitter that tells us we’ve had our fill of the good stuff and should stop.  While serotonin cannot be found in chips, sodas, and video games, it can be yours with a massage, meditation, outdoors activities in the bright sunlight, exercise, or a healthy diet.  See, e.g., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/; and, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201111/boosting-your-serotonin-activity.  (Yeah, there’s science behind that as well … the good science, not the science that feeds the greed.)

My sons, don’t feed the black hole that is man’s unquenchable desires.  If you chase after pleasure, you will find it a relentless and endless pursuit.  Our brain is hardwired to adapt, so a new watch or a new game will quickly lose its luster as you adjust to having it and reset your sight on something different. See, e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/07/magazine/the-futile-pursuit-of-happiness.html.

Still yourself.  Enjoy the moment and the people around you.  Help those less fortunate.  Work with others to build a better community for yourselves.  I promise that you will find the effort extremely rewarding, and happiness will ensues.

All my love, always,

Dad

 

4 years, 3 months, and 4 days. Remember to breathe deeply, and recipes for simple meals.

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For generations, mothers have encouraged children to take long, slow breaths to fight anxiety. A long tradition of meditation likewise uses controlled breathing to induce tranquillity.

Now scientists at Stanford University may have uncovered for the first time why taking deep breaths can be so calming.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/05/well/move/what-chill-mice-can-teach-us-about-keeping-calm.html?_r=0

My dearest and most beloved Shosh and Jaialai:

Breathe, my sons.  When anxious or stressed, just take deep breaths and breathe your way to calmness and peace.

I know must be very hard for you without me there.  Shosh, I remember that one time after your mom and I had separated, I came to your school concert, and, afterwards, you just came up to me, leaned your head against my shoulder and cried for the longest time.  I worry for you because you wear your heart on your sleeve and you are my sensitive boy.  Jaialai, I equally worry about you because you are introverted and hold everything in.  As your child therapist said, you worry about whether you’ll get your needs met.  I worry because if only your mom had attended more of the debriefings following your weekly therapy (which I paid for out of pocket), she would have better understood your needs.  As it was, she attended only one debriefing during your year and a half in therapy.  I took you boys to therapy every week, even on weeks when you stayed with your mom.

God, I miss you guys!  It is a physical pain, not just an emotional state of grief.  Know that no matter what happens, I will always love you.  Also, remember, it’s what people do that counts, not what they say.  Actions speak louder than words.

I also worry about what and how you’re eating.  Back then, despite working 90-100 hours per week in a high paying and stressful job, it was your maternal grandmother and I who did most of the cooking everyday.  Now that your maternal grandmother had passed away and I am not there, who cooks for you?  What do you eat?

Shosh, you are older.  I suspect the burden falls to you now.  I’m sorry.  Learn to prepare easy but healthy meals.  Don’t over-indulge in the spicy Korean noodles, which I know you love, Shosh.  Remember, Jaialai said you once ate so much at your mom’s that it made you throw up?

Try not to eat out too often.  In the divorce filings, your mother’s financial records showed that she spent almost $1000 per month eating out everyday.  I hope that is not happening.  Restaurant food tend to be tasty but less healthy for your because they have greater salt content, etc.

Yesterday, I made the Caveman version my favorite snacks, deviled eggs.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/classic-deviled-eggs-recipe/.  Instead of going through the trouble of mixing all the ingredients into the yolk, I simply cut the hard-boiled eggs (which I’d cooked over the weekend and kept chilled in the fridge) in half and putting each of the ingredients directly onto the yolk.  While it wasn’t as pretty as the normal deviled eggs, it was tasty nevertheless.

Another simple dish I often resort to is baked chicken.  It’s easy. Do the following:

  1. Get drum stick, chicken thigh, or other parts
  2. Put the chicken in a plastic bag and put in a tablespoon of salt, a little black pepper, a little minced garlic or garlic powder, a tablespoon of olive oil, and enough balsamic vinegar to coat all the chicken pieces.  If you want more depth of flavor, you can also add a spoonful of Worcestershire sauce.
  3. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or longer if possible.
  4. Preheat the oven to 390 degree Fahrenheit, line the metal tray with tin foil, then bake the chicken for about 25 minutes on the middle rack.
  5. Eat it with rice or bread and a side of salad.  It’s a very tasty, healthy and simple meal.

I also make lots of sandwiches and pasta.  Remember how I used to heat up a Italian seasoning and fresh garlic in a little butter and olive oil, then mix in pasta and sprinkle it with a little bit of Parmesan cheese before serving it to you guys?  That’s a simple dish.  You can always throw in a little basil, tomato and/or bell pepper to add more depth and dimensions.  For sandwiches or wraps, the easiest thing you can do is get a Costco roasted chicken, tear off chunks of meat and put it into a sandwich or flour tortilla, then throw in some lettuce and ranch dressing and call it good.  It is simple, healthy and delicious, remember?

Cooking doesn’t have to be hard.  Just be creative, and be caring.  Meal time was always a special time for us, remember?  We used to cook together, then everyone would sit down at the dinner table to enjoy our meal and each other’s company, remember?

Cooking is more pleasant as a group activity.  Cook with Eli.  Use the internet to find easy, 3-4 ingredient recipes.

Eat well, and breathe, my sons.

All my love, always.

Dad