Listening to the Sunday news pundits, angry hateful words from some of the presidential candidates, and watching recent breaking news has caused me to look at what might make a difference to us individually and as a nation. There is one thing. That thing is love. The power of it is amazing.
For starters, half of people who exercise alone quit their programs after one year. However two-thirds of those who work out with a loved one stick to it. In addition, men and women alike workout 12 to 15 percent harder when they are with a romantic partner.
After heart attack, men and women who are married recover more quickly and have a lower mortality rate than those individuals who are single. Those in committed, healthy relationships experience less stress, and men are more likely to give up risky behaviors when they get married.
Happily married and/or committed people have fewer doctor visits, less depression, substance abuse, and less anxiety. They have lower blood pressure. Those who are unhappily married have the highest. An added benefit to marriage is that in a study done by the Centers for Disease Control of over 127,000 adults, married people were less likely to complain of headaches and back pain. Those in a happy marriage heal more quickly, have fewer colds and are able to manage stress better.
The benefits of a loving, committed relationship are innumerable. If we love, we are happier and if we are happier, there will be less anger and hate. Life isn’t always easy, but love makes it better. Promoting loving and healthy relationships will help us all to thrive and survive. So, that brings me to what can make the world a better place, back to a simple, one-word answer, love.
“Where there is love there is life.” Mahatma Gandhi
Spring is approaching and stress is in the air. There are worries over the economy, the upcoming election, and the state of healthcare (among other things). There are ways that each of us deals with stress -both consciously and unconsciously. Some people get sick (not a great solution);others overeat; still others drink too much alcohol. But many people have learned to work it out in a healthy way using exercise, meditation, yoga, and talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT is a process that looks at a person’s beliefs, and helps to change negative thought patterns. It is like teaching people to look at the cup as half full, rather than half empty. A recent study has found that ten sessions of CBT significantly improved worry in older individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. CBT has also recently been shown to have an impact on depression and health outcomes in those who have undergone cardiac bypass surgery.
If you are stressed out, you are not alone. I suggest that you look to healthy ways to deal with stress and worry. If you feel you need help and would benefit from talking to someone, you might want to find a therapist who does CBT. And of course, you can eat a healthy whole food diet and exercise too!
In 1968 a very brave teacher named Jane Elliott embarked on a social experiment with her classroom of third graders. She wanted to teach them about prejudice. In my opinion, she taught them and us a whole lot more. She divided the class into blue-eyed children and brown and green-eyed children. She said that the brown-eyed children were superior to those with blue eyes. That day, the brown-eyed children berated those with blue eyes and became bullies.
The next day, the blue-eyed kids were told that they were better than the shifty, lazy brown-eyed kids. The reverse happened but not to the same degree as the day before. Perhaps, having suffered berating, the blue-eyed children were more empathetic. Just by being told they were better, the children were emboldened, became bullies and lost most of their compassion for their fellow students of different eye color.
Looking at what is going on in the Republican primaries, I am wondering if the same phenomenon is occurring. The candidates are saying essentially that we as American citizens are better then those trying to immigrate here to the US. That white Americans are better than those of color. The behavior that is ensuing as a result is embarrassing, frightening, and downright un-American. The rhetoric coming from Donald Trump in particular is mean-spirited and devoid of compassion. It is bullying behavior that would be very dangerous if he were to become the leader of the free world.
The fact that so many are following him makes sense when we look at the children in Jane Elliott’s classroom experiment. He is tapping into insecurities and fears and preying on those who would like to feel better about themselves. Unfortunately, to stop bullying behavior it doesn’t help to distinguish between them and us. What will work is to give people a hand and hope that their lives can be changed for the better. Stomping on someone to get a leg up will only hurt all of us.
When people are so mean and nasty, it makes me wonder what type of pain and lack of love they must have in their life. What is the answer? I am hoping that if each and every one of us can find a way to be kinder to others and pay it forward, that will help. I know it sounds trite, but love is the answer.
The experiment that Jane Elliott did with her students was and remains controversial. But, many of her students have returned and thanked her for changing their lives in a very positive way and helping them to find compassion and empathy for others. Perhaps it is time for the Republican candidates to have a go at a remedial class with Ms. Elliot!