By Beth Keil
We live in such a global village these days. When the earthquake and tsunami struck I had friends who were affected in both Hawai’i and Japan. Hawai’i was spared massive destruction not so Japan. My friend, Rieko, lives in Osaka while her mom and her sister and her family live in Tokyo. I was on Skype with Rieko a week after the quake and just offered her an online hypnosis session so she could relax some when she needed to get off as there was an earthquake happening right then and there! I became a news junkie. It reminded me of 9/11—-even when the TV news was recycling the same news stories I was glued waiting for the next update. 9/11 was personal, too, as I grew up in NYC and knew people there. I found my Spirit and energy flagging then as it was now. But what was I to do when my thirst for information was impacting my well being? How could I take time off, so to speak, when others couldn’t?
I realized those impacted by these devastating events would have loved to have traded places with me if they could. So why was I not enjoying, yes, enjoying what it was I had? I didn’t learn how to. I was brought up on “there are starving people in the world so eat what’s on your plate” not, “there are starving people in the world so let’s make sure we enjoy what we’re eating, that we appreciate all that we have and are grateful.” Notice how the first quote is an either/or— starve or eat. The second quote acknowledges suffering and misfortune and includes an attitude of gratitude for what it is we do have.
So how was I to balance the tragedy and enjoyment for what I had?
My way was to make a donation to The American Red Cross and e-mail my friend to provide her with support while taking the time for myself to enjoy what I enjoy free from guilt.
All this reminded me of an article I read online from the Harvard Business Review, “Are Happy People Dumb?” by Shawn Achor. In his article, Achor recalls a conversation with a stock trader who told him, “Happy people are the ones who don’t get it.” Somehow if you’re happy while the economy has problems, people in the world are suffering, and there’s civil unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, there must be something wrong with you! I know my father and step-father have said to me I don’t seem to get what’s going on in the world because of my attitude. Here’s some of what Achor has to say:
“On the contrary, a decade of research suggests that both of those individuals (smart/unhappy, and successful/unhappy) are actually significantly underperforming what their brain can do. We know this partly because if you raise their levels of positive emotion, their cognitive abilities and success rates go up. The real story of happiness is that every person has a range of potential — in terms of intelligence, athletic ability, musicality, creativity, and productivity — and we are more likely to achieve the upper bounds of our brain’s potential when we’re feeling positive, rather than negative or neutral.”
So what can you do to create balance in your life so you can raise your level of positive emotion and raise your satisfaction with your life?