What Two Things Most Shape our Lives? Love and Attention

Who, being loved, is poor? Oscar WildeOur emotional well being depends hugely on how well we can control our attention

Two fundamental things –  love and attention – shape our lives more than anything else. Without the consistent love of at least one person, children’s brains do not develop properly and their lives are often blighted. Being attended to  – that is, feeling held in another’s mind – is part of being loved and is also crucial for the brain’s development.

Attention is the gatekeeper for how experiences sculpts the child’s brain. Without attention, experiences don’t trigger physical changes in the brain tissue of the sort that attended-to input does. [i]   This means that potentially rich stimulation drains away like water into sand because it is not ‘activated’ by attention.

Our brains have a number of specific general purpose attention networks which help us to select what to attend to (one voice rather than the background conversation), allow us to switch from one thing to another (from the song on the radio to the red traffic light ahead) and to sustain it over time (read this blog to the end without mind wandering).

Loving adults sculpt these attention networks in their young children through joint attention; babies learn to attend a little like they learn to walk, by being held for the first few steps before gradually venturing on their own with just a hand, and finally staggering off with anxious hands braced to catch. Attention is a bit like that – the attentional circuits are like muscles which need to be developed.

Children learn to sustain their attention in this sort of faltering, supported way: the brain finds it hard to keep attention on an unchanging stimulus for more than a few seconds at a time, but that’s exactly what the children have to learn to do they are going to learn to read, think and regulate their emotions.

Love is a specific kind of attention imbued with feeling, and the same is true for hate. When a child struggles through a difficult reading passage in school, it’s not just her brain’s attention network which is keeping her focused – it is also the fact of feeling held in her parent’s attention which helps keeps her on task.

This is why children who are having emotional problems, say during family breakup, can really start to perform badly in school, but this is not just true for young children.

Attention depends a lot on the brain’s prefrontal cortex and this region is not fully ‘wired-up’ to the rest of the brain until the early to mid twenties, particularly in men [ii]. This is why car insurance premiums are so high for people in this age group – even young adults’ ability to focus their attention, consider future risk and inhibit their emotions are underdeveloped.

Attention is not just about thinking and focus – it is hugely important in our emotional life as well. When someone snaps at us, it is our ability to refocus our attention which allows us to remember that he is very stressed, and so with luck we inhibit our natural response to retaliate and provoke more trouble.

Our ability to control our attention seems to be very important for our own emotional balance as well. Left to wander on its own, the mind will quickly revert to unhappy memories or anxious thoughts if these exist –  as they do for many people.  This is why, in the words of one pair of researchers –  ‘a wandering mind is an unhappy mind’: this study showed that people are unhappier when their minds are wandering, even when compared how they feel when focused on routine or tiresome chores.[iii]

The centrality of love and attention to our health mental functioning is becoming starting to become clearer in recent research on the biological and psychological effects of two different types of meditation, each emphasizing one element of the love-attention partnership.

Today’s article was written by Ian H. Robertson, Ph.D. and is shared from the following website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-winner-effect/201306/what-two-things-most-shape-our-lives-love-and-attention

 

 

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The Importance of Friendship

The causes of modern social problems, from divorce to homelessness and obesity, are often thought to be based in areas such as poverty, stress or unhappiness. But researchers suggest we are overlooking something crucial: friendship. It would appear that our society is ignoring its importance.

The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.” Friendships are vital for wellbeing, but they take time to develop and can’t be artificially created. No wonder they are at risk of being neglected.

Nevertheless, the Gallup Organization’s director, Tom Rath, believes that we are all aware of the value of friendship especially during difficult times. In his book, Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without, Rath makes the point that if you ask people why they became homeless, why their marriage failed or why they overeat, they often say it is because of the poor quality, or nonexistence, of friendships. They feel outcast or unloved.

Rath undertook a massive study of friendship, alongside several leading researchers. His work resulted in some surprising statistics: If your best friend eats healthily, you are five times more likely to have a healthy diet yourself. Married people say friendship is more than five times as important as physical intimacy within marriage. Those who say they have no real friends at work have only a one in 12 chance of feeling engaged in their job. Conversely, if you have a “best friend at work”, you are seven times more likely to feel engaged in your job.

The book was very well-received by the business world as well as by readers who could identify with the points made about these often unexplored relationships. On its release, Time magazine stated, “Let friendship ring. It might look like idle chatter, but when employees find friends at work, they feel connected to their jobs. Having a best friend at work is a strong predictor for being a happy and productive employee.”

The book recommends carrying out your own “friendship audit”, in order to recognize which of your friendships provide you with the different things you need, then to sharpen each friendship in line with its strength. Of course, it’s not always a good idea to judge friends in a detached way, or to doubt a friendship just because you can’t easily identify its rewards. The closest friends like each other for who they are in themselves, not for what they deliver. In fact, Aristotle made the point that it is better to give than to receive in friendship. Aristotle also believed that friendship can only arise indirectly, like happiness. It comes with living what he called a good life, including strong personal values such as honesty, character and passion. Our contemporary culture, for all its benefits, tends to focus more on commerce rather than to help us live Aristotle’s “good life”.

British writer Mark Vernon found support for this idea. He quotes the philosopher Epicurus, “The noble man is most involved with wisdom and friendship.” Oscar Wilde also emphasized the altruistic aspect of true friendship when he said, “Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.”

In his search for the essence of friendship, Vernon explored a variety of definitions from well-known personalities. For example, Ralph Emerson said, “A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.” Vernon’s book, The Philosophy of Friendship, makes the point that we have now established that money does not buy happiness. He suggests that we take the lead from Aristotle, and spend at least a fifth of our time with our friends. “Is this not what children do in their persistent requests to play with their friends?” he asks.

Vernon writes that a close friend is a mirror of your own self, someone with whom you realize that, though autonomous, you are not alone. He adds that friendship is also important in politics because it “cultivates the virtues, such as creativity and compassion, which are essential to a flourishing society”. He concludes that if we cultivate friendship, we can “lift some of the burden from our apparently unhappy, isolated selves”.

References

www.vitalfriends.com
Rath, Tom. Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without. Gallup Press: September 2006.
Vernon, Mark. The Philosophy of Friendship. Palgrave Macmillan: November 2006.

Today’s article was written by Jane Collingwood and is shared from the following website: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-importance-of-friendship/

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Why Our Unity is So Important and Beautiful to God

Unity is strength, knowledge is power, and attitude is everything Anonymous

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” JN 17.20-21

The night before Jesus died he prayed that his disciples would be one. Why was the unity of his followers so on his heart?

In college, I majored in painting and still enjoy painting. I love color. I have around 20 tubes of different colored oil paints. I like Pthalo Blue and Cadmium Yellow and Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ocher. I like them by themselves but they’re 100 times more beautiful when mixed together and juxtaposed next to each other in a thousand surprising combinations. What makes a piece of art beautiful is the harmonies and relationships of the shapes and colors. A canvas that is all one color is boring.

In “Eyes Wide open: Enjoying God in Everything” author Steve DeWitt says that the amazing diversity in unity that we see in the creation points us to God. A stunning sunset, the glories of the Grand Canyon, the beauty of sunlight in a forest – the thousands of combinations of color and light and shape in nature, a symphony orchestra or a sports team working harmoniously – all the variations of diversity and harmony we see in the world – point us to God. Especially when we enjoy harmonious relationships.

“We enjoy holidays (the coming together of family), weddings and anniversaries (celebrations of the union of marriage), and Fourth of July parades (the unity of community and nation). Coming together feels great! Relational unity is humanity at its supreme and highest ideal. Have you ever wondered why the greatest memories of our lives or not things we bought or sites we saw or the foods we ate? Think about your greatest memories. They probably have something to do with times of closeness with a parent, a child, a spouse, or a friend. Relational unity is beautiful because all the experiential harmonies of this world whisper of the wondrous beauty of the Godhead’s relational threeness and oneness.” – Steve DeWitt

Relational unity is beautiful because all the experiential harmonies of this world whisper of the wondrous beauty of the Godhead’s relational threeness and oneness.”

All the relational diversity and harmony we see on earth – in nature, music, sports, art, in family celebrations– points us to the love and harmony of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three distinct persons in one God.

That’s why it is so important for us to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4.3). That’s why we should seek to be reconciled to one another and work out our differences as quickly as possible. To forgive one another and bear with one another. Because our unity in diversity in our families and churches reflects and points to God.

Do you have strained relationships with fellow believers? What can you do to promote love and unity in that relationship? Are you unreconciled with anyone? What can you do to seek reconciliation?

I know that relationships even among Christians can be messy. We often sin against one another and hurt each other. We have misunderstandings and offenses. But as much as it is up to us we should forgive, love and pursue the unity of the Spirit with every brother and sister.

Remember, when we love one another it is a reflection of the beautiful love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for one another and for us. O Lord God, grant us unity, love, and harmony in our families and churches!


Today’s article was written by Pastor Mark Altrogge and is shared from the following website: https://www.biblestudytools.com/blogs/mark-altrogge/why-our-unity-is-so-important-and-beautiful-to-god.html

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What is the Purpose of Family?

A family doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be united. AnonymousAlthough I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I don’t often share material that is exclusively issued by my religion. However, my heart is telling me today that this information needs to be shared.

During my near-death experience, one of the things that has affected me profoundly was the spirit of love and devotion we had for each other in heaven. Also, family was (and is) of prime importance.

Recently, I have had many extended family members, who I have never met before, reach out to me. It is in the spirit of family that I share this today! 🙂

 

Families are where we connect ourselves in relationships to past, current, and future generations.

Our families are where we experience our biggest triumphs and our deepest vulnerabilities—and they are where we have the greatest potential to do good. We believe the family is divine in nature and that God designates it as the fundamental building block of society, both on earth and through eternity. As such, it becomes the foundation for civilization and a sanctuary for the individual. It is where we learn the social graces of loyalty, cooperation, and trust. It is where we learn to love ourselves and each other, to bear one another’s burdens, to find meaning in our life and to give purpose to others’ lives, and to feel the value of being part of something greater than ourselves.

There is a universal desire for oneness among people—we want to belong. It’s why we collaborate, support common causes, cheer for sports teams, feel nationalism; it’s why we build villages, towns, and cities. For the fortunate among us, that desire began with loving parents and siblings in a home that was equal parts refuge and laboratory for experimenting with our potential, our beliefs, and our identity. Those who had less than this ideal situation growing up still have the capacity to forge families of their own making. We can create places where children feel loved and supported, where they’re taught that this life reflects what we previously had in heaven, and that our families will be ours through eternity if we accept Jesus Christ’s Atonement and follow His commandments.
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Why is the family important?
Imagine a newborn baby: small and beautiful, but unable to eat, stay warm, find protection, or even move from place to place on his or her own.

God sends each of us to earth helpless. It’s a given that we must depend on our family from the beginning. By design, we are given a family to provide for us, to protect us, and to prepare us for the challenges we’ll face in the years ahead.

We’re all familiar with a family’s ideal role. It is at home that we learn to walk and to talk. We share expressions of love. It is through family life we learn (purposefully or inadvertently) the habits, emotional responses, obligations, and values that will begin to shape our adult selves.

Being part of a family is a big responsibility. It’s humbling when we realize that our family on earth is patterned after our family in heaven.

We are children of divine Heavenly Parents who also provide for our needs with a physical world and all the bounties in it. Our Heavenly Father has the power to protect us, though just as mortal parents may do, He sometimes steps aside and allows us to learn from the consequences of our own decisions and actions. And finally, our Heavenly Father provides us with rules (or commandments) that can teach us the skills, the habits, and the values that will continue to shape our spiritual selves.
How can I help my family be strong?
Just as we need a family for physical support, we need them for spiritual support too.

Part of belonging to a family means we each step up to help each other. While our first role in a family is as a dependent child, the part we play is never small—and it continues to grow in scope and importance as we mature.

It is our duty, even a sacred responsibility, to care for those in our family. In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” God expressed that parents are “to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs.” We are also told that parents “will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129).

Whether parent or child, sibling or spouse, every one of God’s children has a role in taking care of one another. And like the pattern set by our heavenly family, we must provide and care for each other with love. We can follow Heavenly Father’s example by encouraging our loved ones in their trials, listening to their worries, cheering for them in their efforts and successes, and comforting them in their sorrows.

By upholding God’s principles in our homes, we can influence those around us. Many people take pride in their family names and the heritage of honorable people they represent. Others are setting aside past mistakes and seeking to fulfill the divine roles of family anew. No matter our past, all of us can have essential roles in nurturing and strengthening our family ties on earth into relationships that can link generations in love throughout the eternities.

Today’s video and article has been shared from the following website: https://www.mormon.org/beliefs/the-family

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