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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Love is a Choice: 30 Ways to Love in Action

Love is not what you say, love is what you do. Unknown

“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” ~Sam Keen

I recently went with girlfriends to hear one of our favorite beach bands play. Since I turn into a pumpkin at midnight, I talked a friend into taking me home early.

While walking to our car, we witnessed a couple fighting. There was no pushing or shoving.  Fists weren’t involved.  Bizarrely enough, this couple was on opposite sides of the parking lot having their fight over their cell phones.

Due to the volume of their voices, the fight was easy to follow. Apparently, she didn’t give a rip about anyone but herself (his point of view) and he was a control freak (her point of view). There was much discussion back and forth and the words weren’t very nice, so I’ll gloss over that. However, what struck me about that fight was how pointless it seemed.

Did that couple realize how lucky they were to have each other? I wanted to scream at both of them, “What if something tragic happened to one of you on the way home tonight—would this fight have been worth it?”

I see too many couples take their relationships for granted. They forget why they fell in love. They forget the dreams they had and the plans they made. They forget their promises and commitments. The “healthy” of their relationships is based on personal happiness, rather than doing what is best for the both of them.

Love is a choice, not a feeling or an emotion. It’s a decision you make every day of your life. Even when your mate doesn’t take out the trash, or spends too much time at the mall, or when your new haircut or outfit goes unnoticed, or when poor financial decisions set you back—you can still decide to love.

Love is for better or worse. And when you choose not to love, you’ve given up and given in.

It’s a decision you’ll regret.

Take it from a widow that wishes every day that she had her husband at home to leave the toilet seat up, or scatter Popsicle sticks and papers all around the couch, or smoke stinky cigars in the house, or forget to pay the bills or pick up the kids. All those imperfections about your mate are what you will miss the most when they are gone.

Choosing to love isn’t always easy, but it is worth the effort.  Here are some ways you can choose to love on a daily basis:

1. Let go of the little things. If you are truly honest, you’ll realize most of them are little things.

2. Give more than you take in your relationship.

3. Love without strings attached.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

5. Look at the world through your mate’s eyes. Seeing things from their perspective helps you better understand their actions and motivations.

6. Pay attention to your mate. Look at them and focus on what they are saying or doing.

7. Before you blame, examine yourself first.

8. Let it be okay that you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree.

9. Accept and celebrate your mate’s differences and uniqueness. Face it—you can’t change them, but you can change your attitude about their quirks.

10. Validate your mate’s feelings. Don’t try to “fix” their perspective or contradict them. Accept their feelings without judgment or correction.

11. Hold hands.

12. Work as a team. You are life mates, not roommates.

13. Be flexible with your mate. While consensus is always the goal, sometimes we have to bend to the other’s wishes.

14. Share your vulnerabilities and fears with your mate. A load carried by two is easier than one carried alone.

15. Be faithful to your mate, both emotionally and physically.

16. Don’t hide things from your mate. Trust is fragile—handle with care.

17. Send love notes—a card, text, voicemail, or message on a sticky note or the bathroom mirror will do.

18. Laugh.  A lot.

19. Speak respectfully of your mate. They like to hear you talk about them favorably in front of others, but it means even more when you talk glowingly about them when they aren’t around.

20. Encourage your mate to be the best person they can be. Support their hobbies, learning interests, and passions. Be their biggest fan.

21. Apologize. And mean it.

22. Forgive. And mean it.

23. Develop couple rituals that are known only to you. 

24. Work on goals and dreams together. Planning is half the joy.

25. Public displays of affection!

26. Say “yes” more often than “no.”

27. Appreciate the inner beauty of your mate.

28. Accept and love your mate’s family and friends.

29. Schedule time alone together, even if it’s just a walk around the block or drive in the country.

30. Love yourself. You can’t decide to love another until you can decide to love yourself.

Loving another person isn’t easy, and it can’t be based on feelings or emotions that fluctuate like the weather. Choose actions that show your love, and make the decision to do it every day.

Today’s article was written by Cynthia Hughes Lynch and is shared from the following website: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/love-is-a-choice-30-ways-to-love-in-action/

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The Power of Love

To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides David Viscott

Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world. However, many husbands and wives think of love as an emotion. In reality, love is an attitude with appropriate behavior. Love is the attitude that says, “I choose to look out for your interests.” Love asks the question, “How may I help you.” Then love is expressed in behavior. The fact that love is action rather than emotion means that I can love my spouse even when I do not have warm feelings toward him or her. If I do or say something that is helpful, my behavior stimulates warm emotions inside my wife. She may not reciprocate immediately, but my loving act has made life better for her. That is what love is all about.

Today’s post was written by Gary Chapman and is shared from the following website: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/2014/03/the-power-of-love/

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Love Heals!

Where there is love there is life Mahatma Gandhi

The heart of the matter is that it is the heart that matters. To have optimal cardiovascular health, your emotional and spiritual heart is just as important as your physical heart, and care must be given to all aspects of this vital organ.

Every thought and every emotion causes an instantaneous cascade of hundreds, if not thousands, of neuropeptides and hormones that orchestrate a symphony of positive and negative effects within the body. That is why it is so important to pay close attention to the thoughts and emotions that are running through your mind, as they dictate the symphony of neurotransmitters playing in your body. As an example, would you rather be listening to the soothing sounds of classical music or the heart-pounding, adrenaline-charging sounds of heavy metal?

Love is a strong emotion, representing human kindness, compassion, and deep affection. Love is unselfish and benevolent. Love is pure. Love is self-directed and directed toward others. Most importantly, love is a vital component for the health of your heart, body, mind, and soul.

Ways That Love Benefits Your Health:

  1. Love improves self-esteem, which leads to better self-care. Self-love is key because when you love yourself, you are much more likely to engage in activities that contribute to better nutrition and physical fitness, and less likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices.
  2. Love is a great antidote to stress. Love counteracts the fight-or-flight response that we so often find ourselves in. Even low levels of stress cause the body to release cortisol, which is associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and depression. Love downregulates the production of cortisol. Love encourages your body to produce oxytocin, the “feel-good” or “love” hormone. Oxytocin can reduce cardiovascular stress and improve the immune system, which in turn decreases cell death and inflammation. Love also causes the production in your brain of norepinephrine and dopamine (both hormones associated with adrenaline), which leads to increased feelings of joy and pleasure. Love really is your best medicine.
  3. Love decreases anxiety and staves off depression, which subsequently reduces the signs and symptoms of heart disease. In his book Love and Survival: Eight Pathways to Intimacy and Health, Dean Ornish, M.D describes one study where married men who suffered from angina (chest pains) experienced far less angina if they felt loved by their wives, even despite high-risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  4. Love decreases inflammation, improves your immune system, and can be a potent pain reliever. A recent study from the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine showed that people who are lonely develop more reactivation of latent viruses than those that are well connected. Possible mechanisms for these actions include increased release of cytokines, better relaxation and the release of endorphins
  5. Sleeping next to someone you love makes you feel more relaxed, which helps you to sleep better. Numerous studies have linked the benefits to the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Adequate rest is vital to heart health and overall well-being, as much of the reparative work of the body is done during sleep.

Not just at Valentine’s Day, but all year around, it is important to remind yourself that there is so much more to love than just romantic love. There is the love of life, love of nature, love of animals, love of others, and love of self, and all of these acts of love provide amazing health benefits.

Ways to Incorporate Love Into Your Life

  1. Be more loving and giving. Bring happiness and joy into other people’s lives. Be generous with your time and money; be a person of increase. You can do this through volunteerism and altruism. I challenge everyone to do one random act of kindness today, even if it is as simple as smiling at someone.
  2. Hug often and hold hands. Physical contact in a loving and nurturing way has the ability to instantly improve your mood, lower stress levels and put you at ease. Try to hug at least one person you love every day.
  3. Be more playful in your loving relationship and make love often. Remind your partner about how much you care for them, and make time for them, no matter how busy you are.
  4. Love life — bring more joy into your life each day. Flirt with life… laugh, dance, sing. One way to manifest this is to allow yourself to really laugh without holding anything back and simply enjoy this pure laughter.
  5. Love yourself and be kind to yourself today. Treat yourself like you would another person who you are truly in love with. The more you love yourself, the better equipped you will be to love others. And the more love you give, the more you will receive.

Today’s article was written by Dr. Cynthia Thaik and has been shared from the following website: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-cynthia-thaik/love-health-benefits_b_3131370.html

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How To Renew Love In A Long-Term Relationship

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new Ursula K. LeGuin

A romantic relationship is a wonderful thing. Renewing love between couples is often neglected entirely and most will end up separating after discord has begun, before having even tried to reconnect.

The feeling of falling in love is something most will aspire to experience. The subconscious need to make that reviving connection and the emotional satisfaction it comes with has made for the most popular topic of western music at the turn of the century. With love being such a desired emotion we wish to kindle in order to form a committal relationship, why does it so often end poorly with discord and resentment? Whether these issues arise in the newly developed romance or later on, it can have an impact on the mental wellbeing of the individuals involved.

Falling In Love

Professor of psychology, Stephanie Ortigue at Syracuse University, reveals in her study, “The Neuroimaging of Love” that falling in love only takes one-fifth of a second, and once it happens, the emotions it can provoke are just as exhilarating as those that of a cocaine high. This itself should show the benefits of renewing love.

The other quintessential aspect that the experts discuss is the misconception of love coming from your heart, though it may feel so, love is actually developed and triggered in your brain and is the corresponding reason as to why one may suffer from depression at the stake of it failing.

Dr. Farzana Mohideen-Botes, a clinical psychiatrist at the Akeso Clinic in Milnerton suggests the following,

“Sometimes our yearning for idealized love, to be adored unconditionally, to be fully met by our beloved is unrealistic. Our expectations set us up to fail. Often, we demand from our partners that which we needed, and perhaps didn’t receive, as very young children.”

With this in mind the greatest task at hand is to perceive, as adults, what it is we can use to develop our relationships and form those bonds that rationalize our expectations. Renewing love requires patience and dedication from both parties.

Dr. Mohideen-Botes further goes on to explain the key components she believes are essential for a long-lasting and healthy relationship including:

Respect
Friendship
Compromise
Trust
Communication

More often than not, these modules do not come with ease and have to be taught, many aspects of what makes an adult relationship, often come from the inner child.

“We forget that we need to be playing, have fun, laugh and have a sense of humor. Just to be able to play together is really important for any relationship.”

The Key Elements For An Exciting Long-Term Relationship

Intimacy

One of the first connections one often craves with their newfound partner is intimacy, however, it also seems to be the main cause for detachment and separation later on. It is easy to get distracted when a stable foundation in the relationship has been formed, ones daily routine is often stressful and tiring and time can rarely be set aside for reconnecting on a physical level.

Physical touch with another human stimulates the release of your love hormone, oxytocin. This does not only apply to sexual partners, but for all relationships, including that of your family and friends. It is a key component in renewing love for one another.

Dr. Mohideen-Botes feels that this physical connection between loved ones is often lacking and advises them strongly to reform those bonds regularly in order to maintain stable and healthy relationships:

“I tell couples and families to hug often and hug long.”

With life often getting in the way of your personal re-connections, it is stressed that making the time to be intimate is the most effective way to be together. Prioritise it as you would a meeting or doctors appointment. The dates do not have to be expensive, going for a walk, having a picnic or star-gazing are all affordable options that give you the occasion to be romantic.

“It is easier to prevent a relationship breaking down than to fix it after.”

Attraction

A frequent topic of discussion with regards to the attraction between a couple is whether or not like-minded people attract one another or rather those who are completely unalike. It has been regularly debated and analyzed as a theory, and so from there stemmed the commonly used expression today, “Do opposites attract?”

Dr. Mohideen-Botes explains how the answer is within both extremes.

“In a healthy relationship there needs to be enough difference between the partners to keep it interesting, but enough similarities to keep it safe. It’s like the excitement of a brand new world but also the comfort of your well-loved blankie.”

The bases of a stable and safe relationship allow for a platform on which adventure can grow from. Renewing love from that stage can always come with a lot more ease.

What Makes For An Unhealthy Relationship

Once communication and intimacy start to fall away, people begin to feel very lonely with their partnership.

Where healthy relationships affirm us and give us strength, unhealthy relationships break down our emotional security and leave us vulnerable. It is through that means that one will often seek comfort elsewhere, whether it is through an affair or another form of reckless behavior, the consequence of not stabilizing our emotional bonds can cause severe depression and anxiety.

If the relationship does come to an end, being surrounded by your friends and family and having the support will allow you to mourn in a healthy environment, using that time to focus on yourself and work on your own personal happiness is the most effective way to move past the hurt.

“The first thing you should do to deal with and mentally recover from a broken relationship is to commit to a lasting, kind, loving relationship with yourself.”

Renewing Love

relationship | Longevity LiveRenewing love is often overlooked, however, many committal relationships are often worth repairing says Dr. Wallace Goddard, Professor of family life from the University of Arkansas says ,

“If commitment is primarily about attraction for the couple, a helper such as a family life educator might invite them to think about the best times in their relationship. If commitment is largely based on moral obligation, a helper might invite them to think about the promises they have made. If their commitment is based on constraint, a helper might invite them to think about the effects of relationship failure on their family and friends…
Of course, there are some destructive relationships that need to end. But most relationships probably need a tune­up rather than a trade­ in.”

Relationships are a two-way street and communication is indispensable if one wants to reconstruct the fragmented bond. The ability to speak openly with both honesty and trust can allow for each partner to admit to their faults, flaws, and guilt within a non-judgemental environment.

Dr. Mohideen-Bote stresses the importance of a healthy communication platform:

“One may commit the act of infidelity and carries more responsibility, but there were also certain things in that relationship that was out of balance and which need to be addressed. Couples need to be aware that if they want the relationship to continue, both parties need to work on the issue and let it go. An affair cannot be used as a whip every time there is a problem.”

The dedication and time needed in renewing love is a commitment within itself, it requires self-exploration and understanding before it is possible to do such for another. With great persistence, it’s something that anyone can achieve in their relationships and have the lifelong love they often dream of having.

“To love and to be loved in return is a gift that should be cherished. To live a witnessed life with another frail, brave human being demands mutual respect, trust, compromise, and compassion. The best way to learn to love another is to love yourself first.”

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