Monday, September 27, 2010

I want this guy's job...

Thanks to my friend Kelly for posting this on Facebook:

"Now then everybody, please settle down, this is serious. Fun time is over, we have rats to tickle.

"Laughter, it seems, is a topic of scientific inquiry that is ripe to be taken very seriously. As explained in an article at PhysOrg, the act of laughter is universal and sounds pretty much the same across all of humanity, with no discernible difference in how it sounds to the ear as a result of differences in language or culture. And not only is laughter among the very first forms of communication that every single human being learns, laughter is not limited to people. Other primates are known to laugh. Additionally, and perhaps surprisingly, laughter is also demonstrated in dogs and rats.

"The common denominator in situations that cause someone to have a ha-ha moment seems to be interaction with others. According to scientists who investigate the causes and the effects of laughing, the primary basis for these strange, involuntary respiratory convulsions that we all do is a reaction to an event that we perceive and respond to as an experience shared with others.

"Laughing is not dependent on any one specific sense (as PhysOrg points out, “deaf people laugh without hearing, and people on cell phones laugh without seeing”), but arises from our interactions.

"“It’s joy, it’s positive engagement with life. It’s deeply social,” according to Bowling Green University psychologist Jaak Panksepp. Among Panksepp’s research activities is tickling his lab rats. It turns out that rats laugh in response to being tickled, and they just can’t seem to get enough of it. What we’re able to learn from what happens in the brains of rats during and after a good laugh provides insights into the results and benefits that we derive from laughter. These include biochemical responses that appear to serve as natural anti-depressants and anxiety reducers.

"However, when it comes time to apply for a grant to support laughter research, scientists are extra careful to make sure that they keep the “fun” out of funding. Northwestern University’s Jeffrey Burgdorf uses the term ‘positive emotional response’ in place of the word laughter in research study proposals to help ensure that he and his work are taken seriously."

by David Bois at Tonic

(Tonic is a digital media company dedicated to promoting the good that happens around the world each day. We share the stories of people and organizations that are making a difference by inspiring good in themselves and others.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hep Gleck!

(that title makes me feel like I'm blogging in Ikea. But don't worry, Hep Gleck can be assembled without pictures.)

I have a daily ritual that I perform on the subway -- I open up my journal, give myself an affirmation (for the last several months it's been "I have everything I need") and then set an intention for myself. Usually the intention is in alignment with something I'm working on -- patience, breathing, being present, not comparing myself to others, etc. -- and then I sit down and list five things I give myself credit for. After that, it's a list of things I'm grateful for, and a Daily To Do list. I've discussed all this before (see here) and bring it up again because my friend Jon recently introduced me to an even deeper practice that expands on this base.

It's called Hep Gleck.

Ok, no, it really isn't, but I like calling it that, so that's what I'm calling it.

Learned from a Tony Robbins book (but slightly unclear as to which one -- though I'm guessing now it's "Personal Power" as I got some help from this website in writing this post), Hep Gleck is actually an acronym that expands on the idea of listing things for which I am grateful and for which I am giving myself credit. Each letter stands for another feeling, and carries with it three questions. The feelings are:


Committed to
Kate is Awesome

(Ok, there's no K in the acronym, but "Glec" doesn't look like a strong word, whereas "Gleck" does, so I added the K for phonetic reasons. Sue me.)

And the questions are:
1. What am I happy/excited/proud/grateful/loving/enjoying/committed to in my life?
2. What about that makes me happy/excited/proud/grateful/loving/joyful/feel committed?
3. How does that make me feel?

The key to this exercise, though, is to NOT JUDGE, and that's a caution I extend with big, red, wavy flags.

For example, this morning I wrote that I was grateful for sunsets.* So to deepen the experience using Hep Gleck, I would then ask what about sunsets makes me feel grateful? I could respond with "their beauty," or "the sense that the world is bigger than I am," or "just 'cause." And then I have to report with honesty and curiosity about how that makes me feel.

A trap I could easily see us all falling into** is being happy about something that truly makes us happy -- the way the driver of that car honked and waved at us on the way to the subway, finding the $20 bill on the street, having an awesome smoothie for breakfast -- and then judging the experience. What about that makes me feel happy? Well, he thought I was hot stuff, so I felt like hot stuff and that made me happy. It's a free $20, what's not to be happy about! The way the tastes blended together was so amazing. Watch out for then falling into despair with the "How does that make me feel" angle. I might be very tempted to go down the I-suck-because-I-need-some-guy-in-traffic-to-validate-my-feelings-of-hot-stuffedness road.

I'm going to try Hep Gleck. And Jon is, too. (Or at least I think he is.) Are you?

*Secretly, I wanted to write sunrises, but it's been EONS since I last saw a sunrise so that felt like stretching the truth.

** And by "us all," of course, I really mean "me," but I wanted to take you with me so I wouldn't be lonely.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

intimacy, and how to get more of it

Many moons ago I went to a talk at the 92nd Street Y Tribeca on what science can teach you about falling in love. And the presenter, Robert Epstein, brought audience members on stage (myself and my friend included), asked them a bunch of benchmarking questions about the stranger they were with ("How close do you feel to this person? How much in love with this person are you? How attracted are you to this person?") and then put them/us through a series of exercises that they had shown drew people together.

And while it was hard to honestly answer questions about a total stranger in front of a room full of total strangers, I have to say that the exercises (if not the mortification of going through them together publicly) did draw me closer to the random stranger on stage with me.

As part of the takeaway from the event, they gave us a copy of the magazine in which the presenter's article appeared, and I recently unearthed it from my kitchen table. You can get a snapshot of the article here, on Scientific American's website, or you can google Robert Epstein and see what you get.

Here, however, are some highlights that I think are interesting, useful, and totally applicable right now -- not just with a romantic partner, but with anyone with whom you want to feel more intimate.

Ten things that make us feel more intimate:

1. Arousal -- not just sex, you dirty birds. Any kind of physical exertion or exposure to dangerous situations increases intimacy, say researchers. So if you want to get close, take your date on the Cyclone at Coney Island. He'll either love you on the spot or never want to see you again.

2. Proximity and Familiarity. When you let someone repeatedly invade your personal space, that increases feelings of closeness. Because, well, you're close.

3. Similarity. Sure, opposites attract, but likes ignite! (I made that up.) Personally, I'm discovering that going out with guys whose parents are still together (as mine are) is making a difference in our relationships. And shared values, senses of humor, and attractiveness keep the playing fields even.

4. Humor. This one's obvious, I think.

5. Novelty. Doing something new makes us more vulnerable, and vulnerability leads more quickly to intimacy. One of the things I do when planning a date is trying to go somewhere I've never been before. (Which, even in a city of six gajillion restaurants, can be surprisingly difficult!)

6. Removing Inhibitions. Yeah, ok, a glass of wine helps, but a bottle of wine doesn't. People who have difficulty being vulnerable and opening up often misuse alcohol in pursuit of that feeling of intimacy. So watch out!

7. Kindness, Accommodation, and Forgiveness. "Feelings of love can emerge quickly when someone deliberately changes his or her behavior -- say, by giving up smoking or drinking -- to accommodate our needs." I find it adorable when I tell guys I don't eat meat and they then order something vegetarian when we have dinner together -- even though I make it clear that they're free to eat whatever they want!

8. Touch and Sexuality. The obvious caveat applies here -- while touch and sensuality bring people closer together, people (mostly women, unfortunately) have a tendency to confuse sex with love. The author recommends even just getting very near to someone without actually connecting -- kind of a romantic I'm Not Touching You.

9. Self-Disclosure. People tend to bond when they share secrets. I love asking guys I go out with to tell me a secret. The only trick is coming up with one I'm willing to share. A recent date of mine once said, when I asked him if I could ask him a question, "You can ask me anything you want; you just have to be willing to answer it yourself."

10. Commitment. "People whose commitments are shaky interpret their partners' behavior more negatively, for one thing, and that can be deadly over time." I totally get this. When a guy makes it clear to me that he likes me, it's easier for me to forgive his not calling when he says he will. (See #7)

So go ahead, try these out and see how they play out. Grab your man/woman/dog/postal worker/neighbor's cousin's milkman/random stranger on the street and try these with him or her.*

*just kidding! try them with someone you know and actually want to have more intimacy with. duh.