DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happiness is about meeting needs...

Over sixty years ago, a psychologist named Abraham Maslow began working on a theory of motivation. His questions had to do with what makes people do different "things" at different times? His work, of course, led to the much studied, and widely known "hierarchy of needs". An idea behind this early work was that some needs are more compelling than others, and thus serve to influence behavior more strongly. Another idea was that once "lower level" needs were met, higher level needs would take over as influences of behavior.

Maslow's hierarchy was often depicted as a pyramid, with survival needs at the base and higher order needs at the top. The survival needs were physiological and safety related, in that we need to eat, sleep, breathe and be protected from harm. Above the survival needs were the need to be accepted and loved by others, and to be approved and recognized as competent. These needs seem associated with our group-living characteristics—indeed, we are social animals. Together, these needs (survival and social) were referred to by Maslow as deficiency needs, suggesting that actions taken to meet them were inspired by their deficiency. That's why Maslow called them "D-Needs".

At the top of the pyramid, were needs Maslow described as "being needs". Being needs include our quest for aesthetics and cognition, the realization that we have that beauty and art and music enrich our lives, and our need to understand the world as coherent—to organize the universe and understand it as having order and symmetry. At the very top, a motive that Maslow called "self-actualization", people are compelled to realize their potentials.

These ideas of Maslow have now been supported by many studies, and have been debated and refined over the years. Yet, they have fundamental value in steering us toward understanding the kinds of things we can do to meet our universal needs through the things we do.

In coming posts, some examples of need meeting activities will be discussed, and readers will be invited to provide their experiences and ideas about meeting essential needs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Forgiveness —Something we can do to keep ourselves healthy

Many years ago, I read a piece of advice that truly caused me to reflect. The statement was about letting go of petty grievances and of not harboring resentment. It proclaimed that forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, not others. Each of us, in our lifetime, has experienced an assault on our identity or sense of self (pride), or on our body. We feel we must defend our bruised egos, reclaim who we are, and create a sense of fairness and justice by getting even. We expect that to make ourselves whole, the person who perpetrated the injustice must apologize, or in some other way give of themselves in order to "make things even."

To the extent that we must endure such injustices, we feel abused and hurt, and we feel we cannot go on until that wrong is somehow "righted". All the while, however, this resentment is creating a knot within us, something that represents "unfinished business". We carry this extra baggage along with us, perhaps adding additional baggage over time, and then realizing one day that we have a lot of this baggage weighing us down, and it truly does weigh us down.

There is abundant evidence now about how the endocrine system, the regulator of hormones that flow from our emotions, can yield unhealthy consequences over time if we continue to carry this additional emotional weight. It can and does create conditions that lead to increased risk for physical and mental illness. Yet, summoning the strength to be larger than any particular issue is to truly proclaim one's independence and create the emotional conditions that empower the body and the mind. This is often easier said than done because we are so habituated to acting like a victim when we are assaulted. We often forget that there is sometimes more power in "not doing" as in "doing"— in yielding rather than forcing. That is a principle of Taoism.

So, it turns out that one of the most beneficial "fitness exercises" a person can do is learning how to forgive. Think of forgiving as "giving for health and happiness"—our own!

About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.