Damon Ashworth: At your most lonely you can still reach out for help

For Anyone Who Has Ever Struggled With Thoughts of Suicide and Death

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Suicide

In Australia in 2015, there were 3,027 deaths due to suicide for the year. This equates to 12.7 per 100,000, or 8.3 deaths by suicide each day.

76% of those who died by suicide were male, a ratio of more than 3:1. This ratio stays pretty steady for nearly all age groups, with males always dying from suicide at a higher rate than females.

According to the World Health Organisation, a person dies from suicide somewhere in the world every 40 seconds. Guyana has the highest suicide rate of any country in the world, with 44.2 per 100,000, but South Korea (28.9 per 100,000), Sri Lanka (28.8 per 100,000), Lithuania (28.2 per 100,000) and many other countries are also way too high. Based on the 2012 WHO findings, Australia was the 63rd highest country with 10.6 deaths by suicide per 100,000.

The most alarming thing about these findings is that our suicide rate is increasing, an extra 2.1 per 100,000 in only five years. The rate of suicide has also increased in the US by 24% from 1999 to 2014, after consistently declining the 14 years prior to that, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Aboujaoude, 2016).

In the US it’s meant to be increasing due to the increasing use of antidepressants and their link to suicidality, to poor health insurance coverage, to the global financial crisis, increased divorce rates, greater opiate drug use, and the internet (Aboujaoude, 2016).

I’m not sure if all of these factors apply in Australia, but if over 11% of suicide-related search results are pro-suicide (Recupero, Harms & Noble 2008), then we need to counter-balance this with as much material as possible showing that suicide is neither the best option or the only option.

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Death

Homo sapiens, or humans, as far as I know, are the only species in the animal kingdom that are aware that one day they are going to die.

The first time I heard this it fascinated me, and made me wonder if life would be easier not being aware of the fact that one day we cease to exist.

Imagine it. Life is going well. Then suddenly it is no more. No worry about what the future holds. We are born. We experience life. Then suddenly we are no longer there. No fear. Just nothingness.

Being aware that we are going to die shapes and influences our lives much more than we would like to admit. A lot of our anxieties and phobias at their core are a fear of some type of loss or death.

Irvin Yalom says that whilst the actuality of death is the end of us, the idea of death can actually energise us.

If we don’t know when we will die, being in touch with the fact that one day everything will end is enough to overwhelm some people and make them panic.

For others, it is enough to make them follow the maxim of carpe diem and helps them to seize the day by appreciating everything that they have so that they can make the most of the precious time that they have left on this planet. Time that is really just a bright spark of lightness between two identical and infinite periods of darkness – one before we are born, and one after.

Death is the ultimate equaliser, for no matter how much we have achieved or done with our time on this planet, the truth is that we will all one day die.

It is also true that we will not know exactly when death will happen. It might be with a car accident tomorrow, from cancer in ten years time, motor neurone disease in twenty years time, a heart attack in thirty years time, a stroke in forty years time, or during our sleep in fifty years time. Who knows.

What I do know is that people struggle with the idea of death. Much like they struggle with the idea of life.

With so much uncertainty, how can we possibly plan for the future? How can we get the most out of life? and more importantly, is it even worth it?

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These are questions that I struggled with for a long time…

My Experience

I think I was about ten years old when I first expressed a desire to kill myself. I remember my mother saying that childhood should be the happiest time in my life, as it only gets harder after that, with more pressures and more responsibility. I’m pretty sure she meant that I should try to enjoy life whilst I’m young if I could, but all I heard was “LIFE SUCKS! IF YOU AREN’T COPING NOW, YOU NEVER WILL!” I became petrified of the future.

It didn’t get much better after that for me. I never felt like I fit in at school. I was 6″3 by the start of 9th grade, and felt like a freak; physically different from others and emotionally disconnected from my friends and family.

My happiest times growing up were when I became sick with croup and needed to be rushed to hospital on several occasions. During these times it suddenly it seemed like I was important. That people cared. They visited me. They asked me questions. They brought me gifts. And I could ask for whatever I wanted. Even a strawberry milkshake for breakfast. The best part was no pressure or expectations for once, and as many computer games as I wanted. It was pure bliss.

Once I became physically well again, it was back to performing however. To being what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. The result was that I became cut off from the real me, felt empty inside, and entirely miserable.

When I was younger, there was a death in my family from suicide on my mum’s side. It was devastating for everyone. It also contributed to a fear of mental health problems within our family. I don’t even know if it really started there, or if it just escalated after that. What I do know is that depression and suicide were scary things that we didn’t talk about, so I suffered alone.

I struggled with frequent suicidal ideation from the age of 10 until 25. Most of the time it was just when I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but it wouldn’t take much for me to think of death and ending it all as a way out of the emotional pain that I felt. Sometimes I would imagine crashing my car into oncoming traffic, but I really didn’t want to cause any harm or sorrow to anyone else. I thought of jumping off a bridge, or crashing my car into a tree, but worried about injuring myself without ending my life, and feared how much harder life would be if I also didn’t have my physical mobility on top of my mental health difficulties.

A much more common fantasy was developing a terminal illness that didn’t give me much time left to live. I would imagine people feeling sorry for me, telling me that they cared, and not putting any pressure on me so that I could finally live the life that I wanted to live rather than the life that I felt people wanted for me. Life generally seemed to suck. And death seemed like a great option…

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The Turning Point

But here is the thing. Life didn’t always suck. Being caught inside my head did. So did feeling alone and disconnected from others and the real me.

I now know that life is actually precious. And it isn’t as long as we’d sometimes like it to be.

The first thing that helped me realise this was when my host brother, who I lived with in California for a year when I was 16 and 17, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma whilst I was doing my undergraduate studies at La Trobe University.

I had wished for a terminal illness for so long because I thought I was so bad and evil and such a worthless piece of crap, and here was a guy who was an absolute legend, suddenly sick with a life threatening illness. He didn’t want this, and neither did his family. It wasn’t fair, and it made me question a lot of things about life and our purpose in it.

In 2005, he was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish foundation for he and I to go for an all expenses paid trip to Europe for two weeks. In Paris, walking along the Seine river, even though his body was riddled with cancer, he said to me “I just don’t get why people become depressed when there is so much beauty and good in the world!” I couldn’t believe what I heard. For the first time ever I felt and realised that it wasn’t what was happening in our life that shaped how we felt about it, but how we chose to view it.

When he passed away the following year, I was more devastated than I have ever been in my life. I still would do anything to be able to switch positions with him, as he truly was a great man, but what I do know is that his memory will never be forgotten.

Since then, especially after I sought psychological therapy during my Doctoral degree, my mission in life has been to reduce the level of distress felt by individuals who are struggling with mental health issues. I have tried the best I possibly could, but I am fully aware that I have also fallen way short at times of having the influence that I would love to be able to have to make a real difference in this world.

Just today I had the first client of mine that I am aware of who has recently tried to kill themselves. I am saddened by this, but also understand that we can never completely stop someone who is determined to do what they think is the best action for them to take.

All we can do is try to help them to stay safe, get them to see that all experiences generally pass, even the bad ones, and that if things have sometimes been not as bad as they are now in the past, then there is also a very good chance that things will once again not be as bad in the future.

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TO ALL.THOSE WHO ARE STRUGGLING:

Life sometimes sucks

So do other people

And so does the world

But you do not

I care about you

Even if I don’t know you

I want your life to get better

And I know that it can

If you are suffering

That is okay

Many people do

You are not alone

There are many things that can be done

Death is not the best option

Please seek help today

Life is worth living

It can get better

It did for me

I have not felt suicidal for the last six years

I have still experienced much pain

But I have also experienced much joy

And the ride has been worth it!

If you are struggling with the fear of death, please check out the book:
  • “Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death” by Irvin D. Yalom.
If you are struggling with lack of meaning and purpose in life, please check out the following books:
  • “Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life” by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi
  • “Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life” by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica
  • “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.
If you are being held back by fear and self-doubt, please check out the following books:
  • “The Confidence Gap” by Russ Harris and Steven Hayes
  • “Feel the Fear, And Do It Anyways” by Susan Jeffers
  • “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown
If you are struggling with grief, please check out the following books:
  • “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold S. Kushner
  • “On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss” by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
If you want a more in depth analysis and understanding of the unsolved dilemmas of life, please check out the book:
  • “Existential Psychotherapy” by Irvin D. Yalom

 

DISCLAIMER: If the content of this post upsets you or you are struggling with suicidal ideation, planning or intent, please contact an appropriate help service where you live. If you are in Australia and cannot ensure your safety, please contact your local crisis and assessment treatment team (CATT) or call the following services:

  • Beyond Blue Helpline –   Call 1300 22 4636 24 hours / 7 days a week  
  • Suicide Help Line – 1300 651 251
  • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • SANE Australia – 1800 187 263
  • Relationships Australia – 1300 364 277
  • Mindset Clinic – 1800 614 434
  • Headspace – 1800 650 890 (ages 12-25)
  • Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800 (ages 5-25)

Eric Barker: 5 Questions that will make you emotionally strong

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5 Questions That Will Make You Emotionally Strong

Click here to read the post on the blog or keep scrolling to read in-email.

Ever been caught in the grip of extreme emotions? I’m gonna guess whatever decision you made next probably wasn’t a good one.

When we’re anxious, angry, or sad, we rarely do the smart thing. And that can seriously mess up our lives. At work, in love, or pretty much anything we do, we need emotional strength to stay cool and do the right thing.

Now dealing with the ups and downs of feelings isn’t anything new. And nor are some of the best solutions. So let’s look at what some ancient wisdom has to say about dealing with difficult emotions.

Studying Buddhist mindfulness or Stoicism can take a heck of a long time. So we’ll prune their insights down to 5 questions that can help you when emotions hijack your brain and send you into a tizzy.

First up: worrying. When your mind is filled with anxious concerns and doubts, what question do you need to be asking yourself?

“Is This Useful?”

Face it: your brain can be a pretty crazy place. All kinds of things bounce around in there. And you’re usually pretty good at culling the wacky thoughts. But then you get worried…

And your brain starts multiplying negative possibilities like crazy. And you make the mistake of taking them seriously. Every. Single. One.

Remember: you are not your thoughts. Neuroscientist Alex Korb made an interesting distinction when I spoke to him. If you were to break your arm you would not tell people, “I am broken.” But when we feel worry we’re quick to say, “I am worried.”

Your brain produces thoughts. That’s its job. But that’s not directly under your control. So just because something is in your head, doesn’t mean it’s “you”, and should therefore be taken seriously.

When I spoke to Buddhist mindfulness expert Sharon Salzberg, she said this:

I think one of the issues that we have is that we don’t necessarily recognize that a thought is just a thought. We have a certain thought, we take it to heart, we build a future on it, we think, “This is the only thing I’ll ever feel”, “I’m an angry person and I always will be”, “I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life”, and that process happens pretty quickly.
If you acted on every crazy thought that popped into your head, I can guarantee you two things:

  • There’s a blockbuster reality show in your future.
  • And not a lot of happiness.

So if you are not your thoughts, who are “you”? You’re the thing that decides which thoughts are useful and should be taken seriously.

The ancient Stoics believed that you are just your reasoned choice; because that’s the only thing fully under your control. So those worried thoughts aren’t you. The decisions you make regarding them are.

You’re not your brain; you’re the CEO of your brain. You can’t control everything that goes on in “Mind, Inc.” But you can decide which projects get funded with your attention and action.

So when a worry is nagging at you, step back and ask: “Is this useful?”

When I spoke to Buddhist mindfulness expert Joseph Goldstein he said:

This thought which has arisen, is it helpful? Is it serving me or others in some way or is it not? Is it just playing out perhaps old conditions of fear or judgment or things that are not very helpful for ourselves or others? Mindfulness really helps us both see and discern the difference and then it becomes the foundation then for making wiser choices and why the choices lead to more happiness.
If the worry is reasonable, do something about it. If it’s irrational or out of your control, recognize that. Neuroscience shows that merely making a decision like this can reduce worry and anxiety.

(To learn the 7-step morning ritual that will make you happy all day, click here.)

But maybe you’re not worried. Maybe you’re furious. But what is anger? Where does it come from? And what question can make these HULK SMASH feelings go away?

“Does The World Owe Me This?”

Anger comes from entitlement. You feel you’re entitled to something, reality doesn’t bend to your expectations and boom — you’re punching things. Or people.

Traffic is bad. You get angry. Let me translate that thought process for you: “Traffic should never cause me problems. The world owes me that.” Sound reasonable? Hardly.

Or someone doesn’t do what they said they’d do. You get angry. Now you might reply, “People should do what they say they’ll do! I have a right to be angry!”

Yes, it would be nice if people always followed through, but is that a reasonable expectation? Of course not. You know people don’t always do what they say. Now you can definitely call them out on it. You can decide to do something in response. But the anger?

That awful feeling is all yours. You had an unrealistic expectation (“People will always do what they say”) and now you’re shocked — SHOCKED! — that they didn’t.

Famed psychologist Albert Ellis (whose work was inspired by the Stoics) led a war against the words “should” and “must.” Anytime you use those words, you’re probably in for some unhappiness because you’re saying the universe is obligated to bend to your will. Good luck with that.

So the solution to anger is to ask yourself: “Does the world owe me this?”

Yeah, it’s a trick question. Because the world doesn’t owe you anything. And the more you think the world owes you, the angrier you will be. Again, it’s all about reasonable expectations. And that’s why Marcus Aurelius said:

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness…
Not a pleasant way to start the day — that I grant you. But he was on to something. Expecting everything to go your way, let alone insisting on it, is a prescription for anger.

I know what some people are thinking: feeling you’re entitled to nothing in life seems unfair and sad. But don’t forget that you take for granted what you are owed. Not being entitled makes every good thing in life a prize. You either achieved it or you were lucky, and those lead to feelings of pride or gratitude.

When you’re entitled, you don’t appreciate anything, and you’re frequently disappointed. Not a good combo. And when psychologists are evaluating if someone is a narcissist, guess what one of the four criteria is? Yeah, entitlement.

(To learn how mindfulness can make you happy, click here.)

Maybe you’re not worried or angry. Maybe you’re just overwhelmed by sadness about something. Well, I have a question for you…

“Must I Have This To Live A Happy Life?”

Plenty of people have a lot less than you and live a very happy life. If happiness was all about money then every single person in the developing world would be miserable. People who have lost a loved one, who have become handicapped, or heaven forbid, had a bad hair day, are all capable of living happy lives.

What do you truly need to live a happy life? (Hint: the longer your list, the more miserable you will be.)

As Marcus Aurelius said:

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
So next time you don’t get something you want and it makes you sad, ask yourself, “Must I have this to live a happy life?”

Yeah, yeah, forgive me — it’s another trick question. The answer is almost always “no.”

Maybe you didn’t get that promotion. And when you ask yourself the question, your first thought is “But my career is important to my happiness!”

Hey, I underlined the word “this” for a reason, pal.

Yes, your career is important. But is this promotion, right now, vital to the happiness of your life? No. Who knows what the future holds? And some of that is under your control. There are many ways to live a happy life and very rarely will this one thing make or break you.

(To learn the four rituals neuroscience says will make you happy, click here.)

Now when you’re consumed by negative emotions it can be very hard to make good decisions. Which means more bad stuff happens, which means more bad feelings. So how do you make smart choices when you feel awful? Just ask…

“Is This Who I Want To Be?”

News flash: there is no singular, concrete “you.” Neuroscientists have poked around at plenty of grey matter and there’s no spot in there that contains a stable “you.” And Buddhists were saying this over a thousand years ago.

Neuroscientist and Buddhism practitioner John Yates explains:

We often believe we should be in control, the masters of our own minds. But that belief only creates problems for your practice. It will lead you to try to willfully force the mind into submission. When that inevitably fails, you will tend to get discouraged and blame yourself. This can turn into a habit unless you realize there is no “self” in charge of the mind, and therefore nobody to blame.
Tons of things affect your decisions every day. Context, friends, and moods all affect what you do and who you are. This is a good thing, because it means you can change.

But it presents a challenge because it means you need to decide which person you will be today, Sybil. And this isn’t something you want to get wrong. What is the #1 regret people have on their deathbeds?

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Yow. So who should you decide to be? We can turn to modern science for this answer: Be you on your best day. So when making tough choices think about whether what you plan to do is aligned with the “you” you’re most proud of.

Merely thinking about your best possible self makes you happier:

Results generally supported these hypotheses, and suggested that the [Best Possible Self] exercise may be most beneficial for raising and maintaining positive mood.
And don’t worry about seeming inauthentic either. When you act like your best self, you end up showing people what you’re really like:

…positive self-presentation facilitates more accurate impressions, indicating that putting one’s best self forward helps reveal one’s true self.
(To learn the schedule very successful people follow every day, click here.)

Alright, this has all been very focused inside your head. How can you be emotionally strong when someone you’re dealing with is being emotionally weak or difficult? If someone else is anxious, angry, or sad, and it’s making your life rough, that can bring you down. How do you help both of you? Ask yourself…

“Have I Ever Felt That Way?”

Whatever they are going through, you’ve probably felt something similar. So be compassionate.

Both Buddhism and Stoicism believe in doing your best to reduce the suffering of others. Buddhism has the four divine abodes: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. And on the Stoic side, good ol’ Marcus Aurelius said:

Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.
Compassion sounds nice, but does it really produce results? Absolutely. And you get bigger benefits if you do it when you are least likely to want to — during an argument.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

People who maintain a compassionate spirit during disagreements with their partner, considering not just the virtue of their position but the virtue of their partner, have 34 percent fewer disagreements, and the disagreements last 59 percent less time. – Wu 2001
(To learn how to have more grit — from a Navy SEAL — click here.)

Okay, we’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up and learn the most important part of being emotionally strong…

Sum Up

Here are the 5 questions from ancient wisdom that will make you emotionally strong:

  • “Is it useful?”: Most worrying isn’t. Make a decision to do something or to let it go.
  • “Does the world owe me this?”: No. Don’t be entitled. Have realistic expectations and you won’t get angry.
  • “Must I have this to live a happy life?”: Probably not. It takes little to make a happy life and there are many ways to get those things.
  • “Is this who I want to be?”: Act the way you do when you’re at your best.
  • “Have I ever felt that way?”: Respond to others’ problems with compassion and you’ll both have fewer problems.

The most important part of emotional strength is not calming your mind. It’s being resilient. It’s trying again after you’ve been shaken by negative feelings.

There are plenty of areas of your life where this is critical, but none is more important than your relationships — research shows 70% of your happiness comes from relationships.

You will be hurt. You will feel bad at times. That’s life. Sorry, there’s no avoiding it. So the question is: who is worth it? Who is most meaningful to you?

So when things are hard, have the emotional strength to still give to them and help them and care for them. You now have tools to weather the storm. Earlier I mentioned the biggest regrets that people had when they were dying. Know what #3 was?

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
So go first. Let someone know how much they mean to you. Who are we most likely to love? Research says it’s the people who first show us love.

Recently, I have been lucky enough to have this happen to me. And I can tell you nothing feels better.

Enough reading, time for doing. Right now, have the emotional strength to tell someone important how you feel, to forgive someone, to let someone back into your life, or to reconnect with someone you miss.

Don’t wait around for something negative to develop emotional strength. Flex some now and see how happy it can make you.

Please share this on Facebook or save it to Pocket. Thank you!

 

 

Thanks for reading!
Eric
PS: If a friend forwarded this to you, you can sign up to get the weekly email yourself here.

 

BBC – Hidden disabilities: Pain beneath the surface

help-686323_960_720Hidden disabilities: Pain beneath the surface

Imagine having to inject yourself thousands of times over the course of your lifetime, but never talking about it to anyone.

Many people live with hidden disabilities – conditions which don’t have physical signs but are painful, exhausting and isolating. Sympathy and understanding from others can often be in short supply.

Georgia Macqueen Black has Type 1 Diabetes.

She was diagnosed at the age of 11.

Type 1 Diabetes cannot be seen until I take out my insulin pen and inject myself, but the mechanical parts – blood tests and injections – are only the surface layers of what I have to manage.

Someone may see me inject, but there’s an isolating exhaustion I take with me afterwards. There will always be another injection and it can generate a disconnection between myself and other people.

Every day I gather the willpower to be a “good” diabetic, but when I follow the rules and still have high blood sugar I feel alone. It makes me feel foggy with a limited ability to concentrate. And the side-effects of too much or too little sugar in your blood can lead to you turning in on yourself.

The biggest challenge is accepting the monotony of managing diabetes. There are days when I’m tired of having a weaker immune system – a lesser known side-effect of diabetes – or when I find lumps under my skin from injections, but then I have to put those feelings to one side and carry on.

Some people might not think diabetes deserves the label “disability”, but if unmanaged it affects my ability to carry out tasks and I have to think how exercise, stress or dehydration will impact my blood sugar levels.

I often worry about how life will be when I’m older. This feeling of uncertainty hangs over me from time to time, and can make me feel lonely and a bit lost.

But I know there’s a silent solidarity out there. Someone with an impairment could be having a day where everything has become derailed and they feel ill, but I bet you they won’t show it. It’s that resilience that I really connect to.

Top tips on hidden disabilities

 

  • There’s so much mental labour involved so if I seem distracted it’s probably because of that
  • Believe me when I ask for help. Just because I don’t look like I need assistance, doesn’t mean I’m OK
  • Respect priority seats and wheelchair spaces on public transport
  • Listen to access requirements with an open mind – often small changes make a huge difference
  • Ask for what you need – in asking for help you don’t have to pretend to be someone else

 

Produced by Beth Rose

BBC Disabilties 5.7.17

Are you doing what matters most to you?

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This amusing article was spotted by psychologist Ron Friedman. Are you spending your time on what really matters?

 

The Tail End
This is one of the most compelling articles I’ve read in a while. It’s a simple concept, yet chances are, it will change the way that you view life (and perhaps even improve your relationship with your parents).

Ron Friedman

 

Eric Barker: How to make friends as an adult

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 Originally posted in Welcome to the Barking Up The Wrong Tree weekly update for February 19th, 2017.

This Is How To Make Friends As An Adult: 5 Secrets Backed By Research

Click here to read the post on the blog or keep scrolling to read in-email.

When you were a kid it was a lot easier. In college you almost had to be trying not to make friends. But then you’re an adult. You get busy with work. Your friends get busy with work. People get married. Have kids. And pretty soon being “close” means a text message twice a year.

You’re not alone… Or, actually, the whole point of this is you really may be alone. But you’re not alone in being alone. These days we’re all alone together. In 1985 most people said they had 3 close friends. In 2004 the most common number was zero.

Via Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect:

In a survey given in 1985, people were asked to list their friends in response to the question “Over the last six months, who are the people with whom you discussed matters important to you?” The most common number of friends listed was three; 59 percent of respondents listed three or more friends fitting this description. The same survey was given again in 2004. This time the most common number of friends was zero. And only 37 percent of respondents listed three or more friends. Back in 1985, only 10 percent indicated that they had zero confidants. In 2004, this number skyrocketed to 25 percent. One out of every four of us is walking around with no one to share our lives with.
Friends are important. Nobody would dispute that. But I doubt you know how very important they are.

So let’s see just how critical friends can be — and the scientifically backed ways to get more of them in your life…

Loneliness Is A Killer

When people are dying, what do they regret the most? Coming in at #4 is: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

And neglecting your friends can make those deathbed regrets come a lot sooner than you’d like. When I spoke to Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are, she told me:

Julianne Holt-Lunstad did a meta-analysis of social support and health outcomes and found that not having enough friends or having a weak social circle is the same risk factor as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Maybe your grandparents lived to 100 and you take good care of yourself. You’re healthy. But if you want those years to be full of smiles, you need to invest in friendship. 70% of your happiness comes from relationships.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:

Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996
The Grant Study at Harvard has followed a group of men for their entire lives. The guy who led the study for a few decades, George Vaillant, was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response?

That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.
So friendships are really really really important. But maybe you’re not worried. Maybe you have lots of friends. Guess what?

In seven years, half of your close friends won’t be close to you anymore.

Via Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are:

A study by a Dutch sociologist who tracked about a thousand people of all ages found that on average, we lose half of our close network members every seven years. To think that half of the people currently on your “most dialed” list will fade out of your life in less than a decade is frightening indeed.
Ouch. Scared yet? I am.

(To learn an FBI behavior expert’s tips for getting people to like you, click here.)

So what do we do? (No, going back to college is not the answer.) How do we make new friends as adults?

1) The New Starts With The Old

The first step to making new friends is… don’t. Instead, reconnect with old friends:

These findings suggest that dormant relationships – often overlooked or underutilized – can be a valuable source of knowledge and social capital.
Doing this is easy, it’s not scary, they’re people you already have history with, and it doesn’t take a lot of time or work to get to know them. Go to Facebook or LinkedIn for ideas and then send some texts. Boom. You already have more friends.

If you’re going to be strategic, who should your prioritize? You probably met a disproportionate number of your friends through just a handful of people. Those are your “superconnectors.”

Rekindle those relationships. And then ask them if there’s anyone you should meet. Next time you get together, see if that new person can come along. Not. Hard. At. All.

(To learn how to deal with a narcissist, click here.)

But maybe this feels a little awkward. Maybe your friendship muscles have atrophied. Maybe you weren’t great at making friends in the first place. So what really makes people “click”?

2) Listen, Seek Similarity, and Celebrate

Clicking with people is a lot less about you and a lot more about focusing on them. Don’t be interesting. Be interested. And what are the best ways to do that?

Listen, Seek Similarity, and Celebrate.

Studies show being likable can be as easy as listening to people and asking them to tell you more.

And mountains of research show similarity is critical. So when they mention something you have in common, point it out.

Finally, celebrate the positive. When someone talks about the good things in their life, be enthusiastic and encouraging.

Via The Myths of Happiness:

The surprising finding is that the closest, most intimate, and most trusting relationships appear to be distinguished not by how the partners respond to each other’s disappointments, losses, and reversals but how they react to good news.
(To learn more about how to be someone people love to talk to, click here.)

Alright, your superconnectors are making introductions and you’re clicking. But how do you get close to these new people? We’ve all met people we thought were cool… but just didn’t know how to take it to the next level and go from acquaintance to friend. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy…

3) Be Vulnerable

Open up a bit. Don’t go full TMI, but make yourself a little bit vulnerable. Nobody becomes besties by only discussing the weather.

Close friends are what leads to personal discussions. But personal discussions are also what leads to close friends.

Via Click: The Magic of Instant Connections:

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps the other person to trust you, precisely because you are putting yourself at emotional, psychological, or physical risk. Other people tend to react by being more open and vulnerable themselves. The fact that both of you are letting down your guard helps to lay the groundwork for a faster, closer personal connection.
Close friends have a good “if-then profile” of each other. Once you have an idea of “if” someone was in situation X, “then” they would display behavior Y, that means you’re really starting to understand them. And this leads to good friendships:

People who had more knowledge of their friend’s if-then profile of triggers had better relationships. They had less conflict with the friend and less frustration with the relationship.
How many close friends do you need? If we go by the science, you want to aim for at least five.

Via Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life:

National surveys find that when someone claims to have five or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are ‘very happy.’
(To learn the lazy way to an awesome life, click here.)

So you have new friends. Awesome. Now how do you not screw this up?

4) Don’t Be A Stranger

First and foremost: make the time. What’s the most common thing friends fight about? Time commitments.

Via Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are:

Daniel Hruschka reviewed studies on the causes of conflict in friendship and found that the most common friendship fights boil down to time commitments. Spending time with someone is a sure indicator that you value him; no one likes to feel undervalued.
You need to keep in touch. (Remember: not keeping in touch is how you got into this problem in the first place.)

If you want to stay close friends with someone, how often do you need to check in? Research says at least every two weeks.

(To learn the four rituals neuroscience says will make you happy, click here.)

So even if you need to set a reminder on your calendar, check in every two weeks. But, actually, there’s a better way to make sure you don’t forget…

5) Start A Group

Denmark has the happiest people in the world. (I’m guessing Hamlet was an exception.) Why are Danes so happy? One reason is that 92% of them are members of some kind of social group.

Via Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life:

The sociologist Ruut Veenhoven and his team have collected happiness data from ninety-one countries, representing two-thirds of the world’s population. He has concluded that Denmark is home to the happiest people in the world, with Switzerland close behind… Interestingly enough, one of the more detailed points of the research found that 92 percent of the people in Denmark are members of some sort of group, ranging from sports to cultural interests. To avoid loneliness, we must seek active social lives, maintain friendships, and enjoy stable relationships.
And what’s the best way to make sure you’re in a group? Start one. That makes it a lot easier to stay in touch and a lot easier to manage those big 5 friendships with 20% of the effort.

A weekly lunch. A monthly sewing circle. A quarterly movie night. Whatever works. Friends bring friends and suddenly it’s not so hard to meet cool new people. And who does everyone have to thank for this? You.

And make the effort to keep that group solid for everyone. Many studies show older people are happier. What’s one of the reasons? They prune the jerks out of their social circles:

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down.
(To learn the 6 rituals ancient wisdom says will make you happy, click here.)

Alright, popular kid, we’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up and find out how to keep your new friendships alive over the long haul…

Sum Up

Here’s how to make friends as an adult:

  • The new starts with the old: Touch base with old friends and leverage your superconnectors.
  • Listen, seek similarity and celebrate: Don’t be interesting. Be interested.
  • Be vulnerable: Open up a bit. Form an “if-then” profile.
  • Don’t be a stranger: Check in every two weeks, minimum.
  • Start a group: Things that are habits get done. So start a group habit.

What does Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence, say is the number one tip for keeping friendships alive?

Reach out to your good friends and tell them how much they mean to you. It’s just not something we’re accustomed to doing. It’ll make you feel great, it’ll make them feel great and it will strengthen the bond between you. Be more giving to the friends you already have. People in romantic relationships always celebrate anniversaries, yet you might have a friend for 15 years and you’ve probably never gone out to dinner and raised a glass to that. We need to cherish our friendships more.
Okay, you’re done reading. Time to start doing. Reach out to a friend right now. Send them this post and let’em know you want to get together.

Listen to what they’ve been up to. Celebrate their good news. Offer to help them out with something.

After all, that’s what friends are for.

Please share this. (It’s a very friendly thing to do.) Thank you!

 

Thanks for reading!
Eric
PS: If a friend forwarded this to you, you can sign up to get the weekly email yourself here.

Learning and Diabetes: A vicious circle

Learning and Diabetes

Rowan Hillsoncalculator

Practical Diabetes Nov/Dec 16

Only 32% of type one diabetics and 78% of type two diabetics are currently offered structural education in England. Even then, not all will attend. Will it have any positive long term effects for those who do? Many issues affect learning. This article discusses some of them.

Literacy and numeracy

In England in 2011, 15% of the population aged 16-65 had the learning that is expected of an eleven year old child. This is considered “functionally illiterate” by the National Literacy Trust.  Although they would not be able to pass an English GCE, they can read simple texts on familiar topics. More than 50,000 UK diabetics are at this basic level of reading ability.

Numeracy problems are higher with 24% of adults function at the same level as your average eleven year old. Testing diabetics shows that numeracy and literacy are linked and that blood sugar control is better in those with better numeracy and literacy. This is not surprising since so many tasks need these skills.

Weighing foods and estimating portion sizes

Addition

Converting between metric and imperial systems

Multiplying and dividing

Using decimals

Recognising and understanding fractions

Working with ratios, proportions and percentages

Readability

Arial 12 point font, upper and lower case, on white or off white backgrounds, using short words, short sentences and short paragraphs all improve readability.

Health Literacy

Health literacy includes reading, writing, numeracy, listening, speaking and understanding.

In the type two diabetes population, lower health literacy was significantly associated with less knowledge of diabetes, poorer glucose self- management, less exercise and more smoking.

In the USA people understood food labels better if they had higher income and education.  Overall 31% gave the wrong answer to food label questions. Many diabetics have problems with misinterpreting glucose meter readings, miscalculating carbohydrate intake and medication doses.

Lower scores were associated with being older, non-white, fewer years in education, lower income and lower literacy and numeracy scores.

When an internet based patient system was offered, those with limited health literacy were less likely to sign in and had more difficulty navigating the system.

Cognitive impairment

Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and other cognitive impairments are more likely in diabetics particularly those with type two diabetes. A longer duration of diabetes and a younger age of onset were associated with cognitive impairment.

Hyperglycaemia

High blood sugars can cause poor concentration, tension, irritability, restlessness and agitation. In experiments, high blood sugar induced delayed information processing, poorer working memory, and impaired attention.

In five to eighteen year olds with new type one diabetes most neuropsychological tests showed considerable impairment.  One year post diagnosis, dominant hand reaction time was worse in those with poor glycaemic control.

Long term, type ones diagnosed before the age of 18 had five times the risk of cognitive impairment compared to their non- diabetic counterparts. Chronic hyperglycaemia increased the risk.

Hypoglycaemia

Most friends and relatives can recognise if someone well known to them has a low blood sugar, often faster than the individual. Cognitive performance drops at blood sugars of 2.6-3 in non- diabetic subjects.  In type one children, those who had recurrent severe hypoglycaemia had more impaired memory and learning.

Psychological issues

Both depression and anxiety can impair test performance. Both of these and other mental illnesses are more common in diabetics.

Sensory and motor problems

Visual impairment and deafness can make some learning methods difficult.

Conclusion

We all learn in different ways. A substantial proportion of the population has low literacy and numeracy. This impairs health literacy which impairs diabetes knowledge for self -care. Poor numeracy may worsen blood sugar control. Clearly written, easily readable information helps everyone. Having diabetes increases the risk of cognitive impairment both at diagnosis and long term. Both high and low blood sugars affect current ability to learn and may have long term adverse effects on cognition.

Before teaching diabetics it is worth having a think about any difficulties your patient could be having assimilating the learning. If so, how can you tailor your teaching to their needs?

The BBC has adult learning resources at http://www.bbc.co.uk/learning/adults/

 

 

Robert Redfern: High carb diet causes memory loss as we age

MayoClinic.jpg

As reported in Naturally Healthy News Issue 24

Eating a diet that’s rich in carbohydrates – sweets, soft drinks, bread, pasta and potatoes- is  a direct cause of mild dementia and memory loss as we get older. Starch and sugar cause cognitive impairment.

A diet that is high in fats and protein is far less likely to cause mental decline, say Mayo Clinic researchers. 

They have found that carbohydrates interfere with the body’s ability to metabolise glucose and insulin which are needed to feed the brain.

The carbohydrate link was found when researchers analysed the lifestyles and diets of 937 people aged 70-89 years. They found that those who ate the most carbohydrates were 3.6 times more likely to show mild cognitive decline, including problems with memory, language, thinking and judgement. 

Those who ate fats were 42% less likely to suffer cognitive decline and those who ate high protein diets had 21% less risk.

( Alzheimers Dis, 2012;32:329-39)