About lovelifeprof

Beverly Palmer, PhD Professor of Psychology, California State University Clinical Psychologist Author of the forthcoming book, Getting the Love You Need

Five Things You Can Do Right Now to Make Your Relationship Happier

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Have you started taking each other for granted? Do you wish there was more affection and fun in your relationship?

KEY POINTS

  • Saying “I love you” is always appreciated, but expressing gratitude toward one’s partner also goes a long way.
  • Touch helps romantic partners feel connected and strengthens a relationship.
  • Taking a walk or hike with one’s partner, especially when there is something important to discuss, can ease tension.

Show Appreciation/Gratitude


You may sometimes say “I love you” and that is always appreciated. But, showing what,
specifically, you love is even more treasured. For example, if your partner spontaneously
cleaned up a messy room, say you noticed and you appreciate it. You don’t always have to give a compliment—just show you noticed something specific that your partner has done or said and that it meant a lot to you. Oh, those are tasks my partner is supposed to do you may think.

But, saying you appreciate what your partner does shows you are aware of what your partner
contributes to your relationship. These expressions of appreciation can go a long way toward
giving you currency in the bank when you have to resolve differences in the future.


Some couples have a nightly “gratitude session” where they express what they are grateful for
in their lives and grateful for in each other. Even if you don’t do this nightly, having a weekly
scheduled time to express gratitude can not only help your relationship but can uplift your
spirits so that the stresses of daily living can be lessened.


Give an Empathic Response


Everyone wants to feel they were really heard. When you repeat back the essence of what you heard, your partner feels you listened and understood what was communicated. Instead of giving your quick response, take a moment to let your partner know what you heard. That will clear up any misunderstandings and bring you both closer together.


Don’t Forget the Warmth of a Smile and of Touch


A hello kiss upon coming home from work, some cuddling in bed at night, and a goodbye kiss all signify your partner is important to you. We all need touch to feel connected to each other and doing so strengthens our relationship.


Make Time for a Date Night


Your relationship is more important than your work or the kids. Yes, you have to make time for
them but your relationship can get squeezed out with attending to all their daily activities.
After all, the kids are going to leave someday but, hopefully, your partner isn’t.


Set aside time for just the two of you. You may have a romantic dinner at home when the kids
are reading in their beds before falling asleep. Or you may get a babysitter and go out to dinner or out to a movie or a play.

Schedule a Fun Event at Least Once Every Two Weeks


Find an activity both of you enjoy, and participate in it together. Each of you can write out a list
of what you enjoy doing outside of the house. Then compare your lists. There may be some
activities that overlap or are similar. Then consult a website such as Meetup.com to find an
activity in your neighborhood.

Another way to spend meaningful time together is to volunteer together. Giving to others
moves you out of yourself and your own problems while bringing you closer together through
this shared activity.


A fun event does not have to cost money. You can just take a walk. Taking a walk or hike
together can help ease tensions, especially when you need to discuss something important.
Walking encourages talking and you often can come to a solution or a helpful compromise
during your walk.

The Benefits from Understanding Another Point of View

Seeing Differently

It is easier to interact with people who have the same opinions that you do.  It is easier to stay in your own social media silo.  You may not have even considered thinking about things from another person’s perspective.

Yet there are many benefits to understanding another person’s thoughts, motives, and emotions. Taking the other person’s perspective can help you (a) reduce conflict, (b) solve problems more effectively, and (c) enlarge your view of yourself.

To understand another’s perspective you need to first set aside your own thoughts and feelings.  This distancing from your own perspective is difficult to do because you probably often listen only to judge what you are hearing. You make assumptions and come to conclusion about the other person’s message without really hearing what that person is trying to tell you.  So, try suspending judgment and open your eyes, ears, and heart to what the other person is saying.

Reducing Conflict

If you understand the other person’s point of view you can tell that person what you understand.  That person then feels heard and more willing to listen to your point of view. 

For example, someone may say all rap music is created by men with very little education.  You, on the other hand, like rap music and find a lot of social value in it.  Instead of trying to convince that person of your point of view, just repeat back the essence of what you heard, that “all rap music represents uneducated males’ opinions.  Then you can state your view with an example from the musical “Hamilton”.  The other person might then acknowledge that some rap music can be enlightening. The conflicting opinions now are reduced as each of you realized there is more than one way to view rap music.

Solving a Problem

When presented with a difficult problem to solve, whether it is a personal one or a workplace one, it often helps to get another person’s view of it.  Again, though, you have to set aside your opinions and judgments in order to really hear and accept a different point of view.  That different point of view might be just the one to solve the problem or add to your view to see the problem in a more nuanced way.  There always is more than one solution to a problem but it is necessary to be open to that solution.

Maybe the problem is solving the homeless crisis and you have several solutions you want to present to your local officials.  Have you ever thought of asking some homeless people what they think might be a solution? You might be surprised to hear they have some good suggestions that you had not thought of.  Yet, if you only apply your own solutions to the problem, the problem may not be as effectively solved.

Seeing Yourself in a New Way

Considering other people’s points of view enlarges the way you see yourself.  By intently listening to another person, you begin to see that person not just in terms of your previous stereotypes, but in their commonalities with you. 

The part we don’t want to see in our self is often the part we don’t want to see in another person.  We might have some bull-headed opinions, just like the other person has.  And, if we engage with that person, we might recognize the same way we defend our opinion without listening to the other person’s opinion.  We may discover that, contrary to social media trying to convince us that we don’t have anything in common with people who have beliefs other than our own, we can see what we do have in common.

By suspending our judgment of others and really listening to them we can go from me to we.

How to Recover from Zoom Fatigue

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Day after day it is the same.  Zoom for several hours or maybe almost the whole day.  Stay inside with just your new pals–your computer and smartphone.  In March, 2020 this condition was given a name, “Zoom fatigue”.  And then no one thought it would still be with us one year later.

Working and learning online can sap your energy by requiring long periods of close attention to the image and voice of others as well as to yourself.

What Causes Zoom Fatigue

It requires more effort to interact with someone on zoom than it does to interact face-to-face.  In face-to-face interactions your gazes shifts from looking at the person to looking at the surroundings and you are not also looking at yourself.  In zoom the other person is closer than would be in a face-to-face interaction.  This closeness causes discomfort because your personal space is being invaded.  In zoom there is also a slight lag before the other person responds and this lag also leads to fatigue.

Then there is looking at yourself on the zoom screen, which can be embarrassing.  You notice every flaw in your appearance and conclude that the others on zoom must be aware of them too. 

Passive Versus Active Activity

And so much of what is on the zoom screen requires passive viewing.  Team mates are droning on and on.  Teachers are lecturing or assigning a short passage to read.  Even watching a video is boring because it is such a passive activity. 

If you could actively manipulate data or objects on the screen you would at least get some positive reinforcement and that would increase the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine.  Actively involving the online viewer is why video games are so appealing and why teachers are encouraged to use a problem-solving approach rather than lecturing.

But, no, with zoom you just watch, listen, and occasionally reply.

Limits of Attention

After 20 minutes your attention has totally departed.  Twenty minutes is the attention span for the average adult.  Although attention span varies widely among people of all ages, for the elementary school aged child attention span is 12-20 minutes. Yet, everyone is often required to pay attention on online way beyond what is humanly possible.

Because you are unwillingly tied to Zoom, your attention lags and your resentment grows. Even apathy sets in.

Cognitive Overload

So, you check email or texts, or social media.  Yes, this breaks the boredom but it also subjects you to cognitive overload. You are fooling yourself if you think you can multitask and no one will notice.  The minute you divide your attention, you are adding more stimuli that you trying to respond to at the same time.  Cognitively you can’t do a good job of anything if you are trying to attend to too much at once.

Sitting in one place for long periods of time, working from the same room in the same house, all lead to despair.  It seems nothing will ever change.  Being isolated from face-to-face interaction is taking its toll on your mind and body. Yet, you quickly dismiss any escape because of the threat of being exposed to COVID. 

Do This One Thing

There is one thing you can do, however, to keep from going crazy, even if you have to work/learn online for long periods of time day after day.  You can break your online time into 45-minute (or, even better yet, 20-minute) periods.  Between each period stand up, take up to three deep breaths, stretch, and look out a window at nature. If possible, open a window and breath the fresh air or take a moment to go outside and “smell the roses”.  Notice all the different shades of green on one tree or plant.  Notice whether there is a slight breeze, what sounds you hear, and what smells are coming from nearby plants and flowers.  You don’t have to spend more than a few minutes doing this but those minutes will rejuvenate your mind and body. You then can focus on your work/lessons more clearly and with more interest. 

If there is another person in your household, during your break, smile and ask that person how he/she is doing. You then are giving both yourself and others a moment of much-needed face-to-face social interaction.  Even talking to your pet can help relieve the boredom of being constantly online.

The one thing not to do during your breaks is check your emails, texts, and social media. All of those can wait until you are finished with your work or lessons online.  Yes, co-workers might email or text you while you are online but you are not at your best trying to respond to them while you are also expected to be in a zoom meeting.  Let your co-workers know this and maybe that will give them some relief too.

Now, take that break.  You deserve it.

REFERENCES

Bailenson, J. N. (2021). Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of zoom fatigue. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 2 (1) https://doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000030

Murphy, M. (2008) Matching workplace training to adult attention span to improve learner reaction, learning score, and retention. Instructional Delivery Systems, 22(2), 6-13.

Powers, S. R., Rauh, C., Henning, R. A., Buck, R. W., & West, T. V. (2011). The effect of video feedback delay on frustration and emotion communication accuracy. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1651–1657. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2011.02.003.

Give Yourself a Little Love This Valentine’s Day

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The new year can bring regrets and resolutions to do better in the future.  Yet, reminding yourself about these regrets can stop you from giving yourself the love you need to have a happy future.

Many psychologists, including Erich Fromm, have asserted that you can’t fully love another person until you fill love yourself.  So how do you do this? You have to stop judging yourself. And stop seeking others’ approval of you.

You Are Unique

Instead of judging parts of yourself as good or bad, you can see yourself as just a unique human with weaknesses and strengths. You are lovable because you are this unique individual, this whole and real person.

Negatively Judging Yourself

What is it specifically that you don’t accept about yourself? Try this short assessment by filling in the rest of each sentence.

I failed to…

I shouldn’t have…

I wish I were…

I need…

People would say I am…

I am…

I am proud of…

If only…

Do some of your responses indicate that you regard yourself as only conditionally acceptable? Are you starting to realize how harshly you judge yourself and how much you rely on the approval of others? Can you change your negatively biased self-referencing beliefs to more helpful ones?

Change the Negative to Neutral

For example, can you tell yourself you did the best you could do at the time and forgive your mistakes? You probably let the mistakes other people make slide so why not do that for yourself?

Focus on the Present

Instead of dwelling on the past, can you pull your mind back into the present? When you let your mind go back into the past, you see yourself as you were in the past and discount who you are now, in the present. Staying in the present gives you a fresh start to be all that you are.

Love Your Uniqueness

Can you accept that you do have some weaknesses, but those are what make you a unique person, so you don’t have to hide or become defensive about them? You are a unique individual, with your own set of strengths and weaknesses. That does not make you better than or less than another person—just different—and you are usually loved for that difference. You no longer need to seek approval from others because you have given yourself approval of both your strengths and weaknesses.

Accept Yourself

Can you accept yourself just as you are now—unconditionally—free of any qualifications? If you catch yourself judging your appearance, personality, or actions, let that judgment go.  Replace the judgment with a loving kindness towards yourself.  Judging one’s self is the opposite of loving one’s self.

Now that you have given yourself this unconditional love you can begin to give it to others.

Anger Triggers and What to Do about Them

Angry Brain

In relationships, some people are quicker to feel anger than others. Yes, not having your expectations fulfilled or not getting your needs met can cause frustration. But some people seem to have shorter fuses when these situations occur. And some people allow anger to propel them into using strategies that hurt the ones they love and hurt the relationship.

Judgments Trigger Anger
Judgments about what your partner is saying and judgments about yourself can lead to anger. Instead of simply seeing the situation as it is, you put your own spin on it. For example, your partner is scrolling through the messages on his phone while you are talking to him. You judge his actions as showing he does not really care about what you have to say. You might even go a step further in your mind to think, “He never really listens to me because he doesn’t think anything I have to say is worthwhile.” Now you have fueled your anger with that interpretation.


Or you may interpret your partner’s request to take out the trash as a demand that you do it immediately, which causes you to feel controlled and angry. Your judgments can then lead to an angry outburst or even a turning inward with troublesome ruminations.


Sometimes it is the judgments you make about yourself that are behind your anger. For example, you might judge yourself as inadequate or defective. Then you base your self-esteem on your perception of the way others feel about you.


Notice it is your perception of the other person’s words or actions, not what they actually said or did. Your feelings of being inadequate are aroused by interpreting what was said as criticism. Feeling criticized triggers your anger.


Then again, you might actually be in a relationship where your partner often complains about you. If you are also self-critical, this combination can lead not only to anger but also to depression.


Sensitivity to Rejection Triggers Anger
Some people are extremely sensitive to rejection. They have an anxious expectation of rejection. Even when there is little possibility of it, they still readily perceive social threats. This sensitivity motivates them to react with anger, hostility, or withdrawal.

There’s the skittish wife who, at the first sign of trouble, flies out of the house, leaving behind only the admonition, “You won’t be able to find me.”

And then there’s the fortified husband who, when threatened, marshals all his defenses in readiness for a fight. It is the mere anticipation of potential hurt that triggers their reactions. They are so vulnerable and insecure that they don’t have to be actually hurt to feel wounded; the threat is enough.

One concern about the defensive reactions used in the face of rejection sensitivity is that these reactions can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the reaction itself causes the feared rejection. One member of a couple in a conflict situation can seek support but not receive it, or be on guard for any cues that might indicate rejection. If that person begins to defensively start losing their temper, insulting their partner, or swearing, it can incite the partner to do the same. Then the negative interaction causes the anger to remain and the conflict to become unresolved.


Research has demonstrated that the brains of these people are different from the brains of people who are not so sensitive to rejection and do not act so defensively.People low in rejection sensitivity have a more active prefrontal cortex, which allows them to be less emotionally reactive and more self-regulating.Yet there is hope for people high in rejection sensitivity. Emotional self-regulation can be taught, and a supportive romantic relationship itself can mitigate rejection sensitivity.     

 
Strategies to Defuse Anger
Why do you sometimes say hurtful things to your loved ones? It can be because you are too fused with them. When you and your partner are fused, what your partner says or does often feels like it has something to do with you. And then you react accordingly. You lash out or raise defensive walls. Or even worse, you blame yourself.


Your partner leaves the dirty dishes in the sink all day and night—again. You think, “If they really cared about my feelings, they would put the dishes in the dishwasher.” Or you criticize yourself with, “I am probably expecting too much.”

With these thoughts, you end up saying, “Must take too much of your energy to put the dishes in the dishwasher. How lazy can you get?” You know you’re not going to change your partner’s behavior with this criticism, but it slips out anyway.


Your partner’s behavior annoyed you, but it is the judgment you put on that behavior that caused you to lash out. More than likely your partner did not leave the dishes in the sink to purposely annoy you or as a lapse in caring for your feelings.


If you see your partner’s behavior as independent of your connection with them, you won’t be pressured to say something hurtful. Instead, you will find a way to let them know that you noticed without the hurtful words. You might even joke. “Maybe we could make the kitchen sink into a dishwasher.” Indeed, those partners who each have a sense of their own autonomy will be less defensive during a conflict and will be more satisfied with their relationship.


The time between a trigger and your angry reaction is generally only two to three seconds. So, try to cut the link between the trigger and your anger by taking a slow, deep breath the moment you notice that you are upset.This will help you to cool off the hothead feeling, not bite the bait, and take a moment to think about a way to express your needs in a helpful way.


After the deep breath, you can respond rather than react, and then you will remain in control. You can respond with an “I” statement that lets your partner know what you need at that moment. For example, if your partner forgets to pick up the dry cleaning that has your work uniform in it, you could take a deep breath and then say, “I really needed my uniform for work tomorrow.”

By just describing your needs, you are putting the issue on the table instead of blaming your partner. An angry retort has been taken out of the interaction. Then the two of you can work on finding a resolution to the issue.


Even if you are the recipient of your partner’s anger, you can still have some control over their angry reaction. When you see your partner starting to tense up, you can remind them to first just breathe. Or you can model the necessary action by taking a slow, deep breath yourself. Initiating the first step in calming the hot responses down will give both of you a chance to approach the situation in a more helpful manner. Instead of a fight, flight, or freeze reaction, you are using a calming strategy.


REFERENCES

Kross, E., T. Egner, K. Ochsner, J. Hirsch, & Downey, G. (2007). Neural dynamics of rejection sensitivity. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19 (6): 945–956.

Romero-Canyas, R., G. Downey, K. Berenson, O. Ayduk, & Kang, N.J. (2010). Rejection sensitivity and the rejection–hostility link in romantic relationships. Journal of Personality, 78(1), 119–148. Https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00611.

Hadden, B. W., Rodriguez, L., Knee, C.R., Porter, B. (2015). Relationship autonomy and support provision in romantic relationships. Motivation and Emotion, 39 (3), 359-373. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9455-9.
 

Science’s Advice for President Elect Biden

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Missing Piece

President Elect Biden must now unite us in meeting the challenges of the pandemic, the economy, the climate, and social ills. To do this, he can use a powerful tool of science, modeling.

Modeling is observing a person showing a particular behavior and then engaging in that behavior. One learns to behave a certain way just by observing a person behaving that way. And, if the model gets a reward for a particular behavior, it is even more likely the observer will engage in that behavior.

For example, watching a person on a television program or on social media show kindness and honesty in interactions with others, inspires the viewer to show kindness and honesty. The viewer might also see that person rewarded for those behaviors by the recipient smiling and saying “thank you”. Likewise, watching a person insulting others and repeating lies increases those behaviors in the viewer, especially if there is a reward for doing so. The reward can be as simple as then feeling superior over others.

When the President of the United States models bigotry and lying, followers see these behaviors as ones that will get them what they want. When the President of the United States models respect and honesty, followers will show each other the same. 

President Elect Biden can demonstrate listening with empathy and then acting with compassion. If he models these behaviors on social media, he can heal the divide as more and more people begin to show these behaviors towards each other.

If he models these behaviors in his interactions with politicians, he will increase the chance that those politicians will also show these behaviors in developing a consensus where everyone wins.

Modeling is such a powerful learning device that even advertisers use it to get viewers to buy their product. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were prosocial models who were able to inspire global social change. Now President Elect Biden will have no difficulty consistently modeling prosocial behaviors that are his second nature.  These behaviors will then bring us together to create a better country for all of us. We will learn to listen to each other rather than denigrating those who think or act differently from us. Empathy, respect, compassion, and honesty come naturally to him. And, because these are the behaviors of love, if we all start showing them, they can replace hate.

Bandura, A. (1986., Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. (pp. 169-195).

Bandura, A. (1965). Influence of models’ reinforcement contingencies on the acquisition of imitative responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 589-595.

Palmer, B.B. (2018). Love demystified: Strategies for a successful love life. St. Petersburg, Florida: Booklocker.

How Resilient Are You?

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Working from home, taking care of children who are doing online schooling, missing social contact and get-a-ways all are creating heightened stress.  Some days it may feel like you want to cave in from all the stress. Other days you may feel you are able to handle everything.

Being able to handle stress is known as being resilient.  To find out how resilient you are, take the following short quiz from Davidson and Begley’s book The Emotional Life of the Brain.

Answer each question True or False.  If you are tempted to think long and hard about a question, or if you feel that there are too many nuances and exceptions, resist.  The most accurate results come from making a snap judgment about whether a question is true or false about you.

  1.  If I have a minor disagreement with a close friend or spouse—closer to “No, it’s your turn to do the dishes” than “You cheated on me!”—it typically leaves me out of sorts for hours or longer.
  2. If another driver uses the shoulder to zoom up to the front of a long line of traffic waiting to merge, I am likely to shake it off easily rather than fume about it for a long time.
  3. When I have experienced profound grief, such as the death of someone close to me, it has interfered with my ability to function for many months.
  4. If I make a mistake at work and get reprimanded for it, I can shrug it off and take it as a learning experience.
  5. If I try a new restaurant and find that the food is awful and the service snooty, it ruins my whole evening.
  6. If I’m stuck in traffic because of an accident up ahead, when I pass the bottleneck I typically floor it to vent my frustration but still see the inside.
  7. If my home water heater breaks, it does not affect my mood very much because I know I can just call a plumber and get it fixed.
  8. If I meet a wonderful man/woman and ask if he/she would like to get together again, being told no typically puts me in a bad mood for hours or even days.
  9. If I am being considered for an important professional award or promotion and it goes to someone I consider less qualified, I can usually move on quickly.
  10. At a party, if I’m having a conversation with an interesting stranger and get completely tongue tied when he/she asks me about myself, I tend to replay the conversation—this time including what I should have said—for hours or even days afterward.

Give yourself one point for each True answer to questions 1,3,5,6,8, and 10.  Give yourself zero points for each False answer.  Give yourself one point for each False answer to questions 2,4,7, and 9; score zero points for each True answer.  Anything above seven suggests you are Slow to Recover.  If you scored below three, you are Fast to Recover and thus quite Resilient.

If you want to be more resilient, change what you are saying to yourself.  Instead of replaying self-recrimination or angry thoughts, notice what you are saying to yourself and change the message.  For example, you might be thinking, “If I just had not been so critical, my ex would still be with me.” Change this message to, “It was a hard lesson to learn, but I am grateful that I now know how to be less critical.” You are then less hard on yourself and it is compassion, not criticism, that facilitates greater resiliency.

Another thought that needs to be dispelled in order to become more resilient is “Everyday is the same and it will never end.” Realize that there will be an end to this crisis, even though it is difficult to do so during the crisis.  Knowing that some of your present stressors will not be present in the future helps you to have a more positive mindset.  Then you can meet each day with renewed vigor rather than a feeling of depletion.

Davidson, Richard J. and Begley, Sharon (2012) The Emotional Life of Your Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press.

Give Love to Get Love

John Hain/Pixabay

We all want to be loved.  But how do we feel loved instead of lonely, especially now during this pandemic?  Surprisingly, ancient texts might give us an answer.

More than a thousand years ago the stoic, Hecato, asserted, “If you would be love, love”. And a similar sentiment can be found in the Bible (“Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”). Even Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If you would be loved, love, and be loveable.”

What all these wise people knew was that to get love, you have to give love. Give a love that is a deep caring for the well being of another person. That person may not look like you, act like you, or even believe in what you believe. But you can extend a loving hand to that person.

One of the best ways to extend a loving hand is through volunteering to enhance the well being of others. Volunteering can be anything from giving your time to giving your skills to help another person.  Most important is the care you are giving that person. A gentle touch or a loving word can mean so much to someone who is isolated or in need.

“But what is the love you are receiving by volunteering?” you may ask. Indeed, you may not feel like the other person reciprocated or even thanked you. Yet, it is in the giving, not the receiving that you feel love.

Doing something nice for another person gives you the social connection you may have been longing for. And it makes you feel better because you are focusing on someone else instead of the anxiety and loneliness you may be feeling. Indeed, research has shown that oxytocin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, spikes in some people who regularly volunteer. The increase in oxytocin also helps you to better manage stressful events. 

Volunteering also has health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure. Helping others can even lessen symptoms of chronic pain because it takes your mind off your worries. In fact, random acts of kindness light up the same reward centers of the brain associated with food and sex. A natural high occurs when you give to others.

Finally, volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. When you are isolated not only do you miss the social connection but you also start losing a sense of purpose. You can find meaning and direction (as well as an activity to just get out of the house) by helping others.

As you can see, the secrete the ancients knew is supported by today’s research into giving to others. So, now get out there and do for others what you would want done for you. Share the love.

WHAT WE NEED NOW IS A LITTLE HUMOR

A medical face mask with smiley face against a blue background

Lexicon for a Pandemic

The New Yorker July 20, 2020 Issue By Jay Martel

Maskhole: An individual who wears a mask in a way that makes it completely ineffective—e.g., below the nose, under the chin, on the back of the head.

Face naked: The state of facial exposure that occurs when an individual declines to wear a mask in public. For example, “Pence went all face naked to the Mayo Clinic.”

Body mullet: What most people wear on Zoom calls: a nice top and, below the waist, underwear or less. (“Business up top, party down below.”)

The novid-19: The nineteen minutes after a too-close interaction with a maskless stranger during which you experience a thickness in your throat and a certainty that you’re dying. This sometimes lasts longer if frantic hand washing, antiseptic gargling, and estate planning are not readily available.

Overdistancing: When the guy in front of you in line has a metric understanding of the six in six feet, allowing twenty feet to open up between him and the next person in line, which then allows others to interpret that next person as the end of the line and to cut in front of you.

Domino distancing: When the person behind you in line stands too close, causing you to crowd the person in front of you, and on and on until everyone dies.

Emotional distancing: Deciding that now really isn’t the time to make big decisions about a relationship or, for that matter, to have a conversation about it.

Covideo: A short video featuring a quarantined individual’s child doing something adorable and/or profane, the public sharing of which falls somewhere between cute and a cry for help.

Stockholm syndrome: The assumption that everyone would be just fine without any government restrictions.

Someday, Noneday, Whoseday?, Whensday?, Blursday, Whyday?, Doesn’tmatterday: Days of the week.

Parenting: The ability to figure out why the PlayStation isn’t working with the Wi-Fi.

Body Zoom-morphia: Finding your own image on a group video call so unappealing that you are unable to focus on anything else.

Quorumtine: The minimum number of family members necessary to decide what to watch on TV.

Pan-demic: A potentially dangerous increase in the baking of bread in a quarantined home.

covid-30: Formerly covid-15; the amount of weight gained by an average adult during quarantine. Sometimes related to a pan-demic.

Helter shelter: That moment in the quarantine day when everything seems dirty and chaotic and you feel like saying, “Fuck it, let’s go outside. I don’t care if we die and a bunch of other people do, too.”

Flattening the curve: Trying to fit into your jeans after three months of sweatpants. (See covid-30.)

Germophobe: Formerly, crazy people (e.g., Howard Hughes); now everyone except crazy people.

Going viral: No longer used. ♦

Recovering from Loneliness in the Age of Covid-19

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Feeling Lonely? So many people feel like you do.

Before the social distancing and isolation brought on by Covid-19, there was an epidemic of loneliness in the United States. A recent poll identified three out of every five Americans as suffering from chronic loneliness. Among millennials the percentage is even higher. 

With Covid-19 even more Americans feel lonely. It’s not just about being physically alone. It’s a feeling that no one really cares about you. Yes, there is social contact online and by telephone. There is maybe even talking with someone six feet away. But none of this contact is the same as interacting with co-workers or others on site. The deep connection is missing.

Several of the patients in my practice as a clinical psychologist tell me they feel the pain of not being touched physically nor emotionally day after day.  They begin to think of themselves as not really mattering to anyone. 

Because I am also a psychology professor, I try to give my patients some ways of thinking about being alone that psychologists have found are helpful.

Realize Loneliness Is a Label about Yourself Put on a Feeling

Being alone can create a feeling of emptiness, anxiety, dis-ease.  Humans are social animals with a need to bond with others.  When this need is not satisfied, there is a feeling of lack.  Yet, it is not the lack itself, but the label attached to this lack that creates the pain of loneliness. 

In trying to figure out why there is not someone there for you, you might label yourself as not loveable.  Or you think that something is wrong with you, which whomever you are with will quickly notice. That lonely feeling, then, comes from thinking of oneself as a loser.  And when you label yourself as a loser you lose the motivation to begin or renew a relationship with others.  You then isolate even more, creating the very conditions that are distressing you.

Notice and Then Change What You Are Saying to Yourself

If you thought of yourself as loveable you might be more comfortable being alone. And you might also be more willing to seek out opportunities to be with others. 

But how do you see yourself as more loveable? First, notice what you are saying to yourself that is not helpful. Are you labeling yourself as flawed and that everyone eventually will see those flaws? That is a sure way to not venture out of your shell. Now change the flawed message to one that is more helpful.  Identify some of your attractive qualities and remember these each time you see yourself negatively.  In this way, the flaws are balanced out with the attractive qualities. 

Reach Out to Others

Now you are ready to connect with others. Yes, you will have to initiate the connection. That can be uncomfortable but, if you are now giving yourself the message that you have some positive qualities to share with others, it might be a little easier to reach out to others.

Yet, another thought might quickly enter your mind and keep you from taking action to connect with others. You might be thinking, “When I’m with others I think they are constantly evaluating me—what I say, how I look, what I do.” That self-talk holds you back so you have to change it into something more helpful.

Challenge that thought by saying “I will focus on the other person instead of focusing on the anxiety I feel when I feel I’m being evaluated.” Focusing on the other person instead of yourself takes the pressure off of what you are feeling.

Let the other person know what you noticed or heard instead of worrying about what you should reply. Stay with this stance. Everyone wants to be acknowledged as noticed and heard. It starts the connection and it deepens it.

Where to Find Others

If you don’t have some friends or relatives that you can reconnect with, try volunteering to help others. Volunteering increases your sense of really mattering to someone, which is the opposite of what you might have been thinking when you were isolating. 

Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping.  Would it be children, teenagers, adults in special circumstances, senior citizens?  Then do an online search for where you might be most needed.  The search terms would be the name of your city and the word, “volunteer”.  Or, you can make the search more specific, by adding the name of the group you would like to help (e.g. neighbors, homeless, migrants, special needs). VolunteerMatch.com and CreateTheGood.com are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your local community.  Not only would you be making a positive change in your community, you would be meeting other people who are also volunteering. And in this time of the Covid-19 crisis, so many people need so much help.

If you want to help but still want to stay home, there are many ways you can volunteer virtually.  You won’t have quite the same experience of connection but you are taking the first step in reaching out to others.

Thus, by opening up your mind and focusing on the needs and words of others you will start to recover from loneliness.