Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tis the Season to be Jolly - Or is It?






How do you feel about that?

Know how some kids are just dear, sweet and happy and draw other people to them? And others ... do not? That trait is one of those cited in children who "survive" - sometimes surviving terrible things in childhood. They never give up and continue to reach out to other people. (See Al Siebert's research)

Malaysia is big on emotional intelligence. I have certified many coaches over there. One of the reasons for the enthusiasm is that they know about emotional intelligence because their national head of education has stated Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence" to be one of his 5 favorite books.

Well, there was a recent article in one of Malaysia's online newspapers called "The Star" which is entitled "Season for Cheer." One thing that makes this article, and its information so poignant is that it is written by a teacher for teachers. (And several of the coaches I certified in Malaysia are also teachers.) It is crucial because of the influence teachers have - on our children, our future.

From the article - and remember how I am always saying "emotions are contagious"?
Goleman also reveals that one of the most significant findings of recent times is that of “mirror neurons” which “track emotional flow, movement and even intentions of the person we are with and replicate this sensed state in our own brain”. (Please reread that one!!!)

In short, if you spend time with a happy person, you are likely to “catch” that happy feeling in yourself and express it.
If, on the other hands, you are unfortunate enough to be with someone who
is cold, negative, callous even hostile, you will get that way too.

The article says teachers can learn from this, but what about the rest of us? Our moods influence our spouses, our children, our parents, our grandparents, our colleagues at work -- anyone we are around.

To continue:
[If your child gets a sulky teacher] take note of researcher Gregg Easterbrook who says that "it requires real effort to achieve a happy and positive outlook on life, and most people don't make [the effort]." He adds, "While we have been handed the keys to happiness, many people cling to gloomy ways out of habit."

Even more compelling is the research of Minnesota's David Lykken who determined that "happiness is 50% genetic." [If you want more on this, email me for white paper.]
So what do you do if you tend to be sad, morose, moody, even depressed (what the Ancients used to call melancholic. (Or if your partner, child, parent, etc. is.) Well, of course you can stay that way. And likely drive away other people and set yourself on an illness spiral toward a shorter (and certainly miserable) life, because Goleman gives research evidence in "Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships," that the people who live longest have "rich personal networks," i.e., those who are "married, have close family and friends and are active in social and religious groups."

Two other rigorous researchers have confirmed the same. Seligman who stresses the positive attitude, and Al Siebert who studied survivors and defined their personalities in his book "Survivor Personality." I think Seligman did the research (as so many do), to teach himself how to be positive and happy despite some difficult events in his life. (Remember, always remember, that it takes effort.)

Heck, it's almost common kowledge now how bad isolation (meaning EMOTIONAL isolation) is for our health.

That having been said, the article concludes, again talking about teachers (and consider the influence they have on our children ) but apply this to yourself, and others:
It therefore follows that, if a teacher chooses to be a gloomy person, attribute 50% of it to genetics and the other 50% to the fact that she [or he] is not trying hard enough to change her ways.
And yes - emotional intelligence can be learned. I have been the catalyst for it many times.

So for this Christmas (holiday) season, what's it gonna be? Scrooge or Father Christmas? Merry Christmas or Bah Humbug? Moping and withdrawing, or getting out there and enjoying some of it? Lamenting what's gone and what you don't have, or celebrating what you do have?

Remember the EQ competency of intentionality: How do you intend to BE this Christmas? How do you intend to FEEL? Do you intend to he HAPPY or to be SAD/HOSTILE. As you know, this is not a given. It is a CHOICE.

While writing this, I received a distressed call from a male client whose girl friend just broke up with. He had seen her getting worse as the holidays progress, depressed and spending time in bed. It's been building up anyway - she doesn't speak to one of her kids, she lives alone and won't get out ... which leaves you pretty much to think sad thoughts in your head.

I think that's sad. It's doubly sad. I'd like to see the client with someone who makes the effort to move forward and be "Happy" - because it's catching -- but I'm sure that will be a time coming. It is so sad the break up at Christmas. What kind of a person does that?

I'll let you connect the dots.
Because if you wanted to look at it this way - how can we "be happy" right now with war, worldwide economic disaster, abused children, battered women, your cousin lost his job, you're single at Christmas, you don't have money for gift ...

This photo is making the rounds in a Christmas email. I do not know to whom to attribute it. If you object to its presense, EMAIL ME and it will be immediately removed.

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