Rise

It has been suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environment, personal growth, purpose in life, and self acceptance. It has been demonstrated that people who were more grateful coped better with a life transition. Specifically, people who were more grateful before the transition were less stressed, less depressed, and more satisfied with their relationships three months later.

Gratitude has been said to have one of the strongest links with mental health of any character trait. In one study concerning gratitude, participants were randomly assigned to one of six therapeutic intervention conditions designed to improve the participant’s overall quality of life. Out of these conditions, it was found that the biggest short-term effects occurred when participants wrote and delivered a letter of gratitude to someone in their life.

This condition showed a rise in happiness and a significant fall in depression, results which lasted up to one month after the event. Out of the six conditions, the longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing gratitude journals where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for each day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment.

In fact, the greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began. This exercise was so successful that although participants were only asked to continue the journal for a week, many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over.

Appreciation

Gratitude, thankfulness, or appreciation is a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. The systematic study of gratitude within psychology only began around the year 2000, possibly because psychology has traditionally been focused more on understanding distress rather than understanding positive emotions. However, with the advent of the positive psychology movement, gratitude has become a mainstream focus of psychological research. The study of gratitude within psychology has focused on the understanding of the short term experience of the emotion, individual differences in how frequently people feel gratitude, and the relationship between these two aspects.

Gratitude is not the same as indebtedness. While both emotions occur following help, indebtedness occurs when a person perceives that they are under an obligation to make some repayment of compensation for the aid. The emotions lead to different actions; indebtedness motivates the recipient of the aid to avoid the person who has helped them, whereas gratitude motivates the recipient to seek out their benefactor and to improve their relationship with them.

Gratitude may also serve to reinforce future prosocial behavior in benefactors. For example, one experiment found that customers of a jewelry store who were called and thanked showed a subsequent 70% increase in purchases. In comparison, customers who were thanked and told about a sale showed only a 30% increase in purchases, and customers who were not called at all did not show any increase. In another study, regular patrons of a restaurant gave bigger tips when servers wrote “Thank you” on their checks.

A large body of recent work has suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self acceptance. Grateful people also have less negative coping strategies, being less likely to try to avoid a problem, or deny there is a problem, blame themselves, or cope through substance use. Grateful people sleep better, and this seems to be because they think less negative and more positive thoughts just before going to sleep.

Signature

Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The phrase comes from the two words wabi and sabi. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity, simplicity, modesty, intimacy, and suggest a natural process.

It is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of what we think of as traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West. Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

A good example of this embodiment may be seen in certain styles of Japanese pottery. In Japanese tea ceremony, cups used are often rustic and simple-looking, with shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colors or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style. In reality, the cups can be quite expensive and in fact, it is up to the knowledge and observational ability of the participant to notice and discern the hidden signs of a truly excellent design or glaze. This may be interpreted as a kind of wabi-sabi aesthetic, further confirmed by the way the glaze is known to change in color with time as tea is repeatedly poured into them (sabi) and the fact that the cups are deliberately chipped or nicked at the bottom (wabi), which serves as a kind of signature of the style.

Wabi sabi describes a means where students can learn to live life through the sense and better engage in life as it happens rather than caught up in unnecessary thoughts. In this sense wabi sabi is the material representation of Zen Buddhism. The idea being that being surrounded by natural, changing, unique objects helps us connect to our real world and escape potentially stressful distractions.

In one sense wabi sabi is a training where the student of wabi sabi learns to find the most simple objects interesting, fascinating and beautiful. Fading autumn leaves would be an example. Wabi sabi can change our perception of our world to the extent that a chip or crack in a vase makes it more interesting and give the object greater meditative value. Similarly materials that age such a bare wood, paper and fabric become more interesting as they exhibit changes that can be observed over time.

Trend

Syncretism consists of the attempt to reconcile disparate or contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term may refer to attempts to merge and analogise several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, and thus assert an underlying unity allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths.

It also occurs commonly in literature, music, the representational arts and other expressions of culture. Syncretism may occur in architecture as well. There also exist syncretic politics, although in political classification the term has a somewhat different meaning.

Overt syncretism in folk belief may show cultural acceptance of an alien or previous tradition, but the other cult may survive or infiltrate without authorized syncresis nevertheless. For example, some Conversos developed a sort of cult for martyr victims of the Spanish Inquisition, thus incorporating elements of Catholicism while resisting it.

Some religious movements have embraced overt syncretism, such as the case of the adoption of Shintō elements into Buddhism as well as the adoption of Germanic and Celtic pagan elements into Catholicism during Christianity’s spread into Gaul, the British Isles and Germany. Others have strongly rejected it as devaluing precious and genuine distinctions; examples of this include post-Exile Judaism and Islam.

Syncretism tends to facilitate coexistence and constructive interaction between different cultures, a factor that has recommended it to rulers of multi-ethnic realms. Conversely the rejection of syncretism, usually in the name of piety and orthodoxy, may help to generate, bolster or authorize a sense of cultural unity in a well-defined minority or majority.

Religious syncretism exhibits blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions. This can occur for many reasons, and the latter scenario happens quite commonly in areas where multiple religious traditions exist in proximity and function actively in the culture, or when a culture is conquered, and the conquerors bring their religious beliefs with them, but do not succeed in entirely eradicating the old beliefs or, especially, practices.

Religions may have syncretic elements to their beliefs or history, but adherents of so-labeled systems often frown on applying the label, especially adherents who belong to revealed religious systems, such as the Abrahamic religions, or any system that exhibits an exclusivist approach. Such adherents sometimes see syncretism as a betrayal of their pure truth. By this reasoning, adding an incompatible belief corrupts the original religion, rendering it no longer true. Indeed, critics of a specific syncretistic trend may sometimes use the word syncretism as a disparaging epithet, as a charge implying that those who seek to incorporate a new view, belief, or practice into a religious system actually distort the original faith. Non-exclusivist systems of belief, on the other hand, may feel quite free to incorporate other traditions into their own.

In modern secular society, religious innovators sometimes create new religions syncretically as a mechanism to reduce inter-religious tension and enmity, often with the effect of offending the original religions in question. Such religions, however, do maintain some appeal to a less exclusivist audience.

Acknowledgment

Gratitude is a positive emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. The experience of gratitude has historically been a focus of several world religions. The systematic study of gratitude within psychology only began around the year 2000, possibly because psychology has traditionally been focused more on understanding distress rather than understanding positive emotions.

It is an emotion that occurs after people receive help, depending on how they interpret the situation. Specifically, gratitude is experienced if people perceive the help they receive as valuable to them, costly to their benefactor, and given by the benefactor with benevolent intentions rather than ulterior motives. When faced with identical situations where they have been given help, different people view the situation very differently in terms of value, cost, and benevolent intentions, and this explains why people feel differing levels of gratitude after they have been helped.

Gratitude may also serve to reinforce future prosocial behaviors in benefactors. For example, one experiment found that customers of a jewelry store who were called and thanked showed a subsequent 70% increase in purchases. In comparison, customers who were thanked and told about a sale showed only a 30% increase in purchases, and customers who were not called at all did not show an increase. In another study, regular patrons of a restaurant gave bigger tips when servers wrote “Thank you” on their checks.

A large body of recent work has suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self acceptance. Grateful people have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life, being more likely to seek support from other people, reinterpret and grow from the experience, and spend more time planning how to deal with the problem.

While many emotions and personality traits are important to well being, there is evidence that gratitude may be uniquely important. First, a longitudinal study showed that people who were more grateful coped better with a life transition. Specifically, people who were more grateful before the transition were less stressed, less depressed, and more satisfied with their relationships three months later. Second, two recent studies have suggested that gratitude may have an unique relationship with well being, and can explain aspects of well being that other personality traits cannot.

Given that gratitude appears to be a strong determinant of people’s well-being, several psychological interventions have been developed to increase gratitude. One study had participants test a number of different gratitude exercises, such as thinking about a living person for whom they were grateful, writing about someone for whom they were grateful, and writing a letter to deliver to someone for whom they were grateful. Participants in the control condition were asked to describe their living room. Participants who engaged in a gratitude exercise showed increases in their experiences of positive emotion immediately after the exercise, and this effect was strongest for participants who were asked to think about a person for whom they were grateful.

Peace

Peace is a term that most commonly refers to an absence of hostility, but which also represents a larger concept of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, safety in matters of social or economic welfare, and the acknowledgment of equality and fairness in political relationships and world matters.

It is a state of balance and understanding in one’s self and between others where respect is gained by the acceptance of differences, conflicts are resolved through dialogue, other’s rights are respected, and everyone is at their highest point of serenity without social tension.

In the Great Lakes region of Africa, the word for peace is kindoki, which refers to a harmonious balance between human beings, the rest of the natural world, and the cosmos. This vision is a much broader view of peace than a mere absence of war.

Wolfgang Sutzl of the Innsbruck School of Peace Studies states that some peace thinkers have abandoned any single and all encompassing definition of peace. Rather, they promote the idea of many peaces. They argue that since no singular, correct definition of peace can exist, peace should be perceived as a plurality.

These thinkers also critique the idea of peace as a hopeful or eventual end. They recognize that peace does not necessarily have to be something humans might achieve some time in the future. They contend that peace exists in the present, we can create and expand it in small ways in our everyday lives, and peace changes constantly. This view makes peace permeable and imperfect rather than static and utopian.

Followers of some religions, such as Jainism, go to great lengths to avoid harming any living creatures, including insects. Pacifists, such as Christian anarchists, perceive any incarnation of violence as self perpetuating. Mahatma Gandhi’s conception of peace was not as an end, but as a means: “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to notable peacemakers and visionaries who have overcome violence, conflict or oppression through their moral leadership. The prize has often met with controversy, as it is occasionally awarded to people who have formerly sponsored war and violence but who have, through exceptional concessions, helped achieve peace.

Expression

Laughter is a part of human behaviour regulated by the brain. It helps humans clarify their intentions in social interaction and provides an emotional context to conversations. Laughter is used as a signal for being part of a group. It signals acceptance and positive interactions with others. The study of humor and laughter, and its psychological and physiological effects on the human body is called gelotology.

Common causes for laughter are sensations of joy and humor, however other situations may cause laughter as well. A general theory that explains laughter is called the relief theory. Sigmund Freud summarized it in his theory that laughter releases tension and psychic energy. This theory is one of the justifications of the beliefs that laughter is beneficial for one’s health. This theory explains why laughter can be a coping mechanism for when one is upset, angry or sad.

Philosopher John Morreall theorizes that human laughter may have its biological origins as a kind of shared expression of relief at the passing of danger. For instance, a joke creates an inconsistency, a sentence appears to be not relevant, and we automatically try to understand what the sentence says. If we are successful in solving this cognitive riddle, and we find out what is hidden within the sentence, and we realize that the surprise wasn’t dangerous, we eventually laugh with relief. Otherwise, if the inconsistency is not resolved, there is no laugh.

Recently, researchers have shown that infants as early as 17 days old have vocal laughing sounds or spontaneous laughter. This conflicts with earlier studies indicating that babies usually start to laugh at about four months of age. Dr. Robert R. Provine has spent decades studying laughter. He indicates that laughter is a mechanism everyone has as part of universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way.

A dog laugh sounds similar to a normal pant, but by analyzing the pant using a sonograph, it varies with bursts of frequencies, resulting in a laugh. When this recorded dog laugh vocalization is played to dogs in a shelter setting, it can initiate play, promote social behavior, and decrease stress levels.

It has been discovered that rats emit short, high frequency, ultrasonic, socially induced vocalization during play and when tickled. The vocalization is described a distinct chirping. It has been observed that those rats who laughed the most also played the most, and those that laughed the most preferred to spend more time with other laughing rats. This suggests a social preference to other rats exhibiting similar responses.

Development

Voluntary Simplicity is a lifestyle individuals choose to minimize the more-is-better pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in quality time for family and friends, stress reduction, personal taste or frugality. Others cite sociopolitical goals aligned with the anticonsumerist movement, including conservation, social justice and sustainable development.

According to Duane Elgin, “we can describe voluntary simplicity as a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living.”

Some people practice voluntary simplicity to reduce need for purchased goods or services and, by extension, reduce their need to sell their time for money. Some will spend the extra free time helping family or others. Others may spend the extra free time to improve their quality of life, for example pursuing creative activities such as art. The philosophy behind these choices is examined at length in Ernest Callenbach’s 1972 nonfiction book Living Poor with Style, which also devotes hundreds of pages to practical tips and how to guides for both voluntary and involuntary practitioners of simple living.

Another approach is to look very fundamentally at the whole issue of why we need to buy and consume so many resources for a good quality of life. Though our society often seeks to buy happiness, materialism very frequently fails to satisfy, and may even increase the level of stress in life. It has been said that the making of money and the accumulation of things should not smother the purity of the soul, the life of the mind, the cohesion of the family, or the good of the society. Another key practice is the adoption of a simplified diet. Diets that may simplify domestic food production and consumption include raw veganism and the Gandhi diet.

Although simple living is often a secular pursuit, it may still involve reconsidering personal definitions of appropriate technology, as groups such as the Amish or Mennonites have done. People who eschew modern technology are often referred to as Neo Luddism adherents.

People who practice simple living have diverse views on the role of technology. Some simple living adherents, such as Kirkpatrick Sale, are strong critics of technology, while others see the Internet as a key component of simple living in the future, including the reduction of an individual’s carbon footprint through telecommuting and less reliance on paper. Voluntary simplicity may include high tech components such as computers, Internet, photovoltaic arrays, wind and water turbines, and a variety of other cutting edge technologies that can be used to make a simple lifestyle within mainstream culture easier and more sustainable.

The idea of food miles, the number of miles a given item of food or its ingredients has travelled between the farm and the table, is used by simple living advocates to argue for locally grown food. This is now gaining mainstream acceptance.

Advertising is criticised for encouraging a consumerist mentality. Many advocates of voluntary simplicity tend to agree that cutting out, or cutting down on, television viewing is a key ingredient in simple living.

Purpose

Absurdism is a philosophy stating that the efforts of humanity to find meaning in the universe ultimately fail, and therefore are absurd because no such meaning exists, at least in relation to humanity. The word absurd in this context does not mean logically impossible but rather humanly impossible.

According to Absurdism, humans historically attempt to find meaning in their lives. For some, traditionally, this search follows one of two paths, either concluding that life is meaningless and that what we have is the here and now, or filling the void with a purpose set forth by a higher power, often a belief in God or adherence to a religion. However, even with a spiritual power as the answer to meaning, another question is posed. What is the purpose of God?

Kierkegaard, the 19th century Danish philosopher, believed that there is no human comprehensible purpose of God, making faith in God absurd. He argued that doubt is an element of faith and that it is impossible to gain any objective certainty about the existence of God. The most one could hope for would be the conclusion that it is probable that the doctrines are true, but if a person were to believe such doctrines only to the degree they seemed likely to be true, he or she would not be genuinely religious at all. Faith consists in a subjective relation of absolute commitment.

For some, suicide is a solution when confronted with the futility of living a life devoid of all purpose, as it is only a means to quicken the resolution of one’s ultimate fate. For Albert Camus, in The Myth of Sisyphus, suicide is not a worthwhile solution because if life is veritably absurd, then it is even more absurd to counteract it. Instead, we should engage in living and reconcile the fact that we live in a world without purpose.

The beauty that people encounter in life makes it worth living. People may create meaning in their own lives, which may not be the objective meaning of life but still provides something for which to strive. However, Camus insisted that one must always maintain an ironic distance between this invented meaning and the knowledge of the absurd lest the fictitious meaning take the place of the absurd.

Camus introduced the idea of acceptance without resignation and asked if man can live without incentive, defining a conscious revolt against the avoidance of absurdity of the world. In a world devoid of higher meaning man becomes absolutely free. It is through this freedom that man can act either as a mystic, through incentive to some supernatural force, or an absurd hero through a revolt against such hope. Henceforth, the absurd hero’s refusal to hope becomes his singular ability to live in the present with passion.

Gestalt

Gestalt is a German word for form or shape. It is used in English to refer to a concept of wholeness. It proposes that the operational principle of the brain is holistic with self-organizing tendencies, or that the whole is different than the sum of its parts. The classic Gestalt example is a soap bubble, whose spherical shape is not defined by a rigid template or a mathematical formula, but rather it emerges spontaneously by the parallel action of surface tension acting at all points in the surface simultaneously. The Gestalt effect refers to the form forming capability of our senses, particularly with respect to the visual recognition of figures and whole forms instead of just a collection of simple lines and curves.

Early 20th century theorists saw objects as perceived within an environment according to all of their elements taken together as a global construct. This whole form approach sought to define principles of perception, seemingly innate mental laws which determined the way in which objects were perceived. These laws took several forms, such as the grouping of similar objects together. Although Gestalt has been criticized for being merely descriptive, it has formed the basis of much further research into the perception of patterns and objects, and of research into behavior, thinking, problem solving and psychopathology.

Gestalt psychology is a theory of mind and brain that proposes that the operational principle of the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies, or that the whole is different than the sum of its parts. Gestalt therapy focuses more on process (what is happening) than content (what is being discussed). The emphasis is on what is being done, thought and felt at the moment rather than on what was, might be, could be, or should be.

Gestalt therapy is a method of awareness, by which perceiving, feeling, and acting are understood to be separate from interpreting, explaining and judging using old attitudes. This distinction between direct experience and indirect or secondary interpretation is developed in the process of therapy. The client learns to become aware of what they are doing psychologically and how they can change it. By becoming aware of and transforming their process they develop self acceptance and the ability to experience more in the now without so much interference from baggage of the past.

The objective of Gestalt therapy, in addition to helping the client overcome symptoms, is to enable him or her to become more fully and creatively alive and to be free from the blocks and unfinished issues that may diminish optimum satisfaction, fulfillment, and growth.

The approach is not the self of the client being helped or healed by the fixed self of the therapist, but the exploration of the co-creation of self and other in the here and now. There is not the assumption that the client will act in all other circumstances as he or she does in the therapy situation. However, the areas that cause problems will be either the lack of self definition leading to chaotic or psychotic behaviour, or the rigid self definition in some area of functioning that denies spontaneity and makes dealing with particular situations impossible.

Some have described Gestalt’s paradoxical theory of change. The paradox is that the more one attempts to be who one is not, the more one remains the same. Conversely, when people identify with their current experience, the conditions of wholeness and growth support change. Put another way, change comes about as a result of full acceptance of what is, rather than a striving to be different.