WWB WATCH: What’s New in Wellness Culture? Basic Instincts, Professional Cuddling and the Survival of our Species…

Jun 23, 2016 by

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What’s new in wellness culture? Professional Cuddling is trending from Japan to the USA! When I read the article in the New York Times this past weekend about the trend of  professional cuddling, I had Bruce Springsteen’s song ‘Human Touch’ in my head all week long.  I recently went through a challenging experience taking care of my Mom with terminal cancer and had the help of hospice care visiting. The social worker assigned to my case would show up and hug me. At first I found it uncomfortable, but then found out from other nurses that she is known as a ‘hugger’.  As time passed, I began to appreciate her hugs and  I realize now, her hugs allowed me to feel vulnerable in an important way because I was literally watching my Mom die on a day to day basis. Her hugs probably contributed to my trusting her too, because essentially she was a stranger injected into my personal life under great duress. Touching, and hugging is a basic human instinct and the more we become isolated from each other physically the less the very healthy hormone oxytocin will flow through our bodies.

 

New York Times Photo from article June 16, 2016

New York Times Photo by Adam Gonzalez June 16, 2016/article Pillow Talk With a Professional Cuddler

 

Love certainly is the answer to almost anything, but hugs literally have the immediate effect of wellness, because the powerful hormone oxytocin is released in our bodies. Is it surprising that a new industry has risen in wellness culture called ‘Professional Cuddling”?  Not really! I should note, this trend actually started in Japan a few years ago. When I heard about it, it made sense to me because they have a culture driven by tradition and sometimes rigid tradition. There is a great business book I read years ago called ‘The Culture Code’ by Dr. Clotaire Rapaille. He is is an internationally revered anthropologist, and his book opens your eyes to how different we all are ‘culturally’ as well as how social mores are shaped in our cultures. The book gets into Japan’s challenges,  but don’t you worry, we Americans are pretty challenged too! The trend made it here, so we might look at highly  ‘industrialized’ or ‘digitalized’ societies for clues.

Once you read the NYT article, you will learn there are a few complications of professional cuddling, and it is much different than the professional massage experience. What of course screams through this growing trend, is how our culture is suffering from a lack of physical intimacy. We certainly can point to so many socio-cultural trends that are challenging our basic instincts as human beings. When I studied psychology and child development we looked at how important it was for a newborn baby to have physical contact with the mother. Here is an excellent article from Scientific American explaining the importance of physical contact for babies and the terrible deficits that occur when they don’t have it.

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(Michelangelo, 1475-1564 (Flicker.Jonund/ Commons.wikimedia.org)

 

 

If touch is important to our development it must be pretty important to our well-being in general. Who loves their hair being washed? Who doesn’t love a massage? How about pedicures? As the NYT article points out cuddling is different from sex and safe boundaries do matter. Cuddling is a form of safe bonding which again is central to our human species. This excerpt below is from Psychology today and it sums up how important human touch is to our survival. Yes, survival. Now we have a whole different context to ‘Professionally Cuddling’ don’t we!

 

Science tells us that the need for physical contact is present at birth and is an important part—perhaps the most important part—of our species heritage. British clinician John Bowlby proposed the evolutionary concept of attachment, or the innate need for human beings to form strong affectional bonds with others. According to Bowlby, human infants enter the world predisposed to emotionally “bind” themselves to a mom, dad, or other caregiver (in other words, to form relationships), and this predisposition manifests itself in instinctive behaviors which promote physical proximity (and, consequently, enhance survival). This is why all babies cry, suckle, and cling—these attachment behaviors pull supportive responses from and promote physical closeness with caregivers, which helps babies survive.

We know so much about human development and interesting enough, we can also point to other important research on health and longevity, that points to ‘close tight communities’ filled with affection” as one of the contributing factors of longevity. Dan Buettner author of The Blue Zone Solution covers this extensively in his new book. People who live longer tend to have very connective relationships with their family, friends and neighbors. So I leave you with this simple idea. Our basic instinct is to connect and touching is one of the ways we do this. Start by reaching out and touching somebody’s hand and hopefully you don’t have to pay for cuddling. But if you do–it’s okay. You’re only human. 😉

 

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WWB Passioneer: Meet Dr. Tim Lomas Who Created a ‘Positive Lexicography’ Because Happiness Speaks Many Languages…

Jun 15, 2016 by

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Dr. Tim Lomas Positive Psychology

Dr. Tim Lomas
Positive Psychology

Tim Lomas, Ph.D., is a lecturer in positive psychology at the University of East London, where he is also the co-program leader for the Masters of Science in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology. He is the author of numerous papers and books related to positive psychology, gender, mindfulness, and Buddhism. His latest book,The Darkness and the Dawn: The Value of Sadness and other Negative Emotions will be published by Piatkus in Fall 2016.

Recently launched the Positive Lexicography Project, an online glossary of untranslatable words that describe positive traits, feelings, experiences, and states of being that had no direct counterparts in English.

You can search the glossary by alphabet or by language.  See below for examples…

 

Lauroly Welcome-  Welcome Tim. I discovered your work from an article in the New Yorker and I just had to reach out and share your inspiring global project. Let’s start with the basics for our readers. Why do you think having a catalog of foreign terms that represent concepts of joy and wellness will help us reshape our own sense of well-being? Can we process experiences differently and can we escape our own culture’s conditioning?

Tim Lomas: Thanks Lauroly! I’m so pleased that you like the project! Yes, I do believe that learning new positive words has the potential to alter our experiences for the better. We only tend to really take note of phenomena that have been flagged up in our attention by being named in a word. Of course, we can perceive and feel things for which we don’t have a name. However, our senses are continually registering so much information that we have to filter it somehow, to prioritise certain aspects; and the way our brain does that is partly through language. And so, whatever words we happen to have acquired to delineate and represent the world will influence the types of feelings we can enjoy. If we lack a word for a particular positive emotion, we’re far less likely to experience it; and even if we do, we’ll be unable to perceive it with much clarity, think about it with much understanding, talk about it with much insight, or remember it with much vividness. As such, I do think that, whenever we learn a new word, it can draw our attention to new aspects of life, or at least bring new clarity and awareness to feelings we may only be vaguely experiencing.

 

                          BALINESE Ramé (n.): something at once chaotic and joyful.

 

Lauroly Q- The Positive Psychology movement is a great influence on wellness culture, but isn’t happiness, or our pursuit of it, experienced and manifested based on the culture we live in? Which countries around the world are actively embracing positive psychology besides the U.S ?

Tim Lomas: Yes, positive psychology has had such a huge impact since it emerged nearly 20 years ago. However, I think you’re right in suggesting that it’s been influenced by the cultural context in which it first emerged (mainly North America). As such, to some extent, its concepts relating to happiness have perhaps been shaped by ideas relating to happiness that are prominent in ‘the West’ (such as the importance of self-determination and individual freedom). That said, the field is evolving and developing as researchers from around the world are joining the field, and in doing so are bringing in insights and concepts that are prominent in their own cultures. For instance, there has been much interest in positive psychology from countries such as China and India, who have established journals and conferences relating to positive psychology.

 

DANISH: Hygge (n) : a deep sense of of place, warmth, friendship and contentment

 

Lauroly Q- I can see how language affects our mindsets for sure. For example the words ‘stressed out’ had to be created here in America and is probably best understood by our people. Yet we have come up with  new terms such as ‘Chillax’, that captures a sense of rest and relaxation. America is a melting pot of ethnic cultures, but how do homogeneous cultures embrace other languages to describe their feelings? When I was researching trends in wellness culture for the spa sector, there was a trend called ‘Cultural-Cocktailing’ which described people’s interest and willingness to blend wellness practices from other cultures with their own. Do you think now that we are more mobile in this world, we can do this with language and emotional states?

Tim Lomas: Yes, I would definitely agree – in this era of globalisation there is such dynamic inter-transmission of ideas and practices. Many people in more affluent countries are able to travel abroad extensively, and learn new things from the places they visit, and even people that cannot travel much can find out about other cultures through the internet. Moreover, at a cultural level there is a really interesting ‘cross-fertilization’ of ideas, from ‘Western’ ideas and cultural products been consumed in Non-Western countries, to Non-Western practices such as mindfulness and yoga becoming embraced and adapted in the West. The term ‘cultural-cocktailing is an interesting one. There is a similar concept in the sociology of religion of a ‘spiritual supermarket’; however, while many sociologists seem to use the term somewhat disparagingly, I feel it can actually be a positive and liberating phenomenon (e.g., people in the West finding an affinity and connection with non-Western traditions such as Buddhism).

 

GREEK: Kefi (n.): joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, frenzy.

 

Lauroly Q- Charlemagne the King of Franks who united Western Europe during the Middle Ages, proclaimed “to have have a second language is to have a second soul.” Connecting with this idea, I should mention WWB’s book club is reading ‘In Other Words’ by Jhumpa Lahiri. It is an autobiographical account of her love for the Italian language and her desire to write an entire book in Italian, which was a third language for her after Indian and English. She explores identity outside of geographic frontiers and linguistic boundaries, which I found really interesting. Do you think if we learn new languages, we inadvertently change the way we view the world and each other?

Tim Lomas: Yes, I do think that’s the case. I feel that encountering new cultural ideas in general, and learning new words/concepts in particular, does have the power to change how we see the world. For instance, when I was 19, I went to teach English in China. The whole trip was incredible, really eye-opening and character-shaping, and I really loved it there. I tried to learn some of the language, and in doing so I encountered some concepts (mainly relating to Buddhism) that were completely new to me, and which did alter how I see things.

 

 SPANISH: Simpatía (n.): accord and harmony within relationships and/or society.

 

Lauroly Closing: Thank you so much for sharing your research and your wisdom with us Tim. I think there is so much potential for your research project and you are certainly sharing one big cultural cocktail with us! Looking forward to seeing where the Positive Lexicography project takes you! I enjoyed reading your language list and the comments from people around the world are very insightful. I encourage our readers to check it out and discover a whole world of language and psychology that may expand your emotional vocabulary and broaden your experience for living well.

Tim Lomas: Thank you so much for inviting me to answer your questions. I’m so pleased that you like the project! I would also add that I see this as very much a work-in-progress, and also hopefully a collaborative one. So far, I’ve really just attempted to track down words that might be relevant, and to offer a rudimentary definition of these. However, I’m very aware that there are likely to be many other interesting words that deserve to be on the list, and also that the definitions I have for the words could be developed and enriched. So, I hope that people might be able to make suggestions for how to improve the list!

 

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WWB WATCH: Sunbathers Live Longer? Beyond the Headlines…One Doctor Shows Us How Research is Tricky

Jun 8, 2016 by

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There is nothing like that feeling of elation when you read a headline that says ‘Sunbathers Live Longer’. This one is right up there with studies that present the health benefits of chocolate and wine! Would love to have more of all of them! It turns out there is some truth to the research on all three, but there are many caveats that need to be understood. Unfortunately those caveats are not shared in a quick news story or soundbite on the nightly news. I share these reports when I can, because wellness culture depends on sound health information being dispersed fairly to the people. Science and research matters, but often the full study and all it’s data is not shared across media channels.

I found the following research report on ‘sun-bathing’ shared by a doctor on the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine newsfeed, and was relieved that the doctor writing revealed the questions and issues with the findings. I am sharing this as an example, of how ‘health headlines’ can be distorted and misleading, if we don’t have the proper interpretation of the studies data. How many of us have the time to read beyond the headline? I would say we must, if we are going to embrace anything that relates to our health and well-being.

When it comes to your health, you always have to consider your own bio-individuality, genetic profile and lifestyle. The takeaway is not that the study is useless, rather we must always look at the complete ‘contextual’ frame of the study. Here is a quick cheat-sheet on the ‘sun-bathing’ study. See full article below this post. Remember like almost anything in life, moderation is probably the wisest mode of operandi. Enjoy the sunshine!

1-The Study did not include men and was conducted in Sweden. Sweden mattered to me because they actually don’t get as much sun as other parts of the world. Their needs for Vitamin D and supplementation might be higher. Doc didn’t mention this but I would consider it when reading. 

2-Even those with the greatest sun exposure only benefited from an extra 7 months to 2 years of life.

3- This study detected an association between sun exposure and a lower frequency of certain causes of death; however, that’s not the same as proving that sun exposure was the cause of longer life. For example, perhaps people with more sun exposure tend to be more active, smoke less, and have healthier diets.

 

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Sunbathers Live Longer?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications
Surprising, right? But that’s the conclusion of a new study that compared the life spans of many people with varying amounts of sun exposure. They found that among nearly 30,000 women in Sweden, who were each monitored for about 20 years, those who spent more time in the sun actually lived longer and had less heart disease and fewer non-cancer deaths than those who reported less sun exposure.

Can the sun extend your life?

With summer just around the corner, this news is timely — and a great excuse to get out of the house or office and soak up some sun. But there are some important caveats about this research:

*Deaths due to cancer were more common among those who spent more time in the sun (The authors suggest that the higher probability of being diagnosed with cancer among the sun worshippers was because they were surviving longer and not dying as often of other causes)
*The impact of sun exposure on longevity was relatively small. Even those with the greatest sun exposure only benefited from an extra 7 months to 2 years of life.
*This study detected an association between sun exposure and a lower frequency of certain causes of death; however, that’s not the same as proving that sun exposure was the cause of longer life. It could turn out that there is another explanation for these results that has little to do with sun exposure itself. For example, perhaps people with more sun exposure tend to be more active, smoke less, and have healthier diets. The researchers tried to account for other factors such as these in their analysis, but it’s always possible that something important was overlooked.
*The reason why more sun exposure might prolong life or prevent heart disease deaths could not be determined by this study. Because the sun’s UV light triggers chemical reactions in the skin that lead to the production of vitamin D, it’s possible that vitamin D is responsible for the health benefits of sun exposure described in this study. And that could mean vitamin D supplements would promote longer life free of heart disease, even without sun exposure. However, that’s only speculation and prior studies have not been able to prove this.
*The study did not include men. The impact of sun exposure could be quite different among men.

Before you ditch the sunscreen and head for the beach…

While there is some uncertainty about the overall importance of this study, one thing is for sure: when it comes to the impact of sun exposure on health and disease, the findings of this new report won’t be the last word. There are competing risks linked to sun exposure: skin cancer and other skin damage are clearly a risk; but there may be health benefits as well (as suggested by this study). Since this type of study cannot determine the exact reason that those with more sun exposure lived longer, we’ll need more research to sort out just how much sun exposure is best.

The authors of this study speculate that recommendations to limit sun exposure might actually do more harm than good; in fact, they suggest that avoiding the sun could have a negative health impact similar in magnitude to smoking. That’s quite a statement!

In my opinion, that kind of declaration is premature and overstates what we can conclude from this type of research. After all, there are plenty of examples in which retrospective studies like this one (that is, those that ask people to think back and self-report their experiences with an exposure or treatment) turned out to be completely wrong. Routine hormone replacement therapy for perimenopausal women is one of the most dramatic and recent examples. Let’s not make sun exposure the next one.

 

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