|Best of Our Blogs: January 12, 2016
||I caught hilarious and inspiring author, speaker and TV show host Iyanla Vanzant on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sessions. Besides making me laugh with her brutal honesty, Vanzant communicated two words that were truly life changing. In fact, believing it affects everything in your life whether you realize … ...
|Deep Faith in the Power of a Faith Healer...
||This video summarizes a case study in which three dying ICU patients got well after being told that a faith healer was working on their behalf. One of the patients … ...
|How Humility Will Make You the Greatest Person Ever
||In light of the upcoming presidential race and the increase in narcissism amongst our youth, I think it’s safe to say that, as a society, we could use a little more humility.
Our culture places so much value on external accomplishments, appearance, and self-aggrandizement—all things that are ephemeral at best—that even a small display of this quiet virtue can make one feel like a drowning man coming up for air.
Yet why can it be so challenging for us to express humility? Is it because we often misinterpret its active demonstration to be a sign of weakness, when in actuality it is an indication of tremendous inner strength?
The answers may be found in what scientists are discovering about this quality, so deeply revered by all the ancient wisdom and spiritual traditions, many of which consider it to be the mother of all virtues.
Why is humility good?
When I meet someone who radiates humility, my shoulders relax, my heart beats a little more quietly, and something inside me lets go.
Why? Because I know that I’m being fully seen, heard, and accepted for who I am, warts and all—a precious and rare gift that allows our protective walls to come down.
Truly humble people are able to offer this kind of gift to us because they see and accept their own strengths and limitations without defensiveness or judgment—a core dimension, according to researchers, of humility, and one that cultivates a powerful compassion for humanity.
This kind of self-acceptance emerges from grounding one’s worth in our intrinsic value as human beings rather than things such as six-figure salaries or the body of a movie star or climbing the corporate ladder or the number of friends on Facebook. Instead, humble people place high value on more meaningful things that benefit others, such as noble qualities.
They also see life as a school, recognizing that while none of us is perfect, we can, without negatively impacting our self-esteem, work on our limitations by being open to new ideas, advice, and criticism.
This ability alone cultivates an awe-inspiring inner strength, the most powerful example of which is Gandhi, whose Autobiography is a journey of humbling self-dissection. He once famously said, “I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”
If Gandhi is an example of what a humble leader can accomplish, then society serves to benefit from this kind of governance. Consider what researchers of the “quiet ego”—a construct similar to humility—suggest happens when we gain control of our ego: we become less likely to act aggressively, manipulate others, express dishonesty, and destroy resources. Instead, we take responsibility for and correct our mistakes, listen to others’ ideas, and keep our abilities in humble perspective.
Who wouldn’t want that kind of leadership for our country—and the world?
But the benefits of humility do not extend to just our leaders. Nascent research suggests that this lovely quality is good for us individually and for our relationships. For example, humble people handle stress more effectively and report higher levels of physical and mental well-being. They also show greater generosity, helpfulness, and gratitude – all things that can only serve to draw us closer to others.
Three tips for cultivating humility
Given what scientists have discovered about humility, it’s evident that cultivating this quality is not for the faint-hearted, nor does it appear overnight. Yet it would seem that one of the great rewards of humility is an inner freedom from having to protect those parts that we try to hide from ourselves and others. In other words, we develop a quiet, understanding, and compassionate heart.
Here are some scientifically-based ways to start.
1. Embrace your humanness.
For many, when we fail at something that is important to us—a job or a relationship, for example—our self-esteem plummets because we tied our self-worth to those things. All of a sudden, we become bad or unworthy people, and it can be a long road to recovery.
Not so for people with humility. As stated earlier, their ability to withstand failure or criticism comes from their sense of intrinsic value of being human rather than outer means. So when they fail at a task or don’t live up to expectations, it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with them. It just means that they are human like the rest of us.
Scientists suggest that this intrinsic value stems from secure attachment, or the healthy emotional bond formed with close others, usually our childhood caregivers. Having the experience of unconditional acceptance and love, particularly when we’re young, can serve as a buffer against the effects of criticism or failure.
Unfortunately, many of us did not experience secure attachment when we were children. One study found that a whopping 40 percent of adults are not securely attached, but thankfully this does not mean we are doomed. We can heal through healthy adult relationships, such as friends, romantic partners, or even with a higher power. This recent GGSC article suggests some ways.
2. Practice mindfulness and self-compassion.
These days, mindfulness and self-compassion seem to be the antidote for many of our inner ailments. Yet I can’t imagine developing humility without them.
According to scientists, humble people have an accurate picture of themselves—both their faults and their gifts—which helps them to see what might need changing within.
Mindfulness grows our self-awareness by giving us permission to stop and notice our thoughts and emotions without judgment (if we judge what’s going on inside us, we paint a distorted view of ourselves).
The more we become aware of our inner lives, the easier it is to see where unhealthy beliefs and actions might be limiting us. Noticing and then accepting those parts of ourselves that are wreaking havoc and that require us to change calls for self-compassion, or treating oneself with kindness and understanding.
Once we accept what needs changing, then we can start the process of transformation. I love the saying by a wise sage, “If you are in a dark room, don’t beat the darkness with a stick. Rather, turn on the light.” In other words, just gently and patiently replace a negative thought or action with a positive one and over time, we may not even recognize the person we once were.
3. Express gratitude.
Saying “thank you” means that we recognize the gifts that come into our lives and, as a result, acknowledge the value of other people. Very simply, gratitude can make us less self-focused and more focused on those around us—a hallmark of humble people.
Indeed, a recent study found that gratitude and humility are mutually reinforcing. Expressing gratitude can induce humility in us, and humble people have a greater capacity for conveying gratitude.
Both gratitude letters and gratitude diaries were used in this study – easy to perform practices that are described in greater detail on the GGSC’s Greater Good in Action website.
Perhaps the key to humility is seeing life as a journey towards cultivating those qualities that bring out the best in ourselves and others and make this world a better place.
And this journey is not just for the average person, but one that many of our greatest leaders have embarked upon. To close with the words of one who knew humility, Nelson Mandela:
As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, and humility.
This is the first in a series on humility. Subsequent articles will address humility and school leadership, cultural humility, and humility for students.
|New study shows no correlation between happiness and mortality
||Research has shown that unhappiness is associated with poor health, and poor health is associated with mortality. But does unhappiness itself directly influence mortality? The answer is no, according to a study published in The Lancet in December 2015. “Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn’t make you ill. We found no direct effect [...]
|Asking for Help is Hard
||I used to teach college English before Magoo was born. Once she was born, I went to teaching one or two night classes for a couple of semesters before it got to be too much, and I took a hiatus. I remember how things changed … ...
|Physics teachers give girls poorer grades for the exact same performance, study finds
||Imagine that you are a female student and give the exact same answer to a physics exam question as one of your male classmates, but you receive a significantly poorer grade. This is precisely what happens on a regular basis, as concluded in a study by Sarah Hofer, a researcher in the group led by [...]
|Correlation found between action video games and capability for suicide
||A new study has found college students who play action video games like Call of Duty could also be more capable of following through on suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, the study leaves many important questions unanswered. The research was based on a psychological concept known as acquired capability for suicide (ACS), a measurement of whether a [...]
|Denial, Denial, Denial: The Bane of My Existence
||I’m never alone. Denial is my constant companion. She wakes me in the morning, stays close by my side all the day and sings me to sleep at night. I’m … ...
|The Greatest Lie You’ve Ever Been Told
||“I’m all alone” I hear whispered in my ear. The lie is like an old friend that I’ve long shut out of my life that keeps rapping at the door … ...
|Early weight loss in Parkinson’s disease patients may signify more serious form of disease
||A study led by a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigator finds evidence of an association between weight loss in patients with early Parkinson disease and more rapid disease progression. While weight loss is common in Parkinson’s patients, results of the study – which is being released online prior to publication in the March issue of [...]
|Brain scans during communication game pinpoint site for ‘meeting of minds’
||From Apple’s Siri to Honda’s robot Asimo, machines seem to be getting better and better at communicating with humans. But some neuroscientists caution that today’s computers will never truly understand what we’re saying because they do not take into account the context of a conversation the way people do. Specifically, say University of California, Berkeley, [...]
|Researchers alter people’s mood by modifying the emotional tone of their voice
||Researchers have created a digital audio platform that can modify the emotional tone of people’s voices while they are talking, to make them sound happier, sadder or more fearful. New results show that while listening to their altered voices, participants’ emotional state change in accordance with the new emotion. “Very little is known about the [...]
|Could cholesterol-lowering drug Simvastatin be a potential treatment for Parkinson’s?
||A clinical trial using cholesterol-lowering treatment Simvastatin in people living with Parkinson’s is getting underway in centres across the country — with the hope that it could become one of a number of effective treatments available to treat Parkinson’s. Spearheaded by Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, the double-blinded placebo controlled study will [...]
|Government instability prompts support for lighter-skinned candidates
||Government instability prompts both Black and White Americans to show a preference for lighter-skinned over darker-skinned political candidates, researchers at New York University, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University have found. In addition, their findings, which appear in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, show that Whites express a [...]
|Meditation may reduce PTSD symptoms and medication use in active-duty personnel
||Regular practice of Transcendental Meditation enables some active duty service members battling post-traumatic stress disorder to reduce or even eliminate their psychotropic medication and get better control of their often-debilitating symptoms, researchers report in the journal Military Medicine. The study looked at 74 active-duty service members with PTSD or anxiety disorder, often resulting from multiple deployments [...]
|Consumer perception of organic foods affected by food type and where they’re sold
||The organic food industry has grown from fresh produce and grains to snack foods and condiments–from farmers markets to supercenters. Has this new variety in organic products, and the availability of them, affected consumers’ perceptions? A University of Illinois researcher and her team designed an experiment to provide insight on some of the variables that [...]
|People seeking treatment for depression may not be getting all the information they want
||More than 15 million American adults seek treatment for depression each year. However, a first-of-its-kind study by researchers at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice reveals an eye-opening disconnect between the priorities of patients and clinicians when it comes to the information needed to make decisions about treatment options. “The good news is that [...]
|How to Write a Daily Journal in Two Minutes or Less
||Keeping a journal is often recommended to recovering addicts as a powerful tool to help on their road to recovery. Journals not only help patients to reflect on and express their feelings, but also to examine ways to avoid relapse. However, many patients don’t follow … ...
|Study: Children in larger families face greater risk of educational, behavioral problems
||Large families often capture the public’s attention, from “The Brady Bunch” to “19 Kids and Counting.” But new research from economists at the University of Houston offers strong evidence that children in larger families are more likely to fall behind in cognitive achievement and have behavioral and other problems. The findings were published as a [...]
|Relationships are Learning Environments
||Using the past to predict the future can be an effective strategy. But sometimes our past experiences seduce us into thinking we have a handle on the present when in fact we don’t.