Existential Roundup

Welcome to the Existential Roundup, where we bring you links to some articles currently trending that may be of interest to those in the existential-humanistic psychology community.

Since some of you may be like me and may still be suffering the impact of changing the clocks to Daylight Savings Time—I really missed that extra hour of sleep—emotions may be in hyperdrive this week, so that’s what we will be highlighting. We first welcome Time Magazine to the world of 21st century existential-humanistic psychology in recognizing that “Emotions May Not Be So Universal After All.” But at least Time Magazine has come to recognize—and shown us some new studies—that diverse cultures express emotions differently. Of course, the magazine also takes a step backward with “Human Emotions Are Not as Complex As We Think,” but we all know progress is never linear.

The Atlantic, usually much more on the cusp of the new and interesting—as opposed to Time Magazine—is reporting on a new study looking at the relationship between food and mood. While the idea is not new, the results show a much more complex connection than the idea of “emotional eating” might suggest. The complicating factor seems to be time—if a person has a sense that a good mood may last, or for that matter, if a bad mood may last, that will influence his or her choice of healthy versus unhealthy food. Long-term health and instant gratification as added variables made huge differences in the participants’ choices.

And just in case you need an overall guide to your emotional health, and you lost the manual that came with you at birth, Daniel Gilbert tells The Atlantic that psychology is an owner’s manual for our own minds! This is excellent news because Gilbert says this is the road to becoming better, and thus happier. He even says that happiness is not the fluffy and trivial thing we might think it is, but the thing that all human beings seek, “even those who hang themselves.” Hmmmm…

Speaking of emotions, as existential psychologists, we often spend at least as much time dealing with so-called darker sides of life as we do with happiness and betterment. But USA Today reports that these dark places, such as loneliness, can be bad for your health. In seniors, loneliness can lead to increased blood pressure as well as disruptions in sleep. According to the study, loneliness was isolated as a factor beyond the other poor health factors normally present in an aging population. One way to combat this scourge is found on the pages of PsychCentral, which reports on “8 Ways to Help Stop Ruminating” should you or your client feel that the time has come for movement from those dark places.

Another option comes to us from The Wall Street Journal, which advises us to seek out new experiences to combat grief. Called “behavioral activation,” going out proactively in search of “fun” helps to “swing the pendulum” back to happy.

Now that the pendulum is back to happy, the only place to go from here is skiing in Santa Fe with the Dalai Lama, where a waitress asked him the meaning of life, recounted in Slate. The Dalai Lama, with all his existential Buddhist wisdom, as well as his trademark sense of humor, gave the waitress this answer:

“The meaning of life is happiness.” He raised his finger, leaning forward, focusing on her as if she were the only person in the world. “Hard question is not, ‘What is meaning of life?’ That is easy question to answer! No, hard question is what make happiness. Money? Big house? Accomplishment? Friends? Or …” He paused. “Compassion and good heart? This is question all human beings must try to answer: What make true happiness?” He gave this last question a peculiar emphasis and then fell silent, gazing at her with a smile.

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