Uncategorized, Well-Being

No “Us” and “Them”

I’m approaching the age of 50, and over the nearly half-century that I’ve been living on this beautiful spinning orb I’ve been watching it shrink and shrink. Not literally, of course. But in wild and fascinating ways. Since the 1970s (when I was born) the economy has become more global and trade has connected the world in circuitous and complex ways. And with the internet and social media, it seems like the world has gotten really small compared to how vast it seemed just 40 years ago, in the 1980s, when I first woke up to the world.

Due to all of these changes, the world has become increasingly interconnected. Now, it seems like nearly all of Earth’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants are just a few clicks away. Increasingly, we are learning that all people the world over share more commonalities than differences. People everywhere want many of the same things: peace, security, food, shelter, water, good health, and opportunity. We all want to love and be loved. These things are universal.

For this reason, when we speak of “us” and “them” we are really referring to us and us. We all are human beings with similar wants and desires. And, as we continue to learn, we are all interconnected. The actions we take towards others seem to come back to us with increasing speed.

We need to cast off “us vs. them” thinking, because increasingly it is actually “us vs. us.” We all need to think of ways of being that benefit all people, because we all are affected by people’s actions. Increasingly, we are seeing mass migrations of people and this has to do largely with the fact that – thanks to social media – people can easily see and be constantly reminded that they could have it better somewhere else.

Individuals want to be in the places where they can have the basic things we all desire. These are the places where they want to raise their families. These are the places where they want to work. This makes perfect sense and is easy to empathize with. After all, we all are pretty similar. Chances are that if I want something for myself, others want that type of thing for themselves too. This makes sense.

Due to the fact that we are all so similar, due to the fact that we want similar things, due to the fact that the world continues to shrink, we all need to start to think of this planet being made up of “us” and “us.” People in far away places aren’t all that different from you. People who move to where you live from other places aren’t all that different from you.

With this mentality, we all can learn to see each other as similar and get along with one another. Let’s constantly look for the ways that we are all more alike than different. Let’s look for commonalities in culture and in ways of being. Let’s strive to love one another and be the kind of person for others that we would like others to be for us. Let’s make constant effort to be kind, respectful, empathetic, and compassionate… no matter how different someone might seem at first glance.

Things are getting better. The world is improving. Over the course of this century, the world is going to become less violent, less turbulent, more peaceful, and more prosperous. We will have a brighter future with us and us… all of us.

kindness, RECK, Values, Well-Being

If You Care And Are Kind Then You Make A Positive Difference!

Some of you might look at the title of this post and think, “Well, of course.” But there is a chance that this simple fact might not be obvious to you as it was once not obvious to me. Going back about 16 years, I got the idea to start hosting volunteer events each month as a way to help people make a positive difference in the world. My theory was that, like me, there were probably lots of people who wanted to do good in the world, but simply didn’t know where to start.

Over the years, I’ve come to see that how people simply move through the world makes a big difference in the lives of those with whom they interact. I think when I was younger I was more of the mind that only big acts made any real difference in the world. However, I have come to see that everything we do every day – the kind of person we choose to be and how we choose to treat others – makes a difference.

So, I have come to the conclusion that if you care and are kind then you make a positive difference in the world. If you care about others as you go about your daily routine, taking the time to really see people and really hear people, then I am absolutely certain that you are making a difference. A little kindness goes a long way, and spreading kindness as you go about your day has a really profound and positive effect on all of the people with whom you interact.

When we watch the news, I think we are often left with the feeling that the world is a really tough place and there are some pretty terrible things that happen. Yet, when we get out into the world we often see that it is a beautiful place and that kind, caring, compassionate, and loving things often happen. This is the culture that I wish to build upon and expand. And chances are that if you are reading this then you probably feel the same way.

We can contribute to and help build a culture of kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion by simply living those values in our daily lives. Sure, the big good things matter too. It’s good to volunteer at the local food bank and donate to worthy causes. Still, you can have a major impact on this world based simply upon how you interact with the people in your life. Be kind to the cashier, help your elder neighbor carry in the groceries, and love your family with all you’ve got. They’re worth it. You’re worth it. And the world is worth it.

Much love to you,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Acceptance, caring, compassion, connection, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect, Tolerance, Uncategorized, Well-Being

“The Delightful Dozen” Values for Wellbeing

The formula of Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness (RECK) came from a place of researching the essential things all people need in order to be well. The idea was that we should treat all people with RECK for the sake of their wellbeing and the prevention of harm. First I created a Facebook page called RECK Pact, which called people to pledge themselves to treat all people with RECK, all the time. This evolved into a rebranding of the page to RECK for All – putting the call right into the name.

Recently, I was reflecting upon how important tolerance, acceptance, and love (these three values come up in comments frequently) are, which led me to write this post. Around that same time, this reflection led me to rebrand our Facebook page once again to “It Matters How We Treat One Another.” This statement is an assertion I have made several times since starting our Facebook page and it always gets a highly positive response. This name change has received a positive response from the nice folks who follow the page.

Since making that change to the page I’ve been reflecting upon the all the things that help create positive interpersonal relations – all the things that foster good emotional health in individuals. So far, I’m up to 12.

Here are the Essential 12 AKA the “The Delightful Dozen”:

  1. Kindness – This is to have a basic level of tenderness for all people. It is healthy to be kind to people. It benefits and giver and the receiver.
  2. Respect – From granting basic human dignity to holding others in esteem. Often, I describe this as recognizing the fact that we all have struggled and we all have overcome hardships in our lives. It’s important to have at least a basic level of respect for people.
  3. Empathy – This is to feel with others. Our world would be radically changed for the better if we all made a greater effort to empathize with one another. Empathy builds understanding and even cooperation.
  4. Compassion – To feel another’s pain and desire to relieve that pain. Compassion is humanity’s greatest hope for a brighter future. May we all be well.
  5. Acceptance – To love people as their are. An acceptance of difference is akin to tolerance, so I have not chosen to list tolerance separately. Acceptance is tolerance taken to the next level of positivity.
  6. Love – This is to hold people close to your heart. Love creates a kinder and gentler world.
  7. Grace – This is basically to give people the benefit of the doubt. It is also the idea of believing that the individuals in our lives are basically good and well intentioned. This also includes forgiveness and letting go of hurt and resentments. Let others “off the hook.”
  8. Appreciation – From appreciating each person’s unique gifts to gratitude for the positive actions that people take, including the kind things they do for us.
  9. Integrity – People need to be able to feel like they can trust us to be truthful and dependable. It matters what we do even when no one is looking.
  10. Equity – Treat everyone as equal to you, neither above you nor below you. This is healthy for you and for them.
  11. Cooperation – Working together for the betterment of all. We don’t have to agree on everything in order to be able to cooperate and work together.
  12. Uplift – Joy, happiness, hope and humor. We all need hope and a little levity from time to time. Of course, it’s never appropriate to mock others. Everyone should be in on the joke. Humor can either lift people up or tear them down, so we must be careful with our humor.

That’s RECK turned to 11. Instead of looking at the most basic elements that everyone needs in order to be well, this is looking at all of the things people can do to help make others well and to improve our relationships.

I have to say that this is and has been a really exciting journey. It’s fun to think about all the things we can do to be well and help others be well. There’s so much suffering and struggle in the world, there is really no reason to compound it for one another. Let’s all help one another to be well!

Much love to you,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Obliterate Hate, RECK, Well-Being

For Greater Inner Peace, Don’t Enimate!

Have you ever had such a difficult time with a person that you have come to think of them as your enemy? And then, almost unconsciously, you begin to imagine them doing all sorts of terrible things behind your back to sabotage you or actively do you harm. You start to imagine future scenes in which this person is being openly hostile towards you or picking a fight with you.

This can happen. We cast someone in the role of the enemy and then animate them in our minds doing all sorts of horrible things that might even cause us to begin the resent or dislike them more… or even actively hate them. I have coined a term to help describe this process of enemy animation: I call it “enimate” or “enimation.” We animate people in our imaginations as our enemies behaving like enemies.

I’ve done this before and I suspect we all have. We enimate people doing all types of terrible things that validate our negative feelings towards them. But what I’ve learned over the years is that this type of obsessive thinking is much more harmful towards me than it is towards the other person.

First of all, it’s not true! The person hasn’t actually done the things we are imagining them doing. And they probably never will. We are making these individuals into worse humans in our minds by eminating them into these terrible stereotypes which they are not. They are full human beings just like us with a full range of emotions who also want to be well liked and even loved and admired (possibly even by us).

Secondly, enimation is ultimately harmful to ourselves. It gets our blood pressure up and turns us into angry and resentful people. The next time we see the person we’ve been spending our time enimating they might even wonder what the heck they have done to make us so angry towards them! It’s unhealthy for us both physically and for our relationships.

Instead of enimating people who get us upset with them, we should actively work to think of them with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). This will help us to calm down and it will help us find inroads to connecting with them. If you spend your time thinking of people with RECK instead of enimating them you will discover that the next time you see them you will suddenly have lots of positive things to say to them. You might even find yourself liking them and having better interactions with them.

So, don’t simply treat everyone you interact with every day with RECK, but also think of them with RECK. Imagine yourself being respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind towards them. You might be surprised how quickly this turns your relationships around and makes you feel more positive and happier.

With love.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Well-Being

6 Tips for Maintaining Emotional Health During Social Distancing

These are challenging times. People the world over are under quarantinedistancing ourselves physically so we can help to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. This means spending most – if not all – of our time in our homes. While we are grateful not to be infected with the virus, we might not be so grateful for this type of existence.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl famously said, “everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Keeping a positive attitude in difficult situations can take a lot of self-management. And there are techniques you can use and habits you can form that will help. I’ve done the research and here are six proven strategies that will help you through this difficult time:

1. Develop a Gratitude Practice: First, I highly recommend developing a daily gratitude practice. It might seem strange that I’m suggesting gratitude during a time when there seems to be less to be grateful for than normal, but that’s exactly why it is so important. Having a daily gratitude practice will serve you best on days when there is the very least to be grateful for. Gratitude helps us cull out the one bright spot in a day filled with darkness. Something you could try is keeping a gratitude journal by the side of your bed. Before you go to bed, challenge yourself to write down five things you were grateful for that day. Then, the next morning wake up and read them to start your day on an up note.

2. Keep a Daily Routine: The next thing I suggest – and I think this is especially helpful for those of us with kids at home – (but if you don’t have kids that doesn’t mean you should stop reading) is to create and keep a daily routine. Even if you are at home with nothing to do, it’s helpful to have a routine. Wake up every day at the same time. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Exercise. If this time of staying at home stretches on for a while you will probably find that the days when you feel like adhering to your routine the least are the days when you need it the most. Routine gives your days structure and helps to keep you on track.

3. Create and Maintain a Sense of Purpose: It’s scientifically proven that having a sense of purpose helps people maintain good mental health. One thing I’ve seen suggested to help give us all a sense of purpose during this time is to make a list of all the people you care about and every day choose one person on your list to check on. You can call, text, or Skype, but the important thing is to make yourself useful. Be the shoulder someone else can cry on. Be the listening ear. Be the sounding board. I always say if you are having trouble finding a sense of purpose in life then go be of service to someone else. Even if all you are doing is listening, you are helping.

4. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness can vastly improve your attitude and sense of well-being. It can be spiritual in nature, or it can simply be pragmatic. One mindfulness practice that is simple but effective is to practice mindful eating. You might try it with one meal a day. Simply choose to put your full attention on your meal. Slow down. Focus on the smells, the flavors, the textures. Focus on the act of chewing and swallowing. When you practice mindfulness intentionally some of the time you will find that you are more in tune with your body, mind, and environment all of the time. You’ll find that you take more pleasure in the little pleasures, and maybe that the big pains don’t seem so big.

5. Develop a Spiritual Practice: Some people find that creating and maintaining a practice that is spiritual to them helps to maintain good mental health. Meditation to be a highly accessible and effective spiritual practice. Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing upon your breathing. But if you’re having trouble getting started, you might try searching the app store with the term “meditation” (“Calm” is one app that gets high marks) or tracking down some guided meditation tracks on your favorite music app.

6. Practice RECK: Finally, if you are at home with other people, I highly recommend using this increased time together to practice your RECK. If you’re familiar with this site, then you might remember that RECK stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. The point of RECK is that it’s easy to remember, because it can take a surprisingly high amount of discipline to practice. If you doubt this, then take a moment to reflect upon the last time that you were either disrespectful, unempathetic, uncompassionate, or simply unkind to one or more of your housemates. You might not need to reflect back very far. The idea of RECK is to help us love one another properly.

Start from a place of respect. Do your best to be respectful of other people’s feelings. If you must fight, then fight fair – don’t say anything that you’ll wish you could take back later. Maybe hold back that real zinger you know you could use but shouldn’t.

Then, make an effort to be empathetic with the people you’re spending your time with. Are you making an effort to see things from their perspective? Keep in mind that this means going beyond mere sympathy which means to feel for others to making the effort to actually feel with them. That’s empathy – to feel what they are feeling; to feel with.

Next, keep your compassion switch in the “on” position. Don’t discount other people’s suffering… rather make an effort to try to relieve it. I find this especially effective with children – even if you are merely helping them learn to help themselves. Their suffering is real to them, and your compassion is real to them too.

Last, but certainly not least, in all things and at all times… be kind. It’s simple to comprehend, but hard do. It means not taking our feelings out on others. Sometimes, we might get irritated, but taking our irritation out on others is unkind – no matter now innocent or justified it might seem at the time. Being kind helps to maintain a positive environment for everyone.

There they are! Six proven strategies to help you stay positive and maintain good emotional health during these challenging times. Pick one or try all six and see how they go. Report back in the comments!

All the best,
Matthew Vasko
Founder, Century of Compassion