Six-year-old boy’s letter offering injured Syrian child a home

Six-year-old boy’s letter offering injured Syrian child a home

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A six-year-old boy has moved President Obama and other world leaders with his offer of a home for a Syrian child who was pictured stunned and bloodied after a bombing.

Alex, from New York, wrote a letter to President Obama after seeing the shell-shocked photograph of Omran Daqneesh.

Omran’s image made global headlines last month when he was pictured in the back of an ambulance after being rescued from the aftermath of a bomb attack in Aleppo.

aleppoOmran. Photo: BBC

Omran’s photo inspired Alex to write to the White House with a plea: “Can you please go get him and bring him to our home?”

The little boy added: “We’ll be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother.”

Alex went on to describe how he would introduce Omran to a Syrian classmate named Omar. He said they would all play together, teaching Omran English and also learning to speak his language.

“Since he won’t bring toys and doesn’t have toys, Catherine (Alex’s younger sister) will share her big blue stripy bunny and I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it,” says the six-year-old.

A video clip of Alex reading the letter was posted on the White House Facebook page and has been viewed almost seven million times.

Mr. Obama also read part of the letter to world leaders at the United Nations Leaders’ Summit On Refugees in New York this week.

“Those are the words of a six-year-old boy – he teaches us a lot,” he concluded.

Video ThumbnailA six-year-old boy has moved President Obama and other world leaders with his offer of a home for a Syrian child who was pictured stunned and bloodied after a bombing. Alex, from New York, wrote a letter to President Obama after seeing the shell-shocked photograph of Omran Daqneesh. Omran's image ma

Daniel Goleman Introduces Emotional Intelligence

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Daniel Goleman, leading expert on emotional intelligence, gives a great introduction to the concept and practice. He starts by outline EI’s four domains, 1) self-awareness, 2) self-management, 3) empathy and reading others, and 4) synthesis and relationship building. After discussing the benefits of EI, Goleman remarks on the current growth of EI practice, gender disparity, and cultural differences.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s). The term first gained popularity in the 1995 book by that title, written by Daniel Goleman.

Daniel Goleman is an author, psychologist, and science journalist. For twelve years, he wrote for The New York Times, reporting on the brain and behavioral sciences. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year-and-a-half, and a best-seller in many countries, in print worldwide in 40 languages. Apart from his books on emotional intelligence, Goleman has written books on topics including self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis, and the Dalai Lama’s vision for the future.

Video ThumbnailDaniel Goleman, leading expert on emotional intelligence, gives a great introduction to the concept and practice. He starts by outline EI’s four domains, 1) self-awareness, 2) self-management, 3) empathy and reading others, and 4) synthesis and relationship building. After discussing the benefits of
The Happiness Tipping Point

The Happiness Tipping Point

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“I think it’s here,” Prof. Martin Seligman said as he made a blue dot only millimeters to the left of the tipping point on the diffusion of innovations graph I had sketched in my Moleskine notebook. Martin Seligman, the “father of positive psychology,” had just lectured on Well-being at Work to over 500 business professionals at the Positive Business Forum in Milan. The two-day conference can be understood as the latest manifestation of a larger global phenomenon, labeled by the media as the “happiness movement” or “happiness industry.” With initiatives springing up in every sector — academic, cultural, spiritual, economic, public and private — what is the big picture? Does it matter? And are we actually approaching a tipping point?

The origins of this growing phenomenon go back to what has popularly been called the “science of happiness” or, in more scholarly terms, Positive Psychology. In his book Flourish, Prof. Seligman explains that while the goal of psychology has traditionally been to relieve human suffering, the goal of positive psychology — a field that is just 15 years old — is different. It is about actually raising the bar for the human condition and enabling individuals and communities to flourish.

Since the field’s humble beginnings in the late ‘90s, it has seen considerable growth. In 1999, the late Philip J. Stone, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, taught one of the first positive psychology courses to just 20 students. Ten years later, the landscape had changed. You can find over 200 university courses across the United States, a master’s degree program at the University of Pennsylvania and almost 1,000 articles related to the field published in peer-reviewed journals. Other fields have taken notice, too. In 2003, London School of Economics Professor Richard Layard founded the Wellbeing Program after giving a series of public lectures titled Happiness: Has Social Science a Clue? The publication of his book, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, soon followed and set the stage for a major upswing in interest in “happiness economics.”

As with several big, potentially game-changing ideas in the past 15 years — think Facebook, Google and WordPress — university students are at the forefront of their implementation. The happiness phenomenon is no exception to this pattern. On a national level, USA Today ran a story on how “Happiness Clubs Spread Positive Vibes on Campus.” The topic also surfaced in the oldest student-run daily newspaper, the Yale Daily News, which devoted its monthly magazine to college happiness movements.

So might this indicate that Prof. Seligman is right? A tipping point is defined as the point at which the buildup of minor incidents cause a larger, more significant change. So, is all this activity at universities going to tip this world towards happiness? Certainly, some of the world’s most influential social movements started on university campuses. And yet, I’ll refrain from carving out this argument any further because it is not just about what is unfolding on some American college campus. The most powerful evidence can be uncovered in “the real world.”

On a policy level, happiness made its debut on the world stage on March 20, 2013, when the first official United Nations International Day of Happiness took place. This was only months after the UN had released its inaugural World Happiness Report and England adopted the “Wellbeing Index.” As the first country in the Western hemisphere, England now complements the Gross Domestic Product figure with the Wellbeing Index “to measure what matters most.”

Politics is a reactive force rooted in a wide array of community organizations, artistic initiatives and popular support. In the case of happiness, the most notable community organizations are the London-based non-governmental organization Action for Happiness, Sustainable Seattle’s Happiness Initiative and the New York-based H(app)athon project. As for the arts, the popular documentary HAPPY comes to mind, as does graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister’s currently displayed Happy Show exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and Jonathan Harris’ remarkable interactive art project, Balloons of Bhutan.

When academia, politics and the arts are on to something, business cannot be far. On the consumer side, a keen observer will note the ever-increasing number of books, magazines, blogs, online courses and conferences on happiness-related topics. But it is not just a consumer demand that the business sector seeks to satisfy. Ever since Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, authored the #1 New York Times bestseller Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Purpose and Passion, and Google became famous for its culture of workplace satisfaction, happiness is perceived as a powerful competitive advantage in the job market as well. This idea received so much traction that the Harvard Business Review picked it up and devoted its entire January-February 2012 issue to the Value of Happiness: How Employee Well-being Drives Profits. This argument has also recently gained momentum in Europe, in part due to the inaugural Positive Business Forum in Milan in March 2013. Hundreds of human resource professionals diligently took notes as Shawn Achor lectured on The Happiness Advantage and Paul Zak explained the neuroscientific link between purpose and employee happiness.

The forum also brings me back to Prof. Seligman. After decades of scientific study, he makes one point very clear: happiness is not about smiley faces, unicorns and light-hearted merriment. Nor is it about self-proclaimed gurus and their self-help anecdotes of supposed enlightenment. When put in these contexts, happiness becomes an unworkable term for science or for any practical goal such as education, therapy, public policy, or even just changing your personal life, according to Prof. Seligman. Rather, happiness — or “well-being” as he prefers to call it — should be understood as a comprehensive, holistic framework consisting of five measurable and buildable components summarized by the acronym P.E.R.M.A. (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment). It is this scientifically grounded understanding that lies at the heart of the global happiness phenomenon this article and many “happiness” experts seek to portray. And it is a much needed understanding too. With burn-out, stress and depression rates skyrocketing and mental health costs in 2010 hitting $2.5 trillion globally, we must find ways to reverse this shocking development.

Coming back to my initial question of whether we are reaching a tipping point, the answers appears to be as follows: Some fascinating and potentially powerful happiness-related frameworks and initiatives exist on multiple levels and across geographic regions. Happiness matters for many reasons, but most of all, because business as usual is leading to a staggering increase in mental disorders, mental health costs and a massive loss of human potential. Arguably, it should therefore become a key agenda item in boardroom meetings and at policy roundtables. Yet, it remains to be seen who and what will hit off the tipping point.

Morning Yoga For A Perfect Day

Morning Yoga For A Perfect Day

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Most of us don’t have the luxury of starting our days with the easy-going, sunrise-watching, coffee-sipping routines depicted in commercials. It’s usually more about hoping the caffeine kicks in quickly as you juggle getting yourself ready with responding to the demands of your household and buzzing phone. That’s why we recommend five minutes of yoga every morning to set your body and mind right before doing anything else.

Although it would be nice to devote more time to morning yoga, the stress of squeezing an hour-long class into a harried schedule might outweigh the benefits. When time is limited, why spend an hour doing something that you can effectively accomplish in five minutes?

This sequence covers a full, functional range of motion that counters our bodies’ dominant-side tendencies and inspires movement we might not otherwise experience over the course of a routine day.

Before even getting out of bed, take five long, deep breaths in and out of your nose to establish a consistent rhythm and awareness of your respiration. Pay special attention to your exhales, ensuring that you release all of the air from your lungs and feel your lower ribs move in and down. By bringing your attention to your breath and body first thing, you avoid the pitfall of immediately focusing on your to-do list before you’re mentally prepared.

Mountain pose with prayer hands

When you first get out of bed, stand with feet hip distance and palms together at the center of your chest. Feel that all of your major joints — shoulders, hips, knees and ankles — are aligned vertically and your weight is centered. Tune into the expansion and contraction of your ribcage as you lengthen and deepen your breath. Check in with your jaw, collarbones and low back, releasing any tension you find in these areas. Hold this pose for at least five breaths as you make a conscious connection with your body and set a positive intention for your day or repeat a mental mantra that is important to you.

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Mountain pose with arms up

Inhale to raise your arms up, aligning your hands above your shoulders, if possible. Take three long, deep breaths. On inhales, focus on keeping your arms straight as you reach upward. On exhales, keep reaching up, but drop your ribcage and shoulder blades down to create more length through your neck muscles while you gaze straight ahead.

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Standing side bend

Standing with your arms overhead, take your right wrist in your left hand. Exhale deeply as you side bend to the left. Keep your chest open and gaze facing forward. Engage your left-side oblique muscles to help stabilize the pose as you take two long, deep breaths. On your third inhalation, rise back to standing. Repeat on the other side, holding the opposite wrist in the opposite hand.

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Low lunge

From standing, exhale as you step your right foot back into a low lunge with your fingertips, or palms, if you can reach, down on either side of your forward left foot. Try to create a long diagonal line from your right heel to the crown of your head, maintaining a neutral spine. If you find that balance is an issue, modify by dropping your back knee. Stabilize yourself by keeping weight evenly distributed through your front foot and engaging your core and back glute (buttock). Take a breath or two in this position.

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Twisting low lunge

Add a twist to your low lunge by rotating from your mid back and opening your chest to reach your inside arm upwards in line with your shoulder. Use breathing biomechanics to help you rotate by focusing on inhalations to open your rotating-side ribs and exhalations to internally rotating your lower, opposite-side ribs. After a couple of breaths in your twist, bring your hand back to the low-lunge starting position and step forward to return to standing. Repeat on the other side from low lunge through twisting low lunge and back to standing.

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Rag doll

After returning to standing from your low lunge, exhale as you bend forward, hinging from your pelvis—not your low back. Bend your knees as much as you need to for comfort. Hold opposite elbows (as shown) or interlace your fingers behind you and reach your arms upward to add chest-opening shoulder extension. Remain inverted for two or three breaths before returning to standing upright.

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Standing backbend

Reaching your arms upward, like you did in mountain with arms up, stabilize through your core as you lift your chest and extend from your mid back, directing your arms and head gently backwards. Initiate the backbend from the middle of your back to avoid hinging or compressing your low back. Hold for two or three breaths. Return to standing with your palms together at the center of your chest.

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Now, sit on the edge of your bed with your eyes closed, taking a few more long, deep breaths as you recall your positive intention or mantra, and then you´re ready for anything!

Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth

Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth

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“Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth” shares the results of three decades of research on our notions of happiness covers the most important advances in our understanding of happiness. The book offers readers unparalleled access to the world’s leading experts on happiness as it provides “real world” examples that will resonate with general readers.

The book explores the research findings that are related to each of the components of psychological wealth:

  • Life satisfaction
  • Spirituality and meaning in life
  • Positive attitudes and emotions
  • Loving social relationships
  • Engaging activities and work
  • Values and life goals to achieve them
  • Physical and mental health
  • Material sufficiency to meet our needs

Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener define psychological wealth as “your true net worth, and includes your attitudes toward life, social support, spiritual development, material resources, health, and the activities in which you engage.” Hence psychological wealth incorporates more than just one’s finances. The components of psychology wealth help us understand why some people may be financially poor but are rich in terms of psychological wealth and happiness while others can be fantastically financially wealthy but have very little psychological wealth and are miserable.

Ed Diener. Ph.D., is Psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization.

Robert Biswas-Diener, Program Director at the Center for Applied Positive Psychology (UK) and part-time lecturer at Portland State University, lives in Milwaukie, Oregon. He is known as the “Indiana Jones of positive psychology” for his research on subjective well-being in remote cultures around the world.

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