The Wall

 

It is 11:58 am, I am 2 minutes away from my lunch break, and then it hits me: it’s 11 February, 2016, 41 days of the new 2016 – a year that I had accomplished literally nothing, I stopped doing sports, I stopped drawing, basically I stopped doing things that I cared about.

At the beginning of this year I suffered a big blow, somebody who I took for granted, who was always there in the far corner of my mind, passed away. I didn’t even send him a Christmas card, although I hand-made it for him. I just forgot to post it, but hey, we always have the next Christmas, right?

I fell in this deep dark place where you feel extremely sad, but at the same time you feel safe. It’s easy to be sad, it’s easy to all the time expect the worst from your life, your surrounding and from other people. You do not have to invest any emotions or time: you just float slowly but safely somewhere on the edge of reality. Nothing will ever blow you out of balance.

Except something did. This particular date Feb, 11 11:58 am. And it beats me why, because this is not a date I would choose for my spiritual healing or anything. I think I just recently worked too much and allowed my thoughts to penetrate my wall of indifference that I have meticulously built up to fend off any emotions other than bland numbing sadness I got used to.

So ok. It is now 12:13 am, and I have opened my blog I haven’t touched in years, and am writing paragraph after paragraph. One might say I’m on fire. I kind of am, but I am still afraid of it, so I just write really quickly, not allowing myself to lean on my chair and have a real thought hitting my head. But I guess this is good enough for now. That’s this proverbial first step. Good for me! Jo beating Wall 1-0 in a fair fight! The audience in all stands go nuts!!

Exciting? Maybe for an hour, and then back to reality. How do I make sure there is a second and a third step? How do I keep going when the wall is up and running again?

I now realise that the real question is if I want the wall gone. And truth to be told, I don’t. I’m scared of the reality, I’d rather observe it than take part in it. I got used to it. The wall is one big constant in my life – it almost makes me feel invincible, it is a pillar that I have decided to hold on to and never let go. And I have to be honest with myself, I am not inclined to let it go for now.

This not very observant conclusion leads me to another one: an ultimate cliché. If I am so attached to the predictable, to the constant, why not use this against myself. Maybe I should hack myself: why not creating another constant: a set of well-defined routines that will allow me to process the reality with the same robot-like attitude. Mechanical, devoid of feelings.

I am not strong enough to destroy the wall. I need it.

But I can allow a bit of nature on it.

Let it grow with moss.

For now…

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“Yes, we can!” How to Allow Motivation to Change us for Better

stockvault-smiling-daisy-air-balloon133312Is it possible to change the world, and to make a visible difference? Or is it just a fleeting dream of visionaries and a quality of a superhero?

The answer is both yes and no, depending on the approach you take. If you consider the world and its overwhelming size, you can get frustrated. Naturally, you are not able to change something that is magnificently huge.  But what if you consider yourself as a part of a whole – a whole that can be broken down into little pieces? A friend of mine once told me that a way to manage an unmanageable task is to divide it into many manageable pieces, which put together are powerful enough to make a difference.

So how can you as an individual change the world? Setting an example or initiating something meaningful can be a good start. Although, big endeavor can be overwhelming at first, you should remember that nothing is as hard as it seems. Try shifting your perception: start small, aim big. Focus on one step at the time, and allow a small change to grow bigger with the natural course of time.

“Be the change…”

It is impossible to change the world immediately and single-handedly, but we can be a part of it starting with our own contribution. Ghandi says that it is you that should be the change you want to see in the world.

In Poland, where I come from, many people are engaged in a campaign of collecting plastic bottle tops. Instead of throwing them away, they put them into special containers which when full are transported to sell-out points, and sold as plastic waste. The money is used to purchase supplies for people in need.

When I was working in Spain in a primary school I felt uncomfortable having to throw the whole bottle away, so I checked if there is anything similar done there. It occurred that the nearby university is also engaged in the same campaign, but due to poor advertisement not many people knew about it. I decided to spread the idea in my school, so I talked to one of the teachers, who started the bottle campaign in her class. Soon, the whole school was engaged in the project, and it took one more month to engage other primary schools.

Cast the first stone

Mother Teresa once said that she alone cannot change the world, but she can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. You do not have to start with something big, let it become big with time and participation of others.

In the time of economic downturn it is small business that is fundamental for recovery and further development of the world’s market. Entrepreneurs strengthen local economies: they respond immediately and accurately to demand, they even invent jobs that have not previously existed.

According to the research done by economists from the University of California small businesses create more job than larger ones. They also saturate the local market with customer-tailored services and products on which there is huge demand. Making a difference on the local level, small business influences the world’s economy being the very first stone that contributes to the creation of many ripples.

Step by step, little by little …

As adapting to specific conditions enables small business to be vital for the whole economy, as should we, accordingly, adapt ourselves to the world around us. Start with adding little routines that will not change your whole life fundamentally, but with time will contribute to shape your better self. A good e-book on your iPod on your way to work will serve you better than listening to maybe soothing, but in the long run meaningless music.

Stressed about not meeting deadlines? Next time prepare a timetable with all the small steps you need to accomplish in order to perform a big task. Such small changes are important, because they shift our perception of the world: we start to be hungry for more, seeking deeper fulfillment, and abandoning our comfort zones.

However, as good and motivating as it all sounds, we also have to remember that change cannot be measured, and something that is a milestone for you, can be a pebble for somebody else. Nevertheless, remember that positive influence can have an impact on more people that you can imagine. You never know the outcome unless you tried. So, I say: cast the stone, and wait for the ripples!

Anatomy of Charity

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‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’

                               /Mahatma Ghandi/

Every January one of the biggest charity organisations in Poland unites thousands of volunteers to help gather money to buy hospital equipment. This charity event lasts only one day but it joins together an extremely big amount of people driven by one aim: to help people in need. Organizers themselves admit that it is a curious social phenomenon: there has never been a case of stealing money by any of the volunteers; moreover, year after year there are more and more people willing to sacrifice their time for a greater cause.

What makes us this way? Why are we so driven to make somebody else’s life better? Are we purely altruistic or is there any hidden profit lurking behind every good deed?

Well, the answer as usual is ambiguous. There are many profits one can gain from helping others, but those beneficial properties of charity are cloistered in our brain, influencing us without our immediate knowledge.

Many of us asked about reasons for helping people answer that it just feels right or that it feels good. I would like to lobotomise this feeling and get to psychological core of it.

There is no denying that charity brings emotional benefits to people involved in it. People feel useful and that satisfies their feeling of self-fulfillment. Researchers from the University of Australia took further the analysis of this particular feeling and its impact upon our self-development. They all agree that self-fulfillment significantly increases the ability to seek creative solutions to problems, making a person more self-assured and more competent in stress management.

There have been many studies concerning impact of charity and volunteering on people. It has been discovered that apart from such obvious profits like reinforced pro-social behavior, it also allows people to take different perspective to their own lives. Experiencing problems of others helps us appreciate our own life with all its ups and downs. Therapeutic properties of helping yourself by helping others were used in group therapy sessions (starting from 1960s) by social psychologist Frank Riessman who activated addicts, alcoholics and law abusers to help people in need or another member of a group to overcome obstacles that life brought them. This approach called ‘helper theory’ was successfully implemented by many support groups, and it is still used as one of the most successful therapy tools.

As much as I liked all those theories, it still did not fully answer why people experience so many benefits from helping others. I had to dig deeper into the topic, so I decided that it was time to reach for medical explanation.

After hours of googling I stumbled upon a book written by a medical doctor Stephen G. Post entitled Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by Simple Act of Giving. Part of the book treated about underlying neurological causes for charitable acts.

According to Doctor Post, good deeds like helping others, giving money for a good cause or volunteering activate mesolimbic pathways in our brains.  This particular part of brain is responsible for feeling joy and pleasure. Upon having an appropriate stimulus like eating, sex or precisely an act of charity, it releases dopamine which is more widely known as a happy hormone. That is the reason why some people who have problems with balancing emotions can even get addicted to giving, as Doctor Post explains.

Moreover, thanks to charity not only are we more content, but also we can enjoy longer and healthier life. A body of a charitable person produces large amount of oxytocine which is considered a compassion hormone and which lowers our susceptibility to long-term stress exposure. Less amount of stress makes miracles to our immune system, which inevitable leads to healthier life with higher longevity.

Both scientists and psychologists unanimously agree that charity as much as it helps other people also has an incredibly positive impact on our own lives. It is emotionally rewarding, it connects us with others and allows us to make use of any talent that we are willing to offer.

Consequently, this whole anatomical approach to charity can be summarized as follows:  be good to yourself by being good to those in need.