My grandmother lived till she was 93. This was kind of surprising considering she smoked almost her entire life. Her diet was reasonably healthy, but she never denied herself treats, or nightcaps to help her sleep. She didn’t ingest green smoothies, or superfoods on a daily basis. So what was it that was keeping her alive?
As I grew older I began to realise; it was her positive attitude and love of live. She was always happy and full of joy. She lost her beloved husband in her early fifties, but she didn’t collapse into grief and negativity. She got drunk and stayed up till 2am with a fellow teacher from the school she worked at. Then she learnt to drive to give herself more freedom. She retired and travelled, exploring art and culture in Europe. She was passionate about politics and making the world a better place. She continued her education by taking courses in Psychology and literature. She embraced life, even as she got older and her physical world was smaller, her mind was very much alive.
It can seem as if some people are born happy, and breeze through life’s twists and turns with a positive attitude. While others suffer from low mood and negative thought even when their life is relatively smooth. Genes do play a part when it comes to happiness, as do childhood experiences. It’s been found that children who experience ‘adverse childhood experiences’ are more likely to have health problems when they are older. (see research here.)
However we don’t have to be at the mercy of our genes, or our childhood experiences. There’s still a lot we can do to reduce stress levels, improve our happiness and our health.
Listening time is a powerful tool to help us to do so. If you read my blog regularly you’ll know all about this life-changing tool. If not, here’s a brief summary of how it works. Two people come together to talk and listen about how their lives are going. As each person talks, they may naturally be led to laugh, and cry as they release stress and tension. As I’ve written about in my book Tears Heal crying is a healing process, and there are stress hormones contained in tears. When we cry we are literally releasing stress from our bodies. Laughter too has health benefits including boosting our immune system and releasing feel-good endorphins.
So could being listened to improve our health? Research show that having a healthy social life benefits our health, and that social isolation can cause premature death. (see links here). The research suggests that it’s really the quality of the relationship that leads to the benefits. When we share listening time we are really experiencing a high quality of relationship with each other. We share our greatest joys and deepest sorrows with someone who is fully focused on listening to us. Listening time is designed to help us release our feelings so the giggle and tear factor is a lot higher than your average, everyday conversation.
I remember going to a parenting retreat with a cold that I just couldn’t seem to shift. After 2 days of being listened to my symptoms had completely disappeared. I’ve also noticed that when my daughter’s feeling well, getting the giggles flowing, or listening to her upsets really improves her physical state. Whenever I’m feeling unwell, I always make sure to message my listening partner and set up some listening time. It always helps me feel better both emotionally and physically.
To find out more about listening time check out my book Tears Heal.