Positive Environments for Thriving

October 14th, 2013

Everyone “oohs” and “aahs” over a new baby, marvels at the tiny miracle and wants to cuddle and protect the child. I have had reason to revisit this with the arrival of my precious and brand new granddaughter. She was fresh from a very secure environment and is now two weeks old.

I was thinking that a child’s life is usually a combination of being cared for and being allowed to explore and push boundaries. We who have parented know we can’t protect our children from everything even though we would like to. And learning has to involve letting new things into our sphere. Then as adults we often let any notion of caring and safety for ourselves go out the window. I have coached leaders who are barraged by demands all day, careen from meeting to meeting, have a tough late drive home and then need to be there for families and community commitments. Adults are often in hostile environments. I find myself asking questions like, “how do you take care of yourself?” “how do you refresh?” “what would your day be like if you took some specific time to breathe?”

Cellular biology is telling us something pretty amazing. Change in a cell occurs because of its intelligent membrane that reacts to its environment and differentially chooses what to let in. While the nucleus with its DNA chain might predispose the cell to certain structures and behaviors, new behavior is the province of the cellular membrane. With humans being composed of many many cells, this is a very new insight into the nature-nurture debate. That debate seemed to some people to have been settled with the discovery of DNA and the further human genome project that identified its components. From the cellular scientists it seems we are more than the biology we were born with. Every part of our body is responding and changing every day.

So why do we want to spend so much time in hostile environments? How could we change if we had some pleasing environments for interaction? Would we not be healthier and happier if we had some of that protecting that we showered on the new baby?

These ideas are also known to positive psychology and to brain science. My new learning is yet more impetus to take care of myself. Here’s my starting list for modifying one’s environment:
+ Create a spot of beauty at home and at work so you can absorb it for some little time every day. It might be as small as a picture. It might be a view out a window. It might be a corner of a room.
+ Be careful of angry and anxious inputs from controllable sources- limit exposure to screaming people on television and radio.
+ Get outdoors- notice the sky, the blades of grass coming up through cracks in the sidewalk, the way the air smells after a rain, the different shades of green on the nearby trees.
+ Learn to breathe deeply and remind yourself to go there when you become tense or circumstances are troubling (and that includes when driving a car in unpleasant traffic).
+ Listen to music.
+ Spend time with a child.
+ Limit time with acquaintances who are negative and angry.
+ Spend time with people who cause you to smile.
+ Hug someone.

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