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When we feel cared for, our cortisol levels drop, we feel safe, and we handle stress better. Dacher leads a meditation to help us focus on the people who make us feel supported.
How to Do This Practice:
Today’s Happiness Break host:
Find a comfortable position to start the practice. Focus on taking deep breaths.
Shift your attention to your body, relaxing your jaw, shoulders and face.
Begin to think about a friend who has supported you, or a friend who you feel grateful for.
Reflect on how they have supported you and how that makes you feel. Notice how those feelings manifest within your body.
Try shifting your attention to family members and/or mentors who have supported you in various ways.
Complete the practice by acknowledging the ways these individuals have contributed to your life.
Dacher Keltner is the host of the award-winning podcast, The Science of Happiness and is a co-instructor of the GGSC’s popular online course of the same name. He’s also the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the UC, Berkeley.
Check out Dacher’s most recent book, Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life: https://tinyurl.com/4j4hcvyt
More resources from The Greater Good Science Center:
Just One Thing: Feel the Support: https://tinyurl.com/yrfnmwfv
Four Ways Social Support Makes You More Resilient: https://tinyurl.com/2p9zkjpj
Why Your Friends Are More Important Than You Think: https://tinyurl.com/mw2mr5p7
How Friends Help You Regulate Your Emotions: https://tinyurl.com/bdetmjt3
We love hearing from you! How do you feel supported by the people in your life? Email us at email@example.com or use the hashtag #happinesspod.
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We’re living through a mental health crisis. Between the stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, burnout — we all could use a break to feel better. That’s where Happiness Break comes in. In each biweekly podcast episode, instructors guide you through research-backed practices and meditations that you can do in real-time. These relaxing and uplifting practices have been shown in a lab to help you cultivate calm, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and more — what the latest science says will directly support your well-being. All in less than ten minutes. A little break in your day.
Dacher Keltner: Hi, this is Dacher Keltner. Welcome to Happiness Break, a series from the Science of Happiness where we take a few minutes in the day to do a practice that’s been supported by science to find greater meaning and happiness and purpose in our lives.
Today we’re gonna do a practice that you might call Circle of Care or Support, in honor of the philosopher Peter Singer from Princeton University, who wrote about expanding the circle of care in 1981. We know from the scientific literature that a sense of support really brings good things to us in terms of wellbeing.
Just feeling supported lowers levels of cortisol, it activates regions of the brain that bring us a sense of safety and then it helps us handle stress and feel greater purpose.
And expanding the circle of care or support makes us aware of all the people who are supporting us in myriad ways, from friends to family members, to mentors, strangers on the streets, acquaintances, and they do it in different ways and give us different things. And this practice is bringing that into our awareness in this moment, given all the scientific benefits of being supported.
What I’d like you to do is to find a place where you feel safe and comfortable. And settle into a posture of ease. You may be sitting or standing, but with a nice posture, rest your hands in a comfortable place. Let’s take a nice deep breath in.
And breathing out.
Another nice deep breath in.
And breathing out.
Building on that, let’s just shift our awareness around the body.
Breathing in, relax your shoulders and your face, your jaw, your brow.
And breathing out.
Just notice continuing this awareness of the body, if you can feel your pulse in your hands, getting ready for the circle of care.
On this next breath in, I’d like you to think of a friend who has supported you in your life in a way that prompted feelings of gratitude. A friend who has given you things that matter to you.
Calling this person to your mind, just think about how this person has supported you with words or a hug or material support in your work or your life.
Now, as we really consider this person, this friend’s support of you in your life, notice what feelings in your body this gives rise to as sensations, maybe a warming in the heart or an ease in your muscles. A smile.
Notice where your mind goes as you reflect on this friend who has supported you strengthening your circle of care. Do you think about other things this person’s done, their face.
And now just reflect on this friend’s place in your life, and name as if you’re writing it down on a piece of paper, what they’ve given to you. Is it freedom or strength or kindness or courage?
Now think about a family member or a member of your chosen family who has supported you in your life in a way that brings gratitude to you right now. Think about a family member.
And although families are complicated, we can find support there. And think about how this family member has supported you with words, maybe a knowing or kind look in their eyes, a call on the phone or a text. How has this family member supported you?
And as you consider this family member’s support of you, just notice what feelings this gives rise to in your body. Maybe a little tearing in your eyes, even. A little warmth, the relaxation, sense of being held or embraced. Think of that moment of support from your family member.
Now step back and reflect on what this family member does in your life, what is their role in your life? What have they given you, and just name that. Could be love, or strength, or defiance, or irreverence, humor, what have they given to you?
Finally, as we expand our circle of care and support, think about a mentor in your life. Someone who’s not part of your family or friendship circle who has taught you things, given you things, guided you in ways. Teacher, coach, pastor, minister, rabbi, somebody out there who has mentored you.
Now think about how this mentor has supported you in your life in ways that make you feel appreciative and grateful right now.
Consider how this mentor has lifted up your life and supported you. Maybe encouraging words or an opportunity or piece of wisdom.
And notice when we think about this mentor’s support – what feelings, sensations, thoughts, images, arise in your mind?
And now reflect on, what has this mentor given to you? What is their role in your life? Where have they guided you to and name it.
Maybe a specialty in work or a spiritual path? Or an idea about the world? What have they given to you?
Thank you for joining me on this Happiness Break. I’m Dacher Keltner. If you’d like to learn more about the research behind why feeling supported is invaluable for our health, check out our show notes wherever you’re listening right now.