During August, I would like to encourage you to focus on honesty. In particular, being honest with yourself about the state of your life. And more importantly about the people you surround yourself with. Do those you spend time with, whether that be your partner, friends or family, lift you up or pull you down?
Moran Cerf, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, Illinois spent years studying human decision making and during this process discovered that ultimate happiness does not come from experiences or wealth. It comes from your community and who you spend your time with. Two factors lead Cerf to believe that company is the essential element to feeling fulfilled. The first is that decision-making is tiring. Much research has found that humans have a limited amount of mental energy to devote to making choices, and that we typically use that energy on small, trivial choices.
The second is that we think we control our happiness through making the right choices. Cerf claims that we do not control our choices. He believes that personal biases and emotions constantly influence our judgments and decision-making. People can reconstruct bad memories as good or justify an irrational choice as rational. Our choices are also often influenced by social cues. Cerf believes, however, that this influence can be positive.
His research found that when people are together, their brain waves begin to produce similar energy wave patterns. This alignment is determined by their behaviour and characteristics of the surroundings such as the smell of the room or noise level. A study of moviegoers, for example, found that the most engaging trailers produced similar patterns in people’s brains.
Cerf reasons that the people you spend time with hugely influence your perception of reality. It is apparent in the effects that behaviours can have on people. Sad people bring the group’s mood down, fast talkers increase the pace of the conversation and comedians lighten the atmosphere. Cerf’s therefore concludes that the most important decision you can make, is who you spend time with. This choice has the potential to maximize your happiness and minimize your stress.
So, during August, become aware of your interactions with those around you. Do they produce positive emotions? Do you feel happy and light after being with your friends? If you find that they leave you feeling down or negative, it may be time to rethink the amount of effort you’re putting into relationships that offer you little benefit.
Also take time to consider why people react in a certain way towards you. If they are rude or condescending, reflect on what you may have done to prompt them to act this way towards you. A relationship is two-sided, so this August be honest with yourself about the benefits or consequences of your behaviour and those you spend time with.
If you would like to be part of a positive, close community of supportive women then come and join us at our next Empowerment Meet Up on Friday 7thSeptember.