News bites

In our recent survey studies I added a few bits of news from the world of research. We had so many requests for them, that we wanted to post them for easier access. Here are three juicy news bites:

Flourishing News #1

A well-accepted truism is that people are resistant to change, especially when it comes to changing themselves. From stop-smoking campaigns to appeals for charitable donations, many groups and organizations struggle to get people to make positive changes. Recent research may offer some help. Researchers found that self-affirmation, reflecting on one’s defining personal values, increases a person’s willingness to accept and follow information that urges them to make a difficult life change. The study focused on motivating people to change their eating habits. The scientists found that people who had recently written about their core life values were much more likely to respond positively to warnings about changing their eating habits. Those who had not reflected on their life values were much more likely to disregard this information.

There are many ways that this research insight might be put to practical use, but it also highlights the potential value of religious activities. Many religious activities — worship, study, even fellowship — can provide rich opportunities for people to reflect on their core life values. Among the many benefits of this reflection is the potential that it will encourage people to make positive life change. Churches and religious organizations are uniquely positioned to help people in this way — that’s great news!

Research citation: Griffin, D. W., & Harris, P. R. 2011. Calibrating the Response to Health Warnings: Limiting Both Overreaction and Underreaction With Self-Affirmation, Psychological Science, 22: 572–578


Flourishing News #2

John Gottman is probably the world’s leading expert on marriages. He gained fame in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” when Gladwell recounted that, by spending less than 30 seconds with a couple, Dr. Gottman can predict with more than 80% accuracy whether that couple will be together in 5 years. Gottman has published several wonderful books on marriages. One of his research insights emphasizes the importance of “love maps” which are really nothing more than the amount of personal information we know about our spouses. Dr. Gottman has found that rich love maps are a key to having a happy, life-long marriage. Couples with rich love maps no each other stresses, life dreams, favorite things, best friends, and secret desires. They also update their love maps regularly, keeping up with growth and newness in their spouse.

In his books, Gottman provides many great exercises for enriching our love maps. One of them is a list of questions to ask each other — these questions make for rich conversation on a special night out together or on a long trip. “What kind of present would you like best?” “What personal improvements would you like to make in your life” “What was one of your best childhood experiences?” Not only do these questions enrich our love maps, the simple act of sharing builds intimacy and trust — two more keys to happy marriage!

Reference: Gottman, John, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert


Flourishing News #3

Maintaining energy at work can be a challenge even for those of us that love our work. Advertisements for energy drinks often try to capitalize on the fact that many people find themselves running short of energy on most days. Because energy drinks also many potentially detrimental side-effects, they may not be a good option. Recent research is here to help!

Scholars at the University of Michigan found that the most commonly used strategies such as switching to another task or browsing the web did not increase energy at work. However, engaging in activities related to learning, reflecting on the meaningful parts of one’s work, and to fostering and enjoying positive work relationships were most strongly related to employees’ energy. This is another in a growing body of research that suggests the importance of great work relationships and finding work that is deeply meaningful. So, next time your energy is lagging, laugh with a good work colleague, learn something new, or take time to write or think about the most meaningful and important parts of your work!

Research citation: Charlotte Fritz, Chak Fu Lam, Gretchen Marie Spreitzer. It’s the Little Things that Matter: An Examination of Knowledge Workers’ Energy Management. Academy of Management Perspectives

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