Last updated on 2nd November 2018
These home practice suggestions link with the seventh session of the Compassion, wisdom & wellbeing training. There are seven home practice requests for the fortnight until our 8th & last evening together.
1.) Please would you glance back at the handouts from the seventh session of the course & jot down further thoughts/feelings on this week's session 7 reflection sheet. There were a whole series of sheets that linked in with the personal community map charting exercise. These included four slides on Robin Dunbar's social network layers - here are the 'first two' and here the 'second two'. Clicking on this link takes you to Dunbar's webpage with details of over 260 of his publications. Interesting to note the intriguing comment at the start of his recent paper 'The anatomy of friendship' - 'Friendship is the single most important factor influencing our health, well-being, and happiness.' Dunbar is using friendship to cover pretty much all close relationships, but this is still a very strong statement. Further social network related handouts were 'personal social networks: dunbar's 5-15-50-150 model' and 'personal social networks: sympathy group & full active network'.
2.) I suggested that for those who wanted to, it might be good to continue with the 'weekly affect dyad exercise' and associated 'interconnectedness: the inclusion of other in the self scale' but with another partner - possibly with someone else on our course, or possibly with someone not on the course who one explains the exercise to. It would even be possible to try an affect solo exercise where one writes for 2 to 3 minutes about the emotions experienced in relation to a difficulty one faced in the previous 24 hours, and 2 to 3 minutes on the emotions linked to something that occurred in the last 24 hours that one is grateful for. I wouldn't expect the solo writing to be as powerful as the dyad exercise, but I would expect it to be of real use.
3.) Try to practise this week's loving-kindness meditation pretty much every day until our next meeting. (17 to 18 minutes most days).
4.) Aim to continue practising a 12-breath mini-meditation three times daily. This is the final version of this exercise. It gives you flexibility & a trio of choices both for breaths 6 to 8 and breaths 10 to 12. (9 minutes practice in total most days)
5.) Complete the 'personal community map'. The 'personal social networks: assessing how we're doing' sheet explains how to do this. Then answer 'personal community map: questions' including noting feelings & intentions. This will probably take an hour or two, so do feel free to complete it in chunks. Remember you're more likely to follow through on intentions that you are really committed to, that are specific & have a time frame, that you write down, and that you share with someone else. I find it helpful to put a short description by each (inner circles) name, noting with a K, CK or F if they're 'kin', 'kin-by-marriage' or (non-genetically linked) friends, how emotionally close I feel to them using a 0 to 10 scale, approximately how long I've known them for, and ... L or NL ... whether they live locally or non-locally. This might look something like Fred. F; E7; Y5; NL. Be aware too that when we look at our social networks, we tend to compare ourselves with others who are particularly 'visible' because of their energetic social activity - hence the findings highlighted in Dersi's recent publication 'Home alone: Why people believe others' social lives are richer than their own'. To get a more balanced view ... if you compare yourself with others, do so with those you rate as average in their social activities & connections.
Remember relationships are one of Self-determination theory's key needs. Shifting our focus more towards the importance of family & friends is associated with increased life satisfaction ... see again the classic 2017 paper 'A theory of life satisfaction dynamics: stability, change and volatility in 25-year life trajectories'. We want a work-life balance that feels good to us. As foundational wellbeing researcher Christopher Peterson stated so clearly ... "Other people matter" ... when asked to put Positive Psychology's message in a nutshell. He was probably referring both to the huge importance of our relationships for wellbeing, and also the importance of having a meaning for our lives that's both autonomous but not self-centered (that's bigger than us). As you fill in the personal community map, jot down thoughts/feelings/intentions both under individual questions on the question sheet, and under the final more general what are your main feelings & thoughts question. Cherishing our friendships & our relationship networks is a bit like tending a garden or cooking healthy delicious meals. To do this really well is a kind of art informed by science. There's a ton of further information on this website under both the 'friendship' and 'relationships' tags (they overlap a good deal). One interesting example is the post 'Friendship: science, art & gratitude'. The time we take to look at our relationship networks and consider what we can do to nourish them even better is likely to be time well spent.
6.) This community map charting exercise is quite structural. The other exercises I'd like you to try are a couple of Barbara Fredrickson's 'micro-moment practices'. They're very brief. For the first week, simply review the three longest social interactions you have had at the end of each day and rate on average how in tune and close you felt on the 'social connections record sheet'. During the second week actively try to achieve at least three micro-moments of what Fredrickson calls 'positivity resonance' each day and again make a note of how you do on the record sheet. This can help us be more aware of the potential depth/warmth that we can touch on in relationships in so many different situations ... and can help us encourage this to happen more. See the blog post based on Gandhi's quote 'Be the change you want to see in the world'.
7.) Just before our last session in two weeks' time, fill in the relevant questionnaires again. These can be downloaded from the blog post 'compassion, wisdom & wellbeing training: course questionnaires' and will probably involve at least the "psychological needs satisfaction measure (NSM)", the "scale of positive & negative experience (SPANE)" and the "satisfaction with life scale (SWLS)".
Good luck ... and see all you course participants in a couple of weeks at the 8th & final evening of the training.