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The Ben Lui group (first post): the challenge of balancing planning & savouring

Tomorrow I hope to head North and West up past Stirling, Lochearnhead and Crianlarich to Strath Fillan.  I should be able to park at a little village called Dalrigh just before Tyndrum.  From there I can walk in by the River Cononish for about 7 km to get to Ben Lui (Beinn Laoigh, calf hill).  The Scottish Mountaineering Club's Munros guidebook describes it as " ... one of the finest mountains in the Southern Highlands; it stands high above its neighbours, and its splendid shape is unmistakable."  They estimate a bit under 4 hours to the summit.  From there it should be straightforward to head on to Beinn a' Chleibh (hill of the creel or chest).  The forecast is mixed - hopefully low cloud will clear somewhat as the day goes on. 

We'll see.  It's very useful having an up to date forecast, but what it's actually like on the hill can sometimes be rather different.  If all goes well and my body holds up, I'll head back over two more Munros - Ben Oss (hill of the loch outlet or elk hill) and Beinn Dubhchraig (hill of the black rock).  If it's too tough I can always pull out after just a couple of Munros or even after just Ben Lui.

Good to plan.  Climbing a big hill feels, in some ways, like a small snapshot of life as a whole.  There's the balance between planning, organizing, sorting things out (maps, food, weather forecast, compass bearings, emergency fall back positions), the physical challenge (sometimes easy, sometimes hard sweaty slog, sometimes demanding and scary), and the mental/emotional experience (do I just ‘gulp it down' or can I really savour it?  How do I cope when it gets tough?  How do I appreciate it when it's beautiful?).     

I've written before about the challenge of savouring.  In a post early last year I said "Just as different ways of coping with a disaster lead to different types, intensities and durations of painful emotional reactions (and different practical outcomes), so different ways of savouring positive experiences lead to different types, intensities and durations of pleasant emotional reactions (and different practical outcomes).  As a hard-working doctor, brought up through a school and university system dedicated to effort and continual refocusing on the next set of tasks, I know that savouring has so often been squeezed out of my own life - judged as self-indulgent and not something to waste time on. It's sad. I feel sad about this. The world, being alive, is so extraordinary. It makes so much sense to honour the importance of taking time to appreciate, to value, to notice."

Then in a post in the Spring of last year I wrote again about savouring, saying "On the fine Authentic Happiness website, Seligman and colleagues discuss three entwining roads to happiness and what they call "the full life". One of these three roads is maximising and appreciating positive emotions - very much the territory of savouring.  Of course savouring can help us become happier more of the time. Fascinatingly, and importantly, nourishing positive emotions & savouring can also protect against negative emotions like anxiety and depression (Burns, Brown et al. 2008Wichers, Myin-Gerrneys et al. 2007). Feeling good can also help us function better - positive emotions can help us think more creatively, problem solve more effectively, and relate to others with more warmth and kindness. See Barbara Fredrickson's PEP lab ... for more on this."

Fredrickson's new popular book "Positivity" is fascinating in this area, as is her "Positivity Ratio" website with it's interesting option to test your own ratio of positive to negative emotions.  Just this month Fredrickon and colleagues have published another paper in this area, reporting "Happiness - a composite of life satisfaction, coping resources, and positive emotions - predicts desirable life outcomes in many domains. The broaden-and-build theory suggests that this is because positive emotions help people build lasting resources. To test this hypothesis, the authors measured emotions daily for 1 month in a sample of students (N = 86) and assessed life satisfaction and trait resilience at the beginning and end of the month. Positive emotions predicted increases in both resilience and life satisfaction. Negative emotions had weak or null effects and did not interfere with the benefits of positive emotions. Positive emotions also mediated the relation between baseline and final resilience, but life satisfaction did not. This suggests that it is in-the-moment positive emotions, and not more general positive evaluations of one's life, that form the link between happiness and desirable life outcomes. Change in resilience mediated the relation between positive emotions and increased life satisfaction, suggesting that happy people become more satisfied not simply because they feel better but because they develop resources for living well."


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