By Sophie Scott
Sometimes you meet an amazing person, who helps you reframe your own thinking.
That happened to me recently, when I met Rosie Batty.
She's well known to many of you but for readers outside Australia, Rosie came to prominence for the most devastating of reasons.
Her son Luke was killed by his father, Rosie's estranged partner.
They had suffered family violence and when tragedy struck, Rosie was determined that Luke's death was not going to be in vain.
"I want to tell everybody that family violence happens to everybody. No matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are. It happens to anyone and everyone," Rosie said.
She established a foundation in Luke's name and has campaigned relentlessly to raise community awareness and put pressure on government organisations through education, advocacy and campaigning on family violence.
“My belief is a tragedy gives you an opportunity to make a difference. I’ve always admired people who do that”, she said.
I talked to Rosie at a charity dinner we hosted to raise money for her foundation and asked her how she managed to transcend the tragic death of her son.
"There are bad days, or bad moments in a day when it becomes too much and the people who are closest to me know that," she said.
"But I know that the work I am doing, focusing on family violence, can change behaviour."
Talking to Rosie, I was struck by her courage and resilience.
And it really got me thinking.
What is it that allows someone in the depths of grief to be able to harness their inner strength, like Rosie has, to help others in a similar situation?
I remembered what my research into happiness, while writing my book 'Roadtesting Happiness" had shown about the value of living a meaningful life and helping others.
Blind and deaf Helen Keller wrote so eloquently "so much has been given to me: I have no time to ponder that which has been denied."
It seems intuitive that helping others would make you feel good.
Most of us act in our own interests, most of the time.
But altruism and helping others means we can act with the interests of others in mind.
Altruism can help us realise how alike we are, that we are all searching for the universal truths.
Helping those less fortunate can help put our own problems in perspective.
Buddhist philosophy suggests that altruism lessens our own suffering.
When researching "Roadtesting Happiness", the book I wrote when I was struggling to come to terms with my mother's death, I was deeply moved by the stories I found of people and their unselfish desires to help others.
Like Rosie, many people I interviewed were not acting out of a desire to be seen to be doing good.
Instead, they had a heartfelt wish to help others, and like Rosie Batty, they have used their strength and abilities to aid those less fortunate.
“If Luke hadn’t died in such an extreme way, I’d just be one of those ‘family violence’ people no one listens to”, Rosie Batty said.
But through tragedy, Rosie, like many others, has found a way to act on their beliefs and make the world a better place, something we can all do, even in small ways.
How has helping others helped you?
To find out more about Rosie and her work here.
For more about happiness and altruism here.
Watch the Australian Medical Association's powerful, new video on tackling domestic violence here.
Hi from Sophie.
We all know sex can make you feel physically good, but there is growing evidence that it can also make you healthier and help you live longer.
When it comes to living longer, having a good sex life isn’t something that immediately springs to mind. But even the thought of sex can be healthy, raising your heart rate slightly and releasing a range of positive hormones into your body.
The link between sex and health is something I explore in my book 'Live a Longer Life.' http://www.sophiescott.com.au/store/c1/Featured_Products.html
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast tracked the death rates of 1000 middle-aged men over 10 years and found that those men who had the most orgasms had HALF the death rate of those who were less sexually active.
A follow-on study revealed that having sex three or more times a week reduced men’s risks of heart attack and stroke by half.
Australian sexologist Dr Gabrielle Morrisey confirms regular sex is good for the heart, circulation and immune system, backing up Queen’s University’s findings and others by Wilkes University, Pennsylvania.
It discovered that people having sex once or twice a week had one-third higher levels of a substance called immunoglobulin A, which is well known to boost immunity.
But wait, there’s more good news!
Sex is also good for your general well being, is a mild antidepressant, can ease anxiety – and has a big impact on the prostate.
A study of almost 30,000 men by the US-based National Cancer Institute found the more men had sex, the less likely they were to develop prostate cancer.
And there is good evidence that having more sex can prevent erectile dysfunction (ED) in older men. A study of a thousand Finnish men found those who had sex three times or more each week only had a quarter of the risk of developing ED.
Of course, the benefits of a good sex life are not just physical. Touch makes us feel good and makes us feel loved.
Touch creates emotional intimacy and increases self-esteem. Counsellor Anne Hollonds says sexual intimacy is one thing that separates the relationship with your partner from the other relationships in your life.
Sexual intimacy makes it different and special, and enables you to have a deeper level of emotional intimacy with your partner, she says.
Better or worse?
There’s no doubt, however, that sex changes significantly as you age – although Gabrielle Morrisey points out, sex changes throughout our lives, as libido fluctuates.
For many older people, sex gets better. But for others, problems can emerge. If you have a partner, it’s important to accept that your libido may differ from theirs and the idea is to find a middle ground with which you are both happy.
When it comes to a reduced libido, Dr Sue Reddish from the Jean Hailes Foundation says it’s important to rule out a number of causes.
You need to look at relationship problems, health problems such as diabetes, thyroid disease, hormonal changes, alcohol abuse and chronic pain, medications such as antidepressants, mood disorders and past experiences and expectations of sex, she says.
The physical and emotional intimacy that comes from a good sex life is crucial to happiness and wellbeing.
So if things are not as good in the bedroom as you would like, take action. Start by ruling out any underlying medical causes and, if that gets the all clear, think about whether you might benefit from some therapy to uncover the source of the problems.
Sex therapists say many people make the mistake of thinking keeping passion alive is easy. Often sexual problems are the result of resentment in relationships, so focus on eliminating negative feelings that can turn relationship problems into sexual problems.
Keeping in touch with your sexual self, no matter what your age, is crucial. As the research shows, the benefits to your health and longevity from maintaining a loving, fun sex life are clear.
To read more about living longer, happier and healthier, click here: http://www.sophiescott.com.au/store/c1/Featured_Products.html
Love your thoughts and comments about how your love life keeps you happy and healthy.
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Hi from Sophie
If you are struggling to lose weight, there's no shortage of diet and exercise advice out there.
Whether it's high carb, low fat, or calorie counting, research studies show that most people who go on a 'diet' will end up putting most of the weight back on.
But what if your focus shifted from what you eat, to how and why you are eating?
That's the philosophy behind Dr Helena Popovic's book 'Neuroslimming."
She takes a new approach which I really like.
It uses the power of your brain and mind to reframe your thinking about food.
We met up for lunch recently to talk about her ideas.
"First of all, you have to convince people it is possible to change their mindset and food preferences," she said.
Her philosophy that 'we are not what we eat' aims to take the guilt and shame out of food.
"There are no intrinsically good or bad foods," she said.
If you eat mindfully and guilt free, nothing is off limits.
"It simply doesn't work to ban foods and food groups as you will end up craving it," Helena says.
What works is mindful eating.
For example If you want to have chocolate, pick a small serving of the best dark chocolate and savour it
And when it comes to your diet, instead of thinking what you will miss out on, think 'what can I add in to my diet to make me feel better and healthier."
It's a novel concept to get your head around.
But by reframing your thinking, you can take overcome your own set beliefs and self image.
Like me, Helena has always been interested in food and psychology.
And she has her own story.
"My experience was binge eating and over exercising, so when people talk about craving certain foods, I can understand where they are coming from," Helena says.
It came to a head when she was helping her best friend, whose husband was dying from a brain tumour.
"When he died, it was at that point I thought why am I treating my body and my health this way," she says.
"And I resolved there and then to change my mindset. That was the tipping point."
She says she was able to overcome destructive behaviours towards food and exercise but wanted to work out how she had overcome it.
And that's where the brain and neuroscience comes in.
The brain plays a crucial role in the kind of foods we crave.
In particular, processed foods like cheesecake have a combination of sugar snd fat in equal amounts.
"Manufacturers know this, that the brain is affected and sends out dopamine so that we want more and more," she says.
And importantly, there is no real food that contains addictive formulations of sugar and fat.
There are a few key practices to using your brain to change your body.
* Think values not virtues. No food is intrinsically good or bad. The key is making time for what's important, eating healthily, exercise.
* Ask yourself "why". Why do you want to feel better, have more energy, be the best version of yourself.
* Accept yourself .. Many people struggle to like let alone love their body.
Gratitude and appreciation are the first steps to love.
* Focus on the positive. What we focus on is where we will end up.
How can you focus on nourishing your body each day?
Helena uses a quote which I really like, from Viktor Frankl, a psychologist who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp.
In his book, "Man's search for meaning" he wrote: "Everything can be taken away from man but one thing. The last of the human freedoms.. To choose ones attitude in any given set of circumstances."
Whether your goal is to lose weight, become happier or healthier, you can harness the power of your brain and mind to change your attitude.
To read more about Helena, click here: http://www.winningatslimming.com/about-dr-helena/
For more of my thoughts on happiness and brain function, click here: http://www.sophiescott.com.au/store/c1/Featured_Products.html
How can changing your mindset make you happy and healthier?
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