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Not Following Your Calling Is Worse Than Not Having One

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Here’s a reason to ditch your steady but soul-sucking job: It could be harming your health. (And no, we’re not talking about spending too much time at your desk.) Having an unexplored passion sitting on the back burner can make you less happy and less healthy than your peers, a new study finds. In fact, not answering your calling, research in the Journal of Vocational Behavior suggests, is worse than not having a calling in the first place.

Psychologists at the University of South Florida examined the life and job satisfaction and the physical and emotional well-being of 378 American academics and compared them to how they felt about their career paths. Was their job a central part of their identity, a source of purpose and meaning in their life? Or was there another career path they were drawn to but hadn’t yet pursued?

Online surveys of the public university faculty members found that those who felt they were pursuing their dreams at work had better outcomes in terms of their job satisfaction, their personal wellbeing, and their health. Those who felt the pull of an occupational calling but weren’t living it out, meanwhile, had the worst outcomes, “perhaps because having to work at a job that fails to meet needs can be stressful,” the researchers hypothesize.

Indeed, people who didn’t have any sort of dream job at all were doing better than those who had figured out their dream job but weren’t doing it. They write that “those who do not feel called to any particular vocation report higher levels of work engagement, career commitment, and domain satisfaction and less physical symptoms, psychological distress, and withdrawal intentions than those who have, but cannot pursue, their occupational calling.”

Granted, this study only examined academics, who may well not be representative of the entire population. It may be that not following your passion after decades of schooling and countless student loans is more crushing than giving up on your dream of becoming a best-selling author straight out of college in favor of becoming a marketing manager. 

[h/t: BPS Research Digest]

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Yoga and Meditation May Lead to an Inflated Ego

If you’ve been exasperated for years by that one self-righteous, yoga-obsessed friend, take note: Regular yoga practitioners experience inflated egos after a session of yoga or meditation, according to a forthcoming study in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers found that yoga and meditation both increase "self-enhancement," or the tendency for people to attach importance to their own actions. In the first phase of the two-part study, researchers in Germany and England measured self-enhancement by recruiting 93 yoga students and having them respond to questionnaires over the course of 15 weeks, Quartz reports. Each assessment was designed to measure three outcomes: superiority, communal narcissism, and self-esteem. In the second phase, the researchers asked 162 meditation students to answer the same questionnaires over four weeks.

Participants showed significantly higher self-enhancement in the hour just after their practices. After yoga or meditation, participants were more likely to say that statements like "I am the most helpful person I know" and "I have a very positive influence on others" describe them.

At its Hindu and Buddhist roots, yoga is focused on quieting the ego and conquering the self. The findings seem to support what some critics of Western-style yoga suspect—that the practice is no longer true to its South Asian heritage.

It might not be all bad, though. Self-enhancement tends to correlate with higher levels of subjective well-being, at least in the short term. People prone to self-enhancement report feeling happier than the average person. However, they’re also more likely to exhibit social behaviors (like bragging or condescending) that are detrimental in the long term.

So if you think your yoga-loving friends are a little holier than thou, you may be right. But it might be because their yoga class isn’t deflating their egos like yogis say it should.

[h/t Quartz]

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Have You Heard? Trading Gossip Can Be Good for You
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Like picking your nose or re-using a dirty coffee cup, trading petty observations and suspicions about others is a function of life no one takes any particular pride in. You might have been told by parents not to say anything about someone "behind their back," and gossip often involves some degree of schadenfreude. In terms of keeping a positive outlook, there's not much to be said for chattering about whether someone got a facelift or if a divorce might be imminent.

Or is there? Ben Healy of The Atlantic recently aggregated compelling data that points to gossip having surprising benefits. When two people discuss negative feelings about a third, they tend to bond over the shared hostility more than if they were sharing pleasant thoughts about him or her. The badmouthing parties also tend to enjoy a sense of accomplishment by reflecting on their own positive traits compared to the failure of others. They might even take a "lesson" from an anecdote about someone's catastrophic life, using it as a cautionary tale. If the gossip has a positive slant, it might be used as inspiration to pursue self-improvement.

That's the other surprising thing about gossip: 96 percent of the time or more, it's not overly negative. Among adolescents, it's usually used to vent about frustrations or to create conversation in pursuit of a bonding experience.  

If gossip truly is good for the soul, most of us are in luck. Talking about an absentee third person is what accounts for two-thirds of all conversation.

[h/t Atlantic]

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