Our bodies are intricately designed to capture, store and activate the energy we need to function well. How we feel on any given day is directly related to how well our various bodily systems are performing. Unfortunately, we tend to put our bodies under more pressure than is useful. For instance, not drinking enough water can leave us feeling headachy and sluggish. Using electronic devices late at night reduces sleep quality and results in fatigue. Physical inactivity reduces how well the heart and lungs can oxygenate the blood and pump it around the body. In the same way that public health campaigns encourage people to drink plenty of water, get adequate sleep, be physically active and make healthy dietary choices, we think these basics are also important for dialogue. That is, our ability to enter into dialogue with others it likely to be assisted by being well hydrated, having a happy gastro-intestinal tract, a low resting heart rate, and the physical strength to be still and relaxed throughout.
What to do? The good thing about this dimension of dialogical fitness is that most of us already know what to do – we just don’t do enough of it. Developing better sleep habits is an obvious place to start (3). You can do this by doing things like, (i) going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, (ii) not using electronic devices 40 mins prior to going to bed but, rather, (iii) reading or doing something else to wind down, or (iv) incorporating foods with high levels of melatonin into evening meals and snacks (e.g. corn, broccoli, nuts, bananas, and even some red wine!).
Whilst a lot has been said in recent years about the importance of deliberately cultivating happiness, we suspect that highly active positive emotions (like joy, excitement and enthusiasm) have a relatively small part to play in dialogue.
Dialogue is an immersive activity in which one is fully absorbed in what is being conveyed, something more akin to social ‘flow’. As we know from flow research, the emotional reactions to such tasks tend to come after the experience, not during. If positive emotions aren’t critical to in-the-moment dialogue experiences, what about beforehand? Here we think that less activated positive emotions like curiosity, interest and acceptance are more conducive to dialogue. They seem more likely to prepare a person to engage willingly, openly and less-judgmentally with another person.
What to do? Here you can take your lead from an array of mood induction techniques widely used in various health, education and clinical settings. You might seek to generate feelings of curiosity, interest and acceptance by (i) listening to music, (ii) watching a suitable YouTube clip, or (iii) putting yourself in a physical environment that brings on these feelings. (e.g. your favourite park). There is some evidence that visualising yourself acting in mood consistent ways and using positive self-talk statements can also help.
Download Article 1K Club
We think that less activated positive emotions like curiosity, interest and acceptance are more conducive to dialogue.