When you engage in these activities, your brain associates your bed with wakefulness. Just as regular, relaxing bedtime routines can help your brain and body know when it's time for sleep, your bed itself is another important trigger. By helping your brain associate your bed with sleep, the transition into slumber will be much smoother. Keep your room as dark as possible. Remember, our bodies use exposure to light and dark to "set" our internal clocks. Even small amounts of light from lamps, cell phones, TV screens, and digital clocks will interfere. If needed, consider purchasing blackout curtains for your bedroom. Don't stay in bed awake for more than five to ten minutes. We all experience times when we find ourselves awake in the middle of the night. Perhaps the mind is racing or we are worried about not being able to sleep or we find ourselves wide awake for no discernable reason at all. Given the need to train our brains to associate our beds with sleeping, lying awake in bed for hours is rarely a good idea. Instead, if you can't fall back asleep within five or ten minutes, get out of bed and sit in a chair in the dark until you feel sleepy, and then climb back in bed. And whatever you do, don't pick up your phone or turn on the TV. The light will confuse your internal clock and stimulate your brain. As you seek to improve the quality of your sleep, you may find it helpful to photocopy or print the recommendations above and read them regularly. If you accidentally omit some of them or have a bad night, don't be discouraged--just get back on track the next day. By following these recommendations over the long haul, you'll establish habits that will promote great sleep opportunities and emotional wellness. You can only fill the box each time you contribute something positive to the relationship: a thoughtful gesture, a compliment, sensitivity, compassion, a random act of kindness or being actively engaged in a helpful way. This goes for the other person in the relationship as well. You want to fill this giving box up, every single day...because every single day the box starts off empty again.

The more you fill it up with love, gratitude and thoughtfulness for the other person, the more they'll be likely to reciprocate and fill your life up with those same things. While every relationship in your life is different from the next, one thing is constant, and it's something I've learned time and time again in my own relationships. Everyone wants to feel special. Everyone wants to be heard and understood. When you come from a giving state, you won't just have the power to improve your relationships (making them radically happier and more meaningful than you could ever hope for) You'll have the power to transform how people react and respond to you. No one theory can capture the mindsets of every individual you run into. But whenever you feel the urge to get down on yourself or to think there's something wrong with your worldview, remember that there are other people out there who not only think the same as you, but likely have the exact same problems. In a world with such a vast, diverse population, you're never alone in how you think and those other people have likely found ways to be more successful in their relationships. And so can you. "No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn't know it." -- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist Ask anyone on the street whether they want to be liked and you'll get an emphatic "Yes." The truth is that few of us can think of a tangible reason we want to be liked, but in reality, there are dozens of reasons - socially, professionally, and romantically - that drive us to seek the interest of our fellow humans. We want to experience life as much as possible, and become energized by others to better ourselves (as much as possible). We like to be liked - simple as that. Being likable isn't just about getting something out of other people (though it can have a huge impact on how likely a friend or family member is to help you out). Being likable also actually results in behaviours that lessen the likelihood of heart disease, stress related illnesses and general displeasure. Historically, being likable has been the key to success in almost every area of life. Take for example Gallup Presidential polls in the United States. We want likable people to be in charge and we want likable people to win - that's why we always root for the underdog. Even without knowing a single thing about a team, they are immediately likable in our minds because they take on the role of the perpetual David to whichever Goliath happens to be their opponent. In the Goliath Syndrome, the idea is that most of us feel meek and underappreciated, or generally trod upon by bigger and better people.

So, when someone is successful as an underdog - as the downtrodden little guy - we feel an immediate connection to them. In this, likability is an extension of our self-image. We like that which we aspire to be and which we can relate to. Spending time with peers has always been a formative part of growing up. For kids, much of the opportunity to develop social skills centers around chances to play with others. In today's world, however, teens increasingly experience social interactions in virtual environments because doing so in the real world is inconvenient or off limits. The very nature of play is rapidly changing. Remember playing pickup games at the basketball court, hanging out at the mall on weekends, or simply roaming around the neighborhood until you found a friend? Sadly, spontaneous socializing simply isn't happening as much as it used to. As Peter Gray, who has studied the decline of play in America, wrote in the American Journal of Play, "It is hard to find groups of children outdoors at all, and, if you do find them, they are likely to be wearing uniforms and following the directions of coaches." Whereas previous generations were allowed to simply play after school and form close social bonds, many children today are raised by parents who restrict outdoor play because of "child predators, road traffic, and bullies," according to a survey of parents in an Atlantic article. These concerns were mentioned even though kids today are statistically the safest generation in American history. Unfortunately, this is a downward spiral that leaves many kids with no choice but to stay indoors, attend structured programs, or rely on technology to find and connect with others. In many ways, connections in digital environments can be very positive. A child who is bullied at school can reach out for help from supportive online friends; a teenager struggling with their sexuality can find support from someone on the other side of the country; and a kid who feels shy at school can be a hero among their gaming friends from all corners of the world. "What the data show," says Ryan, "is that kids who aren't feeling relatedness, who are feeling isolated or excluded in school are going to be more drawn to media where they can get connections with other people and find subgroups they can identify with. So that's both a plus and a minus." The loss of in-person play has real costs according to Gray, given that "learning to get along and cooperate with others as equals may be the most crucial evolutionary function of human social play." He sees it as "both a consequence and a cause of the increased social isolation and loneliness in the culture." Thus, our perception is not a one-to-one mapping of external reality. Instead, it's a constructive process that's determined not only by what our senses detect, but also by what we expect and want to see. In addition, we can, at times, experience vivid hallucinations, and can even have collective hallucinations, where two or more people experience the same thing.31 These collective hallucinations can be so powerful that they can actually lead to mass hysteria. In Mattoon, Illinois, in 1944, a woman said a stranger came into her bedroom late at night and sprayed her with a gas that left her legs temporarily paralyzed. The local newspaper ran stories on the Phantom Gasser of Mattoon, and over a nine-day period, twenty-five separate incidents, involving twenty-seven women and two men, were reported to the police.

They said the intruder came into their homes and sprayed a sweet smelling gas that left them nauseated, dizzy, and temporarily paralyzed in their legs. After a couple of weeks of investigation, however, no physical evidence or chemical clues were uncovered. Police and newspapers began attributing the experiences to wild imaginations and mass hysteria, and then the reported intrusions stopped.32 Over a two-week period in 1956, twenty-one people in Taiwan said they were cut by a stranger while out in public (termed the Phantom Slasher of Taiwan). Police eventually concluded that any cuts that occurred came from everyday contact in public places that would normally go unnoticed if it weren't for the media coverage. Between March and April 1983, 947 Palestinian residents of the Israeli-occupied West Bank reported fainting, headache, abdominal pain, and dizziness from supposedly being gassed. Medical tests showed there was no gas, and the reports subsequently disappeared. Just recently, as noted earlier, a monkey-man delusion occurred in India. During the first three weeks of May 2001, people around New Delhi reported seeing a half human-half monkey creature with razor-sharp fingernails, superhuman strength, and incredible leaping ability. On May 16 alone, police had forty reported sightings, often from different areas of the city. Two people actually died when they tried to run away from the creature.33 In various parts of Asia, a particularly disconcerting type of mass hysteria sometimes emerges--penis-shrinking panics. Men in some regions become panic stricken by the belief that their penises are shriveling up or retracting into their bodies. As a preventative measure, the men often place clamps or strings on their penises, or have family members hold their private parts in relays until they can get treatment. In October and November 1967, hospitals in Singapore were inundated--Singapore Hospital treated about seventy-five cases in a single day. The panic occurred when rumors were spread that eating pork vaccinated for swine fever triggered penis shrinking. About five thousand people thought that their genitalia were shrinking in the Guangdong province of China between the summer of 1984 and 1985. Another panic occurred in India from July to September 1982. Thousands of men thought that their penises or testicles were shriveling up, and women thought that their breasts were shrinking.34 It sounds funny, so we tend to laugh at the naivete of the Chinese and Indians who believe these things. But we have our own delusions as well. Since the 1730s people in central and southern New Jersey have been seeing a three-to-four foot-tall creature with a head like a horse and batlike wings. In January 1909 over one hundred people in more than two dozen communities reported a sighting.

Townspeople stayed behind locked doors, schools and factories were shut down, and posses were formed to find the creature. In fact, the New Jersey Devils hockey team is named after the elusive creature. During the Salem witch trial hysteria of the 1600s, people were put to death. Other forms of hysteria still occur today. In the 1980s, thousands of Satanic cults were thought to be operating in the United States. The cults were supposedly sacrificing and mutilating animals, sexually abusing children, and performing other Satanic rituals. However, the evidence for such widespread abuse was nonexistent. And what about the multiple sightings of UFOs and aliens that pop up from time to time? This escape from the obsessive nature of thought produces a whole new view of reality. It is a complete paradigm shift, a total change in the perceptual mechanism. It brings with it the bliss of emancipation from obsessions. Because of these advantages, Buddhism views this way of looking at things as a correct view of life; Buddhist texts call it seeing things as they really are. Vipassana meditation is a set of training procedures that gradually open us to this new view of reality as it truly is. Along with this new reality goes a new view of that most central aspect of reality: "me." A close inspection reveals that we have done the same thing to "me" that we have done to all other perceptions. We have taken a flowing vortex of thought, feeling, and sensation and solidified that into a mental construct. Then we have stuck a label onto it: "me." Forever after, we treat it as if it were a static and enduring entity. We view it as a thing separate from all other things. We pinch ourselves off from the rest of that process of eternal change that is the universe, and then we grieve over how lonely we feel. We ignore our inherent connectedness to all other beings and decide that "I" have to get more for "me"; then we marvel at how greedy and insensitive human beings are. And on it goes.