For more than a decade, musician and TV host John Tesh has been offering advice and guidance through his “Intelligence for Your Life” radio broadcasts. The short segments now reach more than 8.2 million listeners per week across the U.S., Canada, and the UK.
Here are some of the recent broadcasts on the topic of helping people offer comfort and care to those struggling with loss. Topics include: The Value of Empathy, How to Bring Virtual Joy, How to be a Good Listener, The Healing Power of Flowers, How to Spruce Up Your Home with Plants, How Flowers Boost Your Mood, and How Plants Affect Mood & Productivity.
The Value of Empathy
When we feel for someone else, that’s empathy. Maybe you have a friend or loved one who’s going through a difficult time and you want to show them you care and that you’re there to listen. You can express empathy through words and actions – like giving a hug, sending flowers, or offering to pick up dinner for them. When you do those things, you’re acknowledging their pain and that helps the other person feel loved and supported.
Empathy is all about being able to understand how someone is feeling from their point of view. So when you see a friend or loved one going through a hard time, you immediately want to help in some way. That’s because the emotions they’re feeling become your own in a way.
How to Connect and Bring Virtual Joy
When you hear that a friend or family member is under the weather, you may not know what to do or say, but you do want to be there for them. Times have changed, and while you may not be able to care for them physically, you can still bring them joy!
Finding your own meaningful way to connect, when you can’t visit in person, is even more important during these difficult times.
Start a Meal Train to ensure that the sick and shut-in are always well fed whether from homemade meals or local restaurants.
Send them flowers to boost their mood and help kick-start the healing process. Don’t be afraid of color, as studies show that brightly colored flowers can actually make people happier! Try seasonal arrangements that reflect what they see out their window and bring it indoors.
Any gesture of reaching out will go a long way toward lifting that person’s spirits.
How to be a Good Listener
Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a conversation with a friend, and you’re telling someone about your crappy day or your ridiculous coworker. Or maybe you’re telling them that you ate a slice of mediocre cheesecake this afternoon and boom, you’re thrown off your superficial rant.
Why? Because suddenly you’re having visions of your mother’s famous cheesecake that she made every year for a spring party. You miss that cheesecake. You miss your mother. You just got hit with a wall of emotion, and now you’re kind of teary eyed but also a little embarrassed and somewhat anxious that you might be judged for bringing that up again.
And what’s your friend supposed to do at this moment? Tell you she’s sorry? Heck no! It’s been eight years and you’re still choking up about cheesecake. What good will her telling you sorry do for you today?
What helps the most is just being a great listener. All you need in this moment is to be heard, to be understood, and to be able to experience whatever feelings you are experiencing without piling on others like shame, discomfort or awkwardness.
In times of high emotion, this little act of just listening has big, transformative powers. Simply put, a great listener doesn’t have to say much to make you feel better. In fact, a great listener barely says anything at all. If they did, they wouldn’t be listening. So how do people actually become great listeners? The good news is, it’s easy to do at any age.
There are several ways a person can work on their listening skills. Active Listening, a subset of high-level interpersonal communications skills, is particularly well known for its transformative powers. When a person engages in Active Listening, he or she is focused almost exclusively on the other person.
The following elements are key when practicing Active Listening:
- Understand that this isn’t a conversation in the normal sense of the word. The person speaking should be talking 70-80% of the time. When the listener speaks, it’s usually to ask a question to draw out more of the person’s experience, or to clarify something that has been said.
- Demonstrate genuine empathy for the other person. As they speak, imagine what they could be feeling or thinking. Pretend you are right there with them. When it’s your turn to speak, your responses will naturally mimic these complex emotions.
- Don’t just wait to talk and blurt out something profound that you’ve been cooking up while the other person told you their sob story. This isn’t a competition about whose comment is the most insightful, sad, or meaningful. Your goal isn’t to add words to the conversation; it’s to create a supportive and caring framework for the other person to feel comfortable sharing what’s on their mind.
- Show you really heard what the other person said. Reflect the content of their story by parroting it back to them, or by paraphrasing in your own words. If I said, “I’m sad because I don’t have her cheesecake anymore,” a good response would be, “You haven’t had your mother’s cheesecake in a long time.” It might sound plain and unadorned, but it works.
- Pay close attention and resist the urge to check your phone or change the topic. Offer reassuring words or phrases as the other person speaks. When uttered genuinely, fillers like “mmhmm”, “OK,” and “I see” let the other person know you’re still present.
- Try not to interrupt. Yes, we all do it sometimes, but when a person is hurting, it’s doubly rude. Just keep your comments to yourself by any means possible.
- Be OK with long pauses. Since you’re not interrupting, and you’re letting the other person talk the majority of the time, you’ll likely feel a bit of a slower pace to the conversation. This is OK. Long pauses give the other person time to fill in the blanks, share with you more information, and process out loud the emotions inside.
Overall, a great listener makes the other person feel like they are the only one in the world; a feeling that’s rare in these days of continual sensory overload. A great listener helps the other person get to the core of what’s bothering them at that moment, so they can verbalize it and start to move forward. A great listener knows that when you’re on another one of your cheesecake tangents, the best thing to do is support you as you re-experience your deep loss fully and completely in that moment, cherry topping and all.
A version of this piece originally ran on modernloss.com.
The Healing Power of Flowers
Is your significant other sick in bed? Do you have a colleague recovering from surgery? Maybe someone you care about is under the weather, and you want them to know they’re on your mind. It can be a challenge to show your support to those working to get well. The classic answer is still the best answer: Flowers.
That’s because flowers are scientifically proven to have mental and physical benefits to those who are sick. A recent study from Kansas State University found that patients in hospital rooms brightened with flowers and potted plants needed less pain medication, had lower blood pressure and pulse rates, were less anxious and tired, and were in a more positive mood than patients in rooms without flowers.
This just goes to show: The power of flowers is real!
How to Spruce Up Your Home with Plants
Looking to spruce up your home décor or liven up your home office? You can bridge the gap between the indoors and out by adding a houseplant!
Plants have many health benefits, from reducing stress to aiding in recovery, and they can liven up any room in your home. Snake plants purify the air and remove harmful chemicals to keep you and your family safe. Plus, they are easy to care for, the perfect plant to add to your bedroom.
Money Tree plants can thrive in any environment and are said to bring good luck and fortune to those who care for them, perfect for your living room space. An aloe plant is a great addition to your kitchen, and you can apply the gel from the leaves directly to the skin to help soothe those cooking burns.
Don’t have a green thumb? No problem! Succulent gardens require minimal care and light and are a fun way to create a mini-garden right inside your home!
Flowers Help Boost Our Mood
Sending flowers or a plant is not only a thoughtful gesture, it’s also something that can help your loved one heal.
Intelligence for Your Life
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when a loved one is under the weather or recovering from surgery? It probably starts with wanting them to feel better, then becomes, “What can I do to help?”
According to a study done by the American Society for Horticultural Science, patients who have flowers or plants in their rooms had lower blood pressure and heart rates than patients without. They also found that flowers increased positive feelings and reduced worrisome thoughts.
So, sending flowers or a plant is not only a thoughtful gesture, it’s also something that can help your loved one heal. And beyond flowers, you can send get-well gift baskets filled with chicken noodle soup, cookies, tea, and a word search puzzle to help lift their spirits. Our “Friend on the Mend” gift basket delivers all that, and a smile!
How Plants Affect Your Mood & Productivity
After a long day, there’s nothing like walking into your home and taking a moment to relax. We put a lot of work into making our spaces comfortable, and adding indoor plants can make a big difference. Being surrounded by greenery prompts an immediate mood lift — and lowers your risk of depression. According to the University of Michigan, our brains are naturally primed to release feel-good chemicals in the presence of nature, and it also triggers a relaxation response — even when we’re stressed.
Being near greenery also increases our ability to concentrate, makes us more productive, and boosts memory by 20%. A NASA study found that some common indoor plants can remove pollutants in the air, moreover. For example, Peace Lilies absorb airborne substances, like ammonia, to help you breathe easier. Pilea plants are low-maintenance, purify the air in your home, and even produce offspring you can re-pot and give to a friend.
No matter what your lifestyle is, indoor plants can liven up your home or workspace.