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Lending an ear

We all yearn to know that our voice is listened to and valued. But the many barriers to real communication—from inequality and prejudice to the cost of talk therapy—leave many feeling disconnected and unheard.

To build empathic connections with people we wouldn’t meet otherwise, and to shift the impersonal vibe of city streets, psychotherapist Traci Ruble founded Sidewalk Talk. The nonprofit has chapters in 17 US cities and worldwide. Its volunteers (many of them mental health professionals) take two chairs to the sidewalk and simply offer to listen—to anyone who wants to talk, about anything. Ruble finds that deep listening is transformative: “When we feel a sense of belonging,” she says, “our entire nervous system just goes ‘ahhhhh.’”

Mindful with pets

After struggling to manage her bipolar disorder for years, UC Davis researcher Elisabeth Paige finally committed to meditation, something she’d tried before but couldn’t stick with. This time she did it differently: Instead of closing herself in a room and focusing on her breathing, she allowed her two dogs to join her. Petting the dogs became her anchor to the present, and their response—deep relaxation—helped her to drop into meditation. She’s since written a book on…

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