What Trauma Taught Me About Happiness

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Trauma

Is it possible to feel joy in the face of adversity?

Strength during the lowest of lows?

Creativity in the midst of destruction?

Peace in difficulty?

Vibrancy during cancer?

Happiness during COVID-19?

In the video below, I share some personal examples from my own upbringing on how my parents found strength and contentment during even the darkest of times.

Your Thoughts:

Can trauma and happiness coexist?

I’d love to hear your ideas, theories, and personal stories.

Video of Post โ†’ Click Here

53 thoughts on “What Trauma Taught Me About Happiness

Add yours

  1. Yes they can coexist,

    I can relate to your father using running to help him deal with difficult situations. Yoga really helps me to get through challenging times.

    1. Thank you for watching the video! And for sharing your own strategies for handling adversity. There is so much symbolism in the practice of Yoga. Carried with you throughout the day. Love your blog btw. Exactly what I need to be reading right now. Have a wonderful week Mr. Wallace!

  2. I’ve thought it was cruel that depression is so often associated with anhedonism. It’s just about the last moment in your life that you want to be averse to pleasure, since pleasure seems helpful in getting out of it.

    Very inspiring video. Thanks for sharing that!

    1. Paul, I can relate to this point in more ways than you can imagine!

      The heaviness and darkness that goes along with depression – at the very time you need a spark of light. This ^ one of many reasons that I turned to positive psychology theories to help me better address my clients mental health challenges. Because in my early years as a psychologist, it was just to easy for me to be swept away in empathy / compassion to the point that I would leave sessions with the very experiences I was meant to treat. Now I have come to learning that “holding space” is the best way to help the light come back in.

      Thanks also for watching the video! One of the first things I do as a psychology coach is explore the impact of early development on current mindset and perseverance patterns during adversity. So I thought it was only fair to uncover a bit of behind the scenes on where my theories on post traumatic growth and positive psychology originated.๐Ÿ’ก๐Ÿ’ž

  3. Good afternoon Dr Andrea…
    A difficult one ..coexistence of happiness and trauma…difficult but not impossible…even I believe in diverting my mind ..getting busy doing something which interests me during difficult time…

        1. Good evening Dr Andrea…
          My score is 8 that means a balanced approach ..but yes what I feel it has more to do with situation…at times I indulge in quick decision making and on other occasions get into loads of detail to arrive at a decision…but yes do take a decision ..never leave something hanging for too long ….I have been through many adverse situation and not hesitated to take a call and follow it…and I am more than convinced that adversities more often make a person. …

          1. You are the ultimate psychology student Krish!

            I love that you went ahead and did the questionnaire on L-R brain dominance. Knowing that you can easily switch between the two sides of the brain, is an incredible coping mechanism. Awareness of when you’re doing it helps tremendously. I scored an 8 on the test too!

            I also agree: “adversities more often make a person. โ€ฆ”

            My life purpose is to help people bridge the gap between adversity and RISING UP again. Something I talked up during my TEDx Talk called Thriving Under Pressure.

            Thanks again for adding to my psychology blog’s discussions.
            It’s people like you that help my ideas COME ALIVE..

  4. Thank you Andrea. Your video is very timely as always. Yes, I believe they can. Covid-19 complications put me in hospital, but it led to my being diagnosed with a leaky heart valve. I am forever thankful, and living very much in each joyful moment right now.

    1. Brigid, once again you reach for the higher meaning in everything. I have learned so much from you over the years, from both your book, and your blog. Your trauma and adversity encourages all of us to dig deeper into the joy in each moment. To watch the daisies. Every chance we get. Wishing you a double dose of healing, health, and happiness. Your Canadian Friend, Andrea ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿ’›

  5. Thank you for your positive and inspiring post, Andrea. Yes, I think they can co-exist if we make space to be in the present moment, deal with what comes our way and leave the worries for another day. Sometimes easier said than done. We can but try. Thank you for helping me find some space. May you find it too.

    1. You are so welcome Norah. Grateful for your reflections & resilient spirit. Have a wonderful Wednesday! Together we will make space for what comes our way. Knowing deep inside that we will always be stronger than the stress, even if it takes a moment to wake up to the strengths inside.๐ŸŽ

  6. I do agree with you, my friend. Your folks were great examples to you of perseverance under trial. It’s why God gives us hope. Problems will happen. Crises do occur. Trials will come upon us. But He has overcome the world and the darkness that so easily trips us up. Thanks for sharing so honestly.

    1. Grateful for your support and encouragement. Thank you for watching the video and hearing my family’s story. Your faith inspires me so much Dayle. Wishing you a day filled with as much hope and kindness as you give to others. May it come back to you tenfold. ๐Ÿ˜‡

  7. Another insightful post, your caring, your desire to help others gives me warmth

    Therapists should watch your video. For years now, I have recommended aerobic exercise to near exhaustion.

    Therapists only give brief little recommendations to exercise.

    When my mind was frozen, my nervous system upside down, firing my adrenal stress response all throughout the day, my legs could still move

    We do not look at healing as a mind-body journey.

    I would hike uphill, pushing myself, using this physical exercise to reap its benefits.

    The poisons are flushed out of my system

    The cortisol and adrenaline are depleted.

    The exhilaration and achievement of being able to push my body this hard is shared with my mind

    Another great benefit. It affords me a positive action, a purpose and I am not worrying or thinking about my suffering

    The abundance of endorphins earned is icing in the cake

    Happiness does not visit us without action, in my opinion

    As your dad knew intuitively. Always use your strengths to face your challenges

    1. Marty! We are so on the same page. Literally! I am teaching a new course on health psychology to nursing students in the fall. And it will include many of the points you have outlined above.

      “Therapists should watch your video. For years now, I have recommended aerobic exercise to near exhaustion.”
      “As your dad knew intuitively. Always use your strengths to face your challenges”

      When I worked with young boys and teenagers as a school psychologist, I would always make sure that the therapy / counselling sessions included activity of some sort – whether it be basketball hoops in the gym or a board game of monopoly.

      Walk & Talks are also another of my favourite forms of therapy. For so many reasons!


      And so do your words Marty.

      Thank you for continuing to add gravitas to my ideas.
      I am grateful for your time and wisdom.

      Enjoy your day!

  8. Trauma from my experience can block out the light of happiness if you let it. Its hard to see beyond the pain emotionally, psychologically and emotionally, and this is an overwhelming feeling of doubt, sadness and a myriad of other emotions. What I have found is daily make small steps and go after some thing which makes you smile. If an open window makes you smile get into the habit of waking and opening the window. It takes a lot of self talk to allow happiness into a state of trauma. Smiling of seeing someone smile can bring momentary happy signals and the feeling of happiness is there. Yes they can coexist in my opinion. Happiness is a choice while Trauma is not. I choose to be happy, whatever my circumstances.

    1. “What I have found is daily make small steps and go after some thing which makes you smile. If an open window makes you smile get into the habit of waking and opening the window.”

      Such beautiful examples of baby steps of joy. Thank you for sharing Donna-Luisa. Reading your words brings warmth to my heart. I admire your will and willingness to grow and learn. You Teach with Every Word you Write.

  9. Very informative video. I’m not sure that everyone can reach back to childhood for modeling behavior. For those who never had that example – or when childhood is the source of trauma – happiness during later trauma in general is more elusive. Coping mechanisms are tough to come by these days. It’s a skill set we can all use. I appreciate your input and ideas!

    1. One hundred percent in agreement!

      Not everyone has strong role models growing up. And as you also share, for some people childhood is their source of trauma.

      Which is why I take such great responsibility as a psychology professor and former school psychologist.

      I have the opportunity to plant new seeds of light and resilience, in places that not everyone sees – but I do (I talked about this at the beginning of my TEDx Talk).

      Even when you can’t.
      This includes you too my friend!

      1. Planting those seeds is planting hope. It just takes careful nurturing for them to grow through the trauma – both past and present. To be visible to all. Thanks for your message and what you do ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I always believe there is something good in every difficult. I think that when we are riding the wave of trauma we may have glimpses of happy moments. The full happiness in on the other side of a positive outcome. If the outcome isnt great, happiness may come in time. During trauma I feel God really injects a positivity, a hand of courage and lifts us up.

    I guess I struggle to say coexist, as that to me means at the same time, parallel, and that why I say glimpses during the trauma. But I guess it depends on so much. No two are the same.

    1. The word co-exist is what gets the conversation going.. . Which is why I so appreciate how you “idea travelled” and explored the underlining meanings of trauma & happiness. Personal and universal all at once. I always love hearing from you! Thank you for your insights. You have me thinking.. ๐Ÿ“–โ™ฅ๏ธ

      1. Well your use of coexist got me thinking and travelling ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ™ƒ. There are a lot of dependencies, type of person, type of trauma, age, illness, and so much more. Right now my 20 old niece has a rare tummy issue superior mesenteric arteries syndrome. She has a food pipe nj. It 4 weeks in hospital, two weeks with food pipe, and because of covid 19 not even her parents could see her. In jan she had a tummy ucler, and recovered so well. And then bang out of the blue. Though I try to put a good spin in it for my brother and sister in law, at least we know. But the illness is rare, I mean rare. So .. glimpses in the only word that fits, as the road is long. And it all depends on the situation.

        Your posts always get me thinking๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ˜’๐Ÿ˜โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿฅฐ

    1. I love these conversations Dr. G! I also started with one idea, and landed on another as I moved between platforms. Grateful for your time! You always know how to make me smile. Your Twin Professor, Dr. D ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•

    2. If I may. I am just an average Joe, no Dr.

      Trauma isn’t an emotion, but yet I am in pain.

      I feel may be at a text book level, it is possible to coexist,
      But, in life trauma is pain, and when in pain, one may strive to see positive in have a glimpse of happiness from time to time during the trauma.

      Eg. Giving birth can be traumatic, once healthy baby is delivered and mum is fine, then we are all good.

      Dr Andrea’s story of her dad running whilst business was burning, is a great example of coexisting .

      But, the situation make coexisting not always possible, especially if the journey to recovery is touch n go. Like dr Andrea’s story of her mum and cancer. I am sure there were good days and bad days.

      My humble 2 pennies worth.

      Dr Andrea has as always created a great topic to discuss.

      1. Yes. I agree! I had a different answer yesterday on her instagram but today I see it from your and her perspective. And no is an average Joe ๐Ÿ˜‰ we all have our unique qualities; โ€œdoctorโ€ is just a title.

          1. My favourite part of all our conversations is how safe we are to share our EVER EVOLVING ideas & theories! #workinprogress ๐ŸŒŽ๐Ÿ’ž

            p.s. Almost every doctor I know has imposter syndrome! We don’t believe the hype either.. lol

    1. What an incredible story of courage, hope, happiness, and faith. Thank you for sharing Mitch! My husband and I talked about Bill Sweeney during our coffee talk this morning and how much he has now come to inspire us too! A moment I will share with your friend today on his blog too. Have a wonderful Wednesday Mitch!

  11. Thank you for sharing this video, Dr. Andrea. Great stuff. I have also enjoyed reading the discussion. I don’t know about happiness, but I know that we can have joy and peace in the midst of trauma/trials. Like our other emotions, happiness comes and goes. My faith in God gives me a sense of peace, hope, and inner joy even during the times I’m not particularly happy.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and watch Bill! It is a divine connection to have you here. Your life experience and ALS brings so much wisdom to this post. I also have a strong belief, and as you write above – Faith is the one unwavering constant in our collective ups and downs. A light that shines through the darkness, no matter what. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ’ก๐Ÿ’™

  12. Hi Dr. Andrea, thank you for sharing your insights on the coexistence of trauma and happiness. I’ve lived with chronic depression all my life and not too long ago had an episode that nearly caused me to end it all. Thankfully, even though it hurt to talk about what I was feeling just being able to unload to a close friend saved my life. From personal experience, I know that trauma and happiness can coexist because there have been many situations in my life when darkness threatened to overtake me yet tapping into fleeting moments of joy sustained me.

    1. I honour your experience so much. Something you write about so eloquently on your blog “Bold Blind Beauty”. It is heartwarming to know that you had someone close by to support you during such a dark time.

      And as you write above, it’s the fleeting moments of joy that make your chronic depression bearable. My hope is that you experience more joyful moments during the summer of 2020, and beyond.

      Today and always, may you feel the grace that surrounds you Stephanae. Sending you an extra dose of light and love. ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ

  13. Depression is quite common now a days. It is necessary to deal with trauma properly. Sometimes, the mental health becomes unpredictable, sometimes we feel healthy, good and sometimes depression is sudden. Thanks for the updates provided here. It would be nice if you share some more on this!
    Dentist in Longmont CO

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