Here I am.

The aftermath.

No matter how many times I give a speech or participate in a big event, I am often left with the same feeling for a day or so.

Sadness. A kind of longing. A sense of emptiness.

For weeks, sometimes months, I practice, prepare, and edit my work. Immersed, focused, lost in the creative flow.

At night. On weekends. During all my free time. Hoping to do my best. Not wanting to let down.

Researching. Anticipating. Building  up to the main event.

Afterward, what was once was filled with busyness is an open space. A hollowness that cannot be filled by looking back or planning ahead.

An ache. A void. For no good logical reason.

A place inside that can only be filled in present time.

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So I go for a bike ride knowing how Mother Nature always soothes my heart and replenishes my soul.

There is no more looking back or ahead when I am outside.

At that moment I hear three words deep in my heart.

Here I am.

Here I am.

For solace cannot be found in travelling through time.

It can only be found in where you are right now.

Here I am.

in the blooming trees

in the birds soaring

in the sun setting

in the water flowing

in this moment wherever you are.

Here I am. 💚

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Hope.

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My husband John and I had dinner at this little restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake when I was away speaking at a conference this week. This single pink rose reminded me of the one thing that truly matters. HOPE. I have hope. In you. In me. In our future. I have hope. 💕 

Wishing you a long weekend filled with flowers and sunshine.

Related Post: Always looking up.

Ordinary Joys

Simple pleasures are my favourite.

Hot coffee. Cozy blankets. Birds singing. The sun rising. Fast runs. Slow walks. Long days. Warm hugs. Peaceful silences. BLT sandwiches. Tomato soup. Matinee movies. Buttery popcorn. Ice cold pop. Walking on campus. Smiling in the hallways. Laughing with students. Learning from students. Driving home. Soulful conversations. Dreaming of the future. Reminiscing about the past. Living fully in the moment. Riding bikes. Dancing down the street. Barbeque dinners. Chocolate almonds. Stephen King novels. Hot Tea. Cozy Blankets. Birds Singing… 

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Nothing is more extraordinary than our ordinary joys. For how we live our days is how we live the whole of our lives.


What brings you joy on an ordinary day?

Less fight. More serenity.

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The next time you’re gearing up for another big fight with reality.

Morning Traffic

Office Politics

Loud Neighbours

Unpredictable Weather

Try rolling with it.

Giving up the fight.

Waving the white flag.

Surrendering to what is.

And always has been.

The upside.

You conserve energy for the joyful in your life.

The meaningful in your life.

The soulful in your life.

Including this very moment.

This is where your life SHINES.

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Good energy multiplies.

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I want to give the world the best of me.

This is my hope every time we meet.

And every time I teach.

No matter how brief or long our interaction.

I want to leave you feeling brighter, lighter, more confident.

The bonus is — when your energy rises, so does mine.

A boomerang effect of the highest kind.

Which is why I will always keep your vibes in mind.

When your day brightens, so does mine. 💫

How will you illuminate the world today?

Related Post: Shine your light.

How do you prepare for work each day?

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

I value positivity and a sense of security in the classroom, above all else.

For it is only when students feel safe, supported, and uplifted are they motivated to learn.

Creating a harmonious classroom atmosphere happens long before the school bell rings.

Which is why my preparation for teaching psychology includes both energetic and intellectual preparation.

Ultimately, the more relaxed and happy I am, the more calm and content my students will be.

I am grateful for every student I teach and I want to make sure that they get the best of me.

Energetic Preparation for Teaching = Exercise

Intellectual Preparation for Teaching = Textbooks 

How do you prepare for work each day?

The domino effect.

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Smile like you’re changing the world. Because you are. 🌸

We often think of changing of the world as some great big, grand gesture. Performed on stage with millions of people watching. When in fact it’s just you and me (and 7 billion others). Smiling, connecting, caring, and loving. Every moment. Every encounter. We are the dominos.

Related Post: What if our only life purpose was to be kind?

Compassion heals.

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Listening heals more hearts than talking ever will.

In my early thirties I was going through a particularly tough time in my life.

A trifecta of life events where every pillar in my world came tumbling down.

Out of all the sadness, the times that I remember the most were the small joys and simple pleasures with my family and friends.

No matter how complicated and messy life became, it was their unwavering support that pulled me through.

“Just being there” is more powerful than most people realize.

Afternoons with my Dad walking down country roads. Weekends with my Mom at the dollar store. Sundays with my big sister at Tim Hortons.

Surprise phone calls from my two brothers. Relaxing with old friends in their cozy homes  — long past the time and energy they initially had for me.

The best kind of love is simple. It creates a safe space to lose yourself and find yourself all over again. No words necessary.

Listening heals more hearts than talking ever will.

Related Post: It’s ok to not be ok.

Purpose for one day

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I have the pleasure of starting each day with my husband John.

Each morning begins at 6am with an hour of coffee talk weekends included.

No alarm clock necessary. 

Having something as wonderful as hot coffee and good conversation to look forward to each day is its own wake up call.

This morning I asked John to share why he thought he was born.

Deep talk, I know.

But that’s just how life rolls when you’re married to a psychologist.

John’s answer: “To make one person’s life better that day.”

To which I replied: “Purpose achieved.” (He makes the best coffee!)

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This conversation got me thinking about how important it is to live our purpose in short 24 hour segments. Too long a timeline and we feel lost and overwhelmed.

Name the purpose. Claim the day. Leave the details up to the universe.

Who. What. Where. When. How. Are spontaneous.

Simply be on the lookout for one opportunity to be on purpose for one day.

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1 person. 1 purpose. 1 day.

Are you left brain or right brain dominant?

Left and Right Brain

Understanding

Individual Differences

Have you ever wondered how your best friend lives so freely “moment-to-moment” while your mind is imprisoned by thoughts of past events and/or planning of future events (so neatly) written in your (overly structured) daytimer?

Brain Hemispheric Specialization provides insight into why some of us are more present focused and able to “go with the flow” (Right Brain dominant); while others are busy planning their days with the step-by-step precision of a NASA engineer (Left Brain dominant).

Left and Right Brain

Your Brain and Behaviour

Despite being identical in structure, the two halves of the brain specialize in how they process information (e.g., Past vs. Present), and how they function (e.g., Verbal vs. Nonverbal).

Time ProcessingPast vs. Present

  • Left hemisphere – processes information sequentially, one bit at a time
  • Right hemisphere – processes information globally, considering it as a whole

Brain FunctionsLinguistic vs. Spatial

  • Left hemisphere – includes verbal tasks, such as speaking, reading, thinking, and reasoning.
  • Right hemisphere – includes nonverbal areas such as the understanding of spatial relationships, recognition of patterns and drawings, music, and emotional expression,

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Neuroscience in Your Life

  1.  Complete the Left/Right Brain Dominance Test to find out which brain hemisphere currently dominates your life.
    • Personally, I obtained a score of 10 on this test – indicating that I am equally Left and Right Brained.
      • Which didn’t surprise me as I often “lay the table” with outlines, organizers, etc. (Left Brain) and the moment I feel safe, grounded, and prepared, I sit back and watch the ideas fly! (Right Brain)
    • What about you? How did you score on the Left/Right Brain Dominance Test? Was it what you expected? Were the results consistent with how you live your life? Did you learn something new about yourself?

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2. Watch the following 20 minute video to: a) learn firsthand about L-R brain specialization and b) discover how Neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor turned her real-life tragedy into an awe inspiring “Stroke of Insight“.  I am still moved to tears by her story! I hope you are too. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is resilience personified.

The more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemisphere, the more peaceful our planet will be.

TEDx Speaker Jill Bolte Taylor

Psychology Class

This post is a summary of this week’s psychology lecture and Chapter 2 of my psychology textbook.

Free Psychology Chapter

If you want to learn more, you can download a free PDF of my neuroscience and behaviour chapter by clicking on this link.

My TEDx Resilience Talk

Thriving Under Pressure

Always Looking Up

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I look up every chance I get. First thing in the morning. On my run. On my way to work. In between classes. Out for a bike ride. From the skylight in my office. On the front porch before I go to sleep.

Connected to Something Bigger

The sky connects us to something much bigger than ourselves. Challenges seem small in comparison to the vastness of the sky. Solutions seem plausible. Answers come more easily.

The stars heighten our awareness, expand our field of possibilities, and relax our mind. In their presence, we embrace the profound and surrender it all. When we look up, we become fully present. In the moment. Completely mindful. Nowhere else to be but one with the sky above.

Peace of Mind

The celestial bodies provide a sense of comfort, peace of mind, and well-being. No matter what happens, the sun will rise, the stars will shine, and the moon will glow.

Blazing sunsets, radiant full moons, and shimmering constellations are all reassuring reminders that we are in this life together. We are united. We share the same magnificent celestial view.  No matter what happens, we share equal access to the divine, all-powerful universe. We are one. We are never alone.

From Me to We

Recent research at the University of California confirms that a “me to we” transformation takes place when exposed to nature. The study found that inducing a sense of awe (e.g., star gazing; looking at the ocean) in participants shifted their focus from personal needs (small self) to greater concern for society at large (altruistic behaviour).

“Inducing a sense of awe in people can promote altruistic, helpful and positive social behavior, according to research. Awe is that sense of wonder we feel in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world. People commonly experience awe in nature, but also in response to religion, art and even music. When experiencing awe, you may not, egocentrically speaking, feel like you’re at the centre of the world anymore. By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others.” Source: Science Daily

“The sun, the moon, and the stars are there to guide us.” Dennis Banks

I am starstruck every time I look up. I am in awe. The sun, the moon, and the stars are the true celebrities in our universe. Always shining. Always inspiring. Always showing us the way.

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What lights your way?

Change your life. Five minutes at a time.

 Are you tired of doing the same old, same old?

Are you ready to end the repetitive cycles in your life?

Is it time for a change?

But …..  you…..  don’t…..  have…  time…

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Surrender your fears, your resistance, your excuses.

Change need not be overwhelming.

Start small. End Big.

Little changes make a big difference.

They add up over time.

And ultimately have more staying power.

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Where to start?

Begin the transformation process with a daily habit.

Something that you do automatically – without thinking.

Start with what’s right in front of you.

Literally in the palm of your hand.

Put your phone down. Look up. Breathe in deeply. For five minutes at a time.

Use a random interval timer on your phone to cue change.

Every time you hear it beep – take a full on tech break.

A spa session for the mind.

A hello to the world moment.

A reminder to seek joy.

Out of the fog of technology into the luminescence of reality.

Time to breathe deeply.

To stretch fully.

To grab life by the horns.

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What five minute change will you make today?

Trust the music.

Stop expecting others to validate what you hear (see and feel).

The music is not “out there”.

The music is in you.

A beautiful melody that only you can hear.

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Listen. Be still. Take a long deep breath.

Fear not who you are. Fear not what you hear.

You are the symphony.

Trust the music that is in you.

And dance a little freedom dance. 

For all the world to see.

Related Post: I believe in you.

Every smile counts.

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Smile like you’re changing the world. Because you are. 🌸

We often think of changing of the world as some great big, grand gesture. Performed on stage with millions of people watching. When in fact it’s just you and me (and 7 billion others). Smiling, connecting, caring, and loving. Every moment. Every encounter. We are the dominos.

Related Post: What if our only life purpose was to be kind?

Let peace begin with me.

So much happens in the course of a day that is beyond our control. There are 100 ways to respond. And only 1 way that feels right.

Overslept. Choose peace.

Ran out of coffee. Choose peace.

 Stuck in traffic. Choose peace.

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Missed a deadline. Choose peace.

Technology overload. Choose peace.

Nonstop meetings. Choose peace.

Bossy coworker. Choose peace.

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Burnt dinner. Choose peace.

Argument with spouse. Choose peace.

Children acting up. Choose peace.

Unable to sleep. Choose peace. 

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Let peace begin with me.🌷

Helpful Video: Eckhart Tolle's Inner Peace Exercise (3 min)

You hold the key.

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Even though we often have little control over the “outside forces” in our lives, we can always make a positive difference – from the inside out.

Start here. Right here. Right now. Be still. Breathe in gratitude. Be thankful for this very moment. Start small. Notice your passing thoughts. Let go.

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Awareness empowers.

Notice the exact time it is right now. Say today’s date out loud. Look up at the sky. Wink at the clouds. Stomp your feet on the floor. Smile with gusto.

Slowly bring yourself back to this moment.

Grab onto the coffee mug you are holding. Inhale the rich scent of the sumatra you are drinking. Feel the warmth of each passing breath.

Feel the texture of the clothes you’re wearing. Wake up to the sound of your voice. Whisper. Sing. Shout it out!

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Dance a little dance. Stand up tall. Anything and everything that shifts you from outer space to inner spirit. From not enough to overflowing.

Positive change begins within.

Come back to yourself. Back to the grace of your magnificent spirit. Into the beauty of your incredible form. Feel the rhythm of your beating heart. Sense the pulse of life itself. 

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Everything you need to transform yourself and the world already exists within you. You matter. You truly matter. But you have to believe it to see it. Feel it to know it. One gentle, uplifting thought at a time.

You hold the key.

Happiness is a conscious process.

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When you notice the blessings in your life (big or small), happiness happens. One conscious thought. One mindful emotion. One insightful gesture. One moment of wonder.. at a time.☀️

Inspiration: 21 positive thoughts for your morning. 

Fear and Anxiety Solutions

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FEAR ->Forget Everything And Run.

Each time we feel threatened (threat is the fundamental definition of stress) our first instinct is to “fight or flight“. PUFF UP or Shrink. This perpetual “fight or flight” response loop eventually creates a host of secondary problems, above and beyond, the original stressor (or oppressor).

It does not matter how we attempt to “control” a stressful situation – physically, verbally, or by running away from it. Eventually, a repetitivefight or flight” response cycle will take a significant physical and psychological toll.

IS THERE A BETTER WAY ?

FEAR ->Face Everything And Rise.

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Nature soothes my soul.

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This photo was taken on one of my daily hikes up Blue Heron Hill.

One of my favourite places to go at the end of a long wintery day.

Each breath. Each step. Shifts me higher.

To a place of perfect peace. At one with the great big beautiful sky.

A divine connection. No words necessary. Heaven on earth indeed.

Related Post: Always looking up.

Where do you go to calm your mind and soothe your soul?

Blaming keeps us stuck.

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When something goes wrong, how do you respond?

Externalize the problem and blame someone else for it.

OR

Take responsibility for the problem and search for a solution.

It is only when we acknowledge our contribution to life circumstances that we have the power to change for the better.

Click here to learn more about Locus of Control.

The healing power of imagination.

What images give you a sense of safety and protection in the midst of fearful thoughts?

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 I imagine angels in the sky and lions at my feet. You: What images shift you from fear to safety?

Related Research ⇒ The Effects of Guided Imagery on Anxiety

Writing in One Word.

In One Word: Describe how you feel when you write.

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Writing makes me feel ALIVE!

For me, writing is all encompassing.

The words become the beat of my heart.

The words become the oxygen I breathe.

The words become all that I touch, feel, and see.

For me, writing is all encompassing.

I am the words. And the words are me.

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How does writing make YOU feel?

Related Post: Happiness in One Word.

What’s your stress threshold?

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Recently, a fellow blogger asked an excellent question regarding tipping points and stress response.

They were curious to know if each of us has a tipping point when it comes to stress management.

And if so, how does it differ from person to person.

I love questions like this because they encourage me to dig deep, reflect, and imagine new ways of perceiving stress.

Stress Thresholds

Tipping points and thresholds are often used synonymously in the literature. Especially when discussing economic, historical, and ecological phenomenon.

That said, there is a clear distinction between thresholds and tipping points in psychological applications.

Thresholds are more individual (unique to each person), while tipping points are more universal (shared by the majority).

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Which is why I see each person’s stress response as more of a stress threshold than a tipping point.

  • Thresholds vary from person to person (e.g., Type A vs. Type B), situation to situation (e.g., Work vs. Personal), and are based on individual strengths, challenges, and personal history.

See diagram above to help understand how thresholds affect your individual stress response. This graphic also depicts why a certain level of stress (below threshold) can be good for you.

  • Assess when you cross the threshold from your optimal stress zone (eustress) into your overload stress zone (distress).

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Situational Stress, Anxiety, and Thresholds

We may be good at some things, but we are not great at everything.

For example, the more challenging academic work is for me (high stress threshold) the more I flourish. Mostly because this is my area of expertise.

While this is not the case with other areas of my life (low stress threshold) and thus I tend to react (too quickly) when under pressure in certain personal situations.

In addition to overall stress response patterns, thresholds differ from one situation to the next.

Situational fluctuations in thresholds reflect our strengths, challenges, and personal preferences.

I discuss the topic of situational stress and anxiety in more detail during my Mental Health Matters Interview with Dr. Garland.

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From Negative to Positive Stress

Finally, I believe that our ability to cope and thrive under pressure is a lifelong practice. Something that is never mastered – only strengthened.

And the more we learn about life and ourselves, the higher our thresholds will become. As the majority of our stress is beating ourselves up – long after the stressor is gone.

3 C’s of Thriving Under Pressure

Reflection Questions About Stress

  1. How does your stress threshold differ from others?
    • Compare your personal stress threshold to family members, friends, coworkers.
      • Are you the most high strung of your siblings?
      • Are you the most carefree teacher in the school?
  2. In what situations is your stress threshold higher vs. lower?
    • Compare your situational stress threshold across multiple settings.
      • When do you stress out at work?
        • Is it only during public presentations?
      • In contrast, when are you more relaxed relaxed and easy going?
        • Are you more relaxed during independent work?
  3. What are the benefits of stress and pressure in your life?
    • When has stress been good for you?
      • e.g., motivating and energizing
    • How has pressure helped you achieve your goals?

From Fear to Love.

How do you talk to yourself?

Have you ever noticed that the more challenging life gets the more critical you are of yourself.

And the more critical you are of yourself the more challenging life becomes.

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It’s a fearful, exhausting, repetitive loop that feeds on itself.

When you’re under extreme pressure, the last thing you need is another self-talk rant of why you’re not good enough.

What you do need is a boatload of unconditional love.

 Resilience is built on love.

And so are you.

Today vow to give yourself the gift of more love, more kindness, more generosity.

A gift that will keep on giving.

Long after the stress is gone.

Find an affirmation or a positive quote that makes you stop, take a breath, and feel your heart beating deep inside.

Something that reminds you of how magical you truly are.

Post it on your fridge.

Write it on your mirror.

Save it on your phone.

Stress is surviving.

Love is thriving.

The next time you start beating yourself up over the smallest thing, take it as a sign that you need some extra love and tender care.

The more love you give yourself, the more generous, authentic, and compassionate all of your relationships will be.

Including the relationship you have with your innermost self.

Related: Mirror Affirmation Exercise

Gratitude multiples our treasures.

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This rollercoaster life.

Life is full of highs and lows. Wins and losses.  Joys and sorrows.  Celebrations and defeats. Too much and too little.

Make the shift.

Nothing shifts us from scarcity to abundance more quickly than a sudden moment of appreciation and gratitude.

Multiply your treasures.

Take a moment (this moment) to look up and breathe in all that you are grateful for. Right here. Right now.

Bless what is.

Be it the fresh air that you breathe. The clean water that you drink. The sunshine over your left shoulder. Your child playing nearby. The captivating twinkle your friend’s eye.

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The Sweet Spot.

Nowhere else to be.

That moment in the day when you realize “you’ve arrived”.

And the most interesting part is that you haven’t gone anywhere.

Instead, you finally come home to the present moment.

The here and now. The sweet spot.

No where else to be. But here and now.

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Right Here. Right Now.

This picture is from a retreat I did with one of my best friends nine years ago. The speaker asked each participant to share when they felt most at peace.

Each participant shared a different story. From when their newborn baby finally slept through the night to when they finally received their promotion at work to when their boyfriend finally proposed.

My answer was (unexpectedly) simple. I shared that I felt most at peace in that very moment. “No were else to be. But here and now.”

Wide Awake to Everything.

I had finally found my sweet spot. A place where “all is well” no matter the circumstances. A place I had been before. But failed to recognize.

A place positive psychologists call flow, and alternatively, mindfulness. A sweet spot that sparkles. Lights up. Expands. Stands still. Speeds up. And flows..

Running. Teaching. Encouraging. Writing. Laughing. Helping.

A sweetness I now easily recognize in the course of each day. That moment when I am wide awake to everything. To every sight. To every sound.

No judgements. No resistance. Simply accepting what is. And what will be.

IMG_1813 How do you know when you’ve finally “arrived” to the present moment? What does your “sweet spot” look & feel like?