“The benefits of positive emotions do not stop when the initial good feelings subside. In fact, the biggest benefits are an enhanced ability to solve problems and develop resources for life.” Dr. Barbara Fredrickson
You will hear the remarkable stories of teachers, social workers, and principals who suffered greatly through illness, injuries, and difficult pregnancies.
Eventually rising up (with time and support) to greater heights in their current lives.
Hear Their Stories in Video Below:
What is Post Traumatic Growth?
Post traumatic growth (PTG) can be defined as positive personal changes that result from the survivor’s struggle to deal with trauma and its psychological consequences.
The process of post traumatic growth can lead to 1. improved relationships, 2. more compassion, 3. openness, 4. appreciation for life, 5. spiritual growth, 6. personal strength, and 7. a renewed sense of possibilities in the world.
Go to bed visualizing three new things you’re grateful for that day.
Joy needs room to breathe.
And so do you.
Remember when you were a kid playing with friends, and before you knew it the street lights came on? If it wasn’t for your mom yelling your name, you would be outside playing all night long. In that moment, you were in a state of flow.
You were completely engaged in what you were doing, independent of everything around you.
Your mom could have called your name for hours, and you wouldn’t have heard a word.
One hundred percent of your attentional capacity was taken up by the activity right in front of you.
Most likely you still experience a state of flow and engagement, but not as often as you like.
Consider the following when you spend time with people:
Do you feel uplifted or drained?
Do you feel listened to or ignored?
Do you feel encouraged or criticized?
Stay close to people who feel like sunshine.
Meaning comes from serving something bigger than ourselves.
Whether it be family, charity, occupation, or community, meaning unites us in a common vision and gives us the will to get through adversity.
Students Are My North Star
That said, meaning can appear elusive to some, so why not consider one purpose each day.
Begin with a typical workday. Choose one purpose, and do something to give meaning to that purpose.
I’ve listed a few options, as well as an example for each:
Pick one person — thank a custodian for their hard work.
Pick one place — post uplifting notes and quotes on a section of the wall.
Pick one time — declare 3 pm gratitude hour.
Achievement is the final component of the PERMA model, and, in many ways, its foundation. Goals give us a sense of achievement and satisfaction, helping us to know if we are headed in the right direction.
The key is to balance our drive and determination with the right level of difficulty. If we set a goal that’s too easy, we get bored. If it’s too hard, we experience learned helplessness.
Set daily goals that are achievable and tied into your highest dreams.
Cultivating mental health daily prepares us for the big things in our life. Every little bit counts, everything adds up. Small things on repeat change the world.
The audience was filled a very special group of people. Individuals that have been battling the chronic condition of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) their whole lives.
Optimism and Health Empowerment
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes a group of conditions, the two main forms of which are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD also includes indeterminate colitis.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that inflame the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and disrupt your body’s ability to digest food, absorb nutrition, and eliminate waste in a healthy manner.
Individuals with chronic health problems such as IBD often feel a sense of helplessness and disempowerment over their bodies.
Which is why teaching concrete strategies for focusing on what’s within one’s control (beliefs and attitudes; deep breathing; present moment awareness) and letting go of what’s not (waiting times; IBD diagnosis; doctor availability) is so important.
Believing you can is half the battle.
Research in health psychology shows that optimism and having hope in one’s future has a significant impact on whether patients follow through on medical advice.
Optimism has also been found to improve overall quality of life, well-being, and happiness of cancer patients.
Click Here for Research on Health, Hope, and Optimism
Optimism Can Be Learned
The good news is that optimism is a skill that can be learned.
Optimism / pessimism are not fixed personality traits that someone is lucky (or unlucky) enough to be born with.
Optimism / pessimism are states (not traits) that are malleable and open to change.
Optimism / pessimism are attributional styles that can be taught and reinforced over time.
Using Attribution Theory, I can tell a lot about someone by the way they interpret the events that happen in their lives, particularly the explanatory style they use in analyzing setbacks versus successes.
The pessimist perceives failures as personal, permanent, and pervasive, and thus has difficulty moving beyond setbacks. They often get lost in a recurrent loop of negativity.
In contrast, optimists see setbacks as universal. to everyone, temporary in time, and limited to one or two areas of their lives.
“While traditional psychology focused its attention on pathology and problems, in the relatively new field of positive psychology, researchers strive to explore and understand the strengths of individuals and communities that contribute to their flourishing.” Source: Psychology Guide
I am passionate about what positive psychology can do for students and educators in and out of the classroom. By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, students are motivated to move beyond, and in some cases, be transformed by their current limitations, history, and circumstances.
Positive psychology is not about being happy and successful all the time. Instead, happiness is aspirational like a delicious meal at a 5 star restaurant. Wonderful but not to be expected, at every meal, all the time. (Otherwise, we set ourselves up for disappointment on the Kraft Dinner days.)
Instead, the field of positive psychology helps bring out the best in us. In a balanced way. The ebb and flow of life. Negativity is to be expected. The question is – how long do you stay there.
Safe uplifting atmosphere.
As a professor, I believe it is paramount to create a safe and uplifting atmosphere in the classroom. A secure and consistent milieu where students know what to expect class to class, week to week, semester to semester. A place where students are encouraged to build upon their existing strengths, while feeling supported enough to share their current struggles.
As I teach mostly nursing students, it is critical that I practice what I teach in and out of the classroom. Nursing students will also be responsible for creating an encouraging and safe space for their clients one day.
The yellow t-shirts are from the Yellow Umbrella Project, an Ontario wide college campaign for battling the stigma of mental illness on campus.
Positive psychology and student empowerment.
My highest goal is to work with young Canadians in a way that empowers and encourages them to become the best version of themselves. Cultivatingsuccess in a way that is unique to them. I believe that interactive lectures combined with warmth and real-life stories is the best approach for achieving this goal.
Ultimately, I hope to remind students of their gifts. While encouraging them to embrace their challenges. For we are the sum total of all that is powerful and vulnerable – within and around us. And it’s this extraordinary combination of strong and weak, good and bad, light and dark, that makes our world and our classrooms such a fascinating place to live and thrive.
In Celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month in Canada
In this video, I share an overview of my latest psychology article in The Drive Magazine (May, Issue 121). An issue devoted entirely to mental health awareness, treatment, and prevention. With the ultimate goal of ending the stigma of mental illness.
Instead of thinking of mental health as a burden to be shouldered, imagine it as an opportunity to experience peace and joy. In the same way that we make time for our physical needs (eating and sleeping) we must devote attention to our psychological needs.
Very honoured to sit down with Dr. Andrea Dinardo this week and divulge all my lemon soul questions with her. A true testament to her work as a psychologist and now psychology professor, this episode is FULL of good advice! With a deeper insight into many of our mental health struggles and the science behind how our brain is working. Furthermore diving into Dr. Dinardo’s personal life as she uncovers her fundamental inspiration for everything she does in life, her sister.
Topics covered on the podcast:
From psychologist to psychology professor!
How to motivate students!
Why connection is important. Compassion fatigue
The givers & the takers Setting boundaries for others and ourselves.
Thriving Under Pressure! Failure as Feedback! Are we socialized to care?
How to train your brain
Challenge, Control, & Commitment Honour your pain!
B r e a t h i n g s p a c e ! The universe box Claiming your prize GET MOVING!
I hope this podcast interview inspires you to take the road less traveled this week.
The one you have been waiting to take for days, months, perhaps years.
Dr. Dinardo explained to us all about positive psychology while sharing with us some of the struggles she faced earlier in her career as a psychologist.
The main focus of her discussion was about protecting yourself from everyone’s problems.
One of the main things that Dr. Dinardo struggled with years ago was protecting her own mental health when she had all of these patients who needed her help.
She taught us that we should be focusing less on the PROBLEMS in our lives, and more on strengths and goodness in our lives.
When someone comes to her with a problem, she believes it is best to speak 15 minutes about the problem, and 45 about the solutions, strengths and goodness.
Dr. Dinardo explains that we must build on what is STRONG, not on what is WRONG.
If you spend too much time talking about the problems, you will never find a solution.
She also explains that we must protect ourselves from other people’s problems.
We should be respectful of other peoples time and energy, and ensure that it is okay to talk about our problems with other people. (We often word vomit our problems onto so many people in our lives and this is not okay to do all the time.)
Dr. Dinardo explains one of her favorite practices is the 10 minute timer. She allows friends to vent for 10 minutes, and after that time it is over.
Overall, it is important that we protect our energy and respect others energy in order to stay sane and happy.
My favourite part of this photo is the story behind it.
When the magazine was arranging the photo shoot, they asked where my favourite place to recharge was in Windsor (Ontario, Canada). I shared that it was a top of Blue Heron Hill overlooking Lake Heron and Lake St. Clair. So you can just imagine the photographer hiking his equipment up the hill, with me tagging along in my wedge high sandals!
But the reward was worth it..
All you can see is blue for days. My favourite colour and place. 💙🍃
I hope this interview encourages you to keep shooting for the stars and believing in your dreams.
Ultimately reminding you that the power within you will always be greater than the challenges around you.
I purposely teach this topic during the height of midterms. Raising awareness about the healthy (and not so healthy) ways students manage stress is critical for building resilience.
Shifting Negative ⇒ Positive
One of my top 10 techniques for shifting students from stress to strength is to share what’s going right even (especially) when things are going wrong. Small uplifts in the course of the day change everything. Fleeting. Unexpected. Goodness.
Once we acknowledge what’s wrong. We open our eyes to the grace that takes place throughout the day.
“Good things are always happening. The key is to notice them.”
Students make the shift from powerless to empowered by sharing ordinary joys happening in their lives.
A radiant smile from a fellow commuter. Free coffee at McDonald’s. An unexpected A on a paper. A sweet parking spot. Spending time with an old friend. A surprise compliment from a stranger. Laughing out loud with fellow classmates. A really good night’s sleep.
And I’m the fortunate professor who gets to hear all these uplifts at the end of a long, rainy day. One more reason why I love working with students.
I am excited to share an interview, photos, and a short video clip from yesterday’s TEDx Event at the University of Windsor. It was one of the most positive speaking experiences I’ve ever had. Truly magical.
TEDx Dream Team
Thank you for letting me share my dream of being on the TEDx stage! The official TEDx video will be posted soon. 🎥
I have some exciting news to share! I was recently chosen to be a TEDx speaker for the University of Windsor TEDx Event on Sunday, January 28, 2018.
The theme of the event is “Diamonds from Pressure”. Which fits in beautifully with my psychology blog — Thriving Under Pressure.
TEDx Diamonds from Pressure
TEDx Posters Everywhere!
What are TEDx Talks?
“A TEDx event is an independently operated, community driven event. The talks are no more than 18 minutes in length, are idea-focused, and cover a wide range of subjects to foster learning, inspiration and wonder – and provoke conversations that matter.” Source: Ted.com
TEDx Preparation in Six Steps
The process of preparing a TEDx Talk has been quite different from any other keynote or seminar I have given. I have maximum 18 minutes to convey an original idea. So I have no choice but to get right to the point. Which is a very good thing!
Step 1: Create an Outline
In developing my speech, the first thing I did was create a storyboard for my TEDx script. (see below) I set it up like scenes in a movie. 5 scenes. 3-4 minutes per idea. 🎥
The purpose of my TEDx Talk is to help people thrive on their journey from stress to strength.
Step 2: Let Your Ideas Flow
This is where you let your imagination run free. Luckily inspiration flowed in from everywhere! So much so that while at the movies last month, I was struck by an idea with only a movie napkin nearby. So I did what all writers do, I wrote on whatever material I could find. Hoping to capture one fleeting burst of insight.
TEDx Ideas in the Making
TEDX Napkin Edition
Step 3: Edit TEDx Script
In case you’re wondering, there are approximately 2500 words in an 18 minute TEDx speech. Thus I have been equally busy downsizing, condensing, and editing my script. Focus is the goal. Less is more!
Step 4: Rehearse Rehearse Rehearse
Practice your TEDx speech as often as you can. In the mirror. On your run. In the car. At the mall. In front of anyone who is willing to listen. Stay open to feedback. As much as you can. Record yourself and listen back. This is especially important for hitting the 18 minute time limit. I used an audio to text dictation iPhone app called TEMI that helped tremendously.
Step 5: Take a TEDx Break
Now complete, it’s time to rest and enjoy some”Breathing Space“. As unrelenting work rarely fosters positive energy. Best to gear down before gearing up for the big TEDx day. Sign me up for a movie night, a kickboxing session, and a homemade dinner. Doctor’s orders. ♥
Step 6: Test out TEDx Red Carpet
TEDx Diamonds from Pressure is just 10 days away. The outline, the structure, and the body of TEDx complete. The stories worked out. The edits made. Just one last dress rehearsal on the TEDx stage!
By focusing on strengths first, I buffer myself against the vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue often associated with the practice of psychology. And in turn, my positive approach heightens the resilience and stress hardiness in others. (Boomerang effect!)
Everywhere I go, I’m on the lookout for genius. And I don’t mean genius in the general sense. I mean strengths, assets, gifts, capabilities, multiple intelligences that are unique to each person. (Einstein’s quote below captures it perfectly.)
For not only is strengths finding essential for illuminating the abundance in others, it is essential for harnessing the bounty in ourselves.
As each time we witness the light shining brightly in another, we see their radiance reflected back in ourselves.
Identify 2-5 strengths that you witnessed in others today. Describe how seeing the strengths in others brought out the strengths in you.
Today I discovered my brother’s ___________. This illuminated my:
Today I noticed my colleague’s ____________. This bolstered my:
Today I uncovered my neighbour’s __________. This reinforced my:
So it’s no wonder that I love this very cool day dedicated to smiling. If you’re also interested, you can check out the World Smile Day website. It’s filled with articles, history, and fun events happening around the world. Smiling rocks!
Fascinating research on smiling.
Smiles are more than skin deep.
Have you ever wondered why you can’t help but smile back when someone smiles at you? And why it feels so good when someone (strangers included) smile. It turns out that smiling is linked to a specific type of neuron called mirror neurons.
“Neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti, MD, who with his colleagues at the University of Parma first identified mirror neurons, says that these neurons could help explain how and why we “read” other people’s minds and feel empathy for them.” Source: APA Monitor
The ripple effect of positivity.
Mirror theory helps us understand why emotions are so contagious. Just like mirrors reflecting back visual images, mirror neurons cause us to instinctively mimic the facial expressions and emotions of others. Simply seeing someone smile generates a community chain reaction of positive emotions and behaviour.
One more reason to share your good vibes with the world.
So many students come to class anxious and stressed out. The last thing on their minds is learning. Which is why I start each class by asking students what’s the best thing that’s happened to them today.
Reflection ◊ Connection ◊ Motivation
Their answers fascinate me. And give me insight into what motivates them. From simple to profound. From food to relationships. From money to purpose. From grades to destiny. And everything in between.
Less stress. More learning.
Interacting with students in fun and uplifting ways brings laughter and lightness to the classroom. It doesn’t take a lot of time. Yet it creates a significant shift in student stress and comfort levels.
Students need to feel safe. Students need to feel heard. Showing them you care (while having fun) works every time. Only then can the real learning begin!
“Resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress. They understand that setbacks happen and sometimes life is hard and painful. They still experience the emotional pain, grief, and sense of loss that comes after a tragedy, but their mental outlook allows them to work through such feelings and recover.” Source: Living Well
Building Stress Resilience
Stress hardiness is a pathway to resilience – the ability to remain healthy and strong during stressful and challenging times.
Do you trust the process / evolution of your life?
Do you stir the pot before it boils? Do you open the oven before it bakes?
Or do you relax on the sofa trusting the recipe and the time it takes?
Not long ago, I was interviewed by Adam Rochon on the topic of transformational change.
During the podcast interview, Adam and I explored a different way of thinking about change.
A more uplifting and empowering take on transformation.
Adam and I discussed how the key to lasting change isn’t to push yourself harder.
The key to lasting change is to understand yourself better.
To accept yourself more. And to judge yourself less.
Trust the timing of your life.
Your good and bad habits did not develop overnight.
And neither does transformational change.
Ultimately to grow, we must trust, let go, and learn to respect the process.
Excerpt from my interview with Adam Rochon: “For me respecting the process in my own life and in all the people I’m blessed enough to meet, is to realize the process is so much bigger than I am. It is our destiny. It is the 100 years – if we are ever that lucky to live on this earth. Whatever we experience, good or bad, is just a day in the life and that we need to pay attention to where we are. When we get stressed out, overwhelmed and are going through a lot of changes, take a step back and realize that there are so many forces at work that are greater than we are – which is the process. When we Respect the Process everything just falls into place. It sounds simple, but you need to just let go of what you don’t have control over and be inspired by the process.” Episode #15: Transformational Change.
Have you ever wondered why some people remain upbeat and positive despite the chaos that surrounds them while others are utterly miserable even in good times? What explains the difference between these two groups of individuals?
Are happy people just lucky people born happy? And unhappy people born miserable? Or is happiness a choice we make day by day, moment to moment?
The answer to this question is twofold. On one hand, 50% of happiness is predetermined by biology (e.g., inborn temperament) while the remaining 50% is influenced by life circumstances and intentional activities.
The Happiness Formula
As shown above, research indicates that approximately 40% of happiness is intentional activities (e.g., daily exercise, meditation, forgiveness), 10% is life circumstances (e.g., income), and 50% is genetic (e.g., temperament),
Though we may have little control over genetics and/or life circumstances — we do have personal agency when it comes to intentional activities. Be it a walk around the block, gardening in the backyard, or simply relaxing by the fire.
My Personal Experience
Being an optimist (and a positive psychologist), I tend to focus on the parts of life where I have influence. For both myself, and the people around me.
Even though you might not be the happiest (or healthiest, or richest, or most zen) person in the room, you (like me) have room (potential) to grow and expand – no matter your life circumstances or genetic make up.
Special note: I take medical conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety into account when discussing “Is Happiness a Choice?” in my webcast. I underscore that intentional activities such as meditation, exercise, and proper nutrition will not cure mental illness, though they will help tremendously.
For example, medical research has demonstrated that exercise (an intentional activity) improves mood in individuals with anxiety and depression. And in turn, enhances personal agency and locus of control ⇐ the number one (environmental) contributor to happiness.
The Happiness Choice
Celebrate your one-of-a-kind happiness. Do not compare it to your brother or your sister, or to a neighbour or a (facebook) friend. FOMO is the “thief of joy”. For what determines your happiness is unique to you to you, and only you.
The list is long when it comes to student stress. But by far, one of the greatest sources of stress is waiting!
Students are always forecasting into the future. Every single moment of student life is about waiting. Waiting for grades. Waiting for summer. Waiting for graduation.
Forever in a day.
Students become frustrated waiting for what feels like a lifetime to practice the profession they’re in school for.
Textbook readings, class lectures, and endless exams seem miles away from actually doing their dream job.
Days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years. Time moves at a snail’s pace.
Infinity in their minds.
For students, there are too many years before they can finally live their lifelong dream of becoming a nurse, a lawyer, a carpenter, a designer, a psychologist.
“Don’t worry, it will all be worth it in the end”. Easy for a professor to say. Challenging for a student to live. A day is infinity in a student’s mind.
(Little do they know that one day they will look back and fondly recall their college years as the best years of their lives.)
Bridging the (time) gap.
Listening to students lament year after year about the waiting game got me thinking (and dreaming) of a better way! Asking myself how I could bridge the (time) gap between education and profession.
My goal is to help students claim ownership of their present time. To help them live their dream job every single day. To remind them that life purpose does not require a job to be realized.
No more waiting.
Students do not have to wait a lifetime to experience their dream job. Instead, they could live the core elements of their chosen profession every single day – in so many wonderful ways. Simply by living on purpose, in present time.
Accounting students could help their friends get a better understanding of their finances. Show their neighbours how to do their taxes.
Carpentry students could assist their family in the renovation of a kitchen.
Child and Youth care workers could volunteer at an after school program.
Nursing students could help out an elderly couple at the grocery store.
Social work students could give a seminar at a college residence about mental health.
Senior students could show freshman the best spots to study on campus.
Living your dreams. Every single day.
Using “bite size” mission statements, I help students identify the key attributes of their dream profession.
During this exercise, students realize that “Life Purpose” is 99% about LIFE. Something they live every single day.
And that no one needs to wait one more year, one more day, or even one more moment to live life to the fullest.
Ultimately, students (and their professor) discover that Life Purpose is about following their heart, sharing their gifts, and shining their light.
The next time you’re tempted to complain about the same thing (over and over again), direct that same (frustrated) energy into your highest, loftiest goals. Consciously swap one complaint for one baby step towards your dreams. Same energy required. Magically different results. 🎈
The one word I hear repeatedly from students this time of year is drowning.
Drowning in bills. Drowning in midterms. Drowning in research.
Not a pleasant thought. And definitely not energizing.
A sinking feeling that takes student motivation from 100 to 0 in an instant.
By thought alone.
How can we help students to feel more empowered in the midst of winter weather, too many midterms, and not enough time.
We meet students where they’re at. By embracing that stressful, drowning thought and transforming it into a peaceful, floating feeling. By helping students feel safe and supported. In and out of the classroom.
Trusting the Flow.
We remind students of their resilience. We show them how far they’ve come. We encourage them to flow with the moment instead of fighting against the current. Then and only then can the focused learning begin.