We were made to thrive.

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Unless someone is going through a major life tragedy, I rarely, if ever, lean in and listen to someone’s day-to-day hassles. Instead, I choose to give energy to their strengths not their struggles. To their light not their shadows. To their purpose not their pain. Because I know deep down in my heart that each challenge makes us stronger, each failure makes us wiser, and each daily stressor reminds us that we are alive!

Related Post: I believe in you.

Thriving Under Pressure.

How can two people experience the same stressful event and react in incredibly different ways?  What explains the difference between stress thrivers and non-thrivers?

Research shows that some individuals possess a set of resilience skills and traits that allows them to flourish in response to stress.

“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

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Building Stress Resilience

Stress hardiness is a pathway to resilience – the ability to remain healthy and strong during stressful and challenging times.

Hardy individuals transform stressful circumstances into growth opportunities by reframing adversity and taking direct action in response to stress.

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Bouncing Back from Adversity

In the video below, I describe the 3 key components of stress hardiness:

1. Control

– Focusing on the things you can change and letting go of the things you can’t.

E.g., “You hold the key.”

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2. Challenge

– Reframing stressful challenges as opportunities for growth.

E.g., “Strength Training.

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3. Commitment

– Envisioning a higher purpose above and beyond the immediate stressor.

E.g., “Ask yourself why you started.

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Each component a critical factor in cultivating the ability to bounce back and thrive under pressure.

Can Stress Hardiness be Learned?

Research demonstrates that not only can stress hardiness be learned, it has wide-ranging applications, including:

1. Lowering test anxiety in high school students.

2. Reducing perceived stress in college students.

3. Protecting against war-related stress in Army Reserve forces.

4. Improving resilience and coping skills in stressed out professionals.

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Related Post: What's your stress threshold?

Positive psychology on campus.

What is Positive Psychology?

“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

Strengths first.

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.

Link to: VIA Character Strengths Inventory

Balance is key.

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.

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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.

Link to: Broaden & Build Theory of Positive Emotion

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.

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 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. Cultivating success 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.

Link to: The Optimism Project

The photo below is from a leadership conference for college students where I discussed the connection between optimism and student success.

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Celebrating students every chance I get.

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).

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Respecting the process.

Do you respect 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?

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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.

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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.

Click here for access to full podcast interview. 🦋

Teaching Stress Resilience at School.

How can educators help foster stress resilience in their students?

Resilience begins with a strength mindset.

At the start of my  stress resilience presentation  I discuss how openness to challenge is essential for success.

Too much time in our comfort zone stalls growth. Feeling safe is important. But we shouldn’t consider it a resting place. More of a launching pad!

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Reframe openness as a verb and challenge your students to try something new today!

Is Happiness a Choice?

The Happiness Question

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Happiness Webcast

In the presentation below, I explore the happiness formula (genetics vs. environment) in more detail. Including: 1) the developmental origins of happiness, 2) how individual differences in personality affect happiness, and 3) the paradoxical relationship between traumatic life experiences and happiness (posttraumatic growth).

Happiness Talk

Click on  Is Happiness a Choice  to learn more.
The video is in webcast format so it requires Adobe software.
It will run on your computer, but might not work on your phone.

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

  1. 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.
  2. Embrace your freedom to choose experiences within your control (e.g., gratitude, helping others, forgiveness ), and the power to let go of what is not (e.g., the past, the opinion of others, the weather).
  3. Need help getting started? Try any or all of these 13 simple intentional activities over the course of a month, a day, or a year. The choice is yours!

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Related Post: You hold the key.