Give pain room to breathe.

How do you respond when a close friend shares a problem with you?

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Are you a fixer or a listener?

If you’re anything like me, my first instinct is to fix the problem.

To try and save loved ones from adversity.

To rescue them.

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To make them instantly feel better.

I suggest we do the opposite.

Instead of rushing in, we take a step back.

Ask them what they need.

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Give their pain room to breathe.

In doing so, we validate the person and their experience.

Helping them stay true to who they are.

just be there

It’s ok to not be ok.

What comes – also goes.

Welcome it all.

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Come join my YouTube Channel too! 🎥🍿

Good news to share.

The Drive Blog Promo

Hope everyone’s having a great day! I wanted take a moment and share some good news with you.

In June I was interviewed by THE DRIVE magazine for an article on mental health and thriving under pressure.

The creative director saw my TEDx Talk and reached out for input into their next issue. How cool is that!

Consequently, I will be their mental health expert for their “Pushing through the Boundaries” issue being published in August.

Which includes a professional photo shoot at my most favourite place, Blue Heron Lake. Pinch me please!

Nourishing mental health while reaching for the stars is something I hold dear to my heart. So please stay tuned for the rest of the story!

I’ll be sure to post a link to the interview soon!

Your Turn:

I’d love to hear your good news too!

First impressions.

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I met a delightful group of people at a dinner party this past Saturday night. Which of course (like all social occasions) got my psychologist mind percolating.

Particularly when one of the guests leaned in halfway through dinner and stated “Andrea, you seem like the kind of person who never worries”. At which point my husband (laughed) chimed in and said “Oh she worries. Plenty”.

The surface of the iceberg is a glimpse of what lies below.

This conversation brings up three important points. One, how truly multifaceted we are. Two, how those closest to us know us best. And finally, how we (write) teach what we ultimately need to learn.

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I am a worrier. I’m also brave. I dream. I overwork. I ruminate. I relax. I overachieve. I doubt. I believe.

I am not one thing. And neither are you. We are all multifaceted. Equally.

Related Post: Who are you?

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

WHY change NOW?

The first question I ask clients wanting to make a change is “Why Now?”

For there is no doubt that they (and you and I) have been wanting to transform an aspect of our lives for a very long time.

But the intrinsic motivation just isn’t quite there. The kind of motivation that is essential for lasting change.

Unfortunately too many people wait for something bad to happen in their lives before making positive changes.

This is a universal truth.

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How do we “change” how we change?

We take two steps back before moving one step forward.

We pause. We slow down. We notice.

We open our eyes to all the possibilities.

We write our dreams down.

We take photos of what inspires us to bloom.

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We ask for honest feedback from people we trust.

We acknowledge what gets in the way of our potential. Big and small.

We compile all the reasons why our best lives shouldn’t wait another day.

And we have fun doing it! Positivity has power too. 🦋

Why change now?

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My CBC-TV Interview: 5 Ways to Embrace Change.

You Can Do College Event.

I love sharing ideas with students.

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I can’t imagine a better moment in life to learn about purpose and empowerment than when we are young.

Which is why I embrace every opportunity to share the principles of positive psychology with students across Canada.

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The most recent opportunity being a conference called: “You Can Do College.”

  • 600 grade 10 students from 14 high schools participated in the 2 day conference.

The purpose of the event was to introduce high school students to all the programs available to them when they graduate in a few years.

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Showing them that if they work hard today — “They Can Do College” in the future. Whether it be as a civil engineer, a veterinary technician, a nurse, or an early childhood educator.

The choice is theirs to make.

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Students are our future.

My job as a Motivational Speaker was to ignite their inner flame for higher learning. This is what I was born to do! 🔥

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Pay attention to the person right in front of you. They have something to teach you.

Connecting with audience members is essential for me. No matter how big or small the crowd.

Accordingly, I encouraged students to answer as many questions as they could (which they did!) as I walked and talked freely with the large crowd.

Hoping to meet as many of the 600 students as I could.

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One of my favourite moments was when the young gentleman above shared his lifelong dream of becoming an engineer.

Just listening to his mission shifted me to a higher place.

The icing on the cake was hearing about destiny from a student named Destiny. 

Destiny aspires to be a cosmetologist to the stars one day. How cool is that!

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The next time you meet a student, ask them about their dreams. The stress they’re experiencing immediately disappears.

I believe in you.

As a psychology professor and former school psychologist, I talk about mental health issues with students every single day.

My classroom is a safe place for students to be themselves.

Which is critical when working with youth (18-24) who represent the highest proportion of individuals with mental illness.

Education helps bridge the gap between fear and freedom.

And so does an open heart. And an open mind.

I believe in my students. In their potential. In their dreams.

I believe in their ability to overcome challenge, adversity, and self-stigma.

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Students need my support and encouragement.

And an educational community that truly cares.

Because self-stigma is real. 

And often more silencing than social stigma.

Because sharing our story is one of the scariest and most liberating things we’ll ever do.

Be it about mental illness or another vulnerable part of our lives.

Which is why the best place to open up the conversation about mental illness is to meet students where they are.

These are their words.

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 Ontario student mental health helpline ⇒ Visit Good2Talk.ca

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?

Who motivates you?

Students, past and present, motivate me!

“The future of the world is in my classroom today.”

One of my first year BScN nursing students (Mona on the right) asked if I would sign the psychology textbook that I co-wrote and take a photo with her after class this week.

She said that an encouraging note and a picture with her professor would give her the motivation she needed to stay focused, work hard, and study throughout the semester.

Of course I said yes! It was a full circle moment. For my students are my motivation. And everything I do is with their success in mind.

Also pictured above are Sarah Ryrie (on the left) and Justin Fox (in the middle) – two St. Clair College alumni and former student representative council presidents who continue to inspire me today!

Related Post: Staying motivated in the midst of a challenge.

Your Turn: Who motivates you?

What’s your mantra?

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This is my mantra.

I write it on my bathroom mirror. I post it on my refrigerator door. I tape it to my office wall. I speak of it every time I teach.

These 4 words remind me to focus on what’s good, what’s working, what’s infinitely possible. Even (especially) when everything is going wrong.

Focus on the good.

Because if I can find one good thing in the course of a day, I have found my reason to live, to love, and to lead.

Sometimes the blessings are obvious. Sometimes they’re hidden. Sometimes it’s simply breathing. Other times “it’s the moments that take my breath away”.

Mantras wake us up.

Mantras work because they wake us up. Snap us out of it. They carry us from the perpetual loop of our worries to the equanimity of present time.

For we all need a gentle nudge in the right direction. A loving reminder to come back to reality.

Or we’ll all be too busy looking down that we miss the beauty of what’s right in front of us. Life itself. 💙

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What’s your mantra?

Related Post: Happiness in one word.

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.