Sometimes we need a quick, fun, and easy way to elevate our mood. Suggestion: Angel Cards A simple, soulful practice that takes a (bite sized) moment. Now my friends ask me to bring angel cards to all our coffee talks. Even if we’re sitting 8 feet apart! These light-hearted cards guarantee a shift UP in conversation. From the mundane to the magical.
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.
In this short video I share the thoughts that go through my mind as I walk into a classroom and meet my psychology students for the first time. I also discuss the specifics of how I connect with and encourage students each new day.
What goes through your mind when you walk into a room?
“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.
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.
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!
Dance a little dance. Stand up tall. Anything and everything that shifts you from outer space to inner spirit. Fromnot 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.
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.
Nature is a beautiful way to stop the monkey mind in its’ tracks.
What is the monkey mind? 🐒 🧠
“Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. Fear is an especially loud monkey – screaming out all the things that could go wrong.” Source: HuffPost
When we’re caught in a loop of anxious thoughts, our amygdala goes into overdrive. Causing us to get stuck in the basement of our brains (the limbic system) where our stressful thoughts go around and around. With no end to the downward spiral in sight.
The impact of nature on the human spirit is so profound that a hallmark study in 1984 showed that patients who had a room with a view healed faster than patients without a view. A mere glimpse of nature was enough to enhance their resilience.
Nature shifts our thoughts. Expands our awareness. Gives us hope. Lifts us up from the basement of our brains (amygdala) to the penthouse (cerebral cortex) where all solutions are possible.
“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.”
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.
I believe that failure is essential for success, at work and in our personal lives.
Failure lights our way to what we’re ultimately meant to do. Especially when we embrace it and consciously invite it into our lives. Pushing us past our comfort zones. Having the courage to take risks beyond our current circumstances.
Failure shows us what we’re good at, and equally what we are not skilled at. And how if we perceive failure as information (versus punishment) we will move on much more quickly to what we were born to do.
THE DRIVE MAGAZINE
I believe so strongly in the benefits of failure that I “pitched” failure as feedback to the editors of The Drive Magazine. And they said yes!
So here it is: A video overview of the February issue and links to the online edition of the magazine.
Time is in such short supply. The sooner we appreciate its value, the better life becomes.
When I was a kid my mom set the egg timer for almost everything we did; whether it was how long we spent doing our homework, weeding the garden, watching television, or complaining about life’s challenges.
It helped us to understand that nothing lasts forever – good or bad.
This was especially important when we felt helpless over things we did not have control over, including chores we did not want to do.
Setting time limits also taught us to respect how our words and actions impact ourselves and others.
My mom is a psychologist too.
Your time. Your life.
To this day I set a timer on the stove.
A simple, yet effective way to motivate myself through tedious tasks and become more mindful of time itself.
The timer principle can also be applied to how often we are negative vs. positive throughout the course of a day.
Negativity is the easy (automatic) route.
So we need to be conscious of where our mind flows.
Venting feels good in the moment, but when it goes on too long, the costs outweigh the benefits.
Joy needs room to breathe.
Too often we complain about stressors for hours beyond the momentary challenge has passed.
Leaving little time in the day for appreciation, wonder, and gratitude.
Then one day we wake up and realize that life is too short to be all negative, all the time.
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…
Nothing is more extraordinary than our ordinary joys. For how we live our days is how we live the whole of our lives.
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.
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!
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.