Health and Happiness.

Reflection Questions

When someone asks you “What makes you happy?” does your answer differ from “What makes you healthy?”

Do you consider your health requirements essential and your happiness needs selfish and superfluous?

Or perhaps you rate health and happiness as equal and interdependent.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related: Is Happiness a Choice?

5 Steps to Thriving Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Thriving Step 1

 Physiological Needs

– Energy of Thriving

  • A good night’s sleep.
  • Healthy food.
  • Clean air to breathe.

Thriving Step 2

 Safety Needs 

– Foundation of Thriving

  • Freedom
  • Survival Skills
  • Safe place to live

Thriving Step 3

Love and Belonging Needs

– Nourishment of Thriving 

  • Supportive relationships
  • Loving family and friends
  • Encouraging coworkers

Thriving Step 4

Self Esteem Needs

– Enrichment of Thriving

  • Education and learning
  • Goals and ambition
  • Stretching outside comfort zone

Thriving Step 5

Self Actualization Needs

– Ultimate Thriving 

  • Purpose and Vision
  • Achievement of Life Mission
  • Fulfillment of Dreams
Click Here 
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Video

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?

The unexpected benefits of stress.

Most people wince every time they hear the word “stress”.

It’s as if the whole world has been conditioned to respond to stress the same way, by word alone. A habitual thought response that is often more dangerous than the stressor itself.

What you believe matters.

The latest research in psychology examines stress in an entirely new way.

Rather than viewing stress as unequivocally bad for one’s health, health psychologists pinpoint belief systems as the moderating variable between stress and biology.

Stress perception ↔ Health benefits

Embracing meaning is more important than reducing discomfort according to Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal. Stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier — if we learn how to open our minds to it.” Source: Stanford News

Which is one of many reasons why I love Dr. McGonigal’s TED Talk. She encourages us to think about stress in a whole new empowering way. With an emphasis on growth, purpose, and meaning over needless suffering.

Mindset is everything.

Using health psychology research, Dr. McGonigal reveals how perceiving stress as either positive or negative can have a “live or die” impact on individual stress response.

Change your thoughts. Change your stress response.

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  1. Believe that stress is good for you (eg., stress heightens awareness) and you live longer.
  2. Alternatively, believe that stress is bad for you (eg., stress causes heart attacks) and you die sooner.

But don’t take my word for it.

You need to experience your own “Aha Moment” firsthand.

How to make stress your friend.

In the video below, Dr. McGonigal illustrates the many upsides of stress, including help seeking behaviour, increased energy, and robust health. She also backs up her stress positive claims with census records and comprehensive health research.

Hope you enjoy these fresh, new ideas about stress as much as I do!

“Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat.  But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive.” Source: TED Talks

Helpful resources for adopting a resilience mindset:

  1. How to Turn Stress into an Asset by Amy Gallow
  2. Cognitive Reframing and Stress Management by Liz Scott
  3. Six Ways to Do Cognitive Restructuring by Dr. Alice Boyes
  4. Reducing Stress by Changing Your Thinking by Mind Tools
  5. Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer
  6. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good by Kelly McGonigal
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Related Post: Stress resilience at school.

Happy 150 Canada!

The kickboxing club I belong to had special gloves commissioned to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday. 🇨🇦

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Which is why I’m motivated more than ever to celebrate Canada Day with my fellow boxers at the club today! 🥊 🎉

How will you celebrate your country's birthday this year?

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.

Harnessing positive energy.

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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. 🎈

Related Post: Set a time limit on negativity.

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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The upside of stress.

Most people wince every time they hear the word “stress”.

It’s as if the whole world has been conditioned to respond to stress the same way, by the word alone. A habitual thought response that is often more dangerous than the stressor itself.

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Mindset is everything.

Which is one of many reasons why I love Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk. It encourages us to think about stress in a whole new way.

Change your thoughts. Change your response.

Using health psychology research, Dr. McGonigal reveals how perceiving stress as either positive or negative can have this “live or die” impact on your stress response.

Stress can be good (or bad) for you.

Believe that stress is good for you and you live (longer). Alternatively, believe that stress is bad for you and you die (sooner).

Powerful words. Solid research to back her statements up.

Hope you enjoy the video!

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat.  But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive.” Source: TED Talks

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Rethinking Stress – Helpful Resources

  1. How to Turn Stress into an Asset by Amy Gallow
  2. Cognitive Reframing and Stress Management by Liz Scott
  3. Six Ways to Do Cognitive Restructuring by Dr. Alice Boyes
  4. Reducing Stress by Changing Your Thinking by Mind Tools
  5. Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer
  6. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good by Kelly McGonigal
Related Post: What's your stress threshold?

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?

To change your life, change your habits.

 What’s the one habit you have been vowing to change for good?

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What are you waiting for?

The right time?

The right place?

The right person?

Today I challenge you to wait no more.

For now is the right time.

For here is the right place.

And YOU are the right person. 

Helpful Video: How to Embrace Change

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

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?