The Drive Magazine Interview.

Happy Monday Everyone!

I am excited to share my interview with The Drive Magazine on positive psychology and stress resilience. Inspired by my TEDx Talk: Thriving Under Pressure.

The 3 C’s of Positive Psychology

2DF0102C-81C5-412D-A3AD-433EA2C2A832

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.

Click on The Drive Magazine to read the full interview.

Just what the doctor ordered.

What if…

What if your doctor prescribed dancing as a fitness activity instead of time on a treadmill or at the gymnasium. Would you be more likely to follow through if exercise was fun and uplifting?


This doctor’s prescription for today:

Dancing!

99C8A3E2-D37F-4714-B73C-6EF7FF81FFF1

Which is why I love the commercial below.

It’s a great reminder that getting healthy doesn’t have to be arduous.

It can be so much fun!

“Families who dance together stay healthy together.”

Dance inspires me to stand up, shake it off, and bust a move. 🎉💃

What about you?

3248B0C3-9F6D-4976-9FA9-2BBCA7498232

What inspires you to follow a healthy lifestyle? 

Related: Laughter saves the day.

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.

health happy

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

Ordinary Joys

Simple pleasures are my favourite.

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… 

dont-wish-away

Nothing is more extraordinary than our ordinary joys. For how we live our days is how we live the whole of our lives.


What brings you joy on an ordinary day?

Shifting Positive on a Stressful Day

“Every day might not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

In psychology class this week, I teach one of my favourite subjects – Stress, Coping, and Health Psychology Chapter 11 in my psychology textbook.

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.

2743FEC3-2014-4B00-B0C1-A52FB3FBD2FB

Shifting Negative â‡’ 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.

Based on my experience as a school psychologist, I will never deny the stress students are under. Witnessing adversity is an essential part of moving through itHowever, I choose not to remain in the territory of “what’s wrong” for too long.

What We Focus on Expands

Once we acknowledge what’s wrong. We open our eyes to the grace that takes place throughout the day.

image

“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.

image
How do you shift positive on a stressful day?

Related Post: Put a time limit on negativity.

Good energy multiplies.

38E6AD78-6629-4000-9FBE-59BDAB7E3559

I want to give the world the best of me.

This is my hope every time we meet.

And every time I teach.

No matter how brief or long our interaction.

I want to leave you feeling brighter, lighter, more confident.

The bonus is — when your energy rises, so does mine.

A boomerang effect of the highest kind.

Which is why I will always keep your vibes in mind.

When your day brightens, so does mine. đŸ’«

How will you illuminate the world today?

Related Post: Shine your light.

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?

1000 views on the official TEDx site!

I am so excited to share that my TEDx video hit 1000 views today! đŸŽ„

E6E73AC6-2B3B-47F2-931D-4054ACABF0A8

A BIG thank you for watching and sharing my TEDx talk with your friends and family. We are stronger than our stress. This I know for sure. Together we will thrive under pressure. đŸ’„

Click on TEDx Video → Thriving Under Pressure

TEDx Video: Thriving Under Pressure

Good news to share!

I have been working on a TEDx project with the University of Windsor TEDx team since last year. And just an hour ago, I received the good news that the finished video was uploaded to the official TEDx site today! So pumped!

tedx-talk-dr-dinardo

In my TEDx Talk I discuss how to THRIVE under pressure using 3 stress resilience tools: challenge, control and commitment.

The purpose of this talk and my blog is to help students develop positive coping techniques in fun, interactive, and uplifting ways.

By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, students can be transformed by their challenges and adversities. 🌮💚

If you like, please share this TEDx video with friends and family on social media. The wider its reach, the more people I can help thrive under pressure!

May Your North Star Light Your Way. đŸ’«

You have the power to change the story.

What are the most powerful words in the universe?

The ones you use to talk to yourself.

Choose the words that move you forward, the emotions that lift you up, and the actions that empower you.

4F286037-C583-4DBB-8965-9C28EF9CFD82

Believe in the one reason that a difficult situation  will work out.

You!

You have everything it takes to overcome.

To work through.

To rise up!

To begin again.

You have the power to change the story.

Again and again and again.

TEDx Photos: Diamonds from Pressure.

“Don’t tell people your dreams. Show them.”

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.

FFCD3D78-36B0-41C7-BCC3-3687F851FBED
TEDx Dr. Andrea Dinardo

 

TEDx Videoclip

 

09F51FBB-E905-4DE6-8053-8A2152CC6EF4
TEDx Organizers

6743F54B-E438-4C3F-8140-2B9CFA2EC870
My Psychology Students 🍏

TEDx Slideshow

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

8C71BB91-2A9C-4003-BD57-00D4F2F411A0
TEDx Dr. Andrea Dinardo

TEDx Dream Team

0346BA32-12BE-42E3-BBFB-A20AE1488D67
Team TEDx

Thank you for letting me share my dream of being on the TEDx stage!  The official TEDx video will be posted soon. đŸŽ„

Related Post: How I prepared my TEDx Speech.

TEDx Preparation: Diamonds from Pressure.

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.

 

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. đŸŽ„

7349B0F9-9BE1-45AE-BF93-1F4C4CA5ED05

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.

 

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!

2FA733B8-AD59-4BDF-95AB-CBB4EE07B7A3

Hope to see you all January 28 2018!

TEDx Official Video: Thriving Under Pressure

See the light in others and treat them as if that’s all you see.

36015256-CE62-4E3C-AE55-2B1569B35309
Your strengths light my way. ✹

The field of positive psychology has been a blessing for me, both personally and professionally.

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.)

3C5A5FA4-0516-4F4C-80A0-C655203099CF

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.

5C16E586-6089-48DB-8323-05451F9505C7

Reflection Questions

Identify 2-5 strengths that you witnessed in others today. Describe how seeing the strengths in others brought out the strengths in you.

  1. Today I discovered my brother’s ___________.  This illuminated my:
  2. Today I noticed my colleague’s  ____________.  This bolstered my:
  3. Today I uncovered my neighbour’s  __________.  This reinforced my:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Related Post: Positive Psychology on Campus.

If you need help with finding the good in others especially the challenging people in your life click on this this link to a great article in Psychology Today.

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.

68C4580E-9F83-4406-96E2-FCB0567B7D45
  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
26ECC4A7-E057-43C4-B6FE-EDF2590F5D47
Related Post: Stress resilience at school.

Better to bend than break

When life changes direction, are you able to change with it?

Are you flexible and open to new experiences?

Are you able to break free from old patterns and habits?

Or do you struggle to adapt to anything new and different?

825D6084-F5D6-469A-BFCD-4239E031F8A2

Flexibility and Change

In this interview on CBC-TV, Chris Hyndman and I examine the psychology of change. Including how individual differences (e.g., Type A vs. Type B, Optimist vs. Pessimist) impact how we respond to change. We also share 5 ways to embrace change. Including staying open and receptive to new beginnings and unexpected opportunities.

How to Embrace Change: Watch Here

Flexibility and Resilience

At the beginning of my TEDx: Dr. Andrea Dinardo: Thriving Under Pressure | TED Talk I describe how the flexibility of palm trees helps them adapt and ultimately be strengthened by hurricanes.

How to Thrive Under Pressure: Watch Here

10 Concrete Ways to Become More Open and Flexible in Everyday Life

  1. Wake up one hour earlier to enjoy some unexpected quiet time.
  2. Exercise at night instead of in the morning.
  3. Try gluten-free or vegan to support a dear friend.
  4. Swap your favourite hobby for something brand new.
  5. Sit in a different spot in the classroom than you’re used to.
  6. Drive a different, more scenic way home tonight.
  7. Meet three new people in your community this week.
  8. Trade television for library books for one month straight.
  9. Go to sleep on the opposite side of the bed.
  10. Spend the weekend silent and completely word free.

Do the opposite of what you normally do.

Stay Open to the Possibilities: Watch Here

Every time you smile, I smile.

 Did you know that today is World Smile Day?

It’s the first Friday in October every year. (October 6 in 2017.)

AA45C3A1-D889-4D4C-B5D0-ECC973B3BFEA

Small gesture. Big impact.

I smile a lot. So much so, that one of my coworkers calls me “smiley” and almost everyone else I know (including my mom) calls me “sunshine”.☀

What about you? Are you known as the smiler at work and in your family too?

Why do I smile so much? 1) I love brightening someone’s day, 2) As an extrovert, I’m wired to smile, 3) I have a lot to smile about, and 4) Smiling feels so darn good!

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!

475CA893-B016-4F8C-9888-6D48548425BC

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.

Every smile helps!

E782AA13-450E-455F-9EA6-61C354356425

Smiling is good for your health.

Need more reasons to smile?

Neurotransmitters called endorphins are released when you smile. An opiate like structure that is the chemical equivalent of morphine. Smiling has also been shown to reduce stress hormones and rewire the brain.

No wonder smiling feels so awesome!

Let’s Celebrate World Smile Day Together

For the next 24 hours, make note of all the things that make you smile. Big smiles. Small smiles. Sly smiles. Goofy smiles. Anything and everything in between.

Just writing about what makes you smile – will make you smile. I guarantee it.

image
Teaching college students all about positive psychology makes me smile!

Don’t forget to share what makes you smile today.

Every time you smile, I smile.

What’s the best thing that happened to you today?

image

Shifting students positive.

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.

IMG_2380

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!

IMG_2372

 Shifting students from stress to empowerment.

One question. One conversation. One class. At a time.🍎

Back to school!

Today marks my 15th orientation with BScN nursing students at St. Clair College.

 

No matter how many years I attend Fall orientation, it feels like the first time.

No matter how many times I work with students, it never gets old.

Their first class is my first class.

Their struggle is my struggle.

Their victory is my victory.

Students are my reason why.

E7A8D82D-255C-4D40-96EA-8E217E8F77A7

And so today marks the beginning of something great.

Another fresh start.

Another set of dreams.

Another opportunity to change (student) lives for the better.

Related Post: Shifting Positive on a Stressful Day.

We were made to thrive.

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.

IMG_2033

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

IMG_2038

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.

growth-mindset-quote-carol-dweck

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.”

IMG_2072

2. Challenge

– Reframing stressful challenges as opportunities for growth.

E.g., “Strength Training.

3. Commitment

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

E.g., “Ask yourself why you started.

image

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

Can Stress Hardiness be Learned?

Yes! Research demonstrates that not only can stress hardiness be learned, it has wide-ranging applications in health and wellness, 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.

Watch this live event where I teach “teachers” how to help students become more resilient in stressful times.

Video of Post: https://youtu.be/NUh9qqA0x3Y

PODCAST Respecting the Process

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?

IMG_0937

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.

img_0579

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?

We all have stress. It’s a universal human experience. The key is to not let stress become our identity.

Instead, with and open mindset and the right set of resilience skills we have the opportunity to reach a whole new level of purpose and well-being.

Stress Resilience for Success

At the start of my stress presentation  at the guidance counsellors forum, I discuss how resilience begins with a strength mindset. And equally that 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!

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

Learn More:

TEDx Talk Thriving Under Pressure

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?

image

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.

happinessformula2

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.

IMG_1374

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.

Watch: What Trauma Taught Me about Happiness

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

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 â‡ 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!
IMG_1667
Read: You hold the key

Live your dream NOW.

The stress of waiting.

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.

IMG_1382

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.

IMG_1364

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.)

IMG_1402

 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.

IMG_1399

  1. Accounting students could help their friends get a better understanding of their finances. Show their neighbours how to do their taxes.
  2. Carpentry students could assist their family in the renovation of a kitchen.
  3. Child and Youth care workers could volunteer at an after school program.
  4. Nursing students could help out an elderly couple at the grocery store.
  5. Social work students could give a seminar at a college residence about mental health.
  6. 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.

One bite size dream at a time.

Related Post: Shine Your Light

You were born to thrive.

IMG_1963

Do not fear challenge or adversity.

Run towards it. Not away from it.

Use it consciously. As a stepping stone.

To ascend. To soar.

To propel yourself forward.

To begin again. 

For strength is ultimately built from challenge, from difficulty, from overcoming.

You were born to thrive!

Watch my video for helpful strategies on how to thrive.

You hold the key.

img_0803

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.

img_0364

Awareness empowers.

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!

img_0808

Dance a little dance. Stand up tall. Anything and everything that shifts you from outer space to inner spirit. From not 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. 

img_0802

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.

You hold the key.

Stressful Times: Empowering Life Lessons

 Question your stress. It has a lesson for you.

img_0703

1/ Identify a stressor / challenge in your life. Be specific.

For example: Not enough money. Too busy. Lack of sleep. Pushy relative.

Your Answer: ______________________________

2/ What is this stressor / challenge trying to teach you?

For Example: Slow down. Change jobs. End a relationship. Get help. Breathe.

Your Answer: ______________________________

image

3/ How did you overcome challenges in the past? Be specific.

For Example: Trusted myself. Reached out. Held on. Said no. Moved on.

Your Answer: ______________________________

4/ Which strength will help you overcome current challenge?

For Example: Faith. Patience. Positivity. Reflection. Connection. Laughter.

Your Answer: _______________________________

image

5/ List positive results of mastering this stressor / challenge.

For Example: Enhanced self-esteem. Less negativity. More authenticity.

Your Answer: _______________________________

What empowering lessons have your stressors & challenges taught you?

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.

img_0360

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

img_0359

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?

Your strengths light my way.

“See the light in others and treat them as if that’s all you see.”

img_0199

The field of positive psychology has been a blessing for me, both personally and professionally.

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.)

img_0195

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.

img_0197

Reflection Questions

Identify 2-5 strengths that you witnessed in others today. Describe how seeing the strengths in others brought out the strengths in you.

  1. Today I discovered my sister’s ___________.  This illuminated my:
  2. Today I noticed my manager’s  ____________.  This bolstered my:
  3. Today I uncovered my student’s  __________.  This reinforced my:

img_0198

Related Post: Positive Psychology on Campus.

If you need help with finding the good in others especially the challenging people in your life click on this this link to a great article in Psychology Today.

Writing in One Word.

In One Word: Describe how you feel when you write.

image

Writing makes me feel ALIVE!

For me, writing is all encompassing.

The words become the beat of my heart.

The words become the oxygen I breathe.

The words become all that I touch, feel, and see.

For me, writing is all encompassing.

I am the words. And the words are me.

image

How does writing make YOU feel?

Related Post: Happiness in One Word.

What’s your stress threshold?

stress-meter-2

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).

a

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).

positivestress

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.

positive-stress-cycle

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?

From Fear to Love.

How do you talk to yourself?

Have you ever noticed that the more challenging life gets the more critical you are of yourself.

And the more critical you are of yourself the more challenging life becomes.

image

It’s a fearful, exhausting, repetitive loop that feeds on itself.

When you’re under extreme pressure, the last thing you need is another self-talk rant of why you’re not good enough.

What you do need is a boatload of unconditional love.

 Resilience is built on love.

And so are you.

Today vow to give yourself the gift of more love, more kindness, more generosity.

A gift that will keep on giving.

Long after the stress is gone.

Find an affirmation or a positive quote that makes you stop, take a breath, and feel your heart beating deep inside.

Something that reminds you of how magical you truly are.

Post it on your fridge.

Write it on your mirror.

Save it on your phone.

Stress is surviving.

Love is thriving.

The next time you start beating yourself up over the smallest thing, take it as a sign that you need some extra love and tender care.

The more love you give yourself, the more generous, authentic, and compassionate all of your relationships will be.

Including the relationship you have with your innermost self.

Related: Mirror Affirmation Exercise

The miracle in this moment.

image

Miracles are everywhere.

The only catch is that we have to “be here now” to notice them.

Gratitude speeds their discovery.đŸ’«

blessing

What are you grateful for?

Right here. Right now.

In this moment – I am grateful for this hot cup of coffee. And for this delicious lunch. I am grateful for Tim Horton’s camp day. I am grateful for the generosity of Tim Horton’s customers.  I am grateful to be Canadian.

Miracles are everywhere.

Your attention unlocks the key.

The miracle (of this moment) was that I was so wrapped up in the busyness of my day that I did not wake up to the fact that today was #CampDay. (A big deal for Canadians.)

It wasn’t until I began searching for what I was grateful for (in this moment in time) that I woke up to the vibrant coloured balloons and bold inscription on my Timmies coffee cup.

It wasn’t until I went looking for (and expecting) miracles that I realized I was surrounded by one. 💙

image

Miracles are everywhere.

What do you see?

At this moment in time.

What are you grateful for? Right in front of you.

 

Miracles are everywhere.

They will set you free.

What miracle did you discover?

Right here. Right now.

What miracle did you find – that had been there all along?

The Sweet Spot.

Nowhere else to be.

That moment in the day when you realize “you’ve arrived”.

And the most interesting part is that you haven’t gone anywhere.

Instead, you finally come home to the present moment.

The here and now. The sweet spot.

No where else to be. But here and now.

image

Right Here. Right Now.

This picture is from a retreat I did with one of my best friends nine years ago. The speaker asked each participant to share when they felt most at peace.

Each participant shared a different story. From when their newborn baby finally slept through the night to when they finally received their promotion at work to when their boyfriend finally proposed.

My answer was (unexpectedly) simple. I shared that I felt most at peace in that very moment. “No were else to be. But here and now.”

Wide Awake to Everything.

I had finally found my sweet spot. A place where “all is well” no matter the circumstances. A place I had been before. But failed to recognize.

A place positive psychologists call flow, and alternatively, mindfulness. A sweet spot that sparkles. Lights up. Expands. Stands still. Speeds up. And flows..

Running. Teaching. Encouraging. Writing. Laughing. Helping.

A sweetness I now easily recognize in the course of each day. That moment when I am wide awake to everything. To every sight. To every sound.

No judgements. No resistance. Simply accepting what is. And what will be.

IMG_1813 How do you know when you’ve finally “arrived” to the present moment? What does your “sweet spot” look & feel like?

Happiness in One Word

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the beginning of my Is Happiness a Choice? presentation I ask the audience to write down the one word that best describes what has brought them the most happiness in the past 12 months.

How would you answer this question?

In one word, what best describes the people, places, or things, that have brought you the most happiness in the past 12 months? Big or small.

What makes life worth living?

image
I’m pictured here with St. Clair College graduates Olivia Bauer and Sarah Ryrie.

My One Word = Students.

The one thing that brings me the most joy, meaning, and contentment is the opportunity to work with Canada’s future, our students. It’s the one place that I believe I’m making the most difference in this world.

Wake Up Call.

Every time I get a little down, frustrated, and/or disappointed (basically anytime I’m feeling powerless or stuck) by the circumstances of life (we all have ups and downs, positive psychologists included), I bring myself back to the “One Word” that best describes how blessed I am to be alive.

And some days my one word = Chocolate

May the one word you write down be a beautiful reminder of all the light that shines in your life, even on the darkest of days. And please don’t forget to share your one word for happiness. Your one word may be someone else’s wake up call to joy. ⏰✹

happiness1