What Trauma Taught Me About Happiness

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Trauma

Is it possible to feel joy in the face of adversity?

Strength during the lowest of lows?

Creativity in the midst of destruction?

Peace in difficulty?

Vibrancy during cancer?

Happiness during COVID-19?

In the video below, I share some personal examples from my own upbringing on how my parents found strength and contentment during even the darkest of times.

Your Thoughts:

Can trauma and happiness coexist?

I’d love to hear your ideas, theories, and personal stories.

Video of Post → Click Here

The Power of Breathing Space: You are Safe

Every time we take a long deep breath, we are telling our bodies that we are safe.

Each breath connecting
our mind, body, and heart.

Bringing us back to present time.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Breathing Space

Breathing Techniques To Try

Follow Your Breath Become aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Focus on the sensations you feel as air passes through your nose and throat. When you feel your thoughts drift, gently redirect your attention back to your breath.

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Stand Up Straight Posture is especially important for breathing. Being upright enhances the rhythmic movement between the diaphragm and ribs. Hold yourself straight. Shoulders back. Feel the power of your breath.

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Think Reassuring Thoughts While Breathing With each breath, think soothing thoughts (“I am inhaling calm”). With each exhalation, imagine that you are expelling your fears and worries (“I am exhaling worry”).

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Abdominal Breathing Breathe through your stomach. Start by inflating your belly by inhaling, as if to fill it with air, then swell your chest; as you exhale, first “empty” your stomach, then your chest.

Breathing Quotes - Dr. Andrea Dinardo

Balanced Breathing At the end of each inhalation, pause briefly while slowly counting “1, 2, 3”. Hold the air in. Then slowly exhale counting “1, 2, 3”.

Source: Scientific American

Reflection Questions

What brings you peace during uncertainty?

What gives you strength?

Breathing Video → Click Here

Post Traumatic Growth: Can Adversity Be Good for You?

Can Adversity Be Good for You?

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In my latest video from a Positive Psychology Keynote at a Student Success Conference:

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.

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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.

Original Source: http://www.ptsdassociation.com

Additional Resources

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Reflection Questions

1. Do you believe the benefits of adversity outweigh the negatives?

2.  Which factors hinder an individual’s ability to recover and bounce back?

3. Which factors enhance an individual’s capacity for resilience and post-traumatic growth (PTG)?

4. Is the recovery and resilience for physical health trauma the same or different as mental health adversity? Why or why not?

Video of Blog Post → Click Here

Hope changes everything.

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During difficult times, I often tell myself “What a difference a day makes.”

This one simple sentence helps me to remember that tomorrow is a brand new day.

Illuminating the possibility that what looks like the end in that dark moment, could in fact be preparing me for a whole new destiny.

This video and blog post were inspired by a very dear friend of mine experiencing unexpected health problems.

And how during treatment she often says that it’s my positivity and upbeat nature that brings her to a higher place.

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My friend knows what’s wrong.
I remind her of all that is right.

”Together we rise.” 🙏☀️

Share with me:

What gives you hope during difficult times?

Video of Blog Post: Click Here

When you change the way you think about things, the things you think about change.

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How you perceive stress.

Changes everything.

Challenge or opportunity?

Ending or new beginning?

Stumbling block or stepping stone?

Coal or diamonds?

If you can’t change the stress.

Change the way you think about it.

Week 2 at College: Short Video

Words of Encouragement.

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The first thing that goes when we are faced with a stressor of any kind is the memory of all we have overcome in years gone by.

Let this be your daily, weekly, hourly reminder of how wildly capable you are.

Truly. Incredibly. Capable.

We might not be a genius at everything. But we are most definitely a genius at something.

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And if you ever need more than this note to remind you of your strengths, let me know in the comments below.

And I will shine a light on the luminescence that surrounds you.


Fun Activity  

What words resonate with you?

What jumps off the page?

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These are your strengths.✨

Peer Pressure and Alcohol: Stand Your Sacred Ground

The Social Side Effects of Change

Motivation to make a change is as much about you, as the people all around you. And unfortunately, not everyone agrees with our decision to grow, change, and evolve. In whatever form it may take.

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Being different isn’t a bad thing. It means you’re brave enough to be yourself“

For when we change, we unknowingly push friends and family outside their comfort zone too. And that’s ok. The important thing to understand is that not everyone is going to support our choice to change. Something I learned personally.

My story

This post was inspired by my own journey of quitting drinking in 2005, motivated by three reasons:

1. Starting a family with my husband.

2. Improving my health.

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3. Being a role model for my students

Unexpected Side Effects

What I did not expect was the pressure to keep drinking that came along with my decision to give up alcohol over a decade ago.

The pressure to remain the same.

The pressure to behave like everyone else.

A resistance to change from others that I did not foresee.

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My students’ stories

— Peer Pressure and Alcohol Use in College

Students over the age of 19 have a choice when it comes to drinking alcohol.

A decision to drink or not drink that is often overshadowed by peer pressure and the widespread culture of risky drinking on and off Canadian campuses.

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Too often students drink to “fit in, reduce stress, numb anxiety” (their words) because they know of no other way.

Excerpt from today’s class:

Class Discussion and Solutions

Which is why it’s more important than ever to open up the conversation of what it’s like to be a young person amongst the culture of alcohol use and abuse today.

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A hot topic that stimulates honest and open debate in my classroom each year. Including remedies to the pressures of college that extend far beyond alcohol.

To listen to our discussion click here.

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Your story

1. What motivates you to make a health change?

2. What de-motivates you?

3. Have you experienced pressure from others to continue unhealthy habits? To not change?

4. How do you stay true to your personal choices?

Coping with Peer Pressure 

Rather than debate or argue your case.

Be still and hold your space.

Take a deep breath, and trust your choices.

Trust that being yourself is enough. 

You get one life. Make it yours. 

Stand Your Sacred Ground.

Video of Blog Post — Click Here

How we talk to ourselves matters.

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How we talk to ourselves matters tremendously.

Particularly in the eye of the storm.

Having a “go to” mantra in times of stress helps.

Especially in the uncomfortable (agonizing) moments between stress and strength.

Video of Blog Post ⇒ Click Here

A mantra that has helped me over the years is imagining myself:

g r o w i n g + e x p a n d i n g

during the dark times.

Chanting “I am expanding” as the rain falls.

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Today I wish the same for you.

May you see the blessing in every storm. 

Expanding you.

Preparing you. 

For the next level of your destiny.🎈

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Helpful Tips: Optimism Bootcamp

Laughter is an instant vacation.

What’s your favourite stress reliever?

Laughter is mine.

We live in a world weighed down by disaster, debt, and divorce. So it’s no surprise that we’ve been conditioned to believe that tragedies require tragic mindsets.

That serious issues demand serious attitudes. That hardships necessitate hardened spirits.

What consumes your mind consumes your life.

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Change your view.

Thankfully we also live in a world overflowing with abundance, joy, and love. Same world. But we can’t see the good when we’re overwhelmed by the bad.

From overwhelmed to OVERFLOWING.

Making the shift from stress to strength can happen in a number of ways.

Laughter = instant stress relief. Taking a long deep breath runs a close second.

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Be kind to your mind.

Laughter breaks the panic spell. The not enough mindset. The woe is me attitude. The negativity downturn.

Laughter connects people in present time. Friends and strangers!  Think of the last time you laughed out loud with a cashier in the grocery line. (For me, it was last night ;.)

Laughter is an instant vacation to a better place – without the travel bills!

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Today’s challenge / opportunity:

Today’s challenge is to lighten up. To breathe deeply into what stresses you.

 To leave room for grace. To respond with a light heart and an open mind. To dance a little dance. To laugh with friends. To nourish your soul.

Ultimately to remember who you were – before life weighed you down. 

For it’s in our joy that we find our voice. It’s in our abundance that we embrace our authenticity.

It’s in our laughter that we save the day.

How brightly you shine.

Remembering Who You Are

The first thing that goes when we are faced with a stressor of any kind is the memory of all we have overcome in years gone by.

Wake Up Call

Let this be your daily, weekly, hourly signpost of how wildly capable you are.

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Truly. Incredibly. Strong.

And if you ever need more than this note, let me know. I will remind you how brightly you shine. 💎

Choice and transformation go hand in hand.

“Empowerment is realizing you have a choice.”

My mission in life is to encourage people to own their choices – no matter how big or how small. In doing so, individuals will uncover the magnificent power that lives within them.

Embracing the power to choose one’s emotions, thoughts, and reactions to life’s circumstances is the key which unlocks personal freedom and empowerment.

Video ⇒ The Psychology of Change

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POWER OF CHOICE

Becoming aware of choice points, big and small, is the beginning of the path to transformation.

Choosing a path uniquely suited to you – is your way out of disenchantment and your way into a life of purpose, passion, and peace.

CHOOSE THE CHANGE

  1. Are you ready to claim your life as it is right now?
  2. Are you ready to let go of the past and live in the present?
  3. Are you ready to take back your power and the reins of your life?
  4. Are you ready to fully witness your life as it unfolds directly before you?
  5. Are you ready to choose the change in your life, instead of it choosing you?

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The choice is yours.

Coaching & Speaking Services
⇒ Click Here

Good news to share.

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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!

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.

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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.

From Stress to Strength.

Challenge can be difficult. Adversity overwhelming. Growth painful. I agree!

Instead of seeing obstacles and stressors as taking you down.

Try perceiving challenges as taking you UP ↑

Again and again and again.

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For it’s in this uncomfortable space in between failure and success; breakups and makeups; exams and graduation — that strength is ultimately born. 💥

Mindset changes everything.

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The Resilience Mindset

What we believe matters. As it’s our mindset that shapes our physiological and emotional response to stressful circumstances. Ultimately, determining our ability to bounce back after adversity.

For example, when a relationship ends, if we view it as a personal failure, from a place of blame and shame, we are less likely to try again. Afraid to risk the pain, reluctant to venture beyond our comfort zone.

“Obstacles do not block the path. They are the path.”

On the other hand, if we perceive the same breakup as an opportunity to learn. To begin again. To start over. Fresh. Renewed. We are more open to meeting someone new.

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Today I am grateful for all of my relationship failures. For if it weren’t for the loss, the heartache, and the lessons, I never would met the wonderful man that I am married to today.

Trust the Process.

It was not easy at the time. Challenge rarely is. But if we just keep our eyes to the sky, and trust that no matter what we are going through, it will all be worth it in the end.

I hope you find comfort in your discomfort. And beauty in the stars.

Related Post: Lay down your burdens.

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

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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.)

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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.

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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:

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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.

Purpose for one day

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I have the pleasure of starting each day with my husband John.

Each morning begins at 6am with an hour of coffee talk weekends included.

No alarm clock necessary. 

Having something as wonderful as hot coffee and good conversation to look forward to each day is its own wake up call.

This morning I asked John to share why he thought he was born.

Deep talk, I know.

But that’s just how life rolls when you’re married to a psychologist.

John’s answer: “To make one person’s life better that day.”

To which I replied: “Purpose achieved.” (He makes the best coffee!)

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This conversation got me thinking about how important it is to live our purpose in short 24 hour segments. Too long a timeline and we feel lost and overwhelmed.

Name the purpose. Claim the day. Leave the details up to the universe.

Who. What. Where. When. How. Are spontaneous.

Simply be on the lookout for one opportunity to be on purpose for one day.

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1 person. 1 purpose. 1 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.

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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.

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?

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Not long ago, I was interviewed by Adam Rochon on the topic of transformational change.

During the podcast interview, Adam and I explored a different way of thinking about change.

A more uplifting and empowering take on transformation.

Adam and I discussed how the key to lasting change isn’t to push yourself harder.

The key to lasting change is to understand yourself better.

To accept yourself more. And to judge yourself less.

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Trust the timing of your life.

Your good and bad habits did not develop overnight.

And neither does transformational change. 

Ultimately to grow, we must trust, let go, and learn to respect the process.

Excerpt from my interview with Adam Rochon: “For me respecting the process in my own life and in all the people I’m blessed enough to meet, is to realize the process is so much bigger than I am. It is our destiny. It is the 100 years – if we are ever that lucky to live on this earth. Whatever we experience, good or bad, is just a day in the life and that we need to pay attention to where we are. When we get stressed out, overwhelmed and are going through a lot of changes, take a step back and realize that there are so many forces at work that are greater than we are – which is the process. When we Respect the Process everything just falls into place. It sounds simple, but you need to just let go of what you don’t have control over and be inspired by the process.” Episode #15: Transformational Change.

Click here for access to full podcast interview. 🦋

Your strengths light my way.

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

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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.)

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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.

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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:

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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.

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