You walk your five year old through the courtyard, down the halls to their first day at school. They have a new backpack (usually almost as big as they are) filled with indoor shoes, outdoor shoes, rain gear, pencils, markers. They have a level of enthusiasm (or occasionally trepidation) that is off the charts. Many moms are crying. Some are cheering, either silently or not so silently. We place the trust in educators to care for and educate our most precious things but is today’s education really supportive of what parents want for their children?
In a brief survey conducted in 2017 parents were asked what they wanted for their children at school. The answers included success, socialization, opportunities, and achievement. It also included happiness almost 100% of the time yet most school curriculum don’t have happiness in the timetable. The best schools are touching on wellness, resilience, and mindfulness but very few have taken the leap and added lessons about how take care of personal well-being, positive mental health, or happiness.
Positive Psychology is the science of flourishing. Most mental health practitioners are there to provide interventions and medications when mental health is absent; when flourishing isn’t happening. The problem being absence of mental illness does not mean happiness (known in the science world as subjective well-being).
The question I have been pondering is this; if parents want their children to be happy and science has proven simple strategies that increase happiness, isn’t school (the place where children spend the bulk of their time between age 5 and 17) the perfect place to get happier?
What can positive education do?The statistics are staggering. Positive education increases creativity, engagement, learning outcomes and happiness while simultaneously combating depression, anxiety, and low self-worth.
How?By focusing on a child’s character strengths (these are scientific and testable) you actually boost their ability to get and stay happy, resilient, creative and focused.
My next few blogs will be devoted entirely to Positive Psychology and Positive Education. If you are a teacher, administrator, or a parent you are going to want to know about Positive Education and specifically hear about a unique relationship I am forming with the Institute of Positive Education. Big change is coming to the way we learn happiness!
Prioritizing happiness is a worldwide phenomenon. Given reports like The World Happiness Index (Helliwell, 2012) and the emergence of the new field of Positive Psychology, the emphasis of personal well-being is broadening. When you ask any parent what they want for their child, happiness ranks near the top. Research has proven that practices focused on increased gratitude (Sheldon, 2004) and social connection (Cacioppo, 2008) positively impact self-reported life satisfaction. Effectively using these practices correlates to your ability to successfully form a habit. (Rubin, 2015) Pairing scientific happiness boosting practices with habit formation style will increase their efficacy and improve subjective well-being.
Gretchen Rubin has studied habit formation and discovered four distinct tendencies. To better understand her framework she explains that people have two types of expectations, inner and outer. Outer expectations include deadlines at work, assignments at school and showing up for your running group; they involve others. Inner expectations are keeping New Year’s resolutions, practicing meditation every morning or giving up carbs; these are personal choices. (Rubin, 2015) Research done by Sheldon & Lyubomirsky shows that having a gratitude practice decreases depression and anxiety and boosts an individual’s experiences of subjective well-being.(Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2004) Similarly research done by Cacioppo concluded that strong social connection was an indicator or self-reported well-being.(Cacioppo,2008)
Rubin found the majority of people were able to form habits well when they were outwardly accountable but were less effective at forming habits around inner expectations. She called this group Obligers.(Rubin, 2015) Since obligers need external accountability to form the habits of social connection and gratitude, the practice that would be most effective for their increased happiness would be a gratitude group. This would be a weekly meeting where a group of friends gather and share their daily moment or gratitude from a journal. Having the accountability to show up at a social meeting and to publicly reflect on their week of journaling would meet the requirements of habit formation to effectively boost happiness.
A smaller group are those who are equally good at forming habits around both inner and outer expectations. This group is called Upholders. (Rubin, 2015) Upholders don’t needs external accountability. Once they have a plan to increase social interaction and to practice gratitude, they will act. For this personality sector deciding to have lunch with a good friend every week or putting a daily gratitude thought in a jar in their office will be enough of a prompt to get the habits of gratitude and social connection formed.
A third group Rubin identified will only form habits or meet external expectation if they understand why. This group she calls Questioners. They like to research more than the average person and quite often their need for more and more information can lead to analysis paralysis; the inability move from research to action. (Rubin, 2015) For a questioner to start a gratitude or social connection practice they might prefer to read about successful ones on the website of a scientist who studies gratitude rather than taking the word of their yoga teacher. If they write out a few questions they want answered and make a plan to act once they have found the answers, it keeps them from getting stuck in the research phase.
Finally, there is a group that resists both inner and outer expectations Rubin refers to as Rebels. The rebels are the smallest category (Rubin, 2015). “Mastering habits is a particular challenge for Rebels, because of their general opposition to anything that feels like a chain or a pre-commitment.”(Rubin, 2017 How Does A Rebel Change pg 1) The most effective way for rebels to create change is by using the strategy of identity. This strategy works for rebels as they place ovalue greater than normal on being themselves. They need to define themselves by their new habit and then they are more likely to uphold it. To prioritize gratitude or social connection a rebel needs to define themselves as a grateful person or a very social person. This will encourage their continued action. Rebels also do best when they change their gratitude or social practice regularly so that it feels like choice.
To summarize, gratitude practices and social connection are paths to increased happiness. Knowing how individuals can best form these habits will help ensure success in implementing a strategy for increased gratitude or social connection, ultimately allowing individuals to flourish. Getting happier becomes easier when successful habits are paired with personalized action plans. By taking this simple online test to identify tendency then making an action plan that includes measureable metrics like frequency and duration happiness will increase.
References: Cacioppo, J. T., Hawkley, L. C., Kalil, A., Hughes, M. E., Waite, L., & Thisted, R. A. (2008). Happiness and the invisible threads of social connection. The science of subjective well-being, 195-219.
Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2012). World happiness report.
Rubin, G. (2015). Better than before: Mastering the habits of our everyday lives. Hachette UK.
Rubin, G (2017). How Does a Rebel Change. pg 1 https://gretchenrubin.com/2015/04/how-does-a-rebel-change-habits-one-rebels-clever-solutions
Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2004). Achieving sustainable new happiness: Prospects, practices, and prescriptions. Positive psychology in practice, 127-145.
(originally published via The Chopra Centre)
Happiness happens by choice—not by chance. If you want to increase your sense of personal well-being, there are simple habits you can adopt to help your levels of positivity increase.
Happy habit formation is a hot topic and everyone from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before, to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness, are writing about how to be happier. Rubin says, “People often assume that the same approach will work for everyone, that the same habits will work for everyone, and that everyone has the same aptitude and appetite for forming habits, but from my observation, that's not true.” And Anchor points out: “You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body.
Forming a Foundation for HappinessBefore beginning any new happiness practice your need to ensure you are building your happiness on a stable foundation. A foundation for happiness begins with:
1. Spend Mindful Time Each Day
Whether you meditate each day with the sunrise or take a mindful walk in nature on your lunch, taking time to connect with yourself releases stress and allows you to relax, connect, and unleash creativity.
2. Foster Connection
Happy people feel connected at work, at home, and in their community. Finding people to engage with who share your passions or encourage your growth is a way to increase your sense of being a part of something bigger than yourself. Volunteer. Invite a friend for lunch. Plan a picnic.
3. Look for the Positive
Your neural pathways strengthen with use. As you focus your awareness on noticing positive things, your brain becomes better and better at finding positive things. Much like the old Where’s Waldo? books, the more frequently you find Waldo, the easier he becomes to find.
4. Behave Authentically
Say yes when you want to. Say no when you want to. Start speaking from your true voice or not at all. As you become more comfortable with who you are, expressing who you are becomes easier.
5. Schedule Fun Time
Most children engage in one fun activity after another for much of their day. Fun might be playing at the park, finger painting, or being read to at bedtime. As an adult, you can benefit greatly by inserting little bursts of play into your day. A sing-a-long on the morning commute or a dance party while preparing dinner can release tension. Know yourself and use this knowledge to move toward things that feel playful and leave you smiling.
6. Feel and Express Gratitude
The quickest way to increase happiness is through gratitude. By acknowledging the good things in your life, your community, or the world, you attract more things to your life to be thankful for.
Knowing that happiness is a choice means if you aren’t quite as happy as you want to be, you can change that. Remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion as you move toward implementing your plan. If you have a day that feels less than happy, where anger or sadness prevail, remember that just the awareness that you want to feel differently is the first step to living your happiest life.
Knowing that happiness is a choice means if you aren’t quite as happy as you want to be, you can make changes now. Join Deepak Chopra for our 7-day yoga & meditation retreat, Seduction of Spirit as you re-discover what makes you happiest in life. Click here to learn more.
Imagine being surrounded by people speaking a language you have never heard before. Now take it one step further and picture this happening in the dark, on a roller coaster. This might offer a little insight as to what it could be like to lack the ability to pick up on emotional cues through facial patterns.
My eldest daughter is severely autistic so I am extremely familiar with the inability to read faces. For people on the autism spectrum or those with schizophrenia, this ability that many of us take for granted is a large piece of their day to day challenge.
For years people have been judged by their cognitive ability or IQ but in recent years science is catching up to what moms like me have known all along, having a low IQ and a low EQ or emotional intelligence don’t always go hand in hand.
Emotional intelligence is defined as one’s ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. This includes emotional awareness as well as emotional regulation. (Goleman)
People who suffer from a lack of emotional intelligence can perceived as cold or distant. This can lead to loneliness or depression as an added challenge. To learn how strong your ability to recognize emotions is check out this online emotional intelligence test.
There is a difference between recognizing emotion and having an empathetic reaction to emotion. Empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions and it is coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. (Davis)
Personally, I’ve had to work hard to discern differences in facial expressions- this leads me to believe that further research on the connection between genetics and autism is probably going to show distinct differences in the way parents of the emotionally blind process faces visually. I’m very aware that my own facial recognition skills are poor so although I feel very skilled in cognitive empathy I do note that the affective recognition that is required in emotional recognition is a key to empathy. The Greater Good Science Center has a test for empathy too.
Emotional response seems a combination of learned and innate. In Malcolm Gladwell’s essay The Naked Face he explores whether extreme ability to read faces can be learned or is a gift. I would note that intuition or gut reaction is simply our brain processing information at lightening speed. Listening to the intuition is the real skill. I would love to see more studies about flexing that muscle- can we practice trusting our intuition when it matters? I know my intuition never leads me astray and I also know that sometimes I allow logic or peer pressure to overrule my gut. It takes practice- it does not just happen.
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Ever wonder why you feel an immediate lift when someone who passes by on the street smiles? These are your mirror neurons at work. When someone smiles at you these neurons react by creating the same chemical release as if you yourself had smiled. (Neuroimage 2005)
I have wondered if we are feeding a downward spiral of negative emotion by getting caught in someone’s sadness or anger. My friends and colleagues know I describe myself as having teflon- I am aware of others’ emotions and yet I don’t feel a need to join them in order to be a good friend. I can listen or help without changing my emotional equilibrium. Spongy people (I am borrowing this term from a colleague or mine Martha Beck) take on the emotional climate of those around them.
I’d love to hear what you think- is it better to be teflon or spongy? And in case you are curious, alexithymia is a condition in which one is unable to recognize emotions (both their own and the emotions of others).
Goleman, D. (2006). Emotional intelligence.
Davis, M. H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of personality and social psychology, 44(1), 113-126.
Gladwell, M. (2002). The naked face. The New Yorker, 5, 38-49.
Neuroimage. 2005 Jun;26(2):581-91. Epub 2005 Mar 21
Often in our day to day lives we use thought patterns that don’t serve us. Instead of empowering, they undermine.
Historically psychology dealt with fixing mental health problems like depression, anxiety or OCD.
If you think of the stereotypical glass half full, the goal was just to get your glass to the half mark, not to see the potential to fill the cup even more.
Positive psychology is exploring the previously uncharted territory of building emotional health. This means that after there is a stable mental health foundation, we can go beyond surviving to thriving with a few tweaks to the process of thinking. You can begin filling your own cup.
If you are like me, you probably do a pretty good job of this when things are going well, when you are energized, and when you feel in control. Here are three tips on how to keep resilient when you are feeling busy, out-of-control, or overwhelmed.
Know the Negative Thinking Traps
There are 5 negative thinking traps that you can easily fall into. Most of us have a predominant trap that resonates more with our own thought process.
1 .Mind Reading
This is the belief that everyone thinks alike. You know how you think and therefor you think you know what people around you are thinking. The converse is also implied as true-others know your wants and needs without you having to tell them.
2. Me Thinking
A me thinker believes that when things o wrong it is their fault. The believe they are the root of the problem.
3. You Thinking
The you thinker believes that other people or circumstances are always at fault (these people have a large circle of others.
4. Catastrophic Thinkers
Catastrophic thinkers are always stuck in their heads. They have a tendency to anticipate the worst case scenario and they get stuck in anxiety as though their prophecies were reality.
Helpless thinking would have you believe that there is nothing you can do to change a situation or to create a better outcome.
Use These 3 Techniques to Outwit Your PatternsWhen our patterns become problematic it is indicative that our thinking has become rigid. We see problems as insurmountable due to the lack of flexibility or resilience in our thinking.
The good news is that The mind can be stretched in the same ways as our bodies- with repeated action moving towards the desired outcome.
These real-time hacks from UPenn Resiliency Training will immediately increase your optimism leading to greater reliance as they become new thoughts patterns.
1. Use Evidence
Disprove your negative thoughts by finishing this sentence:
“That’s not true because________________________.”
Look from another angle using the sentence:
“A more helpful way to see this would be_____________________________.”
This one is especially useful for catastrophic thinkers:
“If _________________happens, I will ____________________.”
I’d love to hear from you- which type of thinking trap do you fall into most (for me it can be the MIND READING) and which techniques you think will help you. (I’m a fan of the reframe).
Thanks for reading and keep taking daily steps to keep yourself on the happiness trajectory!
Parenting is Tough! Kids don't come with a manual and the demands of raising a child who is kind and generous and successful and bilingual with the correct number of vaccinations and the optimal balance of tech savvy and screen-free, WHo balances arts with sports and MAINTAINS college-track grades is completely overwhelming at the best of times.
I'm pretty sure my parents had the goal of keeping me alive. Period. in one generation we have gone from free-range parenting to HELICOPTERING these bubble wrapped genius children who are ready to burn out before middle school.
Child anxiety levels are off the charts.
in 2017 Resilience and grit are the buzzwords of the parenting gurus. but I think it's fair to say that the parent needs to be resilient in order to raise resilient children.
It's funny because so many parents will prioritize teaching skills to their children that they don't yet have themselves.
I have been asked , by an extremely anxious parent, to teach their child meditation to help with anxiety. When i offered to teach the parent, they didn't want to learn!
I can talk about this from first-hand knowledge. When I left my practice marriage, one of the core value differences between me and my ex was that he always put his needs first and I always put my needs last. I was a total martyr who thought that giving up my needs for my children's needs was the best way to show selflessness- wrong! What I have learned was that i was teaching my kids that my needs didn't matter.;That what I wanted wasn't important. That I didn't value myself.
so back to resilience. of course there are cases of INCREDIBLY resilient kids with parents who are fragile. it is possible for a rigid parent to raise a resilient child. I guess the real question is "Why not model resilience for your children?"
What Does it Take to Become More Resilient?
UPenn's positive psychology experts have been teaching resilience to soldiers, to students and to people like you. Learning resilience comes with the added bonuses of
Here are the skills needed to become resilient:
we aren't born resilient, we become resilient. If you want to know more about increasing your resilience, please email me- tamara @ahamoments4u.com.
I had a chance encounter with a grumpy woman a few days ago. As I exited the local bakery I could see her through the glass door. She was well dressed with pants, and a sweater, both beige and expensive looking and a long asymmetrical bob. She had deep penetrating blue eyes and I would imagine she was in her late 50s. I pushed the door outward and held it waiting for her to grab the handle. She didn’t but made eye contact. I thought perhaps my timing had been sloppy and I made a second attempt. Push the door to within her grasp and wait for her to grab hold and walk through. Again nothing. I assumed she was either waiting outside the shop for someone who was inside or that she just happened to be standing at the door but had no intention of coming through. I pushed again and this time walked through the door to exit the bakery. As I passed her I was met with a hissed “Young people are supposed to hold the door for older people”. “Oh…I said- I tried to hold the door to you and you didn’t take it. I thought you weren’t coming in” “You should have held it open as I walked through” she grumbled with a biting glare.
The Canadian in me wanted to say “I’m sorry” but I am glad to say I had enough composure not to apologize for something I didn’t do. The brief encounter kept coming back to my mind through the day causing me to examine behavior and learn from it.
The grumpy lady assumed there was a shared understanding between us that younger people hold the door for older people. My question- how much younger? I would have guessed this woman at 10 years my senior. Perhaps I was looking particularly young that day (doubtful). Perhaps I misjudged her age as she looked spry and not at all feeble. (How old is old?) Perhaps where she came from the cultural ritual is explicit- the one exiting holds the door for the one entering. (Possible but not probable)
Ask for what you want
The grumpy lady didn’t ask for what she wanted- the door to be held while she walked through, but then felt slighted when she didn’t get what she wanted. If something is important to you, verbalize it.
You cannot brace for the UNEXPECTED
I breeze through most of life fairly unflappable. I would describe myself as calm in the middle of chaos. What was different about this situation that allowed a simple interaction to feel charged emotionally? I didn’t expect it. Usually when an interaction with a friend or family member might be contentious, you can be prepared. If politics is going to be a topic, I can take a few breaths knowing that the subject is important and divisive. Or going into a meeting at work or your child’s school where you are going to face opposing viewpoints allows you to prepare yourself both with fact and with a sort of emotional force field. An unexpected hit while your shields are down packs a double wallop of surprise and aggressive anger.
Not everybody has to like you
GrumpY lady clearly didn’t like me much. I’m okay with that. Is important to be loved by everyone? No. What is important is kindness and I am pretty confident that all my parts of our exchange were kind.
You never walk in another person’s shoes so always assume good intention
Maybe my grumpy lady had just lost a spouse, sprained her wrist, or had been treated poorly by her children. Maybe she had a mental illness or a physical challenge that were not visible. Maybe this was the first time in her entire life that she had stood up for herself.
The point is, what someone says to you or about you says nothing about you and everything about them.
Have suggestions that might help others deal with their grumpy ladies (and men)? Please comment. Sharing is caring.
the goal is not to find something that is lacking, it's the realization of an already present reality. By using meditation to go inward- to connect and reflect you begin to notice patterns in your beliefs that you might want to change or disrupt. That's the first step NOtice your pattern.
A pattern is just your learned RESPONSE to stimulus. any stimulus. A food, a politician, music, a tv show, types of dogs, smells. no matter what the STIMULUS, your response will be either thumbs-up or thumbs down.
this stimulus -belief -response pattern gives you the ability to recognize the belief is always entirely under your control. you don't always control what stimulus you are exposed to, You do get to examine the belief that creates your RESPONSE.
according to Charles swindle "life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react". learning that the power of your reaction is entirely under your control means taking charge of those so-called negative emotions like fear, anxiety, and stress. When you recognize a pattern in your life and believe that it's not working you then you need to decide if you're going to keep it or discard it.
once you know for sure that you want to change a belief, you:
1) gather evidence to support the new belief you want
2) choose a new belief to replace the old one with
the secret to change according to Socrates is not to focus all your energy on fighting the old, but instead on building the new. we need to make sure that two biases that are hardwired in our brains don't keep us from succeeding.
the first bias is the status quo bias- our brains are wired to want what we already have.
the second one is the loss aversion bias- when we lose something the emotions are actually twice as powerful as when we gain something. an example of this would be if I gave you $20 you might be excited and there would be a blip in your joy radar but if I took $20 from you you would have double the anger than the joy you got from receiving the same $20. Knowing that we have this bias to avoid loss rather than to celebrate our gains, we need to really make sure we are focusing on what we are gaining and not what we are losing when we change a belief.
The third step is detachment desires can become very constricting when we want something so badly (like to change a pattern or habit) that it hurts. nourishing wants lead to happiness.
attachment is the natural quality that emerges as your higher self becomes your internal reference point and you let go of what you want and just allow. simply put by Oprah winfrey "I can own things but nothing owns me".
once you have examined your beliefs about things like:
your ability to learn
people's innate ability to be generous versus selfish
if the world is a place of abundance or scarcity
then you begin to live a life of reflection from a place of inner guidance. spending time in meditation helps to shake up this reflection process and makes beliefs that no longer serve you become obvious.
Have you changed a belief or thought pattern that changed your life? I'd love to hear what it was and how you changed it. Sharing is a great way to inspire one another and to reflect on the past. please comment below- I love to hear from others who are breaking free from limits.
Here's a look at what's on my nightstand.
The neuroscience behind human connection has broad implications for how we live our daily lives. Whether you're an introvert (fills their cup through time alone), an extrovert (needs high levels of social time with others), or even ambivert (a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features), science is proving that in order to feel happy and to flourish, humans must feel connected.
How Connected Are You? Take this quiz from the greater good science center.
What Can You Do to Cultivate Connection?Try these six tips: