By Carin Rockind
By Carin Rockind -
Hi, I’m Carin Rockind. Welcome to PPN Bites, where we give you 60-second helpings of the positive psychology news you need to know. Last year during the Olympics, I watched the skiers bounce up and down before they actually went down the hill, and I realized what they were doing was visualizing their success. So I wondered, does this work, or is it just a bunch of secret positive thinking.
Well, research actually shows it does work. A meta-study of more than 36 studies showed that mental cognition towards a goal led to physical success. One study took athletes and actually had some of the athletes do physical training in their muscles, one had them visualize strengthening their muscles, and one was a control group. Well, those who did physical exercise had a 28% increase in their muscle strength. Those who just thought about it had a 24% increase. This is incredible, and the reason is that there is about an 88% overlap between what you think about and what you actually do or see.
So the next time you have a goal, visualize yourself not only achieving the goal, visualize yourself practicing, visualize the progress, and then you have a better chance of succeeding. We hope this helps you take a bite out of life and increase happiness. Bye for now.
Watch more episodes HERE.
Shackell, E. M. and Stanking, L. G. (2007). Mind Over Matter: Mental Training Increases Physical Strength. North American Journal of Psychology, 9(1), pp. 189-200.
Kreiman, G., Koch, C, and Fried I. (2000). Imagery neurons in the human brain. Nature. 408(6810), pp. 357-61.
Carin Rockind, MAPP '10, is an empowerment coach and inspirational speaker. Carin holds the simple philosophy that we each have a unique purpose on earth and we're happy when living it. Working with individuals and companies, she combines her expertise in Positive Psychology with experience as a trauma survivor and former Fortune 500 exec to support professional women to be truly happy and wildly successful. For more information, visit Website, Facebook, Twitter. Full bio. Carin's articles are here.
By Jennifer Cory
By Jennifer Cory -
The CollapseIn April 2010, in the midst of a long-distance run, I collapsed. Moments before I had been mid-stride in the 6th mile of a 9-mile training run. Now I was on the ground, heart pounding, short of breath, and confused. Within seconds a small group of runners surrounded me. I heard their voices in the distance saying, “She must be dehydrated or over-trained.”
“Yes,” I reasoned with myself, “dehydrated.” I’d been training for a half marathon for a few months. “I must have overdone it on my sunrise runs.”
Five minutes passed. Then ten. Then fifteen. The last remnants of other runners’ water bottles had been exhausted in an effort to rehydrate me. “I should have my bearings by now,” I thought, “or at least feel less shaky.” I tried to sit up but couldn’t muster the strength to get higher than my elbows. I didn’t have the dexterity to unzip the pocket of my wind-shell to reach my cell phone. More people came. More speculation and suggestions. Eventually someone dialed 911.Twenty-five minutes after my collapse I was wheeled out of the back of an ambulance into the emergency room of a nearby hospital. Two EMTs had been unable to get a blood pressure reading as I lay in the street. They assessed the situation as critical and decided to perform a wrap-and-run operation rather than wait for medics. As the gurney burst through the emergency room doors, I heard the words “Code-blue in emergency!” announced over an intercom. I prayed that call wasn’t for me. Deep down I knew it was.
As I was whisked down the stark white corridor, there was an eruption of organized chaos all around me. I closed my eyes as a deep sense of exhaustion washed over me. Carla, a slim, 30-something-year-old nurse who had been running alongside the gurney with my left wrist squeezed between her fingers, grabbed my shoulder with her free hand and shook me with jarring force. “Jennifer, we need you to stay with us. Do NOT go to sleep! Do you understand me? Open your eyes. Jennifer, OPEN YOUR EYES! Stay with us!” she commanded. It took Herculean effort to fight the urge to drift off.
One minute I was slipping into oblivion surrounded by a flurry of activity in the critical care bay: orders shouted, clothes cut off (my lucky shorts!), blood drawn, meds pushed into two IVs, nasal cannula replaced by oxygen mask, the strange cold-wet sensation of defibrillator pads being placed, ECG leads and lines everywhere. The next minute, there was silence. The ECG monitor showed my heart rhythm trapped wildly in ventricular tachycardia, quivering at more than 300 beats per minute. It was as if a tornado had erupted inside my heart. “All clear!” was shouted. BAMB! Two hundred joules of energy exploded through my chest and into my heart. No one moved or uttered a word as they stared up at the ECG monitor intently. A normal sinus rhythm suddenly appeared. Everyone was waiting to see if this marvel of modern medical technology would stick. The fact that I survived intact from this 40-minute ordeal was considered a true miracle.
Six days and two hospital transfers later, I was diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a rare, genetic cardiac disease and a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young, otherwise healthy people. Athletes are at particular risk for sudden cardiac death if they have this genetic anomaly. It is most often diagnosed via autopsy.An internal defibrillator was implanted, a machine the size of a deck of cards capable of delivering a shock similar to the one I received in the ER, to correct the likelihood of future tornados. Meds were given to limit the damaging effects of ordinary hormones on the heart. Epinephrine and norepinephrine were now potential killers. The damage already done could not be reversed, but modern medicine might slow the progression of this silent killer.
Since this is a genetic disease, my children and parents needed to be screened as well. My mother and my two teenaged sons were positive for the same genetic mutation. My mother died of a sudden cardiac arrest in the middle of doing screenings and planning next steps. My sons had to cease all sports immediately, a high price when you’re 16 with lifelong aspirations of collegiate sports. They will be closely monitored for the rest of their lives.
The Chronic Disease Club
Our world had changed. We were now members of the chronic disease club. Medicine saved my life. It could extend life for me and my sons. For this I was and am beyond grateful. But in the months that followed, coming to terms with my own condition and adjusting to my new life, I began to wonder about the quality of life of all the people in the world living with chronic and degenerative diseases, especially those who are less fortunate, less prepared, with less access to care. I felt sad that I had never really thought of them before. Now I couldn’t stop thinking of them, of us.
Chronic illness is a source of significant stress for those living with it and their immediate family members. The DSM classification handbook for mental health professionals identifies chronic illness as a precipitating feature of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Illnesses that create recurrent unpredictable threats to physical safety can induce feelings of helplessness and pose greater adjustment challenges over the lifetime of the illness than more stable and predictable diseases. Unlike acute illness, chronic diseases should be measured in terms of recurring events and stressors that compound over time. According to research, it is the accumulation of stressful events (big and small) that tips the scale in the direction of psycho-social difficulties.Imagine, if you will, that parallel to every other challenge that life throws at you (financial stress, relationship challenges, loss of a loved one, natural disaster, job challenges, moving), you are also navigating life with a chronic illness. This added stress becomes the breeding ground for psychological, social, and emotional drag. It’s life, only harder.
In the words of Bob Thaves, “Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did except backwards and in heels.” People with chronic illness navigate an added level of struggle every day.
What About Quality of Life?While advances in medicine have extended life expectancy, the extension of life comes at a cost. Managing life with a chronic, degenerative disease can precipitate or worsen preexisting mental health issues. Think of cardiac disease, seizure disorders, neurological and autoimmune disorders. This is the reality for 133 million Americans, and billions of people around the world. According to Atul Gawande, “We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.”
The gap that exists in medicine between extending life and supporting quality of life was my inspiration for studying positive psychology. It was also the focus of my MAPP capstone. In it I provide evidence of the need to address psychological, social, and emotional well-being with the same gravity used to treat illness and extend life.
ARVC provides examples of the challenges that individuals and families face living with chronic illness. My capstone provides evidence and strategies for preventing downward spirals and promoting resilience and well-being.The HEART Initiative, the manifestation of my capstone, is a social impact organization dedicated to helping people with chronic illness thrive. Using research and interventions drawn from resilience theory, applied positive psychology, and epigenetics, the HEART Initiative merges Hope, Engagement, Action, and Resources to cultivate Thriving.
As a practicing psychotherapist for more than a decade before my sudden cardiac arrest in 2010, I was well versed in helping people cope with depression, anxiety, bipolar and personality disorders, unhappy marriages, troubled teens, and trauma. I knew a lot about how to help people move from a -7, -8, -9, and even -10 to +1, + 2, or + 3. I felt honored to help reduce suffering in the world. Yet, I knew very little about how to help people thrive, and nothing about what it would take to thrive in the face of recurrent crises and trials from which there is presently no cure.
Living with a chronic, life-threatening illness poses many challenges. It is imperative that we provide those dealing with such a diagnosis the skills necessary to go beyond surviving to thriving. As a person living with a chronic illness, I want to live the best version of my life that I can. That is what I want for my sons. That is what all people living with chronic disease want: not only to survive, but to thrive. That is the mission of the HEART Initiative.
For more information about ways to get involved in the HEART initiative, such as donating to the initiative, click on the figure below.
Cory, J. (2015). Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy: From surviving to thriving. MAPP Capstone, University of Pennsylvania.
American Association of Retired Persons. Chronic Conditions among Older Americans.
Fried, L. (2017). America’s Health and Health Care Depend on Preventing Chronic Disease. Huffington Post.
Gawande, A. (2014). Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.
Keyes, C. L. M. (2007). Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: A complementary strategy for improving national mental health. American Psychologist, 62(2), 95.
Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(4), 719.
Tinker, A. (2017). How to Improve Patient Outcomes for Chronic Diseases and Comorbidities. Health Catalyst.
Turner, R. J., & Lloyd, D. A. (1995). Lifetime traumas and mental health: The significance of cumulative adversity. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 6, 360-376.
Jennifer Cory, MS, MAPP 2015, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Red Bank, NJ; associate director of the NY Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology program; and founder/chief hope facilitator of the HEART Initiative, a social organization dedicated to helping individuals with chronic and degenerative diseases thrive.
Jennifer's articles are here.
By Cordele Glass
By Cordele Glass -
People rarely acknowledge the fact that trees are living beings that eat, reproduce, and react to their environment. Trees have been around for over 390,000,000 years and all of that time has imbued them with an irrefutable wisdom regarding how to live life. The differences between humans and trees are vast, but that does not imply that every bit of a tree’s wisdom can be disregarded as irrelevant. Below are some lessons I’ve gleaned about life and development from some of the wisest teachers I know.
Sometimes Change is a Good ThingDeciduous trees lose their leaves when they decide the environment calls for a different approach to life and their way of being. This is the change many people associate with red and yellow autumn leaves. It happens gradually yet fully; without hesitation, uncertainty, or regret. They rely on a combination of genetic and environmental factors to help them know when the time for change is right.
Living with the knowledge that change is an inevitable and vital aspect of our development is what helps us to continue advancing in ways that guide our bodies and our surroundings toward harmony. Many developmental psychologists take a lifespan view of development. This lifespan perspective is supported by work in neuroscience with concepts like plasticity suggesting that neural and psychological change continues to take place long after adulthood has begun. Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich has a Ted Talk explaining some of the basic tenets of neural plasticity. Impermanence or perpetual change is also a foundational idea in Buddhist psychology and various other Vedantic teachings tied to acceptance, peace, and spiritual development.
As We Grow, We Transcend and Include
Dendrochronology is the scientific study of trees and how they develop over time. As they grow, each layer continues to contribute to the whole life and being of the tree. The older, smaller parts add to the fullness of the individual tree, and yet there is more that makes up the tree as it continues to interact with the environment, changing over time. The new rings do not reject, diminish, judge, or demean the older parts of the tree. Instead, they include them, they surround them, and they work in harmony to contribute to the whole tree’s life.As our consciousness develops we begin to take wider and wider perspectives. We begin in infancy by only considering our immediate needs of food and warmth, emotional and physical safety. As we learn and our perspectives grow we begin to consider the needs of others including our parents and our closest friends. Through adolescence, wider social circles become more important to our values, actions, and interests. As social and emotional development continues we begin to include communities, cultures, and nations into our considerations and priorities. Generally speaking, humans tend to move from egocentric to ethnocentric to world-centric as we transcend, yet include, each stage of growing up. Each subsequent stage fully includes the prior stage.
This theory of transcending and including stages of consciousness is known as Spiral Dynamics. It was first put forth by Dr. Clare Graves (a contemporary of Abraham Maslow) and later popularized by the work of Don Beck, Christopher Cowan, and Ken Wilbur. Spiral Dynamics synthesizes the gamut of psychology’s best developmental theories into a model of holarchical stages that stretch across the human lifespan and the human species itself. In philosophy, a holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part.
Some Parts of Life Need Energy and Some Parts Don’tAs trees grow older, taller, and wiser they often reallocate their resources to leaves and branches that contribute the most to their life, and away from the branches and leaves that are no longer catching light. The unused branches and leaves eventually wither and fall off the tree as the higher branches and leaves flourish and continue to contribute to the tree’s development.
We live in the same world as trees, and in this world, there is a limited amount of energy we can use at one time. Putting this energy into the parts of our lives that help us to thrive and develop is vital to an engaging and meaningful life. Since energy is limited, reallocating energy toward these things may mean that other parts of life, whether they be friends, family, jobs, hobbies, or environments, may have to wither and occasionally be removed all together. Dr. Bonnie Benard calls this process Adaptive Distancing and lauds it as a significant contributor to the development of resilience in children and adolescents. This shedding, reorienting, or diminishing is in service of putting the most energy possible into the friends, family, jobs, hobbies, or environments that contribute the most to our lives.
Being Open to as Much Light as Possible Leads to the Most Growth
Trees try to maximize the surface area of their leaves because they need light to grow. Sometimes they use massive individual leaves like the Bigleaf Maple Tree, sometimes they go for quantity like the needles of a Conifer Tree, and sometimes they reach high above the competition like the Coastal Redwoods.Many trees grow their branches toward more concentrated areas of light and some plants even move with the sun as it travels across the sky, a process called heliotropic sun-tracking. They know how important light is, and they try their best to openly receive as much as possible.
Finding light in our own human lives is just as vital to our growth. For us, it may come from the kind words of a new friend, the passion felt from an inspiring action in others, or the comfort felt from connecting with our bodies. It may be the awe of a mountain view, the thrill of a favorite sport, or the touch of a loved one. The field of Positive Psychology has dedicated itself to researching these aspects of human psychological light with the above examples supported by hundreds of rigorous studies from around the world. Barbara Fredrickson has demonstrated that our psychological resources can broaden and build with the light of positive emotions. Deci and Ryan have posited that the light of relatedness is a psychological necessity, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has investigated thoroughly how the light of flow states helps to grow our psychological complexity. We too can approach life by being as open and receptive as possible to the things that give us light that helps us grow.Summary
Trees can teach us to embrace change. They can also teach us that with change we needn’t discard aspects of our past, but rather we can keep them and use them to stay strong as we transcend our current states. Attending to the things we need for growth and being as open to our needs as possible can set us up for continued success. We can act in ways that allow people, feelings, and experiences to fill us up and contribute to life and development of well-being. We can do this without trying to hold onto them forever and without expecting them to be a certain way. Just like trees.
Beck, D. E., & Cowan, C. C. (2014). Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change. John Wiley & Sons.
Benard, B. (1991). Fostering resiliency in kids: Protective factors in the family, school, and community. Western Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Rathunde, K. (2014). The development of the person: An experiential perspective on the ontogenesis of psychological complexity. In M. Csikszentmihalyi, Applications of Flow in Human Development and Education: The Collected Works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (pp. 7-79). Springer, Dordrecht.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226. Abstract.
Merzenich, M. (2004). Growing evidence of brain plasticity. TED-2004.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68.
Wilber, K. (2000). Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy. Shambhala Publications.
Wright, R. (2017). Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. Simon and Schuster.
Turning Leaves Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash
Cordele Glass, M.A. 2018 holds a graduate degree in Positive Developmental Psychology and Evaluation from Claremont Graduate University. He works as an outdoor adventure guide, teambuilding facilitator, and positive psychology coach in Southern California. You can read more on his website, Upward Acts. Cordele's articles are here.
By Kathryn Britton
By Kathryn Britton -
Feedback is a gift, right? Yet I’m willing to bet that most people are anxious about getting feedback on their work. Here’s a sample of the responses I’ve heard people express after having their work reviewed: “Why didn’t he get it?” “Didn’t I do anything right?” “I just don’t have the energy to fix it.”
I often wondered if there were a way to give and get feedback that would make it really feel like a gift.
To find out, I started an experiment in 2013, inviting 8 writers to participate in a writers’ workshop using the approach described in Richard Gabriel’s wonderful book. He had used the approach with poets and software engineers. I figured it could work for change agents and entrepreneurs, in fact for anyone who wants to make writing less solitary.Fast forward 5 years. With the help of 3 assistants, I have run more than 600 workshop meetings involving around 75 writers and reviewing nearly 1250 pieces of writing. The process works. It helps the reviewers give actionable feedback, and it helps the writers grow in confidence.
Not interested in writing? Before you turn away, consider what one participant wrote about participating:
Let me walk you through a review so that you can see the elements that could be reused in other feedback opportunities.
Setting the StageLet’s say we have an 850-word blog post by Jessica. The other three workshop members and I have all read it ahead of time to prepare our comments.
Jessica introduces the piece very, very briefly, “I want to publish it on my home improvement blog.” Then I invite her to become a fly on the wall and not speak again until the review is over. This liberates her to listen. Instead of needing to explain or defend what she wrote, she can hear how people experienced her piece. It’s hard to listen and mentally compose responses at the same time.
We do the review in three rounds. As the facilitator, I call on people (including myself) and jumble up the order so that the same person doesn’t always go first.
Round 1: ABOUT
In turn, reviewers describe how they experienced the work. For example: “This piece was about steps to take before starting a home improvement project,” or “This piece gave me a confidence boost to start working on getting my bathroom renovated.” These observations can be short summaries, statements of the major theme, or discussions of emotional impact. They are usually brief, and several reviewers may say roughly the same thing. If everybody takes away the same message, that’s great, so long as it was the message Jessica intended. If not, Jessica knows what to do. Round 1 helps her step outside her own point of view to observe how other people experience her work.
Round 2: STRONG
Each reviewer takes a turn answering the question, “What makes this piece of writing strong?”Here are some questions that help people look for what’s strong:
The best feedback is very specific to the work. Contrast “Great work,” to “The way you demonstrated how to choose between different kinds of flooring was so clear and sharp that I’ll print it out to keep for the next time I remodel my kitchen.”
Of course, the focus is on the writing, not the writer. Contrast “You are a great writer,” to “The way you opened the post made me curious. I don’t always read past the first paragraph of blog posts, but I really wanted to know how things would turn out.” Reviewers might comment on the theme, the story arc, what gave the message power. They may read aloud particular sentences that they found eloquent.
Perhaps most important, the feedback offers insight into what’s good. Approval is great, but Jessica needs to know how the approval was earned so she can do it again. Contrast “You know a lot about home improvement,” to “You showed me how to sort through my ideas, who to get involved, and how to be sure I will still like my renovation after a few years.”
I’ve observed many occasions when people hear strengths in their writing that they didn’t even know were there. Jessica sees how her own style works. When she gets really topnotch positive feedback, she feels that she has really been seen. She is not just a person in a crowd.
This doesn’t always come easily to reviewers. Looking for strengths before looking for things to be fixed takes discipline because we’re all used to going right for the jugular. Here’s an observation of a workshop member quoted in Gabriel’s book (p. 128):
Round 3: STRONGER
Each reviewer answers the question, “What, in my opinion, would make this piece even stronger?” That gives reviewers the chance to do what we all expect to do in reviews: add value by suggesting changes.But notice two things about the question: “in my opinion” is a reminder to both Jessica and the reviewer that Jessica can take or leave the comment. It’s her writing, and she is the one who decides what feedback to use. It also leaves the floor open for other opinions. It’s not uncommon for two reviewers to have conflicting opinions. Readers are not all alike.
Second, the question is about making it even stronger. Somehow that wording makes it easier to hear the comments because they are not aimed at fixing what’s broken, but instead making something even more effective.
Finishing the Review
Finally, we invite the author back into the circle to ask questions for clarification. Perhaps the author did not quite catch a particular suggestion while she was a fly on the wall. We have one rule for the author: no explanations allowed! The author can take or leave any comment made by the group. We don’t need to be told what Jessica meant it to mean. Either we saw it, or she has work to do.
What’s in it for Reviewers?
It’s not too hard to see what’s in it for writers. They get to watch the way their pieces are received, hear the strengths spoken out loud, and receive specific suggestions for improvement. But what’s in it for the reviewers?Reviewers build their own skill by practicing and paying attention to what works. They recognize things done well, and they pick up new ways of making meaning. If they struggle to understand, they figure out ways to keep the needs of their own audiences in mind.
I took the article you are reading through a workshop. One of the reviewers told me I forgot to mention that he gets to read really interesting pieces. He also likes seeing works in progress because it helps him accept the imperfections of his own early drafts. Going through a review implies being willing to revise.
Not Just for WritingSeveral people have told me that workshop practice has helped them get better at giving feedback in all sorts of other situations.
So imagine applying this approach to any aspect of workplace performance. You’ve just observed someone giving a presentation, leading a meeting, testing a program, creating a strategy, organizing a team, or keeping track of status. Picture yourself using the three rounds: “This is what I saw. This is what’s strong about it. This is what would make it even stronger, in my opinion.” Perhaps you will become more skillful yourself by paying such close attention to the strengths of someone else’s work.
How could you use the 1-2-3 method to make feedback a gift at work or at home?
Britton, K. H. (2018). Write! Experiments to build skill and confidence in your own words. Script for workshop for the Canadian Positive Psychology Association conference workshop given 24 May 2018.
Britton, K. H. (2018). 7 experiments to liberate your voice. Handout for workshop for the Canadian Positive Psychology Association conference workshop given 24 May 2018.
Gabriel, R. (2002). Writers’ workshops & the work of making things. Addison Wesley. Available online.
Picture credits from Unsplash
Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06, former software engineer, is a coach working with professionals to increase well-being, energy, and meaning in their work lives(Theano Coaching LLC). She is a member of the Silicon Valley Change coaching network. She is also a writing coach and facilitator of writing workshops. Her own books include Smarts and Stamina onusing positive psychology principles to build strong health habits and Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Full bio.Kathryn's articles are here.
By Senia Maymin
By Senia Maymin -
On September 5, we interviewed Christine Duvivier, author of the book, “Best-Loved Love Notes to My Child… What I’d Say if You Wouldn’t Roll Your Eyes.” With her laser focus on the hidden genius, leadership and true potential in each of us, she refutes the “not good enough” myth and replaces it with her model that holds our spirit and well-being at its core.
(Watch on Youtube)
Here are some of the key points from the interview:
Three Myths that Christine Duvivier calls, The Myths of Education:
Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP, PhD, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive and founder of the boutique coaching firm, Silicon Valley Change. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Maymin is the founder and editor in chief of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full bio. Senia's solo articles are here, her articles with Margaret Greenberg here, and with Kathryn Britton here.
By Positive Psychology News