1. Practicing Kindness Transforms You and the World

    November 13, 2014

    Practicing Kindness Transforms You and the World

    Practice kindness in your everyday life? Why should I be kind when others aren’t? Will it matter and make a difference in the world full of angry and indifferent people? I was asked these questions by a very bright 18 year old girl who undergoes therapy for body dysmorphic disorder and depression. My answers: “Sure it will! And it will make a difference for you and for others!” We had a long conversation and my therapy client left the session feeling a little bit better about herself and the world.

    In this post I will talk about the importance of practicing kindness and show how simple it is to develop kindness in you.

    Barbra Fredrickson, a psychology professor at the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill is known for her “Broaden and build” model of Positive Emotions. She stated that positive emotions serve a higher purpose in our lives – not just to feel good – by increasing our scope of action-thinking in terms of widening our physical, cognitive and social resources and responses. Her theory also stated that we can “store and build up” positive emotions, by creating around us a spiral of upwards positivity. Meaning the more positive energy you send out, the more likely you are to attract others that issue the same type of “energy frequency”.

    But more than that, have you noticed how some people just seem to infect you with their positive energy? As if they made it more difficult to feel unhappy around them? Kindness as the positive emotion it is, can serve that contagious purpose just as well. Positive emotions also help you build up resilience. (more…)

  2. Fear: is it holding you back?

    June 25, 2014

    Fear: is it holding you back?

    Fear is a powerful feeling. In evolutionary terms, fear has protected our species and helped us survive. And it stills does to this day. Can you imagine if our ancestors felt no fear at all? In the face of a fierce animal and took no measures to protect themselves or run? Fear is a part of our self-preservation instinct and can get us out of many troubles. Trusting your fear, even if you don’t understand it, may be a good call most of the time.

    But what if you’re letting you fear get the best of you?

    What if your fear is actually controlling you and preventing you from achieving greater things? Of not taking the necessary risks to accomplish success? You can never succeed if you don’t try. Most importantly, what if fears are feeding your anxiety and leading you to the brink of mental disorder?

    First thing you need to do is to identify the roots of your fear. Fear has a lot to do with our personal history, the values that our parents and relatives passed on to us. Most of us may look at our parents and realize their parents passed on a fear of financial ruin to them. Why was that? Our grandparents lived through a great economic depression and because of that, passed on to our parents the need to have savings and prevent a rainy day. Some of us incorporate that fear in a constructive way (like having a few savings stored away) and others take that fear to extremes (like becoming a serious cheapskate and not enjoying your own money to spend).

    Knowing your fear and assessing it against your reality, can help you not only understand it but also overcome it.


  3. Procrastination: Your own worst enemy!

    June 21, 2014

    Procrastination: Your own worst enemy

    This is a subject I could talk about for hours. After all, I am the master of procrastination and I know perfectly well it’s my worst enemy and the reason why I seem to boycott my own chances of success more often than I would like to admit it.

    What is procrastination?

    Well, it’s the fine art of postponing everything forever. Tomorrow is always the right day to start doing things. Like starting a diet: tomorrow is always the perfect day. So do you have a deadline that you need to meet? Start it tomorrow. Do you need to do some repair work on your home or your car? Let’s think about it some other time. Or watch TV instead, or read your e-mails, or clean your house… You get the picture.

    Don’t confuse procrastination with laziness. It’s not. When a procrastinator sets his mind on something, he/she can get it done in half the time anyone can, it’s just easier to keep postponing instead of doing and getting it out of your head.

    What does procrastination cause?

    A lot of grief, pain, missed opportunities and frustration. At least on my end. I feel frustrated and so do the people around me who rely on my work or my organization. And I end up giving the wrong image of myself and most importantly, disappointing people.

    Why do people do it? I still don’t have an answer for that. But what I can tell you is that I crave for a little stress in my life, I enjoy causing this much pain to myself. Why? Stress is a great propeller for action. But sometimes I cause too much and just end up paralyzed and not getting things done on time.

    Is it bad time management? Yes, sometimes. Personally speaking, I know how to manage my time and when I’m focused on not being a procrastinator, I can get things done on time or sooner. But procrastination, so far, gets the best of me most of the times.

    How to not be a procrastinator

    (This is the part you want to know about)

    • Find out on what you procrastinate the most. For me it has to do with bureaucratic things (like paying taxes). And put those on the top of your list. The first thing to do on Monday is to get rid of that awful task you hate so much.
    • Find ways to boycott your procrastination. You don’t have to do everything you hate on the same day, but you can plan it. Or just do it and get it over with. You can force yourself into situations that you can’t procrastinate. Ask a friend for help on that day and no other for instance. Set goals for yourself and stick to them. It’s all about personal commitment.
    • “Don’t leave for tomorrow what you can do today”. It’s a saying my grandmother used to tell me often and I guess she was right. Although I also though she was a little bit slave of work and didn’t have any leisure time. But she was obviously far less stressed than I am most the time!
    • Time is the most democratic thing in the world. There is time for everything. You just have to beat your procrastination and make up your mind on how you want to live your life. Always stressed and overwhelmed or relaxed and enjoying the best in life? Your choice.


    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/426364168/

  4. Crisis: a Setback or an Opportunity?

    June 14, 2014

    Crisis: a Setback or an Opportunity?

    If you’re an optimistic like myself, you’ll immediately say opportunity. But what if you’re facing a really big crisis? How to stay positive and optimistic in the face of what seems tragedy to you? Let’s analyze in this post personal crisis, like identity ones.

    Not to remind you of a great financial collapse, but the word crisis comes from the Greek word krisis, which actually means growth. Interesting perspective? Think about it: all of mankind’s greatest evolutions came from a crisis. Don’t believe me? Think about the Middle Ages, such a dark period in time, right? How did we evolve from it? Well basically through the black plague which wiped out a third of the European population and the 100 year war between France and England. What good came out of it? We have the millions of deaths to be sorry for that’s true,  but this particular crisis enabled us to leave the dark ages and change our political and economic system as well it provided an opportunity for development in arts and science.


  5. Positive Psychology: Psychology or Mythology?

    June 13, 2014

    Positive Psychology: Psychology or Mythology?

    Other than posing an interesting question, what is meant by this title? In order to answer that question we need to take a step or two back, back to understanding what are the key differences are between psychology, mythology AND positive psychology.

    Defining Terms:

    I could suggest that you define the three terms identified above. That would be well and good except our definitions may not match – that would not be so good. So, for the sake of clarity, let’s go with the following:

    1. Psychology: Let’s keep it simple, psychology is a scientific discipline that studies mental processes and behaviors.

    2. Mythology: The story accepted and believed in different cultures explaining how or why humans act in certain ways.

    3. Positive Psychology: The application of psychological principles and practices that emphasize how to achieve a “good life” for oneself.

    Why are these important?


    Among the newer areas of psychology is positive psychology. The very use of the word “positive” has strong Euro-American cultural mythologies attached to it. Most particular this can be found in the work of Norman Vincent Peale, “The Art of Positive Thinking” and similar self-help approaches of making all things better by simply thinking positive. These are myths.

    I refer to this myth as thought replacement. It even works for some. The difficulty with this approach is that it remains a superficial solution. Serious work to address your preferred choices in your mental processes and behaviors requires an attitude with a deeper effect. Achieving the good life, that is, a life of contentment calls for something more.


  6. I am Thankful for Being Fired

    May 8, 2014

    I am Thankful for Being Fired

    by Sue Chehrenegar

    I believe that just about anyone who is working for someone else would say that a firing represents one of the harshest forms of criticism. I have faced that type of criticism; in fact, I was once given a two week notice on my birthday. For a few days, I felt that I had failed to be a useful worker. Then, someone made a request, and got put me in a more positive frame of mind.

    The place where I was working housed a series of laboratories. The laboratory technicians often had to experiment with mice and rats. One day, one of the male workers had trouble removing a mouse from its cage, once the experiment had been completed. His hand was too large, and it would not fit into the animal’s tiny cage.

    Now, I happen to have unusually small hands. In fact, I can recall a time when a friend of my college roommate was fascinated by a pair of gloves that she found on my bed in our dorm room. She could not believe how small it was.

    Well, my tiny hand proved to be just what that one technician needed on that particular day. I was the only person in our lab who could reach in there at remove that mouse. That incident helped to make me more aware of the ways that I can be useful, and can be certain of having a meaningful life.

    In that situation, I had failed to meet the goals established by my superiors. Those goals had required excellent performance of required experiments. I had been expected to act assertively, as I sought to carry-out such experiments. Unfortunately, the level of assertiveness that I had been able to muster-up was equal in size to my tiny hands. That is why I had failed to hold-down that particular job.

    Fortunately, I had learned something much earlier that would help me to think more positively about my ability to have a useful and a meaningful life. A biochemist at the company that was unhappy with my performance had spoken with me about the nature of his investigations. He had told me that he wanted to find a way for isolating a certain type of lung cell. Naturally, he had approached that task by trying all the techniques that are familiar to the typical biochemist.

    At that point, I had struggled with a graduate biochemistry course, and I found that I enjoyed growing cells much more than doing any sort of biochemical experiment. In fact, before I was fired,  I did obtain some cells  from a laboratory at the local University, and I had tried working with those, rather than using live animals.  Later, when I had to find a new job, a friend suggested that I visit the Human Relations Department at that same University.

    During that visit, I made a discovery that helped to put me in an even more positive frame of mind. I found that the head of one of the University’s research departments had the same goal as the biochemist that I had talked to earlier. He wanted to isolate the same type of lung cell. However, he also wanted to keep the isolated cells growing and making more cells.

    With that goal in mind, he had ordered a special machine, one called an elutriator. Now, I had once worked with an elutriator. While in graduate school, I had taken a three month course that focused on that instrument. After heeding the urging of a friend, I scheduled a visit with the man who had once agreed to give me some cells, and I explained to him the nature of my experience with the machine that he had ordered.

    Not long after that meeting, a friend (another person who loved biology) and I were given permission to see what we could do, working on the mice that were made available to us. We also learned as much as we could about the elutriator, which had yet to be fully assembled. Eventually, I was present when a man came and assembled it for us.

    I found that my ability to grow cells was quite valuable. Even the short experience that I had once had while in graduate school had allowed me to stand-out as a job candidate. Ultimately, I got the job that I had hoped to get, the one that allowed me to work in that University laboratory. I saw my life taking-on far more meaning.

    Now, my life could not be described as smooth-sailing from that point in time. I encountered plenty of other obstacles. Yet, my skills and readiness to work hard on those skills helped me to overcome each obstacle that I encountered. By managing to think positively, I kept myself from feeling that I would be unable to have a meaningful life.

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/12004898@N06/4642070007

  7. Gratitude as a Coping Mechanism

    April 14, 2014

    Gratitude as a Coping Mechanism

    Gratitude is a powerful feeling. It makes us appreciate all the good we have in our lives and enjoy it for what it is, instead of craving for the next big thing. Which in turn will leave us constantly unsatisfied with our lives, because there will always be something more to crave for. Gratitude is a characteristic of people experiencing higher levels of well-being with known reports of 67% of grateful people experiencing gratitude “all the time” and up to 60% reporting that expressing gratitude “made them feel very happy” (Gallup: “Survey results on gratitude, adults and teenagers“). But can gratitude also function as a coping mechanism? Can it helps us deal with life’s biggest adversities and still flourish?

    Researchers Wood, Joseph and Linley set out to answer just that.

    Gratitude is correlated to happiness  and well-being

    Research done so far has shown that dispositional Gratitude has the highest correlations with life satisfaction and well-being. And consequently negative correlations with depression and envy. Which makes sense, if grateful people are focused on their achievements and value them, their sense of self-efficacy is higher and they will not envy what others have achieved that much.

    Others studies have shown that inducing gratitude during weeks in people has proven to have improvements on happiness, depression and even physical health (for a revision of studies check Wood, Joseph and Linley’s 2007 article).

    What seems to be in place here, is that not only gratitude is an important mechanism in well-being and optimism but it can also serve as a coping mechanism during stressful situations. Being grateful might actually help you deal in a more constructive way with stress and life’s adversities, making you flourish as a person.

    Gratitude is a Positive Emotion

    According to Fredrickson’s (1998, 2001) broaden-and-built model of positive emotions, positive emotions can serve as resources for building up resilience in people, as those positive emotions are stored to be used in stressful or threatening situations. But also, positive emotions are key aspects in pushing us towards an action. And given that, positive emotions helps push forward instead of holding us back.

    Gratitude seems to correlate to a higher social approach strategy, as studies have shown that grateful people are also likely to express extroversion, agreeableness, forgiveness and empathy. Which are important characteristics to consider in social interaction because they make others want to approach us.

    Grateful people see the world as a hospitable place, deemphasizing (not ignoring) the negative side of life which in turn may help them deal actively with problems they may encounter.

    But the question is: Do grateful people have more psychological resources?

    According to Wood, Joseph and Linley’s (2007) findings coping mechanisms mediate the relationship between stress and gratitude. But it also showed important differences between grateful people:

    1)      Grateful people tend to seek out emotional and instrumental social support as a coping mechanism, make use of positive reinterpretation and growth and planning

    2)      Grateful people used more positive coping mechanisms, like approaching problems instead of avoiding them

    Inversely, gratitude was negatively correlated with behavioral disengagement, self-blame, substance abuse and denial. Which can all be seen as negative coping mechanisms as they are meant to avoid problems and not fix them.

    This means that grateful people tend to use more positive strategies to deal with stress and their issues by reaching out to friends and family for support, which in turn helps decrease their levels of stress and depression and function as an active way to solve problems instead of avoiding them.

    Can being grateful be a good thing for you? It sure can. Not only because it increases your levels of well-being and life satisfaction but it can also help you cope with stress. Now the question remains: how can you be more grateful?


  8. How Would You Define a Positive Peace?

    February 20, 2014

    How Would You Define a Positive Peace?

    by Sue Chehrenegar


    Every year, I try to get to one special breakfast, one that is always held on the morning of April 29th. The group that hosts that special event provides those attending with the chance to enjoy a beautiful spread. That spread is laid-out in the kitchen and dining area of a building that is just blocks from where I live. Therefore, I can simply walk to that building, and I have a great excuse for eating as much as I want.

    Of course, this article is not meant to focus on the food that is served that day. This year, I enjoyed two particular aspects of that annual event. First, for some reason, a bird chose to start singing as we were eating our breakfast. That was a real treat, because the historical occasion that had brought us together was associated with chirping birds. It took place in a garden, a garden outside of Bagdad.

    From now on, I will always link that garden to this phrase: positive peace. That is a term that I heard the morning that I listened to the birds chirping. I heard it from a friend, a woman who had been attending a series of talks, talks that were given in the same building.

    According to her, one of the speakers, a professor at UCLA had spoken about the value in considering the meaning of a positive peace. He indicated that it differed from a peaceful interlude, a time when there was no fighting and no thought of initiating such an action. At such a time, people might enjoy the peaceful nature of the existing situation, but none of them had chosen to follow the path that promises to transform a peaceful interlude into a time when any thought of violence has been wiped from the mind.

    During such a period, the general population would think that any violent act seemed totally meaningless. There would seem to be no reason for acting violently. Such actions would not be viewed as a means for reaching an acceptable goal.

    I see a positive peace as being a time when the world has come to understand the benefits attached to consultation. During a true consultation, no one who sits at the table tries to claim any idea as his or her own. Rather, each person puts-forward an idea and lets the others use it as a foundation, one on which a plan can be built.

    When a plan has been formed following a consultation, no one person can take credit for its success. By the same token, no one person can be blamed, if the plan does not succeed in accomplishing the desired end. A failure should not invite fighting, but instead it should encourage further consultation.

    During a positive peace, people would consult about how to solve problems. As they consulted, there would be no finger-pointing. After the consultation had ended, no one would start back biting. No one would try to gossip about what had been said by someone else, during the consultative process.

    In my mind, political parties would seem out-of-place in a world where peacefulness had taken-on a new meaning, one that meant more than just the absence of violence. After all, loyalty to one party would suggest a dislike for the other party. Obviously, a willingness to show a dislike could be seen as an act that could not be used to ensure maintenance of a peaceful situation.

    I did not hear the talk about a positive peace, but I have no difficulty forming my own ideas about what should be the principle characteristics of a world that has arrived at such a state. It seems to me that anyone who has chosen to work towards achievement of such a state has certainly chosen to have a meaningful life. Those who have chosen a different path may find out too late that their violent actions have managed to rob their life of meaning.


    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/defenceimages/6150625532




  9. My Own Worst Enemy

    February 12, 2014

    My Own Worst Enemy

    by Michelle Blessing


    I want to be happy.  Not just content, but truly HAPPY.  And just when I think I have it figured out, it’s gone.  She takes it away again, leaving me broken and defeated.  Left to rebuild myself, I try again, only to once again almost reach the top of the happiness hill – and she pushes me back to the bottom.  I feel as if I will never win this battle.


    Who is she, you might be wondering?  Well, she is very simply put, ME.  I am my own worst enemy in the pursuit of happiness.  I find myself becoming content with the way life is going, finally settling into a pattern, and then I start to wonder – is this really it?  Have I reached the pinnacle of happiness?  My focus begins to drift, and I start to refocus my energy on the negative aspects of life, slipping back down the hill it took me so long to climb.


    This has been an ongoing battle for me for many, many years.  At one point, I decided I simply wasn’t meant to be happy; after all, not everyone can become a doctor or a lawyer, so why should everyone get to be happy?  Maybe I was meant to live a life of suffering and misery, while others enjoyed the people, places and things around them.


    And then I really started to think about it – what made those happy people different from me?  Why were they so jovial and free, while I was trapped in a prison of unhappiness?  I really didn’t have an answer, so I started doing some soul searching.  Why did their happiness seem so easy, so effortless, while mine seemed to be a full-time job?  And it was in that soul searching that I started to find the answers.


    First and foremost, happiness is not something we can force.  It is not something we can buy, nor is it something we should even strive for.  Let me explain that last part – because I’m sure many of you are scratching your head – I mean, are we supposed to strive for happiness?  Isn’t that what life is all about?


    Yes, it is, but the pursuit of happiness need not be specifically about happiness itself.  Because when it comes down to it, we all define happiness is different ways.  So to say we are striving to be happy has not just one, but also MANY, different meanings.  And that’s okay, but that means that we aren’t necessarily striving for happiness itself, but for the different situations that produce happiness.  Once I learned that happiness was not a quest per say but rather the end result of a journey, I found that what had eluded me for so long was suddenly right at my fingertips.


    So, what exactly did I do?  To start, I quit my 9 to 5 job and went back to school.  I started freelance writing and I spent more time with my kids and my family.  I know that is extreme, but you don’t have to overhaul your life to find true happiness.  Start small with something that you really, truly enjoy.  Take time each week to do that one simple thing.  It might be reading a chapter in a great book, taking a cooking or yoga class or making a telephone call to an old friend.  Whatever it is, you simply must do it.  As you start to make that part of your routine, add something else.  Keep adding enjoyable things to your life, slowly, until you feel that sense of contentment we all long for.  It might not come tomorrow, next week or even next month, but rest assured, as you continue to pursue the things in life you truly enjoy, it will.  After all, life is too short to be anything but happy.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/3536424433

  10. Positive Thinking – Stopping Anxious Thoughts

    December 4, 2013

    Positive Thinking – Stopping Anxious Thoughts

    Positive thinking is a great way to combat anxiety and the anxious thoughts that go along with it. Although positive thinking may be hard for several people with anxiety, but it will help to take your mind off of the situation that causes you to be anxious, which will obviously reduce your anxiety.

    Reassurance To Your Body

    One of the biggest ways that positive thinking helps  is by providing reassurance to your body. This works by telling your body that everything will be okay. Knowing that everything will be okay causes anxiety being lifted from the body. This helps your body build confidence in yourself, which will help you in your current situation as well as future situations.


    Providing your body with reassurance to lift anxiety by positive thinking is extremely hard, especially in cases of severe anxiety. Positive thinking is always a hard thing to do. It gets even harder if you don’t have confidence in yourself or you feel like there is no way you will make it through. It may also be hard if you feel like something could go wrong that will mess everything up. However, you must try your hardest to look at the positives in any situation.


    A Wish Has The Possibility of Coming True

    “Wishful thinking” is usually a term used to define a wish that will never come true. However, this is usually not the case when it comes to positive thinking to help anxiety. Positive thinking to help anxiety is usually reassuring your body that things will not go wrong (as stated above). Positive thinking may often be put of as “wishful thinking” to those who struggle with anxiety. Many people that try to reassure themselves that everything will turn out okay begin to think that things will not be okay, and that it is only a wish that things will be okay. However, you should combat this feeling and remember that your mind is tricking you into worrying. You should try your hardest to convince your brain that everything will turn out okay.


    Studies have shown that those people who think positively tend to go through life in a happier mood. People tend to be happier if they think positively. This simply means that if you think positively about situations, you will be happier in life as well as combat your anxiety. Thinking positively will help you be a better person in life altogether. It will help you go through life in a happier mood, and you may feel like walking around and smiling at people as you’re walking through the grocery store. This is simply because it is a great feeling to be happy, and when you’re happy and care-free, you want to spread the happiness to all of the other people in your life – whether you know them or not.


    In conclusion, it is a great idea to think positively. Not only will it help you combat your anxiety and provide reassurance to yourself, but it will also help you be happier in life. If you are happy, you probably will want to spread the love with everybody else. The world will be a happier place if people would think positively more often. Not only does positive thinking help to improve your anxiety, but it also helps to improve your mood. It will make you a happier person and allow you to control your anxiety at the same time. It is a great idea to try your hardest to think positively, as it will improve yourself as a person, and it may even have an effect on others around you.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindseykone/5362917664