1. Learning to Hope

    August 19, 2014

    Learn to Hope

    Hope and faith are powerful feelings of looking towards the future with an optimistic view. Medical science has recognized the importance of hope a long time ago. How many of us have heard of people facing life threatening illnesses like cancer beating the odds of survival based on their hope that they can make it?

    Hope is one of important concepts in Positive Psychology. Hope isn’t something you should rely on only when you’re in a crisis. Being hopeful that the future reserves better things is also an important motor in motivation and drive. Why work harder if you can’t believe you will do better tomorrow than today?

    If you are familiar with broaden-and-build model of positive emotions by Barbra Fredrickson, you might remember that building yourself up with positive emotions helps increase resilience in the face of crisis and also generates a cycle of positivity in your life, where you “attract” the positive towards you. It’s more or less like tuning into the positivity channel. Which doesn’t mean that no bad thing will happen to you, (we all know bad things happen to good people), but instead you will bounce back faster.

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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?

    Myths:

    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.

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  4. 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


  5. Surviving Breakup or How to Smile Away Stress

    April 12, 2014

    How to Smile Away Stress

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

     

    “But why?” Jen asked, her heart breaking, “Why are doing this to me before school? I can’t teach art like this!” She dabbed her face dry and hoped her mascara wasn’t ruining her perfect face-her perfect morning already ruined by the impromptu breakup.

    “I’m sorry,” Henry sighed, “I just… think we’re too different. I’ll move my stuff out before you get home.” And that was that. Three years of solid bliss dissolved away in a single morning. SINGLE. The one word she hated hearing and now it defined better then a dictionary.

    On the way to work Jen couldn’t shake the horrible feeling that was growing in the pit of her stomach-her happy memories with Henry curdling faster than expired milk. She wanted to turn back and sleep this off but she also wanted tenure. So, once parked in her spot at school, Jen dried her face again and put on the largest fake smile she could muster. She held this expression for a few beats more as she imagined all the neat little projects her art students would be doing today. Clay sculptures, mixing paint pallets, and maybe, if there was time, Jen could show her students her latest experiment with her kiln.

    “This won’t be so bad,” Jen sighed to herself, “It’s not great, but not bad. Not really.” As she continued to smile she noticed her mood was slowly improving. Her gut mellowed and soon she was able to enter her classroom like it was any other morning. There would be time to grieve for the breakup, she knew that. But for today, Jen would grin and teach.

    While this situation it completely fictional it has a completely nonfictional use in the real world. But how? Was it Jen’s happy thoughts that made her smile? Or was it her smile that made her think happy thoughts? According to Fritz Strack and others, the answer is all “About Face.”

    In 1988 Strack and his colleagues did an experiment to study the faces relationship to our emotions. In this experiment they split their volunteers up into two groups. In one group Strack asked participants to hold a pencil in their mouth with only their lips, which created a frown. They asked the next to group to hold the pencil with only their teeth, which created a smile. They then asked both groups to read a cartoon and rate its hilarity. Shockingly, the volunteers whose pencil forced them to smile rated the cartoon funnier than those whose pencil forced them to frown.

    But what about stress? Could a smile be strong enough to lessen the anxiety of a situation? Psychologists Tara Kraft and Sara Pressmen seem to think so! They conducted a similar experiment with 169 participants. In this study they asked the university aged volunteers to form three groups. In one group they asked them to hold a chopstick with their mouth to produce a neutral expression. The other two groups held chopsticks to produce a simple smile, and a Duchenne (also known as a genuine) smile.

    Once the expression was mastered they then asked volunteers to complete a stress-inducing task such as holding their hands in ice-cold water or tracing a star from a mirror with their non-dominant hand. They measured heart rates and got volunteer reported stress levels along the way and discovered that those who smiled had lesser levels of stress then those who didn’t.

    So the next time you are feeling blue, we know exactly what you should do. It’s may be totally cliché, but go ahead, smile away! Turn that frown upside and soon you’ll be the happiest in town!

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!

     

    Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33406464@N05/8123609502


  6. 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


  7. Breaking mental barriers with a positive outlook

    October 23, 2013

    Breaking mental barriers with a positive outlook

    by Dr. David Kulla

    We’ve all been there. We’ve all had times where we felt lost, weak, and ineffectual. It just seems like we can’t get going in the right direction. It’s tough to break through those mental barriers and allow ourselves to be the people we want to be. It can create vicious cycles of procrastination, submission, and even depression. But, there are ways to break through these mental barriers. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as pretending to have a more positive outlook. You would be surprised at quickly a drop of optimism turns into a deluge of positive emotions. Here are some tips for breaking through mental barriers with a positive outlook.

    Don’t waste time worrying. If you have a problem, there is either something you can do about it, or nothing you can do about it. Those are the only two options. Either you can fix it or you can’t, so why waste time and energy worrying? If you can fix it, do it. If you can’t, ignore it and move on. So many other things in life demand your time, energy, and attention. Useless worrying isn’t one of them.

    Celebrate small victories. Our lives are so full of inboxes, to-do lists, voicemails, etc. It’s easy to feel like we’ll never get everything done. This leads to analysis paralysis and second-guessing, which in turn lead to blown deadlines and more worry. Don’t let that happen to you. Allow yourself to feel good about accomplishments, no matter how small. You responded to an email. Good job! You’ve made a dent in your wall of work. Felt good, didn’t it? Let’s see if we can get that feeling, only better! Before you know it, you’ll have a full outbox and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.

    Picture where you want to be. A lot has been written about vision boards, Pinterest, and the power of images to inspire people. And it’s true. Pictures (even mental ones) can cause vague ideas or notions to coalesce into actions. Instead of fretting about paying off debts, picture yourself debt-free. What would that be like, what could you direct your energy toward instead? What good could you do with the extra money? This exercise will make you feel positive about yourself and your abilities, inspiring you to work hard and achieve your goals.

    Perfection is the enemy of the good. Sometimes, when we’re working on a project, we get bogged down in minute details and try to make sure every little thing is exactly as it should be. And, when it invariably is not perfect and needs more work, we start getting down on ourselves and our ability to finish. We’re not measuring up to our own impossible ideals. Step back for a moment and realize that nothing is ever perfect. There could always be more tweaks, more brushstrokes, more bells and whistles. However, we can quickly reach the point of diminishing returns. Spending one hour on a report will make it good. Spending two hours will only make it a little better than good. We spent twice the time and worry on only a marginal gain in quality. Try to allow yourself to be merely great, instead of absolutely perfect.

    Realize that others feel the same way you do. Too often we feel like the protagonist of a movie, where every event and decision is designed to impact us directly and every other person is there to help or hinder our journey. What we must realize is that everyone is on their own journey and they all have their own sets of worries, fears, and aspirations. Your boss isn’t giving you more work because she is mean; she recognizes your value and needs your help to meet her own responsibilities. Recognize your value and the value of others, and you will be on the way to being truly happy.

    Author Bio: Dr. Kulla is a licensed New York Chiropractor and a nutritionist as well as owner of http://synergywellnessny.com/ in Manhattan.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nwardez/3353883167

     


  8. Forcing Yourself Away from Depression

    October 19, 2013

    Force Yourself Away from Depression

    by Jacob Gross

    No matter what anyone says, depression is not something that can be toughed out. No amount of white-knuckling and teeth-gritting can cure depression. Even positive thinking fails when faced with a powerful depressive episode. This is not to say that a good attitude and positive thinking does not help, but depression is a big thing. I will give this disclaimer a few times because it is important: if you are depressed, go see a psychologist, psychiatrist or other specialist. It is not something to deal with on your own without help. However, if you are a depressive person or if you have recently come out of a depressive episode, positive thinking, a good attitude and hard work can help stave off the depression.

    Depression is not an impossible enemy

    Depression is not a black hole that sucks up all the light around it instantaneously. It is not an all-consuming monster; it is not the abyss. Depression is a sink drain, a leak in the pipes, a hole in the pocket. The harder a depressive episode comes on, the less you want to fight it. It slowly drains you of desire for anything, let alone putting in an effort to stay happy. At some point, when a full blown depression sets in, it is unlikely that any amount of happy thoughts will put you in a better mood. If you are not yet fully depressed but are worried you are heading that direction, forcing yourself to be happy is the best possible decision.

    Forcing is the key word here. When depression starts to put its claws in you, it becomes harder to engage the world in a positive way. You have to force yourself to go out and do the things you love or find new things to love. There is nothing as conducive to depression as inaction. Likewise, a great way of battling a creeping depression is to stay active. New activities excite your mind and keep you from dwelling on the same old thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, staying indoors in the dark is a recipe for depression, so anything you can do to get yourself outside will help. There is a reason Seasonal Affective Disorder is a thing. Lack of sunlight and staying inside makes people depressed. Get out and do things.

    Trick your mind

    Another part of forcing yourself to be happy involves some neat psychological/neurological tricks. Your mind is not a computer with perfect programming that follows clear rules. Your mind is more like, well, a broken computer. Sometimes things work exactly how they are supposed to and sometimes they don’t. Depression is one way that things go wrong. However, another way that your brain malfunctions can help relieve the symptoms of depression. Your brain has an interesting feedback loop with emotions. If you feel an emotion – say, happiness – you will smile and act like a happy person. Strangely, if you act like a happy person and smile, you will start to feel happy. It’s your body confusing your brain.  Strange as it sounds, it is incredibly effective.

    When depression starts to set in, it is hard to stay positive. Well, here’s a news flash: everything worth doing or being is hard. It’s worth the effort to be happy. Even if you feel like the sky is pressing down on you and trying to crush your very being, force yourself to think about teddy bears or the Wizard of Oz or anything that makes you happy. Push those negative thoughts and feelings as far out of your mind as you can. Focus on something bright, even if you really are not feeling it. A funny thing will happen – you’ll start to feel a bit better.

    Remember – this is advice for how to keep depression away and at bay. If you are suffering from a serious depression, go seek immediate help. Depression is a serious mental illness and nothing to be ashamed off. Often times, serious depression has nothing to do with attitude or outlook and everything to do with a chemical imbalance. There are some great drugs out there to help people with these imbalances. If you seek help and your physician or psychiatrist recognizes the symptoms of clinical depression, they can put you on these drugs. It can make a life infinitely better.

    If, however, you are trying to keep away from a depressive episode, be positive. Force yourself to be positive. You will stop faking the happiness and start feeling it faster than you think.

    Author Bio: Jacob Gross is a writer, blogger and motivational speaker. He was recently hired by a super yacht charter company to give motivational speeches to get the crew ready for long yacht trips. He believes in the power of positive thinking and the impact science can have on the positive human psychology

    Image Credit: Ashley Webb – http://www.flickr.com/photos/xlordashx/8619562772


  9. Your Mind, Body, and Spirit

    October 17, 2013

    by Joanna Hughes

    Does the power of positive thinking have the ability to heal the human body? What about religious belief, or the commitment to spiritual wholeness? In all cases, an increasing amount of scientific research point in the direction of “yes.”

    Scientists from all over the world are discovering what many ancient cultures have known since the beginning of time: enabling balance between mind, body and soul promotes comprehensive wellness and improved quality of life.

     

    Meditate for Better Health
    While spirituality is often associated with religious practice, it can also be derived from secular sources, such as meditation. A recent study conducted collaboratively between Milwaukee’s Medical College of Wisconsin and Fairfield and Iowa’s Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention of the Maharishi University of Management suggests that people with coronary artery disease reap significant therapeutic value from transcendental meditation.

    Total peace
    It’s not just relaxing, meditation is good for your physical health!

    Participants in the study experienced a 50% decrease in risk of heart attack and stroke compared to the placebo group. Presented at the American Heart Association meeting, this study joins a wealth of other results connecting spirituality to overall well-being. In fact, the establishment of a meditative practice has been linked to everything from decreased blood pressure to lessening chemotherapy-related nausea to reducing chronic pain.

    Religion, too, has been scientifically linked to better physical health, with studies demonstrating fewer emergency room visits as well as faster recovery from heart surgery by patients who profess strong religious beliefs.

     

    Mind Control
    Other research results–evaluating everything from group therapy’s influence on breast cancer survival rates to the effects of biofeedback on migraine headaches in children–demonstrate the power of mind over matter when it comes to health. Unfortunately, the relationship can also work in reverse: for example, chronic illness is a major cause of depression.

     

    So Now What?
    Now that the connection has been established, the next step is applying this information in a meaningful way. Proper nutrition and healthy eating are cure-alls for a number of physical ailments, and can lead to improved mental energy as well as a heightened sense of fulfillment. If you are religious, attending services or becoming involved with your church or synagogue can have a beneficial bearing on your well-being. Non-secular programs which integrate the mind and the body include meditation, yoga, and group therapy.

    Hippocrates himself was a believer in the connection between mind, body and soul. Considered the father of modern medicine, he promoted balance as an important component of ideal health.


    Hippocrates figured it out thousands of years ago.

    Today’s physicians are increasingly accepting this ancient wisdom, which forms the basis for contemporary integrative medicine. After all, we can acknowledge that the body and mind are biologically programmed to communicate with each other. It is not a far reach to conclude, therefore, that one’s positive or negative state has direct bearing on the other. It is a complex system of connectedness, and one which we are only beginning to comprehend.

     


  10. How to Keep Positive Outlook at Work

    September 17, 2013

    Positive Outlook

    When most people look for a job, they’re not just looking for a paycheck—they’re looking for a positive work environment and a good company culture. Working with a motivated group of people who take pride in their work can help motivate you to be productive and make you look forward to coming in to work every day. But what happens when the opposite occurs and you end up in a work environment where most of the people around you have a negative outlook?

    There are a number of reasons why a work environment can turn negative. Common causes are distrust between coworkers and management, a general lack of motivation due to poor supervision or work dissatisfaction, economic hardships that are impacting the company, and personal problems.

    Being surrounded by negativity can be exhausting, and letting it get to you can significantly increase your stress level. Too much stress is linked to many health risks, including headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.

    Just knowing those health risks might make you anxious and depressed, but if you can maintain a positive outlook at work, you’ll greatly improve your chances for physical and mental wellbeing. You’ll also set a good example for your coworkers, which can lead to a less toxic work environment. Here are a few tips for staying positive even when your coworkers aren’t.

    1.       Recognize types of negative thinking. It’s important that you recognize the main thought patterns that negative thinkers fall into so that you can tell when you’re thinking this way and actively work to change your outlook. There are four major mindsets of negative thinkers:

    a.       Filtering: Seeing only the negative in a situation.

    b.      Personalizing: Seeing everything bad that happens as directly related to you.

    c.       Catastrophizing: Always expecting the worst outcome.

    d.      Polarizing: Seeing everything as a clear cut, black and white issue (e.g. “I’m right, my boss is wrong.”).

    2.       Remain professional. If a coworker starts gossiping about office politics or complaining about a meeting you both have to attend, don’t get drawn into negativity but rather politely let them know that you don’t enjoy these types of discussions and want to keep office conversations professional.

    3.       Take a break. If office negativity is getting you down, take a 15 minute break and go for a walk outside. Getting fresh air and being physically removed from the negative environment can help refresh you so that you’ll be able to keep up your positive outlook when you get back to the office. Try to use this time to relax and meditate, mindful meditation is the best remedy for stress.

    4.       Discuss negativity with a supervisor. If you feel like your work environment is becoming hostile to the point that it’s harmful to you and your coworkers, it might be time to talk to a supervisor. Don’t name names, but let your supervisor know that the office has been struggling with morale and ask for advice about how to improve the situation. Your supervisor may even be able to implement a wellness program or other solutions if they recognize the morale issues as stemming from a lack of communication between management and employees.

    5.       Remind yourself that you’re in charge of how you feel. It can be easy to start thinking that your own increasing negativity at work is because of the negative environment, but casting blame isn’t going to solve the problem. Remind yourself that at the end of the day, you’re in charge of your own outlook and you’re capable of remaining positive.

    Still having trouble staying positive? Maybe you’ll be more motivated to practice positive thinking if you know about some of the health benefits positivity provides. Positive psychology research teaches us that people who identify themselves as positive thinkers have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, tend to have lower blood pressure, don’t get sick as often, and are better equipped for coping with stress and hardship. Those seem like pretty good reasons for you and your coworkers to practice positivity.