Category

Positive Psychology

“Eclipse!” A Reboot to Greater Mindfulness!

By | mindfulness, Positive Psychology, thrive

Once you start making the effort to “wake yourself up”—that is, be more mindful in your activities—you suddenly start appreciating life a lot more.

—Robert Boswas-Diener

eclipse, reboot, mindfulness, thrive, I Thrive RevolutionHow did you experience the recent eclipse? I was able to enjoy it from on top of Hurricane Ridge, on the Olympic Peninsula. It was a truly spectacular day, without a cloud in the sky. First the temperature dropped and then I noticed the sky turn a deeper, more brilliant shade of blue. Unique shadows were cast across the mountain ranges and reflections on the ground of what appeared to be dancing leaves. Birds became confused and started to chirp, while flying for protection in the trees nearby. Although the changes seemed subtle, the birds knew something unusual was happening.

Looking up towards the sun and watching the dark moon take center stage seemed a bit odd, giving a completely different perspective. Time seemed to slow down as many people paused to take note of this rare event. It felt a little like a “reboot.” Our lives, just like computers, need a reboot from time to time. To shut everything down and start back up again—with updated programming and cleared of clutter and viruses—allows everything to work together more harmoniously.

If we have fun with this metaphor, and pretend we went through a reboot—what do you want to be different when you boot back up again? With so much going on in our personal lives and in the world around us, we can get caught in a mode of “soldiering on” while ignoring how we truly feel, or what we actually need to thrive in our lives. Although this can be a source of strength in sustaining us through a difficult time, a strategy of prolonged use can be hard on our nervous system.

With the art of mindfulness, and a fresh reboot, you can decide to pay more attention to how you are feeling and thinking, and to what signals your body is giving you. Consider the programs running as our patterns, the things we do on autopilot. What would you like to change in the next few months that will allow you to break a degenerative pattern and upgrade to one that is more self-nurturing? Do you need more rest or exercise?  Could it help to pay closer attention to healthy foods? Consider how much technology and negativity you let in, try replacing them with something more creative.

Community is important—connecting to people you can be supported by and support in return. Being mindful also means putting as much of our attention on the present moment as possible, and limiting time spent ruminating over worries. By making sure we surround ourselves with loving connections (including our furry friends and nature), it helps to offset the unrest we hear about in the daily news.

Big Hugs,
Robin

The Happiness of Our Pursuits

By | overcoming challenges, Positive Psychology, pursuit of happiness

“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of our pursuits.”

Denis Waitley

creativity, happiness of pursuit, thrive, positive psychology, I Thrive Revolution

Photo Credit: Colin Cathey

Many people believe that happiness and life satisfaction can be achieved through gaining riches, wealth and fame. For the majority of Americans, our survival is secure and our basic needs met. Studies have found that since the end of WWII, incomes have gone up, standard of living has gone up, and yet happiness levels have remained flat.

If it’s not wealth, then what does make us happy? Happiness experts suggest that when we try too hard to chase happiness, it can become an elusive goal and we find ourselves judging each experience against a backdrop of perceived happiness. There are many things we can do to organically increase happiness in our lives and the one that I’ll spotlight today is creating more “flow” experiences.

When was the last time you were so focused and engaged in something that you lost track of time and a sense of self? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experiences” suggests that happiness and life satisfaction can be achieved through engaging in flow experiences.

When you are in flow, you’ve successfully combined the right amount of challenge with current skill level. You are neither bored, nor overwhelmed by the task at hand. It creates the conditions where you feel challenged enough that you are continuing to grow and stretch your current skill level, yet you have enough competence to feel confident in your abilities. These experiences usually involve using your creativity, efforts, intelligence, imagination, or physical abilities.

In his research, Csikszentmihalyi found that when someone struggled to overcome challenges, they often remembered that experience as the most enjoyable time of their lives. He goes on to explain that through these experiences we are controlling our inner life—the positive feeling we have inside while mastering a skill or achieving a goal has great meaning and purpose for us. Another benefit is that by training ourselves to focus both our attention and energies to achieve flow, we learn to avoid distractions.

The positive feeling and experience we create in our inner life is truly the only thing we have control over, and we have little control over what is happening outside of us. His research found that through mastering their inner world, people who engage in frequent flow experiences have a pathway to happiness and life satisfaction, despite life’s adversities caused by things outside of their control.

It is during flow experiences that works of art, music, athletic achievement, mathematical and scientific discoveries, inventions, personal creations, and the feeling of deep satisfaction occur.

What can you do to bring more flow into your life? When choosing activities to create more flow in your life, look for the ones that are intrinsically rewarding, and produce outcomes in which you are not concerned about the judgement of others. In addition, set clear goals, where you have a complete sense of personal control over the activity.

Big Hugs,
Robin Cordova

The willingness to feel

By | Positive Psychology

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Aristotle

For my birthday month of June, I’m going to write about my very favorite subject—Human emotions!

It’s often a misunderstood belief that positive psychology is simply a “Happiology”— that we slap on a smile and “just be positive” no matter what is happening. The truth is, a wide exploration of the work of researchers shows us that true emotional intelligence implies embracing the whole of oneself, even the not so easy to feel emotions.

Imagine your emotions like a rainbow encompassing a wide color range. We don’t want to “cut out” some of them, we want to honor the entire range of feelings. The worst thing we can do for our emotional health is to repress our emotions—they get backed up and clog up the system, and that approach will eventually backfire, causing illness and a decrease in wellbeing.

When we stifle our emotions, it also contributes to a lack of overall awareness of ourselves, causing us to feel out of touch with our feelings. Yes, we want to experience joy and happiness as much as possible—research has shown that happier people are more successful in almost every area of life, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t purpose to our negative emotions. They are trying to tell us something and we should pay attention to them—learning from them and making adjustments in our lives. Maybe we are angry because we feel taken advantage of, or scared because in trying something new, we are stepping out of our comfort zone, or maybe we feel sad because we’ve lost a loved one. If we are afraid to feel fear, for example, then we will make decisions that don’t give us the opportunities for the growth that is the underpinning of a thriving life.

Most people will agree that negative emotional states are uncomfortable—fear, sadness and anger, etc. You likely have one or two of these that make you really uncomfortable. For me, anger was always the challenging one. It’s the one I wanted to repress, skip over or run from. It has taken a good 10 years of effort for me to embrace my anger, “allow” it to move through me, and to work with its messages.

Arising emotions usually don’t require immediate action. When we give them time to move through us and be processed, we build emotional agility within, eventually leading to greater self-awareness and more conscious action.

I like to think of emotion as “energy in motion.” When strong emotions are triggered by a situation, the willingness to fully feel them can be very powerful. For example, if you are adept at breathing through a feeling of fear, you develop courage. If you are willing to take the time to feel and breathe your anger first, you might react differently in a disagreement with a loved one or co-worker. And if you give your sadness time to work its self through, it becomes easier to feel and honor your grief.

Next time you are hit with a wave of emotion, don’t react right away, instead let yourself feel it. Try to put the feeling into words, and then get curious about the intuitive messages that often follow after the wave passes.

Lots of love and happy feeling!

Robin

Gratitude and The Philosopher’s Stone

By | Positive Psychology

“Gratitude…goes far beyond saying ‘thank you’. When we are grateful, we affirm that a source of goodness exists in our lives.”  —Dr. Robert Emmons

Recently I came down with a terrible stomach flu which caused me to cancel a week of events in my calendar, that I was really looking forward to. Instead, I bore the drudgery of the flu, moving between the couch and the bed for days.

These are the times when I reach deep into my positive psychology tool belt, pull out just the right one and put it to work for me. Since my tolerance for physical pain and doctor visits is less than stellar, it’s easy for me to become irritable and fall into pessimistic thinking.

This inspired me to write about “Gratitude” for my blog this month, because it’s my “Philosopher’s Stone.” The story of the philosopher’s stone, from Greek mythology, is a thought-provoking legend about an elixir substance which gave alchemists the power to turn base metal into gold—something we all wish we could do. Metaphorically speaking, this is what we want to do in those moments when we are having a “base metal” experience, like I was having. Some thought the power was derived from the stone itself, others a chemical reaction, and some suggested that it was something invisible that had the power to transform.

When we are down in the dumps, whether physical or emotional, everything around us seems dull. It’s difficult to generate motivation, feel hopeful, or have the positive and optimistic thinking required for solution finding. Understandably, many everyday situations that come at us can be difficult to bear or maneuver with grace. Life can just be down right messy sometimes. This is where the practice of “Gratitude” has the power to invisibly transform “feeling in the dumps” back into “gold experiences.”

Photo credit: David Cordova

Gratitude is many things beyond the initial definition of thanking someone for something kind they have done for you. It is also:

  • AN EMOTION— Think about a time when you felt truly grateful. How were you feeling at that moment? You’d likely answer that you felt happy, warm, peaceful, or joyful. This is a positive state that can be generated by simply thinking about or acknowledging something you are grateful for.
  • A VIRTUOUS CHARACTER STRENGTH— Some people, no matter how much adversity they are facing, have the ability to focus on and find goodness that is happening simultaneously. This is a strength that is within reach of all of us, and when found can transform our lives for the better.
  • A WAY OF LIFE— Small acts of gratitude such as keeping a gratitude journal, reaching out and thanking someone for making your day easier, or simply catching yourself complaining, and instead, making it a game to find as many things to be grateful for in the remainder of the day as possible.

This is how I got through that lousy week, by allowing gratitude for all the goodness that happened simultaneously. It’s always there, somewhere, and truly does have the power to transform. That’s why it will remain my elixir of magic during the worst of times.

Maybe it’s already your way too, but if not, give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Big hugs,
Robin Cordova

Self-Compassion

By | Positive Psychology

“When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.” 

Dr. Kristin Neff

Photo credit: David Cordova

Our inner critic wants to lead us to believe that we are the only ones who are flawed, or tripping up and falling down once again. We think that somehow we just can’t seem to get it right and assume that the person next to us or down street has everything figured out. How many times have you had negative self-talk such as: “There I go again, messing up ____ (fill in the blank).”

Because we often judge ourselves harshly, we neglect to be a good and nurturing friend to ourselves. Self-compassion gives us the opportunity to see ourselves more clearly, noticing what is beneath our judgmental thoughts.

Instead of that knee jerk reaction of self-judgement, try opening your heart to the deeper you and ask “what about me is unique and precious, and waiting to be seen and acknowledged?”

Here is a quote that I love:

“By being yourself, you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before.”

Edwin Elliot

When we stop comparing ourselves to others and judging our lives against the backdrop of someone else’s experience, we allow ourselves to honor our gifts, and bring them forward. Having self-compassion also involves turning toward yourself, like you would a good friend or spouse, and asking “what do you need?” Listen to what you hear and feel, and take care of those needs.

Another time when cultivating self-compassion is crucial is in times of failure or loss, when we are unsure of and lack the motivation for taking the next step. Self-compassion doesn’t judge, but rather, through kindness, recognizes the growth in every opportunity, and celebrates that. In addition, when we can give compassion to ourselves first, it becomes easier to feel compassion for others.

Setting the stage to thrive in life is mostly about preparing ourselves to handle anything that comes our way. This is different than expecting to always be able to control our experience and make life perfect. We are all on a journey of learning, making mistakes and growing from them.

It takes practice ahead of time to be prepared to have self-compassion, especially in the face of unexpected adversity. It may even feel a little awkward at first if it’s not something you’ve been offering yourself. Compassion has qualities of calmness, strength, warmth, kindness, gratitude, open mindedness, non-judgment, acceptance and love. With these qualities come a sense of wisdom and understanding. The opposite is feeling emotionally drained after beating yourself up. Positive psychology research has shown that love and kindness is a far more powerful motivator than harshness.

When you begin or continue to work on your practice of self-compassion, please let me know how it’s going, I’d love to hear from you!

Big hugs,
Robin Cordova

Structures of Positivity

By | Positive Psychology

Photo credit: David Cordova

In times of change, life may feel more like chaos than peace, more like falling away and breaking down than building up, and by adding some positive structure to our daily routine we can uplift ourselves. This can help to lead a pathway out of the chaos and toward building the life you want or the world you want to live in, supported by a thriving foundation on which to stand.

When the old breaks down we don’t have to hold onto it and go down with it. We can take a moment and step back and ask ourselves, “how can I use this situation as an opportunity to fall forward instead?” If I let what is not working and not serving me fall away and instead focus on introducing a nurturing daily practice of positivity, it is possible to build a foundation on the structures of something more sustainable.

So what do I mean by a daily structure of positivity? It doesn’t have to be a long time each day, but you want it to be something you can commit to every day, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes at first. Then each week, add something else to it while you build it out, brick by brick. The only requirements are that you do your best to stick to the practice daily, and that what you choose be heart centered. This means your practice makes you feel things like happy, joyful, expansive, creative, light, calm, centered, grounded and balanced. If you were describing your practice to someone close to you, you would find yourself saying things like, “it fills me up,” or “it recharges and rejuvenates me,” or “it calms and centers me.”

It can be really fun to spend some time just thinking about what you would put into your practice. Take some time reflecting on how you want to feel from it. Here are some examples to help get your ideas flowing:

  • Meditating
  • Breath work
  • Using your creativity
  • Writing
  • Playing music
  • Dancing
  • Running
  • Yoga
  • Cooking for fun
  • Reading poetry
  • Singing
  • Gratitude practice
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Setting intentions
  • Using your imagination
  • Laughing

Observe how you feel before and after your practice and take notice so you can make adjustments. Ask yourself “do I feel positive emotions from this practice?” You may even want to set alarms on your phone to help you remember to do it. To pause in your day for even 10 minutes of meditation can do wonders. Even the busiest of people can stop for 10 minutes a day for a positivity practice!

What will be in your practice?

Big Hugs,
Robin Cordova

Circles of Influence

By | Positive Psychology

Photo credit: David Cordova

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Mother Teresa

We can’t deny the turmoil we see and feel around us every day during these times of great change in our world.  I believe most of us desire to stay hopeful, find ways to impact change in a positive way, and lead a happy thriving life.

Today I wanted to write about circles of influence because many are feeling concern, worry and fear about what the future holds. If we happen to be witnessing areas we have little control over, this understandably makes us feel angry, vulnerable and scared.

Positive psychology teaches us to focus first on the things that we can control, and also that our wellbeing is crucial to all success. Our greatest circle of influence is always going to be within our own selves. I support the idea of connecting first to our own life force energy, balance, vitality and wellbeing, and then look for ways to be an agent of change in our immediate environment.

Don’t minimize the positive impact you can have on someone else with a smile, a warm hug, or a helping hand. I view this as our next considerable circle of influence. This might include family, community, workplace or special cause. What need shows up in front of you that you feel drawn to contribute to? Selecting something that you can directly impact will give you a sense of hopefulness and confidence instead of feeling powerless or fearful.

Look for an opportunity you can stand up for and feel passionate about. When you are contributing from “passion” it is not a sacrifice, but rather a joy. If you are dedicated to operating first from a place of personal wellbeing and self love you never loose sight of the most important circle of influence — yourself. From there you will operate from a strong foundation and you’ll be amazed at the influence you can make towards a better, more peaceful loving world all around you. Watch the magic as it ripples out to your next circle of influence.

The Gift of “Yourself”

By | Positive Psychology

New Year’s Eve has always been one of my favorite days of the year, because I get excited about the idea that we are embarking on a new beginning with bright potentials.  A chance to wipe the slate clean and start fresh with new ideas, energy and possibilities.

As the year draws to a close, did you remember to gift yourself with a little self care this holiday season or are you winding down the year feeling a little depleted?  

Below is my recipe for rejuvenation and ringing in the New Year with the gift of “Yourself.”

Begin by carving out a little un-interrupted time, just for yourself, in a quiet place with pen, paper and your favorite soft music.

Get “heart centered,” which is a simple way to say settle into quieting your mind and speaking to and listening from your heart. This can be done with a few deep breathes, closing your eyes and letting go of the thoughts of the day.  

To make room for new in our lives, we have to first clear out the old and invite the new in. Start by asking your heart these questions and jot down the answer. These don’t have to be external things, they can be internal such as a belief or a self sabotage thinking pattern.

What no longer serves me?

If I let go of ______ it opens the possibility of _______?
What do I need less of?
Where have I been too hard on myself?
What attachments, limitations or fears have held me back this year?

We are more than our stories. We are more than our past and letting go of these attachments frees us to enter into a new year with more potentials and greater expansion than that which we are leaving behind from 2016. It frees up the space for something new to enter. Take a few breathes and decide to let go of the things you wrote down. Sometimes I’ll burn my list or tear it up in itty bitty pieces, like confetti.

Settle back into your “heart centered place” and start a new page titled 2017 and ask your heart these questions:

What would replenish, rejuvenate and nurture me in 2017?
What do I need more of?
What would bring more joy into my life?
Is there a new self care practice I want to put into my daily or weekly routine?
If there was nothing to fear—I would do this ________?

Now ring in the New Year and “gift yourself” those things you wrote down. You deserve them!

Happy New Year,

Robin

Three Nuggets for Thriving

By | Positive Psychology

Learning to thrive in life takes into account nurturing and developing the many aspects of ourselves. Ultimately we can’t leave any behind, but you don’t have to tackle everything at once. Research over the last few decades have shown that authentic happiness, joy and wellbeing comes from cultivating positive relationships, optimism, positivity, self care, health and vitality, meaningful and purposeful work, self expression, spirituality, goal achievement, curiosity and courage to continue growing and learning new things.

Consider the whole of your life yet work on the parts – select one or two areas to focus on at a time and dedicate yourself to making small, consistent changes in those areas until you have mastered and integrated the changes you want. Start with a bite size and when you have success there, then go onto another one or a bigger bite of your initial goal. This will make the greatest impact on your life and the changes you make will be permanent and more easily sustainable. What is one small change you can make in an area of your life to cultivate greater wellbeing? Can you find an accountability partner to share your successes with to help you stick with it?

Hold the vision – Positive psychology teaches us that our brains are hardwired to have a negativity bias which draws our attention to and a focus on what is wrong, what is not working, what we are lacking, where we have doubts and fears. When given one part positive and one part negative, our brain will focus on the negative. This creates a heaviness in our life and drains us of precious energy resources and motivation. Barbara Fredrickson, PhD and author of Positivity says “When we make a conscious effort to pull the majority our attention off the negative and redirect it toward the positive, we are better able to regenerate our energy.” Can you clarify and hold the vision of what you want and remind yourself daily what is going right and well in your life?

Nurture yourself – Find what authentically nourishes your soul, makes your spirit come alive, and give it to yourself regularly. This is not a selfish act, it is ultimately our job to be the steward of our own wellbeing. For me this is dancing, writing, or being out in nature. For my daughter it is working on her art or expressing herself creatively. Our culture doesn’t always teach us to take care of ourselves in this way, we easily forget to put ourselves on the list.   It is unique for everyone, what is it for you? What healthy practice rejuvenates you and makes you come alive? Notice how it makes you feel and build that into your day or week and make it a priority.

One final thought, start each day with a clean slate and a beginner’s mind. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”, quote by Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki. Strive not to be a perfectionist, but rather let yourself be human, live fully, make mistakes to learn and grow and “begin again” every day!