It’s All Over :(

It’s All Over :(

My pre- and post-course self-ratings were about the same. That came as a little bit of a surprise because I definitely feel different. I’ve learned ways to cope with anxiety, bedtime habits to get the best rest possible, eating habits to feel more energized and healthy, and on and on. So, yes, taking this course most definitely changed me in the best ways possible. I feel more equipped to deal with stress (which is HUGE with me being an, at times, overly-ambitious college student). I also just feel more relaxed and peaceful which I can accredit to the large focus on mindfulness in this course – don’t change that!!!

I wake up feeling excited to see what I can make of the day ahead of me with the new skills and knowledge I have gained. I constantly share new things from class and readings with the people around me in hopes that it will affect them as much as it has affected me – and I think it has, even if they roll their eyes every time I say, “Guys, listen to this!”

No course has ever given me so much that I hold with me when I leave the classroom. I really feel that I can actively and successfully pursue a happier life, a happier self, and encourage everyone to do the same.

My Favorite Thing: Food

My Favorite Thing: Food

I love documenting things and nutrition and all things food so being assigned the food journal was a wonderful coincidence! I already keep track of what I eat daily, although admittedly halfheartedly, so this task was no hiccup in my usual activities.

First I want to comment on something interesting I noticed throughout this week of documenting my meals before Dr. Mountcastle lectured on Wednesday: how much better I felt when I ate better foods. The more natural, whole-grain, unprocessed food I ate, the better I felt. I was way more energized throughout the entire day, I didn’t hit my afternoon slump (during which a nap usually occurs), and I didn’t feel as gross and bloated after eating (as I almost always do after eating, say, iHOP or Panda Express). Noticing this and then hearing what Dr. Mountcastle had to say about plant-based, whole food consumption in lecture has made me really start to pay attention to what I am putting in my body.

The food tracker provided for us to use for this exercise gave me some interesting feedback that the app I normally use does not. It told me how many refined vs. whole grains I ate, how much added sugars were in the foods I consumed, and how much sodium was in my diet that day. I found all of this, and other information the website provided, to be really useful in ensuring I get the right amounts of the right things every day.

Some things that this taught me about my eating habits are 1) I don’t snack as much as I thought I did (go me!), 2) I actually eat relatively healthily given my circumstance of being on a freshman meal plan with basically no healthy foods available, and 3) I have virtually no variety in my diet – it’s the same foods cycled daily (or every few days, at best). Knowing this information and being educated on what kind of balance I should have in my meals, thanks to Dr. Mountcastle, I can now begin to substitute different foods in for ones that I eat every. single. day. and change it up a bit! I am now way too excited to grocery shop and start cooking with this new world of healthy foods in mind!!

 

Free Hugs!

Free Hugs!

I have always been a fan of random acts of kindness because it benefits both parties and often creates a domino effect. Acts of kindness can be very simple yet can have such a huge impact on people’s days.

One act I did this week was paying for my roommate’s meal when we went out to a restaurant. She has had a really tough week and I thought it would be a good way to brighten it up a little bit. At first she resisted but when I insisted, I think she understood that I was going to do it no matter what and I just wanted to make her a little happier. She felt grateful as well as loved, and I felt successful and happy that I could do something so easy to make her feel so much better.

Another thing I did was surprising a friend with dessert and spending some time with him. This one in particular seems pretty small, but I know it meant a lot to him. We’ve both had busy weeks and I had to cancel on a couple plans we made so I got dessert and took it to him. He was so excited and completely elated. I definitely felt really good as well because I felt bad for having to cancel plans, so to be able to make it up was nice. Also, spending time with him obviously made me just as happy as he was when I showed up.

Acts of kindness really don’t cause any introspection for me. I definitely feel like I am the last thing I’m thinking about when performing an act of kindness – which I think is what makes them so wonderful. If we only performed acts of kindness because we knew it would make us feel good, are we really doing it for the other person? Maybe an argument against this could be made, but that is just kind of how I see it. We should all make acts of kindness a weekly goal of ours, even if it’s only one and even if it is something very simple!

Give Happy To Get Happy! Spread that stuff around!

 

Living On Purpose

Living On Purpose

I can truly and honestly say that my work and school are both suited to myself and my needs incredibly well. At work, I feel I have a purpose. I feel a sense of engagement that makes the time I am there fly by. I work with children in a day care setting and I get such a sense of accomplishment whenever I can get one of them to understand the concept of sharing or why they shouldn’t hit their friends.

Here at school, I feel an equal sense of engagement but an even greater sense of purpose and meaningfulness (thanks Rosso for the clarification of meaning vs. meaningfulness ;)). What I do day-to-day, my daily classes and things like that, are entirely engaging to me for the most part. I love learning more than almost anything, so I look forward to classes and homework (weird, I know). The sense of meaningfulness I get at school comes from the progress that I am making towards my degree, my future career, and the (hopefully) future impact I will make on people. Knowing that every action I take here brings me one step closer to those things is so incredibly meaningful.

All of that being said, I really don’t think I need to make any changes right now. The readings and lectures solidified what I already kind of knew and felt every day – the fact that my work and school is exactly what I am here to do.

Mindful, Not Mind Full

Mindful, Not Mind Full

Just the idea of being present is a hard concept to work on. I know I am always looking forward: waiting to get out of class to go meet up with friends; looking towards nighttime so I can finally crawl in bed and relax; half-heartedly participating in conversation because I’m more focused on what I should or will be doing. While I know this can be helpful, it’s also kind of sad because as I reflect on it, I’m realizing that I’m rarely ever just here.

I feel like a lot of people can relate, especially in this age of cell phones. This is one thing that particularly sticks out in my mind because we all either know or are a person who is constantly scrolling through various apps even in the presence of others. How can we actively participate in our lives as they are happening – the present moment (or as Dr. Brown said, our only direct experience with life) – if we are always looking forward or looking down at our phones? Plain and simple, we can’t. Our relationships most definitely struggle because of this. Think about the time you’re around your parents. How often do they have to repeat what they say because you were reading a random Buzzfeed article instead of actively listening to them? I know for me, it’s a lot.

Being present and mindful will also help the issue of being aware of how our emotions and behaviors affect others. I forget just how much of an impact my behaviors and emotions affect those around me more more often than I would like to be able to say. This week’s lectures and readings definitely gave me some food for thought about myself and my personal relationships. When we are mindful, we can “minimize the gap between our underlying values and the behavior we exhibit.” As Dr. Reina said, often times our behavior does not truly reflect who we are because we are acting mindlessly. We react, rather than respond. Learning how to reverse that and applying it to our lives and relationships can only have positive impacts on both.

Actively pursuing a more mindful and aware life is definitely my goal for the rest of this semester; and maybe with a little help from some neuroplasticity, it will simply become who I am.

Mindful, Not Mind Full

Show Me Your Strengths!

Show Me Your Strengths!

Focusing on your strengths builds self-esteem and breeds excellence. This was the theme of Monday’s lecture and one that I feel a lot of people need(ed) to hear. It is so easy to try something, fail at it, and dwell on the fact that you were unable to do whatever it was. This theme hit home for me because I rock climb and every time I get stuck on a route or can’t make a certain move, I get frustrated and question why I am even climbing. Everyone else is so much better than me, obviously I am just not good enough – right? Wrong. Dr. Wu-Pong’s lectures and exercises this week taught me that maybe that thing just isn’t one of my strengths. Some people can nail crazy dynamic moves, some people can do pull ups with their fingertips, and I can knock out an overhang route without much of a problem (usually). Some people’s strengths are others’ weaknesses – and that is okay!

By paying attention to the different strengths of those around us, we can watch and try to adopt some of  those virtues we are lacking. What a good strategy to bring to your workplace or even personal life! That is the beauty of group work, I think, and it was really cool to have so many exercises in class this week where we got to see and hear about other people’s strengths.

Understanding others’ strengths and how they work differently than ours is a sort of social intelligence that will be useful in almost any setting: school, work, personal relationships, etc. As Dr. Wu-Pong mentioned in class, everybody is extraordinary – you just have to know what you’re looking at! Strengths show up differently for us all, but everyone definitely has them.

Don’t dwell on your weaknesses, build upon your strengths!

Three Cheers for Cheery People

Three Cheers for Cheery People

 

I LOVE people – meeting them, learning about them, talking to them – so I find myself thinking about my relationships with people a lot. This week’s topic of emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and high quality connections definitely gave me a lot more to consider when thinking about these relationships.

Active listening and the “ask-to-tell ratio” are two things discussed in lecture that I could definitely work on and I’m so glad we did those exercises in class to get a feel for what those skills really look like in practice. I think that being an engaged and enthusiastic listener is one of the biggest contributions to a high quality connection with those around you. Feeling like you are being listened to, understood, and related to are what create the strongest feelings of closeness among peers – for me, at least. There is nothing worse than sharing something with someone and getting an uninterested or distracted response from them, and that is something that this week’s lectures have really made me start focusing on in my personal relationships.

Something that I found interesting that was mentioned both in our second lecture and in our reading was the bit about emotional contagion. The emotions of those around us have such a huge impact on our own moods, and I think sometimes we forget that when we are stuck in one of our own bad moods. There have been more times than I would like to admit that I was stressed out and grumpy and my little brother came to talk to me or hang out for a little and I snapped at him and told him to get out of my room (or something of the like). Now that I don’t see him as much, I wish I had been more in tune with my own emotional intelligence in those moments to get over whatever petty annoyance I was dealing with and spend some time with him. As Stephens mentioned, our emotions mimic those around us in vocalizations as well as body language which makes me wonder how many bad moods I have caused in those around me simply by being grumpy around or towards them earlier in the day. I have made it my own personal goal to be an energizer and try to positively affect the moods of those around me, rather than the other way around.

Being warm and friendly, the level of interest you express towards others (in your listening, responses, enthusiasm, etc.), and your authenticity are the most influential traits when developing relationships in my opinion. Negative characteristics definitely negatively impact your ability to form high quality connections, but not everyone can be a ball of sunshine all the time. I think as long as we have a strong sense of social as well as emotional intelligence, there won’t be a problem with forming those connections as we will have a good understanding of our own emotions as well as others’.

P.S. – be a waver or a smiler!!! Dr. Armstrong mentioned this briefly at the end of one of the lectures but this is such a huge thing! I read something related to this a few years ago that really struck a chord with me and I have been a smiler ever since. You can literally see people’s faces light up sometimes just by giving them a quick grin while passing by on the sidewalk and it makes you feel good too! People around us are often so overlooked but if you take half a second to acknowledge them and send some good vibes their way it really can create a ripple effect!

P.P.S. – “Look up from your phone!” Be present. This is a MASSIVE contributor to our ability to form high quality connections. This video is about 5 minutes long but if you have the time, definitely check it out!!

Love to Love

Love to Love

Communication, supporting development of the other person, mutual respect, trust, and friendship were among the list of things people gave in class that contributed to a successful relationship. I think in answering that, we all also answered what competence in a romantic relationship looks like during this age period. That being said, I think that those qualities are what make for competence in a romantic relationship during any age period from young adulthood and beyond – they build the foundation for a successful relationship in general.

It is very interesting to think about the fact that that competence, our understanding of it, and our application of it to our own personal relationships comes from early (sometimes very early) interactions. During the times when these influential impacts are being made, we have no inkling of an idea what those situations or periods of our lives will mean for our later life – we are simply just living. Continuing with what Salvatore found in her research, it is almost mind boggling to learn that early caregiving and patterns of emotion – much of which we don’t have any memory of at all – color our own patterns of emotion in adult romantic relationships greatly. How can something we have extremely little, if any, memory of ultimately determine our futures in relationships? I guess it is all in the organizational-developmental perspective Salvatore wrote about.

As for the success of and mutual satisfaction in relationships, I think Friedersdorf nailed it. Saying, “I love you as you are,” and revealing ourselves to people, showing we can be just as vulnerable as they feel are the major keystones of a successful and mutually satisfying relationship. I think it is beautiful how he describes the fear people often hold: everyone is scared. Everyone is walking around wondering if anyone will ever be able to love them for who they are, and in that we find some comfort. Friedersdorf says that to be fully human is to develop the heart and the head and to become one inside ourselves. In doing that, we lose our egos, enabling ourselves to find wonder and beauty in all people and cultures. Learning that and putting it into practice is a challenge in itself, however with success in that intrapersonal relationship will come success in future interpersonal relationships.

Something also very beautiful that I have been mulling over since Dr. Salvatore lectured on it is the fact that despite being exposed to risk factors associated with deviant relationships and/or partners in later relationships, relationships and romantic experiences themselves can protect against the actualization of the consequences of those risks. What should be faulty according to circumstances is actually what is preventing the predicted problems. If that doesn’t give you a little hope, I don’t know what will!

Three Cheers for Positive Psychology!

Three Cheers for Positive Psychology!

 

For the exercise, I spoke with someone very close to me whose depression showed up in childhood. It is under control and managed now for the most part, however there are still some tough days. From what I learned from her, I would have a hard time saying that depression (or severe anxiety) could ever be helpful. It is completely debilitating in a lot of cases, and still pretty disruptive at best. Finding the right treatment for each individual, though, makes the  difference between a lifelong struggle and discovering ways to gain a ‘normal’ life back.

For this person, I wish this new wave of positivity-focused psychotherapy was around when she began receiving treatment. Her first treatment was antidepressant medication and she listed almost every single worry in our first reading this week as one of her own at the start of her treatment: Will I need it forever? Does this make me crazy? Will I have fake feelings?, etc. I think her neurotic personality tendencies affected the effectiveness of that treatment (and her willingness to take her medication) because of those apprehensions. On the other side of that coin, however, she is quite an extravert, unafraid to speak up – or ask for help. Had that personality trait been absent or different, who knows where things would have ended up for her. She may have suffered in silence for most, if not all, of her life.

I think Dr. Sood mentioned something about that in her lecture on Monday – how certain personalities can have very different paths towards treatment/recovery. Extraverts are more likely to reach out for support from their social circle which may offer them the push they need to seek treatment. Introverts may not be as inclined to speak to anyone about their problems, allowing their issue to continue on a while longer.

The relatively new movement of psychotherapy not being focused just on the absence of psychopathology, but also including the presence of happiness and well-being is one that will benefit everyone – no matter the personality type. The relatively new movement of positive psychology gaining ground as a real science is one that will benefit everyone exposed to it whether or not they have a disorder or mental illness.

What I took away from the exercise, the readings, and the lectures this week the most is that 1) positive psychology is a real, solid, effective science and you don’t have to be mentally ill to need a boost!!!; 2) intentional activities, such as those described in our Seligman reading, make too huge of a difference in long-term well-being and happiness to NOT do them (they’re so easy too!); and 3) meditation is awesome (also, sunrise yoga. Thanks to the couple people who mentioned that in class! I went for the first time ever this morning…life-changing ;)).

Think About It

All of my results fit with the ideas I had about my personality except one: impulsivity. I scored a 9, putting me toward the upper end of the ‘low’ part of the spectrum. Had someone just asked me where I thought I fell, I would’ve said around a 15 – definitely somewhere on the ‘high’ end of the spectrum. For example: I got my first tattoo within 20 minutes of the thought of even having a tattoo occurring to me. I think that illustrates a pretty important thing Dr. Vassileva mentioned in her second lecture – the issues with self-reporting methods. There was definitely some sort of recall bias or subjective answering on my part because my tattoo is just one piece of evidence – of many – to show for my impulsive tendencies. That’s something to think about, though, when taking self-report surveys. Are the results really as accurate as we think?

Learning about impulsivity in general made me realize just how strongly associated my personality and cognitive style is, and how both of them (whether positively or negatively) influence my decision-making. As my personality includes extraversion and impulsivity, my cognitive style includes impulsive choice. What’s interesting, though, is that one of the articles we read this week, by Castellanos-Ryan and Conrod, talked about extraversion, impulsivity, and a SURPS category I scored high in – anxiety sensitivity – all correlating at least fairly strongly to substance abuse and/or early onset use of substances. Neither of those is personally accurate, however, so what does that mean?

The combination of this week’s readings and Dr. Vassileva’s lectures just got me thinking about our interpretations of ourselves in general, and how off we may be. I feel like my generation is very familiar with random online personality assessments through Facebook or other forms of social media that have given us some sort of idea about ourselves…but how right or wrong are they really? If there are such problems with self-reporting assessments, how often are the results we get from these things accurate? I don’t know that it’s of much importance, but it is definitely some interesting food for thought this week’s material has given me.

The Process of Positivity

The Process of Positivity

The process of actively trying to create positive emotions in my life, of viewing myself through a positive lens, and of building the good things in my life is hard. It is also very exciting. Waking up and getting out for the day is kind of a game to me now, as I always try to find ways to make whatever I’m doing a positive experience.

However, sometimes life happens and I just want to sit in my grumpiness and roll my eyes at everything. For example: when one of your friends or family members or roommates says something to you in a tone that definitely could have been less sharp. The irritable, irritated mood that follows tends to stick around for a least a couple hours, sometimes for the rest of the day depending on circumstances. Or, the stress and strangeness of adjusting to being in college. That was a major internal obstacle I faced last semester.

Finding healthy outlets is how I overcome obstacles that seem determined to kick positivity out. Getting out in nature, getting active, or just spending time around close friends gets me back in the  groove of positive emotions. And knowing that I will be a more positive person, able to spread that to others who need it is my incentive to keep pushing when the going gets tough.

I think the best way to build upon this process is to be very proactive and intentional in your words and actions, and don’t let others around you get bogged down either. Sharing positivity often creates more positivity, so we all should be more active in getting out there and spreading it! A compliment here, friendly conversation there, or a smile at a passing stranger is all it really takes. :)

 

WELL-BEING

I view well-being as a measurement of sorts for one’s all-around sense of happiness and satisfaction – and I think that our own well-being is very much up to us. Whether we choose to view morning rush hour traffic as a cruel punishment or an opportunity for an awesome solo jam session dictates our mood for the morning – and maybe rest of the day. Daily series of small choices like that make up our well-being, I think.

That  being said, I fully believe that our thoughts are a major contributor to our well being. The people we surround ourselves with also contribute quite a bit. The amount of interactions with cute animals is important too. Events in our daily lives contribute to our happiness and well-being loosely, as I believe 100% that it begins and ends with ourselves.