I don’t think I knew it until now, but I needed to take this class this semester. This past year, particularly the past six months have been dotted with a number of unfortunate and detrimental events. And, If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve never felt as intensely sad as I have in moments through this past year ever before. But on the other side of that, this year has also gifted me with moments of the most intense happiness I’ve known. And of course this is all only relative to what I’ve lived so far, and a year from now I could feel completely differently about this than I do now. But right now I find myself teetering between the extremes while looking for a place of balance in between. This class has helped me find some balance. I’ve learned that it is more than okay to struggle. That I have strengths. And though I have weakness, they are not superior to my strengths. I’ve learned not only to listen, but to speak more. Though may you have never heard me pipe up in class, I’ve learned to speak more with others in my daily life. To address issues instead of avoid, even though avoiding sometimes seems easier. I’ve learned to be patient with myself. Though I grant the utmost patience to others I never gave myself a second of it. It takes time to grow and I’m learning to give myself that time. Most importantly, I’m learning that I have to take care of myself. I have to look out for my own wellbeing, emotionally and physically. I cannot avoid taking care of myself by taking care of others because I’m afraid to confront the parts of me that need work, that need nourishing. The lessons on PERMA and forgiveness have struck me as the most influential in this semester. Reading and listening to someone tell me over and over again that I have the ability to reduce negativity in my life and increase positivity has become a comfort for me. It’s one thing to simple say you have the power to make yourself happy, but it’s another completely to look at the research. To read for yourself that people have done this and you can be a person who can say I have done this. It’s a commitment to an active effort to be better for your own good. Though I do not feel I have fully found my commitment to that for myself, I am trying and making strides. I am acknowledging negativity for what it is instead of accepting it as part of life, because it doesn’t always have to be. I am trying to curtail the automatic negative thoughts, or ANTS, in favor of positive alternative. I don’t think I realized how hard that can be, but I know it is worth the effort. I didn’t realize this was something that could be done so easily until I took this class and was presented with all the tools I already had inside my brain that I didn’t know how to use. As for forgiveness, Everett Worthington’s talk stuck with me firmly. Forgiveness has long been a struggle for me due to past events that shaped my view of trust negatively. But I was moved by Worthington’s discussion of how he was able to forgive an unthinkable crime. At first I thought no way in hell could I ever find that kind of forgiveness in myself, but as the class went on I realized there will be a day when I may have to find that kind of forgiveness. And I found myself not only hoping that’d I’d be able to do so, but wanting to be able to do so. Listening to that week of lecture made me want to not only forgive others, but begin to learn to truly forgive myself. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. But I know when the time comes for me to make that conscious decision to forgive, I will have tools and supports to do so. I can’t say this semester has made me this miracle mindful person who spews positivity constantly. Of course it hasn’t. But I am bringing more doses of positivity in to my life. Taking the SURPS didn’t kick my vices either. I still smoke and drink and stress like many others, but at least now I’m aware of my high-risk tendencies. I still haven’ figured out how to meditate, I’m always just sitting with my eyes closed waiting for the three minutes to pass. But It’s a start to trying. It’s a start to being a better me. Being a better person in my social groups. Being a better communicator and a better listener. A start to building stronger relationships. A start to making changes that will make a difference for myself and the people around me. And if you surround yourself with the right people they might pick up on it and start spreading the ideas of being better too. I hope to see that I’ve learned becomes practice instead of simple attempts so I can bring a little more light to the people around me and too myself.
the picture may seem a little disconnected, but this is the environment I find myself the happiest in so that’s why I chose it.
this was super long and very tangential, my apologies
Beginning with week 5 we discussed romantic relationships with Dr. Salvatore. At first I felt like I couldn’t really connect with this topic because I am not and have not been in a typical romantic relationship in quite sometime. Our discussions focused on how parents and other relationships that we observe as children can affect the types of relationships we engage in as adults. I felt like I didn’t really have too much to reference, but then I started thinking that not being in a relationship can be just as influenced as the relationships as I do choose to seek. Zoe Neale furthered our discussion of relationships regarding positive relationships and how they can only result from a sense of positive self identity. In order to engage in positive relationships you have to have emotional intelligence. having the ability to differentiate between appraisal and expression is a skill that you have the ability to sharpen and control to improve your own positive self identity and in turn, the relationships we have with others. I’ve always felt that I have been naturally intuitive towards the emotions of others so this was a very interesting few weeks of discussion for me. Especially when we got in to active listening. As much as I am a communicator I feel I am also a listener. You truly have to listen if you want to truly communicate effectively. So often we have conversations that give so little because we are also distracted and being present in the moment and listening. Seeing that mindfulness is everywhere has made me want to actively bring more in to my life. I am trying to use mindfulness to finally break my terrible habit of biting my nails. It is something I have Wallas done since childhood because everyone in my family does. But by being very aware of every time I go to bite my nails and stopping myself, I hope to finally be able to break the habit.
That’s one thing that has stuck with me the most in the past four weeks of this course. I think it was something Dr. Hancock mentioned, but unfortunately, I do not remember for certain if it was her or not. But that idea is really the premise of many of the techniques and perspectives on mental health that we have discussed so far. It is also a concept I would like to actively try to remember and apply to my life outside of class discussions as well.
Our readings and discussions on positive psychology as well as those on the role genetics play both highlighted the idea that what you focus on expands. If we have control over 50% of what contributes to mental wellbeing, then what we focus on is in our control to benefit our wellbeing. So being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions can help you focus on positive things to contribute to a flourishing mental health. Of course, that alone is not always enough to bring someone to the flourishing status, but it does amaze me how much of a difference it can make.
Before this course started I was aware of a lot of the anatomical and genetic factors of the brain because I have taken psychology courses and anatomy. So, a lot of that material has been a nice review. Other topics, like mindfulness, I had also heard and read a little bit about, but I’d never taken it into consideration. I have to admit, I’ve been kind of skeptical of meditation and mindfulness. I’ve been a little hesitant to fully believe the ideas of positive psychology as well. I found it difficult to really understand the power of thought. The power positive ideas have to change your mood and overall outlook on life. But this course is definitely starting to change my mind. Reading about the actually science and the research done in our weekly readings gives me a solid foundation of evidence to believe it. But more so than that, the videos we’ve watched about people who have actually done this and been helped are convincing me.
I’ve become more aware of my thoughts, particularly the negative ones since Dr. Sood’s lecture and the automatic thoughts exercise. I find it is helpful to acknowledge the thoughts as negative and establish that is better to not focus on them, but adjust to more positive ones instead. I tried explaining this to a friend last night as a soothing method. He was in a pretty bad bike accident last night our way home from work. Long story short, he was the one at fault which was all he could focus on for the remainder of the evening, besides the severe pain he was in. I repeatedly encouraged him to stop thinking about the mistake and focus more on relaxing and letting his body start to heal. Eventually he began to listen and was able to get some sleep for the night, which he originally thought would be impossible. Focusing on something more positive made a noticeable difference.
Image can be found at– http://www.marcjohns.com/blog/2011/04/11/what-to-focus-on-tattoo-jade-from-london