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You CAN Thrive Despite the Odds

You CAN Thrive Despite the Odds

Although I am a New England native, I now live and practice positive psychology in Asheville, North Carolina. I was fascinated, therefore, when two stories on NPR’s All Things Considered this evening were about individuals living in towns not far from Asheville.

Each of the stories is inspiring and a great testimony to the power of optimism.

The first story was about Lenoir, North Carolina. For years Lenoir’s industry was manufacturing bedroom furniture. In the last several years, the majority of this furniture business has moved to China. This left thousands of people unemployed. Bill Curtis was one of these individuals who lost his job. In the story on NPR, Mr. Curtis mentioned the psychological impact that losing a job had on him. First, he reported, he felt guilty as though he had done something wrong. Then he felt betrayed. But Mr. Curtis did not give up and slump into depression. Instead, he decided to press on and optimistically he enrolled in Caldwell Community College to train in the IT program. Much to his good fortune, after heavy-duty negotiations, Google moved into Lenoir. Mr. Curtis now has an opportunity to apply the skills that he by going back to college. (Tune in tomorrow to NPR’s follow-up to see if Mr. Curtis got a job at Google).

Another story on NPR’s All Things Considered featured Anne Osmer. Ms. Osmer recently flew a plane, solo. This is not that extraordinary. In 1908 Madame Therese Peltier was the first woman to fly solo in an airplane. Ms. Osmer story is inspiring because she is 83 years old and took her first flying lesson three years ago. Ms. Osmer was quoted as saying, “I hope I will inspire somebody who always kept saying, ‘Oh, I always wanted to, but I’m too old.’ No, you’re not. No, you’re not. Go for it.” Ms. Osmer reportedly did not even have a desire to learn to fly until she was 80-years-old. She didn’t allow her fears or others’ doubts keep her from optimistically pursuing her dream.

Often what holds us back is our own mind and limitations that we put on ourselves. Individuals like Mr. Curtis and Ms. Osmer bear testimony to the power of being optimistic despite the odds.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Phone Coaching and Psychotherapy for Business Success and Personal Thriving

A Beautiful Day Visualization Helps with Decision Making

A Beautiful Day Visualization Helps with Decision Making

The other day I offered the “Beautiful Day” exercise. One purpose of this positive psychology technique was, after writing out what a beautiful 24-hour period of time would look like, to see what aspects of your beautiful day you could implement into your life now. Another purpose was to feel the enjoyment of imagining your Beautiful Day

Here is another way to use the Beautiful Day exercise when deciding between several activities or situations you might choose.

1. Clarify what the different options are that you are choosing between. For example, if you are choosing between several career paths, clarify the different career choices are that you are deciding between. For example, “Do I become a physical therapist assistant, teacher, or accountant?”

2. Get all of the details and facts about what each choice would involve: If I become a physical therapist assistant I will have to go to school for two years for an associates degree; if I become a teacher or accountant I will have go to college and get a B.S. degree, etc.  Sample, as much as possible, what each choice would entail. For example, if going back to college, sit in on some of the classes you would be taking.

3. Once all of the facts are gathered, write out a Beautiful Day exercise for each option. For instance, if you become a physical therapist assistant, write out what a Beautiful Day scenario might be in this profession. If you decide to become a teacher or accountant, write out a Beautiful Day exercise for each of these professions.

By writing out your Beautiful Day scenarios for each of the options you are choosing between, it will help you to live into each. By doing so, you can potentially have a sneak peak into the future and feel what each option might hold for you.

The benefit of this exercise is that you are using you head and heart in making your choices. By first gathering the facts and details you utilize your mind to analyze the different options. By then feeling into each option by writing out what and Beautiful Day would look like for each scenario, you allow your heart and inner yearnings to give you feedback. Which felt most exciting or fulfilling when you wrote about the Beautiful Day for that option? This is valuable feedback for making your decision.

Enjoy and let me know what decisions you were able to make using the Beautiful Day exercise.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Psychotherapy and Coaching for Business Success and Personal Thriving

"A Beautiful Day" writing exercise can increase your well-being

"A Beautiful Day" writing exercise can increase your well-being

 Here is a fun, simple, positive psychology intervention to help increase your well-being. I enjoy sharing this exercise with my Asheville psychotherapy clients and individuals who do phone coaching with me.

“A Beautiful Day”*

Instructions: write out what a beautiful, fun, ideal 24-hours would look like to you. Be as detailed as possible. Describe each activity in as much depth as possible. Would you be by yourself or with others? When you describe the meals you eat, what foods are you eating? The idea is to savor and live into what ideal 24-hours would be like to you.

Benefits of “A Beautiful Day” exercise include:
Enjoyment – savoring the enjoyable details of your beautiful day will be uplifting.
Enhanced Self-Awareness – writing about your beautiful day will help you to identify what is most meaningful and enjoyable to you.
Positive Change – Once you identify what is most beautiful and enjoyable to you, you can look at what aspects of your beautiful, ideal day you can implement into your life now. For example, maybe your ideal day involves being away from a cell phone or email. If this is the case, you could schedule a “technology free” day for yourself as a mini vacation.

Enjoy writing about your beautiful day. I would love to hear about your experiences.

*Many thanks to Dr Dianne Vella-Brodrick who introduced this intervention to me at the 2009 First World Congress on Positive Psychology.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychotherapy and Phone Coaching
for Business Success and Personal Thriving

Soldiers May Benefit trom Emotional Resilence

Soldiers May Benefit from Emotional Resilience

The US Army is assessing ways to increase soldier resilience. The goal is to help soldiers become more physically and mentally fit, so that when they experience traumatic events, the impact will not be as severe and they will be better equipped to mentally manage the traumatic experience. Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Rhonda Cornum is director of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. She believes that the new program will help soldiers to increase their resilience physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, plus, in addition, have a healthier family life.  

Positive Psychology is playing a role in supporting soldier resilience. Currently, 1.1 million soldiers are scheduled to be trained in positive psychology techniques to improve their emotional resilience. At the University of Pennsylvania, sergeants are being trained to help soldiers learn how to be optimistic, combat catastrophic thoughts, use their strengths and increase effective social communication. The goal is that this will increase the performance and resilience of soldiers and decrease depression and anxiety.

How will this help army soldiers? The unrest in the Middle East necessitates a need for solders to frequently be deployed overseas for a year and then back home for a year, before going overseas again. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. stated that the frequent deployments cause mental stress for solders. Casey observed that while the army has programs in place for addressing the effects of trauma on solders after it occurs, very little to date has been done in the area of lessening the impact of traumatic experiences for solders.

One concept of Positive Psychology is that of Post-Traumatic Growth. The evidenced-based concept shows that when individuals do experience a high-stress or traumatic event they often experience growth afterward, leading to increased self-awareness, appreciation of life, inner strength and spiritual growth. Some solders experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)after being in combat. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, a heightened startle reflex and avoidance of anything associated with the traumatic experience. Casey noted that after soldiers are in combat not all experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many, Casey stated, experience Post Traumatic Growth. Casey believes that with Resilience Training solders will be less likely to experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and more will experience growth.

Some, such as Guided Imagery expert Bellruth Naparstek, have criticized this move by the army of investing so much into the resilience training of soldiers. What is important to remember is that almost all therapies, including guided imagery, are based on treatment of PTSD, once it has occurred. Positive Psychology is being implemented as a prevention technique to reduce the occurrence of trauma and increase post-traumatic growth. The evidence that Positive Psychology can do this is very good. Kudos to the army for taking a stand and using preventative measures to improve the life-quality, and hopefully reduce the trauma, for the soldiers who risk their lives in combat.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Phone Coaching and Counseling for Business Success and Personal Thriving

A Blessing can be a simple as seing a Beautiful Rose

A Blessing can be a simple as seeing a Beautiful Rose

The “3 Good Things” exercise, also known as the “3 Blessings” exercise,  is a great Positive Psychology technique that has been well tested. It has been shown to increase well-being and decrease depression and anxiety. Martin Seligman, Ph.D., conducted a study  with 411 people using this exercise. The results were that 94% of very depressed people became less depressed and 92% became happier in 15 days. Furthermore, the results lasted for at least 6 months.

3 Good Things in Life Exercise

Each night before you go to bed, pick out 3 things that went well that day. Write down each of these events or experiences that went well and write about why they went well or what felt good about the experiences. Remember, the events you chose do not have to be spectacular or dramatic.
Here is an example:

Event:This morning on my way into work, I stopped and allowed an elderly lady enter the elevator before me.
Why: I took the time to slow down, notice what was going on around me, and by being kind and helpful, I felt good.

You can try this exercise for yourself and let me know what your experience is. I have used this exercise with my phone coaching clients and they have reported that it works very well.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Phone coaching and counseling in Asheville, NC for Business Success and Personal Thriving