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Posts tagged ‘Deborah Barnett Ph.D.’

Feeling stressed out? Here is a way to gain greater control of your life.

The Values-In-Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths identifies character strengths that we all have within us. Once you are aware of your unique strengths, by taking the VIA Character Strength Survey,  you can actively cultivate your personal character strengths. Benefits of doing so include increased self-esteem, sense of life mastery and greater fulfilment. Two of the 24 strengths on the survey are Judgment, Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness; and Creativity, Ingenuity and Originality. If these are two of your strengths, here are some ways in which they can be cultivated.

To cultivate Judgment, Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness:

•    Join multi-cultural celebrations or events. This develops a positive self-perception through increased knowledge of diverse histories, groups and cultures, and their respective contributions to the society.

•    Be neutral in a situation. Hear out both side’s issue without your own personal biases.

•    Participate in other religions’ or spiritual philosophies’ gatherings and events. Try to build fellowship with other believers. You may also try joining a political party that is different from your own.

•    Take a new class or take up a new hobby or sport.

•    Watch shows that you usually do not watch.

•    Invite a colleague that you know has different ideas from your own to lunch.

•    Ask yourself each day about a certain thing you strongly believe in and critique it. Find out more information on the topic to learn even more. .  .

To cultivate Creativity, Ingenuity and Originality:

•    Accept that you are a creative person.  When faced with a task, ask yourself, “What is the most creative way in which I can approach this task?” try to use spare time during the day to write a short poem, draw a simple picture or write in your journal.

•    Rearrange your house, room, dormitory, apartment, office or work place. Move a piece of furniture to a new place.  Try to shuffle the things to improve your disposition and mood.

•    Compose a literary work and publish it in a magazine or newspaper, or the very least post it as a blog.

•    Discover a new word daily, know its meaning, and use it with creativity.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology counselling in Asheville, NC and Phone Consulting for creating positive, powerful results in your life.


As a Positive Psychologist and Coach I am very interested to see how this special will unfold. Tony Robbins is one of those guys for whom the answer, “Fine.” To the question “How are you?” is not good enough. He helps people achieve massive amounts of success. He is not interested in people getting better, but in having them thrive! This is what I addressed in my last post Is Getting Rid of Depression or Anxiety Enough? Positive Psychology helps people move beyond feeling “not so good” or even “good,” to experiencing what it is like to feel “great!”

Check out the Tony Robbins Breakthrough special and let me know what you think.

If you want to move from feeling “Not So Good” to “Great” I can give you some techniques to help.

With practice you can become more flexible in your thinking

In their book The Resilience Factor, Karen Reivich, Ph.D. and Andrew Shatte, Ph.D. have a wonderful metaphor for examining the beliefs that go through your mind moment to moment. It is called the Ticker-Tape. Imagine the signs that display the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the current news ticker at the bottom of your television screen. Ticker-Tape beliefs are those that run through our mind on our internal “ticker-tape.” Often these beliefs are unconscious. They are very important, however, because they determine how you will likely respond emotionally, and what action you are likely to take, in reaction to an event that happens to you.

It is important, therefore, to be aware of the beliefs that go across your ticker-tape. If you are not, Reivich and Shatte suggest setting an alarm at intervals throughout the day, and then noticing what your thoughts and emotions are when the alarm goes off.

There two primary types of beliefs of which to be aware. These are beliefs asking “why” something happened, and “what-next” beliefs, which lead to concerns and assumptions about what is going to happen next.

Why Beliefs
If you find that you are asking “why” beliefs, you might notice, as Martin Seligman discovered, that “why” or causal beliefs fall into one of three categories:
Personal (me versus not me) in which we attribute an event as being our fault, versus possibly due to the influence of others. For example: “This always happens to me!” versus, “Maybe my team is having a bad day?”
Permanent (always versus not always) in which we explain that something always happens versus recognizing that it does not always happen. For example: “Every time I go on vacation it rains.” virus “There are times I have traveled and experienced good weather.”
Pervasive (everything versus not everything) For example: “This bad news that I have to work this Saturday. Is going to ruin my entire week.” versus “Working on Saturday will give me extra money so that I can take my family out to dinner.”

“What’s Next?”
If when examining your beliefs, if you find yourself worrying about the future and what happens next, this can lead to anxiety if you feel unprepared. If you are having huge negative “what’s next” beliefs, this can make your anxiety so strong that you have difficulty effectively solving problems.

The key to effective, healthy thinking and problem solving is to be flexible and have a balance of “why” and “what’s next” beliefs.

In my next post I will offer suggestions on how to be more flexible in your thinking by challenging your beliefs.

If you are interested in support on becoming more flexible in your thinking and skillful in your decision making, I would be happy to support you along the way! Contact me for an individual consultation.
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.

I love this video that I have provided the link to, below. In many ways it is Positive Psychology applied to life! Positive Psychology is, on the personal level, about nurturing and building character strengths. When these strengths are well utilized, the ripple effect on the world around us is profound. There is one quote at the beginning by Ralph Marston, Jr. that applies to this concept: “What will you do today, that will matter tomorrow?” This reminds me of the Native American principle of thinking about what impact our actions will have on the next seven generations?
There is a wonderful quote about forgiveness, another concept that is well researched in Positive Psychology. “People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway!” The video also points out that it is not often easy to be kind and happy, but encourages us to do so anyway!
I hope that you enjoy it.
If you are interested in learning more about Positive Psychology and utilizing its well-researched principles to improve your life and the lives of others, I would be happy to support you along the way!
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.

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

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


Remember To Dream!
Remember To Dream!

So many people have lost hope and have forgotten how to dream. Two of the questions I ask my clients when I counsel them is, “If you could wave a magic wand right now, what would you want your life to be like?” and the question, “What is working in your life right now and how could you have more of this?” These are startling questions for people. Most people have the expectation that because I am a psychologist I am going to ask them to tell me about what is wrong in their lives. However, because I practice Positive Psychology, I focus on helping people to focus on what works in their lives, what their strengths are, and how they can utilize resources to empower themselves.

After people think about my questions they often say, “I don’t know how I want my life to be.” Other times people tell me a very little wish, such as, “I would like to sleep more.” I like to help people not just improve their lives so that they feel “okay” or “better.” Instead, I am passionate about helping people to thrive.

One technique I suggest to rekindle one’s dream or vision is to create a Vision Board. A Vision Board is a large bulletin board or piece of paperboard on which you paste cut out pictures or images of your life vision and dreams. The purpose of a Vision Board is to help your subconscious mind start focusing on how you would like your life to be. For example, if you want to improve your relationship or be in relationship you could cut out images of yourself with your spouse, smiling, and put this on your Vision Board. Or, you could cut out and use a picture from a magazine of a happy couple. If you want to go to Europe, find some pictures of Europe and place them on your Vision Board. If you want to own a new car, find a picture of that car and place on your vision board. If you have a picture of your face, you could even paste that in the window of the car! Your vision board is not just about getting more “stuff.” If you want to experience more calmness and serenity, you could find a picture that represents this emotional state, and put that on your Vision Board. 

There are multiple benefits to creating a Vision Board, focusing on it each day, and feeling what it would be like to experience all that your Vision Board represents to you. These benefits include:

1. Lifting your mood.

2. Orienting your subconscious mind toward what you want to achieve. When athletes mentally visualize themselves performing their sport successfully, over and over, it increases their performance next time they physically engage in their sport.

3. Giving you direction, purpose, and focus for your life. Consider what small step you can do each day to move toward your dreams. Taking this small step will empower you to make your dreams a reality.

Deborah Barnett, Ph.D. offers phone coaching, and counseling at her office in Asheville, NC.

Let Go of Stress

Let Go of Stress

I want to share with you some easy tips that I have offered to my clients who come to me for counseling in Asheville, NC.

Your body is brilliant. When faced with a threat it prepares you to fight or run away. This process is called the “fight or flight” response. Our emotional reactions to situations trigger the fight or flight response so that in many individuals it is set off several times a day. Often, each response often lasts much longer than your body can easily handle. This creates wear and tear on the body. According to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic, the end result is that your body is more susceptible to health ailments such as infections, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, depression, insomnia, and memory impairment.

How to Calm Stress
Breathe. Breathing can slow down your thoughts and give you more clarity. It also helps you to be more focused in the present moment, instead of ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.

Make-up a reason that feels good. For example, if your boss is grumpy, instead of worrying about why your boss is grumpy and thinking, “What if she is grumpy because I did something wrong?” Make up a reason that feels better, such as, “Maybe she didn’t sleep well last night.” This is a much more palatable thought and less stress provoking.

Learn to say no. Doing something for someone when you don’t want to, because you believe you will feel guilty if you say “no” to them, is not a healthy foundation from which to offer assistance. Instead, saying “no” when you don’t want to do something or don’t have the time to do it can be an empowering experience. The result is that you reduce your stress and build your self-respect. 

Ask for help when you need it. Asking for and accepting help is not a sign of weakness. Instead, getting help with a task often completes it more quickly and easily. Also, talking to a qualified therapist can be valuable for gaining a different perspective on a situation in your life, and finding solutions for increasing your well-being.

Acceptance. Accepting “what is” helps to reduce stress, whether that is accepting how you are feeling, the fact that it is a rainy day, or that your computer isn’t working. If you let go of needing the current, perceived problem to be some way other than it is, and you accept the fact that in the moment you can’t change it, at least not instantly, you will feel calmer. Moreover, and the answers to solutions often come more easily when you give up struggling.

Take quiet time for yourself. Sitting quietly and breathing, taking a quiet walk, writing in your journal, and listening to your thoughts and feelings are important. When you are too busy to notice how you are feeling inside, that is an easy way to create stress. By listening to your feelings and paying attention to them, you will be less likely to act out impulsively from them. Being more aware of what is going on inside reduces reactivity and enhances conscious choices about your thoughts and behaviors.
Deborah Barnett, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology in Asheville, NC
Phone Coaching for Personal Growth and Relationship Success