Tag Archives: flourish

Can I be Positive?

All you need is by Ari Hahn
All you need is, a photo by Ari Hahn on Flickr.

People who live with mental illness, whether it is themselves or a loved one, love with too much stress and negative emotions. Much has been written about stress and certainly everybody has heard of the dangers of being over stressed.

Most medical professionals and psychotherapists work under the assumption that of you get rid of the negative in your life you will fill up your life with positive. People want to be happy and to flourish so if we remove the obstacles you will seek, find and fill your life with good healthy emotions and activities. Unfortunately, we see that it doesn’t work that way. It would if, for instance, love and fear were opposite ends of a real continuum. But if they were, you couldn’t both love and fear the same person at the same time. I sure you know of that possibility.

Science tells us that negative emotions help us focus on protection. If you are walking down a dark city street and a bunch of rowdy teenage boys come up behind you, you might get anxious or afraid. Your muscles tense, your heart beats harder, you listen more carefully, etc. Your only thought is how to stay safe.

If your kid is beginning to act out, your whole being focuses on what needs to be done to get through this episode. Hypervigilance reigns as you watch for signs that hospitalization might be needed. You ignore other tasks that seemed important just a short while ago. You feel all sorts of negative emotions and they actually can help you (in some ways) keep you and your family safe.

But what about positive emotions? How do they work? How do they effect our thinking and actions?

Positive emotions and positive interactions tend to move us in an opposite direction. When we engage in positivity our minds and hearts open up to new possibilities. Emotions like joy, gratitude, hope, pride and love help us feel expansive and we are able to be more creative. We build stronger relationships and live healthier lives. Not because of the lack of stress but because the positive emotions actually enhance these processes in our brains.

However, people do not automatically move into the positivity mode. If you have been overwhelmed with problems you might be stuck in a negativity rut. The real good news is that we all can train ourselves to cultivate feelings of joy, gratitude, awe, serenity, hope and love. If you can find even a few moments of these feelings then those moments are the seeds of a flourishing life. And there is research to show that for many people nurturing those seeds can be just as effective as antidepressants. With no side effects.

Some people need a personal coach. A positivity trainer. A professional who can teach you to refocus and cherish the good feelings through overwhelming times. I cannot think of a better investment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Love, Positive Psychology, PTSD

A Start on the Path to Positivity

In my last post I proposed that people suffering from complex PTSD can improve their lives by increasing positivity. Although many people see this possibility, others feel so overwhelmed that they feel it impossible. While that is the nature of C-PTSD, I have worked with these people to overcome the obstacles and progress on the strive to thrive highway.

There are many tools and techniques that have been developed by positive psychologists in the past ten years. Although I have found them to parallel techniques that have been around for thousands of years, these new formulations are based on research and fit well into our modern perspectives. One powerful and simple exercise is the “Gratitude Journal.”

The Gratitude Journal is really a very simple exercise. You set aside ten minutes at the end of the day to write in a journal three things that occurred that day that engendered some level of gratitude. Then add on to that some reason for why it happened. The events can big big or small, significant or humble, it makes no difference. Anything from, “my daughter gave birth to a healthy child,” to “a lady was nice to me while in line at the supermarket.” When citing a reason, it needs to be anything that makes sense to you. If you do this for three weeks you will almost certainly see a positive change in your life.

Some people claim it is difficult to find things to be grateful for. Of course, that’s true. But not because there aren’t reasons to be grateful. It is because you are not practiced at thinking positive. And while there are really good reasons for that, it is the lack of practice that keeps your mood negative. The purpose of keeping a Gratitude Journal is to train your mind and heart to be more open to positivity. As you struggle to find events to be thankful for you are creating neural paths of positivity in your brain. The more of positivity paths up there, the better you feel.

I have done this myself and with dozens of other people. A few people need help to begin the habit of finding and expressing gratitude. With even slight help everybody can find positive points to be thankful for. And every person who I know that has completed even a few weeks of this journal has sung the benefits.

Some people ask: how long do I have to keep this journal? Remember that the goal is to train your mind in the positive direction. So the schedule would be similar to other training endeavors. At first it is important to work on it on a daily basis. But once you’ve gained the skill, only maintenance is needed. That means only two or three times a week. On the other hand, you will find that it will become an enjoyable activity.

Hey, a healthful activity that’s enjoyable. We can all use that!

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Positive Psychology, PTSD

Not Common Cold Depression

var hs_portalid=121953;
var hs_salog_version = “2.00”;
var hs_ppa = “arihahn.app11.hubspot.com”;
document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + document.location.protocol + “//” + hs_ppa + “/salog.js.aspx’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));


Like all psychiatric diagnoses, depression is defined by its symptoms. Other illnesses are usually defined by the cause. A sore throat is a symptom while strep throat is a disease. Once we realize that depression is a symptom we notice that it is a symptom of numerous conditions.

Depression can be a symptom of thyroid disfunction. We know of SAD which is caused by lack of sunlight. There is post-partum depression. Also, since depressive symptoms are more common in women of childbearing years there seems to be something in thay population that preciptates those symptoms. The same is true for men with sexual dysfuntions.

In all of the above mentioned groups most people never have serious problems. They are resilient. The big question is how to increase resilence. Most psychologist can tell you how to combat depressive thoughts when they invade your mind but only recently have researchers and clinicians focused on prevention of depressive habits.

There are a number of useful habits. One well known exercise (mentioned by Martin Seligman in his new book, “Flourish”) is to write down your daily accomplishments. This type of journal has been shown to produce results in as little as four days. I have seen it work with true skeptics. It works because it forces us to think about what we have done well. And although many of us have been taught that complimenting ourselves is immodest and prideful, we all feel good with a job well done.

The resulting good feelings produce endorphins in the brain which ward off depressive symptoms. It allows you to rejuvenate your immune system and reduce actual stress. And it is more efficient than pleasuable distractions like watching a movie or having a good meal (which is also beneficial.)

This works for most people when they are overwhelmed but it is debatable that they are depressed. People who have too much stress. When responsibilies compete for your attention and you feel that if you do not give your all then things will fall apart.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized