Inspiring Reminders to Think, Live and Love Well

Inspiring Reminders to Think and Live Well

Monday, January 31, 2011

Adjust your sails

"I can't change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination"    Jimmy Dean

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Your look at life

Always remember what Kahlil Gibran said, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

How do you look at what happens to you?  We filter everything that comes into our life through the lens of our attitude.  What we focus on about a situation will determine how it makes us think and feel.

So, if you're looking at your life with rose-coloured glasses, you're sure to notice all the things that are going well, all the good around you.  If instead you put on the dark shades, you'll  miss out on seeing the light and beauty they are blocking. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Half-Empty or Half-Full?

Half-Empty or Half-Full? 

I love this article by Tim McLauglin.  When you're asked whether  the glass is half-empty or half-full, how do you answer?  Usually we assume that the optimist's glass is half-full, while the pessimist has a half-empty glass.  Tim offers a new perspective:

A Different Way to See It
Here’s how I actually look at that glass.
It’s completely full.
Now, you may be thinking I’m crazy, and who knows, you just might be right.  Please let me explain.
The glass is half-full of water.  However, the other half of the glass is full of air.
You may think this is silly, but here’s what I’m thinking.  When you see the glass as full of both water and air, you’ve changed your perception.  You’re looking beyond the obvious.  You’ve opened your mind to other possibilities.
Break Out of the Rut
The next time you find your thinking stuck, look beyond the obvious.  Is there another way you can look at a particular problem?  Can you change your perception of the situation?  Let your mind wander and be open to other possibilities besides the obvious ones.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Optimistic Child

by Sharon Carlton                                 

     If you could immunize your children so they would never have to experience the pain of depression, wouldn’t you line up for the shots?   Preventing emotional distress is not quite as quick and easy as receiving a needle. However, it is possible to arm our kids with the resources and tools they will need to fight off the psychological bugs that threaten their happiness. 
     Depression was rarely reported before the 1960’s, but since then, it has become the common cold of mental illness.  Most shocking are the numbers of children and teens who suffer from feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and sadness.  Dr. Martin Seligman, a world-renowned research psychologist has coined the phrase “psychological immunization”, as it relates to teaching children the cognitive and social skills they need to resist depression.  His extensive studies have proven that optimism safeguards children against developing depression, builds lifelong resilience and self-reliance, boosts school performance and social capabilities, and even improves physical health.  In short, optimism just may be the secret to happiness.  
     Optimism is much more than positive thinking.  Crucial to its development is knowing this: we can choose what to believe about the situations we experience.  Adversity, stress or  “bad things” don’t automatically cause “bad feelings”.  Before the feeling comes our perception – what we choose to tell ourselves about what happened. Therefore, it’s actually “bad thoughts” that cause “bad feelings”. That’s the key, because we can learn to change our thoughts to make them work for us.  
     First, we can teach our kids to “catch their thoughts” – recognize what they say to themselves when things are tough.  When Suzie receives a poor math grade, she tells herself, “I’m stupid”.  Evaluating that automatic thought and generating a more accurate explanation would lead Suzie to say, “I failed the test because I’ve been ditching the homework and I didn’t study”.  “I’m stupid” not only leads to depressed feelings, it leaves no room for hope, change or improvement.  The alternative allows Suzie to focus on how she can do better next time. 
     We can look even more specifically at the way our children think about situations by examining their explanatory style.  There are three dimensions to look at:
1.      Permanent vs. Temporary: When pessimistic Joey strikes out at his baseball game, he says “I always strike out, I’ll never get a hit”.  He explains his failure as if it’s a permanent fact.  Optimistic Johnny strikes out too, but he tells himself it’s a temporary situation:  “Okay that’s over, next time I’m really going to focus on watching the ball”.

2.      Pervasive vs. Specific: When Allison wakes up with a new pimple, she pessimistically lets it grow even larger:  “This zit is disgusting.  My face is a complete mess.  I’m so ugly”.  Melissa lets the pimple be just a pimple:  “I’ll put some cover-up on it, and today I’m going to wear my favorite sweater that I know I look great in.” 

3.      Personal vs. Impersonal: Pessimistic kids give themselves too much blame for unpleasant situations.  When Jeremy’s friend, David didn’t show up at their planned meeting place, he jumped to the “because of me” thoughts:  “He doesn’t like me anymore.  It’s because I’m boring and not popular”.  More realistically, Jeremy should also look at some “because of someone or something else” thoughts.  “Maybe David’s parents said he couldn’t come.”  “I wonder if David thought I meant the other playground?”

     If your children can recognize when their thoughts turn pessimistic, they can learn to challenge those thoughts, to be detectives looking for all the possible explanations.  You want them to choose realistic thoughts, not just cheery positive thinking.   When kids can challenge the pessimistic thoughts, and redirect their focus with an optimistic attitude, they can cope with anything that life sends their way.  You cannot prevent the adversity in their lives, but you can teach them the tools to bounce back and carry on.  

This article was first published in Calgary's Child Magazine

I was also interviewed and featured for the Canadian Living article by Jacqueline Foley called the Bright Side of Life

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology can be loosely defined as the study of positive human functioning. What makes us live well and thrive?   It asks questions about what makes a good life.  How do we live a meaningful life? What is happiness?  It is the study of strengths and virtues, self-efficacy, success, hope, optimism and resilience.  Positive psychology teaches us about using our power to create the best lives we can.  This field of study is relatively new, even though traditional psychology has been around for many years.  The traditional approach looks more at the understanding and healing of illness and problems.  For example:  how do we treat depression?  A positive psychology approach complements this beautifully.  How do we define fulfillment and happiness?  It's more than just the absence of depression.  The study of what makes life good tells us what works, what we can change and how to do it. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Get an A+

It's exam time at my house, so I've been doing a lot of thinking about "thinking for success".  Unfortunately, positive psychology can't give us any short cuts or easy outs.  There's no way around it - we have to learn the material and put in the hours of studying in order to achieve great results.  If you've done the work, though, you CAN give yourself an extra edge by harnessing the power of your mind  to give you it's very best .  Now it's not good enough to just tell yourself "I'm going to ace the test" if you don't already know your stuff.  No substitute for good old hard work.  However, It is incredibly useful to add some simple strategies to your study routine:

1.  Study Skills:  Before your study session, take five minutes to RELAX your mind.  Whatever works for you is great.  Maybe it's meditation or listening to a piece of music.  A favourite of mine is to visualize myself enjoying a calm and peaceful beautiful experience.  Imagine your "happy place".  Close your eyes and take ten slow, deep relaxing breaths.  Now your brain is ready to learn.

2.  While you are studying:  Check your focus throughout your study session.  Is your mind on topic?  Interact with your material by quizzing yourself:  What did I just read?  Can I explain it back to myself, or pretend to "teach" it to someone else?  When your mind wanders, gently encourage yourself to come back on task.  Take breaks to refresh yourself and clear your head if you get bored, sleepy or frustrated.

3.  Success Talk:  If you talk to yourself in positive, encouraging ways, you will give yourself the best chance of performing well.  There are two big reasons why this works:  First, it just makes you feel good, feel confident, and feel pride in how hard you've worked.  Second, a positive attitude keeps you relaxed and focused.  It allows your brain to learn, retain information, and most importantly, it let's your brain do what it needs to do during the exam:  think clearly, problem-solve and remember what is stored in your head.  Negative self-doubts just take up too much space and use up too much energy.  Fear, tension, anxiety and self-criticism are all blocks to learning and performing effectively.  So fill your head with the realistic self talk that works:  I CAN do this!  I've spent many hours preparing!  I understand the concepts!  I'm ready for this.  I know my stuff!  I'll just continue to do my best!  

4.  Before you take the test:  The night before the exam, make sure you take some time to do some relaxation, breathing, visualizing and supportive talking to yourself.  On exam day, do the same:  Before you start:  relax, breath and give yourself that last minute boost by talking your way to success. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Changing Directions

Even the smallest of changes today can kickstart a lasting change process that leads to something wonderful.  Each step today will help to define a new pathway for tomorrow.  When you remember to act with intention, every little decision will keep you on that new path.  Before you notice, you really have changed direction. The new thoughts, attitudes or behaviors are a habit.  You really are traveling the new road that you chose to be on.  Whatever the goal, start small.  What one baby step can I take today?  What is easy and doable?  No matter how small, it's a start, and a start is all you need.  The next baby step will follow more easily if you congratulate yourself for the first.  Be your own cheerleader, recognize everything you do that fits with your plan, and CELEBRATE your achievements. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thinner Women get thicker paycheques

Thinner Women get thicker paycheques, research shows

So, another study has come out to tell us that, no, we're not actually amazing just the way we are.  In fact, if you're a woman who doesn't conform to the current ideal of thinness, then your paycheque will suffer.  Thinner women make a lot more money - it's a fact, whether or not it's fair.  So how do we accept ourselves, just as we are, flaws and all, when the world can be so unkind?  It's times like this when we really need to remind ourselves of all the strengths that we already possess.  What are the many positive qualities that you have?  How can you accentuate all the characteristics that you already feel good about?  What do other people say about you?  Can you take in those compliments and the positive feedback and believe those things to be true about you?  What are the things you do well:  Can you do more of them, more frequently?  Whether in the workplace or in the rest of your life, focus on your strengths.  When you believe in yourself and all the many wonderful things you are capable of, that confidence will show.   How you feel about yourself on the inside will show to the world around you.  Unfortunately, we can't control cultural stereotypes, but we can choose how we present ourselves to others.  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Find your sunshine

This gorgeous photo by Jeff Cartwright really captures the fabulous mood of my morning walk.  The sun was shining brightly in a beautiful blue sky, and finally, after too many bitterly cold days of hibernating inside, the world just seemed so cheerful and inviting to me once again. Sunny days are like that for me.  I love to enjoy the great outdoors, breath deeply, and soak up all the splendor of nature around me.  The good mood and expansive "I can do anything" feelings are priceless. The challenge, then, is to find my sunshine when the days are miserable, or there isn't the time or opportunity to get out there and get inspired.  So, I try to find ways to connect to that sunniness more often.  Sometimes just browsing through some lovely photos, or looking at a cherished memory in my imagination are enough to make me smile and remember that wonderful spirit-lifting mood.  What are the simple, easy ways that you can connect to your positive emotions?  How do you find your sunshine?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's a Dog's Life!

One of my very favourite things to do is to watch a dog at play.  Pure, unadulterated bliss!  Dogs really know how to live well.  Every moment counts for them.  The joyful leap and successful catch of the Frisbee.  The soft purring grrrr of delight when you rub a belly.  Wet, sloppy kisses of love for every new best friend they meet.  T he tail-spinning dance of anticipation when you say the word W - A - L - K.  Who else but a dog experiences such delight to see a loved one after a day of work? Watch a dog, learn from a dog.  They are truly experts in positive, optimistic living. 

Friday, January 21, 2011


It's the little things we do today - the small moments of satisfaction or pleasure - that will define how we evaluate and feel about our lives.  I often marvel when I look back over the precious moments of raising my children, that it wasn't the big events that stand out for me.  Some of my favourite memories are the simple ones:  cuddling and reading stories, chatting after school with a cup of herbal tea, dressing up the dog in Dad's reading glasses..... Yes, those really are the big things.  I think that's what a happy life is all about.  Be in the moment, savour the everyday flavours of every experience, no matter how inconsequential they seem at the time.  Stop and smell every darn rose you see, just because!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Life is a Gift

I can't remember who said it, but I love the quote:  "Every day above ground is a great one".  So true, isn't it?  That kind of basic gratitude about life is a wonderful place to startEverything else is then gravy.  It's an effective  habit to really be appreciative about what we have already.  Of course we can always strive to want and have much more - we need that to keep growing.  But when we start from a place of acceptance and thankfulness,  it's easier to get to making the changes we want. What an awesome gift our lives are.  And what an exciting challenge for us all to really make something of the few precious years we have.  What does that inspire you to do today?  It doesn't have to be anything big...... what small way can we all make a difference?  A helpful gesture, a smile, a hug?  Every little thing helps to create a big life!

Welcome to A Daily Dose of Positive Psychology

Hi, I'm Sharon Carlton.  I'm a Registered Psychologist from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  This is my first jump into the adventure of blogging.  I'm excited about sharing my ideas about positive psychology, optimism, and achieving goals.  My intention is to post a bunch of my own articles as well as share the great stuff that others have contributed.  Basically whatever is inspirational, motivational and empowering.  Hopefully it will help to brighten your day, help you focus on your strengths, and make you more and more confident in your ability to shape and create your own life.  So, you're welcome to join me in a daily dose of FEELING GOOD.