Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Elf4Health expertise and a blog swap

Hey guys! Today I have a very special post courtesy of the #elf4health community. Jane from Live every week like it's shark week is here to share her expertise on happiness :) Coincidentally I happened to write the same kind of post (since you all know I DON'T have a specialty) and you can find it on Jane's page and the link up Brianna  was kind enough to put together!

Hi! I’m Jane and I mostly blog about my random adventures in Boston, where we are currently covered in ice and snow. When I saw that Wednesday’s #Elf4Health challenge was “Share Your Expertise”, I wasn’t really sure WHAT to do with that. I saw the blog swap idea and I was in to swap posts, but I wasn’t sure what I am an expert on. I came up with some ideas, including television shows, sharks, saying the alphabet backward, dinosaurs, procrastination, and parallel parking. While parallel parking is still a good idea (I swear, sometimes I should get a medal) I wasn’t sure how to share that talent on the Internet. Then I realized that I actually know a fair amount about how to make your life happier.

That’s right – I have a Ph.D. in Psychology and teach a class called Positive Psychology, so you could say, I guess, that I’m a bit of an expert on how to think more positively. I base a lot of my class on Gretchen Rubin (http://gretchenrubin.com/) and her books, and also the happiness center at the University of Pennsylvania (http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx), but the idea that strikes me the most is: you can be happier if you choose to view whatever situation you are in currently in the most positive way.

The best introductory video I’ve seen comes from Shawn Achor, who teaches the same class at Harvard (here’s part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8DngXKtvEQ) If you don’t have time or headphones to watch, he starts by discussing his sister falling off the top bunk when they were kids, and before she could scream, he told her that “no human could fall like that… you must be a baby unicorn?” Not too surprisingly, that distracted her. He was right even then – if you choose to think differently about something, it will change your reaction to it.

My favorite thing to remind my students of is that you can’t change what other people do at all, but you can change how you react to it (another Gretchen Rubin idea), and that’s the best way to be happier. I try to do this all the time, but it’s hard to do! If you are sitting in traffic, which I do frequently, you can choose to be annoyed by it, or you can try to think about it in a more constructive way. The best decision I’ve made in my commuting life is to listen to audiobooks, because they make traffic better. You can only listen to the radio for so long.

So before this turns into a book, here’s what I’ve learned about how to make your life more positive (so many of these tips can be found in the #Elf4Health challenges, it’s fantastic!):

  •  Fake it (science shows, if you force a smile you will feel happier. If you can’t, hold a pen between your teeth sideways – it works because it mimics a smile!).
  • Make your bed every morning.
  • Move each day (walk, run, stretch, whatever).
  • Declutter.
  •   Be thankful
  •   Be nice to others. (The best story from my class last year was one of the guys on the baseball team getting a giant Valentine’s Day card and candy for their bus driver. She cried and said that no one had gotten her a Valentine since she was a child!)
  •  Be silly – run around the library blowing bubbles during exams (again, my students), go on the swings, watch cartoons.
  • Choose to react positively to whatever situation you are in

Hope that helps a little, and let me know if you are interested – I have tons more where that came from!

Happy #Elf4Health season, folks J


  1. I'm currently reading Gretchen Rubin's new book for my book club and I love it! Words to live by!

    1. We read some of her writing in my counseling class, I totally agree that she's great :)


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