#FABFEATS: JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Susan Oct 2017 2Today is my birthday: I am 53 years young.  As I look back over the last few years, I am both astonished and humbled by all the wonderful changes I have experienced: a new career in mental health, a completed M.Ed., a book, to name but a few.  It has been a full three years since I committed to my Positive Psychology experiment of 50 Fabulous Feats @ 50. The people, places, and things I encountered during this adventure were unfathomable when I started, yet are now an integral to the person I have become.

During the transformation of my Feats into a book, I had the pleasure of reliving my experiences; with its publication, I have seen it through the eyes of my readers who have provided feedback, words of encouragement and a commitment to embarking on their own positive psychology adventures. I have also realized that I miss the intentionality of engaging in a novel experience related to the ten “Pillars of Wellness” that blogging weekly provided.

The writing of SilverLiningFrog.com has been the most beautiful of opportunities for me; to be able to take those posts and create a book has been beyond my wildest dreams. My motivation for both remains unchanged: to illustrate how positive psychology practices can make a profound impact on one’s mental health and wellbeing and, thereby, encourage others to give themselves the gift of positivity.  I am newly empassioned to both continue my journey and to support others to discover their own positive adventures.

These practices are within everyone’s reach:  Practicing Gratitude; Cultivating Optimism; Practicing Acts of Kindness; Nurturing Social Relationships; Developing Coping Strategies; Savouring Life’s Joys; Committing to Your Goals; Taking Care of Your Body (Physical), Mind (Mindfulness) and Soul (Spiritualism).  As I discovered during my “experiment,” there are many free opportunities in your own backyard to build those “pillars.”  It is my hope that you will join me over the next year as I highlight one of area of practice each month and share evidence-base best practices, personal experiences, and opportunities to engage in your own “Fabulous Feats.”

I believe we can become part of a Positive Psychology movement that enhances not only ourselves, but the communities in which we live.  Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Join the Movement!  Like and follow:

Facebook:  Fabulous Feats

Twitter@RoxyMae1965

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My book is also available through Balboa Press:  My Year of Practicing Positive Psychology: 50 Fabulous Feats @ 50 

Cover_m.gifAs Susan Mifsud approached her fiftieth birthday, she realized her life was far from what she had anticipated. After twenty-six years of working in human resources and many more living with depression and anxiety, Susan found herself unemployed and seeking a new direction. She embraced “the upside of life’s transformations” and took the opportunity to embark on a master’s program with emphasis on mental health and wellness. She also decided not just to read about the advantages of positive psychology, but launched her own personal experiment. She focused on evidence-based research that suggests novel, intentional activities can positively impact mood and engaged in a series of firsts that were informed by her own challenges with mental illness. Susan chose a new activity connected to one of her ten “pillars of wellness” and shared her fifty fabulous feats through her blog site, SilverLiningFrog.com. This book chronicles her adventures and gives readers the tools and motivation to embark on their own feats.

#FABFEATS: ANOTHER CHAPTER

Book smm (2)It has been a number of months since my last SilverLiningFrog post and I knew this morning when I drew the Spider as my daily Animal Spirit card that it was time to return.  The Spider suggested that I should “trust the creative spark” I was feeling and “express it through writing stories that inspire and enlighten.”  I started this blog for those very reasons – to be able to share my own experiences, struggles, and triumphs so that others could recognize their own abilities to live well, with or without mental illness.

It has been more than three years since I started SilverLiningFrog and it is sometimes hard to believe all of the amazing changes that I have experienced since then.  I have been privileged in the opportunities I have been given including gaining employment in my “encore” career in mental health and completing my master’s degree in education as a mature (really very mature) student.

I have also been grateful to be able to share my adventures with all of you through my 50 Fabulous Feats @ 50 positive psychology experiment, both vicariously through my blogs, and often in person through my “feats with friends.”  I have been honoured by the encouraging feedback and observations that I have received during this journey.

During my SPARK training with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, I was encouraged to expand my scope of possibilities for 50 Feats by my fellow participants.  How might I encourage others to take up positive psychology practices and benefit from the evidence-based research that such habits can impact health and wellbeing? I was inspired to expand my dreams for my project and I cannot tell you all how proud I am to now announce that I have taken my little positive psychology experiment to the next level.  It is with giddy elation that I announce the publishing of my book: My Year of Practicing Positive Psychology – 50 Fabulous Feats @ 50 .

In my introduction to the book, I described my lifelong love of writing, and the equally enduring anxiety that often prevented me from sharing my compositions because they were, in my mind, “not good enough.”  While this book is very much a “vanity project” for me, I also know that it also represents an ability to appreciate my own worth, to practice self-compassion, and, hopefully, to inspire others who may struggle to embrace their own dreams.

It is profound that the publication of my book coincides with yet another life change.  At the beginning of June, I will be transitioning to a new position at Niagara Region Mental Health.  After two beautiful years as the Recovery (Peer) Support Worker for the Assertive Community Treatment Team (ACTT) in Thorold, I will be taking up the position of Mental Health Worker with the Welland ACT team.  While I am sad to be leaving the incredible colleagues and participants in ACTT-1, I am excited to be meeting and working with those individuals who are members and clients of ACTT-2.  The most wonderful part of this change is that, while the role will be slightly different, my lived experience with mental illness will continue to inform the work and connections I make.

Yesterday the first copy of my book arrived at my door.  I excitedly ran downstairs and showed by younger son that I had my very own ISBN!  To his credit, he showed support and excitement for me despite this accomplishment not being one to which he aspired.

I hope that the adventures and the ten “Pillars of Positivity” outlined in 50 Feats will act as a catalyst for others to progress towards their own best selves.  I look forward to your thoughts, ideas, feats completed and envisioned.  Let’s make it a new year of Practicing Positive Psychology together.

If you would like a copy of My Year of Practicing Positive Psychology: 50 Fabulous Feats @50, please go to amazon.ca

Wishing you wellness, Susan

 

 

 

#FABFEATS: THE JOURNEY CONTINUES…

As I approached my 50th birthday, I decided to embark on an adventure to engage in interesting activities that were new to me and blog about them.  The research suggested that I could positively impact my own mood through such an exercise and I wanted to put it to the test.  Little did I know that 50 Fabulous Feats @ 50 would change my life so profoundly.  As I look back, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities, my ability to share them with my community, and the learning that I experienced from each and every fabulous feat, big and small.

Some people have asked me what my favourite feat has been.  It is difficult to choose – they are all special in their own way.  I do treasure the matching semi-colon tattoo my imageolder son and I got together; we are united in the hope for tomorrow for those facing mental health challenges.  I am proudest of walking the coastal path of the Isle of Wight – 104 km in 6 days! My performance wasn’t pretty, but I did it and, despite being woefully unprepared physically for this adventure, I enjoyed the breathtaking views, the kindness of strangers, and the unexpected moments like passing by a field of grazing llamas.

When I talk about my favourite feats, however, I always add the qualification “so far.”  You see, the journey continues.  When I presented my project at the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Supporting the Promotion of Activated Research and Knowledge (SPARK) training, the first thing my mentor said to me was “you need to add a ‘+’ onto 50; this project shouldn’t have an end.” He was right.  It is a lifestyle now as each day I look for new opportunities to tIMG_0136ap into the 10 Pillars of Wellness: Practicing Gratitude, Cultivating Optimism, Practicing Acts Of Kindness, Nurturing Social Relationships, Developing Coping Strategies, Savouring Life’s Joys, Committing To Your Goals, Taking Care Of Your Body (Physical), Mind (Mindfulness), and Spirit (Spirituality).  Sometimes, it is as simple as taking a new trail with my doggie friends when we go for our daily constitutional.  Other times it is a big step into the unknown, like recently launching the website for  Susan Mifsud Consulting Services or starting my role as the inaugural LinkedIn Pulse Blogger for Healthy Minds Canada focused on workplace wellness (Working On Wellness).  

While the experiment itself doesn’t end, the researcher in me desires an evaluation of whether engaging in interesting, novel activities had a positive impact on me.  Although my assessment techniques are less than scientific, I can say that I experienced a boost in my energy levels, was motivated to complete goals, gained greater social connection, and experienced an ability to cope with stressful situations with fewer mental and physical health challenges.  This past summer I was a juror on an 8+ week criminal trial that changed my routines and exposed me to traumatic circumstances.  I ensured that I practiced my pillars including walking during lunch hours, recording those things for which I am grateful, engaging in random acts of kindness, connecting with friends and family, journaling as a coping strategy, and practicing mindful meditation.  While no one can emerge unchanged by such a tragedy, I maintained my own wellness and, hopefully, contributed positively to the wellbeing of my fellow jurors.  Though anecdotal in nature, I do believe my foray into positive psychology practices have changed me for the better.

In my 50 Feats posts, I ended each blog with “Up Next” which gave a preview of the upcoming adventure the following week.  I am thrilled to say that it has become kind of a habit now, hardwiring me to look for those novel, intentional activities that bring joy, satisfaction, peace, kinship, and thankfulness.  I continue to share the benefits of practicing positive psychology with others.  I look forward to presenting “50 Feats” in a Power Talk at the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women with its theme of Breaking Barriers.  I am also in the process of converting my blogs into a book highlighting the Pillars of Wellness and my adventures.

I want to thank everyone who has joined me on my blog travels, both in person and virtually.  I hope that I have inspired you to engage in your own “Fabulous Feats” and that you have experienced their positive outcomes.  On this Thanksgiving weekend, I know that I am truly blessed and I send thoughts of love and laughter to all of my family and friends for a joyous weekend and fabulous adventures ahead.

Wishing you wellness, SusanSusan Oct 2017 1

 

 

#FAB FEATS: TAKING CARE OF YOUR SPIRIT – SPIRITUALITY

Clouds consulting (2)It has become increasingly common for people to distance themselves from religion and instead profess to being “spiritual.”  While I believe that everyone should be respected for their personal beliefs and I am in no way anti-religion, I must sheephishly admit that I am one of those people.  My slight embarrassment is not about being spiritual, but that the term itself seems to have devolved into more of a fashion statement than a way of life.

I have always believed in what I described as the connectedness of all things. I think that my identification with the term spirituality began when I read Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.  In Dr. Brown’s words, “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.  Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.” In addition to the description of connectedness, the inclusion of love and compassion as anchors in these relationships spoke to my heart.

As I read more positive psychology research, this concept was further solidified by Sonja Lyubomirsky, who described spirituality as the “search for meaning in life through something that is larger than the individual self.”  Serving a greater meaning and purpose has been an important factor for me as I have developed my personal life perspective.  This world view has fuelled my passion for mental health awareness, community support and volunteerism, relationship building, and meditation practice.

Research supports not only the positive outcomes for a community when people participate in a spiritual way, but also for the practitioner directly. Benefits include increased lifespan, higher levels of reported happiness, improved relationships, and better mental and physical health.  Spirituality provides for a win-win situation.

An unexpected outcome of exploring my own spirituality during my 50 Feats project was a newfound awareness of peace and awe that these activities provided.  I feel connected to the world around me in a way that I was previously didn’t recognize.  I now seek out opportunities to fulfil what I have defined as my purpose, and find meaning in the life I have chosen.  My ability to use SilverLiningFrog.com to spread my thoughts and activities and, hopefully, inspire others to determine their own meaning and purpose, has blossomed as I developed my own understanding of what spirituality means for me.

I feel fortunate to have found my spiritual niche and extremely lucky to be in a position to live a life infused with meaning and purpose, connected to the world around me, and surrounded by people I love; that is my wish for everyone in a world that can be challenging and even heartbreaking at times.

What is your definition or manifestation of spirituality? Share your thoughts and ideas on my Facebook page: Fabulous Feats or Tweet out your practice using #FabFeats #Spirituality 

#FABFEATS: TAKING CARE OF YOUR MIND – MINDFULNESS

image1I know that mindfulness is a word and concept that has saturated the popular media in the last few years.  There are apps, books, and courses all designed to provide the latest zen solution to our lives of stress, worry, and the general busy-ness that is pervasive in our modern world.

I admit that for a long time I equated mindfulness with an image of a monk sitting cross legged on a pillow, eyes closed and mind free of all thought.  I was sure of two things: my fast-paced life was not in sync with spending time this way, and, even if I found the time, with my anxiety, there was no way I could ever “empty my mind.”  I concluded that mindfulness practices were simply not for me.

It was only when I began doing a little research into mindfulness that I started to change my understanding of what it really meant.  According to Jon Kabat-Zin, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Nowhere in this definition was there a requirement to strike the lotus pose.  Similarly, the need to empty one’s mind of all its content was not necessary.  I delved a bit deeper and discovered a host of benefits that had been determined through solid research practices: mindfulness had been found to slow down automatic responses; reduce stress; provide for a stronger immune system; and generally improve mental health.  I decided that mindfulness required a second look.

Despite its recent popularity, mindfulness is far from a new concept; it has been a part of Eastern philosophy for thousands of years.  However, with the growth of the field of positive psychology, mindfulness has been introduced as a scientific practice supporting improved health and wellbeing.  It has also been developed as part of mental health treatments such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

With a better understanding of mindfulness, I realized that there was no one “right” way to practice.  I was not required to sit silently nor to have an empty mind; the idea wasn’t to clear my mind, but to be aware of my thoughts, acknowledge them, and then, simply let them go.  There was no pass/fail criteria and I was able to determine a my own method.  For me,20151219_211101797_iOS mindfulness was – and is – about slowing down.

It wasn’t an easy process and it did take me some time to let myself simply “be” with all that my “monkey mind” threw at me. I found that I preferred to practice my mindfulness “on the go;” that is, I learned to incorporate my mindful practice into my daily activities.  Sometimes it was when I was out walking when I would become aware of the birds singing, the perfume of the lilac bushes, the feel of the wind through my hair.  Occasionally I would stop and just appreciate the beauty of the moment.  Other times I would recognize the stress of the moment, identify the emotion, and engage in a quiet few minutes of breathing, a grounding exercise, or a guided loving kindness meditation to bring me back to balance.

I am grateful to have discovered mindfulness in my life.  It is a practice that I recommend to everyone moving through this wildly exciting, stressful, and beautiful world.  For those who need a little support getting started, there are many resources available (many that are free) that will guide you through an assortment of activities until you find the one that works for you.

Do you have a favourite mindfulness site or activity?  Share your experiences on my Facebook page: Fabulous Feats or Tweet out your practice using #FabFeats #Mindfulness

 

#FabFeats: TAKING CARE OF YOUR BODY – EXERCISE

IOW43It is fitting that the positivity pillar of TAKING CARE OF YOUR BODY arrives just as summer is upon us.  Everywhere you look, advertisements for a multitude of diets, pills, potions and lotions promise the ideal, sculpted beach body.  While it is true that I am aware of a certain snugness in my summer clothing, this wellness focus is so much more than shedding a few pounds.  Mind and body are inextricably connected for all of us.  For someone who lives with depression and anxiety, the importance of looking after my physical health is especially important; nutrition, sleep hygiene, and exercise are critical to my overall wellbeing.  

As good as I realize it is for me, I know that I am not alone in feeling less than enthusiastic when exercise comes up.  I think that is because I associate exercise with the pained faces I see on various runners, weight lifters, spinners, and assorted gym junkies.  While I recognize that these individuals may well be enjoying their workouts, I have not found my fulfillment in such activities.

I really had to define exercise for myself in a way that made it a positive experience rather than a “must do” in order for it to gain any traction in my life.  For many years it was walking at lunch with friends; the interesting conversation that accompanied our time together often made me forget about the actual walking part.  More recently, I have discovered a new kind of routine using mindfulness and walking in nature as my way of staying active.  At times, I walk with my IPod and my favourite tunes, singing along when the feeling moves me (although I cannot, as my mother would say, carry a tune in a bucket, I happily belt out the lyrics like a rock star). On other occasions, I simply take in all the sights, sounds, and even smells that I encounter along the way.  Yes, I actually do stop and smell the roses a times, as well as the lilacs, lily-of-the-valley, and a daisy or two.  I listen to the songs of birds and of playing children, the swish of the wind in the trees, and feel the sun on my arms or the rain on my hair.  Once again, I lose myself in the moments that together make up my exercise practice.

The benefits of exercise are well researched:  better physical and mental health both during and after physical activity including reduced stress and anxiety; social connection; increased lifespan.  Some research even supports that physical exercise can have as much, and sometimes more, of an effect in improving depression as anti-depressant medication.  Exercise is also linked to improved memory, better quality of sleep, not to mention weight loss, reduction in chronic pain, and, wait for it, improved sex drive, performance, and pleasure. 

The great thing about exercise is that there are so many alternatives to choose from based upon everyone’s individual interests.  Maybe you like team sports – hockey, softball, basketball, golf.  Perhaps swimming is your love.  You may wish to attend Zumba classes, or to participate in yoga or Tai Chi.  The beauty of exercise is there is no wrong answer (okay, watching sports on television may be the exception to this rule).

What is your “go to” exercise or activity? Maybe we can connect like-minded folks through Fabulous Feats.

Post a picture, video, or note on the Facebook page: Fabulous Feats.

Tweet out your experience with using: #FabFeats #Exercise

 

 

 

#FABFEATS: COMMITTING TO YOUR GOALS

achieving-your-goalsWhen I type “committing to your goals” into Google, I get 176,000 results.  There are thousands of books, blogs, posts, tips, courses, videos, not to mention personalized pillow cases, mugs, keychains, posters, bags, and buttons that promise the answer to achieving your life’s objectives.  While I have a healthy skepticism about the impact of an embroidered head rest, the benefits to determining and moving towards your personal intentions and desires are supported by research: increased self-esteem, confidence, better coping skills (especially during times of crisis), more social connections, and greater meaning and purpose in life.

The nature of the goals is also important, with those that are intrinsically motivated (that is, not based on external rewards) and specifically authentic to you providing the most positive results.  Another key element to the power of goal setting is the idea of moving towards something you want rather than away from something undesirable; for example, it is better to pursue a new job from a place of contentment rather than in order to escape a bad situation.

My 50 Fabulous Feats experiment provided me with the opportunity to learn about and experience the positive advantages of setting and achieving goals that were personal, genuinely mine, and very much connected to my life’s passion and purpose.  As I look back, the goals I achieved over that year were significant:  I complete my M.Ed., started a whole new “encore” career as a Mental Health Recovery Support Worker as well as my own consulting service, and was selected as a SPARKie, receiving training with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to bring my wellness project to a wider audience.

It is important to recognize that these accomplishments were only achieved by making a series of tiny goals and trusting myself to take those baby steps that got me just a little closer to the finish line.  I had to tackle my fear of travelling alone in order to get to the SPARK training in Ottawa.  I needed to successfully fight my impulse to flee and remain firmly planted in my seat in that first Master’s class where the only other “mature” student was 27 years old.  Every time I had doubts, fears, in some cases, flat out terror that I would never succeed, I went back to my overarching goal of pursuing my passion for mental health and wellbeing in order to make a positive impact on the people around me.

I’m not special in my abilities; the truth is that anyone can set and achieve goals.  They don’t have to be earth-shatteringly large and they definitely shouldn’t be defined by what you think others would want you to achieve.  Too many of the people I currently serve believe that they don’t count in society because they aren’t able to work at paid employment.  The only thing that really matters is pursuing goals that are meaningful and rewarding for you.  I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone because I believed in the value of my goals. Now I am also able to support others as they determine what is important in their lives; I am truly privileged!

There are many resources for setting goals that provide steps, templates, and support, but they all have a few things in common:

  • Why:  think about your personal aspirations, intentions, and wishes (not what you think others might value or want you to do)
  • What:  consider your priorities and pick one goal to target
  • How:   determine the actions you need to take to achieve this goal
  • When:  set some specific time frames for each step
  • Who:   reach out to people who can help you to stay on track, support you, provide feedback along the way, and celebrate your successes with you.

I’d love to hear about your goals and support you along the way through your Fabulous Feats.

Post a picture, video, or note on the Facebook page: Fabulous Feats.

Tweet out your experience with using: #FabFeats #CommittingToGoals

 “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” – Neale Walsch