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Staying Connected

Family researcher and psychologist, John Gottman, Ph.D. suggests that small emotional connections between partners add up to big-time relationship satisfaction. He compares them to making steady deposits in a bank account and watching your savings grow.

Taking time to make these connections can be challenging in our busy world, and especially during the increasingly busy holiday season. For those of you who would like some creative inspiration, here are some ideas on how to stay connected with your special someone. Pick the ones that work for you. Use them as a starting point to create your own “quick connects.”

  1. Make sure your kisses last at least six seconds. Every now and then go for a full minute.
  2. Write them a love note– on the mirror, in their lunchbox, purse or pocket, or text/e-mail it.
  3. Send funny and/or romantic cards by snail mail or e-mail.
  4. Get silly with each other and laugh out loud together.
  5. Grab your partner for a spontaneous dance when a favorite song comes on the radio or stereo.
  6. Hold hands.
  7. Send a funny photo on your phone.
  8. Ask about each others’ days.
  9. Listen with 100% attention—make eye contact when you talk.
  10. Give a one-minute shoulder or foot massage.
  11. Do something unexpected for your spouse.
  12. Snuggle on the couch.
  13. Touch each other with affection.
  14. Notice and comment about something your spouse does that you like.
  15. Say thank you and you’re welcome.
  16. Be interested in what your spouse is doing. Offer to help.  
  17. Leave a flower or special treat.
  18. Write a poem for your special someone—it’s ok if it’s silly!
  19. Offer to cook dinner if you aren’t the one who usually cooks.
  20. Post photos on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror that remind you of wonderful times you’ve shared.
  21. Offer to take the kids out of the house for a while and give the other parent some alone time.
  22. At night, step outside together for five minutes and look at the stars.
  23. Sing to each other.
  24. Establish a weekly ritual that you faithfully observe. For example, watching a favorite television program, taking a walk after dinner, putting candles on the table.
  25. Watch a sunrise or sunset together.

Try this…

  • Make up your own list of things to do to quickly connect with your spouse.
  • Make sure you do at least one thing from your list every day.

This research and information was provided by Naomi Brower


 Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown Publish


Top Four Tips to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

The holidays often encourage many to reflect on what they are most grateful for in life. Cultivating gratitude can lead to amazing benefits, not just during the holiday season but year round. Some of these include:

  • Improved relationships with others. Having an attitude of gratitude makes us nicer, more appreciative, enhances empathy, and reduces aggression. As a result, it can help us deepen our friendships, improve our marriages, and help us develop new positive relationships with others.
  • Improved mental and physical health. Gratitude helps us to better cope with stress, increases self-esteem, and helps in boosting our coping skills when challenges arise. It also boosts our immune system. Research has also shown that gratitude can help individuals have more energy and more and better sleep quality.
  • Career boost. Gratitude can lead to better decision making, people skills, and can help boost productivity and goal achievement.

Gratitude has some amazing benefits! So how does one better cultivate this attitude of gratitude? Consider these four quick tips for increasing gratitude.

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Write down one or two things every day that you are grateful for. Get creative—searching for those small things like having warm water for a shower or a bed to sleep in can help to develop an attitude of gratitude. Reading through past entries can also provide a positive boost when needed.

2. Share your appreciation

Let others know that you appreciate who they are or what they have done. How to best show appreciation will depend on the person (a written note, a small gift, taking someone to lunch, giving a hug, etc.) but a sincere thank you is always appreciated.

3. Look for the positive

How we interpret the situation can impact our future thoughts and feelings. For example, when facing a challenge, look for the potential benefits such as increasing patience or empathy for others. Ask a friend or family member for help when it seems difficult to see any positives from a situation.

4. Create a list 

Some people need a visual reminder to maintain mindfulness of gratitude. For those individuals, it may be helpful to create a list of people or things that they may often take for granted and place it where they will see it often.

If you haven’t already, consider giving yourself the gift of gratitude this holiday season. It is free, doesn’t take much time, and the benefits are enormous, long-lasting, and one of the simplest ways to improve life satisfaction.

This research and information was provided by Naomi Brower


Mindfulness: How to Exercise a “Muscle” for Emotional Well-Being

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a special kind of awareness – the awareness that comes when we purposefully pay attention to the present moment without judgment. It may look like formal meditation (e.g. a narrated loving-kindness meditation), informal meditation (meaningful pauses throughout the day), or mindful movement (e.g. yoga or stretching).

Mindfulness is the opposite of being disconnected, caught up in the past or afraid of the future, or being on “autopilot.” It isn’t meant to help you avoid, suppress, or distract yourself from emotions, behaviors, or experiences. It isn’t about forcing your thoughts or feelings to change.  Mindfulness is about experiencing emotions, thoughts, and sensations in a way that will allow you to have a healthier relationship with and response to those elements of your everyday life.

 Why Practice Mindfulness?

Practicing mindfulness has been found to have a multitude of physical, mental, and emotional benefits, including improved resilience, self-concept, energy, positive emotions, openness, enthusiasm, self-control, and ability to relax. It has also been associated with decreased depression (including prevention of relapse), anxiety, loneliness, pain, and relationship issues.

Mindfulness helps to rebalance the “thinking” and the “feeling” parts of the brain so you can be problem-solving oriented rather than overwhelmed with anxiety and other negative emotions.  Mindfulness can also help you tap into resources that you already have so you can not only rise to challenges but engage with parts of your everyday life in a more meaningful way.

How Can You Practice Mindfulness?

Mindfulness takes patience, compassion, and courage. If you feel like you don’t have much of those right now, don’t worry. Act on what you do have to start practicing and it will pay off because one of the great things about mindfulness is that it also helps cultivate patience, compassion, and courage. Don’t try to force this new awareness, be careful about having specific expectations, and remember that it’s okay to struggle with it, especially at first.

You can start practicing mindfulness without a formal exercise. As you’re going about daily tasks, just do and focus on one thing at a time whenever you can. It’s natural for thoughts to wander, so when your attention wanders from the present task, gently guide it back. You can also practice “noticing what you notice” throughout the day. This could be your reactions to events, such as getting stuck at a red light. Try to do this without judging the moment or reaction; it’s about becoming aware of what’s already going on, which will help your brain respond in a healthier way.

If you’d like to go further with mindfulness, here are a few practices to try:

1. Mindful Breathing

Get into a comfortable position and close your eyes. Turn your attention to your breath, noticing what it feels like as it flows in and out of your body. Breathe slowly and pay attention to your stomach. Feel it expand and sink with the breath. Let yourself fully experience your breath in this moment and throughout your body. Whenever your mind wanders, acknowledge the distraction and gently guide your thoughts back to the breath. Continue for about ten minutes.

2. The Raisin Exercise

Hold a raisin (a grape or berry will also work) between your finger and thumb and take time to really look at it. Notice its color and texture and the way it interacts with light. Next, notice its scent. Then, without chewing, put the raisin in your mouth. Feel its texture as you move it around. Take one small bite of the raisin, taking in its taste and texture. Maybe there’s a difference between the inside and the outside.  Finally, eat the raisin slowly, noticing all the ways it interacts with your senses.

3. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Find a quiet place and a comfortable position, and approach this exercise with an open heart for yourself and others. Begin with directing kindness and acceptance toward yourself. It’s okay if you resist this idea at first, just breathe and repeat silently: “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful and live with ease.

Now turn your thoughts to someone you respect and send this loving-kindness toward them. After a few minutes, think of someone you love unconditionally and silently repeat the mantra. Do the same for an acquaintance you don’t have strong feelings about (positive or negative) and lastly for someone you are struggling with in your life.

  • This particular meditation has been found to lead to an increase in a wide range of positive emotions.


Don’t rush these exercises. Let yourself make the most of the moment. For more practices (and extended versions of the ones shared here) to help you cultivate mindfulness, visit

Remember, mindfulness is not a quick fix.  It takes time and practice to have this kind of awareness come naturally, but it is worth the effort.  Eventually, you might come to realize that mindfulness is more than a treatment; it can become a way of life.


 Akhtar, M. (2018).  Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression.  London, United Kingdom: Watkins Publishing.

Goldin, P. [GoogleTechTalks].  (2008, March 1). Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation [Video file]. Retrieved from

Korb, A. (2015). The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z., and Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007).  The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness.  New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Benefits of Family Traditions

As the holiday season approaches, you may be beginning to think of all the things you need to do to get ready. Family parties to organize, Halloween costumes to finalize, Christmas gifts to shop for, all of the food you will be cooking, and the list goes on. Even though the holidays can be stressful at times with all the work we put into our various family traditions, there is a purpose behind this madness. Did you know that family traditions and rituals are actually very healthy and beneficial? In his article titled “Children and Adults Need Family Traditions,” Gregory K. Fritz from Brown University states,

“For children, the most important traditions and rituals are family-based. The way a family celebrates holidays, birthdays, or developmental milestones; the family stories or jokes that are told and retold; memorabilia such as favorite ornaments, treasured photographs or handmade articles; the foods, like grandma’s cookies or Aunt Myrna’s potato latkes, where the preparation and eating link generations — all provide essential continuity, consistency, and coherence to children’s lives.”

Now that sounds like a great outcome, but how do we make sure that our family traditions really pull us together and benefit our children for years to come? Here are a few suggestions from Dr. Fritz:

  1. Create traditions that have symbolic meaning. Something that communicates to the children that “this is who we are as a family.”
  2. Include the whole family. Make sure that children and adults in the family of all ages can participate in some way and feel part of the activity.
  3. Slow down and set aside specific time for the tradition. Don’t make it something to rush through just to check off your holiday to-do list. Make sure that these traditions represent quality time together.
  4. Have open discussions about what the specific tradition means to the family. What does each member enjoy about the activity and why is it important to them?
  5. Make sure that the traditions are associated with positive feelings. It’s not worth it to continue something that only brings stress to every member of the family. Choose things that can be remembered with fondness years down the road.

So as you start making your plans for the seasonal festivities, take time to think about what family traditions you will be participating in this year, or what traditions you want to create. Make them meaningful and enjoy creating memories that will bond your family together throughout the years.

Research provided by: Samantha Marshall


Fritz, G. K. (2004). Children and adults need family traditions. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 20(1), 8. Retrieved from

Parents: The New Media Mentors

Being a parent means that you hold many roles. You are not only a caregiver but also a cook, teacher, nurse and much more. One of those roles includes being an example. Children are often described as being like sponges, able to absorb and learn things that are and aren’t explicitly taught. One of those things is how media is used in everyday life. There are many different opportunities for parents to show children how to be a good digital citizen. Digital citizenship is how we act and how we use technology in our lives. Being a good digital citizen means that we act civil online. That means talking to others with respect when using technology, especially on social media sites. Digital Citizenship also includes sharing and respecting those who have differing positions and ideas. It means being respectful with how technology is used in public and open spaces. Below are four tips to help you become a media mentor and provide an example of digital citizenship for the children in your life.

1. Model balanced media habits

Balance can be difficult to obtain in any section of our lives. From determining what activities to participate in after a long day of work to figuring out how to eat a balanced meal, we seek to find balance in all that we do. One of the things that needs balance the most is the way in which we consume and use media. This balance can be found by fostering media awareness. This includes looking for opportunities to unplug and to keep your focus on your relationships and those who are physically around you. It also includes a balance of the type of media we engage in, for example, watching TV and movies both for educational and recreational purposes. Balance in media use shows children the importance of focusing on being present and allows media use to become something more than just mindless scrolling or constant binge-watching.

2. Co-engage with media

One of the best ways that parents can teach media habits is to consume media together with your children. This includes, but is not limited to watching TV with your children, asking them questions about their online activity, playing video games with them, etc. Co-engaging with children can help them learn skills like how to mediate what is real in the media and what is not. For example, a young girl who is watching a romance movie with her mother can engage in conversation about how the expectations for the relationship are not real or how the timeline of the relationship isn’t healthy. Co-engaging in media allows for parents and children to have conversations they may not have otherwise and can become one of the best ways to model healthy media habits.

3. Discuss media related best practices

Parents can help children learn what is right and what isn’t by talking to them about it. The same way a child learns that they should say please and thank you is the same way children will learn media related best practices. These practices have general rules and guidelines but are enforced and different for each family. Some examples of best practices might be:

  • Talking to someone who is face to face with you is more important than answering a text message.
  • Don’t talk to strangers online, and if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable report it.
  • Being respectful of others’ opinions, even if they aren’t the same as yours.

Although this is not an inclusive list, it gives an idea of what parents might choose to set as best practices for media usage in their family.

4. Set limits on how/ when/ where technology & media are used

The adage of “do what I say, not what I do” is very relevant when learning how to set and enforce limits on technology. As children see their parents setting limits in their own use, they may be more likely to follow the example and respect the limits set by the family. It is important to recognize that these limits will be very unique to each family. For some families, it may mean limiting media use to certain places in the home and for others it may be limiting time. Whatever limits are set, make sure that they are followed by parents. It is hard for a child to learn what an appropriate limit is when they see one thing, but are told to do another.

Becoming a media mentor can seem like a big task to take on. The most important thing to remember is that it starts with being an example. To become a media mentor means to show that you, as an adult, are practicing good media habits. Children learn from what they see, so take a minute to become more self-aware about how you are currently using media, and resolve to be an example for those around you, especially your children.

This research and information was provided by Tasha Killian, MFHD


Common Sense Media Inc. (2016, May 03). Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance | Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Staying Connected with “At Home” Dates

Finding time alone as a couple is an important aspect of maintaining a strong and healthy relationship. Couples with children often struggle to have the time or energy to reconnect as often as they would like. While it can be a challenge to find the time and resources to go “out” on a date, there are many fun activities couples can do at home to reconnect, especially after the kids are asleep. In order to make “at home” dates successful, follow these three tips:

Keep it simple. Going on a date with your sweetheart is about connecting with each other. Activities do not need to be elaborate or require a lot of time or energy. Even 20 minutes of uninterrupted quality time can boost a relationship.

Make a plan. Because you are staying at home, it will be easier to just fall into the normal routine rather than to have a date night, so plan what you will be doing and when. This will also help you to know what you might need to do or buy to be ready for your date. Be sure to take turns choosing the activity (complaints on either side can spoil the fun).   

Focus on each other. Once again, because you are at home, it is often easy to get distracted by housework, electronics, etc. Commit to focus only on your spouse and the activity you are doing together for the timeframe you have planned. Where possible, make an effort to connect through conversation throughout your date, especially about personal thoughts and feelings (not just about the kids).

Ideas for “at home” date nights:

  1. Stargaze. Set up a blanket in the backyard and enjoy looking at the stars. For bonus points, get a star map and try to identify constellations.
  2. Walk in your partner’s shoes for an evening. Swap your normal “duties” for the night to try to understand life from your partner’s perspective. After the kids go to bed, discuss your experience.
  3. Look through old photo albums and reminisce together. If you feel really energetic, make it a time to put loose photos into albums or delete out-of-focus and duplicate digital files.
  4. Have a fondue party. Dip your favorite veggies, fruits or snack foods in cheese or chocolate. Yum!
  5. Curl up for an evening of reading. Find a book you both enjoy and take turns reading to each other.
  6. Go dancing. Check out a dance instruction video or find one online and turn your living room into a ballroom.
  7. Camp in your own backyard. Set up a tent, snuggle and tell ghost stories. If you have a fire pit, light a fire and roast marshmallows and make s‘mores. If not, improvise using a gas stove, barbeque or microwave.
  8. Go gourmet. Sample a few types of cheese you haven’t tried before with crackers, bread or fruit and critique each one.
  9. Cozy up on a blanket in front of a fireplace and have a picnic or treat. No fireplace? You can improvise with a bunch of candles grouped together.
  10. Watch a classic romantic movie or funny videos on YouTube. Make a fluffy bed out of pillows and cushions on the floor for a fun change.
  11. Play board games or card games. For a fun twist, decide on a service or treat that the winner will receive.
  12. Get sweet. Have an ice cream sundae bar, experiment with creating your own smoothie recipes or have a chocolate tasting night.
  13. Have an at-home spa night. Light some candles and give each other a massage, take a bubble bath or if you are feeling adventurous, treat each other to a pedicure or facial.
  14. Create a dream board of pictures or a list of places you want to visit or fun things you would like to do together in the future. Make a plan to make one of them happen.
  15. Get active. Try a new exercise video together or take a stroll around the outside of the house to get some fresh air.

The research and information was provided by Naomi Brower

3 Tips for Building Optimism

Optimism is a pattern of thinking that allows you to believe in good things and regard life events in a positive light. People who practice optimism are better able to rise to challenges and cope with adversity, and they experience less depression, distress, and anxiety. Optimism contributes to positive emotions, good health, and success. It allows you to focus on finding solutions rather than getting caught up in the emotions your problems produce. Optimism is most beneficial when it is flexible and realistic because you can be hopeful and motivated as well as have an accurate view of your situation so you can be prepared if things don’t go as planned, be empathetic, and know how to achieve success.

The core of pessimism (negative thinking habits) is helplessness, which leads to an emotional downward spiral. If you are being pessimistic about a challenging situation, you’re less likely to put in the effort needed to find success or a resolution, and thus more likely to have things not go your way. This will confirm negative beliefs and perpetuate self-fulfilling prophecies, making it more difficult to be motivated or hopeful.

Luckily, this helplessness is often learned –  luckily because, despite genes, environment, or experiences, helplessness doesn’t have to be permanent. Optimism can also be learned to replace it. It is possible to interrupt patterns of negative, pessimistic thinking and introduce more helpful thinking habits that will allow you to find solutions and experience more positive emotions in your life. Here are a few ways to get started practicing optimism:

1. Simple as ABCDE

For the next week, when you recognize a negative event in your life, write it down in a notebook or journal. Identify the Adversity (what happened), your Beliefs about the event at the moment, and the Consequences of those beliefs (your behavior and emotions). To guide your thoughts to a more helpful place, use one of the three Ds: Distraction (e.g. calling a friend), Distancing (e.g. going for a walk), or Disputation. Distraction and distancing are great for helping to manage the immediate intensity of emotions, but the disputation of negative beliefs is often the most effective tactic.

Disputation involves finding evidence to support or counter beliefs and alternative explanations for the negative event. These steps will help prevent catastrophizing when pessimistic thoughts get out of control and lead you to harmful extreme beliefs (e.g. you might as well give up on being healthy because you ate one thing that wasn’t in line with your diet plan).  Next, ask yourself what the implications are of having a belief and how useful the belief is to you. Will it make things better to hold onto it? Even if a belief is true, these steps can help put things in an empowering perspective.

Try to write about five events and the thoughts they trigger. This process won’t eliminate negative beliefs or emotions, but it will provide alternative paths that will help you see that adversity isn’t permanent, it doesn’t have to affect everything in your life, and it’s not all your fault.

2. Time to Worry

If you find yourself overwhelmed by worries, acknowledge the anxious thoughts and schedule a time to think through them later. Choose a time when you know you’ll be calmer and have 15-30 minutes of “worry time.” If the worries pop up outside of this time during your day, distract yourself with something such as exercise or a mindfulness technique. You might write the worries down. This can help take away some of their power. Try to solve the problems one step at a time instead of all at once.

3. Is It Possible?

Optimism doesn’t always mean believing that good things will happen but that they could. When facing a challenge or disappointment, ask yourself if it’s possible that something good could come out of it – that may be a better job or clearer understanding to help with relationships. Imagining good things happening helps your brain develop the ability to think optimistically.

It’s natural to have negative thoughts and beliefs when difficult things happen. Their presence doesn’t make you weak, stupid, or hopeless. It may sometimes feel like they are in control and that it’s no use trying to find alternative thinking habits. However, thinking habits aren’t written in stone. Through trial, error, and perseverance, you can learn to make these tools a part of your everyday life and enjoy the improved physical and psychological well-being that comes from practicing the “psychological self-defense” of conscious optimistic thinking.

  • You might also try the “Best Possible Self” and other practices found at to help you look on the bright side.



Akhtar, Miriam (2012).  Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression.  London, UK: Watkins Publishing.

A Healthy ‘We’ Begins with a Healthy ‘Me’

More and more research is coming out about the impact of positive psychology and mindfulness on couple relationships (Khaddouma, 2017). It makes sense, right? If we feel happy about ourselves and our lives, we are much more likely to transfer that to relationships, especially with a significant other. You’ve heard the phrase, “A healthy ‘we’ begins with a healthy ‘me’. But what does that mean exactly? One of the best ways to take care of our relationships is to take care of ourselves as an individual. This means mentally, physically, and emotionally. When we feel stressed, anxious, tired, depressed or overwhelmed it is harder to be patient, understanding, kind, and loving to our partner. This can make small disagreements spiral into larger problems, or just inhibit our ability to feel loved in the relationship. So, focus on maintaining a healthy “you”. Here are just a few suggestions to try:

1. Savoring

  • Go on a walk outside and take in what you see, hear, and smell.
  • Enjoy eating something you love. Try taking slow, small bites and focusing on the sensations in your mouth. What does it taste like? How does it feel on your tongue? What are the sounds you hear while eating it?
  • Slow down and take in the moment. Watch your kids giggle, admire your partner from afar, observe happy interactions between family or friends.

2. Get some exercise

  • Ride bikes to the park.
  • Do some yoga.
  • Go on a run.
  • Work out at the gym.
  • Find what feels best for you!

3. Self-regulate

  • Do some square breathing (breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, repeat).
  • Play with a stress ball, playdoh, putty or something else you can squeeze to release muscle tension.
  • Do a puzzle, craft, or something else that requires concentration.

4. Treat yourself

  • Sit down and read a book for 20-30 min.
  • Take a power nap.
  • Enjoy a warm bath or shower (use a bath bomb if you’d like).
  • Get a massage (from a professional or from your partner/kids).

5. Focus on the good

  • Make a list of things you’re grateful for in your life. Add to the list throughout the day.
  • Think of your 3 greatest strengths. You may be a great listener, or maybe you have a gift for fixing things around the house. Identify what those strengths are and see how you can use them that day.
  • Find some way to serve someone. Do something out of the ordinary. It doesn’t have to be big, but put some effort into it.


Khaddouma, A., Coop Gordon, K., & Strand, E. B. (2017). Mindful Mates: A Pilot Study of the Relational Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Participants and Their Partners. Family Process56(3), 636651.


Developing Grit to Meet Your Goals: Where Passion and Perseverance Meet

If you could do anything or develop any skill, what would it be? We value hard work in American society, but we might secretly admire talent more. We find it more exciting to think that someone is a “natural” than that it took a lot of effort to develop their skills. This may be one reason many people give up quickly when things get hard and waste their potential. What might change if they knew that research has shown when pursuing excellence in goals that matter to us, the combination of passion and perseverance may count more than talent? Even if you don’t think you have very much talent in something that matters to you, you can still succeed in it as you develop grit.

If you’d like to be more gritty, the first step is to recognize where you are right now in relation to goals. Do you have a life philosophy? For example, you might be striving as a parent to help your children develop social, physical, and psychological health. You might even have several overarching purposes – one for your career, another for your marriage, etc. It’s okay if you don’t have a clear philosophy yet and if it changes over time. The important part is that you have something that can fuel and guide your other “lower” goals and actions.

Grit is about more than working hard. It involves working toward the same important and inspiring top-level goal for a long time. To do this and have your dream be more than “positive fantasizing,” you need to have related mid- and lower-level goals that take into account what might get in the way of you and your ultimate goal. You also need to let go of small goals that don’t matter to you as much and that may be distracting from what matters most.

As you consider where you are and where you would like to go, keep in mind these four key assets research has identified in gritty people that can be grown by anyone.

1. Interest

Finding a passion about takes time and interaction with the world around you. You need to experiment and be patient, keeping in mind that you might not even notice at first that you’ve discovered something that can engage you for a lifetime. Once an interest is triggered, it takes a lengthy, proactive period to develop it.

2. Practice

It is important to seek continuous improvement of your passion through deliberate practice – that is, to have a clearly defined goal that will stretch you, fully focus on the task, seek and receive feedback from yourself and others (What went well? What can you do better?), and repeat the process. Figure out what practice time and place work best for you and make it a habit. Finally, learn to embrace the challenge of difficulty rather than fearing it by practicing nonjudgmental self-awareness in each moment. As grit expert Angela Duckworthy would say, “effort counts twice,” (that is, it both helps you develop a skill and put the skill to good use) and practice is an important part of effort.

3. Purpose

Purpose takes the motivation for developing a skill beyond personal interest; it’s all about finding ways to use the skill to help other people. This determines the difference between a job or career and a calling, and it can be cultivated as you find small but meaningful ways make changes to connect your current work or situation to your core values and strengths.

4. Hope

Hope is more than a feeling. It involves recognizing that we can make a difference in our own lives and keep getting up with a determination to make tomorrow better. Practicing hope takes updating beliefs about our ability to change, practicing optimistic self-talk*, and reaching out to others for help.

 If you don’t know what your passion is yet, that’s okay. Go out and try new things, focusing on “fostering” a passion rather than following it. If you struggle to improve on something that matters to you, great! That can provide valuable feedback that will help the skill go even deeper.  If your purpose is unclear to you, don’t worry. Keep your eyes and mind open, reflect on when you have felt most connected to others, and experiment. You might also complete the questionnaire found on viasurvey to gain perspective of your strengths and how they can affect other people. If you feel like you don’t have much hope right now, hold on to what you do have and try to thread it into every step of the process of nurturing these skills. It’s an invaluable asset and will grow as you practice it.

Grit in itself doesn’t make for success, health, or happiness overall. It’s important to develop other dimensions of your life and your character beyond it. However, grit can play an important part in what you are able to do in many areas of your life. With grit, you can make the most of whatever talent you have to develop skills that matter to you, use those skills to benefit people around you, and find fulfillment as you make the most of your potential.


*See the article “How to Learn and Practice the ‘Psychological Self-Defense’ of Optimism”



Duckworthy, A. (2016).  Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.



Engage with Your Life: How to Find and Use Your Strengths

Is there something in your life that makes you say, “this is the real me?” Something that gives you energy. Something that you do when you are at your best and would do for its own sake? Playing music? Building things? Cooking? Whatever it is you enjoy doing, it’s probably a strength for you, and research says that using it more can help you in a multitude of ways.

Strengths help with optimism, confidence, finding direction, producing positive emotions, and having insight. They even build resilience against adversity and protect against mental illness.  They help you perform well and overcome a negative self-image. In a word, they can help you flourish.

Everyone has strengths. It’s just a matter of identifying and figuring out how to use them in daily life. Once you start using your strengths, it will set up a virtuous cycle of performing well, triggering positive emotions such as satisfaction and confidence, and overcoming the natural bias of your mind toward negativity. This will lead to more success, and the positive spiral upward continues.

To get started discovering and activating your own strengths, consider the following tips:

1. Make a List

Begin writing a list, perhaps in a journal, or even in your phone, of positive personal qualities (e.g. kindness or humility) and performance strengths/talents (e.g. organization) you can see in yourself. Include things you’re naturally good at (e.g. cooking or showing empathy) and ask friends and family what they see as strengths in you. Add to the list whenever something new comes to mind. For a rewarding, research-based boost on this, complete the free VIA Character Strengths Survey found at

2. Reflect and Act

Every day for a week, consider one of your strengths. How can you use that strength that day? Try thinking of how it might help you at work or with a personal challenge. Write what your strength is and how you plan to use it that day.* You can broaden this by imagining other new ways to use your strengths that will help you be motivated and feel like your real, best self.

3. Look Forward

To get a better idea of how to reach your goals, spend some time each day writing about what your ideal life would look like in the future. Consider what you really want for your relationships, career, health, etc. and include as much detail as possible. This will give you a better idea of what goals would be most helpful for you. Identify a few of those goals then choose one and ask yourself how one of your strengths can help you reach that goal. Write through your thoughts and plan a few small steps in the direction of your goal, applying the chosen strength.

Becoming familiar with your strengths can help you recognize the good in yourself and give you tools to both overcome challenges and enhance the positives in life. Strengths are assets that enable optimal performance, helping you feel authentic and energized. They are both a sign of and a contributor to well-being, and they can help you find the direction in life that will be most fulfilling for you. You already have strengths; now is the time to find and use them to engage more fully with your life.

* Based on the “Use Your Strengths” and “Best Possible Self” practices found at, which has other great exercises that can help you develop strengths.


Akhtar, M. (2018).  Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression.  London, United Kingdom: Watkins Publishing.