Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Gifts of Gratitude

THE GIFTS OF GRATITUDE – Daily Practices Boost Emotional Wellbeing
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.  It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
-- Melodie Beattie
A daily dose of gratitude may be just what we all need to improve our mental health and buffer against the effect of stress. Being grateful helps us be mindful of what is around us and shifts our focus outward.  Thankful people have been found to are happier, have stronger relationships, are more optimistic, exercise more and have fewer visits to physicians. Here are four things you can do to benefit from gratitude:
1)     Gratitude Inventory and Reflection
Make a list of the 100 things you are grateful for and keep it nearby to remind yourself on tough days. Include in this list:
·       What do I take for granted?
·       What challenges have made me a better person?
·       Who are the people who have improved my well-being?
·       What are the opportunities in the future that I look forward to?
·       What gives me joy?
·       Where do I find unconditional love and support?
Some people find it helpful to gather physical reminders of the things they are most grateful for and put them into a “hope kit” – pictures, thank you letters they have received, and so on.
Start and end your day by reflecting on these gifts and sending intentions of gratitude for their presence in your life by saying, “today I am especially grateful for…” or “my life is better because…is in it.” Notice the sensations you feel when you make these mental intentions of thanks.
2)     Give Thanks Freely
Look for small acts of kindness in your day and offer unexpected thanks without expectation of anything in return. Quick notes or comments of gratitude go a long way for the giver and receiver.
3)     Do the Gratitude Dance


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cultivating Innovation

By Guest Blogger, Jess Stohlmann

Growing up, I remember hearing my mom tell me, “Perception is reality.” She said it so often, that it became a sort of script for me. When people talk about a problem or a situation and have a very narrow, focused view, that is always what runs through my mind. What my mom was talking about when she said, “Perception is reality,” is so much more complex than it might seem on the surface.
First, there is an assumption that perception is not the same for all people. This means that there are constraints on perception, and that these constraints are different for each individual. This study is a great example of what I mean: 
The Simon & Levins “Door Study” shows us that there are constraints on what people perceive. When people are busy doing one thing, something that seems obvious from the outside can change without them noticing. If you think about how the subject would talk about what happened and what was important, it would probably be very different from what we, the observers would identify as what happened and what was important.
Perceptual constraints aren’t just what we are focusing on and what we are ignoring. Stereotypes put constraints on our perceptions, our past successes and failures shape how we approach problems, etc. All of these constraints narrow our perceptions. They narrow our perceptions so uniquely, that the way each individual perceives the world is different. That is part of what my mom meant when she told me, “Perception is reality.”
The other part of what she meant is that most people do not spend any time trying to remove perceptual constraints, so to them what is ‘real’ and ‘possible’ must exist inside those constraints. Innovators are people who can overcome their perceptual constraints.
Being innovative isn’t just a natural skill that certain people have; all people are capable of being innovative. We can create conditions in which innovation is cultivated. We can open up spaces for innovation by practicing overcoming our perceptual constraints. Using new methods for problem solving is a practical way to start. Here is a process you can try:·       Assume that all problems have multiple solutions
  • Generate a lot of ideas – do not allow yourself to stop after you have come up with a few easy solutions. Problems are hard (that’s why they are problems) and solutions should not always be easy.
  •  Spend time assessing the ideas
  • Assume that innovation is based on utility – the best solutions are useful, not just different
  • Choose the best idea and use it!

Once you start opening up spaces for innovation while you are problem solving, innovative approaches to other aspects of work and play will become easier and more natural. Practicing innovation broadens the scope of our perception, and makes things that previously seemed impossible, possible.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Gratitude Overflows in the Glass of Social Entrepreneurship

By Guest Blogger, Jess Stohlmann

This month, the Carson J Spencer Foundation is celebrating our core value of gratitude. Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has. It is what gets poured into the glass to make it half full, and increases the wellbeing and happiness of those who cultivate it.  In addition, grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—increases energy, optimism, and empathy.

As social entrepreneurs, gratitude is central to our work. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” If we replace ‘art’ in his quote with ‘social entrepreneurship,’ it rings equally true. Gratitude shifts the focus from what is lacking to the abundance that is already present.

Shifting focus from weakness to strengths is at the core of social enterprise. Social entrepreneurs celebrate the gifts of both for profit and for impact sectors by utilizing the strengths of each to solve the root causes of social issues. We look upstream to the root of problems, and then draw on the strengths of our community, entrepreneurship, and empathy to make the glass half full – or even all the way full.

I love the “full glass” metaphor; it allows us to really think about what we are bringing to the table and how to combine the efforts of others for the benefit of all. When I think about our glass right now, here is what I imagine it filled with: strong partnerships, passion for our cause, skilled leadership, innovative ideas, and practical solutions. That glass is pretty full to me. Having a full glass opens up opportunities that we never thought possible. That is what social enterprise is really about – using gratitude to recognize the value of all the things we have and bringing our glass full of possibilities to the table.

Monday, March 4, 2013

How Mentally Healthy is Your Workplace?

photo credit: Nelson Webb @Flickr

By Sally Spencer Thomas, Psy.D

It’s not an easy topic to discuss. Suicide, that is. There is a lot of fear based on misperceptions about it. While pamphlets can disseminate information, they are usually not effective enough to shift attitudes or prompt discussion or even help people.  The fact is, the majority of people who die by suicide are working-aged people, and yet most of the suicide prevention efforts target youth. By training workplaces to be better able to identify people at risk, early in the progression of a mental health disorder, more people will get help.

Employers and managers are leaders who can champion a mentally resilient and thriving workplace. They do this by understanding that mental health issues are like other health issues and advocate for promoting protective factors, minimizing risk factors and giving access to quality care. When people are in crisis, these leaders can offer guidance on how to navigate the balance of workplace functioning and individual well-being.

How do you get there?

A great place to start is to take the online assessment.  Part organizational review and part environmental scan, the questionnaire is designed to get workplaces thinking about the many ways they could promote mental health in the workplace. The assessment is helpful, but it is really just the foundation, and one page from the Suicide Prevention Toolkit, which is a Working Minds Program and part of the Carson J. Spencer Foundation.  But the results from the questionnaire will help set the stage for the workshop that follows.

Utilizing the Suicide Prevention Toolkit, employee assistant or human resources personnel, will be able to lead between 25-35 people through the program. The program is practical, user-friendly and seen as highly effective tool for suicide prevention education in the workplace. . One of the main teaching tools is the DVD, which creates a forum for dialogue and critical thinking about workplace mental health challenges. Designed to be implemented over the lunch hour or as a half-day session, the workshop opens the lines of communication and lets employees learn and practice new skills, including help-seeking and help-giving skills.   

Just the employer is encouraged to take the organizational assessment; there is research that supports the use of anonymous online screenings for employees. Through WorkplaceResponse, a program of Screening for Mental Health, employers have a unique opportunity to offer a customized online screening tool that will let employees determine if their symptoms are characteristic of various mood and anxiety disorders and alcohol problems. 

Both programs are about preventing crises through a proactive approach. Both programs are low cost, high impact approaches that empower workplaces to help their vulnerable employees move from distress to coping, communicating that the workplace cares about the well-being of their workers, not just their immediate performance. Both programs have the potential benefit beyond the workplace. In other words, the skills/information acquired in these programs can be applied to family members, neighbors and more. This positions the workplace as responsible corporate citizen and this holistic approach can increase morale.