Get your hopes up!
Between the years 400AD and 1400AD nothing much happened. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, has a theory: he believes that for those stagnant one thousand years people were hopeless–they didn't believe in the power of their actions to change the world. Perhaps you've heard of learned helplessness, the phenomenon where people who encounter inescapable events believe that nothing they do matters. Initially it was thought that learned helplessness is a conditioned response to trauma. Seligman discovered that the opposite is true: helplessness is our default response to aversive events. We learn, with the help of our pre-frontal cortex, to become hopeful, and to believe that we can take action that will improve the situation so that the future is better than the past. The focus of this week's 5-Minute Recharge is hope, the positive energy that fuels peaceful protests and the only way the world will ever become a better place. We're hopeful that this edition of our newsletter will encourage you to take action to make your world a better place. Let's get started! ONE HOPEFUL QUOTE “Daddy changed the world.” – George Floyd's daughter, Gianna
"It really gave us a sense of hope that it's not going to be forever. The physical feeling just felt so like home." Carolyn Ellis designed the hug glove to embrace loved ones during the pandemic. (Addie, who is starved for hugs, wants to order a package of 100 hug gloves for friends and family.) THREE HOPEFUL IDEAS #1 THE 3.5% RULE If you think that you are only one person and your voice doesn't matter, consider this: research shows that nonviolent protest by only 3.5% of the population has never failed to bring about positive transformation. Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University, was initially skeptical about the power of nonviolent protest. However, she has found through a study of 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns that peaceful civil resistance by ordinary people works, not only as a morally superior choice to acts of violence, but as the most effective way of changing the world. Chenoweth found that nonviolent protest is twice as successful as violent protest, with success defined as achieving its goals within one year of peak engagement. Nonviolent protest attracts more people than violent protest that tends to have age, gender, and fitness requirements, is easier to discuss openly, and invites broader support, even among police and military who can imagine themselves and their families as peaceful protesters. And protesting for something you believe in feels good. “I'm looking at my little tray of microgreens, sleepless with fear about the devastation just around the corner, yet hopeful too because the dam holding back rage has broken.” – Imani Perry, from “A Little Patch of Something” #2 WORDS OF WISDOM FROM A DAUGHTER OF HOPE Chika Stacy Oriuwa, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, was elected valedictorian of her 2020 graduating class in medicine at the University of Toronto. As the only black person in a class of 259 students, Dr. Oriuwa doesn't fit the image some people have of what a doctor should look like. In fact, she has been in emergency rooms where the person on the table–even though she was dressed in scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck–thought she was the janitor. But Dr. Oriuwa has hope for the future. Thanks in part to her advocacy, there will be 24 first-year black medical students in the University of Toronto's class of 2024, an all-time record. Having attained her medical degree, she intends to specialize in psychiatry where she wants to make a difference with the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our society. Dr. Oriuwa encourages us all to connect with our values and think about how we can advocate for the causes we believe in without fear of being ostracized for our beliefs. “I want to challenge the notion that being an advocate and living in your authentic truth are mutually exclusive from belonging.” – Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa #3 SMILE Martin Seligman has two recommendations from research in positive psychology for the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. But first a little terminology. Being cheerful, having fun and smiling a lot is known among positive psychologists as displaying positive affectivity. Optimism is defined as a belief that the future will be better than the present–optimistic people believe that setbacks are temporary, localized, and controllable (pessimists believe setbacks are permanent, pervasive and there's absolutely nothing you can do about them). About 15 years ago, researcher Sheldon Cohen decided to explore how positive affectivity and optimism affect viral infection (including infection with a type of coronavirus). High positive affect (i.e. smiley) people got shorter and less severe infections. Optimists got infections at the same rate as pessimists. So if you want to avoid the worst effects of coronavirus, you should have as much fun as you possibly can. Seligman is following his own advice by listening to Meat Loaf, getting a puppy, cooking good food, gardening, even dancing. Thinking ahead to the post-pandemic world, there is massive scientific evidence that the most resilient people, the optimists, are the people to rebuild. In summary, during the pandemic, as difficult as it may seem, have as much fun as possible. As the pandemic eases, it's optimism and hope that will matter, so work on becoming more optimistic (it is possible!). “This is the very first time I've ever endorsed the smiley face. The smiley face matters. Right. Now. 🙂.” – Martin Seligman *********************************** The Fast Five 1. Three Things the Most Resilient People Do Every Day - Eric Barker (Eric Barker tells us how to be hopeful) 2. Is Your Job Killing You? - Indiana University (Mental health and mortality are linked to three job stressors) 3. The Coach in Your Head - Against the Rules podcast with Michael Lewis (The coaching profession took flight with The Inner Game of Tennis...) 4. Inside Roy Halladay's Struggles with Pain, Addiction - ESPN (Roy Halladay's widow tells her late husband's story to help others) 5. The Roots of Loneliness - The School of Life (We all need someone to share our weirdness with) *********************************** YOUR 5-MINUTE RECHARGE CHALLENGE AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT “I felt helpless and thought to myself, 'I'm just another protester if I go down there alone, but no one can ignore a black woman sitting on top of a horse.'” – Brianna Noble Brianna Noble felt helpless until she decided to ride her horse Dapper Dan to Black Lives Matter protests in Oakland. She wanted to give the media something positive to look at that might change the narrative that had started to emerge around looting and destruction. Brianna Noble also wants to make the equestrian world more welcoming to black and brown people and to become the first black woman to do horse jumping in the Olympics. Dapper Dan gave her a majestic pedestal upon which to share her message. This week's 5-Minute Recharge Challenge doesn't involve a horse or a pedestal. A new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience found that new and diverse experiences have a positive effect on mood, and the good feelings linger. A pandemic is no excuse for doing the same old, same old. How can you shake things up? Take a five minutes to jot down as many activities as you can think of to add more variety to your routine. Bonus points if it involves a horse. “At a time where our movement is constrained, it would be similarly beneficial to seek out other forms of novel experience―what you're reading, what you're watching, who your social contacts are―in the ways that it's still possible to create diversity in the experiences in your control.” ― Catherine Hartley, psychologist at New York University and co-author of “Association between real-world experiential diversity and positive affect relates to hippocampal-striatal functional connectivity“ Hoping you enjoy a novel and diverse week ahead, Lynne & Addie