Have you had an especially tough year? Fear not, many adults have been, or will end up here at some point in their lives. That point in your life when you feel like everything around you is working against your happiness. The feeling can be likened to quicksand. Any tactics used to escape can make it seem like you are sinking lower and faster.
On October 1, 2014, my husband walked out on me. We weren’t fighting, no one was unfaithful, we still loved each other (and still do)…he just wasn’t happy in our marriage. I teach happiness so I understand when someone wants to pursue their own happiness. I was devastated but I understood. I was overwhelmed with sadness but I was not angry. I want to share with everyone out there going through a tough year how I stayed healthy and happy during the worst year of my life. I will walk you through my very personal account of my worst year, then tell you how I prepared myself to process all the negativity around me and proceed with a healthy and happy life.
I am always fascinated by how common it is for people ending a marriage or relationship to be angry with each other. I frequently witness rants on Facebook where people trash their ex, brag about cutting off funds from them, and forcing their spouse into poverty…I guess I can’t speak for all of the unfavourable reasons why people split – like cheating and constant fighting. If that was me, I think I would be angry too. However, our health and happiness is in our hands so we need to focus on how we can control that in a bad situation.
My divorce was an amicable split, and I’m grateful for that. And, in a way, I think both my ex and I chose to end it that way. We CHOSE to be amicable. We swore we would not get lawyers involved or yell at each other over this. We CHOSE to be nice. That all stemmed from honesty. Rather than hiding our true feelings to ourselves, which is why I believe people encounter infidelity, fighting, and a fall out of love, we CHOSE to be honest with one another. My ex CHOSE to be honest about his unhappiness. He CHOSE to find a solution to his unhappiness. As much as it hurt me, I have to respect his decision to be honest. It broke a relationship apart, but it saved it from degrading into a bitter, unhappy, and unhealthy relationship. Armed with the truth, we are far more prepared to come to grips with a bad situation and pursue happiness for ourselves.
Honesty helped me understand this devastating situation and move past anger rather quickly, but what came next was a bit harder to move past. Honesty did not help relieve the incredible sadness I felt for the loss of my husband, for the loss my children were feeling and for the loss of our life together. I felt so alone. I felt a tremendous hole in my life – like a limb was missing. I felt like my whole future had been erased. And where did my past go? It felt as if someone stole a huge part of me, making me feel like I wasn’t myself anymore. But therein lies the solution. How, in the face of sadness, do we find ourselves again? There is no one size fits all for this conundrum. For some people, it takes the support of family and friends. For others, it may be revisiting things from your past that you may miss. I always recommend that people revisit hobbies/passions/interests, call them what you will, and breathe life back into them. What commonly happens to people suffering from sadness is they tend to ruminate on the past. It stops them from living in the moment and finding new happiness. Instead, they long for the old happiness in the past, and ruminate about why it’s gone, and possibly how they can get it back.
As much as I hate to say this, things can get worse. Sometimes we hit a point where we think it could never get worse. Then it does! What then? A few weeks after my divorce with my husband, my mother, who was 87 and living in a nursing home, decided that she didn’t want to eat anymore. I tried making her favourite meals and fed them to her, only to have her throw it all up a few minutes later. Every time I went to visit I watched her die a little bit more. For months I was visiting her every day. Every day she refused to eat. This only added to the mounting sadness I was feeling. I needed to pull myself together, but it seemed that 2015 was just a runaway train. Was there a stop I could get off at anytime soon? Unfortunately, the bad news kept rolling in.
Month after month my mother stayed alive by drinking protein drinks. But I knew she was slowly passing. She didn’t want to stay any longer. On August 10, 2015, she passed away peacefully. I remember seeing her in the casket. She looked so beautiful, just like she was sleeping. Once again, the sadness was overwhelming. Both my father and mother were now gone. Then, on September 26, 2015, my father-in-law – the man who was like a father to me – died suddenly. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease but he was comfortable and we weren’t expecting him to go that day. At this time, I was so tremendously grateful for the resilience training I had. You see, I study the science of psychological well-being and I teach it to audiences around the world. So I knew what I had to do to stay healthy and happy at this very difficult time. I was overwhelmed with grief and sadness and I wondered how people without my training get through times like this? How is it possible?
I think of times like this as the ‘Olympics’ of our lives. The most challenging thing we could imagine. And I can’t imagine going to the Olympics without training first. With all the training I had, I was ready to go to the Olympics and succeeded at not falling into a depression. Nor did I need to resort to medication to get me through this (Not that there is anything wrong with that if you need it). I also didn’t binge drink or eat to fill the void. I did the opposite in fact. I ate better than ever and went to hot yoga every day. I knew that taking care of my body would be the best thing I could do for my mental well-being. The research really does support the idea ‘healthy body, healthy mind’.
The funny thing about our brains is that a lot of what we feel is about how we perceive things, rather than what is actually reality. Through years of stress, sadness, trauma, etc we form these filters. They can be a strong reason why we ruminate about things we perceive as injustices against us. Rather than finding solutions to the problems these filters sometimes give us justifications. For example, some people cannot mend relationships with family or friends because their filter makes them perceive any, or all, their actions as purposefully harmful. Sometimes we can release ourselves from this toxic way of thinking by changing our perspective.
In my darkest year, I turned to gratitude. When a door closes in our lives we often sit for so long at that closed door, angry, filled with resentment, banging on that door, wishing it would open. And yet it stays solidly shut. We forget that we have a whole life going on – if we only had the mental energy to turn our attention to all the other good things still in our lives. I decided every morning I would wake up and make a list in my mind of what I was grateful for. Good health, family, friends, living in a great city…the list goes on forever. And don’t underestimate the power of actually putting this list to paper. Putting something on paper makes it feel even more real and appreciated rather than letting it float around in your thoughts. Gratitude was my greatest resilience tool and still is to this day. You cannot be unhappy when you are appreciating everything around you. And there is always, always, always something to be grateful for. This is when I realized that humans don’t have a single path to happiness. We have to open ourselves up to all the possibilities that can result in happiness.
With an overwhelming sense of sadness in 2015, I also reached out to my friends to find solace. And I did every day. When my husband walked out, my girlfriends came to my rescue. Every day they texted, took me out, dropped by my house with food, uplifted me with kind words, took me dancing…you name it, they did it. On October 1, 2015, I decided to invite all the girlfriends who were involved in my healing to a special thank you dinner. There were 22 women around the table. I told each one of them how they contributed to my healing. I told them all how grateful I was for their friendship. To this day, aside from my daughters, my girlfriends are the greatest gifts of my life. When you focus your energy on what you’re grateful for, you deprive your mind the time to ruminate on the past. You have the power to leave the past in the past. And once you do you will find yourself a more positive person.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF! I was also a good friend to myself during my roughest year. What I mean is, I was self-compassionate. With so much going on, it would be easy to beat myself up and say negative things to myself. I wasn’t going to go there. Never once did I utter an unkind word to myself. Come hell or high water, I was going to treat myself like my best friend would treat me. With love, friendship and kindness. And that made all the difference. We have to forgive ourselves for our mistakes because everyone makes them. We also have to remind ourselves that it isn’t necessarily our fault that bad things are happening in our lives. We have the power to perceive, so use a filter that is set to a default of kindness and compassion for yourself.
Until next time,
The workshop is very dynamic and time flies. It definitely gave me more consciousness of what I think, I feel, do and how I can do a much better job. The content is powerful and so are the exercises and resources provided. I do think that this is the first step to a happier, fulfilling life. I would love to take more workshops about this subject. Thank you Louisa so much for this opportunity. I had the best 6 weeks.
I love your video blogs and your recent talk to entrepreneurs you have a way of distilling the science into real actionable interventions. Also the talk you did re contingent self esteem was a Wow and my clients have really benefitted from learning about it. You take the ivory tower to main street. I also really admire your authenticity and use of self. You are an exemplar.”
Thank you very much for taking the time to present to us here at Sterling Hall on Tuesday. I have had numerous teachers, parents, and administrators say what an incredible session it was. All of our brains are brimming with programming and activities we can implement both at home and at school to help our students and children realize their character strengths and use them to help build their resiliency. So, thank you again.
After spending years studying the roots of confidence, Louisa Jewell offers a toolkit for building and rebuilding it.
Thank you for a great course! It was a wonderful class – full of useful and thought-provoking information. And, I liked the balance of classroom learning (which I love) and some exercises to apply what we talk about. You are also able to handle all sorts of questions well. I was so curious – I hope I did not bombard you with too many questions as I was loving what we discussed and wanted to learn more! Kudos to you on your continued success with all the work you do. Warm Regards and continued success – it is well-deserved.
I loved Louisa Jewell’s Flourishing 101 workshop series. I learned so much about happiness, positivity and how to increase both. I have so many new tools to use and am able to refer to them whenever I need to. It’s been extremely useful and I recommend it to anyone!
The flourishing 101 course was an eye opener. When you look for the positive around you, guess what you actually find more of the positive. It?s the power of intention. I discovered how I could use my top strengths to create more success in my personal life and career. Sometimes what we are naturally good at we take for granted. This course will change how you interact with others and bring more positivity
Thank you again so much for the excellent session! It is so valuable and pertinent and, as I mentioned at the beginning, theoretically grounded and also practical – a rare and wonderful combination.
Thank you again for another great webinar. You and Shannon are both so engaging. It is rare in a webinar to actually feel that we are all in the room together. Somehow you both pull it off with your deep knowledge, warmth and energy. Your sessions offer a lot of value. The content is clear and compelling, and the exercises are highly relevant and immediately useful. I’m really enjoying taking the time to immerse myself in this more fully. I have taken webinar courses from other organizations and they could learn a thing or two from you and Shannon about effective webinars! You are doing important work. Nicely done.
Louisa has the unique ability to engage a diverse audience with her expertise, humour and engaging style. As our key note speaker she enlightened the audience on the science of happiness and how happiness effects our well-being. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive; guests were inspired and delighted to listen to such a knowledgeable professional about a topic that everyone craves to know more about. I would recommend Louisa as a key note speaker, she is truly one of a kind!
Let me just say WOW, WOW, WOW!!! You are a pleasure and a joy! Everybody loved your presentation, your warmth, kindness, approachability, and collaborative approach! Thank you so much for a phenomenal conference. The afternoon portion was also fantastic and more intimate which was really lovely, and it got all of us to breathe and connect more with one another. I cannot wait until our next opportunity to meet again, it was a very moving and concrete presentation, you are a natural and your delivery is so very genuine!
Plain and simply speaking, you were a hit! Your morning keynote address set a meaningful, happy, and upbeat tone for the rest of the conference. Our staff responded to your presentation style and message because it is what we needed to hear and feel at this time. We are a great College, with great staff, and May is the end of a full and active year of classes and programs, successes and challenges. Thank you for helping to make our conference a great success.
Louisa was my instructor for The Flourishing Center’s CAPP (Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology) course held in Toronto Canada. She was excellent in her delivery and included many different approaches to teaching and learning which helped me retain the information better than any other course I have taken. Her enthusiasm and commitment to her work is an inspiration and she is brilliant at what she does. Thank you Louisa for opening up the world to brand new possibilities for me. You are a gem in the world of positive psychology and beyond!!!!
You can’t help but feel better about yourself after spending some time with Louisa. Her energy and enthusiasm is infectious, mix that with her engaging teaching style and you have the ideal learning environment for anyone interested in positive psychology. I have been blessed to learn from Louisa in a classroom and conference setting and I can honestly say that she has changed my life.
Timely and well-written, Jewell helps translate complex research into a book that is understandable, practical, and vital for not just surviving the modern world, but remaking it. Amidst all the competition, demands upon our time, and societal pressure, Jewell provides a clear path forward, not only for you but for girls and women everywhere striving to define success and worth for themselves.
#1 NY Times bestselling author, Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul
Wire Your Brain for Confidence offers a practical step-by-step guide to achieving goals for anyone who has struggled with self-doubt. Louisa Jewell demystifies the science behind action-oriented confidence and makes it accessible to all. This book will empower you to go for your dreams and live your happiest life.
On our path towards a happier life, there may be no more important journey than the one from self-doubt to self-confidence. In Wire Your Brain for Confidence, Louisa Jewell provides an easy-to-use yet well-researched map that you can use for this important journey.
#1 New York Times bestselling author of How Full is Your Bucket?, StrengthsFinder 2.0, Eat Move Sleep & Are You Fully Charged?
Louisa Jewell has written a brilliant book that is steeped in research, filled with novel ideas, and memorable stories. I learned things from this book that I will use for years to come.
Louisa delivered a fantastic workshop on the topic of personal resilience and learning to embrace failure. Her session was refreshing, entertaining and very pertinent to our work with students.
The strategies she provided are ones we can apply right away. Our time with her simply flew by! I highly recommend Louisa as she is both an expert on and shining example of the power of positive psychology.
It would have taken me months of independent study to learn what I have learnt in just six short weeks. The classes were lively, engaging and down to earth. The practical examples and stories made the research come alive.
I especially loved the home happiness boosters turned my A-ha Moments into easy action steps with big impact. Flourishing 101 made a positive impact on my life and has given me powerful resources that I will continue to use daily.
Louisa is as generous as she is knowledgeable. If you want to be happier, don’t miss this chance to learn the secrets of flourishing from a leader in the field of Positive Psychology!
The Watercooler sessions that you offer have meant the world to me during this most challenging time in our lives. From the coronavirus to the Black Lives Matter movement, to political unrest, this is an unprecedented time in history. I am so thankful for your generosity and your teachings. You truly are a gift! Your sessions have kept me grounded and working towards being resilient, with a new awareness around the importance of well-being in everyday life and in the most trying of times. The tools you share and the way you explain them and then allow us to practice them, has been invaluable. What you’ve taught me, I’ve passed along to friends and family and in turn, helped them too. So your teachings are multiplied and touch more people than you know! A heartfelt thank you to you, Louisa!
I had long struggled with my lack of motivation and my fear of the world. I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to start conversations with strangers or to try new things. I was unhappy with the small and empty way I was living my life and I wanted to make a change, but I didn’t know how or if I could. I found the answers I was looking for in this course.
It opened my eyes to the traps I was falling into and it gave me the knowledge and more importantly, the strategies I needed to overcome them. Once I started to apply some of those strategies and to do the exercises, I started to have a more positive outlook. With that new attitude, I embraced the findings and philosophies the workshop presented and gained the courage I needed to grow into a more productive and resilient person. Now I feel more in control of my life and hopeful for my future. Friends and family have told me I’m lighter and more confident. I have mended bad relationships and accomplished long-term goals. I feel like I’ve finally left my state of arrested development behind and entered adulthood. I owe that to Louisa and Flourishing 101.
The Resilience for High Performance seminar delivered by Louisa Jewell to our sales and services teams at Patient News was interesting, entertaining and highly effective. Louisa clearly has full command of the subject. She delivered the content, true to the theme of her book, with total confidence, wit and rigor. Leading up to the session, Louisa took the time to really get to know our company, team and objectives and brilliantly structured the afternoon to meet our specific needs. From individual character strength identification to uncovering the 6 pillars of wellness, the content really engaged and I received many overwhelmingly positive comments from session participants. What really resonated were the “actual tools” Louisa introduced to help attendees incorporate the learnings into real practice. I even heard one of our senior sales executives on the phone with a prospective client saying “I work with an amazing organization that really cares about people. We recently had an expert in Positive Phycology here to coach us on how to been more effective, productive and happy. She was fantastic”. I highly recommend Louisa Jewell to any organization wanting to enhance the performance and interconnectedness of their teams. The Resilience for High Performance program is for you!
1) I felt that the PD with Louisa Jewell really had an effect on me in a very positive way. I could not stop talking and thinking about her discussions for a week or more after. It had such an impact on me that I spoke to my friends about that PD. I feel that our school needs these kinds of reminders in order to put ourselves on track and keep us conscious about our behaviors. I would love to continue to have her and listen to her and work. The best speaker and the most interesting topic I can remember.
2) I loved this PD session – more than any other previous PD. What made it unique was the universal applicability to all facets of life – family, work & personal. Ultimately, all of us working on personal growth and self-awareness will make us better role models, teachers, friends, parents, staff
Southlake Regional Health Centre
Louisa was asked to present a full day workshop to our leadership group on Building Resiliency.
Louisa’s professionalism, expertise, engaging and interactive style, together with a unique sense of humor made the day not only very enjoyable and worthwhile, but very informative. I had many leaders express gratitude and appreciation for the learnings Louisa provided. In addition, prior to the workshop Louisa was very accommodating and flexible, working behind the scenes to help make the day productive. If you are looking to educate staff or leaders on the topic of building resiliency, I would definitely not hesitate in recommending using Louisa as your facilitator. You will not be disappointed.