Maintaining Your Well-Being Despite Current Circumstances

Ivana Stulic speaking for People Builders and the Emotional Intelligence Academy at the Emotional Intelligence Online Summit for 2020 on maintaining your well being despite current circumstances.

Ivana Stulic speaking for People Builders and the Emotional Intelligence Academy at the Emotional Intelligence Online Summit for 2020 on maintaining your well being despite current circumstances.

Ivana is a positive psychology coach and consultant from Croatia. She specialises in helping leaders, HR professionals, and individuals implement positive psychology strategies that help people thrive. She has a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.

03:00 -Dispelling the myths around Positive Psychology.

05:00 - Laying a foundation around the topic of well-being.

09:54 - The impact of positive and negative emotions on well-being.

15:32 - Practical tips and strategies to induce positive emotions.

26:16 - Practicing gratitude using the 3 Good Things intervention to help you stay calm, increase happiness and resilience.

28:50 - Being more deliberate around maintaining your well-being and resilience.



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I'm going to talk about how to maintain your well-being despite current circumstances which I say is a very important topic right now. But first a brief introduction about Positive Psychology: What I find to be quite common is that there is a misconception about what Positive Psychology is. It's not the same as positive thinking. Meaning that we are not trying to have pink glasses on and trying to see the world through a different lens and not being very realistic about what's going on in the world. So that is not what Positive Psychology is.  

Positive Psychology is a scientific discipline that was started in the eighties of last century. It is a study that tries to understand human functioning and what makes it optimal. It's trying to understand both on a personal, community, or a team level - in organizations as well as in the society level - what makes us thrive and function well. Overall, the goal of Positive psychology and all of the intervention that is this:  

“Offering is to change the mental health spectrum image.”  

That is to say that if you look at the normal distribution of the amount of people who have mental disorders, the amount of people who are languishing, the amount of people who have a moderate mental health, and those who are flourishing, Positive Psychology is trying to move this spectrum so that there will be more people who have (if not languishing) moderate mental health. If not moderate then to have them actually flourish. 

What I love about it is that it's a science-based. Where scientists all over the world, offer us many insights (as our previous speaker has also pointed out precisely). And all we need to do is to be smart enough to apply these conclusions to our lives. 


As for the topic of well-being, which is what I'll be talking about today, I will first need to define it a bit because you are going to find different definitions of what well-being is.  

Let's say that as a first thought it does include happiness but well-being also includes life satisfaction (looking at life from a bigger perspective),  a sense of purpose, a sense of control over your own life.  

Well-being definitely has different elements to it: emotion, physical, social, workplace as well as societal well-being.  

You can see that it is quite a complex construct.  But I'm going to be speaking about well-being today on a very personal level. I will teach you how you can actually do some thought out interventions that are going to help you to maintain your own well-being. For that, I will be using a very well-known well-being model that was designed by Martin Seligman who is known as the father of Positive Psychology. According to Seligman, we need these five elements for our well-being.  

Here are the five elements for our well-being: 

P-ositive Emotions. 

E- ngagement. 

Positive R-elationships.  


A- ccomplishment.  

And only recently another letter has been added to this model, and that is the letter H for health.  

This article will be focusing more on positive emotions.  

I will briefly explain the other elements of the model. 

What do we mean by engagement? 

Engagement means being very engaged about whatever it is we are doing – the  work that we are doing or any other activity that we might get ourselves into. Sometimes we also refer to engagement as progressing into flow -into that particular step. That is the state when we are completely immersed in what we are doing. We forget about time. We forget about whether or not we're hungry or thirsty, and we're just into what we're doing.  

So, engagement is also an important part of our wellbeing and we should try to have activities throughout the day that make us feel engaged.  


Then there are Positive Relationships. Carine has spoken beautifully about what's, important on a societal level and how to develop our empathy and our social connections.  

It has been proven that the quality of our relationships can determine our wellbeing even more and have a more positive effect than for example, the characteristics and some factors like race, whether or not we intake alcohol, or whether or not smoke or not, are obese or not.  

So definitely, we can counterpart even some bad habits that we are doing with really positive relationships.  

Then there's meaning. We humans somehow need meaning in our lives and we need to be active about finding it. It can be just looking at life  as something bigger than ourselves and trying to find our own purpose, meaning, and mission in life- whether through work or through any other activity or to just engage in meaningful activities that we find meaningful throughout the day.  

Then there are also accomplishments. So basically setting goals (even small ones count). Throughout everything that has been happening to us, in the last couple of months, our goals can be just to get through the day, to be able to have a really good and healthy meal, or just to reach out to somebody you haven't spoken to in a long while, or if it's to contact a new person that might be a lead for your business. So it's important to set goals. It can be the small ones, or it can be bigger ones.   

Grant has previously mentioned that I recently published a book. This has been a really huge goal of mine for the past (I don’t know how many years)and took me more than two years to be able to publish it.  

So, we need to think of our goals if we really want them and if they are important for us.  

Then there's of course health. By health I mean our physical and our mental health. We need to take care of our bodies as well as our minds and our hearts.  We need to sleep well, eat healthy,  exercise enough so that we can keep our health up.  

So, this is like an overall view of the well-being module.  

Now I'm going to focus more deeply into the first element, and that is Positive Emotions.  

Why is that important? 

Well, it's important today, more than ever, because we are exposed to so many sources of not so pleasant emotions.  

Sometimes people ask me:  

“So, if your saying that there are positive emotions, you mean to say that there's also negative emotions?” 

Well, just to be very practical: Yes. But by negative, we don't mean that these emotions do not serve a purpose. All emotions have a certain purpose in our lives. However, we want to make a distinction between those that are positive (more comfortable emotions) and those that are negative (uncomfortable emotions.) Definitely, if we are exposed to a lot of negative emotions, we know that these can take a toll as Corine has already mentioned.  


Our brains are primed so that we take the negative emotions more seriously and more intensely. So, we need more positive emotions to balance each other out.  

When we speak about positive emotions, probably some come to mind and these are most common ones like joy or happiness. However, there are a number positive emotions for example, peace.  

It's something that is very important at this moment in time. Because we are exposed to a lot of bad news and with everything that's happening in the world, it is even more important that we try to find our own inner peace.  

By the way, there is research that has been done that has proven that people who watch the news on a regular basis are feeling more depressed, more anxious, more stressed out, and are overall less happy with their lives.  

To be honest, I'm not surprised. I'm guessing that you're not surprised either. I think it's very important to stress this out now: Yes, we do need to stay informed but if you have the habit of watching the news-- from morning until before you go to sleep--  on TV, on your phone, or reading the newspaper, it's definitely too much to take in at this moment. You should be more careful about how much of this negative news you are taking in. 

There are also several positive emotions like enthusiasm and inspiration. I’m sure that you can remember those times in your life when inspiration was great and something that gave you a really good, inner feeling.  Then there is awe. Awe is a feeling you get when you are looking at a beautiful sunset or a beautiful landscape, and you’re just admiring the beauty in front of you.  

Then there's relief. I'm sure you can relate to relief, it’s an emotion that you get when after an event that you were very stressed-out about ended. Then there’s contentment. Contentment is not as intense of an emotion, but definitely something that we can live with and we even find pleasant.  

Then there's pride in a very positive sense. You know, when we're, when we take pride in, in whatever it is that we have achieved, or we take pride in our kids or, or enough family and what they have achieved for themselves, and then there's hope and so many other positive emotions.  

According to research, there are more than 40 positive emotions that we can pinpoint. So, when we speak about positive emotions, we are not thinking about the happy, sparkly, joy type of positive emotion, but all of these others that all have a service and a purpose in our lives.  

So, why are these three emotions so important?  

This is one other thing that I wanted to point out.  

Barbara Fredrickson, one of the most prominent scientists in the field of Positive Psychology. She’s the author of “Broaden and Build Theory” a book which tells us that positive emotions broaden awareness and overtime enable the building of resources.  

This means that positive emotions are not only nice and give this pleasant feeling; positive emotions make us think differently.  

That's why it's important (right now) to give an emphasis on positive emotions and to somehow induce them in us. Because when you start to feel bad and you start to think in negative patterns, you sometimes spiral down and you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, you can't when you are stuck in those negative emotions. So, you need a boost of positive emotions to get you out of that negative thinking. So this is a very important service of positive emotions.  

Now, I'm going to give you some ideas on how to induce positive emotions in you. If I would be presenting to people who are HR managers or leaders in companies, then there are some things that are the same and there will be some things that are different that relate more to workplace wellbeing.  

So how can you induce positive emotions in you? 

I've mentioned before, the emotion peace, and mindfulness is a great source of peace and calm. So, if you haven't tried mindfulness yet, I definitely recommend that you try to engage in some techniques that are going to help you out. One of the very simple and basic ones is conscientious breathing.  

You can do this exercise by engaging in a couple of deep breaths. You can do this by inhaling through your nose and exhaling with your mouth.  

Try to stand or sit up straight. 

And start the exercise. 

Do this six times to reset the nervous system. 

Just notice how you are feeling afterwards. I’m pretty sure you feel at least a little bit more relaxed than you did.  

And that is the point of mindfulness. 

I also noticed that as I’m doing this I am starting to speak a bit more slowly.  

So, if you find yourself in a panicky state or really, really stressed out or anxious about something, doing is really good to start with the conscientious breathing. It’s something that we can do wherever we are and can access whenever we need to. And that is what makes it so powerful.  

I personally do this exercise whenever I’m in traffic and in a stressful situation – like when I almost got into a car accident. I try to do this exercise while I'm driving so that I calm myself down and I'm not some dangerous driver to continue my journey.  

Another example was the first time I experienced an earthquake.  I'm not sure if you're aware of this or not, but last March here in Croatia, we had quite a big earthquake. It was a 5.4 earthquake. I know that there more devastating earthquakes than this, but it was something new in our area.  

I remember getting really scared. I froze completely (It’s like I had this fight, flight and freeze instinct that happens to us instinctively). So, to calm myself, I started to do the breathing exercise. This helped me think more rationally about what action I’m going to take next. 



If you feel like you are stressed out, this is definitely something that you should be engaging into.  

Another well-known mindfulness technique is meditation. I myself have been a practitioner of meditation for the past eight years, and it is a practice that has helped me out tremendously to keep calm. So, when something stressful happens, I'm not thrown out of my balance that easily or even if I am, the amplitude is not that high and I can get back to my calm state quickly and easily.  

So, I suggest that you definitely try one of these practices out. If you’re regular at it, then this will help you build your resources and help you become more resilient to whatever is happening around you. 

Then there is exercise.  

We all know that exercise is good for us.  

Not only is it good for our health, but exercise is also good for our psyche.  

So, it's important to get out and move.  

It can be just be regular walking.  

I, myself, am a hiker, and I really enjoy that activity.  

Then when you climb on top of a mountain, you're also rewarded with a beautiful view.  

If this is not your cup of tea, try to find some other type of exercise that is going to work for you, but definitely stay moving. Especially now, even if you're logged down, you can try to get out of the house just to make a little quick round around the block, or just move around the house and try to be engaged in that movement.  

Then I wanted to share a personal picture of mine, and this is me enjoying ice cream. So, I'm not trying to promote not so healthy habits with this picture. I'm just trying to say that every now and then, you do need to indulge in some little pleasure. Of course, if you have some health risks, then you should be very careful about that. But if not, it is okay to indulge a little here and there.  

It may not be ice cream for you guys; it may be something else. But it definitely is food that you really savor it and that you take your time to choose -- to feel all of the tastes in your mouth and then just give yourself the time to enjoy it.  

So, this is also being mindful in practice. And, this is one example of how you can do it.  


Then, there is enjoying nature. Again, if you can't really move out, then this is not maybe applicable to you.  But if you can, if there's just a patch of green grass next to you, this is something that you can enjoy.  

It has been proven that you spending as little as 10-15 minutes outside, in a park can change your emotional state.  

So please, get out there and enjoy everything that nature has to offer. 

I myself, am a very big fan of flowers.  

During spring time, it's just beautiful and flowering and flourishing everywhere. So please take the time to enjoy it. 

Then there are pets (whether or not you're a dog or a cat person, or didn't have any other pets around you). Pets can be a source of great positive emotion. Playing with or engaging with them like talking to them, can help improve your positive emotions. If you have them, bless you. You can really enjoy them these days. 




Then there are kids.  

If you don’t have kids, try to engage in some playfulness, with the people around you: we need that. Play is a great source of positive emotions. It's something that comes naturally to us humans, and we definitely have to give ourselves the permission to be silly, to just play and enjoy these activities.  


Then, I'm giving you some other pointers, for example: 

Enjoying music.  

Maybe you're playing an instrument, maybe you're just singing along or just enjoying listening to the music. Music is a great source of positive emotions. 


Being creative.   

Drawing, painting, sculpting, whatever it is.  Making jewelry, anything you can think of that it makes you feel engaged and gives you  a lot of positive emotions.  

Then, there's a particularly creative project that I've found in the past nine months in that I really enjoy it's called the Color Crawl.  

So, a family gets out of the house, makes a round around the block and they try to find objects that have the same color. Then later on, make a collage of all of these photos. I think it's beautiful. It's so simple and it definitely enables you to connect with the people who you are doing it with.  

You can also do yoga or any kind of stretching exercises that are also going to help you feel better in your body, or just a step-up dance. Of course, we cannot do this in a group of people right now.  

I'm a big fan of dance. I've been dancing for more than 20 years.  


Dancing has helped me get a boost of positive emotions. For example, when I'm delivering a training or coaching session, and I'm not feeling that well, I just put on one of my favorite songs that get me moving. And I just jump around the house a bit and get myself worked-up. So, I changed my energy with this little dance and then, I sit down and deliver my presentation in a  

I know always gets me moving, and I just jump around the house a little bit and, you know, get myself worked up, then I changed my energy with this little dance. And then I sit down and deliver my presentation in neatly different state than before.  

If this is not working out for you, then maybe you're a fan of bubble baths or any other activity or a good massage. So, something that is going to help you relax or engage in positive emotions. 

So, these are my suggestions. Of course, some may work for you, some may not. But what what is important is for you to find the ones that work for you. 

We indeed need to be more deliberate about engaging in positive emotions  especially nowadays, where we are exposed to a lot of potential sources negative emotions.  

So, put some time to do any of these activities on your schedule. It would be beneficial for you to do something like this everyday.  

On top of all that, I'm going to list down some interventions that you can do that also induce positive emotions.  

One is: Practicing Gratitude.  

I'm pretty sure you've heard about this intervention. It is called the “three good things”, and it has been proven that people who practice this intervention on regular basis become happier, more calm, and are more resilient to any other sources of stress.  

So how do you practice this?  

You can, wherever you are, stop for a moment and say: 

“Oh my God, I'm so grateful right now. (For example) I’m grateful for being here and  being able to deliver this presentation for you.” 


“I'm happy because I'm still quite healthy.” 

“I'm happy and grateful for my family.” 

“What a beautiful sunny day it is today.” 

“ I’m grateful for the internet for helping me to continue working and helps me connected to my family and friends, and people who I am not able to see in person, on a regular basis.” 

You can be grateful for a cup of coffee you're having.  

So, it can be really small things or even bigger ones, but you need to feel that gratitude.  

So again, I'm briefly invite you to try to think of at least one thing you're grateful for and just give yourself the time to really feel that… 

When you give yourself the time to feel that gratitude, it's like a warm, fuzzy feeling that flows all over you, and it completely changes your energy.  

So, if you haven't had the habit of practicing gratitude on a regular basis, I suggest to try to do that. It's a great thing.  

You can also journal the things you are grateful for. And you’re going to find yourself overtime, having more things to be grateful for.  

It's a great exercise you can do with your family before you go to sleep, just to chat and ask each other: 

“What are you grateful for today?”  

“What has happened today?” 

And this can be a great source of also connecting all of you together.  

So, I hope I have given you enough very practical tips on how to not only maintain but to also give a rise to your level of well-being.  

My conclusion would be: 

“Tough times don't last, but tough people do.” 

We need to be more deliberate about maintaining our well-being, about building our own resilience, and thus enabling us to go through all this experience; not only surviving  but being able to also use this as a point of growth and really thrive in the long run.  

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