Friday, 11 April 2014

Day 92: Flourishing with illness

What went well? 

  1. We had a great lab meeting today! Basically, one of our lab members has been working on making the experience of taking a well-being questionnaire more engaging, and she'd prepared a whole powerpoint to show us how she'd conceptualised a new design to take it online and provide meaningful, concrete feedback. It was exceptional. We were all blown away. I don't think I'd seen the post-doc we're working with so excited before. That really energised us all. We are a happy lab :) So now, we get to brainstorm characters that demonstrate varying levels of aspects that contribute to well-being, to make it more concrete especially for younger questionnaire-takers.
  2. Got a lot of research assisting work done. See below.
  3. Today was so warm. It was about NZ summer warm. Wheee!!

What did I learn? 

  • It is absolutely uplifting and inspirational to be working with highly competent colleagues. They raise you up too and push you to be better. It's energising.
  • It is possible to have symptoms of mental illness alongside elements of flourishing. I thought this seemed awfully contradictory and counterintuitive at first, but as I thought about it more and as we were discussing it in our lab meeting, it began to make a lot more sense. It isn't so paradoxical to imagine that someone can be struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, and yet still have a deep sense of meaning and purpose, close relationships, be engaged in life, and contributing to their communities, for example. A Penn alumni who had made a huge impact on some people I knew, especially with his work on educating people about mindfulness, took his life on Monday, and I think that this idea of mental illness and flourishing coexisting makes this troubling event seem just slightly more coherent. This is why Keyes proposes a model of mental health with two axes - mental health and mental illness - and both can coexist. And we were talking about this apparent paradox may intensify the struggle for many people - i.e. if I'm struggling, than how is it possible that I'm still experiencing some form of wellbeing? So then, people have unrealistic and impossible expectations or ideas about what it means to be well - to be fully "happy" (often understood simplistically as just positive emotions). Yet being human is about embracing these paradoxes and embracing the richness of experiences that is life. One of the most important ideas I've learned this semester. And another reminder of how important it is to see the strengths and the good in others and yourself, no matter what else is going on in your life - and that it's possible to cultivate and appreciate more of the good to do something for yourself without necessarily ignoring, undermining or being obsessed with rejecting or getting rid of the "bad" (or, as I prefer, the "uncomfortable").
  • Source

  • This technique (I'm going to call it the "Productination List") works. I was procrastinating on writing my Buddhism paper I ended up starting my literature search for the journal article I'm co-authoring, and then processing all of the email correspondence for the post-doc I'm working with. The idea behind the Productination List is that at any given time, you have a lot of things, projects, errands, tasks, that you need to get done (I think in any case, it's handy to have a list of current projects handy anyway, just so you have a clear picture of what's on your plate). These have different levels of priority. You should start with the hardest/highest priority task, but if that gets too hard and you just can't face it with your current level of cognitive resources/energy levels, you can move onto the next hardest task. If you can't face that either, then you move down the list to the next task. And so on. And if you can't do the easiest task, it's time to give up and take a nap. Hence, it's "productive procrastination", mitigating most of the potential damage. So my list might look something like this:
    • Write Buddhism Paper
    • Write Mindfulness Paper
    • Literature search
    • Research assisting work
    • Write bio for concert program
    • Pay bills
    • Laundry
  • It's a bit of a bummer to be a choir soloist when it's Spring Fling (like, the BIGGEST DEAL for undergraduates here)!!!! I would have loved to have joined in on the various shenanigans but having to sing on Sunday rules out a lot of things, including talking loudly for one thing. Meh. Will check out the happenings in the Quad tomorrow though (there's a carnival on there) and take photos.

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