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Inspiration comes from a myriad of places… It can strike you beautifully out of the blue when you are gloriously absorbed in something else.
But since I know that I can't rely on those Eureka moments to happen by themselves, I surround myself with tools, resources, and strategies to spur, prolong, or capitalize on various forms of creativity. By courting creativity, I find that those moments of inspiration tap me on the shoulder more frequently but just as delightfully.

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Remember that whoopee cushion story I promised you in my last post? Well, get ready to meet the crazy creative guy behind it: Doug Hall of Richard Saunders International. Naming his company after Benjamin Franklin's pseudonym is perhaps the least zany thing Doug has done in his bizarrely successful career getting what he calls "Real World Adults" back in touch with their childhood creativity in order to become truly successful and productive. I'm currently reading his absorbing and wacky book Jump Start Your Brain, which means you all get to share the experience!

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Along with reading like a kid (particularly Dr. Seuss), Doug is adamant about the importance of playing like a kid...literally. He gets executives down on their hands and knees pretending to be dogs. He surprises Dutch clients by having his team start a Nerf war in the boardroom with hidden weapons. And, as promised, he gets 132 Anheuser-Busch executives to collectively set up and plop down on those cushions of whoopee. 

I would have thought that the corporate culture of Anheuser-Busch would be a bit laid back…(don't they basically try to relax people for a living?) But Doug found out when consulting for their top research and marketing executives that this is basically the opposite of their reality. So, his whoopee cushion bit became that much more brave. While wearing a strait jacket (right?) and lecturing about the dangers of the necktie, Doug presented a medical device that would help expel the hot air trapped dangerously by their ties. That medical device? You guessed it - the whoopee cushion. (Great story...but let's just say I won't be using that method anytime soon:)

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You don't have to be a world-famous consultant to utilize the creative flow of play. You don't need to be an executive to benefit from fun. And you don't even have to like whoopee cushions (I'll have to admit I don't:) But you DO have to get outside of your crusty adult self and PLAY! Doug recommends borrowing a kid between the ages of 4 and 7 and doing whatever they think is fun. (I recommend making sure the distinction between borrowing and kidnapping is clear:) 

Here are a few of Doug's "prescriptions for restoring the spirit and innocence of your once childlike mind-set:"
  • Inhale the contents of a helium balloon, then abuse your company's intercom system.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Fly a kite. Pretend you're the kite.
  • Hang by your knees from monkey bars.
  • Roll down a hill.
  • Swing as high as you can.
  • Write a letter in crayon.
  • Visit a fun house.
  • Play catch in the office or in the hallway.
  • Go wading.
  • Make a dart board of negative thoughts and shoot them.
  • Throw water balloons, shoot squirt guns, get wet.
  • Spin until dizzy.
  • Hold a pie-eating contest with yourself.
  • Assemble a company kazoo band.
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What do you think of that list? Are you brave enough to try any of them? I personally am a big fan of bouncy balls, bubbles, and Play-Doh. (I often carry a small rubber ball in my purse - you never know when you will need a toy:)

And just like my confession about the bouncy ball (or the slideshow of my brother's and my crazy antics below), sometimes you have to take the risk of feeling, looking, or being silly in pursuit of creativity. I hope you do all three... 

Photo Reference List: (Or Where to find these lovely images:)
  1. Kayak Typwriter Photo Credit: http://www.etsy.com/listing/47117424/kayak-photograph-antique-typewriter
  2. Guy Monkeying Around Photo Credit:  http://m.active.com/fitness/Articles/Playground-Fitness-6-Cross-Training-Games.htm?cmp=17-7-4122
  3. Henri Matisse Chalkboard Photo Credit:  http://scrapstudio.tumblr.com/post/394198817/p-s-from-my-archived-files-if-you-know-who-this
  4. Girl Watercoloring in the Rain Photo Credit:  http://littlepageturners.blogspot.com/2010/05/rainy-day.html
  5. Happy Skating Little Girl Photo Credit:  http://elviestudio.blogspot.com
  6. Nick & Megan Hendrix Playing with Toys Photo Credit: Hendrix Family Archives:)
 
 
"As a result, we found creativity is not inspired by the pressure of time but by the freedom, the playfulness, and the fun."
What do you think?
 
 
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Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/ooh_food
It's hard to describe the feeling that I get when I open the magical doors that lead me into the children's section of my local library. I cannot remember a time when I didn't love books; some of my earliest memories are sitting on the couch with my Mom, books piled high around us while she sipped her coffee and I sipped mine (usually, the apple juice blend:) My connection to children's literature and films runs very deep and has remained a constant throughout my adult life. 

I could say that I read kids' books and keep up with the latest Nickelodeon and Disney TV shows and films simply as market research for my design and writing...but that wouldn't be entirely true. (Although I have to say that if most big-budget comedies for adults were as funny as ANY episode of Disney's Good Luck Charlie, we would all be much happier when we leave the theater.) I could say that it merely provides a breakout for me, immersing me in a world very different from what I see around me every day, much like watching The Empire Strikes Back, listening to Benny Goodman on vinyl, or looking at images from deep space. These reasons are certainly valid, but they are not the entire picture.

The simple truth is that I just love kids' books and movies. They're fun. And they keep me in touch with my inner 7-year-old, encouraging me to observe things and people, appreciating whatever beauty I find in my own way, for its own sake. They inspire me to wander around, kick up leaves, or play on a forbidden swingset. In short, they make me a more expansive person. 

The book shelves near my desk are a very important space: easily accessible and highly visible to me while I work. And more than half of this premium space is taken up by my Beatrix Potter collection (housed next to the Wedgwood Peter Rabbit children's china that I brought back from England), perennial favorites such as The Wind in the Willows, and picture books signed by their authors. 

As I write this, I have a Dr. Seuss book, a box of crayons, and a paddle-ball toy on my desk. *GASP!* Before you decide to leave my site never to return, let me suggest that far from being a sign of mental instability (I hope:) or a ridiculous distraction, these implements of childhood spur creativity and allow for a delightful connection with my sense of adventure, innocence, and wonder. I suppose that is what kid lit is all about for me... that and watching kids light up when talking about THEIR favorite books. 

This film by author Candy Gourlay is so delightful that I have lost count of the number of times I have watched it. It is a bit long, but if you only watch 4 minutes, you'll see some really cool kids talking about their favorite books...it does boost one's faith in the next generation:)

Inspired to check out some kids' books and films? I hoped you would be:) Here are a few of my current favorites to get you started. I would LOVE to hear what you think and to get your recommendations (that is how I often find my favorites:)

Books:
  • The Kiki Strike Series: Inside the Shadow City and The Empress's Tomb ( a 3rd book is coming out this year:) And BTW, I recommend this for adults looking for fun and inspiration and for teens, rather than elementary/tween readers.

Films: 
  • Ramona and Beezus
  • Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Let me close by acknowledging that this connection between childhood and creativity is not something I discovered - it's something that many people in a myriad of professions tap into to change the world. And it is not limited to watching kids' movies or reading kids' books. It is all about reconnecting with your ability to have fun, be adventurous, and risk being a little silly. 

In the near future, I'll show you how entrepreneurs, consultants, and Fortune 500 CEOs are tapping into their creativity and productivity with everything from Go Karts to Play-Dough to Whoopie Cushions (yes, that is a story you will have to see to believe:)
 
 
Building resilience and well-being into geriatric populations is an immensely worthy goal! One could argue that if positive psychology does not serve the elderly, then it eventually won't be of great use for most people. Taking the concepts from the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness initiative and adapting it to the elderly - particularly the psycho-geriatric population - will give all of us tools to continue to build strong families and communities, as well as experience well-being throughout our lifespans.

Below, check out the the amazing article, "Intersection of Positive Psychology and Geriatrics" by Diana Boufford. You can find the original Positive Psychology News Daily article here. All links below are live so learn away:)

Diana Boufford BSW, RSW is a psychogeriatric social worker employed in private practice and through a local hospital in Windsor Ontario Canada. She is presently working toward the completion of her BA in Psychology, with a special interest in the intersection of positive psychology and geriatrics. Diana's articles for PositivePsychologyNews.com are here.

Intersection of Positive Psychology and Geriatrics

In his book, Flourish, Martin Seligman describes the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness initiative, an effort to take the basic ideas of positive psychology and adapt them to the needs of soldiers. I contend that we could use the same approach to adapt positive psychology interventions to the needs of elders and their caregivers, achieving a significant contribution to the quality of life of this growing part of our population. Perhaps we could think of this as the Comprehensive Geriatric Fitness initiative.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness

First let’s review what went into Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. In 2008 General George Casey, a former commander of the force in Iraq, approached Dr. Seligman with the concern that the United States had one of the most physically fit and resource rich armies in the world, but the same army was experiencing record high rates of psychological distress including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, addictions, familial discord, and divorce. According to Seligman, General Casey stated “I want to create an army that is just as psychologically fit as it is physically fit,” and “The key to psychological fitness is resilience, and from here on, resilience will be taught and measured throughout the United States Army.”
Following these instructions, Seligman focused on building resilience training into the culture of the U.S. Army. He contended that resilience skills could be taught and that doing so could prevent not only PTSD but also many of the other mental health challenges that afflicted military personnel.

Generalized Assessment Tool

As part of this initiative, Nansook Park and the late Chris Peterson worked with Colonel Carl Castro and a group of 10 test makers both military and civilian to develop the Global Assessment Tool(GAT). This self-report questionnaire measures a soldier’s well-being and strengths in five domains of functioning:

  • Familial
  • Spiritual
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Physical
Using questions with scales such as “Very dissatisfied” to “Very satisfied” and “Not at all like me” to “Very much like me,” the questionnaire explores the soldier’s strengths, weaknesses, challenges, positives, and negatives in response to challenges and opportunities of army life in these 4 domains. Soldiers receive reports describing both the aspects of their lives that are functioning well and the areas that may be contributing to suffering, along with suggestions for ameliorating them. They are then provided with education and support to strengthen themselves in each domain.

The GAT was rolled out in 2008 and is now mandatory for all U.S. Military personnel. Military civilians and family members are permitted to partake as well. A newsletter has been created to communicate ongoing support for this initiative across the military. This collaborative effort, does indeed change the culture not only in the military, but within the military family structure as well. For more information, see the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness: An Overview.
Wider Application?

I was born into a family of Canadian Air Force personnel. My father and grandfather both served in the Canadian Air Force, and my mother was a civilian employed by the Canadian military. We all lived on base and worked on base. I spent five years in the Canadian Army Reserves. I am familiar with the challenges that face so many soldiers going overseas and coming home. I know how this affects them and their families. I have also seen the incredible strength and resourcefulness that this challenging lifestyle can create. So when I read of these interventions I was very excited. I was happy to hear that these very salient and neglected aspects of a soldier’s humanity were being identified and addressed.

Taking the Idea to Another Population

Naturally, I started expanding my scope of thinking into my own line of work, and wondered how and if these ideas could be applied there. I have committed over 10 years to working with the psychogeriatric population, typically people over the age of 65 who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, both in nursing homes and through a city hospital. I also serve as a psycho-geriatric social worker providing outreach into the community. I provide counseling to individuals, couples, and caregivers. The potential of improving the plight, the functioning, and the quality of life for both elders and their caregivers using a model similar to Comprehensive Soldier Fitness seems highly promising to me.

However, the assessment and training would have to be adjusted to meet the specific needs of these special elder and caregiver populations. For example changing the name to Comprehensive Geriatric Training is one adjustment. The screening tools and questions would have to be incorporated into the standard psychosocial assessments for elders and care-givers with a specific eye on strengths identification and use, building capabilities, and reinforcing resiliency.

What Needs to be Adapted for the Elder Population?

Although the environments and demands between soldiers and their families differ from elders and their families, the emotional challenges of coping are similar.

This leads me to ask:

  • What if this model of assessment and intervention were to be applied to the geriatric, psycho-geriatric, and caregiver (familial and professional) populations?
     
  • Could we teach people how to build upon their own resilience so that they would be better able cope and even thrive with the challenges of chronic illness, decreasing physical strengths, and diminishing cognitions, functioning, and mobility?
     
  • Can the resiliency of the caregivers be strengthened and optimized to prevent burnout due to the over-taxing demands of caregiving?
  • Can the building of emotional fitness, familial fitness, social fitness and spiritual fitness stimulate inner resources to offset the aging challenges, to prevent isolation, and to reduce burnout so that elders and care providers continue to enjoy their lives and each other, despite the changes?
     
  • Could we delay or lessen the severity of the chronic debilitation that occurs through the aging process or that occurs as a result of dementias?
     
  • How would the quality of life be improved by focusing on building resilience and enhancing strengths as a central part of day-to-day life as opposed to focusing on the diseases, the limitations, the sufferings, and the losses?

These are some of the questions that occur to me as I look at bringing positive psychology into the field of psycho-geriatrics.

Conclusion

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Training is a model of care which can be adapted with the eldercare population in mind. Elders, their family, and their caregivers can be assessed, prepared, and supported through the years of caring that come with advanced aging. Each of the five different domains of focus is important for them as well: physical, spiritual, emotional, familial and social. In future articles, I will explore ways of optimizing each area of geriatric fitness for elders themselves and for their care-givers.

References

Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press.

Seligman, M. E. P. & Matthews, M. D. (Guest Eds.) (2011). Comprehensive Soldier Fitness: Special issue of American Psychologist, 66(1).


 Contains articles by more than 25 psychologists and soldiers, including John and Julie Gottman, Nansook Park and Christopher Peterson, Karen Reivich, Barbara Fredrickson and Sarah Algoe, General Casey, General Kornum, and many others.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness: An Overview


Comprehensive Solider & Family Fitness Newsletter – CSF2 Quarterly, Aug 2012..

CSF-Global Assessment Tool, entry in the US Army Blog

Reivich, K, & Shatté, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles. New York: Broadway Books.




 
 
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"'Daddy - is it really true that they used to fly to the moon when you were a boy?' 

That shook me, and it still does. It shook me because that's how a dark age begins. A dark age is not just when you as a civilization have forgotten how to do something; it's when you forget that you ever could..." - Jeff Greason, Rocket Man.

I cannot imagine a better way to start a new day, a new month, a new quarter than by investing 15 minutes absorbing this video. It is difficult to encapsulate the manifold life-altering concepts shared in this inspiring and empowering presentation...when you watch this, please share the most important to you! 
*Photo Credit: Vintage illustration from A TOM CORBETT Space Cadet Adventure

 
 
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The answer may be a little more complicated...and simple...than you think:) Although this video is far from the full picture of well-being, or even happiness, it does present an excellent overview of the connection between money and happiness. One could also say that it shows the connection between coffee and happiness...so remember to grab that latte, macchiato, espresso, or just plain java with a friend today:)

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Oh, and that whole coffee thing...pretty inspirational, right? If you are looking for something to hum along with on this Monday, consider The Java Jive...

 
 
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Did you hear? The US Chamber of Commerce and Free Enterprise have teamed up to create The Best Summer Job in America! The winners of the contest will spend two months traversing this amazing country the way it was meant to be seen...from behind the wheel of a classic car. Goodbye jetways and airport terminals, Hello Route 66! My brother Nick and I entered and are truly hoping to win:)

Check out our video entry and let us know what towns you want to be on the itinerary!

Nick and I have put quite a few miles down the road of life together already. We enjoy traveling, starting small businesses, and meeting people together. If we earn the privilege of working together on the Best Summer Job in America, we are most excited about shining the spotlight on the unsung heroes of the American Dream: small business owners. We will also be checking out the flavor of local restaurants, as well as investigating local legends...I'm really  hoping this is the summer I finally find Bigfoot!
 
 
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"This is our ball pit...we can talk about whoever we want!"

"I have a flipper tooth!" 

"OK - but nothing with spit."

These are just a few of the hilarious snippets scattered throughout the personal interactions of various strangers who start out sharing a ball pit, and end up sharing so much more.

What could be more unusual, more absurd than stepping into a giant ball pit with a complete stranger, answering questions scribbled on balloons? Perhaps not much. But as you will see in this video, sometimes we have to break out of our routine, maybe even do something absurd, to become a bit more open, a smidge more compassionate, and perhaps just a touch more wise.

As the girl afraid to scuba dive said, "...normally you don't hang out with strangers in ball pits..." 

Yes, that is true. And now I'm starting to feel that normal needs to change...

 
 
I am so proud of my uncle. He has gone 3 weeks without a cigarette...after about 35 years of smoking. 

This picture shows that it is NEVER too late to take charge of your health...and sometimes, quitting is the best idea. Click the top of this picture to get a closer look at the amazing facts!

Please don't wait for a heart attack, a smoking-related death of a friend, or any other reason to quit smoking. The world needs you!
 
 
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My sister Morgan has a great laugh!
For thousands of years, we have all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Whether your problem is physical, mental, or emotional, it is good to remember what Mark Twain said, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” I know that even on a good day, I love to laugh, and I love to hear the laughter of people I care about.

The positive health implications of laughter are linked with specific physiological responses, including transient tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, increased respiratory rate, spasmodic skeletal muscle contractions, increased catecholamine production, and stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (Phipps, 2002). Following these events is muscular relaxation and the return of cardiovascular function to somewhat lower than baseline. 

Today, many professionals are finding that laughter is literally what the doctor ordered. As a physician, Dr. Don Colbert points to the reciprocity of laughter and happiness by stating that laughter is a product of happiness, while happiness can be a product of laughter (Colbert, 2005). This is his reasoning behind prescribing ten belly laughs per day to his patients – even his cancer patients (Colbert, 2007). Laughter is beneficial not only to cancer patients, but also bereaved spouses. In their study of well-being among recently widowed spouses, Lund, Utz, Caserta & de Vries (2008) found that those in their study with the lowest levels of grief and depression had higher levels of humor, laughter, and happiness. They also found the opposite to be true – those with the lowest levels of humor, laughter, and happiness experienced the greatest grief and depression. While the authors were careful not to jump to causal conclusions, they declared the findings strong enough to warrant further longitudinal study.

Before I was old enough to appreciate the effect of laughter on my health, I still knew that humor had a great effect on my outlook. My family loved watching reruns of the 1980s classic show “The A-Team” when I was growing up. The sense of humor and camaraderie on the show was palpable. Even in life-and-death situations, a can-do attitude, a joke, and smile helped save the day. (The fact they kept the body count low by using unusual weapons like trash cans didn’t hurt either:) As silly as it sounds, watching this show at such a formative time is one of the many things that shaped my desire to look at life in an unusual, fun, and positive way. I think that is the real value of humor – it helps us transcend the artificial confines of the moment to see what can be. As Jean Houston pointed out, “At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.”

Well, I can't leave you with all of this great motivation to LOL without giving you something funny, right? Here is one of the funniest videos I have ever seen...and it is one you can actually watch with your kids...courtesy of the Scientists of Hilarity at Bored Shorts is "Basketball Class"....
References

Colbert, D. (2005). Stress less. Lake Mary, FL: Siloam.

Colbert, D. (2007). The seven pillars of health: The natural way to better health for life. Lake Mary, FL: Siloam.

Lund, D. A., Utz, R., Caserta, M. S., de Vries, B. (2008). Humor, laughter, and happiness in the daily lives of recently bereaved spouses. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 58(2), 87-105.

Phipps, S. (2002). Reduction of distress associated with paediatric bone marrow transplant: Complementary health promotion interventions. Pediatric Rehabilitation, 5 (4), 223-234.