Destress & level up with me in May 🚀
The only way out of mental stuckness
Hello, my friend!
🏡 Welcome to our new home! I hope you like our little block on Substack.
While enjoying life and calming down on the beautiful island of Boracay in the Philippines, I got a new wave of creative energy and decided to step up my newsletter service for you. My monthly newsletter got increasingly bigger and - if you ask me - hard to swallow at once! So, I thought I’d rather inspire you to flourish in more digestible bits every week ☺️
If you’ve been with me for a while, thank you for giving this one a shot! And, if you’re entirely new here - welcome 🙋🏼♀️ While I’m building up my archive here from scratch, head over to my welcome page, say hi if you like, and subscribe if you’d like me to pop into your inbox from now on.
Thank you for sharing my passion for positive psychology and self-leadership - I promise you they’re a damn hot combo ❤️🔥
PS: Yesterday, I landed in Tokyo 🇯🇵 If you have tips for your favourite things to do here or in Japan in general, please let me know! We’ll be exploring this wonderful country for at least a month 🤩
"Stagnation breeds inspiration - let it fuel your fire."
- Dr Maike Neuhaus
It’s the beginning of a new month - and with that, an opportunity to reset your focus.
You’ve been smashing through a big workload when suddenly you hit a wall. You can’t think of what to write, make a decision, or find a solution to a problem that you’re happy with. As the clock ticks on, stress and panic set in, causing your productivity to come to a grinding halt.
Do you know what I’m talking about? I hate when this downward spiral happens to me.
The thing is, trying to push through when we’re stressed is like treading quicksand.
The more we panic, the more we lose access to that precious region in our brain that allows us to make (good) decisions, problem-solve, think rationally and plan ahead: the prefrontal cortex. The only way back in is taking the one step you’d hate taking the most: stepping away completely and surrendering.
Being in a positive emotional state is not only crucial for our emotional wellbeing (a key element of flourishing), but also to have a broader field of attention, maximise our sense of creativity and innovation, and enable us to form stronger relationships with others!
Feeling good is just as important for our survival as the famous fight-or-flight response is.
This is one of the most fascinating advances in positive psychology research if you ask me - a field of research summarised as the Broaden and Build Theory by Barbara Fredrickson. So, I thought I’d give you small impulses to destress and get more zen in May 😇 And by zen, I mean of course access to your prefrontal cortex 🧠Downloadable as always.
📇 From surviving to thriving: The link between mental illness and flourishing
When we think about mental health, we often focus on treating mental illness. But researcher Corey L. M. Keyes argues that this approach is only part of the solution.
In his 2007 paper "Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: A complementary strategy for improving national mental health," Keyes suggests that promoting positive mental health, or flourishing, is just as important as treating mental illness when it comes to improving overall mental health.
Because Keyes found that individuals with a mental illness who also had high levels of mental wellbeing were 20(!) times more likely to recover from their illness, compared to those who had low levels of mental wellbeing!
🔬 Study spotlight
Fredrickson, B. L., & Branigan, C. (2005). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Cognition and Emotion, 19(3), 313-332. Access here.
What it’s about
In this paper, Fredrickson and Branigan provided empirical evidence for the Broaden and Build Theory. They conducted a series of experiments to examine the impact of positive emotions on attention, cognitive flexibility, and problem-solving abilities. They induced positive, neutral, and negative emotional states in participants and measured the subsequent effects on their attention and thought-action repertoires.
The results demonstrated that participants in positive emotional states exhibited broadened attention, increased cognitive flexibility, and enhanced problem-solving skills compared to those in neutral or negative emotional states. This provided strong empirical support for the Broaden and Build Theory, suggesting that positive emotions play a crucial role in fostering psychological growth, resilience, and well-being.
📺 Worth watching: Effective Emotionality - The Space Between Emotions and Feelings
This month, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful human: social psychology expert Dr Kinga Mnich. Dr Kinga is also a fabulous TED speaker. In her talk Effective Emotionality: The Space Between Emotions and Feelings, Dr Kinga delves into the relationship between emotions (physiological responses) and feelings (subjective interpretations and therefore experiences).
She highlights the importance of emotional intelligence in recognising, understanding, and managing emotions for better decision-making and empathy. The speaker discusses strategies like mindfulness, self-reflection, and open communication for effective emotional management.
So aligned with our stress-free May theme! Worth a watch, my friend. And if you can’t get enough, I highly recommend browsing through her collection of blog articles on her website - they are full of helpful insights to thrive more in life.
🎧 Worth listening to: Researching Happiness
Researching Happiness is a brand new podcast by positive psychology researcher Matthew Iasiello. In this first-ever episode titled Languishing and the origins of Positive Psychology, Matt interviews Corey Keyes - who coined the terms flourishing and languishing and proposed the dual continua model of complete mental health. You can listen here or watch below. Brilliant interview 🤌
🧰 Worth cultivating: Cyclic sighing
What if I told you that there’s something you can do for 5 minutes per day that will reduce your stress for 24 hours?
😤 A recent study conducted by Andrew Huberman and colleagues showed that practising cyclic sighing for as little as 5 minutes per day for a month significantly reduced participants’ stress levels around the clock - and even outperformed meditation. Here's how it works:
1. Inhale through the nose until your lungs are maximally inflated,
2. Immediately after, take another short, sharp, and somewhat forced inhale through the nose (it won't feel like you can inhale much, but even a tiny bit is great - and important)
3. Exhale all the way through the mouth.
Repeat for 5 minutes.
💸 Extra bonus: The study also reports improvements in both mood and sleep as a result of this breathing exercise.
📄 Reference: Balban et al. (2023). Brief structured respiration practices enhance mood and reduce physiological arousal. Cell Reports Medicine 4(1):100895.
📗 Worth reading:
Shout out to my fabulous friend, Julia Roman, for publishing her first book 10 Steps to Self-Love: How to Fall in Love with Yourself! In this book, Julia presents a heartfelt guide to cultivating self-love through ten essential steps, including self-discovery, self-awareness, and self-compassion.
The book is evidence-based, relatable and inspiring, with personal stories, practical advice, and exercises to deepen understanding and practice of self-love. Julia emphasizes self-love as transformative, leading to increased empathy and compassion for others, and personal growth. If you read it, you might even find references to my own self-leadership articles 🤓 Love it 🏼