What you'll learn in this podcast:
- Science Says—Learn how social comparison impacts eating behaviors.
- Life Hack—Explore how to stop worrying what other people think of you.
- Practitioner’s Corner—Nancy Bonamy shares how her journey of spreading positive psychology is changing the lives of peope in need.
Read the interview from the Practitioner's Corner:
Transcription provided by The Flourishing Center
Emiliya: Hello everyone and join me in welcoming Nancy Bonamy. She is an expert in transitions, resilience and well-being. She specializes in helping humanitarian aide workers and ex patriots by helping them boost positive changes in their life and their career. She's joining us from Washington, D.C. However, she has lived in many parts of the world, which she'll tell you about. Something you might not know about Nancy is that she loves chocolate and every day is marked with just a little bit of sweetness, preferably Swiss chocolate because she is Swiss.
So Nancy, it is so great to have you. Thank you for being here with us.
Nancy: Thank you very much Emily for welcoming me here today.
Emiliya: Nancy, tell us how did you get started in the field of Positive Psychology?
Nancy: To make a long story short, I think to explain that I need to just go back little bit about where I come from meaning like you just mentioned at the beginning, I'm a military expatriate, meaning I am expatriate more than 20 years and I lived a lot of transition in my life. I lived in 10 different countries, all over the world and I had as well four different careers. At one stage, all these changes were … at the end I could change them into something positive, basically. But there were two careers, two transitions that were more difficult for me. The day when I became a mom because it was like a tsunami in my life. I had to find again what were my priorities, how to balance my working and personal life. That was a big change for me. And the day I came out from the humanitarian field because I worked for 10 years as a humanitarian delegate in war countries in armed conflict situations. The day I decided to quit this job was very difficult for me to find a new career that as meaningful as this one, that could combine all my past experiences.
That's where little by little where I came to Positive Psychology, meaning that I started to read books about Positive Psychology to find out how I could maybe better transition during that time. Finally, during all this time, I decided to study again and to study coaching. So I did that in New York where I did your certification in personal and professional coaching. During this training I learned a lot about Positive Psychology but it was only on the surface. I decided then later to go more in depth into that and it's when I started to do certification with The Flourishing Center.
Emiliya: Beautiful Nancy. Thank you. Tell us, what are some of the ways in which you're utilizing Positive Psychology professionally?
Nancy: It changed a lot for me. I was using a few things here and there but thanks to the certification with The Flourishing Center I really now have a lot, a lot of different tools that are all science based to offer to my clients. What I use a lot with my specific niche of clients, meaning the expatriates community and the humanitarian workers, is how to transition better, how to with positive changes, how to have a vision about what you would like to do not only next year but in five or 10 years because from there on they can make better decision for today. Or how to increase your well-being.
What happens often with humanitarians, for example, is they take care of others. But they forget to take care of themselves, or they think they don't have the time, or it's not a priority. What I learned through my personal experience, as a humanitarian, as a mother, and then thanks to the training is that to be able to take good care of others really need to take care of ourselves first. There are a lot of tools for that.
One that was at least for me very important that I often give to my clients is how to deal better with your mind chatter. For example, how to deal better with your … should it be your voice, should it be your relationship, to be first kind with yourself as well so that you flourish better. That's one thing, that mindfulness is very important. It is a very important component of my coaching as well.
Then it's a lot about goal setting, goal meeting, how to reach our goals because often its easy, not always easy but if we set goals it doesn't mean that we will meet them. There are really great tools to help us meet our goals, how to make sure that we can do that. It's kind of tough called resilience, it's a huge part of what I speak about. Mind chatter is one component but it’s as well about emotional resilience, how to deal with your emotions and then even physical resilience, which was for me a big discovery during this certification. How important it is to move, exercising of course but to move. Simply to not be always on your chair and to move, to breath well, and all this stuff.
Emiliya: Tell us more about your background. Where were you actually born and what are the places that you've been to?
Nancy: Okay so I was born in Kinshasa in DRC in Africa. After that when I was only one I moved to Germany for four years. After that I moved to Switzerland, which is my country of origin, and I lived there until I was 20. All my life I said I would go back to Africa because I was born there, and I wanted to go back to Africa. At first what I did, I was a teacher for primary schools, so the first posting as a teacher was in Africa in Madagascar. I did three years there as a teacher.
After that I went to France where I changed completely my career, I became a professional manager for professional musicians, so I had musicians to get into festivals and to have and all this stuff basically.
After that I decided to really go into a humanitarian organization, so I started to work with International Committee of the Red Cross. There I worked first in Jerusalem. Then I went to Chechnya, then I went to Sudan, south Sudan in Darfur at that time. After that I worked in Iraq, and then a few years in Geneva as well, so I came back as well in my home country, which is why expatriates often always say it's more difficult to go back home than an expatriation as such. So it's an experience as well to go back home after a few years of expatriation. I was three or four years I Switzerland.
Then it was countries with more diplomacy than really conflict situations, so we went to New York and now we're in Washington. Actually my husband is still working for the International Red Cross so that's why my life is still … every three years we know that we move, so I had to find as well a job that is compatible with my husband moving all the time. My small children that are now seven and nine and the fact that I want to spend time with them but as well flourish professionally. That was the big transition for me. That's what I have now, by being self-employed, being a coach, and offering now workshops as well about Positive Psychology.
Emiliya: So much richness to your life experience, and it's inspiring for me to hear you share also with our listeners this ease with which you just let yourself go where the universe is taking you. I think so often people feel a little stuck like how do I make a career transition. Well you've had four. You've had four and that's one of the beautiful things about our world today is that people can continue to learn and grow and follow their heart and just see where they're being guided.
Nancy I know that there's so much resilience work that you must find within yourself as you said moving so often and also with your young children and how you helped them adapt to the changes. I'm curious what have you learned about helping your children to grow up to be more resilient, go through Positive Psychology and through your life experience.
Nancy: Yeah it's really the big, because when I started the Positive Psychology certification I thought about it especially to use it professionally, but it was such a person transformation and now I brought a lot of it to my family and to my children. I love all the tools that we can apply to the kids.
A few things … first I explain to them how the brain works because that's a big finding for us. But a big training for them to understand there are times when suddenly … when we're under emotions we have really the amygdala who is taking control, and it's not our thinking part who is taking control so just by breathing, just by taking some time to breathe they can come back to a place where they can think better about the situation, not react too fast.
About growth mindset, a lot meaning that … I really emphasize the importance … of its important, the learning process is much more important than the result as such. Saying it's good if you have good grades. It's good if you are good at something but what is more important is the energy you put into it and if you are not good at something you can decide to be good in that. You just need to work on that. I think that for one for my son it was important messages to bring to him.
As I explained once, I have as well done a lot with them about strengths. I love this topic, so I know from Positive Psychology now that we have 24 strengths in us. Some of are more developed or less but we have all of them in us. That is something that I wanted to discuss with my kids and bring this vocabulary to them to know that perseverance, kindness, all that are really strengths, creativity and so on. Discuss that and see what are their strengths and how they could use their strengths when they face a problem or when they want to do something and so on. That was real interesting.
We did a tree, a family tree with the strengths of each of us so that we can see together where we are. We have common strengths and where one of us can really bring his own strength in the family and so on.
Emiliya: I love that. Thank you so much for highlighting those three absolute powerful things to bring into the family dynamic. Teaching children about how their brain works that they have an emotional part of their brain and a rational part of their brain and what happens when the emotional brain gets a bit hijacked is so incredible.
And to give them words at such a young age to capture that they have strengths within them and it’s not just what they do. They're different than their skills and their talents. Their strengths of how they'd be in the world and how they shine and that we can highlight and amplify these things.
Nancy, I'm curious, what are some of the interventions that have helped your expatriates and your humanitarian workers through your work? What resonates the most with them?
Nancy: I think there are two or three things. One is with all of them I ask them to pass a test to find their strengths actually. And for most of them it's very new and very strange at the beginning to speak about strengths and not only weaknesses. And to have this knowledge it really had them to then use their strengths or double up their strengths to transition better to create the change that they want. Or for some of them want to career to be able to speak about them in a different way with a new vocabulary. That's one thing.
Another thing that's often very surprising for them is that some of them are spouses of expatriates, and they come … they follow their husband, and they left their job, their life, their friends, their family home and they are now here, and they don't know what to do in their life here.
They consider this time in expatriation as a parenthesis for them and what I tell them is to really look into what do they want in five years. What would be their best self in five or 10 years and for them it's strange at the beginning that I ask to project themselves so far because they think about just now, here as an expatriate. And that's wrong because if they want to take good decision here today or to make the most of the expatriation here today, they really need to have a vision about what they want to have in five or 10 years.
That's one thing that we do through visualization. Yes of course I speak a lot more in my workshops of the importance of being in the present moment because again as an expatriate we tend to either … some of them tend to either thing about the what they left and the reason, the reminding in the past in their home country, or the previous country because they loved it so much. Some are already, all the time, what will be next, what will be after this expatriation, they don't savor so much the present time. That's so important to be really in the moment and to savor it. Not to regret later on that we didn't savor and make the most of what we had right now. That we know now is Positive Psychology. That it's anyway one of the most important thing for your well-being is to be able to savor what you have and to be grateful for what you have, to find the positive in your situation today.
There are a lots that I can now give to the expatriate that I am able to relate to Positive Psychology.
Emiliya: Beautiful. Thank you Nancy. You mentioned that mind chatter is one of the skills that made the biggest impact on you. I'm curious, what are some of the other Positive Psychology interventions that nurture your self-care?
Nancy: Again quite a few. I think I mentioned mindfulness again. That's really a huge one. Not only meditation but really mindfulness. I'm the type of person, I go a lot to buy foods. I love driving. But when I was going somewhere since ever, I'm running to that place, so I was only concerned about the destination and never enjoying the journey to the destination.
When I go to pick up my kids, I was almost running to go to pick them up and with my thought or either it was what I still had to do or with what I will have to do. Now I learned to appreciate the journey to them, and I know that it's really helping myself because my mind is making a pause, and my mind is looking at the nature around because in Washington there are a lot of trees, so it's looking at what's going on around, it's smiling to the person I just see. It's really savoring the fact that I'm walking and not only thinking about the next step. That give me a lot more presence for my children. A lot of more presence for myself. That's one of the thing.
I learned through the mind chapter what I learned is to be less perfectionist as well. Before I wanted to be everything perfect all the time. I think one thing I know now is to be more kind to myself. One big insight I had was to understand that we never talk to our friends as we talk to ourselves meaning that we are often so harsh for ourselves, we would never say that to our best friends. I try now to be as much as possible my own best friend, so to talk to myself with compassion, with understanding, saying, “it's okay, you are not perfect, but it's okay, you will learn out of that.” That's huge for me. That's really helping me a lot.
I think I'm much more aware about my emotions as well, how they work, why they are there, that they are all useful. Recently, very recently I had very bad news about a very close friend. I was of course very sad. I think in the past I would have just thought I should not be sad and try to avoid that. There I allowed myself to be sad during two full days. It allows me today to be much better and to move forward because I know that each emotion is important. I think that's another thing that I learned.
Emiliya: These are incredible. Thank you so much for sharing such specific tools and pathways that we can take on and as you know and our listeners might know we follow the mind, body, medicine affirmation that “self-care is healthcare.” I celebrate that you do the simple things that recognizing that if you walk a little bit more mindfully to pick your kids from school it will make all the difference in the way that you connect with one another. It's not about the big things that we do. It's the micro- moments of connection, micro-moments of tuning into oneself, micro-moments of caring for oneself that lead to the overall well-being. Thank you for sharing those with us.
Nancy, I'm curious, how would you define flourishing?
Nancy: That's a good question. For me flourishing and that's from CAPP, or from The Flourishing Center, is becoming the best version of ourself. It's just being us, but it being us as we would like to be and being us, the best of us, basically. That's what I love about it. It's not to change us. It's just to make sure that we work with our strengths, that we do things that help us being the way we want to be. Speaking about self-care, one thing I understood is how much sleep has an impact on myself. If I sleep well enough, then I will be well for myself first with my emotions and everything and for my children, for my family, and for my clients and for everything. I know that now very well.
Now to flourish myself, I need to have my sleep. I cannot do that every day, but I will make sure if suddenly I am out of track with my sleep, the first thing I will do is to work on this one. For me flourishing is to be able to be the best of yourself.
Emiliya: Beautiful Nancy. Thank you. I love that. Love that expression. In addition to all the wonderful work you're doing in the world in sharing Positive Psychology you're also multi-lingual, and I'm curious what … firstly what languages are you bringing Positive Psychology into (which could be so helpful for our international audience to hear) and also what are some of the challenges that you've noticed in translating Positive Psychology both through vocabulary but also multi-culturally?
Nancy: So I work in English with my little accent and then in French. So that's the two languages I work with. For me the challenge would be more in English actually because I want to make sure that the way I translate the things are well understood and that it makes fully sense to people. Thanks to the fact that I studied in English I think that I have the basic vocabulary.
In French what is difficult is that we don't have the same kind of words. In English words are really well illustrating some concepts that in French we don't have so you have to make more sentences or more explanation about what we speak about too. It's more about that. Then culturally I don't find big challenges because all of my clients are expatriates, already people who used to being different culture. I would say the big difference between the Americans and the French-speaking population is how much we tend more in Europe to look at the negative side of the things. We all know know it's due to our brain and we all have that. I would say it a bit more strong even in Europe.
Then the fact as well …. yeah that's the big thing maybe. Even to look at schools, the way education is in schools here in the US it's much more focusing on the positive. In France, in Switzerland it tends to first underline what's not going well before underlining what's going well. So that's a big thing.
Emiliya: Very cool. Thank you so much Nancy. Tell us how can people learn more about you and what you're up to in the world and perhaps work with you if they're interested.
Nancy: I have a website, which is like my name nancybonamy.com. Thanks to CAPP actually because it was a dream since a long time. I like to write, and I wanted to launch a blog. Thanks to CAPP, I found the courage to do it because I have so many things to say. In addition to coaching and workshops I really want to reach more people by explaining what all these Positive Psychology tools. I have a newsletter now, a blog actually. A blog that I write every two weeks in French and in English and so your people can subscribe to the newsletter if they want to know more. I started that in the beginning of August and it really is speaking about Positive Psychology tools.
I have as well published three weeks ago, free ebook that gives you nine keys to boost positive changes in your life and best navigating your personal and professional transitions. It's in French and in English too, so you can download this ebook. That's a way to get to know me a little bit more. But on my website as well there's a video about me.
Emiliya: Thank you so much Nancy. You're a prime example in our model of what it means to be an individualizer change agent. Meaning your primarily offering individualizing, and you're adding in and empowering yourself as an inventor to create learning experiences for people as a way of both getting your word out to a wider audience, but also to give you ways of bringing more people into your work for the individual work, which is really exciting.
Nancy: Thank you so much Emiliya and all your team. I mean my life really changed and that's in my first blog. My life really changed thanks to this certification. It's not only that I was training Positive Psychology but it's really that I'm now part of your community and this big community of like-minded persons and you continue to give us a lot of information and possibilities of trainings and programs and so on. Thank you, Emiliya, for what you did for me and my fellow students.
Emiliya: Thank you Nancy. Thank you. Thank you so much for being with us today. Thank you for doing the work that you're doing in the world and sharing Positive Psychology in this unique way with so many and we look forward to connecting with you soon. Thanks Nancy!
We hope that today's episode has been helpful for you, giving you opportunities to look at things like judgment and social comparison through the lens of what is it trying to offer us and how can we think the way we want to think, feel the way we want to feel, and do the things in this world that we want to do? Thanks for listening and feel free to check out more information about Positive Psychology approaches to becoming happier and healthier at our website, theflourishingcenter.com.