What does it mean to put the science of happiness and well-being into practice?
Live Happy is excited to present a series of interviews from our partners, The Flourishing Center, that highlight practitioners making an extraordinary impact in the world by putting positive psychology into practice. As we present you with inspiring human stories, we also want to empower you to put these strategies into action in your own life.
Today’s spotlight interview is Louisa Jewell. Louisa brings positive psychology to life through workshops, courses, podcasts and, most recently, her book, Wire Your Brain for Confidence: The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt. She is a facilitator of the Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) Program in Vancouver and Toronto.
The Flourishing Center: Louisa, you’ve been teaching positive psychology for more than a decade. Many people look at you as a naturally happy and joyful person. Although you have so much happiness and fulfillment today, I know it hasn’t always been that way. Tell us more about what got you to this point.
Louisa: About 16 years ago, I was in a very dark place. After four miscarriages, I found myself in a deep depression. My doctor put me on antidepressants, and I was seeing a psychologist. But, I knew if I ever wanted to take control of my own well-being and happiness I was going to need to learn what my psychologist knew. I started researching and discovered there was a scientific study of well-being called positive psychology. I started reading every book I could get my hands on, and I began to put what I was learning into practice.
I went on to pursue my master’s degree in applied positive psychology (MAPP) at the University of Pennsylvania, where I studied with the field’s founding father, Dr. Martin Seligman, and many other prominent psychologists. I read hundreds of academic papers and applied everything I learned to myself and my family. The knowledge I gained transformed my life. I have never fallen into a depression since. Even through my most challenging years, I’ve been able to stay healthy with the resilience skills I learned.
TFC: Thank you for sharing your journey and reminding us all that resilience is about continuing to move through the obstacles. From your time at the University of Pennsylvania, you went on to found the Canadian Positive Psychology Association (http://www.cppa.ca). How did that come to be?
When I am struggling or going through a rough time, I always ask, ‘What would my best friend say to me right now?’ And then I speak to myself in those kind words.”
Louisa: It was 2012 and I was one of only three Canadians in the whole country to hold a master’s in positive psychology. Many people had not heard of the field or had misconceptions about it. I wanted to spread the word that positive psychology isn’t just about happiness, it’s about being psychologically strong, reaching higher levels of performance, being resilient in the face of extreme challenges, persevering and bouncing back from failures, building willpower, managing daily moods and more. The CPPA mission is to disseminate the research and applications in positive psychology to all Canadians, to improve their mental well-being and promote positive mental health. Since founding the organization, with the dedicated support of my colleagues, we’ve run several conferences with speakers from around the globe.
TFC: In addition to your work with the CPPA, you’ve written a new book. Tell us about it.
Louisa: As I was reflecting on all the positive psychology tools I have gathered, the skills with the greatest impact on me were the ones that helped me overcome self-doubt and built my confidence. In time, I started pursuing everything I wanted to do, without feelings of failure or constant negative ruminations. I stopped self-sabotaging, and I embraced the things that challenged me. I realized there weren’t any books out there for the public on self-doubt that were fully research-based, so I wanted to share what I had learned with others who struggled with self-doubt.
TFC: That sounds like a great help to people—teaching them to work with their doubts rather than being debilitated by them.
Finally, do you have any advice from your new book that you’d like to share?
Louisa: I do, and it comes from the concept of self-compassion. When I am struggling or going through a rough time, I always ask, “How would my best friend treat me right now?” or “What would my best friend say to me right now?” And then I treat myself and speak to myself in those kind words. Self-compassion is one of the most important tools you have.
Wire Your Brain for Confidence: The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt, launches Sept. 21, along with workshops to help others manage their self-doubt and pursue their most desired goals. Find out more at LouisaJewell.com.
Listen to our podcast: Wire Your Brain for Confidence With Louisa Jewell
The Flourishing Center empowers people who are passionate about helping make the world a better place by putting the skills and tools of positive psychology into practice and creating sustainable work for themselves in the field. Find out more about the Certificate in Positive Psychology, offered in 12 cities and online.