Pancakes are Positive Psychology

For the last 6 months I have been studying positive psychology, and I now feel confident to say that Pancakes are in deed positive psychology in action.

Just think about it. Actually – just think about pancakes! Are you smiling a little? Feeling good?

My point! And let me elaborate.

The father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, defines well-being as a construct with five measurable elements (PERMA) that count toward it:

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships

Meaning and purpose

Accomplishment

You get ALL these elements, when you bake pancakes for someone.

Positive emotion

Just thinking about pancakes made you smile! Pancakes are comfort food, we make them because we feel good, and because it makes us feel good to eat them. The anticipation when we bake them is a positive emotion – and not only do we look forward to eating the pancakes, we enjoy the thought of sharing them, the thought of making someone else feel good, when we serve them these round cakes of happiness.

Engagement

Engagement is really about flow. It is a present moment, where we are challenged and our abilities are just enough to face that exact challenge. Flow is when we are deeply engaged in something, and loose track of time.

Baking pancakes is a state of flow – especially, when you bake the Danish or French crepes, that are thin, and where precision is needed to flip them without breaking them.

Making great pancakes require presence and focus. Flow.

Relationships

Pancakes are social food. We (almost?) always bake pancakes for another person or for a group. You bake pancakes for people you love, and you know, that someone baking you pancakes is an act of love.

Eating pancakes strengthen our sense of togetherness and makes us feel socially safe.

Pancakes are a part of every close relationship – or at least they should be. #lovetoshare

Meaning and purpose

What could be more meaningful than feeding yourself, and the people you love, great food? I suggest, that it is always meaningful to cook food, since we need food to survive – but in this case there is added meaning and purpose, because of the positive emotions, engagement and social benefit that comes with baking pancakes specifically.

Well-being is the purpose of pancakes.

Accomplishment

Just think of the huge stack of panckes you have baked – that sure feels like an accomplishment! I know, that it is not something that is going to change the world, but it sure feels like an accomplishment, when you put that last baked pancake on the plate. You feel content and proud in a good and non-selfish way.

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Need I say more?

Pancakes are positive psychology in action. Now go bake!

 

 

Creature of habit

“Whenever you meet new people, you have the opportunity to be a little more you.”

Someone told me that many years ago, and I have remembered ever since.

The thing is, that we are all creatures of habit, and not only when it comes to eating habits, what we watch on tv or how we brush our teeth, but also when it comes to our psychological and social behaviour.

Habits are a great concept! We save time and energy, when certain behavioural patterns happen automatically, without the need for awareness, pause and deciding before action. The problem is of course, that not all our habits are in consonance with the life we want to live, or our true personalities.

This last year, I have had the chance to look into the subject of Positiv Psychology. I attended the Fourth World Congress of Positive Psychology in Orlando in june, and I have had a lot of inspiring discussions with people who have studied PP for a long time. A lot of them encouraged me to take a test to map my character strengths. Actually I was overbearingly laughed at, and thought to be the only attendee at the conference who had NOT taken the test.

With awareness is the key as one of my mantras of course I had to take the test. Getting a closer look at my character strengths might not surprise me, but surely it would be a good reminder. And a chance to reevaluate my habits.

I took the test! And my top 5 character strengths (there are 24 in all) turned out to be:

  1. Creativity
  2. Integrity
  3. Social intelligence
  4. Bravery
  5. Perspective

At the bottom of the list (but still strengths I mind you..)

  • 22. Humility & modesty
  • 23. Appreciation of beauty & excellence
  • 24. Self regulation..

Hmm… No –  it was not surprising. But it did make me reconsider some of my habits and especially what I focus on in my professional life.

Working with tasks where I use my top strengths bring out the me in me. That´s where I feel energized and do my best work.

Am I in the habit of using my top strengths when it comes to my work?

Well, not as much as I would like to – I will work on that!

Back to the part about meeting new people, and the opportunity to be a little more you.

As I am sure you experience it too, my relationships become “habits” pretty fast. They get stuck in patterns in the shape of roles; I am the boss, sister, friend, daughter, lover, ex-wife, best friend, niece, etc.

Depending on who I spend time with I have a “fully-prepared-social-behaviour” package ready, and the package seldom changes.

In every individual relationship and in all group relationships, we usually have the behaviour “set” – and once it is set, it becomes a habit that can be really hard to change.

Just think back at a reunion you have attended. Even 20 years after highschool or university, when a class meets, they instantly fall into the same roles and behavioural patterns that they had when they went to school together. They have all changed, but they keep each other (pretty much unaware of doing so) stuck in old social habits.

Can the habits be changed?

I guess it is possible, but it surely takes awareness, time and effort. Not only do you have to change your actual behaviour, you also have to “make” the other person (or even harder; group) see the difference, because he or she is in the habit of seeing you in a certain way. The change has to be quite noticeable.

When I meet new people I remind myself to be as authentic as I can – from the beginning. And in the relationships I am already in – i do the same, and try to create small changes of habit over time.

Who, and doing what, brings out the you in you?

“Choice is creation. To choose is to create. Through my choices I create my reality. At every moment in my life I have a choice. Moments add up to a lifetime; choices add up to a life. What kind of life do I want for myself? What choices will create this kind of life?” – Tal Ben-Shahar

Seek those who fan your flames

“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” – Rumi

Spending time with people who fan your flames, is a key component in a happy life. At least it is to me!

I spend time with a lot of people, and I enjoy the company of most of them, but there are some who stand out and really fan my flames.

These people inspire me, I find pleasure in their company and they challenge me to grow as a person. And I sense that they feel the same way

Awareness, compassion, inspiration, synergy, love, pleasure and meaning are words I would use to describe the essence of these relationships.

I am sure that if you look at the people surrounding you, you will also be able to pin point some of them as “special” in that sense.

It is only recently that I have proactively been seeking the company of people who I can relate to in this way. Attending TED Global in Rio last year was probably the first time I made it a priority. But it is something that I now value and strive to integrate in my life much more than I have done so in the past.

Don´t take this the wrong way – I am in no way devaluating the relationship I have with most of the people I know – I am just acknowledging, that some relationships or connections, or whatever you choose to call them, have a special quality and intensity that stand out.

As I have mentioned a couple of times before, I have not been the most social person you can imagine, so initiating new relationships is not something that comes natural to me. BUT in respect of my (new) life rule about taking a step forward and not backwards, when I hesitate in a situation – I try to do the same in my interaction with other people.

I am no longer (that) afraid of telling someone, that I value their company, that I find them inspiring, and that I would love to spend more time with them.

And what has the consequence been? My life is on fire!

You can do it to!  Prioritize the people you already know who fan your flames, and seek to find more.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
– Carl Jung 

Enjoying the transformation, I wish you all a great weekend!

The blessing of odd

Do you ever feel more like a spectator, than a participant at a social gathering? Or maybe even in life in general?

Growing up, I spent most of my life as a spectator. Observing more than participating.

I remember feeling like an outsider, like someone watching a movie, and everyone around me was part of the cast, but I was not. No one was bullying me or teasing me, and I did have a few friends, but circumstances, and maybe just my personality, made me The odd one out..

A definition of The odd one out states: “Deviating from what is ordinary, usual, or expected; strange or peculiar.”

That describes me pretty well, but today I am no longer just a spectator – I participate. I am now the odd one out participation in my own life, instead of just observing it.

When I was a teenager, I was somewhat isolated. My mother was sick for many years, and my everyday life was limited to school and staying at home taking care of her. That was my small world, and I never really felt part of anything else, even when I did attend social events.

I did find one hobby that changed my life. Dancing! But even as a dance student, I never really felt as a participant in a group. I attended dance class in Copenhagen 4 – 5 times a week, but I never talked to any of the other students there – I just showed up, did the training, and went back home.

At the dance studio that I attended there was a photographer who used to take pictures of us – and he took this one of me, observing!

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Even though it was not always funny to be the odd one out, today I feel grateful. Odd has done me well, and today I surround myself with other odd people. However messed up – surviving difficulties and accepting the reality of odd, is truly a blessing.

It is only within the last year that my role as a spectator has really changed to participant. I think, that I have mentioned this in a previous post; I have made it into a rule, that whenever I hesitate I step forward instead of stepping back. And so far, it has brought me nothing but great experiences.

Right now I am actually in Hamburg, and have just spent the weekend with odd friends that I love and value – doing odd things, without hesitation.

Love to share!

Yesterday we accidently crashed a birthday party at the harbor – we watched a beautiful sunset, and two of my friends jumped in the water and went for a swim.

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Being part of that experience made me feel so alive and content. Actually feeling content is the best way to describe how I feel, when I do not hesitate, and decide to step forward instead of backwards.

It is always now! Why not decide to participate – now?

P.s. Feel Free

The paradox of a restriction making me feel free, inspired me to write this P.s. to my post A Silent Perspective.

The 2 hours of Silent Sightseeing guided by Bastian Overgaard reminded me, that awareness and selfobservation are key to understanding, that the thoughts in our heads do not define who we are. They are thoughts – thats all! And we are all free to agree or disagree with them, and free to choose our own actions in response.

Being restricted to silence very quickly made me aware of how often my thoughts just turn into speech. The urge to react to my own thoughts by saying something became crystal clear, and having to stop myself from speaking changed my focus and gave room for awareness.

“When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking. When you notice that voice, you realize that who you are is not the voice — the thinker — but the one who is aware of it.

Knowing yourself as the awareness behind the voice is freedom.

– Eckhart Tolle

This is the point, that the silent experience reminded me of. And yes, we do need to be reminded. Well, at least I do!

There is a big difference between knowing something to be true – because you have read and understood it – and then experiencing it to be true. And sometimes we forget a little..

Inspired by silence and feeling free – let me end this post with another quote;

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

– Jean-Paul Sartre

With freedom comes responsibility…

Wondering about the flowers in my hair? I felt free!

Feel Free

A Silent Perspective

2 hours of Silent Sightseeing in Copenhagen, guided by the inspiring and talented Bastian Overgaard was a unique experience.

The idea of sightseeing in silence might strike you as odd, but the silence makes the seeing and the sensing much more intense, and it gives you a different perspective. A silent perspective.

When you choose to be silent in a group it differs a lot from just being silent on your own. As Bastian explained it; an intelligent silence arises.

What might be experienced as a restriction – you are not allowed to speak – turnes into a synergy in the group and you feel free to take in the world around you, and become one with reality.

Silence is a great doorway to awareness, and the sightseeing makes you observe. You observe the things around you, but most important you observe your self. Awareness is the key, and silence is a great tool.

Walking the streets of Copenhagen in a group – in silence – made us all feel like spectators, watching the everyday play of life.

This afternoon was a bit special though. It was election day in Denmark, so the focus of our sightseeing was the area around the Parliament building. The place was buzzing with people, journalists and politicians, and gave me mixed feelings of pride and gratitude for our democracy, combined with an outrage against the methods used in the political campaigns.

My 2 hour role as a silent spectator made me think of a Shakespeare quote;

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

Thank you Bastian for inspiring A Silent Perspective!

Let me share with you a few pictures from the sightseeing;

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Picture Perfect Now

A picture says more than a thousand words – but it also captures the now and becomes an elegant reminder that the present moment is all there is. It is always now!

Sometimes looking at a great pictures is just what we need to become present. In a way it makes time stop – or at least makes the storm of thoughts in our mind stop. A great picture lets us feel the moment. We can not truly enjoy a picture, or any other form of art, without being present.

In that way a picture is a “double” now. It captures a now – and you can only enjoy it now.

Please join me, and take a look at some great pictures, that 3 photographers very generously have allowed me to share with you. And stay on until the end – the last one is my personal favorit.

The first three pictures I will share with you are taken by Thomas Gregersen – my (dear) ex-husband. Me, the dog and a beautiful spring forrest. Open each picture – and feel the now.

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Victor

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Now – now – now! And how Thomas has kept reminding me of that..

Twice within the last month I have had the pleasure of working with Photographer Elona Sjögren. I needed some portraits and some pictures for a special work project, and Elona came highly recommended.

Elona challenged me in a great way, when we made the portraits. This first picture is not what I imagined – but it is me. She caught me!

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The next picture was actually taken after we had finished the photoshoot, and it is one of my favorits. What a now! I was getting up from the floor, and almost lost my balance. Look what she captured. So very unexpected.

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Elona, I love how you inspire and capture the now.

And now, let me keep you present!

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That should get your attention!

This picture, and the ones to follow, are the genius work of Lin Sebastian Kayser. I met Lin at TED Global in Rio last year. One afternoon we where standing in line to get in to the talks, and he showed me some pictures he had taken. Time stopped. When you see these next pictures, I am sure they will make time stop for you as well.

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I promised you the best for last, right?! Well, here it is. This picture by Lin Sebastian Kayser was taken at the Memorial to the murdered jews of Europe in Berlin. Lin, this takes my breath away!

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One last note of thought; look around you now! The now is picture perfect – you just have to stay present, and see what is there. It is always now.

New York state of mind

Off the record. I will spend the next five days mixing business with pleasure, the best way I know how, in New York City!

I feel grateful and humble.

This past year I have met a lot of new and amazing people – they have inspired me in many ways, and have changed my perspective on life and the way I relate to other people.

People who know me have sometimes heard me say, that I have slight social phobia. They usually laugh, when I say that – probably because they see me at work, teaching, talking to a lot of people, being passionate about my work and so on. I don´t come across as shy.

But meeting new people has actually always been a challenge for me – especially if I was the one who had to initiate contact.

I have to overcome myself at conferences ans social events, if I don´t know anyone there, and I often get the urge to just go home instead of facing the situation.

But – this last year I have managed to convince myself, that whenever I hesitate – and can not find a rational reason for the hesitation – I need to step forward, not backwards. And doing that, has resulted in me meeting great people, and finding the best of friends.

These next five days I will be meeting with some of the people I have recently met.

I will go to a concert at Carnegie Hall listening to music composed by Georgia Shreve. I had the pleasure of meeting Georgia at a Positive Psychology conference in Amsterdam last year, and she was kind to invite me to her home in New York shortly after. What an amazing woman!

Also I will meet with great friends, that I met at TED Global in Rio 2014 – a conference that I went to ” all alone”, knowing no one there, and facing my fears head on. And what a joy it turned out to be.

I did say business too, right?!

And yes of course, I will also be meeting with 3 dedicated and talented guys working on a new business idea for the US market. I look forward to that with anticipation too.

My New York state of mind is to step forward when I hesitate – all good has come of it so far!

You should try it.

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

In a couple of months I will visit San Francisco for the very first time and I can promise you, that I will make sure to wear some flowers in my hair.

This sunday I am hosting the third Afternoon Pancake event. The theme is American Pancakes, and I will serve them with fresh berries and maple syrup. If I am lucky maybe some of my guest will celebrate the beginning of summer, and wear flowers in their hair.

Flowers are such delicate and fragrant beings, and have been the inspiration for many artists, poets and mystics.

Looking at a flower can give you a sense of joy – raising your awareness and increasing your presence.

“Buddha is said to have given a “silent sermon” once during which he held up a flower and gazed at it.  After a while, one of those present, a monk called Mahakasyapa, began to smile.  He is said to have been the only one who had understood the sermon.  According to legend, that smile (that is to say, realization) was handed down by twenty-eight successive masters and much later became the origin of Zen.”

– Eckhart Tolle

There has been many interpretations as to the point Buddha was making; one is that things come and go (this too shall pass), another, that Buddha was trying to illustrate the concept of “suchness” – that things are just as they are, and a third, that an enlightened (ego-less) mind springs from our egoistic minds in the same way a lotus flower springs from pond muck.

We don´t have to agree on any of the interpretations – but I do hope, that you will wear flowers in your hair this sunday.

Don´t mention the C-word!

How does Calorie-awareness affect what and how much you eat? Does it have any affect at all?

On my trip to California my travel companions and I had interesting experiences with calories, and the “in your face” listings of calories on menus.

When we arrived in California we all knew, that maintaining our weight would be a challenge. The concept of Vacation-fat is not strange to us, and it is a term widely used I Denmark.

Pretty fast we agreed on not mentioning the C-word. There should be no talk of calories! Not in the way that we would just eat without any thought to the consequences, but almost…

Staying unaware of the (huge) amount of calories in the (big) servings of food we where offered in restaurants and diners turned out to be a challenge we had not seen coming.

A lot of the menus we where handed had listings of calories on them. And even though we are all pretty well educated, and all work with health related issues and therefore have a lot of knowledge about nutrition – we where still surprised!

We where surprised at how many calories was actually in some of the servings! A breakfast containing 1200 – 1500 calories was not that uncommon. And knowing, that a woman of my size only needs about 2000 calories per day, that was a bit frightening.

But mostly I think we where surprised, at how these listings actually affected what we ate, and how much.

Needless to say, that calories are usually not something you find on Danish menus.

I personally chose the “Healthy alternative” when possible, and I usually did not eat everything on the plate. I also cut down on the in between meals, so that I would have enough calories to spend on the main meals.

I think, that my rationale was, that with the amount of calories being brought to my attention in this way, deciding to not mention the C-word, and dwelling on the calorieunawareness, made no sense! There was a limit to how much denial I could get away with – even when visiting California.

As a result I made it through the week without gaining any weight. And I still had a good time, and ate a lot of good food. Including pancakes of course.

The opinions of my travel companions differed a little. One found that the listings of calories gave us an unhealthy focus on how much, and what, we ate. But all in all I think that we all used the information in a good way.

I should add, that in Denmark we are not used to serving sizes as big as the ones we saw in California! And also meals usually don´t contain such huge amounts of sugar, as Pancakes with syrup for instance. So should we have had to guess the amounts of calories in a serving, I think we would have underestimated quite a lot. Who would ever be able to guess the amount of calories tucked away in this nice serving of pancakes..

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Do you have any comments or experiences in this area? Please share.