Laughter Is Still Good Medicine, Even in a Pandemic

Researchers at Penn State University have scientifically proven that laughter may still be the best medicine for some things, even throughout a pandemic. The authors write “As COVID-19 quickly spread across the globe, social media memes about life in a pandemic also spread across the Internet.”

The authors conducted an online experiment involving over 700 people to assess how viewing memes during this pandemic era may influence their stress and coping.

The authors go on to say “In terms of psychological responses, we found that meme viewing was associated with stronger cuteness responses, higher levels of reported humor, more positive emotions, and lower levels of information processing.”

The findings also suggest that viewing memes, as compared with nonmeme content, indirectly increased COVID-19 coping efficacy. There was specific benefit for those who consumed memes featuring animals as opposed to humans.

Stand Up for Mental Health

Today’s wellness post comes to us from NPR News, where columnist Cha Pornea notes “Of all the ways in which the pandemic has affected Americans’ well-being, perhaps the one we’ve noticed least is how much we’re sitting. And it’s not just bad for our waistlines — it’s hurting our mental health.”

“The sneaky effects of the pandemic that we might not even notice [is] that we’ve changed our sitting patterns,” says Jacob Meyer, director of the Wellbeing and Exercise lab at Iowa State University.

Though most people saw their mental health gradually improve as they adapted to a new reality, people who stayed mostly sedentary didn’t see get the same improvement, according to a follow-up study by Meyer. “People who continued to have really high levels of sitting, their depression didn’t improve” as much, says Meyer.

Does this hit home with you? If so, fear not! The trend is easily reversed and the benefits are usually noticed quickly. Any bit of movement helps, so start by setting small, achievable goals such as 5 minutes of walking per hour. Having a hard time staying focused on the walk? Get board easily? Try a mindful walking exercise.

You can read the full story and get more tips on how to get active over at


If you’ve been feeling off—but can’t exactly call it depression—you could very well be languishing. Similar to burnout, more and more people are experiencing this phenomenon on a global scale. If you feel that this might be something you or someone you care about my experiencing, you can read the article “Languishing Is A Rising Mental Health Issue: 7 Signs You’re Experiencing It” by psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP. The findings of this article are summarized below, you can click on the image for a full size, printable handout.

Find Your Why and Exercise

Psychologist that study health behavior change are increasingly verifying what many of us have known for a while, harsh approaches to health behavior change do not work. Quitting cigarettes cold turkey, completely eliminating treats from your diet, forcing yourself to run miles a day because someone else said it was good for you – all of these fail to produce sustained change.

Why tends to work better is finding the value in the change, figuring out why it would be personally meaningful, and keeping that goal in mind.

The folks at note that “fitting in exercise is hard for everyone, hearing what keeps other people going can help you find your “why” too.” It’s true, exploring all the values to a health behavior change like exercise, not just the ways measured on a scale, help people sustain change for the long haul.

They go on to say that fitness is about so much more than losing a few pounds, getting shredded, or trying to emulate a “perfectly” toned body. Fitness is about what you can gain. It’s about measuring success by how you feel, not by the scale. It’s about improving physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s about moving in a way that brings you joy so you’ll keep going for years. And it’s about meeting you where you’re at on your fitness journey.

To help kick-start your journey toward finding the “why,” they interviewed 12 trainers, yoga instructors, parents, and others about WHY they exercise, how they fit it in, what inspires them to keep going, and a favorite motivational phrase they share with others.

Read the reasons others have to keep up their health routines at, then pause today to consider what goals you have and the direct and indirect reasons they are important to you.

A Matter of Time

New research from the University of Pennsylvania and University of California, Los Angeles describes the need for us to strike a balance with our free time. When we have too much or too little, we start to feel distress and, in some cases, overwhelmed. The authors offer some insight and advice to manage this.

Specifically, they acknowledge that many people living in modern society feel like they do not have enough time and are constantly searching for more. They asks the questions of to what degree having limited discretionary time actually detrimental, and if there can there be downsides of having too much discretionary time?

In their large-scale data sets spanning 35,375 Americans and two experiments, they explored the relationship between the amount of discretionary time individuals have and their subjective well-being.

Findings suggest that, whereas having too little time is indeed linked to lower subjective well-being caused by stress, having more time does not continually translate to greater subjective well-being. Having an abundance of discretionary time is sometimes even linked to lower subjective well-being because of a lacking sense of productivity. In such cases, the negative effect of having too much discretionary time can be attenuated when people spend this time on productive activities.

While there is no single “best” way to manage one’s time, provides a good overview of many common strategies people can use to manage their time best. Just be sure that among that activities you plan going forward is self-care!

7 Things to Do When Your Tank Is Empty

This week we continue to look at the topic was explored last week, resiliency. This week we specifically look what to do when you do not feel resilient, when you feel burn out, or when you just need a boost.

Karen Nimmo is a clinical psychologist and author from Aotearoa, New Zealand. She describes 7 ways to refill your tank when it feels empty. These methods are listed below, and you can read her full article at

1. Know when to quit the day.

I love this line from the young woman who was feeling she’d lost a chunk of her twenties. If you get to 3pm and absolutely nothing’s going right, take your foot off and quit the day. Curl up and have a cry if you need to. Know you’re not going to make your mark on anything today. Dump it in the way-too-hard-basket. And know that all feelings are temporary. Just because one day goes wrong doesn’t mean the next one will. Often, it’s quite the opposite. You can try again tomorrow.

2. Live in “day-tight compartments.”

One of the early founders of the self-help movement, Dale Carnegie had a strategy for reducing worry: “live inside day-tight compartments.” It’s a tidy way of saying take things one day at a time — to stay in the present, which is especially helpful during times of turmoil. Just live each day until bedtime.

3. Throw your heart over the bar.

One of the traps of feeling low is to do everything half-heartedly, which means you don’t enjoy anything much, you persistently feel like you’re going through the motions. So do fewer things. Or, better still, do one thing at a time. But whatever you do, bring all your focus to it. Do it with your whole heart. Your distracted mind will follow — at least for a little while.

4. Phone a friend.

Because it’s helpful for you to stay connected. But also just because someone, somewhere, may need a friendly ear. They may welcome a chat with you, they may benefit from it — and that confirms you as a good person. Bonus benefit: It takes you out of your own life (and head) into someone else’s.

5. Keep the routines but kill the to-do list.

Basic routines are helpful for framing your day. But 25 things on your to-do list? Seriously? Don’t do that, you’ll just end up transferring most of it to the next day and that’ll just make you feel bad. Be objective and real about your to-do list. Or throw the list out altogether and just do what you can.

6. Tiny, novelty projects

Routines help ground and steady us. But the downside is the sheer repetition of them. Humans are wired for novelty and stimulation. So we have to keep finding ways to spark our interest. Pick tiny, novelty projects that you can complete on the same day, or at least quickly. Cook a new dish, walk a new route, paint a picture, write a poem, put up a shelf, plant some seedlings. The rule is active — not passive, though. So finding a new TV show to stream doesn’t count. Aim for something that engages body as well as mind.

7. Remember to laugh.

There’s some really sad stuff going on in the world right now. And some shocking stuff, and some stuff to make you angry, all of which make it easy to lose your sense of humor — and feel guilty when you hang onto it. Even during suffering there are moments of weirdness, of fun, of joy. It’s a sign of emotional health that you can keep leaning into them.

7 Traits of Resilient People

While these articles are meant to be informative and inspirational, sometimes that starts with acknowledging the more challenging aspects of our daily lives. Many of us had hoped that COVID-19 would be mostly in our rearview by now, but that is not the case. And while this continues to contribute to fatigue and burnout so, too, has it shown the resiliency many of us never knew we had or that we did not see in each other. Registered Nurse Pantea Vahidi recently wrote on this topic and identified 7 traits that she has noticed are common to resilient people. They are shared here, along with some recommendations on how to connect with these traits when you feel you have lost touched with them.

1) Resilient People Accept the Baseline: Baseline is your current situation. It is a term we use in the medical field to describe the usual health condition of patients. Your normal may be different than someone else’s, but it’s yours to own. Resilient people do not ask “why me?”, they accept their baseline and put in the effort to change it if they are bothered by it. If you want to try to work on this area, check out these six Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) worksheets.

2) Resilient People Are Flexible: Being willing to change plans and pivot is crucial to being resilient. Those who have experienced adversities know that often life does not go as planned, and the frustration of refusing to change is an unnecessary source of depletion and burnout. Need help with this? Daniel Amen, MD offers these 5 ways to increase your emotional flexibility.

3) Resilient People are Willing to Learn: When challenges and change strike us, we need new skills and knowledge to cope with and overcome the adversities. Resilient people are open to learning about the topic that they are facing. They know that the more equipped they are with information and facts, the better they can make decisions and battle what they are facing. Ready to expand your boundaries? Any number of websites offer free course on a variety of topics, including Harvard, EdX, and Stanford.

4) Resilient People Seek Solutions: When life takes a turn, we can either sit and complain or immediately look for solutions. Resilient people are quick to look for ways to resolve or at least improve the situation. They do not expend their energy in reciting why the problem is difficult or unfair. They channel that time, mental, and emotional energy to find solutions. The VA offers online resources for finding solutions in challenging times.

5) Resilient People are Resourceful: Unusual circumstances call for unusual measures. Those who are resourceful make do with what is available and use their accessible resources to the best of their ability. Many can function and perform in ideal situations, but to be able to work with what is at their disposal is the difference between wishful thinking and being realistic and resilient. Often times this means asking for help. Check out this article from the National Alliance on Mental Illness on asking for help.

6) Resilient People are Creative: When we face trials and turbulences, we often need to think outside the box to come up with new ways to overcome. Resilient people know that they need to tap into their creative thinking to adjust and adapt. They somehow know what Einstein knew that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Author Matt Richtel offers advice on how to maximize our creative side.

7) Resilient People Set Realistic Expectations: Expectations are what we believe about the future. While not crossing the line of being pessimistic, resilient people know that by having unrealistic expectations, they are setting themselves up for a major disappointment, which will lead to frustration. Having realistic expectations is a mental rehearsal which makes us more prepared for what is to come. If you think you need help adjusting your expectations, have a look at this advice from PsychCentral.

Wellness Wednesday: From Cynicism to Hope

Extant literature suggests the acquiring cynicism is a natural part of human development. Much of this research provides evidence that people’s beliefs and statements are not always aligned and, further that people may attempt to deliberately deceive others beginning at a young age. Consequently, we begin to become sensitive to a variety of sources of inaccuracy in people’s presentations, also from a very early age, as a protective measure against being taken advantage of our outright harmed. The last few years have offered plenty of fuel for cynicism, but what happens when cynicism becomes the rule rather than the exception in our daily lives? Writer Aida Knezevic recently reflected on this in her own life. She found a significant negative impact on her personal relationships, her ability to affect change in her life, and her overall mood. With that in mind, there are a few steps you can take to help combat cynicism based on what Knezevic found:

  1. Challenge yourself to go just a few days without consuming negative content (especially on social media) and take the time you would have spent doing so to examine your automatic thoughts to emotionally provocative situations. Before passing judgement on a situation or seeking out sources of information that confirm these automatic thoughts, list those thoughts out and then list out their complete opposite and gather what evidence you can for and against each.
  2. Knezevic says that “when cynicism becomes your default state, it makes it incredibly difficult to be hopeful or optimistic about any challenge you’re facing. And when you lose all hope, you also lose any willpower to make your life better.” Naturally, this would cause one to become risk averse. As such, challenge yourself to try something new or wonder out of your comfort zone at least once per week if not daily. Even if you do not end up with desirable results, you can take pride in having learned something new.
  3. Knezevic  also suggest that “cynicism impairs your ability to celebrate the good not only in your own life but also in the lives of others, it can also cause your personal relationships to suffer.” As such, practicing at least one act of gratitude and compassion daily can help strengthen your relationships which can lead to improved quality of life and bolster you through difficult times.

To learn more, you can read Aida Knezevic’s full article here.

Empathy and the Latest Wave

COVID has been here long enough that many people have lost count of what wave of infections we are on, or even when to start and stop counting one from the next. As the current delta-driven wave surges so, too, have many of the emotions of earlier waves resurfaced. In particular this time around we are seeing a fair amount of anger between two camps of people, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. While anger is a natural and valid emotion, in times like these it is often worth reflecting when and why the anger is coming to the foreground, and how we can put to use the energy it is producing.  One means by which we can accomplish this is through the building of empathy. Today, we are offer a few guidelines to help increase our empathy for others with whom we disagree, and toward ourselves to assure we are always responding in a way that is consistent with our core values:

  • Remind ourselves that much of what divides us is a sign of shared trauma. Trauma in what we have lost in the last 18 months; for the vaccinated, trauma over now potentially losing all the gains that were made through vaccination efforts; for the un-vaccinated trauma over feeling pressured to accept a vaccine that their anxiety tells them may harm them, and that anxiety being compounded by others, often times those whom they love, shaming them and causing them to feel guilt.

  • Remember our shared humanity. We are all doing the best we can, and all working from the best information we have, even though sometimes that information may be incorrect or internally conflicting. Try to approach those with whom you disagree with genuine curiosity, and a desire to truly understand their choices rather than having your primary priority be changing their mind.

  • Practice the art of noticing. Get comfortable noticing when an emotion comes up, and notice all the subtle changes in your emotions throughout the day. Each emotion usually comes with an impulse to rally our resources and respond. Before you respond, though, ask yourself if your action is being taken in the name of your values and long term goals, or if you are going to do something for the sake of ridding you of an emotion you no longer want to sit with.

  • Connect. One sure fire way to manage any emotion is to connect with the present moment. Reach out to someone and check up on them, or reach out to your trusted source for your own check-in. We can often counteract the corrosion by promoting connection, not exacerbating the disconnection. Engage in a valued activity, or go get exercise to burn some of that energy. Have a snack.

Remember, anger is a natural emotion, and these days many of us feel it is well justified. But using that anger to make others feel bad will never lead to change. Reconnect with our own values, and finding new ways to connect with those with whom we disagree with may offer a path forward.

Little Habits, Big Differences

For most of us, mornings are rough. We snooze, wake, repeat. Jump out of bed. Java. And then start firing off emails and Slacks. It’s no way to greet the day and its disruptive energy that carries into our work. To help you kick-start your day the right way, here are 10 tiny, two-minute switches from the folks at that are easy to implement and can have a major impact on your day.