Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Monday, June 19, 2017

PUPO! Transfer of FOUR Embryos!

Pregnant until proven otherwise!

I checked into the clinic at 10:04 and received my wristband, while my husband parked the car. There she is! sung my doctor when she saw me, causing me to breathe a sigh of relief. We must have one or two, or she wouldn't be so chipper, I thought.

I was called back right away and shown to my room before using the restroom and returning. My husband came in moments before our doctor. We were (and both still are) shocked when she said that we had FOUR good embryos! We've never had that many. Here they are:
I've had 3, 2, and 3. Why do I, three years later, have more? I mean, with the round that gave us Baby A, I went from 6 that were mature and fertilized to only 2 on day three! The other 4 had 2 polar bodies and weren't unwinding. I know that correlation does not equal causation...but I have been taking DHEA for the last 2 months, at my clinic's suggestion, and I really think that helped.

Back to the embryos. Still in shock, we didn't know what to do and looked to Dr. Frederick for guidance. She recommended transferring all of them. I was all for it, while my husband was a bit more cautious and concerned. She was patient and took time with us, answering our questions, and reiterating that this would provide us with the best chance of success. She left to get the embryologist and our embryos and we had a few more moments to think. 

If we had not already transferred 3 on day 3 in the past...twice, I would be more hesitant. Remember, these are day 3 embryos not day 5 blastocycts. So even under the most perfect conditions - even if they had formed naturally - about half of these would not/could not ever become a baby. 

They are also not tested, which is another $5,000. And, testing is no guarantee. Our last little girl, who we lost when I was 17 weeks pregnant, was genetically normal. So even if we did test, it would not prevent a loss like that. And, we could put back only genetically tested embryos and they still may not implant.

And so, with a deep breath and ultrasound guidance, Dr. Frederick transferred all four. We are beyond thankful that we had any to transfer at all, let alone enough to slightly worry about the risk of twins, which still is not likely. From my best estimate, it seems I have a 30% chance of this working at all.

Thank you everyone for all your well-wishes. I'm here on bed-rest now and they all mean so much to me. Special shout out to Amanda Brooke Wright who mailed me Menopur, Aunt Cassandra for offering to help while on bed-rest and Traci for mailing me a bunch of pregnancy tests so I can POAS! Hoping and praying for a healthy baby carried to term.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Egg Retrieval Update

When I woke up from surgery yesterday morning, I wasn't worried about our number like I had been in the past. I was showing 9 follicles on Wednesday, one more than the last round of IVF in October. So when the doctor came in to recovery and my husband asked her how many eggs were retrieved, I was surprised and disappointed by the number 5.

(Here are the egg retrieval updates from my first IVF, second IVF and third IVF.)

I went home to rest and wait for the results on how many fertilized. I slept a little and was in some pain, unlike the other 3 retrievals. 

After this many procedures, you would think I would remember that we aren't updated on how many are mature and fertilize until the second day. But for some reason, I thought it was same day and kept checking my email. Finally, right before 5pm I emailed my coordinator, and was reminded results are not until the second day. I didn't sleep well and was prepared for the worst...only 1 or 2 which would likely leave us with none to transfer come Monday. 

With great relief and excitement, I just received an email from Dr. Frederick that we have FOUR! Last time, 8 were retrieved and only 5 were mature and fertilized. I am now hopeful that this will give us one or two to transfer on Monday! 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Last Day of 💉

Today is my last day of injections! I took Centrotide this morning, and 375 IU of Gonal-F and 75 IU of Menopur just now. My  two trigger shots will be in a few hours - at 9:40 p.m. Trigger is given 35 hours before my egg retrieval, which is all set for Friday morning.

My ultrasound this morning shows follicle measurements of:



Above 16mm is considered mature, but 18 and above better. There is still a chance that the 14mm follicle could catch up. So hopefully we will have 6-7 that are mature. From that, we'll be lucky to have 2 on day 3 that are replicating. But we just need one!

Here's the breakdown of my past IVF embryo numbers:

IVF #1: 7 eggs retrieved. 3 embryos on day 3. BFN
IVF #2: 10 eggs retrieved. 2 embryos on day 3. BFP! Baby A born 5/26/2015
IVF #3: 8 eggs retrieved. 3 embryos on day 3. BFP! Miscarriage at 17 weeks

I'll update after retrieval the day after tomorrow. Thank you for your well-wishes, prayers, crossed fingers and/or baby dust!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Prepared for a BFN

“Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.” – Anonymous English Proverb

BFN = Big Fat Negative in IVF lingo, and I'm preparing myself for that result on July 3rd. But a lot will happen between now and then.

This morning, I had blood-work and my second ultrasound to look at how my follicles are growing. I have 9 now, down only 1 from last week's 10. Remember, 3 years ago I had 8 at this things are looking good. Two of them are small, but could still catch up. I added Centrotide injections yesterday morning, and will continue for two more days. Centrotide prevents me from ovulating while the other follicles continue to grow. 

Tonight (6/12), tomorrow (6/13) and the next night (6/14), I will inject 375 IU of Gonal-F and 75 IU of Menopur.

Then, I'll administer my trigger shot (Ovidrel) at 9:40 p.m. on that last night of injections. This has to be given 35 hours prior to my egg retrieval, which is scheduled for Friday the 16th at 8:40 a.m.

6/15 - I begin taking Doxycycline
6/16 - egg retrieval
6/17 - start Crinone, Estrace and medrol dose pack. No more injections, yay!
6/19 - embryo transfer (provided we have any embryos) at 10am.

I'll be on complete bed rest on 6/19, 6/20, 6/21. I am not even supposed to shower, and can sit up only to eat. Since these are weekdays, we will leave Baby A at daycare a little later...probably until 5pm. Because I have never left her beyond my working hours, this will be tough on me. But it minimizes my husband having to keep her occupied and mostly away from me while in the house. Like last time, we'll put the guest mattress on the floor, removing the box spring and frame. This way, she will have easy access to me. But she loves to climb on me and even lay on top of me, which we can't allow her to do. I am not supposed to have any pressure on my abdomen...not even even snug pants! So when I'm spending time with her, my husband will have to be there too.

Bed rest always sounds good in theory and then drives me crazy about 3 hours in. But this time, I'll have the house mostly to myself all day which is nice. Last time, two of the days fell on the weekend and it was hard to hear her playing in the next room or outside and not be able to join in. I have three books to read, a ton of People magazines, a 'Memories for my Child" book to fill out, and am very much looking forward to watching multiple movies - something I never have time for. Honestly, its been years since I watched a movie at home.

After the transfer of embryos (again, if we have any) we have to wait 2 whole weeks for the blood test to find out if it worked, and if an embryo implanted. The dreaded 2 week wait. This will be July 3rd. I am preparing myself mentally for the pregnancy test to come back negative. There is a 90% chance that it will be negative, and only a 10% chance that it will be positive. 

While I desperately want it to work, I am already highlighting the advantages of it being negative, and reminding myself of these points daily:

  1. We will be able to go to Oregon this summer for 3 weeks and see family. If the test is positive, I won't be able to go, and my husband will have to go for less time. I really want to see Uncle Don and possibly Aunt Nancy. Also TJ and Bex are going, and Baby A would get some quality cousin time.
  2. Seeing Bex and TJ in DC next April. I love my husband's brother and his wife, but they're far away. We saw them briefly this weekend, but before that, Baby A was 3 months old when we last got together. If I'm not pregnant, we'll be able to fly and stay with them for a few days, then go to Oglebay where my husband's grandparent's went on several dates. I love the family history and the idea of staying at a nice resort in West Virginia. 
  3. Germany and Austria next summer! Bertchesgarten is a German town in the Bavarian Alps, on the Austrian boarder. Salzberg is only 11 miles away. We're hoping to spend just over a week in both. 
  4. Private high school, at approximately $20,000 per year is feasible with one child, but not likely with two.
  5. Baby A would inherit everything we own, not split it with a sibling. We could hopefully set her up to be able to contribute to a family through rental income equivalent to my salary, so that working would be a choice for her, not a necessity.
  6. Having just one child also allows us to keep a better pace with traveling.
In addition to reminding myself of the advantages, I am also making plans following the test results. If they're negative, I will:
  1. Go for a run. I did this when our first IVF results were negative, and it helped me tremendously. There was a lot more at stake that first time because my Mom was dying of cancer, and we did not already have a child.
  2. Go for another run the next day, and the one after that. Sign up for a half marathon in the fall. 
  3. Camping. Reservations are all set for the same week I get the results.
  4. Bike riding with Baby A on the back of my husband's bike. 
  5. Swim lessons with Baby A.
  6. Possibly adopting another dog. My husband and I are searching for a breed we both like. 
So here's to hoping that I can't do a half marathon this fall, send Baby A to a private high school, spend quality time with family in Oregon this summer or see the Bavarian Alps anytime soon.

Friday, June 9, 2017

IVF #4 Update

I started my injections four days ago. Each night, I inject 375 IU of Gonal F and 75 IU of Menopur. Other than that, I am taking a baby asprin, prenatals, COQ10 and DHEA each day.

This morning, I had my first scan to see how many eggs I have. Before my appointment, I was really nervous. We've never had great numbers, but it's been 3 years since my first IVF, and I was really worried that they would be even lower.

First, she scanned my right side. When she said there were 3 follicles, my heart dropped. But I was so relieved to find out that my left side made up for it with SEVEN, for a total of 10 follicles. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and texted my husband. Only about 1 in 7 of my eggs are normal, so we need this number! I'm especially surprised because for our second IVF (which resulted in Baby A!) I only had 8 follicles on day five! That's two whole more, years later!

Ten follicles on day 5.
I'll stay on the same medication for 6 more nights. On Sunday, I add a Centrotide injection every morning for 4 days to prevent ovulation, and then I'll give myself an Ovridel injection 24 hours before egg retrieval which is set for one week from today!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Positive Psychology: Week 1, Part 2

You can read part 1 here.

Learned helplessness is fascinating to me. He describes the dogs in the laboratory that he and two other psychologists were working with when they discovered this concept. The dogs would hear a sound and then a shock would be administered (I know, this is hard for me to think about as I am an animal lover). But even when the dogs were transferred to a new setting where they could easily jump over a low barrier to escape the shock, they didn't. They remained. They learned to be helpless.

They discovered that more important than Pavlovian conditioning is learning that nothing you do matters. They took three groups of dogs. One group received a shock that lasted 5 seconds, no matter what. The second group received a shock that they could stop by pressing a paddle with their nose. The third group received no shock at all (control). When each of the three groups were transferred into an area where they could easily escape the shock by jumping over a low barrier to escape the shock, every group did except the first group who had learned that they would get a shock no matter what. Even when in a new environment, they had learned to be helpless.

How much control do you feel you have over bad events in your life? If you feel you have control, then you behave normally. But if you feel you have bad events that you cannot do anything about, then you collapse. You fail to escape, and you fail to learn. You fail to even try to do anything to improve the situation.

Seligman repeated this same experiment using people in the 1970's. Instead of a shock, they heard a loud noise that they heard no matter what (group one), that they could stop by pressing a button (second group), or control group. The same thing happened. People who had escapable noise in the beginning learned to move their hand to make it stop. 

Trauma or bad events do not in themselves produce helplessness. The crucial factor is inescapable trauma. In learned helplessness, a person has learned that when bad things happen, nothing they do matters. So they give up and remain passive, even after conditions change and they actually do have control over their environment.

In these studies on learned helplessness, only 2/3 or dogs, rats and then people became helpless. About 1/3 could not be made helpless, no matter what. Dr. Seligman and his team began to investigate why and what protects people from helplessness. 

They began to look at personality.

They found three dimensions to the way people look at bad events that determine whether they will have protection or vulnerability from helplessness.
  1. When a bad event occurs, do you think it is temporary, or permanent?
  2. Do you view the bad event as local or everywhere? 
  3. In general, are bad events controllable or uncontrollable?

Optimism is a protective factor against learned helplessness, while pessimism is a risk factor for it. Large scale, long term studies of depression were conducted. Thousands of children age 10-12 were surveyed on their optimistic or pessimistic viewpoints and then followed over the years and then decades. Those who were pessimistic had between 2 and 8 times the risk of having depression. 

Seligman was working at the time with Aaron Beck on cognitive therapy. This is the part that really interests me, because I can apply it in my job as a school counselor. Cognitive therapy for depression aims to take themost pessimistic thoughts that people have (I'm unlovable, I'm stupid, things will never work out) and challenge those thoughts. 
So for example, you are a 12 year old girl and you walk into the cafeteria and all of your friends are sitting in a different place and they don't ask you to sit with them, and you say to yourself, “no one likes me. I'm a loser.” So what you do with the 12 year old in cognitive therapy is to say, well, what's going on with those girls over there? Maybe they're all members of the volleyball team and I'm not on the volleyball team. So you teach children and adults to dispute their most catastrophic thoughts, and when they dispute their most catastrophic thoughts and become very good arguers against catastrophic thinking, that is the heart of cognitive therapy of depression, the most effective psychological treatment of depression. So that set the stage for asking the question that we'll talk about in the next lecture of what happens if you systematically teach pessimistic children and pessimistic adults the tools of disputing their catastrophizing explanatory style. The short answer is you statistically prevent depression and anxiety. 
Key point: Optimism is a skill that can be learned. Teaching people to realistically challenge their pessimistic explanatory style and to learn optimistic explanatory skills reduces anxiety and depression and increases resilience.

In this second part, Martin Seligman then relays a personal story on how he came to shift his perspective and focus of study from the alleviation of misery and suffering to well-being. The year was 1997, and he was weeding with his 5 year old daughter.  
I was in my garden, weeding with my five-year-old daughter, Nikki, Nicole, and I'm a serious gardener and when I weed, I'm weeding. Those of you who do weeding, know it's no fun at all, you can't even get a routine going for weeding. And so I'm sitting there weeding and Nikki is having a wonderful time, she's throwing weeds in the air and dancing and singing, and I shouted at her, I said “Nikki get to work!” She looked up at me and she looked puzzled, walked away and came back and said, “Daddy, can I talk to you?” I said, “sure Nikki.” So Nikki said to me, “do you remember that since my fifth birthday I haven't whined once? On my fifth birthday, Daddy, I decided that I wasn't going to whine anymore. And that was the hardest thing I've ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch.” 
Epiphany for me, three things I realized in that moment: 
First, that indeed Nikki hit the nail on the head, that I was a grouch. That I, indeed, was a nimbus cloud whose main strength was critical intelligence. I could see everything that was wrong with everything, and somehow I had attributed my success in the world, whatever I had, to my ability to say no. But it occurred to me, really for the first time, that it might have had something to do with what I could say yes to. 
So Nikki got it just right about me, and I decided to stop being such a nimbus cloud. Secondly, Nikki told me that my theory of child development, I have seven children, was wrong. The view that psychology had of child development, in which you want to find all the things they're doing wrong and correct them and somehow, magically, if you get rid of everything that's wrong, you get an exemplary child, well, that actually makes no sense at all. Nikki had just shown not the absence of a negative, but the presence of a positive, that is the ability to talk to an adult, to make sense of an adult. 
So it occurred to me that child-rearing should be not about eliminating the negatives, but identifying and building what's best, the strengths in children. And the third thing I realized was that my profession, psychology, was half-baked- that the part that had been baked and the part that I was proud of was the alleviation of suffering, but the part that was unbaked, the part that was missing, was a psychology of well-being. 
A psychology of well-being. Why wasn't there a psychology of well-being?
Dr. Seligman introduces the acronym PERMA. This is what people who are not suffering choose.

Here is where I completely fail at blogging by cutting and pasting for you. When I try to summarize, I leave too much out, and let's face it, anything I write is not going to explain the concept better than the man himself. Plus, these are essential to happiness and I don't want to short-change ya. 

Well-being Theory
Happiness is a slippery concept. Sometimes it seems to us like the Holy Grail: mythical, wonderful, but probably unobtainable. But Positive Psychology suggests that happiness is more than obtainable. It is the natural result of building up our well-being and satisfaction with life. Professor Martin Seligman spent many years developing a theory of happiness. He wanted to identify the building blocks of well-being. He drew up a five-sided model of well-being called the PERMA model.
These are the five elements Seligman found essential to human well-being:
Image result for perma

Each of these elements is essential to our well-being and satisfaction with life. Together, they form the solid foundation upon which we can build a happy and flourishing life.
Positive Emotion
When someone asks you whether you are satisfied with your life, your answer depends heavily on the mood you are in. When you are feeling positive, you can look back on the past with gladness; look into the future with hope; and enjoy and cherish the present.
Positive emotions have an impact that goes far beyond bringing a smile to our faces. Feeling good helps us to perform better at work and study; it boosts our physical health; it strengthens our relationships; and it inspires us to be creative, take chances, and look to the future with optimism and hope. Feeling good is contagious. Seeing smiles makes us want to smile. Hearing laughter makes us feel like laughing. And when we share our good feelings with others, they appreciate and enjoy our company.
We have all experienced highs and lows in life, but we are doing ourselves harm when we dwell on the lows. If we look back on the past with pain and regret, we will become depressed. If we think of the future and worry about danger and risk, we become anxious and pessimistic. So it is incredibly important to recognise the positive emotions we feel, so that we are able to enjoy the present without worry and regret.
What is it that makes us feel good? It might be spending time with friends and family, engaging in hobbies, exercising, getting out in nature, or eating great food. We need to make sure there is always room in our lives for these things. Positive Psychology research has identified certain skills and exercises that can boost our experience of positive emotions. We can learn to feel them more strongly, and to experience them for longer. Cultivating positive emotions makes it easier to experience them naturally. Many of us have an automatic tendency to expect the worst, see the downside, and avoid taking risks. If we learn to cultivate positive feelings about life, we begin to hope for the best, see the upside, and learn to take great opportunities when they come along.
We don’t thrive when we are doing nothing. We get bored and feel useless. But when we engage with our life and work, we become absorbed. We gain momentum and focus, and we can enter the state of being known as ‘flow’. In Positive Psychology, ‘flow’ describes a state of utter, blissful immersion in the present moment.
In a word: momentum. When you are lying in bed, it is often hard to convince yourself to throw off the covers and plant your feet on the ground. You worry about the cold. You feel tired and sluggish. You lie in bed, thinking but not getting anywhere. But when you are running, you don’t question anything. You are flying through space: one foot goes in front of the other, and again, and again, because it must. You are absorbed entirely in the present moment.
Not everyone enjoys running, but perhaps you feel this way when you are playing music, painting, dancing or cooking. If you have a job you love, you probably feel this way at work. We are most likely to fulfill our own unique potential when we are engaged in activities that absorb and inspire us.
Much of the work of Positive Psychology involves identifying and cultivating personal strengths, virtues and talents. When we identify our own greatest strengths, we can consciously engage in work and activities that make us feel most confident, productive and valuable. We can also learn skills for cultivating joy and focus on the present. Mindfulness is a valuable skill taught by many counselors. Using mindfulness, you can learn to develop a full and clear awareness of the present, both physically and mentally.
Humans are social animals. We have a need for connection, love, physical and emotional contact with others. We enhance our own well-being by building strong networks of relationships around us, with family, friends, coworkers, neighbours and all the other people in our lives.
You know the saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’? Well, it gets even better. Happiness shared is happiness squared. When we share our joy with those we love, we feel even more joy. And when we love, we become more loveable.
We depend on the people around us to help us maintain balance in our lives. When we are alone, we lose perspective on the world, and we forget that others may be bearing greater burdens than our own. But when we let other people into our lives, we remember to give as well as take. When you belong to a community, you have a network of support around you – and you are part of it.
It is important to build and maintain relationships with the people in your life, but it is equally important to recognise the difference between a healthy relationship and a damaging one. Some relationships are dangerous because they are one-sided or co-dependent. Other relationships struggle because people take each other for granted, don’t make time for each other, or can’t seem to communicate.
The key to all relationships is balance. It is not enough to surround ourselves with ‘friends’ – we must also listen and share, make an effort to maintain our connections, and work to make those connections strong.
We are at our best when we dedicate our time to something greater than ourselves. This could be religious faith, community work, family, a political cause, a charity, a professional or creative goal.
Studies have shown that people who belong to a community and pursue shared goals are happier than people who don’t. It is also very important to feel that the work we do is consistent with our personal values and beliefs. From day to day, if we believe our work is worthwhile, we feel a general sense of well-being and confidence that we are using our time and our abilities for good.
What do you value most in this world? It might be family, or learning, or your faith. Perhaps you feel strongly about helping disadvantaged children, or protecting the environment. Once you have identified what matters most to you, find some like-minded people and begin working together for the things you care about. You can find meaning in your professional life as well as your personal one. If you see a deeper mission in the work you do, you are better placed to apply your talents and strengths in the service of this mission.
We have all been taught that ‘winning isn’t everything’. Yes, we should strive for success, but it’s more important to enjoy the game. However, people need to win sometimes. What use are goals and ambitions if we never reach them? To achieve well-being and happiness, we must look back on our lives with a sense of accomplishment: ‘I did it, and I did it well’.
Creating and working toward goals helps us anticipate and build hope for the future. Past successes make us feel more confident and optimistic about future attempts. There is nothing bad or selfish about being proud of your accomplishments. When you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to share your skills and secrets with others. You will be motivated to work harder and achieve more next time. You may even inspire the people around you to achieve their own goals.
It is important to set yourself tangible goals, and keep them in sight. In Positive Psychology counseling, we encourage you to identify your ambitions and cultivate the strengths you need in order to reach them. Regular counseling is a great way to keep focused on your long-term goals and acknowledge the little successes along with the big ones. It is vital to cultivate resilience against failure and setbacks. Success doesn’t always come easy, but if we stay positive and focused, we don’t give up when adversity strikes.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Positive Psychology: Week 1, Part 1

Did you know that you can take college classes for free (unless you want to pay for a certificate) at major universities across the world through Coursera? I did it awhile back, before I became a Mom. It was titled: The Bible's Pre-History, Purpose and Political Future and they lost me at Pre-History. It was too in-depth for me, and I stopped after the first week.

But I am absolutely loving the Positive Psychology course I recently enrolled in. It's a free, 4 week course that consists of about 4-6 hours per week. You work at your own pace. It doesn't start until June 12th, so you have time to it with me! 

I have long had an interest in the Positive Psychology movement, but I've been out of graduate school now for just over 10 years. In that time, this movement has really risen to the forefront of the field. And Dr. Martin "Marty" Seligman, is the founder of Positive Psychology and also the Penn Positive Psychology Center. What I love about this course is that the lecture videos are actually of Marty Seligman lecturing at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is a professor. It's the real deal. 

Here are my cliff notes of what I learned in the first lesson of the first week. If you don't have time to enroll in the course, I'll share with you what I learn here. I'm gearing up for my three days of bed-rest that I will hopefully have if we have embryos to transfer in about two weeks!

The field of Psychology started out being dominated by psychoanalysis and behaviorism in the 1960's. Although parts of each may be used today, they are both outdated and not subscribed to by anyone in the field 100%. In college, it used to bother me when people would ask me my major then respond with "So are you going to psychoanalyze me?" when I said Psychology. As a consequence, they usually had to listen to my more-lengthy-than-needed explanation that I don't like Freud and most of his ideas have since been discounted.

While very different, the focus of both of these views was what could be done to reduce misery and conflict. They were also both highly deterministic, believing that your past history, particularly your childhood, determined your future. The third premise they shared was that consciousness, what went through your head, was really not much interest. In the case of behaviorism, it didn't exist and in the case of psychoanalysis, what was behind what went through your head was the rolling emotions underneath. 
Cognition was the foam on the wave of the emotional life, so there was no reason to take cognition or consciousness, seriously. And importantly for both psychoanalysis and behaviorism: there was no such thing as virtue, no such thing as the good life, no such thing as happiness, no such thing as a future. The future was merely determined by the past. 
With these two dominate schools of thought, there were some major blind spots. Happiness, free-will, virtue and consciousness were excluded. These four concepts are the focus of the course. 

He then goes on to explain that we are "bad weather animals" and how for our survival, this has served us well and kept us alive.
The most recent geological epoch that we lived through, the Pleistocene, was the ice ages- famine, flood, ice, drought, more ice. Now imagine a primate mentality that thought it's a lovely day today out there, I bet tomorrow it's going to be really lovely as well. That mentality got crushed by the ice. The mentality that survived, the brains that you have are bad weather brains. The brain that says, looks like a nice day out there, but tomorrow the ice is coming. Those are the brains you have, and that is the way indeed you process, automatically, information about a good world. Depression, anger, paranoia have served us very well. In the ice ages, it was a very good idea to think that bad stuff was coming,
 As a result, we are all living with a strong negativity bias, summed up really well in this cartoon video. It's only two minutes. Watch it and tell me you don't see this in your own life. I know I do.  

After this introduction to positive psychology, the course shifts gears to a biography of Marty Seligman. You can read that here if you're interested. 

In the simplest sense, positive psychology refers to what we want for ourselves and our world. We want: to feel good, close relationships with our family and friends, to use our unique abilities in ways that help us succeed and make the world a better place. We want our lives to hold meaning.

Positive psychology uses the scientific method to study these topics and try to understand what makes us flourish and identify concrete steps we can take to increase our well-being. 

Clinical psychology used to focus exclusively on what we don't want. But treating mental illness is not the same as promoting mental health. Getting rid of what we don't want in our lives (depression, anger) does not then automatically bring what we do want (joy, meaning).
When I was a child, my family had a garden on my grandparent's farm. I spent a lot of summers pulling weeds out of that garden. But if we had not also planted vegetables and flowers, we would not have had a garden at all, just a field of dirt. Intentionally planting and cultivating the corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and zinnias we wanted to grow was an essential part of having a good harvest. 
This basic sense of the positive is pretty easy to understand. It's not just the absence of the negative, it refers to things we value like joy, serenity, courage, optimism, altruism, peace, perseverance, creativity and love. And these things don't automatically come by fighting against sadness, anxiety, fear, selfishness, boredom and hatred, they have to be cultivated and nurtured. Things gets rather complex though, once we move beyond a basic understanding of positive in positive psychology. In part, this is because it’s difficult to separate the positive from the negative in our lives. Can you think of something that happened in your life that, at the time you would have labeled negative but looking back on it you would now label positive?  

The ideas in Positive Psychology are not new. For milenia and across cultures, religious figures, poets, musicians, artists, philosophers and historians have explored these questions. Confucius, living in China 2,500 years ago, was an early influential thinker who considered these questions. Born in Greece shortly after Confucius' death, Socrates applied the rigorous methods of inquiry developed by philosophers to the investigation of how to live life well. In turn, he had influence on Plato who wrote on many topics including virtue, justice, courage, piety, truth, pleasure, creativity and love. Plato's most famous student was Aristotle, who wrote extensively about human flourishing and the character needed to achieve it.  

More recently, as psychology has emerged as a separate discipline in the last 150 years, questions of how to live life well have guided the work of many psychologists such as William James who studies 'healthy-mindedness', Abraham Maslow, who emphasized the importance of self-actualization.

The field pf Positive Psychology arose at the end of the 20th century when psychologists like Marty Seligman began developing ways of studying various aspects of the positive human experience scientifically, instead of relying merely on introspection or case studies.

Could anything be more important than this? I'm pretty excited to continue the lesson even though it's pretty late right now.

The next lesson in week one will be my next bog entry, but here's the material: 

A Great Leap of Insight: from Learned Helplessness to Learned Optimism

Seeds of Flourishing: The Personal in Parallel with a Developing New Field
7 min

Key Point: Learned Helplessness
3 min

How Do People Explain Bad Events? Risk Factors and Protective Factors for Depression
5 min

Health is a Skill: Learned Optimism
6 min
Discussion Prompt: What makes life worth living?
15 min

Key Point: Optimism can be learned
5 min