FRESH Workshop Series Concludes with Happiness As Medicine
“FRESH does not just have my blessing, but my interest. FRESH does exactly what I think should be done… which is linking mind and body.” Tal Ben-Shahar told the audience, nodding earnestly at Dr. Rob and Julie. Tal previously taught the most popular course at Harvard University (Positive Psychology - surprise!), but for this workshop, he got to be among the pupils.
Thursday night's was the last of the FRESH workshops' six-month series: We started in January with Food; then we eased into Relaxation for February; In March, we got up for some Exercise; Sleep followed in April, and finally, as spring arrived we reached "H": Thursday night the hoopla was all about Happiness As Medicine.
When Rob and Julie first married they talked figuratively about a way to merge their strength and passions. Julie (Certified Health Coach, Yoga, Positive Psychology, Meditation, & Aromatherapy Practitioner) is the creative mind, the linguist, the dreamweaver. Rob (MD, MPH, ABOIM, FACP Board Certified: Internal & Integrative Medicine) is the dream catcher, calling out potential nightmares where he sees them and bringing Julie “back down from the clouds” with scientific reason. Eventually, the figurative became literal - and that’s how we came to be learning about Happiness As Medicine from them both (rather than watching the Rangers game!) on a warm spring evening.
Having been through the wash, rinse, repeat of the medical field, Dr. Rob witnessed the inefficiency of its quantitative priorities. Co-founding FRESH Med NYC brings him happiness that his lifestyle in a doctor’s traditional setting could not: “I can go down the hall and talk to an acupuncturist, a nutritionist, a chiropractor,” he told us. “We see [healthcare] differently - That’s why it’s a fresh approach.”
Dr. Rob talked about famous supporters of Happiness As Medicine: Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, and the former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. He allowed us to imagine a national value system like Bhutan’s, in which Gross National Happiness (GNH) is worth more than GDP.
Before long, however, Rob passed the torch to Julie; with her certification in Positive Psychology, FRESH’s “H” workshop called especially for her expertise.
First, Julie introduced us to the field of Psychology, gently steering us away from the negative connotations we usually imagine. Often, we reduce the whole field to a focus on only abnormal psychology, and as important as this piece is, it is still just that - one piece! It might seem simple, like we can cover Positive Psychology with a “don’t worry, be happy” and a pat on the back, but the concept possesses far more depth.
To guide us through the realm of Happiness, Julie introduced to us to her own creative map: the ABC’s of Positive Psychology. She explained that Positive Psychology emphasizes a mind in a state North of Neutral - That is, happiness is less about being not depressed, or neutral, and more about striving to be happy, a place north of that neutral latitude.
Julie selected 26 of her own photographs and paired each with a letter in the Positive Psychology alphabet. Her photos represented buzz words like Awe, Broaden and Build, Compassion, Discernment, Empathy, and she shared personal anecdotes and mini psychology history lessons for them all. Audience members got an intimate glimpse into 26 moments which brightened Julie’s life, and from those, we drew ideas to tuck away and enrich our own lives.
We also learned to find our strengths. These qualities are what Julie immediately works to identify in her clients, because as she puts it, "I'm going to feel like a ding dong for the rest of my life if I compare myself to others.” Everyone laughed, but it’s true: Julie is creative and driven and quick, and now she capitalizes on those traits with confidence rather than comparison. “As a nation, we score very low on self regulation... What are you good at?” she asked us. Find out your strengths at www.VIAcharacter.org
When Julie and Rob concluded their presentation, we all got up and mingled. A tangible connection seemed to buzz in the sound waves between each of our contented voices as we discussed what we’d learned, why we’d come, where we hoped to go. We dipped carrot sticks into hummus, and sampled fresh pressed juices from love grace, whose wonderful founder captured all of our hearts.
And isn’t this what Medicine is?! we asked each other. Collaboration, education, good people and organic fare at FRxESH Med NYC.
Luckily, for those of you who couldn’t be at the Happiness As Medicine workshop, you can still pick up your “prescription” online: Julie posted her ABCs of Positive Psychology on her Instagram account @positivelypsyched. Before long, you might even be able to get your daily dose from an e-book... Imagine, your smartphone or Kindle getting you #PositivelyPsyched! Shhh, you didn’t hear it from us.