What is positive psychology and more importantly, how can it be applied to work and life? In this week’s episode, Sonya sat down with Jordyn Feingold, an MD, Master’s in Applied Positive Psychology, and psychiatry resident at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. They talked about positive psychology and how she’s applying it to medicine, her REVAMP framework, the importance of positive relationships, and more. REVAMP is defined as a 6-pillar framework consisting of Relationships, Engagement, Vitality, Accomplishment, Meaning, and Positive emotions.
Jordyn developed and teaches an elective course called Positive Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-founded a trainee well-being curriculum called PEERS: Practice Enhancement, Engagement, Resilience, and Support. She also co-founded Positive Psychology for Physicians and an online well-being course for clinicians. She co-authored the book “Choose Growth: A Workbook for Transcending Trauma, Fear and Self-Doubt” with Scott Barry Kaufman (you can listen to the recent podcast with Jordyn and Scott here). She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with her BA and Master of Applied Positive Psychology. Her goal is to shift the focus of medicine from treatment to well-being.
“Because in medicine, there really is no singularly defined definition of health or well-being; we have well characterized all of the diseases, but just treating disease leaves us at sort of this baseline state of existing without an illness. But what is left and what might be possible for us when we’re really thriving like I said, full body embodied from head to toe, and that’s where REVAMP comes in. So the ingredients are the same [as PERMA]. What I love about how this acronym plays out is that relationships are number one.”– Jordyn Feingold
- What is positive psychology
- How positive psych and medicine can be related
- REVAMP framework – a six-ingredient framework consisting of relationships, engagement, vitality, accomplishment, meaning, and positive emotions
- Importance of positive relationships
- Focusing on what I’m doing vs how I’m doing
- Reciprocity ring
- Where to start when you’re starting from a place of burnout
- Learn more about Jordyn
- Listen to my recent podcast with Jordyn and Scott Barry Kaufman
- Sign up for my weekly newsletter!
Sonya Looney: Jordyn, welcome back to the show.
Jordyn Feingold: Thank you, Sonya, for having me back.
Sonya: I loved our conversation about choose growth. And for those who haven’t picked up the workbook yet, make sure you pick it up. But today we’re talking about something different. We are talking about your REVAMP program and really about positive psychology and well-being and positive medicine. So I guess to start us out, what is positive psychology?
Jordyn: Sure. So positive psychology is defined as the empirical science of well-being and human flourishing. And this is a model that was formally introduced to the psychological community in the late ‘90s when Martin Seligman was president of the American Psychological Association, and he announced his tenure as president introducing and ushering in a wave of psychology that could do more than just get rid of what’s wrong with people, but actually promote what’s right with people. And up until that point, the formal psychological community, psychologists and even psychiatrists, though the world that I live in, in the medical sphere, was really fixated on the problems that afflict human beings – on depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, or whatever that was called around the war of the time, shell shock, or it had different manifestations and names at different times. And he and his colleagues, namely Mike Csiskzenmihalyi and Christopher Peterson and met many other psychologists came together to really create a new field within psychology. And it has grown and developed into organizations have that many hundreds and thousands of organizations and practitioners and researchers studying concepts through very scientific methods and really novel amazing research methods to study the best parts of the human experience.
Sonya: Yeah, I think that when people listening are thinking about empirical data, and then they think about well-being and flourishing, they’re thinking, how do you actually study that? So what are some of the elements that they study?
Jordyn: I do want to say that there were many precursors to positive psychology most proximately before Marty in positive psychology came the humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow, who Scott and I write about, but it really is Scott’s mentor who he never met. And before that, lots of ancient wisdom and Buddhism and philosophy, Aristotle so the ideas that we study in positive psychology are not necessarily novel. Marty writes in his book, The Hope Circuit, that positive psychology is like old wine in new bottles. And what is so interesting about these new bottles is this question, what are the research methods that we’re using in positive psychology? So, at the most basic level, it’s really led to the development and validation of self report questionnaires, which is kind of like the bread and butter of psychosocial research asking patients, on Likert scales, tell us, on a scale of zero to five, how well do you feel? Essentially that’s not actually a question but there are many, many scales that look at constructs like life satisfaction, or the elements of well-being that Marty Seligman calls PERMA. Peggy Kern developed the PERMA profiler. Things like personal growth and character strengths and virtues, positive relationships, social support, gratitude, grit, which is passion and perseverance for long term goals. So there are all of these constructs, scientists and researchers have developed scales to evaluate them in a self report way, then there are really cool at novel lexical analyses that I am quite familiar with the work of Johannes Eichstaedt who was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania while I was there as an undergrad and he uses lexical analysis, so basically a plug in to an individual social media account or text messages to look at the language that individuals are using and how certain words which are coded in a database as being more positive or more negative. And how those words are used are associated with certain health outcomes. So that’s one method of actually looking at what people are saying and doing more language lexical analyses. And of course, then there are dozens of randomized controlled trials actually looking at clinical outcomes for patients with various mental illnesses and indices of functioning and the workplace or functioning in terms of symptomatology of illnesses and how interventions can differentially move the needle on different sorts of groups.
Sonya: Yeah, so you got your master’s in applied positive psychology and became an expert in this and then went on to become a medical doctor. So how are you incorporating positive psychology into medicine?
Jordyn: Sure. So it’s really interesting, because I had always known I wanted to be a doctor. And it’s because I loved science. And I loved helping people. And I always sought to have a high degree of meaning in my career, which I knew I would be spending a lot of hours every day doing. And when I just thought, as an undergraduate, and as a very naive young person about what that meant, I always thought I was just going to help people be healthier. I knew I wanted to work with young people, I suspected I would want to work with children and adolescents. And I always really loved working with that population babysitting, volunteering, just realizing just how powerful it is to meet someone at that young, early stage of life and how you can really change the trajectory of a young person’s life. So I thought I was going to be a pediatrician, and just really be able to talk to my patients about how to be healthy, how to be their best self, how to how to thrive in their lives, and make great decisions about how to take care of themselves and how they think about their identity. And then I discovered that positive psychology existed as a field that is distinct from medicine, that is all about promoting what’s right with people. And that medicine is still rooted in this biomedical model of getting rid of and focusing on what’s wrong with people. So I decided to go study positive psychology because of that, because I realized that healthcare was still very fixated on this problem focused paradigm. So that’s a lot of background, but to say that, as soon as I went to medical school, I realized there was this massive need, not only to help patients be well, but that there was this crisis among clinicians themselves that clinicians were experiencing the astronomical rates of burnout, depression, anxiety, and even suicide, and that physicians were more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than the average American, which just blew my mind if we’re supposed to be the people that are ushering in health or at least treating disease. And that struck me as sort of the first way to bring positive psychology into the healthcare field would be to working with the clinicians themselves. Because of course the goal is for this to reach all of our populations and all of our patient populations, but until the doctors understand these principles, and can apply them in their own lives, how do we expect that individuals and patients will be able to uptake them. S it’s kind of like training the practitioners and hopefully enhancing medical education to reflect some of these principles. So that was my mentality going into medical school. And then of course, you’re a medical student, you’re at the very bottom of the totem pole. I had to learn, and I’m still learning as a resident, just how the system works, and the whole system of medical education as a medical student, and now as a resident, and as I emerged out of residency into practice, I’ve sort of taken the approach of let’s work with the population that I am in. So I started as a medical student, applying positive psychology in two particular ways. One was through the development of a course called positive medicine that any student resident faculty member at the institution, at Mount Sinai in New York City, could take. And this I’ve been now teaching this class for the last five years, and I’m hopefully teaching it again this semester. And this is like a deep dive into positive medicine, which is the applied science of positive psychology in what we do in medicine, and the various facets that contribute to well-being and this is like really scientific and very experiential, and it requires a really high degree of engagement from the participants. They’re showing up on their own time. Another thing that I was able to do in my years as a medical student was to create what is actually now a, co-create with a really amazing team, a well-being curriculum for medical students, which is actually now built in and baked into our medical curriculum at my institution. And that program is called PEERS. It stands for practice enhancement, engagement, resilience and support. It’s a group-based program where and now I’ve since handed this often, my institution has actually invested in a faculty member to run the program, which we started as students kind of just going by the seat of our pants. And now it’s a really robust program in the medical school and has expanded to our residency programs and PhD programs, where small groups of students led by a peer facilitator who are specifically trained, learn positive psychology topics and essentially support one another in a structured, but very flexible group setting at increments throughout the year to meet the trainees where they are based on the stressors that are facing within their education. And it’s mandatory for the medical students at least, it’s optional for the residents. And the time is protected within the curriculum when it’s not COVID. There’s food provided by the institution to really create a normalize this idea that we need a space to process and talk about what’s going well, what’s not going well, and not just event but really find evidence-based solutions to manage some of these stressors.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, physicians have to take on so much. And compassion fatigue is a real thing, being overstretched and not sleeping enough and not being able to not only physically take care of yourself, but mentally take care of yourself. You have this REVAMP program, which has six different ingredients? What are those different ingredients?
Jordyn: Yeah, so REVAMP I always say it’s an acronym and it’s a call to action for doctors to understand the ingredients of well-being and how we can nurture our own well-being. And these six elements are infused throughout the PEERS program. And they’re also the core fundamentals of each individual class of the positive medicine course that I teach. And these ingredients are derived from the synthesis of many different constructs of well-being that I analyzed as part of my master’s thesis, but really takes most proximately Marty Seligman’s PERMA model, and you’ll hear the overlapping constructs and then the vitality ingredient, which I think is super important. It’s very pronounced in various other theories of well-being predating the PERMA model. And there was another fantastic alum of the MAP program… who has talked about the importance of vitality and completely agree she’s actually coined PERMA V before I came up with REVAMP.
Sonya: Can I stop you real quick to have you go through the acronym PERMA because the listeners may be wondering?
Jordyn: Sure. So PERMA stands for positive relationships, engagement, relationships, meaning and positive emotion. So there’s five ingredients that Martin Seligman has studied and has come to say, they are the five ingredients of well-being and this is probably the most widely used construct within the positive psychology community. And, of course, as a physician who is deeply invested in promoting physical health of patients and acknowledging that the mind and the body are so deeply inextricably linked, what I added and what others such as Amelia have added prior is this “V” element, the vitality element. So when I was sitting, writing out these elements and trying to define them as part of my capstone specifically for applications in healthcare, and where there is an evidence for how these concepts interact with physical health, longevity, and thriving head to toe, what I realized is that when you add the V, it actually spells out revamp, which is I thought was just this perfect way of thinking about this. Because in medicine, there really is no singularly defined definition of health or well-being; we have well characterized all of the diseases, but just treating disease leaves us at sort of this baseline state of existing without an illness. But what is left and what might be possible for us when we’re really thriving like I said, full body embodied from head to toe, and that’s where REVAMP comes in. So the ingredients are the same. What I love about how this acronym plays out is that relationships are number one. And I always tell my students, if you’re going to drop my course, drop it after the second lecture, because that’s when we start to talk about relationships. Because we know that positive relationships are the single most important ingredient for well-being and longevity, even across the lifespan, more important than talent, or IQ or intelligence, or our genetic makeup.
Sonya: Yeah, when we get busy, the very first thing that seems to go is relationships.
Jordyn: And it’s definitely easy to sacrifice because we can come so myopic on ourselves. And in the REVAMP model, I actually really make the effort to conceptualize not just interpersonal relationships, which is obviously the bulk of it, and what’s so critical, but also the relationship that we do have with ourselves. And conceptualizing our inner dialogue and bringing self-compassion in and really honoring that we have a relationship to ourselves. And this is sort of where we talk about, if I’m translating this to my work with Scott, like the self-esteem piece, and like I said, self-compassion work. So for me, that’s all encompassed in the relationships bucket and that includes connection as a need, and that higher order orientation to the world of love. So that’s relationships. And what we do in my course, is go through the data on relationships, on the importance of positive relationships, for health and well-being, how we can enhance our relationships and connections with our patients, with our colleagues to have more to better functioning teams within the workplace. And really to thinking through, like when we’re most satisfied at work as clinicians. For most people, for most clinicians, with the exception maybe of those who have chosen work that is not super interpersonal, like pathology and radiology, but even for those folks, when they feel the most alive at work, it’s when they’re having positive interactions with other people. So we think about how to really promote those, how to put them at the center of our work. And not only that, but how to enhance relationships with our family members, and our loved ones outside of work as well, in addition to the relationship we have with ourselves.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, I think that this relationships piece can extend or this whole REVAMP program can extend past the medical community and like the most people listening can probably see ways that this relates to their life too. And I’m excited to learn more about the rest of the acronyms and how they are improving our medical community and just broader than that. And it took a lot of courage for you to put your hand up and say, hey, wait a second here, like we’re looking at treating disease, but we’re not looking at the mind body connection and we’re missing a huge piece of what it means to be healthy, and how that can extend to patients and how we show up for patients who are ultimately trying to help them find health too.
Jordyn: One-hundred percent. I think there’s two threads that I became really clear to me when I was going through medical school. One was this fragmentation of the human body that, of course, we have to learn medicine, and we have to treat patients and be specialists and really hone the craft in one field. But what I realized is that it can feel really hyper segmented, that you have the liver specialist for the liver, the heart specialist for the heart, the kidney specialist for the kidney. And what that can lead to is sometimes quite a reductive view of the human condition. And it recapitulates this fragmentation and certainly the mind body separation that has been at really the basis of our field, at least in Western medicine. My understanding is that Eastern medicine, Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine is much more uplifting of the mind body synergism, and increasingly, I hope that we see that in Western medicine because it’s absolutely undeniable. And so that was one thread, the hyper segmentation of the human and two was just this total lack of psychology embedded in medical education. I found it so surprising. I was a humanities major in undergrad, but I don’t think that’s the case for most doctors, like most doctors come from science backgrounds. We have a lot of prerequisites to take, it kind of makes sense to major in like chemistry or biology. I was a health in societies major with a minor in sociology. And I would think and I would hope that doctors really understand the psychological state of a patient or even the psychological state of themselves. But what we see is you get all these really high achieving, really successful young people coming into a profession where they’re in to one extent competing against one another to do the best job at saving patients that the incentives are just kind of misaligned. So one of my goals in creating some of these programs and really starting with medical students, and now I see the need to really teach these things to pre-med students, is to really shift the narrative and help people see that we’re treating human beings, we’re not just treating gallbladders. And that even just the power of human connection is an incredibly therapeutic intervention for a patient. When they are in pain, and they are suffering, and they are looking for help, one of the best things we can do is see them as a human being and make a connection and let them know we’re there for them. And there’s a robust literature that demonstrates that, especially for this class of what we call illness without disease. That’s what my mentor Douglas Drossman calls them. These conditions that we don’t yet understand fully where they exist in the body, yet, they cause a great amount of distress. For example, irritable bowel syndrome is like the cornerstone, where there’s nothing if you look in endoscopically, or you do a biopsy, a lot of doctors will look at those and say, there’s nothing wrong with you, congratulations to a patient. But the patient is, so they don’t have disease, they don’t have pathophysiology that you could see under a microscope, and yet they are suffering with debilitating symptoms that keep them from functioning in school or at work. They can’t eat their favorite foods; they can’t go out for dinner and socialize. And one second, they’re fine, and the next second, they’re in an incredible amount of pain. And there’s a lot of stigma around it. We’re not trained in medical school about how to manage conditions where there’s illness without disease. And that, I think, is just a huge opportunity to help everyone whether there is disease or not.
Sonya: Yeah, I think a lot of people listening have probably had some sort of experience here, where and I know I have, where it’s like, I know that there’s something wrong with me, but nothing shows up on my blood tests, everything checks out okay, but there’s still something wrong. And it’s incredibly frustrating. And you start losing that sense of autonomy, whenever you feel like there’s nothing you can do anymore. And nobody understands what’s going on.
Jordyn: Totally, like the expert says, there’s nothing wrong. So am I crazy? And I think a lot of patients hear from their doctors, and I’ve seen it as a psychiatrist, this doctor basically told me directly or implied that this is all in my head. And they’re getting sent to psychiatry, because the doctors are like, there’s nothing wrong with this person, fix them or help us because we don’t know how. And even just how language can be so helpful, just a shift in the language of not there’s nothing wrong with you, or this is all in your head, but we know you don’t have cancer, or, we know this is not inflammatory bowel disease, and yet we understand that you are suffering and we are here to help you and try to figure out what is going to help alleviate your distress. And even just that reframe from there’s nothing wrong with you, to it’s not x, y, z, here’s what I think might be going on, can be incredibly powerful in partnering with a patient who is suffering.
Sonya: And I think like coming back to being a physician who is communicating with patients having that deeper understanding of yourself like that relationship to self that you were talking about so that you can have a better bedside manner or a better way of communicating. Especially if you’re feeling kind of burnt out, how can you respond in a way that is going to be health promoting for the patient instead of completely demoralizing?
Jordyn: Exactly, Sonya, and one of the core features of burnout is depersonalization. It’s starting to see people as objects rather than for their whole humanity. So, the example I give is like, instead of seeing Mrs. Jones, you see the diabetic in bed three, and people become reduced to their symptoms and their whatever is wrong with them. And it can certainly undermine the experience that they feel being treated by us as doctors. And similarly, we might have a patient and have counter transference towards them, which is that we have feelings towards them that are probably related to another relationship we have in our life. So I might have a patient who reminds me of my mother, or I might have a patient who really reminds me of my sister. And depending on my relationship with those people, I may feel more compassionate towards those people and give them sort of extra TLC, sort of driven by my subconscious, or I might be very dismissive of them and not want to let them get too close to me, because I’m sort of triggered by what they bring up in me in relationship to that family member they remind me of. So it’s so important not just for psychiatrists, but for all doctors to be aware of what our patients are bringing up in us in this psychological way that doesn’t really get taught to us in the current educational settings.
Sonya: Okay, so I think we should move on to the engagement piece. We could spend, I think it’d be really fun, but we could spend like an entire podcast on each letter.
Jordyn: And I’ll try to go faster through the rest of them. Because like I said, relationships really are the most important. The next is engagement, I say that and then I think all of them are so important engagement. So the ability to feel deeply immersed in the work that we’re doing as clinicians and like you said, this can transcend just the healthcare space. So I talked about three core ingredients within engagement, which is mindfulness – so being present in the moment without judging, noticing, watching the moments unfold. Flow, which is being totally immersed and in the zone in the work that we’re doing, sort of getting lost in in the flow state when our actions and awareness are merged in this way, when our skill and challenge level are perfectly matched, so that we feel really at the top of our game. And the third is using our strengths and what we do. So using our character strengths, not just our talents, or skills, but really the best parts of our character. And those to me are like the three different pathways to being deeply immersed in the work that we’re doing. All of these are teachable. And we can provide individuals with strategies on how to be more mindful and how to use more of our strengths and how to sort of make decisions that can facilitate flow for ourselves. So I’ll pause there to see if you have any, any questions or reflections on engagement.
Sonya: Yeah, I have something interesting to add. I’ve been doing a bit of more research on motivation. And I was reading about task orientation versus ego orientation as it relates to motivation. And flow theory suggests that if you have a high task orientation, you tend to get more into that flow state that you are talking to. And you can even have a high ego orientation as well, but as long as that task orientation piece is high, then you can be more engaged. And this makes me think about the competition piece that you’re talking about among physicians, which could be ego oriented, but as long as they solve that task orientation, they can still be in that flow state.
Jordyn: One way that I have my students think about this is a little axiom that my SAT tutor actually taught me, which I will never forget is to stop focusing on how you’re doing and focus on what you’re doing. So moving from ego orientation to task orientation, and if you just focus on the what, and you can allow yourself to be immersed, that how is and succeeding, “doing well” will emerge when we are deeply invested in what we’re doing. So focus on what if you find yourself self-scrutinizing you are not in flow. One of the key features of that flow state is that the ego tends to dissolve, which is really cool. And that’s what we hope will happen for our doctors. Of course, when we’re in training and the challenges are beyond that, which we are currently capable of, there’s a lot of resistance to flow. We’re very anxious, or just feel feeling like I don’t know what to say next to this patient, because I don’t have that automatic…I just don’t have the unconscious awareness that I need to have to be really good at this job. And then we have to do a lot of normalizing as teachers and as mentors that you’re not supposed to be good at this yet. Like you’re exactly where you need to be or not and help identify where the student’s weaknesses are so that they can become more masterful.
Sonya: Yeah, and I’ll just tie in that self-esteem chapter in twos growth where there is an imposter syndrome or what is called something else in the literature, it’s not called imposter syndrome, what’s it called?
Jordyn: The imposter phenomenon.
Sonya: Imposter phenomenon. Yeah. So it actually talks about if you feel like an imposter, and if you do feel that way, then you are thinking about how am I doing?
Jordyn: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So that brings us and there’s so much to unpack here, but for the sake of attention spans vitality, so vitality is about what makes us feel alive and awake and alert and ready to attack our day, not attack but really get to our day to day tasks with vigor. And within the vitality piece, that’s where I really zoom in on the mind body connection, the very powerful effects of placebo, the best drug that we have in all of medicine, and my humble opinion, as well as the basics, taking care of our sleep, our nutrition, and our physical activity. So those are the pieces we really zoom into. And I think what’s so important and what struck me when I was in medical school, sitting in lectures all day, is how static we are, and how you do from day one of medical training, we’re like sitting down in a lecture hall, people are bringing us pizza and doughnuts to try to boost our morale. And it’s just so antithetical to what we know is optimal for human functioning and human performance. So really trying to question some of those norms and help us demonstrate and role model for our patients some health forward behaviors.
Sonya: Yeah, and I think that that’s really challenging, because these foundational health pieces, often like you said, you get busy and you start focusing on I gotta get this thing done, and you don’t take care of yourself. And it’s hard to break that pattern of putting yourself first, especially whenever you have a deadline, or you have to be somewhere or you have all these people depending on you.
Jordyn: Exactly. And I’ll have medical students say I don’t have time to go to the gym, like I’m stuck in the library, or I’m behind on studying and what I challenged them with is when you have just gotten some cardiovascular activity or have a session in the gym, even just 10 minutes can help you focus better on the studying that you’re doing. Getting some fresh air, taking a walk outside, we as humans, we evolved to move such that when we are sitting down and static and, on the couch, our brains are not primed to be active and alert, that’s when our evolutionary ancestors, when we were resting and in one place, that’s when we were conserving energy. That’s when we were in rest mode. So for us today, and of course, that when we are not moving our brains are not having an opportunity to work optimally. And, you know, working with clinicians, they want to see the data. And that’s what I showed them. I showed them the research on this. And I think that’s what’s most compelling and really specific for healthcare is that there, there are numbers and science to backup all of these things.
Sonya: Yeah, and that 10 minutes makes a difference. It’s not all or none. It doesn’t have to be this crazy workout that you do.
Jordyn: Exactly you don’t have to run a marathon, get the benefits of physical activity. And what’s so cool is like all the research that shows just even reconceptualizing what you may already be doing as physical activity, adding a placebo effect to my daily commute to work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, all of that actually shows physiologic benefits. And that comes from Alia Crum’s work and Ellen Langer’s work. So there’s amazing work in this what I would call positive medicine. I don’t think they affiliate with that title. But bringing in that research on placebo is really central to what I’m teaching my students.
Sonya: Okay, so accomplishment.
Jordyn: So accomplishment, so this is central to the PERMA model or achievement. And what I think is different about the way I talk about it specifically in positive medicine is that it’s redefining success as a nonzero sum game such that whereas we think about in health in medicine, that sort of someone has to get the A and someone has to get the C when we’re all graded on a bell curve. But how do we break that down and really think about how to achieve our own success in tandem with the success of those around us. So I focus on two main bodies of work. One is grit, Angela Duckworth’s baby and field about passion and perseverance for our long term goals. And then this idea of otherishness which comes from Adam Grant and Reb Rebele’s work on having an orientation toward others and that means having some healthy selfishness which Scott Barry Kaufman talks about, and really understanding how to set our goals and set our sights on things that will not just further our own egos, but that can really help others in the process. And this is really accessible to health care workers, because virtually many of us with a few exceptions, and maybe some nefarious exceptions, came into healthcare to help other people, yet along the way it can become hyper competitive. And when our egos are feeling depleted, we can feel really bad about ourselves, negative to other people, which leads to self-comparison. And yeah, so how do we conceptualize accomplishment as something that everyone can win? And we do this great exercise, which I learned from MAP called the reciprocity ring, where we normalize the act of giving. So all of my students come into class with an ask, something that they’re struggling with or need help with. And we know the biggest barrier to achieving our goals and getting the help we need is not asking for help. So in medicine, this is hugely problematic, because if we’re too scared to ask for help someone’s life could be on the line. So we want to practice asking for help. So everyone comes into the classroom with something they need help with. And by the end of the class, everyone has crowdsourced a solution to their task from someone else. So I might come in and say, for example, I’m looking for help developing my website. And within the group, someone will say, oh my God, my husband’s a computer programmer, I’m sure he could sit with you for 30 minutes and give you the rundown. And everyone shares their ask and everyone within the group crowd sources, and then it’s up to the asker, so the person who’s building the website to follow up with the person that offered to help in order to close that loop and get the solution to their problem. You can hear the sirens, I live next to the hospital.
Sonya: In New York, I mean, it wouldn’t be a true experience if we didn’t hear sirens.
Jordyn: So anyway, so the reciprocity ring is an example of normalizing the act of asking for help, which is often the biggest barrier to fulfilling our goals.
Sonya: Yeah, and asking for help is a muscle and it’s humbling to ask for help.
Jordyn: Absolutely, absolutely. But often, we realize it really reduces the friction and can save us a lot of time and mental energy and actually facilitate connection. So then there’s meaning, which is perhaps my favorite REVAMP element to talk about, because it’s so personal to everyone. And it can take on so many different meanings. This is one where we spend a lot of time being very open, just talking about different theories of meaning. We talk a lot about Man’s Search for Meaning and do some reading from Viktor Frankl and talk about logotherapy. We talk about the narrative self and how to practice self-authorship, that one potent pathway to meaning is through storytelling. And we practice telling our own stories and creating narratives of some troubling things that happen to us. It’s where we talk about post traumatic growth and how to think about hard times in a way that focuses, that doesn’t dismiss the pain, but can hold with that pain some of the opportunities that things that have created that wouldn’t have otherwise been greeted in the absence of those things. And we talk about how to find our meaning on a day-to-day basis and what we’re doing. I think that it’s so easy for people to go into medicine with the purpose of having a meaningful career and then feel so fundamentally disconnected from it in just the day-to-day slog. So it’s really thinking about what our meaning is, the multiple paths to meaning that we hold, how to live by our values, and then how to connect with them with the meaning that exists already in our lives.
Sonya: Yeah, I mean, this sounds like something that every profession needs, not just medicine, but I mean, medicine definitely needs this, but I think everybody listening is probably nodding their head saying yeah, I can see how I need this in my life, too.
Jordyn: Yeah, well, that’s what’s so funny about this, like I talked about positive medicine, which is just bringing all of these concepts to medicine. We also have positive law, positive education. And it’s when you have someone with this expertise in positive psychology, like this is our this is what we do. It’s called the applied Positive Psychology program because it’s all about folks in different industries, just bringing this work and applying it into various workplaces and institutions. So it has been just a gift to have access to some of this research and knowledge and to be able to apply it and hopefully change some people’s lives in the process.
Sonya: Yeah, so speaking of positive emotions,
Jordyn: So REVAMP ends with positive emotions, which is just like the lived experience of the positive our affect, our moods. And I think what’s so important is not that we promote positive emotions at the expense of negative emotions, but understand the different utility that positive emotions have in our lives. So whereas negative emotions, they really serve to narrow our attention. So when we are angry, we want to fight, when we are sad, we want to withdraw, we cry. There are very specific, what are called thought action tendencies, so you have a thought, or an emotional state, and then there’s an associated action. Positive emotions don’t work like that. Positive emotions have been shown to actually open and expand our minds leading to the creation of multiple possibilities. And Barbara Fredrickson, who’s like the mother of positive emotions, calls this the broaden and build theory of positive emotions that positive states help us think of new possibilities. They help us accrue resources, develop more positive relationships, and then it becomes this virtuous cycle, and this upward spiral as she calls it, of positive emotions. And one way to get more positive emotions is to practice savoring them. So positive things happened to us all the time, but we’re not wired to focus on them. We’re wired to focus on the negative because that’s much more critical for our survival. So we practice different forms of savoring which we created into an intervention in Choose Growth, which is a really cool part of the transcendence chapter. We talk about research that shows that some of the that positive emotions are actually a core ingredient that differentiate people who thrive in the wake of adversity, and those who really languish and don’t do well. It’s not the ability to just be positive, but it’s the ability to hold positive emotions like gratitude and hope and appreciation side by side with negative emotions when bad things happen. So we do a lot of practicing and really challenging folks to just pay more attention to positive emotions, and not to feel guilty for having them. But really to give ourselves permission to sit in those positive states without chasing them as the ultimate goal, because what we know is that chasing happiness just can sometimes drive it further away.
Sonya: Yeah, and so something that I’m thinking about here is, first of all, this is fantastic that this is being taught at the base level to new medical doctors who are coming into the field. But how about the doctors who have been in there for quite some time and have built in this rut of negativity and burnout, and maybe they’ve lost the meaning because maybe they’ve moved away from seeing patients, and now they’re more of in a leadership role where they can’t connect with that meeting part anymore. How can those doctors start practicing some of these if they feel like they don’t have any basis to start?
Jordyn: Totally so there are practical ways to learn this. I actually teach an online course called Thrive RX. It’s completely web based and asynchronous. So you never have to show up and have a conversation with me. But it’s me and three of my colleagues who’ve prerecorded some of these lectures and videos, for practicing clinicians were busy and in the workplace and don’t have time to like come attend my course at 7pm on a Monday night. They need this so badly. The career physicians who have been in it for a while, who are balancing their families and have so much riding on them financially and feeling just totally, they may want to leave medicine, but if they did, they would not be able to support their families. And that leads to a whole other layer of stress. And we don’t learn financial independence as doctors, we just no one’s teaching that to us. So that’s those are all core components of the Thrive RX program. But even though it’s just listening to this, I think the best way to start is to think about which one of those REVAMP elements just like sticks with you and feels really like that bucket feels really full. And think about how do I maybe use that really full bucket to embrace some one of these other components? So for example, maybe I don’t feel like I have a really great sense of meaning right now, but I have a very solid relationship. So how might I really sort of dig into that relationships’ bucket and leverage some of my connections to maybe see what paths to meaning there are. Whether that is through conversation or through shared experience going to experience a sunset together or see a ballet to get some of that awe that’s associated that sense of meaning. I think all of these REVAMP elements they raise each other to exponents. So like savoring with another person is always going to make say, in my opinion, will make savoring more powerful. Having deep sense of engagement in something that’s meaningful, makes both of those elements shine, working towards a goal that is deeply pro social in nature, for example. So working on accomplishment, or working on a goal that is going to enhance our vitality, they mutually reinforce one another and can really uplift our well-being. And these things are not just strictly something we have to do in the workplace. I think that if we can work on these things in our personal lives and outside of work, they tend to trickle in and find their way in. It could just be starting a meeting with a conversation of what’s something everyone’s grateful for today? Or I listened to this podcast, and they talked about vitality, what is something that everyone is doing to care for their body? And if you’re not doing something like what’s a goal that we can set together? I’m just starting to bring these topics into the normal conversations we have with our colleagues can just be a powerful first step.
Sonya: Yeah. And it sounds like harnessing your strengths in order to do that is super key.
Jordyn: Definitely, if you are someone who is very high in humor, you may use humor as a way to bring some positive emotions into the workplace. Or if you’re someone who’s really like you are all about appreciation of beauty, you might suggest a work outing of like going to a museum or seeing a show or enhance a relationship through one of the strengths that you possess.
Sonya: I can’t believe our time is already up. I feel like we just started talking. Where can people find more?
Jordyn: So you can find me at Jordyn Feingold on all sorts of social. Jordyn H Feingold on Facebook. I have on Instagram and a Norby page, you can see all a lot of my key research. And I’ll provide some links so folks can actually read the Capstone where I started talking about positive medicine for the first time.
Sonya: I can’t wait to read it. Well, Jordyn, I’m so grateful to you. I’m so grateful for all the work that you’re doing and for the energy that you’re putting out there and I know it’s making a huge difference and it’s an honor to get to chat with you.
Jordyn: Thank you for having me, and I can’t wait for you to be applying positive psychology.