Tao of Inner Peace Newsletter
Diane Dreher

Seasonal Newsletter: Spring 2022
Seeds of New Beginnings
This Spring, I’ve been planting sunflower seeds around my yard. Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine and a symbol of hope.[1] For as they grow, sunflowers turn toward the light.

As Spring returns, bringing greater light to our days, many of us long for a springtime of renewal in our own lives. For the past two years, we’ve been dealing with the Covid pandemic, political conflict, economic uncertainty, and now the heartbreaking war in Ukraine. Yet research shows that finding moments of joy during troubled times can bring us greater meaning and hope.[2]
You can cultivate greater light in your life by adding seeds of hope to your days. Research has shown that the following practices can energize and inspire us. As seeds of hope, these practices can build your resilience, helping you turn toward the light.

Exercising. Research has found that sedentary behavior, sitting for hours at our computers, in our cars, or on our couches, can be hazardous to our health.[3] Studies have also shown that greater movement and exercise can relieve depression.[4] If you’ve become more sedentary during the pandemic, you can get back on track by choosing an exercise you enjoy. Sign up for a yoga, dance, or aerobics class, or begin walking around your neighborhood. Start slowly, then increase your exercise as you build your stamina.

Connecting with Nature. Research has shown that relating to the natural world can improve our health and raise our mood, creativity, and overall vitality.[5] You can make this connection in many ways including walking in a nearby park, gazing at the stars, cultivating a garden, placing a bird feeder outside your window, and growing herbs indoors on a sunny window sill.

Connecting with Others. Studies have shown how loneliness and isolation can undermine our health.[6] We need community--an expanding circle of support that includes not only close relationships but “micro-moments of connectivity” with people we encounter each day. Connecting with a smile, eye contact, or a kind word to a neighbor or clerk at the grocery store can benefit both people, raising our mood, relieving our stress and promoting greater physical and emotional well-being.[7] How can you build your own circle of support?
Meditating. Research has shown how meditation improves our emotional and physical well-being.[8] If you haven’t developed your own meditative practice, you can begin by setting aside a few moments at the beginning or end of each day. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. Watch your thoughts flow through your mind without judging them. Feel your body relax and the fast pace of your life slow down as you return to a more centered state.
Appreciating Beauty. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence is one of the 24 character strengths common to humankind.[9] Throughout history, people have found inspiration in the beauty of nature and art. To experience this effect for yourself, you can listen to your favorite music, read poetry, visit an art gallery, experience the beauty of nature, or attend a concert, dance, or theater performance.
Creating Beauty. Participating in a creative practice, whether painting, dancing, or playing a musical instrument, can reawaken the spirit of play we knew as children. It can put us in a flow state where we become one with the process, expanding our awareness and capabilities.[10] You can reawaken your own creative spirit by getting back in touch with what you loved to do as a child. Take that old guitar out of the closet, sign up for an art or dance class, or make time for a favorite hobby like woodworking, needlework, or gardening.
Setting a Meaningful Goal. Goals bring our lives purpose, direction, and meaning. When psychologist Dave Feldman and I led people through a brief 90-minute exercise to write down their goals and visualize steps to achieve them, they experienced significant goal progress and greater hope.[11] To try this practice for yourself, write down your own goal, three steps to achieve it, an obstacle that might occur for each step, and an alternate step to overcome each obstacle. Finally, close your eyes and visualize yourself taking each step, overcoming each obstacle, and achieving your goal. How do you feel? As you open your eyes, keep that vision in mind as you begin taking your first step.
Practicing Gratitude. Psychologist Robert Emmons found that a simple gratitude practice can make a positive difference in our mental health and wellbeing.[12] To begin your own gratitude practice, take time at the end of each day to think of three things you’re grateful for and write them down. Notice how you feel as you reflect on the gifts that each day brings.
Now it’s your turn. Choose two or three seeds of hope to add to your life this Spring. [13] Over time, your efforts can blossom into greater joy and energy, broadening and building your hope and resilience. [14]

For the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with wonderful podcasters including Kim Selby on Finding Balance and Peace through the Practice of Tao, Chris Brock on the message of the Tao Te Ching for Today’s turbulent world, Heather Johnson on The Tao of Inner Peace for the Ayurveda Life School, and with Paul Samuel Dolman on What Matters Most, as well as interviews with Deborah Kalb on writing The Tao of Inner Peace and My Search for a Balance of East and West for Women Writers, Women’s Books.
I also made YouTube videos with Bob Greenberg about The Tao of Inner Peace and Education and The Teacher Who Made a Difference in My Life.
I look forward to more thought-provoking conversations in the days to come and wish you joy and peace on your own journey this spring.

[1] For more information about cultivating hope, see the Hopeful Mindsets site at https://hopefulmindsets.com/

[2] Berrios, R., Totterdell, P., & Kellett, S. (2018). When feeling mixed can be meaningful: The relation between mixed emotions and eudaimonic well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19, 841-861.

[3] Thorp, A. A., Owen, N., Neuhaus, M., & Dunstan, D. W. (2011). Sedentary behaviors and subsequent health outcomes in adults: A systematic review of longitudinal studies, 1996-2011. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 41, 207-215.

[4] Rethorst, C. D.& Trivedi, M. H. (2010). Evidence-based recommendation for the prescription of exercise for major depressive disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 19, 204-212. 

[5] Howell, A. J., Dopko, R. L., Passmore, H.A., & Buro, K. (2011). Nature connectedness: Associations with well-being and mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 166-171; Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrated framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169-182.

[6] Cacioppo, J. T., Hawkley, L.C., & Thisted, R.A. (2010). Perceived social isolation makes me sad: 5-year cross-lagged analyses of loneliness and depressive symptomatology in the Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Relations Study. Psychology and Aging, 25, 453-463.

[7] Fredrickson, B. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.

[8] Astin, J. A. (1997). Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation. Effects on psychological symptomology, sense of control, and spiritual experiences. Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics, 66, 97-106; Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144-156.

[9] Peterson, C. & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[10] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

[11] Feldman, D. B. and Dreher, D. E. (2012). Can hope be changed in 90 minutes? Testing the efficacy of a single-session goal-pursuit intervention for college students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 745-759.

[12] Emmons, R. A.(2007). Thanks: How practicing gratitude can make you happier. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

[13] An earlier version of this newsletter appeared on my Psychology Today.com blog as 8 Keys to Greater Joy and Vitality, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-personal-renaissance/202203/8-keys-greater-joy-and-vitality

[14] Fredrickson, B. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.
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About Diane

I am a best-selling author, researcher, and positive psychology coach. My books include The Tao of Inner PeaceThe Tao of Personal LeadershipThe Tao of WomanhoodInner Gardening: A Seasonal Path to Inner Peace, and Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.

My coaching uses the latest research in positive psychology, mindful listening, powerful questions, and other creative techniques to help people like you overcome roadblocks, achieve your goals, and discover greater joy and meaning in life.  MORE
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Diane Dreher, PhD, PCC, CMC
Diane Dreher Coaching & Consulting, LLC
© Diane Dreher 2022