Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC executive director, joins KCAA’s NBC LA affiliate “On the Brink” to discuss the power of positive psychology on health.
Full Transcript of Interview Below.
- An overview on positive psychology and how its related to naturopathic medicine
- Emerging research on the benefits of positive psychology and health
- Perception framing in hard times
- Developing an attitude of gratitude
- And more…
Erin Brinker: Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.
Todd Brinker: And I’m Todd Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA AM 1050, FM 106.5 and FM 102.3, and I am super excited to welcome back to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the executive director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. She is a naturopathic doctor herself and she joins us once a month to talk about all things health and wellness.
Erin Brinker: Dr. Yanez, welcome to the show.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Good morning. How are you both?
Erin Brinker: We’re doing great.
Todd Brinker: Doing good.
Erin Brinker: How are you surviving the wind?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: It’s been windy.
Erin Brinker: It’s been windy.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: It’s definitely windy. That’s an understatement.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I loved in the intro that you talked about wellness, and for me it’s so fascinating. So the 17th, we have these random alerts on, I don’t know if you guys pay attention to all those weird days now that all of a sudden have been invented?
Erin Brinker: Oh yes.
Todd Brinker: Hard to miss them.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: All the days. The Drink Coffee day, the Right Eye day, all of the days. But February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness day, and this one-
Erin Brinker: Oh!
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Struck me … Yes, exactly. This one struck me as special.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: So, naturopathic medicine, you know, I come here every month, we come from a wellness-based approach. Not only are we working with patients struggling with a symptom or an illness, but we partner with them to understand the why, and why that illness or symptom is manifesting. And how we restore balance is often through this wellness based lifestyle approach.
So personally, I’ve become enthralled with this whole line of research called positive psychology. Have you ever heard about that?
Erin Brinker: No. I-
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Positive psychology was founded by two researchers who were disillusioned with this sole focus on the illness-based model. This, you go to a doctor, you find out why you’re sick, but we don’t really do a whole lot to stay well or focus on why people are happy or healthy.
They studied the traits and the characteristics of happy and healthy people, and it’s this whole wellness-based model. And I think that’s why as an ND, why I’m so attracted to it.
Erin Brinker: Holy cow. That’s awesome.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I keep wanting to know more about it. It’s really cool.
There’s all this growing literature around positive psychology and this wellness-based model. And research has been showing, concentrating on positive qualities, life experiences, cultivating a positive mindset, are actually showing results in mental, emotional and physical health benefits.
So, things like expressing gratitude, like with Random Acts of Kindness Day, are associated with somebody’s overall sense of well-being. It’s been shown in research and again, the research is developing, but there’s been emerging research here on its impact on depression, relationships, even work performance and fewer trips to the doctor.
I’m just super excited about it. There’s been additional research also showing preliminary results in HIV patients where those who were more optimistic in their lives showed lower disease progression, coronary heart disease, the list goes on. It’s really exciting.
Erin Brinker: So, I think that we have, I mean anecdotally I’ve heard of stories with cancer patients, that the ones who tend to survive are the ones who … And this is not always, but they are more positive. They have something to live for.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Yes
Erin Brinker: Or feel that they do.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: There was this Three Stooges study, where they had cancer patients watch the Three Stooges or watch comedy, and then they measured blood markers for immune function. And they found that folks have better immune function when they’re laughing and they’re enjoying life.
And so white blood cells go up, immune system function works better. All of that impact. It’s amazing. I always used to think, “They studied the Three Stooges?” But yes, they actually studied-
Erin Brinker: But I have to-
Erin Brinker: The subjects were male, because I don’t know a lot of women who watch the Three Stooges.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Well, yes. Just this weekend my husband was watching Mr. Bean with my son, and the two of them are cracking up. And I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t know about this . . .”
But I think the ultimate point is, focus on positivity in your life. And so, for me personally, things happen, life happens. I’ve had a little bit, you could call it a rough year with some close family having health and illness problems and challenges, and a very close friend of mine having an accident that left him a paraplegic-
Erin Brinker: Oh.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: And so, but in the midst of this, and I was talking with him when he was really in a rough place and I framed it for myself and for him, I’m like, “I didn’t go to your funeral. I know this isn’t how you thought life was going to be, but let’s find something good here.”
And so, for me, I think, you can stay in a place of darkness, or you can try and make a positive choice to find the good. And so that gratitude is for me really important to not stay in those dark places, and to be able to come out of it.
There are lots of different ways that you can improve that and practice at it. And I think we’ve all experienced rough patches. I don’t think there’s a person alive that has not had something that could qualify as a rough patch, but it’s so much about perception. It really, to me anyway, is how you frame that and how you … Do you allow yourself stay in that dark place or do you look for the good?
And so, for me there are lots of different ways to do this. You can create a gratitude journal, you can just think about three things that you have to be grateful for, even in the midst of tough stuff, find three.
And then, who are you grateful for? Who are the people who’ve done nice things for you? Say thank you to them. It goes both ways. And that’s where this Random Acts of Kindness day comes in. Random Acts of Kindness, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but I’ve gone and paid for the person behind me in at the coffee shop. Offered to do something random for folks. And I’ve got to say, it makes me feel good. And it also brightens up the day as a person who is on the receiving end. So both people benefit.
So, this Random Acts of Kindness day, yes, it’s one more day along with the Right Eye day and the Left Eyelash day. But I encourage everybody to increase that kindness and their positivity in their life every day.
Erin Brinker: I could not agree more. We, so many times, because cause every single person has some sort of hardship or tribulation in their own lives. Everyone. That’s part of the human condition. And the people who are able to handle it are the ones that choose to handle it in a positive way.
And I’m thinking of Viktor Frankl who … And the name of his book just flew out of my head right now-
Todd Brinker: A Man’s Search for Meaning.
Erin Brinker: A Man’s Search for Meaning. The man was in a concentration camp and manage to stay positive. And not that all of us are going to find themselves in that situation, God forbid-
Todd Brinker: Right.
Erin Brinker: But we do have a power over how we react to the world. How we choose to find ourselves and keep ourselves in this world.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Absolutely. Years ago, when I was watching cartoons with my son, there was Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which was a riff off of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. But one thing that they had was this whole episode on ‘choosing happy’. And so that became a mantra in our house when things were going a little south, or there was a temper tantrum or something. I would always just reiterate, choose happy.
And for me, I have to tell myself that sometimes too! I think we all do, but the wonderful thing about gratitude and happiness is we can cultivate it for ourselves. We can be mindful and we can practice, and so anybody can develop this attitude of gratitude and improve their mental, emotional and physical health. But like you said, Erin, it’s a choice.
Erin Brinker: It is. And that will be our last word. How do people find and follow you on the web and on social media?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Oh, you bet. We are at aanmc.org. We’re also on all the social media handles, and we host in person events. Next month we have a virtual fair for folks thinking about becoming a naturopathic student. We are also hosting a Food as Medicine webinar next month in March too. So, if one of those interests you come to our website and sign up.
Erin Brinker: Well, Dr. JoAnn Yanez, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s always a treat to have you on the air.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thank you folks. Have a great day-
Erin Brinker: Thank you too.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: And find something to be grateful for.
Erin Brinker: There you go. We will. And I hope you do too. Have a great day.
Erin Brinker: So, with that, it is time for a break. I’m Erin Brinker.
Todd Brinker: And I’m Todd Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA. We’ll be right back.