September community meeting: positive psychology

At our September community meeting, Amanda Muise and Roby Miller from Community Head Injury Resource Services (CHIRS) gave a presentation about positive psychology.

We also had the opportunity to hear our long-time member Frank Bruno talk about running the Pan Am Relay this past June, and many of us posed with his relay torch (see below.)

BIST Members
Community meeting attendees pose with Frank Bruno’s Pan Am Relay torch (Amanda Muise and Roby Miller from CHIRS are with Frank in the large photo.)

Positive psychology is a relatively new field of psychology, developed by Martin Seligman , the former president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman was motivated by wanting to know what makes people happier on a daily basis.

Seligman found that the roots of happiness are:

  • having positive emotions
  • being engaged in an activity or profession you love and can ‘get lost’ in
  • being in positive relationships
  • having meaning in your life (giving of yourself to others)
  • having a sense of achievement in your activities

And while it is kind of obvious, but also worthwhile mentioning, happiness is important because it’s good for you. People who are happy have fewer heart attacks, strokes and tend to live longer.

The three benefits of happiness

Other keys to finding happiness include:

  • the ability to savour – not chugging your coffee, but enjoying it
  • gratitude – being grateful for everything you have
  • having a positive attitude
  • mindfulness

Amanda and Roby gave us some exercises to help increase happiness.

Write a letter:

Take a moment to think of someone who made a big impact on your life. This person could be a teacher who helped you pass a difficult class, or an important friend in your life. Write a short letter to that person and explain the impact they had on you. You don’t have to share the letter, or even tell the person about it, though research shows that sharing this with the person increases your happiness.

‘Trick’ your brain into being happy

Body language can have a big impact on your brain. As social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses in her Ted Talk, standing like Super Man in front of the mirror actually boosts your self-confidence. Chewing on a clean pencil uses the same muscles as smiling, and can actually make you feel happier, because your brain thinks you’re actually smiling.

Practise mindfulness

It’s easier said than done, but learning how to pay attention to the present moment or purposely slowing things down can increase your happiness. Even taking just one minute to meditate can be very helpful.

Take a moment to think about your day

This daily practise can help with gratitude and mindfulness:

Take a moment to think about  your day.

Record something that went well: what was the event? What had to happen for it go well? Why did it go well? What role did you play? Why is it important?

Find your 24 strengths

Learning about your strengths and how to use them is crucial to leading a happy life. You can take about 10 minutes and learn about your 24 top strengths at the VIA Institute on Character, a non-profit psychology organization. You’ll need to sign into the site, but it’s free. Another great resource is

infographic about strengths

You can find out more about positive psychology by reading Sophia Voumvakis’ post on Finding Happiness after ABI, here. And we wrote about Frank’s Pan Am Relay experience this summer, right here.

There are a lot of meditation apps you can use, including some which are specific for brain injury. We’ve also discussed mindfulness at other community meetings, which you can read about here.



#TBT Paralympian Frank Bruno carries the Pan Am torch for brain injury awareness


If you’ve ever attended a BIST event, you’ve likely meet Frank Bruno.

For one, Frank’s been volunteering at BIST since before day one, during our predecessor’s Head Injury Association of Toronto (HIAT) days.

Frank Bruno at the Pan Am Relay

You can tell time by when Frank shows up, always a good 45 minutes early, to make coffee and set up for our monthly community meetings. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help out – this past April, he used his connections in professional hockey to get us free tickets to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Frank’s the one who sets up an indoor golf game at our holiday party every year, and is our encouraging coach during our annual Frisbee golf games at Centre Island.

The point – we were pretty thrilled when Frank told us he’d been selected as a torch-bearer at the Pan Am Relay for the Toronto 2015 Games.

Why? Because – because on top of all of this Frank is a three-time Paralympic gold medal winner. He’s accomplished a lot, and inspired many.

Here’s our Q and A with Frank about the big day – which happened July 4th at the Parliament and Wellesley area in Toronto.

Frank Bruno Pan Am Relay

 BIST: What was it like to carry the Pan Am Torch?

FB: It was a great day for brain injury. I was the one who got to carry [the torch] , but it was for the brain injury community. Seeing all the happy smiles makes for a great day.

BIST: Who came out to see you at the relay?

FB: I had a lot of family and a number from the brain injury communities, plus several from my high school ( most of which I do not remember, because of the injury) and several from Durham College. My coach Faye Blackwood was also there.

Frank Bruno Pan Am Relay

BIST: What did you do after the relay?

FB: The day is filled with  a lot of hurry up and wait. Once you get there , you listen to what you are to do and when you are to do what. The wait is really very anxious, you wanna go out there and do your walk.

You all get loaded into a bus (14 of us on July 4, 2015 ) and one by one you get dropped off at your specific location. Then you wait for the flame to come to you. Once your torch gets lit from the previous person you are off on your way to do the 250 meters.

You are allowed to hop, skip,  jump or run, but with the lit torch in your hand do you wanna make the short course over in 30 seconds or make it last, and last as long as possible? I choose to walk, so many people got to see me carry the flame for brain injury. Once you light the torch after you, you walk off the street and they de-light your torch and they take your torch and your day is done. I went with my family to have dinner

BIST: What did the Pan Am Games give you for doing the relay (outfit, anything else you got to keep, free tickets?)

FB: I was given a Pan Am outfit, a shirt, shorts, a pair of socks and a wristband. Nothing else, no tickets no nothing, I had to buy the torch that I used for $550 plus taxes. [The day before posting this article, Frank told us he had managed to fundraise enough money to get his torch, see below.]

Frank Bruno Pan Am Relay
Frank poses with Tracy Moore, host of City’s Cityline who also did the relay on July 4th

BIST: Did you get to go to any Pan Am Games? What did you see?

FB: I only went to see the beach volleyball game. My friend was a line judge for beach volleyball. I went to see her in action. I actually only got to go to one day. I [attended] the opening ceremony for the Para Pan Am Games on Friday August 7 at York University. I saw 7-a-side football games, these are for Cerebral Palsy and neurologically impaired (brain injury) and para-athletic events and saw the closing ceremony as well.

Frank Bruno Pan Am Relay
Frank’s Pan Am Relay torch

Meri Perra is the communications and support coordinator at BIST.