Optimism: Can we learn to be ‘Sunny’?

Optimism: Can we learn to be ‘Sunny’?

Originally posted on Bhavya’s blog Living Simply and Simply Living designed to help people deal with their everyday stress and anxieties. She’s looking forward to working with Let’s Get Together! to strengthen the voices of youth through the role of Youth Ambassador. Welcome Bhavya!

As you may have read in my previous blog post, defensive pessimism is a strategy with a lot of potential for those prone to certain levels of anxiety. However, dispositional optimism still holds a lot more traditional advantages to its name; lower rates of depression, reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and protection from the common cold to name a few. Companies want to employ positive workers who’ll increase efficiency and add to a healthy work environment over more downcast ones. The benefits of being an optimist in today’s world are ubiquitous. They might as well sell it in a bottle. Profits would be astronomical. ‘The B Positive Serum, the smallest dose will do’.

It doesn’t seem fair that pessimists are more liable to a plethora of mental and physical illnesses. So why are some people predisposed to think in a positive fashion while others think in a negative one? Can we change our tendencies to those of an optimist’s rather than a pessimist’s?

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman explains and highlights the differences between optimists and pessimists by way of Explanatory Style. This rationale can be used to give some insight into the learned helplessness model (Overmier & Seligman, 1967). Some throw their hands in the air and accept defeat easily when faced with an insurmountable challenge while others choose to persist nevertheless. Those who bow out would be labelled as pessimists while those who endure are likely optimists. Our explanatory style is second nature, a default influenced by past experiences that brings us to anticipate similar events in the future a certain way.

Seligman nicely outlines the differences between the two outlooks in his bestselling publication, ‘Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life’.

” The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault.
The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. “

Positive Explanatory style and Negative Explanatory style induce different behaviours to a certain outcome or situation on three key points; temporary vs permanent, specific vs pervasive, and external control vs internal control. Does the individual believe that the same event or a similar one will not be subject to change or that it will potentially evolve? Do they hold a general contributing factor responsible for the end result or a specific one? Do they credit themselves with the outcome or an independent force?

Prior to writing this blog and doing a bit of research on explanatory style I took a quiz created by Stanford University students. They had adapted a short test of 48 questions from Seligman’s book that I thought was fun and gave me some understanding of my ‘default setting’. Click here to take the quiz for yourself.

In essence, when a wanted outcome develops, an optimist responds to permanence, pervasiveness, and internal control while a pessimist looks towards temporariness, specificity,  and external control and vice versa. Say a sunny person and a cloudy one both received ninety-eights on their English tests. The former would feel energized under the assumption that they’ll continue to earn such marks, the affirmation that they’re good at English, and that their mark was a direct result of their hard work. The latter would believe that this high-ninety was incidental and not likely to repeat itself, that their success was attributed to their understanding of the individual test subject, and that the questions asked were simply extremely easy.

It seems cruel to be forced under the seemingly constant cloud of doom and gloom that is dispositional pessimism. To fall victim to the learned helplessness model and as a result  perhaps succumb to depression. Research suggests that psychological interventions can increase optimism (Malouff & Schoutte, 2016). Dr. Martin Seligman includes a cognitive therapy method known as the ABC’s in his book.
A – Adversity – The problem/situation encountered
B – Beliefs – What you think about the problem/situation

C – Consequences – How you face the problem/situation

Using the above acronym you record a problem you’ve encountered in your daily life, your thoughts surrounding it, and how you reacted to the problem. Seligman also advises those wishing to transition from pessimism to optimism to either distract themselves when pessimistic thoughts make an unwanted appearance or dispute these thoughts. He writes that the technique of disputing them proves to be more helpful in the future. This is because successfully disputed beliefs are less likely to recur.

Of course these strategies can only be implemented if someone is aware of their inclination to think negatively. Pessimists tend to discredit victory, beat themselves up over failure, give in to the helplessness model, and generally see the worst in themselves and others driving them to exhibit selfish and jealous traits. Don’t label yourself as an awful person if any of the previously mentioned criteria applies to you. That’s all in accordance with your default setting. It’s up to you to flip the switch from negative to positive.

Bhavya Tandon, Student
Youth Ambassador with Let’s Get Together!


Bhavya is a high school student with an interest in the sciences, psychology and sociology in particular. She is an advocate for mental health and writes a blog called Living Simply and Simply Living. She’s looking forward to working with Let’s Get Together! to strengthen the voices of youth through the role of Youth Ambassador. A young person with a passion for writing; LGT gives her the opportunity to reach more people with her blog.

Raptors 905 on Parenting 101

Raptors 905 on Parenting 101

Hershey Centre, Mississauga – As the Raptors 905 players were preparing for their game against Wisconsin, the families of Kaza Kajami-Keane and Aaron Best were sharing their parenting stories with families from across the GTA. Parent Involvement Matters is an event organized by Raptors 905 and Let’s Get Together!, a grassroot non-profit, with the goal of bringing together a community of parents inspired to support their children through physical activity. It was also supported by the Ontario Basketball Association.

When one parent asked how to encourage children to stay humble and support their teammates, Donna Best stressed the importance of family – the theme of the conference.

“I’m always telling Aaron: the family’s eyes are on you,” she said. “We’re close-knit, watching you, making sure you’re staying on the right track and making sure that you’re not getting caught up in the bright lights.” 

Hugh Keane spoke about how introverted children can build relationships through participating in sports. “Kaza is very quiet,” he said. “Once he gets on the court he’s still a little bit non-vocal, but he begins to trust the people that are on his team and that usually becomes his conversational support.”

Elsewhere in the Hershey Centre, children were participating in activities supported by the University of Toronto Mississauga student volunteers – shooting hoops or designing signs in support of Raptors 905.

Ryan, grade 6, was decked out in Raptors 905 merchandise as he created a poster in support of his favourite player – DeMar DeRozan.  With him was Jaiden, who says he would like to ask the Raptors 905 players what they had to sacrifice to become good players. 

Back in the conference, John, the father of two children, asked about the best way to prepare his children for the loss of a familiar community network when they go to university. In his response, Hugh Keane addressed the sacrifices that parents make for their children. “When it’s your child’s dream and your child’s goal,” he told John, “you make the necessary adjustments that you have to – and it’s a wonderful experience for them.”

Donna Best stressed having a safe place for children to share any problems they’ve encountered. “We have to set an example,” she said. “You have to let the kids know what they’re going to be facing.  You have to make it a comfortable environment for them to talk to you.”

The Executive Director of Let’s Get Together!, Alison Canning, finished up the conference with a closing statement about the importance of communities coming together to create good experiences for their children. She stressed that “it starts at home and it starts with us and that’s why we’re here today – to make sure that we have the tools to do the job so we can do it the best we can.

John Wiggins, the Team Operations Director for Raptors 905 stated that “This discussion that Let’s Get Together! is hosting is providing an interactive platform to help the parents learn from each other and share their insights as to how to best manage this responsibility. In most youth clubs that I’ve been a part of or have witnessed, the parents are the backbone of success for the program. Raptors 905 is happy to support this campaign as a way to help foster the future success of our athletes.”

Let’s Get Together!’s goal is to bring together a community of parents and youth who are inspired to support each other and to provide resources and opportunities for their communities.  

Parent Involvement Matters was Let’s Get Together!’s first event – an event that Let’s Get Together! and Raptors 905 should be proud of. Alison Canning expressed her delight at the success of the event and is looking forward to the future.

She said, “This is the start of us; getting together and creating something better and creating a movement and making our world and our communities healthy.”

Moving forward, Let’s Get Together! will be partnering once again with the Raptors 905 team on March 10th for an event discussing a growth mindset. This presentation will provide powerful and inspirational messages from Raptors 905 players Aaron Best, Kaza Keane, Shevon Thompson and Kennedy Meeks on how they have developed resiliency and focus.

Visit our website at communitylearninghub.org for more information.
We hope to see your family there!


Photos/videos courtesy of Laura MakEdge Imaging, our volunteers and guests.

Julia Wischnewski is currently completing her Honours Bachelor’s Degree with the University of Toronto and specializes in Psychology and Religion. She works closely with various organizations that promote youth welfare and offer services to new families coming into Canada, including volunteering with Let’s Get Together! Julia plans on continuing her education by volunteering and teaching abroad once she has graduated.

Are you looking for a Summer Job?

Are you looking for a Summer Job?

Hey current students! Are you starting your search for a summer position? Check out the following link for postings from various Ministries in Ontario: https://www.gojobs.gov.on.ca/Search.aspx

Why take a summer position with groups such as in the Government or with NGOs?

As a young person you have many options for what to do with your summer off… Backpack Southeast Asia, work at the mall, watch Netflix then sleep all day or perhaps you could even find a summer position in your field. All these choices may be something you are starting to think about now and I am someone who did each…

As a recent graduate one of the best pieces of advice I can share from my journey is that experience in your field is key to helping you learn about work in your desired field. Summer positions help you develop your networks, let you apply your classroom learning and provide the hands on experiences you may need for the future. Reflecting on each of these choices I know that what experience I still carry with me today and that has served me best in my journey to work in International Development was my internship with Red Cross. I spent several summers that turned into full year internships with the Red Cross in Disaster Management and Youth projects. This experience gave me insight how to coordinate community projects, confidence in leading others and it immensely helped to have such supportive supervisors who could write letters of recommendation that helped with graduate school applications.

I feel confident now applying for job postings in my field that expect a Masters Degree and at least 5 years experience. As being 23 I am able to say that I have the work experience (as well as an Msc) which is often what holds new graduates back from applying to their dream careers.

I am so thankful that I can apply to postings now and do work that utilizes my knowledge that I gained in my summer positions. In addition it also helped me narrow down what work I wanted and did not want to pursue in my future.

Don’t be afraid to apply- take the initiative and go for it!

Kianna Dewart, B.A, MSc. International Development
Coordinator and Youth Ambassador with Let’s Get Together
Email: kianna@letsgettogether.ca

Feel free to connect if you have any questions!


Kianna is a recent Masters of Science graduate from the University of Amsterdam with expertise in the field of community development, youth programs, gender equality and sexuality health education. Kianna is the Workshop Coordinator and Youth Voice Ambassador with Let’s Get Together. Kianna’s role includes providing thoughtful insights for Let’s Get Together youth projects that are relevant and reflective of experiences youth face today. Kianna seeks to continually be part of the process of encouraging youth to develop their voices to advocate for what they need for school and personal success.

Humber College launches Youth Transition Program

Humber College launches Youth Transition Program

Program makes postsecondary education more accessible to out-of-school youth in the community

Humber’s Community Outreach and Workforce Development department, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and department of Student Success and Engagement have launched a free program to help youth aged 19-29 make a successful transition to college, whether or not they’ve graduated from high school.

The Youth Transition Program (YTP) will be delivered four times per week from November 6 until December 15, and allows participants to explore their interests and career goals while learning more about postsecondary education options. Working with a Student Support Advisor, students will create their own individualized learning plan, focusing on the steps required to transition to a postsecondary program of their choice.

“When young people leave high school, they can become disconnected from the supports that will assist them in preparing for postsecondary options,” says Geraldine Babcock, Humber’s director of Community Outreach and Workforce Development. “This program will allow participants to better understand where they are academically, and whether they require some upgrading or are ready to apply as a mature student. Many young people aren’t aware that colleges have resources that will enable them to prepare for and pursue an education beyond high school.”

Along with sessions to explore career interests and build literacy and numeracy skills, students are also able to take specialized classes in areas such as Health, Business, Media  and Technology. Advising and mentorship are also important components of the program, with individual advising sessions happening once per week and continuing after the program has completed.

To determine the structure and content of YTP, Humber held consultations both with community groups that serve youth and with young people themselves. The feedback indicated that, along with academic skills, youth needed other practical supports to take advantage of the program. As a result, participants receive free bus tokens and lunch for the duration of the program. YTP will also run from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. each day, allowing students with children to drop them off and pick them up if needed. In addition, if students successfully complete the program and decide to apply to a postsecondary program, their application fees will be covered.

“With the recent changes to OSAP, postsecondary education has become more affordable,” says Babcock. “Humber College wants to reach out to youth who have not pursued postsecondary options, ensure that they are aware of this change, and provide the academic advising that will assist them in exploring this option further. Most importantly, the program provides supports to ensure young people have the knowledge and skills to transition successfully to a college program, allowing them to realize their full potential.”

For more information about the program, please go to humber.ca/community/youth

Meet Cindy from The Good Partnership

Meet Cindy from The Good Partnership

Ever since Cindy Wagman was finishing up her undergraduate degree, she knew she wanted to be a part of the world of fundraising. She spent 15 years working with charities but when the opportunity came up to go out on her own, she took advantage of it and created The Good Partnership.

The Good Partnership helps non-profits achieve their fundraising goals. Some of the organizations they have fundraised for are StopGap Foundation, Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, and the Equality Effect. The Good Partnership doesn’t do one time fundraising events, rather they come in and substitute as a fundraising department when organizations don’t have the means to run their own. Contracting services are an increasingly popular way organizations choose when they’re exploring innovative ways to achieve goals within a fixed budget. When The Good Partnership works with an organization to do their fundraising, they do all the work by taking advantage of their networks.

“I quickly learned there is a whole group of organizations that are so lost with fundraising and they’re so small and no one is talking to them, no one is giving them help,” explained Wagman. “That is my mission, to work with the small organizations that have some success with fundraising but can’t grow it.”

There are a variety of different types of fundraisers for organizations to participate in. The best fundraiser for an organization reinforces the mission and is engaging for the audience.

Wagman is involved with her son’s school, which gave her some insight on school fundraisers. For schools, there can be two different approaches for determining the types of fundraisers. Schools can have a fundraiser that engages the entire family or one that allows parents to have the night off.

“The biggest thing people need to know is that it all takes work. This is especially true of crowdfunding,” explained Wagman. “There is a big misconception that if people just create a crowdfunding campaign and put it online, it will go viral and it will find all these people on the internet who want to support that work.”

Wagman explained that the best way to raise money is to connect with your current network. By getting people excited about the cause and the impact the money will have, the donations are more likely to happen.

Empowering children to help run your events is a great way for them to learn while building community. Here are Cindy’s children raising funds for Holland Bloorview Medical Centre.

“What are the schools and organizations assets, and how do you leverage them?”

If an organization or school has a large number of members/students, running a fundraiser that has high engagement with the group is an asset. Smaller organizations or schools that have highly involved members is an asset to fundraising.

“The only area people will fail time and time again is if they really try to convince people to support their organization that they don’t care about.”

Understanding the demographic is also important when considering fundraising. Raffles are ideal for diverse communities due to the flexibility of the amount of money that can be donated.

There are many options for nonprofits to raise money, but the type of fundraiser depends on each organizations situation.

Tips from Cindy for successful fundraising:

  1. You can never convert someone to support your cause; fundraising isn’t advocacy work. Find people who already support the cause of the organization.
  2. The more people who love your organization, the more they will give to their ability. Focus on the people, not the dollar amount.
  3. Stories pull on heart strings, not statistics. Focus on one story that is relatable that focuses on the individual’s journey and how the organization helped.

Other Resources:

  1. MyClassNeeds is a crowdfunding website for publicly funded schools to raise money for their cause.
  2. Get your children organizing a family fun night or another event with the Junior Event Pros workshop by Fariday Events.


Youth Speak – Youth Helping Youth

Youth Speak – Youth Helping Youth

Una Wright is the founder of YouthSpeak, a school board approved organization that provides students workshops that are presented by youth who share their personal stories. The motivation for Una to create YouthSpeak originated from the death of her two children. The workshops aim to raise awareness of mental health, and bullying. They give youth the tools to deal with any mental health problems they will face throughout their lifetime.

“They are more open minded to listening to the stories, and messages our speakers share,” said Una.

The speakers are youths who trained and have the relatable experience for other youth. The personal stories the youth speakers tell make the experience more impactful for the students who are listening to the presentations. The programs have interactive games that allow students to remain engaged instead of just listening to a speaker.

“It also creates a safe space for kids who are struggling. So if they’re going through something and they haven’t talked to anybody about it, they don’t know what’s going on, they’re experiencing high anxiety or depression.”

Una also explained that the programs hope to create compassion and understanding for the students around mental health, and bullying. It is also a reminder that they are not alone if they are experiencing bullying or anxiety.

“Often kids can kind of be tough on each other in school,” explained Una.  

“We are actually reaching out to younger and younger [age groups]. We have more and more schools calling us to speak to the grade four, five, sixes.”

Una also explained when YouthSpeak first started, they would mainly speak to mostly children in grades seven and eight. Una has found that the topic in highest demand is around the topic of anxiety.

According to Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), youth are estimated that 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youth are at risk for a mental illness or disorder.

This spring, YouthSpeak introduced a new program called Body Mind. It’s a program that is focused around mental health and wellness, physical fitness and nutrition.

Last year, YouthSpeak provided 190 presentations across southern Ontario which reached 38,000 people. By next year, they aim to have 250 and want to reach 45,000 students, parents and educators.

For more information about YouthSpeak programming, contact Una at una@youthspeak.ca