Happy New Year from Proof Positive—

For the past 15 years, I have dreamt of a day when wellbeing would move to the forefront of autism intervention. This year, with the creation of the Proof Positive Autism Wellbeing Alliance, this dream is being realized. We now have organizations across the nation committed to the systematic implementation of positive psychology interventions, and all are reporting early success—individuals, teams, and autistic individuals are experiencing positive outcomes. 

While we’ve only begun to spread the science of skills of happiness to the autism community, the potential for scaling wellbeing solutions in the years to come is exponential.  

Let’s continue to dream and act together to create a future where wellbeing wins for everyone, including people with autism.

Wishing you health and happiness in the new year. 

Be well.

Katie Curran

Chief Wellbeing Officer, Proof Positive Autism Wellbeing Alliance

The Proof Positive communications team sat down with Katie Curran to discuss her insights on wellbeing, goal-setting, and why New Year’s resolutions aren’t the best way to form healthy habits. Here’s what she told us:

What went well this year for Proof Positive as a new national autism wellbeing nonprofit? 

There’s much to be grateful for this year. Where can I start? In response to low autism wellbeing outcomes and later, the Surgeon General’s loneliness advisory, Proof Positive launched a website with free, evidence-informed resources, now with thousands of users and hundreds of resource downloads. Here’s what I’m incredibly proud of:

  • Today, the Learning Institute, our 10 national partner organizations, are actively implementing the science and skills of happiness. Many more individuals have joined the alliance and adopted personal positive psychology practices due to Proof Positive’s resources and outreach.
  • We’re engaged in the National Research Consortium to further research at the intersection of positive psychology and autism.
  • Seven “Skills,” customized positive psychology practices for the autism community, have been fully built and include printable unit studies with teacher guides, slide decks, and videos.
  • Our social media channels are growing monthly, and dissemination channels Teachers Pay Teachers and Share My Lessons have over 600 educational resource downloads.
  • We released a white paper detailing the significance of positive psychology in autism invention called Flourishing With Autism: The Case for Positive Psychology.
  • Hundreds of users have utilized our wellbeing survey to assess their individual wellbeing, and we look forward to when the overall wellbeing of the autism community has improved.

In other words, Proof Positive’s vision of a wellbeing revolution is happening. We’re advancing wellbeing solutions so that more of the population can flourish and thrive. It’s estimated that 1 percent of the population has autism. There are 882,000 children with autism aged 3-21 enrolled in public schools in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are 5 million adults with autism in the United States. For each of these individuals with autism, there’s a community of parents, siblings, spouses, educators, service providers, and community members. We want to see them all thriving!

Do you believe in resolutions? Why or why not?

While goal-setting and resolutions are critical for behavior change, most fail within 30 days. You can think of resolutions as a starting point without a path to reach your goal. Instead of creating traditional resolutions, consider basing your goals in positive psychologist Charles Richard Snyder’s Hope Theory—it’s more of a mindset shift that goes beyond setting a goal and heightens beliefs of what you can change about your life. 

Hope Theory posits that you can imagine multiple pathways (Pathways Thinking) to an end result; if one pathway fails, other ways can keep you going. You’re developing plans to achieve the goal or resolution and imagining the barriers and workarounds. It also claims the importance of Agency Thinking, the belief you can achieve your goals, especially when one of your pathways becomes blocked.

In short, resolutions + a little bit of hope can go a long way!

Why is it important to build healthy wellbeing habits?

Establishing wellbeing habits is important because we don’t want to take our happiness for granted. The absence of mental illness isn’t equal to flourishing, it’s languishing. When we’re languishing, we’re not growing or thriving; to feel good, you need to prioritize wellbeing practices. Flourishing requires intentional practice. We can’t wait for flourishing to happen to us—we must intentionally seek wellbeing practices and control the controllables. With all the free resources, why wouldn’t you take control of your wellbeing and make it a habit?

Why is it important to reflect on experiences? 

It’s important to weave gratitude and reflection into your daily practices throughout the year, as pausing and reflecting allows you to capitalize on your wins, enhance your strengths moving forward, and analyze and learn from setbacks.

What are some practices readers/followers could implement this year to enhance their wellbeing?

Your 2024 Wellbeing Prescription: 5 Tips to Improve Mind & Body Health 

If you’re looking to improve your wellbeing, start here: 

  1. Reflect on what went well. Write down three good things that happened each day for two weeks. 
  2. Find Jolts of Joy. Make a list of five small things or acts that instantly make you happy, and intentionally seek those things every day for two weeks. 
  3. Increase your sunlight intake to 5-10 minutes first thing in the morning and as the sun is setting at night. 
  4. Add a walk to your day for at least 10 minutes twice daily. Movement is our best medicine.
  5. Share your good news, big or small, with a designated person each day. Celebrate the good together.
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