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“Make positive emotions.” with Beau Henderson & Marc Cordon

The state of our mental wellbeing and health exists exists on a vast, multi-dimensional spectrum that fluctuates over time and experience.I think of mental health as the intersection of life experiences and the ability to function (physical, emotional, psychological). These intersections breakdown into four quadrants: post-stress syndrome, post-traumatic growth, post-ecstatic growth, and post-success syndrome. As […]

The state of our mental wellbeing and health exists exists on a vast, multi-dimensional spectrum that fluctuates over time and experience.
I think of mental health as the intersection of life experiences and the ability to function (physical, emotional, psychological). These intersections breakdown into four quadrants: post-stress syndrome, post-traumatic growth, post-ecstatic growth, and post-success syndrome.


As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Marc Cordon.

Marc Cordon, MPH, is a positive psychology coach, co-founder of The Joy Revolution™, and author of the book Beyond Resilient: The Coach’s Guide to Ecstatic Growth. He specializes in transitions, leadership, performance, and well-being, helping people break through to the next level to find greater enjoyment and purpose in their lives. With a focus on misfit entrepreneurs and leaders who march to the beat of their own drum, Marc’s coaching empowers people to claim their own joy as they make a difference for others. He has appeared on national television and radio shows and has delivered two TEDx talks on positive psychology and social justice.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I’d be happy to give you a quick back story. Ironically, my journey towards becoming a positive psychology coach was paved with depression, anger, victim-mindedness, and people-pleasing. I didn’t know how to get out of that funk. For the longest time, I just thought that one day I’d “grow up,” and that funk would disappear.

I was a neuroscience major with a Masters in Public Health. By the time I reached the doctoral level, I was involved in community organizing and social justice work while studying human development. It all seemed like an “us vs. them” mentality to everything.

That all shifted when a student introduced me to his positive psychology curriculum. Everything finally came together. I learned social change, flourishing businesses, and human growth can happen simultaneously. My “us vs them” mentality moved towards one where we can create spaces of controversy with civility.

What better time in history to create spaces of “controversy with civility” than now!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I remember my first few months of business. I felt like a karaoke singer who desperately wanted to be a professional songwriter. I hadn’t found my voice at the time. I didn’t have clarity on what I stood for. And my lack of clients reflected that.

After a year of mimicking other coaches, I realized I felt most empowered when I was helping others to feel good and perform optimally. And that’s around the time I began to attract my ideal clients: misfit coaches who wanted to find their own voices, athletes in a funk, people who were struggling through their PhD programs. They were missing that element of fun and joy in their work.

It was a valuable lesson. When you find your voice, the audience finds you.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

A middle-aged man on roller skates is hilarious. And that’s what I was. I tried out for a roller derby team. I thought it would relieve stress but I also wanted to see how far I could push myself mentally and physically.

The desire was there but at the end of the day, I was still a middle-aged man on roller skates.. I broke, dislocated, and hyperextended my elbow in the first week. Instead of surgery, I wanted to experiment with intense physical therapy.

Physical therapy only gave me a 10% chance of returning to normal functioning.It was the first time I was challenged to use positive psychology techniques and the power of belief to heal.

I was back at 100% in less than half the time of my prognosis. The growth that happened after returning to 100% was profound. Not only did I make the local roller derby team, but I was invited to skate for Team Philippines in the World Cup of Roller Derby in 2018. I was awestruck.

Placebo effect, the power of belief, or clarity of thought and gratitude in action — I don’t care what people call it. All I know is that it was a personal example of how capable we are as humans when we choose a growth mindset, ______ support and deliberate action.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My son is seven. It takes us exponentially longer get anywhere. He notices so many things about the world just walking around the block — the leaves changing, the birds singing..

He has been a disruptor when it comes to things that I’ve previously deemed mindless. His curiosity inspires me. It brings me back to the curiosity I had as a young boy. I always wanted to look at frozen raindrops as they collected on leaves. It was easier to notice the magic of the world around me back then.

My son inspires me to think about how I can bring that curiosity to my clients. We can pull inspiration from just about anywhere. I was in New York City and decided to walk through the city with my son’s eyes. I looked at carvings and statues in buildings I had walked by many times but never truly noticed. I wondered about the people who made the buildings, who the statues represented, and how they could be used as metaphors in my life.

We’re surrounded by so many points of inspiration. I have my son to thank for reigniting that light in me.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I’m really happy you brought this up because there’s a major distinction between thriving, which is proactive growth above the status quo, and avoiding burning out, is risk reduction around not backsliding out of your status quo.

Much of self-care nowadays is the result of hitting burnout. We see so many people posting pictures of their toes in a bubble bath on social media. There’s always a perfectly positioned glass of wine and candles. The hashtags talk about self-care and mental health day, but it infers they’ve already hit the wall. They are getting out of mental burnout and trying to return to a normal baseline..

Proactive self-care, on the other hand, promotes moving from a baseline mental health to mental thriving, feeling good and functioning optimally.

One way we can do this is by creating a long term self-care plan that divided into three parts.

  1. Identify the daily activities that boost your energy and happiness (e.g. spending time with kids, exercising, meditation, etc)
  2. Identify activities that you engage in every week or two to three weeks (e.g. going to a concert, date nights, religious services)
  3. Identify a long term activity that will boost your energy a year to 18-months from now (eg. a major trip)

Short term activities give you daily boosts of energy, while medium and long term activities give you immediate things to look forward to as well as a long term goals to aspire toward.. So when you feel a backslide, you have multiple activities to boost your energy, keep you up, and refuel your excitement and hope for the future.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

There are five principles I’ve created based on the work of John Helliwell. I use these principles to teach my clients how they can create flourishing communities, whether it’s at work or in your day-to-day life.

  1. Value the process as much as the outcome.
  2. Create positive outcomes, not just risk-avoidant ones.
  3. Trust to empower. If you don’t trust your team, then you can’t truly empower them.

Sharing engagement will always a top down when creating a shared work culture. When you practice shared engagement, bring people together with a spirit of benevolence and service. It supercharges thriving cultures.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

A lot of people think of mental health as being linear. You’re either well or you’re not. Struggling or thriving. It’s so much more complex.

The state of our mental wellbeing and health exists exists on a vast, multi-dimensional spectrum that fluctuates over time and experience.
I think of mental health as the intersection of life experiences and the ability to function (physical, emotional, psychological). These intersections breakdown into four quadrants: post-stress syndrome, post-traumatic growth, post-ecstatic growth, and post-success syndrome.

When you have a negative experience resulting in negative functioning, you’re experiencing post-stress syndrome. We’re all familiar with this — we experience something “bad” or negative and instead of growing from the experience, we allow it to limit us. The most prevalent example I can think of off the top of my head is dating, especially in this era of “swipes” and “likes.”. How many of us have ever felt that finding love is an exercise in futility after suffering through a string of bad dates? We know that assumption isn’t universally true just because we’ve run into some bad luck, but we still use the negative experiences to justify negative or avoidant behaviors.

Conversely, a negative experience with positive functioning is sldo knoen post-traumatic growth. This is the traditional “no pain, no gain” model of growth most of us grow up with. We have bad experiences that trigger pain, but rather than letting them define us, we use those experiences to refine our perspective and fuel personal growth.

You can also experience positive growth without the trigger of a negative experience. This is called post-ecstatic growth. It’s like taking a trip to the most beautiful place in the world. The scene is so overwhelming, you come back from the trip with a fresh, new, and often brighter perspective.

Finally, a positive experience followed by negative functioning is called post-success syndrome. Neil Armstrong experienced this when he came back from the moon. He was left asking himself, “Now what?” We meet our goals and fulfill our dreams only to find ourselves lost and floundering after the fact. Imposter syndrome also falls in this category. You might have an incredible experience or moment of brilliance, but then question whether you actually deserved it or earned that success or recognition.

Once we start looking at mental health through some kind of comprehensive model, then we can apply principles and guidelines to optimize growth and well-being. Below are the top five tips I’ve uncovered:

  1. Surround yourself with friends who attain their highest fulfillment ONLY when you reach your highest fulfillment. The are those who help yoou grow, no matter where you are on the natriix. Depending on your circumstances, this can be a good friend, a coach or a therapist.
  2. Make positive emotions (eg. joy, love, pride, contentment) a habit an inherent trait by practicing compassion.. Feeling emotions from the inside-out, rather than faking it until you make it, makes space for more positive emotions.
  3. The key to unlocking meaning in any experience, be it positive or negative, is being able to find the opportunity. Ask yourself what you learned. Or how you can grow in each experience. Identifying opportunities can help us to make sense out of even the darkest times.
  4. Get gritty with it. Even when you are surrounded by friends, making positive emotions a trait, and spotting opportunities, things get tough. Grit marries purpose and resilience. It’s persistence through adversity. It’s resilience in your purpose.
  5. Change the way you see and understand yourself by using positive self-talk and strengths. If you see yourself as a victim, you’ll see the world as the victimizer. Through positive self-talk and using your strengths, you can reshape your inner world. Reshape your inner world, and the outer world dramatically transforms in kind.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

Retirement can be a confusing transition period. Societal roles have changed. This can send even the most confident and steady people we know into an existential tailspin. People come and go. Life is a state of continuous change. Retirement can be the perfect opportunity to take space, reexamine what gives you purpose, and how you live with passion. The Japanese term for this is ikigai. Empowering an evolved and aligned sense of purpose and passion, dramatically improves quality of life and longevity. And it leads to a significantly less regret when you reach end of life.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Teens and preteens are going through a wild ride of identity development (or confusion) and social acceptance (or rejection). The five points mentioned earlier can definitely help with this (especially when combined with positive self talk and virtuous friendships), but here are a few more tips that are especially helpful for teens:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. It may sound cliche but making it a habit to sit down and consciously express and document daily appreciations, has been shown to have the same effect as a mild anti-depressant. And you don’t have to spend hours doing it to achieve this affect. Just 5–10 minutes at the end of each day is more than enough.
  • This is a great time to develop resiliency skills by not allowing emotions to take over one’s behavior and taking a breath.
  • Fine tune your growth mindset.., Instead of thinking that one is born talented, adopt a mindset that any skill can be learned. Success is ultimately determined by two key factors and neither is nature-talent. Being open to feedback and putting in consistent effort are the ultimate precursors for growth.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” has been significant on so many levels. The children’s story depicts a tree that provides for a maturing boy even after it becomes a stump. For so long, I interpreted the storyas being of symbol of how I wanted to contribute to society — giving and giving until there’s nothing left.

As I grew, I realize how much I was like the boy years later — taking until there’s nothing left.

Now, in my 40s, I think about both extremes and how I can live a more balanced life. I don’t have to give unconditionally at all times to be of service. Allowing myself to set healthy boundaries and give while still protecting myself as a resource, empowers balance. It keeps me from feeling depleted. It also keeps me from feeling the need to binge when it’s my time to “take.” Rather than feeling the guilt that comes with “taking,” I’ve learned to allow myself to receive. It’s the difference between working with flow (receiving) or ______ with force (taking).

This is a sweet spot when it comes to creating thriving relationships, with others as well as youself.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Oh I’m well on my way to starting a movement. The Joy Revolution™, the heart and soul of my programing and work as a coach is that movement., We positive psychology concepts and joy theory to inspire personal growth. But we don’t stop there. I strongly believe that personal growth is not enough. It’s the first step and an important one. But it’s not the end all, be all. Joy is contagious. Through The Joy Revolution we teach people how they can use their unique experience of Joy as fuel to lead social movements, create communal change, and evolve revolutions. That completes the cycle of growth. Empowering yourself and learning how to then empower others. We gotta leave the world a better place than what it was when we found it. We owe it to our children to lift the next generation on our shoulders and help them to forge new and better ways of living.

I can’t tell you how proud my team and I are proud to present these concepts to influencers, coaches, entrepreneurs., Helping them to truly identify their personal and unique experience of joy, increase the level of happiness the experience in their daily life and work, and then identify and create a path to launch their own Joy Revolutions is truly remarkable. I feel so grateful to be doing this kind of work. And truly inspired and on fire. I mean we’re not just teaching people how to talk the talk, we’re showing them how to actually walk the walk; , creating action plans, preparing them to take the TED stage, showing them how to write books, while creating and inspiring their communities — it’s powerful work to be able to make the invisible visible and to give voice, through power and agency, to the voiceless.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Amaster in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

– Lawrence Pearsall Jacks

When I was working in higher education and pursuing a Ph.D., I came across this L.P. Jacks’ quote. Immediately, I realized how much I embodied a work persona. I was always grinding and hustling and it was almost always driven by what I believed people expected of me. I was driven by some distorted sense of self-fulfilling obligation. , I needed to play the persona others expected, and settling for a life based inthe status quo. I was successful but I wasn’t happy.. Wearing personas that aren’t inherent to our true being is exhausting and consequently limiting.

This quote changed the way I saw myself. It gave me permission to show up fully and authentically in everything that I do. Instead of being pulled in a million directions, trying to be a million different versions of myself for everyone else,, I looked for MY voice in all of the noise. Hearing your voice and trusting it to guide who you are and how you show up is a continuous exercise in growth. One I’m still working through todayas I pursue my dreams and continuously refine my personal vision of excellence and definition of success.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Instagram: thejoyrev
Twitter: thejoyrev

Facebook: mcordon

Website: joyrevolution.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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