Margaret Trudeau is a Canadian icon, proud mother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and respected mental-health advocate. In Part 1 of this podcast, she shares how having proper support enabled her to navigate some of the most challenging ups and downs to create a healthy and happy life. From becoming a prime minister’s wife at a young age, to experiencing the loss of both her son and her former husband, to living with bipolar disorder, Trudeau shares her personal stories to remind others of the importance of nurturing the body, mind and spirit.
In Part 2 of this WE Well-being podcast, Jean Clinton, Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, discusses the role relationships play in brain development. She explains how the brain develops both through connection and through experience and that the brain is much more malleable than was previously believed. Relationships can be a significant influencing factor, says Clinton. “We are social beings, absolutely wired to connect. And if we don't have those relationships, then we suffer.” Her advice to parents is simple: “Listen to your instincts, recognize that love builds brains and that you are your child's best toy. They don't need to be in six different activities. They need you. They don't need all these fancy toys. They need you to be fully present and with them there in their life. That's the most important thing."
We all benefit from a sense of belonging, and it is key to our overall well-being. Every day, science tells us a little bit more about measurable ways that everyday interactions, helping hands and kind words enhance our well-being. Here are some tips on making meaningful connections:
Global spiritual leader and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh said: “Sometimes your joy is the sources of your smiles, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” But it’s also a scientific fact. When you engage the muscles of your face, it signals the release of endorphins that make you feel good.
The easiest way to understand someone else is to listen. Attention is a limited commodity and listening can be really, really hard. Use non-verbal cues to note that you hear what is being said – smile and nod – and pose open-ended questions that encourage the speaker to elaborate.
Ask yourself three questions before you speak. Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
Just because you carry your phone everywhere does not mean you always need to be available. Try turning off app notifications. Use auto-reply to identify times when you will be away from email. Try putting your device on “do not disturb,” a setting that still allows you to get messages from your VIP or favorites list.
Thinking about the people in your neighborhood – from the barista to your letter carriers – you can build a deeper connection with simple actions, like opening a door or a simple smile. Research shows that good deeds inspire more good deeds.
A bestselling author, Margaret Trudeau is the author of four books, including Changing My Mind, which chronicles her personal struggles, to her latest title, The Time of Your Life, which shares her personal approach for building a secure, happy life. In 2006, at age 58, she went public with her bipolar disorder in order to help others and “show them there is hope.” Trudeau also recently took her story to the stage, co-writing and starring in her own one-woman-show, A Woman of a Certain Age, in which she shares her courageous public and private journeys. An active WE Charity ambassador, Trudeau also sits on the Executive Advisory Board of the UBC Mental Health Institute and is the former honorary president of WaterAid, an agency that helps communities in developing countries build sustainable water-supply and sanitation services.
Dr. Jean Clinton is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. She has been a consultant to children and youth mental health programs, child welfare and primary care for over 30 years. Her special interest is in the crucial role relationships and connectedness play in brain development. Clinton champions the development of a national, comprehensive child well-being strategy including a system of early learning and care for all young children and their families. She is also committed to ensuring that youths’ needs and voices are heard and respected.
WE Well-being podcasts are not intended as medical advice or treatment and should not be seen as a substitute for therapy or medication. WE Well-being is a program that empowers people of all ages with tools and resources to promote their own well-being and the well-being of their communities.