The Power of a Positive Mind

By Michele Robison, PhD | Associate Director of the Counseling Center

Is it really important to count our blessings? According to research, the answer is a resounding Yes! When we are able to focus on the blessings, or what is going well in our life, we experience positive emotions.  Positive emotions are known to increase dopamine and serotonin levels, neurotransmitters that not only enhance mood but improve memory as well.  In fact, optimistic people have been shown to engage in more creative thinking, are better at problem solving, have improved performance, rebound from negative events more quickly, set more goals, put more effort into attaining goals, stay more engaged in the face of difficulty, rise above obstacles more easily, cope better in high stress situations, and maintain higher levels of well-being then their pessimistic counter parts.

Negative thinking is believed to be the cause of 75-98% of illnesses (Leaf, 2011) and fear triggers more than 1,400 physical and chemical responses and activates more than 30 different hormones. (Leaf, 2009).  Now that can’t be healthy!

Even a momentary focus on the positive can have a beneficial impact.
One study showed that children who were told to think about something that makes them happy before putting blocks into particular patterns, significantly out-performed children who were not given that instruction.  Another study showed that students who were told to think about the happiest day of their life before taking a standardized math test, significantly out-performed the students who were not given that instruction.  And Doctors who were primed to feel happy by simply giving them a lollipop came to more accurate diagnoses more quickly and were more creative in treatment solutions then the doctors who were not primed to feel happy.  (Achor, 2010)  Note to self, next time you see your doctor give him/her a lollipop and reap the benefits of doing so!

Scientists have shown that we can create new neural-pathways in our brain with intentional focus.  If we tend to focus on the negative, our brains will be wired to pick up the negative and drop the positive in our day-to-day lives.  The good news is, it works the other way around as well.

In a study at Harvard University, research subjects played the game Tetris for several hours a day, three days in a row.  Tetris is a game where shapes fall from the top of a screen and the objective is for the player to rotate the shapes to create an unbroken, horizontal line across the screen before it hits the bottom of the screen.  After playing Tetris for several hours over a three-day period, subjects dreamt about falling shapes and begin to subconsciously find themselves looking at how various shapes in their environment could be turned to create unbroken lines.

Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage stayed up playing the game Grand Theft Auto until 4:00 A.M.  He recounts that for five hours following playing the game, he found himself scanning the streets looking at which cars he could break into.  The good news is he stopped himself from acting on his thoughts yet this does demonstrate the power behind where we place our focus.  Think about the video games you play.  What impact might they have on your thought life?

There have been numerous studies that have shown that intentional focus allows our brain to get stuck in how we view the world.  With ongoing repeated focus, we can actually create new neural-pathways in the brain that are enduring.   This means we are not doomed to a life of negativity.  We can use our mind to change our brains, to change our mind for the better!   What?  In other words, if we begin to scan our environment for things that are going well, we will eventually create new neural-pathways so that our brain focuses more easily on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative.  This does not mean we will not ever experience negativity again.  It does mean, we will have a better outlook when facing adversity and we will rebound more quickly from the adversity.

The 3 Blessings Journal is one way to train our brains to scan for the positive in life.  Depressed subjects were asked to write down 3 things that went well at the end of the day and why it went well for a period of one week.  At the end of the week, subjects reported not only a significant decrease in depression but also a greater level of happiness.  This effect was seen up to six months later.  (Seligman, 2011)

By simply writing down 3 things that go well in our day along with why it went well, we can experience a more optimistic look on life and reap the emotional and physical benefits.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that what science is now discovering is what God’s word has been teaching us all along, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7.  God is deserving of our thanks but it is much more than that.  When we seek Him through prayer and give thanks, He guards our hearts and mind.  What does this mean?  It means we experience peace and joy despite our circumstances.  God knew that by giving Him thanks, it would transform us.  We reap the benefits of a life filled with joy and peace.


Image sourced from Marquette Magazine




  • Achor, Shawn. (2010). The Happiness Advantage. New York: Crown Business Publishers.
  • Leaf, Caroline. (2011). You Are What You Think: 75-98% of Mental and Physical Illnesses Come from Your Thought Life.
  • Leaf, Caroline. (2009).  Who Switched Off My Brain? Inprov, Ltd.
  • Seligman, Martin. (2011). Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. New York: Free Press




7 Ways to Protect from the Invisible

By: Mary Darden, Family Nurse Practitioner | Student Health Center

Germs are everywhere- some are harmless while others make you sick.  Viruses and bacteria are “germs” that you cannot see without a microscope.  That’s what makes them so sneaky!  All of a sudden you find yourself sneezing, coughing, feverish, and fatigued. These symptoms are actually your body’s immune system fighting to keep us well by destroying the virus or bacteria that has so rudely invaded your body. Germs invade your body through various ways.  One of the most common ways is through your hands.  Some viruses and bacteria can remain on surfaces for days or even weeks.  So when you open that door to a classroom, you never know what virus or bacteria you’ve just touched.  Therefore, if you eat something or wipe your eye or nose, those germs can enter your body and can potentially make you sick.Bacteria and viruses can also spread through respiratory droplets and saliva.  Respiratory droplets can also spread to surfaces through coughing and sneezing.  A sneeze can spread up to 3-5 feet!  This means when someone sneezes, coughs, or you kiss or share drinks or utensils, you can become infected. To help decrease the spread of germs during cold and flu season I have put together 7 practical ways you can protect yourself and others…

1. WASH YOUR HANDS for at least 20 seconds!

Before eating or touching your face and after touching surfaces or handshaking.  Also, you may use alcohol based hand sanitizer and allow your hands to dry completely. Follow this link to learn how to properly wash your hands:


2. Cover your cough or sneeze in your elbow, not your hand.



3. Get Vaccinated- talk to your health care provider about getting vaccinated against the Flu and other communicable diseases.  Make sure all your immunizations are up to date.


4. If you’re sick, Stay Home!  Don’t spread your sickness to others.


5. Clean and disinfect surfaces with Clorox wipes or other over the counter disinfectants.  The surface must be dry after washing to be completely clean.



6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.


Visit the Centers for Disease Control  website to learn more about germs, staying healthy, and the flu:


AND REMEMBER: Eat healthy and nutrient dense meals, increase water intake, and exercise for at least 30 minutes daily to keep your body fit and immune system strong.  This will help you to better fight diseases and illnesses.

For more about Healthy Living:


Welcome Week Schedule Fall 2015

Welcome Week (Orientation)

Orientation is mandatory for ALL new students. Please clear your schedules for August 21-23.

We are excited to greet you on Friday, August 21st.

Orientation programming is still being finalized. This is a sample schedule based on Orientation 2014. Final details will be updated August 1.

Friday, August 21

9:00 AM-12:00 PM Rotating Check-in
Freshmen in Huntington Hall & Laguna Hall 5th-7th floors (Group A): 9:00 AM
Commuters (Group C): 9:30 AM
Freshmen in Huntington Hall & Laguna Hall 2nd-4th floors (Group B): 10:00 AM
Residential Transfers and Catalina Hall (Group C): 11:00 AM
10:00 AM-2:00 PM
Commuter Orientation and Lunch (all commuters and families)
1:00 PM-4:00 PM Rotating Welcome
Residential Freshmen (Group A): 1:00 PM
Residential Freshmen (Group B): 2:00 PM
Commuters, Transfers & Catalina (Group C): 3:00 PM
4:00-5:30 PM Orientation Kick-Off
4:00-6:00 PM Family Orientation
5:30 PM
Incoming Class Picture
6:00-7:30 PM Family BBQ
8:00-9:00 PM Worship and Communion
9:00-9:30 PM Student Commissioning
10:00-11:00 PM Resident Students: Meet your floor
11:00 PM-1:00 AM Private Target Party (Target opens for us at 11:30)

Saturday, August 22

10:30 AM-Noon Brunch
Noon-1:00 PM Academic Talks
1:00-2:00 PM Snack & Share Group Time
2:00-3:00 PM Student Life Talks
3:00-4:00 PM Group Time
4:30-7:00 PM Dinner  
6:00-8:30 PM Beach Bonfire (optional)

Sunday, August 23

8:00-Noon Church (commuters may attend home church)
10:30-Noon Brunch
Noon-2:00 PM Group Time
2:00-3:00 PM VU Talks
3:00-6:30 PM Welcome to the Neighborhood Expo & Block Party
7:00-9:00 PM Orientation Closing and Dessert

Grandparents’ Day 2015 Schedule

Schedule below is tentative and will be updated as events and event times are confirmed. Thank you.

8:00 – 9:00 am: Check-in (In front of Needham Chapel)

Please check in between 8:00-9:00 am and collect information for the day, as well as specialty items. If you are unable to arrive at that time, your student can check in on your behalf. Continental breakfast will be provided.

9:00-9:50 am: Devotions with Justin McIntee (Needham Chapel)

Please join us for a morning devotional as we kick off this special day.

10:00-11:00 am: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind (Needham Chapel)

The Alzheimer Association is back by popular demand. Their standing-room only presentation was praised with rave reviews about the important reminders regarding our health.

11:00-11:30 am: Aging Well Post 50 (Needham Chapel)

Enjoy tips and tricks for aging well offered by Vanguard’s own Kinesiology Department.

11:30 am – 12:30 pm: Lunch on Own (VU Cafe or Off Campus)

Enjoy our Cafe: Adults- $8, children (5-10)- $5 (Cash Only) or take your student to their favorite location off-campus (students love to be spoiled).

12:30 – 2:00 pm: Dessert with the President (Needham Courtyard)

We will enjoy a dessert together and have a chance to hear from our beloved President Beals.

2:00 pm: Men’s Baseball vs. Concordia (Baseball Field)


2:00 – 4:00 pm: Lewis Wilson Institute (Heath 109)

Our very own Provost Dr. Doretha O’Quinn will be hosting two sessions regarding African American Experience in the Foursquare church. Students will receive chapel credit (1 per session). Session One: 2-3 pm; Refreshment Break: 3-3:15 pm; Session Two: 3:15-4 pm. For more info…

4:00 pm: Giving Thanks to Vanguard Grandparents (TBD)

This is our time to celebrate you! We know that many of our students are able to attend Vanguard due to their grandparents’ support and encouragement and we want a chance to say thanks!

5:00 pm: Dinner on Own (VU Cafe or Off Campus)

Enjoy our Cafe: Adults- $9, children (5-10)- $5 (Cash Only) or take your student to their favorite location off-campus (students love to be spoiled).

8:00 pm: Theatre Department presents Ah, Wilderness! (Lyceum Theatre)

A tender comedy that explores coming of age and young love in Idyllic 1906. Ticket price: $14. Available tickets may be purchase at the door or in advance online. Our theatre department is superb. Don’t miss your chance to see the comedy Ah, Wilderness!

10:30 pm: Ah, Wilderness! Open Forum (Lyceum Theatre)

Consider getting a behind the scenese view of Ah, Wilderness! during this open forum discussion with Director Kevin Slay.

Recipes For One

Now to impress your families this Christmas break, here are a few recipes to try over break! Both recipes involve spinach which is nutrient dense and has TONS of flavonoids (act as an antioxidant). As college students, we tend to not always consume the healthiest foods; adding spinach to your diet is a good way to get a bunch of different vitamins and minerals!

Spinach-Ravioli Lasagna

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings


  • 1 (6-oz.) package fresh baby spinach, thoroughly washed
  • 1/3 cup refrigerated pesto sauce
  • 1 (15-oz.) jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth*
  • 1 (25-oz.) package frozen cheese-filled ravioli (do not thaw)
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Italian six-cheese blend
  • Garnishes: chopped fresh basil, paprika


  1. 1. Preheat oven to 375°. Chop spinach, and toss with pesto in a medium bowl.
  2. 2. Combine Alfredo sauce and vegetable broth. Spoon one-third of alfredo sauce mixture (about 1/2 cup) into a lightly greased 2.2-qt. or 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Top with half of spinach mixture. Arrange half of ravioli in a single layer over spinach mixture. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining Alfredo sauce.
  3. 3. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish, if desired.
  4. *Chicken broth may be substituted.
  5. Note: For testing purposes only, we used Santa Barbara Original Basil Pesto and Bertolli Alfredo Sauce.

Southern Living

Spinach and Mozzarella Grilled Cheese


  • ½ Tbsp olive oil $0.08
  • 1 clove garlic $0.08
  • ¼ lb. frozen cut spinach $0.38
  • Pinch of salt & pepper $0.05
  • 2 ciabatta rolls $1.33
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese $1.00
  • 1 oz. feta cheese $0.43
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional) $0.05


  1. Mince the garlic and add it to a skillet with the olive oil. Cook over medium-low heat for 1-2 minutes, or until it begins to soften. Add the frozen spinach, turn the heat up to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until heated through and most of the excess moisture has evaporated away. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Cut the rolls in half. Add about ¼ cup of shredded mozzarella and ½ oz. of feta to the bottom half of each roll. Divide the cooked spinach between the two sandwiches, then top with a pinch of red pepper flakes, plus ¼ more shredded mozzarella on each.
  3. Place the top half of the ciabatta roll on the sandwiches and transfer them to a large non-stick skillet. Fill a large pot with a few inches of water to create weight, then place the pot on top of the sandwiches to press them down like a panini press. Turn the heat on to medium-low and cook until the sandwiches are crispy on the bottom. Carefully flip the sandwiches, place the weighted pot back on top, and cook until crispy on the other side and the cheese is melted. Serve warm.

For the foodie in us all


Hey Seniors! Here are some fun and easy recipes that can be made in a mug! Enjoy!


Not only is this creamy and delicious, but it is SO much healthier than the store bought kind! And, yet it is just as quick and easy to make!

You will need:

A large mug or bowl (I use a big soup mug)

1/3 cup Whole grain elbow macaroni

½ Water

1/3 Cheddar-Jack Shredded Cheese

Splash of milk (2 teaspoons)


In a microwave safe {big} mug or bowl (make sure it is a big one or it will boil over), put 1/3 cup whole grain elbow macaroni and 1/2 cup water (If you have a stronger microwave than mine, you may need more water… just play with it adding a couple extra Tbs at a time). Microwave for 6 minutes, stirring at 4 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute. The pasta should be cooked and there will be a tiny bit of thick pasta water in the bottom. Leave this water. Add a heaping 1/3 cup shredded Cheddar Jack cheese (pictured above). Return to the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds to melt the cheese. Stir well, adding a small splash of milk (maybe 2 teaspoons). Enjoy!

April 7, 2013 by Kristen Whitby



You will need:

For the cake:

3 tbsp white flour (For gluten free: 1 tbsp rice flour and 2 tbsp almond flour)

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/16 tsp salt

pinch stevia OR 1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp plus 2 tsp water

2 tsp oil or melted margarine or applesauce

1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the streusel:

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 and 1/4 tsp brown sugar

1/4 to 1/2 tsp oil or melted margarine (or applesauce)

tiny, tiny pinch salt

2 pecan halves (or walnut halves)


(If using an oven, preheat to 330 F.) Combine batter dry ingredients and mix well. Add wet and mix until just mixed. In a tiny bowl, combine all streusel ingredients. Fill a greased muffin tin 1/2 way with the batter (or a mug, if using the microwave). Sprinkle on two-thirds of the streusel, then spoon the remaining batter on top. Finally, sprinkle on the rest of the streusel. Cook 12-13 minutes in the oven, or around 1 minute in the microwave. (Microwave times may vary.)



When a season of life is on the decline and you know there is an imminent end, you feel as if you can prepare for it. The shock is not so abrupt, but the pain is still there. We have to understand a few things about our season that is ending and how we are in a transitioning period in our life. William Bridges wrote a book entitled “Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes.” This book identifies the transitions we all go through throughout our entire lives and then spends some time diving into what ending a season of life looks like. He says that there are endings, a neutral zone and then a new beginning. We will look at the specifics of “endings” this month!

“Endings are, let’s remember, experiences of dying. They are ordeals, and sometimes they challenge so basically our sense of who we are that we believe they will be the end of us… Even though we are all likely to view an ending as the conclusion of the situation it terminates, it is also-and it is too bad that we don’t have better ways of reminding ourselves of this-the initiation of a process. We have it backwards. Endings are the first, not the last, act of the play”~ Bridges

Let us go through this grieving together, but for a short time because we have so much to look forward to. We are not in the finality of our lives, so let’s not bog ourselves down. Instead, we will appreciate what we have had for the last four years and use it as a building block for success.

Inside VU 9.17.14



Sunday, September 21
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
Questions? Contact Joel Gackle at alumni@vanguard.eduor x 5494

Noel Wilson ‘84 and Faculty Emeritus will direct his annual Gospel Song Celebration with a professional orchestra, Men’s quartet, and various soloists. The Alumni Relations office will host a reception for Alumni after the concert. Tickets are $15.

Questions? Contact Kayli Hillebrand at or x5265
Were you an MK? The Outreach Office is looking for faculty/staff that would like to be involved in the MK Ministry on campus. We are looking for mentors and/or open homes for our students to gather in throughout the year.

Monday, September 15
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Questions? Contact Katie Heemstra at or x5441

Kick off your holiday season in style! Enjoy favorite carols and breathtaking masterpieces performed by Vanguard’s 200-member choirs and orchestra in two stunning venues: Segerstrom Center for the Arts [Tuesday, December 2] and St. Andrews Presbyterian Church [Friday, December 5]. Faculty/Staff and students — Redeem your exclusive 20% off discount!

Thursday, September 18
Great Commission Hall
Questions? Contact Kevin Walker at or x6427

Join us for a Constitution Day Debate: Does the Constitution give rights or expect duties? The VU Forum will be host a debate with Professor Alex Hindman arguing for rights and Professor Kevin Walker arguing for duties.
Chapel credit will be available.

Monday, September 22
Forrest Room
Questions? Contact Cheri Walters at or x6360
A woman church planter, lead pastor, co-pastor, youth/children/staff pastors, & missionary will share about their ministry journeys in an interactive round-table discussion with students. Students will have opportunities for conversations on ministry subjects – male/female working relationships, family & ministry, vocational ministry, etc.

Coffee, chocolate, prizes, and chapel credit offered.

Tuesday, September 30
Cove Parking Lot
Questions? Contact Megan Mickelson at or x5254
Vanguard’s semi-annual blood drive is quickly approaching! All students, faculty, and staff are welcome and encouraged to donate. The mobile blood truck will be in the cove parking lot on September 30th from 11am-4pm. Please see Jordan Baker in the Bridge beginning on Sept 22nd to schedule an appointment.

THE BEAT GOES ON – World Premiere
A Musical Revue that journeys through the decades of Rock and Roll
Lyceum Theater Performance Dates: September 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, October 3, 4 at 8:00 pm; September 21, 27, 28, October 4, 5 at 2:00 pm. General: $17; Senior/Child/Group/VU Employees: $14; VU Students: $12.
Purchase tickets at: Discount tickets for VU students on ALL performances: only $5 cash or check at the door if available

Questions? Contact Bill Hughes at or x6425