Bright, friendly, and personable, Dawn Carson is the sort of person who seems to exude positive vibes from every pore.
She has expressive eyes and a wide, warm smile. She talks animatedly about the process of writing a book – her first.
Practice Positive: A Simple Guide to Becoming a Positive and Happy Person, is exactly what it sounds like – a resource for people who struggle with negativity in their life. There’s advice for all ages, personalities and budgets.
“Everyone is all, ‘Is this the one about the breakdown?’ No, it’s not,” she laughs.
But she does credit the most difficult period of her life with making her an expert on creating her own positive vibes.
It turns out a naturally sunny outlook couldn’t shield her from a crushing blow. In late 2006, she suffered from what she describes as a severe breakdown that left her in the depths of depression, riddled with anxiety and fear. She spent six weeks under psychiatric care. At one point she was on 10 different medications she says turned her into a zombie.
“It was destroying my body.”
As she weaned herself off the medications, she realized that in the long term, she wanted to find another way to manage her anxiety and depression.
And so began a six-year journey of self-discovery and research as she sought help through alternative medicine and therapies.
One of her first stops was the library, where she hazily scanned the stacks for anything she thought might be useful to her. She took personal development courses as well, eventually compiling a tool kit of tips and techniques that she uses to keep from falling back into old coping skills that weren’t all that helpful.
“We have coping skills we don’t recognize aren’t healing,” she says.
She stresses she’s not a doctor, and is adamant that medical intervention was necessary and welcome in her case, and that conventional medicine was a crucial element of her journey to wellness.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m not telling you not to take medication – that’s just not true. I needed something.”
She says maintaining a positive mental outlook does take work, but to Carson, it’s the foundation of the sense of wellbeing she enjoys today.
Practice Positive is the sort of book she wished had existed – and could have turned to for help – when she was recovering from her breakdown.
Through the book, she shares a range of ideas with readers hoping to reduce stress, limit negativity in their lives, and simply enjoy life more.
One of the most useful tools she discovered is to perform a daily emotional checklist.
Before she rises from bed to start her day, she goes through a list of things she’s grateful for, a task that’s so ingrained it’s become habit.
“It was a challenge at first. You do have to work at it. It’s not a magic pill.”
She was eager to share her discoveries with others – keen to save people time and frustration by passing along the best advice and tools she picked up in an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand format anyone can use.
The tips in her book won’t work, she says, unless you’re willing to do some work and figure out your own “stuff’.
To that end, she recommends taking a course on self-awareness or self exploration, such as signing up for a meditation class.
Carson had wanted to write for years, but never knew quite how to go about the nuts and bolts of constructing a book. At the library she came across a three-hour seminar on how to write a book in 40 days being offered through Langley continuing education. The speaker was Bob Burnham.
Carson was so inspired, she started writing the very next day. “And 25 days later, I finished writing the book,” she says. “The big thing I took from it was self-publishing is really the way to go, and you don’t have to edit [your work] as your write.”
Along with learning how to create and follow a template, she also took to heart the advice to write in a conversational style.
“It made it so easy,” she said.
When it came to the cover design and having professional photos done, she drew upon local talent.
Her author photo was done by Brittany Ybarra and the book’s graphic design is by Tonia Lenk of Ideas In Bloom.
Within weeks the copies she’d ordered arrived. She invited friends and family to a book launch in June at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre. Her parents sat in the front row. It was a moment to savour.
She’s now in the process of writing two other books. One is “very candid about my breakdown – with a lot of humour,” she says. As difficult as those days were, enough time has since passed that she can laugh about some of the more surprising things she did. She hopes to complete it by Christmas.
“Once I start writing, it happens quickly.”
The other book draws on her 20 years of experience in the service industry. It’s a manual on customer service basics, redrafted for managers dealing with millennials in the workforce, whom she’s noticed have an alarming tendency to “overshare” details of their personal life in front of customers.
“Because of things like Facebook, they have no boundaries,” says Carson, a former personal trainer.
She’s also forging ahead with public speaking engagements as another way to share the hard-won lessons she’s learned.
Carson was always more positive than the average person, she admits, “But not this positive! I was a happy person.”