Step Outside!

August 14, 2020


There is a sense of calm everyone associates with nature. Whether it is hiking amongst vibrant layers of fall foliage or watching a waterfall striking the stream below, spending time interacting with nature provides peace and a much-needed break from life’s daily sprint. 

In the age of technology, though, people rarely spend enough time outside and instead get tangled up in high-stress work situations even outside of their 9-5 job. This issue has been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, as many feel unsafe leaving quarantine, and the clear temporal boundaries have grayed and bled into what’s typically “alone-” or “family time.” However, it is increasingly important that in uncertain and anxiety-ridden times like these, we find ways to escape and de-stress. 

Doctors throughout the United States are increasingly prescribing time outdoors to their patients. Regularly interacting with nature has been described as, “one of the best self-improvement tools,” and, “a simple way to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and maybe even improve your memory.” ‘Regular interaction’ can mean anything from 20 to 30 minutes, 3 days a week, but a goal of at least 120 minutes per week will provide the most benefit. 

Taking this valuable couple of hours to spend in nature has upsides stretching beyond mental health as well. A stressful environment can elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension while suppressing your immune system, but calming nature sounds and a more pleasing environment can reverse those effects. Recently, the scientific fields of ecotherapy and ecopsychology, which aim to positively shape minds with nature, have been growing as nature has been credited for improving mental health, mood, physical health, and vitality.

Upon returning from a moment in nature, many take on a more positive and relaxed mood, feeling energized and refreshed. Nature provides a respite for overactive minds, and time in nature may increase productivity in the new tasks that follow. Dr. David Strayer, who is currently researching the correlation between time in nature and changes in the brain, believes being in nature, “restores depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving.” 

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Picture taken in Central Park. Even in cities, nature provides health benefits… and happiness.

Furthermore, forest-bathing, a practice within ecotherapy, has been shown to improve executive functioning skills such as completing tasks, planning, prioritizing, and managing emotions. These increases in productivity, efficiency, and creativity suggest that time in nature could foster better performance in the workplace. 

Though less studied, nature may also have an impact on one’s social wellbeing and tendencies. Some scientists believe that nature inspires feelings that make us feel connected not only to the environment, but also to others. Nature can strengthen relationships, as being outdoors influences willingness to be trusting, generous, and helpful toward others. A study by University College London found that children’s experiences in the natural world fostered better relationships with teachers and classmates. 

Additionally, a separate study observing a group of Canadian elementary school children found that regular contact with nature over 8 months had profound benefits on children’s pro-social behaviors, including social, language, and communication skills. Though the effect on the social behaviors of adults may not be as drastic, nature can influence our ability to connect with other people nonetheless. Individuals connected to nature tend to be conscientious, extroverted, agreeable, and open, which promotes engagement and sociability. Given that research, don’t you want to mobilize yourself and enjoy some time in nature?



Pro Sports Without Fans: A Psychological Game Changer

July 31, 2020
IMG_1171.jpegA shot from the 7/30/2020 Bruins v. Blue Jackets exhibition game, held with almost no spectators.

As economies start to re-open in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the landscape is shifting drastically for one of the businesses hit hardest by the virus: professional sports. Social-distancing efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 means large venues, including stadiums and arenas, are almost entirely closed to fans. Though athletes will be returning to their positions on the field, ice, and court, their dynamic fans won’t be coming to cheer, presenting players with an unfamiliar mental obstacle on game day. Those used to the cheers and jeers of the big stage will be forced to adjust to echoing silence as they compete, and many are worried about the psychological impact the lack of present fans might have on performance. Popular sports lore holds that the relationship between the fans and the athletes is mutually beneficial; the valor of the players generates cheers from the crowd, and those cheers inspire further valor (3).

Without the present support of fans, home-field advantage may virtually be eliminated, and the energy during competition could plummet. Jonathan Fader, former team psychologist for the New York Mets, views energy deficiency as one of the biggest obstacles athletes will face as they return to peak performance under unfamiliar circumstances (2). Comparing the arena to the workplace, he states, “We all require community… If you were at a meeting with your co-workers and only one showed up, you’d have a different energy level.” Fans provide supplemental energy when athletes are approaching exhaustion, giving an extra shot of adrenaline to spark vitality. 

As a result, crowds have proven especially beneficial in events that go on long enough for athletes to become quite tired, producing an effect referred to as ‘social facilitation’ by sports psychologists (7). Carrie Wicks, a sports psychologist who works with a few MLB players said one of her clients recently told her, “the audience is the drug (2) .” She also mentions, “It’s not just competition. It’s a performance. 

Many athletes have a schtick that brings them to peak performance, and that is brought out by the audience (2). ” For instance, some long jumpers and pole vaulters will encourage rhythmic clapping from fans before their pass in order to psyche themselves up, “[using] the energy of the crowds to feed themselves and push themselves,” explains psychologist Kay Porter (7). In other words, the fans’ energy acts as the athletes’ fuel. The presence of fans also pushes athletes toward their ‘flow state’, leading some psychologists to wonder whether athletes can reach their peak performance without the ‘collective unconscious’ backing them. 

In the upcoming months, players will have to learn how to maintain sufficient energy without the natural activation the fanbase supplies. Ultimately it will come down to which athletes are able to successfully strive for meaning, purpose, fuel, and motivation from within themselves.

However, for other professional athletes, a lack of fans and the background noise these raucous onlookers bring with them, could possibly lead to heightened concentration among players in empty stadiums. Fans present a distraction as the competition rages, and without distraction, pro athletes may be able to tap into a deeper focus. Porter states, “accomplished players who are skilled at blocking out noise might not notice a difference at all, while less experienced players might find it easier to concentrate in an empty stadium, especially as the game progresses and the initial weirdness of the situation fades away.” This suggests that ultimately, though an empty venue may not benefit business, it may aid the performance of players, especially inexperienced ones (4). 

Those who are more prone to anxiety under the eyes of a watchful crowd might also benefit from the silence, relieved from the pressure of the physically looming audience. Behavioral scientist Aaron Jeckell believes that the current circumstances will differentiate the player with mental resilience from those who only possess mental toughness (5). The players who can integrate this novel environment into their performance are the ones who will prove mentally resilient. Some expect that the athletes who already devoted time to honing their mental skills pre-pandemic will have an advantage over other players as they head into the upcoming matches.

Typically associated with turnout from fans, ‘home-field advantage’ might also be nullified by the new coronavirus precautions being taken by professional sports leagues around the world. Brain Scalabrine, former NBA player and Celtics broadcaster for NBC Sports Boston, thinks that for players who are rattled by lively road environments or emboldened by the support at home, performance may shift, especially in high stakes games like the playoffs (6). He expects a re-evaluation of each team based on how they play without fans to ensue, implying there may be a dynamic change among teams within each league. 

However, economist and Yale professor of finance Tobias Moskowitz argues otherwise. He believes home-court advantage’s combination of familiar location and zealous crowds has less of an effect on the athletes’ performance, but more on the game-time decisions of referees (6). Under the desire to relieve social pressure as masses of fans toss targeted outbursts, the referee is goaded into viewing plays from the lens of the home team. However, with no fans berating officials, calls may change; home-field advantage will essentially disappear along with the removal of this variable, ultimately affecting the outcome of each game held in an empty stadium.

It is difficult to determine how the lack of turnout for professional sports will generally affect the athletes’ performance. Adjustment periods and performance levels will likely vary among individuals based on experience, mental flexibility, and other factors. As the NHL and MLB are holding games flanked by completely empty seats, questions as to how the organizations might move forward with their seasons are arising, and marketers are hastily refining their creative ideas on how to cultivate a stadium environment similar to the one before COVID-19! 




Grief and Acceptance During the Coronavirus

May 11, 2020

The world as we knew it has been flipped upside down and may not return back to “normal” for a long time, if ever. This is upsetting for most of us. We feel as if we have been deprived of our day-to-day lives and privileges for reasons we are not responsible for. It’s ok to not know what you are exactly sad about because of the uncertainty that lies ahead, but what can be acknowledged in this moment is that we are experiencing grief.


As we sit in quarantine, chewing on the idea of what life has become, because quite frankly we’re too bored to do much else, we reflect on our previous lives, and mourn them. We don’t know what is happening and when it will end. There are so many terrible and sad things in the headlines that it can be hard to keep your chin up and proceed through the day and muster a smile. It feels as though there are more reasons to be sad than happy, which is valid. We are separated from our friends and loved ones, we cannot enjoy our normal routines, and millions of Americans are experiencing the economic damage to top it off. While this may all sound negative, there can be hope. We all know that the last stage of grief is Acceptance, and there are ways to get there. Acknowledging our current situation is a part of the process. As Scott Berinato from the Harvard Business Review shares in his article “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief”,

Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.

Berinato writes that seeing the stages of grief is a crucial part to managing the distress we are experiencing. Each stage of grief can be applied to the situations we are living through the coronavirus. Berinato outlines some examples, “There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.” It is within acceptance that we can begin to manage our lives while acknowledging the circumstances. We begin to find ways to fill our time or prevent getting the virus and being innovative with ways to stay connected with the people in our lives. And it is in this stage that we build resilience.

Staying grounded can help us be present and not stuck wallowing in the past. Journaling after each day forces us to reflect on what today was and what its presence means. The days can blend together, but every day should mean something different, should be a step towards acceptance whether that be a day where you are navigating virtual work with a good attitude, or mourning the Cinco de Mayo plans you had. Keep in mind how much power our attitudes to the present have on our mindset.

Sometimes we suppress our feelings of sadness because there are people in the world who have it much worse off than we do. That way of thinking can diminish the validity of our emotions. Affirm to yourself that there are many experiencing pain…and you are also feeling a type of pain that it is completely legitimate. Don’t diminish your feelings; you can feel a certain way while also having compassion. Compassion and giving can make us feel better too. If you are feeling lost and as though you don’t have much to contribute to humanity, help out. Donate, write letters to health care workers, order a pizza to be delivered to your local fire station. While I can’t promise it will make life go back to normal, it will give you some meaning, help others, and maybe inspire some hope and acceptance.

Respond With Leadership During Crisis

April 23, 2020

The first step in a pandemic is to assure the health and safety of the affected population, which we are experiencing now in quarantine. But, it is hard to gloss over the economic repercussions we will be seeing at the same time. Just as public health officials and government leaders need to respond to this crisis; business owners and those leading others also need to formulate a plan and communicate it with their people.

Here is a great article by Martin Reeves, Nikolaus Lang, and Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak from the Harvard Business Review that provides tips on navigating your business through the pandemic.


Working For the… {Insert Reward Here}

April 15, 2020

The 1980’s rock band Loverboy’s one-hit wonder has become a sentiment to the nine-to-fivers in the American workforce. “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” has rung true for a lot of us over the years. You work hard so when Friday afternoon comes along, you can play hard (or Netflix hard). We as a society live under a personal reward system, and a lot of it has to do with how our brains are wired.

Among the necessities for human survival- food, sleep, etc- rewards drive human action. Rewards make us learn as well as bring pleasurable feelings. When we expect a reward, different areas of your brain communicate to our neurons to release dopamine. The reward itself does not do not elicit these responses, but instead the expectation of a reward. Think about when you teach your dog to roll over, enticing them with a treat. It is not eating the dog treat itself that teaches your dog to be motivated to do that action and then store that memory, it is the dopamine release when your dog is expecting the treat. So, now that many people around the world are working from home, in some cases not leaving at all, many feel a lack of motivation. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to this newfound sluggishness. For one, people are not in their normal environment that is designated for the work they do. Also, people are not having in-person contact with their coworkers.

Besides the physical shifts people are experiencing at this moment, there is also a psychological fluctuation occurring.  We can predict that an overwhelming tendency to not complete work as thoroughly as normal is happening due to the lack of our trusty reward system that allows us to persist. Luckily, this disruption can be fixed by implementing incentives to keep us going. Here are a few examples that will be sure to get your reward system activated and release that dopamine.

https___blogs-images.forbes.com_manondefelice_files_2018_06_beverage-computer-flower-948888-1200x907.jpgPHOTO BY RAWPIXEL.COM FROM PEXELS

1. Make a List

List your activities and tasks for the day, ranging from how much you enjoy the task as well as the time/effort required to complete each. It can help to complete your most challenging task first. During this unprecedented time, we are finding that the morning is most conducive to completing tasks. If you enjoy reading, implement that into your daily routine. Having small rewards throughout your day will make those bigger tasks seem less daunting and you’ll be more inclined to complete them.

2. Plan Your Weekends

Start planning at-home activities for your weekend. Planning theme nights or cooking favorite meals with your family or whoever you’re quarantining with will create some stress-free fun. We tend to feel lost and inactive when we don’t have an agenda of even things we enjoy. Bigger events on your weekend calendar will keep you plugging through the workdays.

3. Look Ahead

In a time when we are all yearning for normalcy, it can be beneficial to reflect on the aspects of your daily life that you took for granted now that they’re put on pause. It is important to look towards the future of post-quarantine and plan for what you want to accomplish or experience, but for the meantime, try and make a list of goals for quarantine. Have you always wanted to try yoga? Or, has the daunting stacks of clothes in your closet been hanging over your head? Now is the perfect time to complete these at-home ambitions. Then, when normal life resumes, you can go into it with all your spring cleaning in the rear-view.

We as a world are being given a very rare opportunity of time. Yes, this is a time where we are grieving the loss of lives and our past-lives, but we can also use this pause to do just that: pause. Becoming aware of our surroundings and those out of our environment can open doors of acknowledging and appreciating the world for what it is and what our place in it may be and how we can change it for the better. We all have the option to come out of this pandemic with personal growth. Now is the time to research that topic you’ve always been interested in, start exercising, or become more involved in your community. No more excuses, it’s our time to do what needs to be done for ourselves and those around us.

Your Focus

August 10, 2018

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Drive Your Performance

July 12, 2018

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Setting Goals for Success

June 14, 2018

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Give Yourself a Mental Edge

May 14, 2018

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The Senior

February 24, 2016

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A great read from a hard-working, loyal, and classy senior who I have had the pleasure of getting to know these past 3 years:


I met with a bunch of teams at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto in 2012, but one interview particularly stands out.

For those who don’t know how combine interviews work, you basically sit there at a round table with all of a team’s scouts, staff and management and just get peppered with questions.

So I’m sitting there, 18 years old, nervously sweating in my suit, and some guy sitting at the table pipes up.

“Oh, so you’re going to Harvard. Do you want to be a student or a hockey player?”

I was completely taken aback. I’m pretty sure that I botched the rest of the interview because I was so rattled by that question. I probably should’ve brushed it off, but in that type of situation you start second-guessing yourself.

Is Harvard actually the right fit? Is it going to hurt my hockey career?

Looking back, I kind of wish I had told this guy to pound sand, because he definitely had no clue about who I was or how special playing at Harvard was.


I grew up in a hockey family. My dad played hockey. So did all of my cousins. My younger brother Nolan and I didn’t have a choice, really. From the time we could walk, we were on skates.

Everything growing up was hockey, hockey, hockey. My parents made every sacrifice possible so that Nolan and I could play, and my little sister  got dragged to just about every rink in North America.

I can remember waking up for 5 a.m. mite hockey games with my dad when the sun wasn’t even up yet.  If I said I was tired, he’d say, “C’mon, Jimmy, someday this is all gonna be worth it.” Then on the way home we would pretend to announce my name as the first overall pick in my draft year.  Those days were the best; I still remember that stuff like it was yesterday.…

With the first pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft … the Boston Bruins are proud to select … from North Reading, Mass. … Jimmy Vesey.

In school, when teachers asked what we wanted to be when we got older, I used to be too embarrassed to say an NHL player. I thought they would laugh at that thought. I mean, in reality, how likely was it that I would actually play in the NHL? The percentages are extremely small. I used to make up some phony job — I don’t know, maybe an astronaut — but the truth is, I’ve never even considered pursuing anything else as a career; ever since I was a kid I knew that hockey was what I wanted to do.

Last spring, after my junior season at Harvard, I had the opportunity to realize my childhood dream of playing in the NHL. The Nashville Predators, the team that drafted me, were telling me I would step into their lineup on a line with Mike Fisher for the end of the season and the playoffs. It was crazy to think how my college season ended on a Saturday and I could’ve been in their lineup by Tuesday. Could’ve been rubbing elbows with guys like Shea Weber, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal. Could’ve been playing against Patrick Kane in the first round of the playoffs. No brainer, right?

I thought about how broke I was at college, how annoying it can get sharing a 2003 Toyota Camry with my brother in the summer, how my mom’s been saying for a few years now that she wants a new kitchen… I’d be able to fix all that, I thought.

It was the toughest decision I’ve ever made, but I turned the offer down and decided to go back to college for my senior year. I actually turned down my dream for another year of bus rides, dining hall food and homework. Pretty nuts, huh?

When I officially announced my decision, everyone — and I mean everyone — seemed to have a comment. Some people thought I must have been doing it to hold out for free agency this summer, while some people couldn’t fathom the fact that I was going back at all. How bad could I really want to be a hockey player if I was choosing to go back to school?

I waited three days after our season ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament before officially announcing my decision, but to be honest, I had made up my mind two weeks before. We had just beaten Yale, our biggest rival, in an absolute battle of an ECAC tournament quarterfinal playoff series. Going into that series, I was something like 0-9-1 in my career against Yale. In the third and deciding game one of my best friends, Pat McNally, tied the score with three minutes left, and we went on to win in double overtime. I always joke around with him and tell him that if he didn’t score that goal I might not still be at Harvard.

The postgame celebration after winning that series was hands-down one of the best moments of my life. One of the boys’ favorite words at school is electric, and I’ll tell you, that locker-room was definitely electric. Everyone screaming, jumping up and down … I must’ve hugged all thirty of my teammates five times each, almost on the verge of tears. Looking back now, it seems like it happened in slow motion, but it was in that locker-room that I fully realized, “All right, these guys are my best friends. All right, I’m not ready to leave this place. Nope. No way.”

Some people might not have understood my decision to come back, but maybe they don’t fully understand what the college hockey experience is truly like. For me, I’ve loved every second of my time at Harvard, both at the rink and away from it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still fully committed to becoming an NHL player and having as long a career as I can, but there are certain aspects of college that I just didn’t want to give up if I didn’t have to. Like the two things people always say, “College is the best time of your life,” and, “You can never get those four years back.” So I didn’t really see the rush.

First off, I would’ve had a hard time looking my coaches in the eyes and telling them I was leaving. I’ve come a long way as a hockey player in my time at college, and that’s definitely a result of the world-class coaching staff I’ve played for. When I came to school as a young, naïve freshman, all I cared about was scoring goals. Now, I’m more of a complete player … a “200-foot player,” as coach Donato always says. One of the things I’m most proud of at school is that I’ve been on our top penalty-kill unit the past two years. For sure, I still think scoring a goal is one of the best feelings in the world, but something about it is a little better when it’s done within the team.

Coach Donato, coach Pearl, coach Rassey, coach Eklund and coach Mullen — you guys have all helped me immensely on the ice as a hockey player, but to me it’s even more commendable how much you have helped me as a human being. Thank you for everything.


One of my favorite things about college hockey is how sick it is to play for your school. Each team has so much history and tradition. It’s a cool feeling to be playing for something so much bigger than yourself. At Harvard, you look around the rink … you can see the banners, the championships, the old pictures. A lot of people before us have invested so much into the program. Every single one of our home games, there are alumni there, and they’re some pretty big names. I’m talking Billy Cleary, the Fusco brothers, Lane MacDonald — all former Olympians. Talking to them, their passion for Harvard Hockey is palpable. You can tell that they put everything they had into the jersey and that the same is expected of you. You hold yourself to a higher standard as a result.

It feels good to wear your team gear around campus; everyone knows you’re on the team, and girls love hockey players (Ahhh, maybe not so much at Harvard, actually). But seriously, there’s just something special about seeing your friends, the other athletes and everybody else around campus. It’s a tight-knit community, everyone’s pulling for each other, and everyone shares the same hatred for our Ivy League competition. When you look in the stands during a game and see all your buddies there, it puts a little more jump in your step. You don’t want to let them down, either.

Last, but definitely not least, I came back this year to be with the boys for one more season. When I say, “the boys,” I’m not just talking about my teammates. I’m also referring to our equipment guy Odie, our athletic trainers Matt and Chad, our media guy Brock, the fellas at the rink (Joe, Scotty and Brendan) and our hockey ops manager Flem.

When I got a little bit older, my dad used to always tell me that I’d never be on a team closer than the ones in college. And, now that I’m a wise old senior and my college career is coming to a close, I can 100 percent see where he was coming from all those years ago.

College hockey is much different than pro. There aren’t any trades, there aren’t any performance bonuses and no one is playing for their next contract. Once everyone gets on campus in September, we come together as a team, united by the common goal of winning an NCAA championship.

And for the next seven months, you truly gain 29 brothers. At Harvard, we all live within a one-mile radius of each other. I mean, my linemate, Alex Kerfoot, has one of the biggest muffins in the league; we live in separate dorms at school, but he could probably stand in his room and hit my bedroom window with a wrister. We eat together, we walk to the rink together, take classes together, go out together and on Friday and Saturday nights, we battle together. College is an ultrastressful environment — we’re balancing school, hockey, internships, our social lives and so many other things. When you’re part of a group as close as a hockey team, being able to lean on your teammates and the feeling of, “We’re all in this together,” gives you a little bit more assurance going into each day.

Choosing to play at Harvard was one of the greatest decisions of my life, and I think a lot of that comes from how good a group of guys my teammates are. I know when I’m older and I look back at my college years, I’m going to wish I could jump back into the memories I made with these guys. I’ll pretty much miss it all — summer dogs, nights in Lamont, the Thon, the Ward, 9 Linden, football tailgates … I might even miss the Sunday morning bag-skates when we laid an egg on Saturday night (thanks, Coach). I’m proud to say that the guys I went through all of this with will be my friends for life.

Beyond hockey, staying for my senior year has given me the opportunity to graduate from Harvard. One of the things I’m most proud about is that I’m from Boston. I come from a long line of blue-collar Bostonians.… City people — that’s who we are. Not many people in my family have had the chance to go to college, so I like to think that when I get my Harvard degree this spring, it’ll be a testament to all of their hard work, because I definitely know I didn’t get here by myself.

I know going to college for all four years isn’t exactly the most conventional hockey path, but I can’t imagine having done it any other way.

Last time I checked, the NHL’s still right where it was last spring.