20 Sense

20 SENSE: Dr. Samantha Boardman, Founder of PositivePrescription.com

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I discovered the work of Samantha Boardman while browsing Derek Blasberg’s excellent blog a few months ago and was immediately intrigued. Amidst his usual posts detailing nightlife festivities and enviable fashion-show going, here was an unusual feature about a psychiatrist. Though she’s a close friend of Blasberg’s, I knew that if a tastemaker like him was devoting a long post to this person she was bound to have something interesting to say. I was more than right it turns out. Dr. Boardman is a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Public Health and Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at Weill-Cornell Medical College—with some fabulous side-gigs as a writer for Everyday Health and The Tory Burch Blog. If those credentials aren’t enough to have you hanging on her every word (which, at this point, I basically am) she is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Masters in Applied Positive Psychology program. What I’m getting at here is that she kind of knows her stuff. And rather than sitting on all of the knowledge she’s garnered throughout her career, she’s now sharing it with the world via one of my favorite sites, Positive Prescription. I’ll let Boardman sum up the goal behind the site for you herself: “I am a psychiatrist with little interest in what is wrong with people and a lot of interest in what is right with them. I care about the simple tweaks and changes that can make a difference. It’s usually the small things that remind us of the bigger picture.” With this idea in mind, PP shares interesting ideas collected from art, books, fashion, and, of course, psychology to infuse a little positivity and introspection into the daily grind. Her site is the ultimate pick-me-up, and who doesn’t need that once in a while?

Samantha was kind enough to press pause on her busy schedule to let me pick her brain for this week’s 20 SENSE. So, without further ado…

Describe your trajectory since turning 20 up until now. In my twenties I had a fixed idea about personal and professional goals. These goals were narrow and specific—graduate from medical school, get into the right residency, etc. Looking back, I was extremely driven though perhaps a little self-absorbed. With that said, I don’t regret it.  That’s what our 20s are for—to work really hard and figure out who we are.  As I have gotten older, my idea of what really matters has shifted.  I care a lot more about the journey than the destination and recognize that experiences, personal connections and friendships matter a whole lot more than trophies on a wall.

What surprised you most about your twenties? What went exactly as expected? To be honest, I cannot think of anything that went exactly as expected.  What always shocked me was the fleeting sense of accomplishment each time I reached a goal. For example, when I graduated from medical school I expected the euphoria to last for a while, yet it was short-lived. Rather than the enduring feeling of excitement I anticipated, I often felt disappointed and deflated. One of the great lessons of my 20s is that nothing goes as planned. The key is to accept rather than resist this.  One of my favorite quotations from Darwin expresses it best: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Learning how to adapt when things don’t go your way and how to improvise and make do are crucial.  They are the secret sauce of resilience—an important facet of continuous well being throughout one’s life.

Another thing—in my 20s I looked up to people who worked hard, never slept and drank Diet Coke for breakfast. My heroes were the warriors who worked non-stop and never came up for air. I later learned the value of taking care of my mind and body—that there is no glory in self-neglect.

Do you feel like you’ve found your niche or are you still searching? I have found my niche but I’m also still searching. One thing I have learned is to keep an open mind and that I have a lot to learn from everyone I meet—an older person, a younger person, a cleaning lady, a professor. To keep learning is the key. I love spending time with people of all ages–some of my best friends are in their 20s, while others are in their 80s. I learn from them all every day.

What did your twenties teach you about romantic love? Friendship? I learned not to take anything for granted.  Love and friendship require effort. A lot of effort! Always.

What motivates you? Curiosity

How do you snap out of a creative rut? Longs walks in the park are the best medicine for me.

What did you believe in your twenties that you know now to be false? As mentioned above, the glorification of self-neglect is a myth.

If you had to create a twenties survival kit what would it include? (CDs, movies, books, a type of food/drink, magazine, really anything!) The first thing is notecards to write thank you letters. In our 20s we often forget to express gratitude to our friends and family, and sending a heartfelt note (not an email) is so meaningful to both the writer and the recipient. I would include Jonathan Haidt’s book The Happiness Hypothesis—it provides insight into some of the big questions. For fiction, Eleanor & Park because it transcends time and reminds us of what it’s like to be young. Also flat shoes, a great black dress, and some great high heels. No soda. No sweeteners. Lots of sunblock, apples, almonds, and water—and a really good friend.

Where did the idea for Positive Prescription come from? What is your overall goal for the site? Positive Prescription is about the way psychology, science, art and culture collide. It’s a way for me to share information that is relevant or may be of interest, but that otherwise might be gathering dust on the shelves of a library in some research journal.  It’s so easy to get lost in our crazy-busy lives and my hope it that the site literally reminds people to look up—that it connects them with themselves and with what truly matters to them.

What are the most rewarding experiences of a career in psychology? I love working with individuals and I also love how Positive Prescription has given me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned with a broader audience.

What have you found to be the most significant lifestyle/outlook tweaks a person can make for a more fulfilling and positive life? 1. Sleep more. 2. Build more activity into your daily life. 3. Spend more time with friends face to face and less time looking down at your mobile device.

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For more posts like this, check out my chats with Lulu Chang and Laura Brown of Harper’s Bazaar with the Man Repeller.

2 replies »

  1. Dear Dr. Boardman, I am a nutritionist at PWC during your residency. I always admire your dedication to your patient and to your profession. I am happy you are doing the website. I am retired now but enjoy reading about you.I hope you will address the 20 sense obsession of being thin in a unhealthy way.

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