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Smiling To Death: Unlearning Nice to Nourish our Health

Virtual Workshop | Friday May 19 | 12:30pm - 2:30pm EST

While gritting your teeth, pasting on a smile and “getting on with things” can preserve your connections with others and smooth the path at work and home, it can also make you sick. Decades of research point to the same conclusion: ignoring your emotions, whether done consciously or unconsciously, trigger stress responses, pushes your body towards inflammation and strains your immune system.


Join Jennie Aitken and Dr. Joanna Cheek in a two-hour workshop that blends emerging research and personal experiences to explore how anger, guilt, fear, low mood and even shame are helpful alarms that can actually support, rather than hinder, your wellness. You’ll leave with a personalized plan to reintegrate the full spectrum of emotional experiences in your daily life – and a new perspective on what being “nice” really means.

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Jennie Aitken 

Jennie works with emerging physician leaders across British Columbia as an educator, team-builder and (to the dismay of her colleagues) an “idea-generating-machine” that is constantly looking to the next big opportunity to affect positive change. She holds Masters Degrees in [Medical] History (Queen’s University) and Dispute Resolution (University of Victoria) and is a sought-after speaker and facilitator for health care audiences across Canada. When she’s not waving around post-it notes (she manages to do this on Zoom, too) you can usually find her on her mountain bike or chasing her toddler.

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Joanna Cheek

Joanna Cheek, MD, FRCPC, is a Canadian psychiatrist, journalist, researcher, meditation teacher, therapist, and mental health educator. She’s a Clinical Assistant Professor and award-winning teacher at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine. Trained extensively in many styles of therapy—from Brene Brown’s Daring Way and Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield’s 2-year Mindfulness Teacher Program to Interpersonal Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Psychoanalysis—she seeks to understand mental health from many perspectives to find a common language within siloed fields. Always an integrator, she’s combined the pearls from her diverse training to develop and co-lead the CBT Skills Group Society that has offered mental health workshops to over 18,000 people and won shared care funding to offer physician wellness groups and train hundreds of doctors to provide these groups to patients across BC.  She explores mental health as rooted in complex social and evolutionary factors, hoping to decrease the stigma that is so often misplaced on the individuals who suffer rather than the ailing society around them. She’s completed her multimedia fellowship in Global Journalism at the University of Toronto in 2021, with her writing appearing in Maclean’s, the L.A. Times, Toronto Star, and CBC, among others.  She is currently completing a MFA in creative non-fiction at Dalhousie’s King’s College, writing her upcoming book, This Being Human: A Mental Health Survival Guide for the End of The World.


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this workshop participants will be able to:

  • Describe current research exploring how “niceness” contributes to systemic stress responses  

  • Identify personal biases towards emotional experiences and how these contribute to self-censorship  

  • Create a personalized plan to reintegrate the full spectrum of emotional experiences in our daily lives  

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