7 days to JOY

Happiness may be based on circumstance, but Joy is a choice. According to Brene Brown, Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary. It is quite possible to lament on daily drudgery only to envisage joy and happiness as being somewhere in the distant future. Author Greg Braden calls this thought pattern “preoccupation destination addiction.” But if happiness and joy always originate in the future, how will we ever achieve it? With this commentary, you are encouraged to seek out joy every day for a week. In doing so, we can learn to appreciate the small things in life that are all around us and the magic that we are capable of producing for ourselves and the souls we encounter.  A journal will help facilitate this endeavor.

Day 1:
The Smile Project: Choose this project on a day that you plan to be out and about, running errands. You will make an effort on this day, to make eye contact with anyone who comes near to you and when you do, you will greet them with a deep and conscious smile. In doing so, you give them a very special gift, a piece of you.  Giving is a fundamental way of providing joy not just to you, but to the receiver as well. Joy that is shared is joy made double. Open your heart to receive what is mirrored back to you. And take a moment at the end of the day to journal the experience.
Day 2:
Count your blessings: Joy is what happens to us in any and every moment when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. Research has shown tremendous benefits to the practice of gratitude. Daily gratitude results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and sleep quality. What you will do on this day is set the timer on your phone to alert you every hour. At that time, you will take out your journal and write down something that you are grateful for. You may start superficially, but try to dig deep at some point and dig up the gems.
Day 3:
Use Visualization: Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “if you can see it, you can be it.” Mental images can be seen as the seed of all ideas, all progress, and all future development. The importance of this tool is understood by anyone successfully applying the Law of Attraction. Studies actually show that our minds/bodies don’t know the difference between visualization and actually having or doing a thing, so it will respond in the same way it would if you were actually experiencing that which you visualize. On this day you will find a quiet place to sit comfortably. You will think of an experience or thing that you wish to achieve. Now play it out in your mind, feeling in your heart all that the achievement provides. Try to elicit as many senses as you can. Enjoy the realization of having this thing or experience and stay in this state of bliss for as long as possible.
Day 4:
Learn / Create: This will be a day of creativity and expansion. Creativity is one of the greatest virtues anyone can be blessed with, yet many of us never allow our true creativity to be expressed. What do you long to do or learn? On this day you will use Youtube.com to search out a video to teach you something new or to do something creative. Perhaps it is dancing (ball room or line dancing), it could be painting, writing, yoga, or anything else you deem appropriate. The key is to open yourself up to new opportunity and experience. Creativity is about living life as a magnificent journey. Embrace your creativity and your ability to learn new things that sound exciting to you.
Day 5:
Clear a space: A crowded closet or overflowing table may seem like a trivial thing, yet an orderly environment can make you feel more in control of your life, affecting your mood. The more things are in order, the more joy you may feel. Today you will choose a drawer, cabinet, area, or closet to attack. You may need to remove everything to begin, then sort out what you need, discarding what you don’t need. It may be helpful to buy instruments or tools to help organize what you choose to put back. For example, I recently organized a drawer in my bathroom vanity. I purchased plastic organizers from the dollar store to allow me to “put things in their place.” Now every time I open that drawer, I feel joy at the tidiness of it.
Day 6:
Watch your thoughts: Today will be a day of introspection. Thoughts matter. Our thoughts are the soil from which springs our words and actions. Using our mind to compare ourselves to others wastes precious energy and depletes our joy. Research shows that it breeds feelings of envy, low self-confidence, and depression while compromising our ability to trust another. Today you will make a point to notice any time that you compare yourself to another. It may be as simple as the comparing your looks and/or clothing while in line at a store.  Comparing yourself to another is a form of judgement, a judgement of yourself. When you catch yourself in action, make a point to replace that thought with a positive affirmation starting with the words “I am…”
Day 7:
Embrace self-care: Caring for self is one of the most essential things you can do and one of the easiest to dismiss. Self-care is important to physical health, yet we should also practice emotional hygiene, taking care of our emotions, thoughts and feelings. If you consistently neglect yourself for the sake of others, contrary to what you might think, there may not be kudos at the pearly gates and you will likely deplete yourself of happiness and joy. What do you need? Today you will choose an emotional need and a physical need that would fall under the genre of self-care. For example, you may know that you need to set boundaries with someone emotionally. Now is the time. On a physical note, you can enjoy a walk in the park, a hot bath, a massage or simply quiet time in a special place. Take the time for self-care. Your health and happiness depend on it. And above all, allow yourself to be loved.

Experiencing joy is our natural state and is available to all of us. It can be experienced when we make a conscious decision every day regarding our focus. The greatest honor that you can give yourself and those you love is to live in joy. Stay close to anything and anyone that makes you feel glad to be alive. Make a conscious choice to focus on joy, since only by being happy can we have the necessary faith, courage, and strength to face our sorrows and overcome them.

What Is Love?

Do you recall the first time that you fell in love? How did it feel? Were you walking on clouds? The experience of falling in love can bring about a mixture of many emotions. You may have felt:

Butterflies dancing in your tummy

Anxiousness at seeing them again

A yearning to plan a future with them.

So is love a feeling, or is it a choice? If a choice, does choosing to love require action? Is love an action verb? Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “love is not enough.” How can love not be enough?

To love and be loved is precious, but if we do not show love, is it still love?

I heard a story recently, told by a man, we’ll call him Joe, who felt called to visit a guitar store while returning to his hotel room, after picking up some food. He didn’t need a guitar, yet he felt called to make the stop. Upon arrival he found a kid jamming on an electric guitar. Joe reached out to the boy and started a conversation with him. The kid opened up to Joe. He told him about his drug addiction and how his father had recently committed suicide. Joe displayed so much love for him that the kid wants him to meet his girlfriend and daughter who are shopping next door. They walk next door and Joe prays with the family, then he blesses them by paying for all the items purchased. They are blown away by Joe’s act of compassion. It was such a blessing to them and there seemed no strings attached. The family thought there surely must be a catch.

As they depart, the kid returns to the guitar store to play yet another guitar. It seemed a coping mechanism. Joe then learns from the family that this kid has not talked to any man since his father took his own life. And a year prior, the kid had sold his guitar to bail himself out of jail, due to a drug violation. The kid had stopped using drugs at that point, but now, no longer had an instrument to play. Joe was so moved by what he heard, that he then went back into the guitar store and bought the kid a guitar, replacing what was lost. There was no judgment, no negative opinion, and he didn’t simply hand him cash, he showed him love. Had this family ever felt such love?

In our society we tend to identify ourselves by what we do for a living.  Joe identifies himself as “a guy that loves people.” We should all aspire to such selfless action. What would our world be like with more Joes in it?  I encourage you, as you move through your day, to not just feel love for others, but to BE love. Perhaps we should not focus so much on our standard of living, but more on our standard of giving.

If you are old enough to remember Mister Rogers, you may recall this quote, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.

Genuine love should not be based on words alone or false deeds, but grounded on authentic actions. Love doesn’t just trust or hope, but it completes specific acts for the purpose of accomplishing those things for which that are trusted and hoped.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18-19

I would encourage you to look for ways to give the gift of love to someone over the coming week. Look for opportunities to give to someone in need.  It doesn’t have to be monetary. It could be a simple service. Here are some ideas:

  • Open/hold the door for someone
  • Be gracious: say thank you, look people in the eye, be sincere
  • Make something and give it away
  • To those that want to be seen, SEE THEM.
  • To those that want to be heard, HEAR THEM.
  • Run an errand for the elderly.

To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care. Surely we are capable of that. Happiness can be found when we take the opportunity to bless others.

 If you feel troubled, instead of getting MAD about an event or circumstance, go MAD. Make A Difference for someone else. You will be amazed at how it makes you feel. We can serve others, not out of ego, but out of getting in touch with our true nature, which is love. You were made to love. Not only are you love, you are loved, loving, and lovable … always.

The giver is bigger than the receiver. If you want to be large, larger than life, learn to Give. Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.

The importance of giving, blessing others can never be over emphasized because there’s always joy in giving. Learn to make someone happy by acts of giving.”

~ Katharine Hepburn

(from Everything Good in the World)

6 Reasons to laugh, even when you don’t feel like it.

Let’s face it, life has its ups and downs. There are times when you may not feel like smiling, let alone laughing. But if you abstain, the joke is on you. Laughter is shown to be so healthy that it should be added to your wellness regimen.  There are many reasons to laugh at the world around you. Here are six of those motivators to encourage you to laugh at yourself, others, and the goofy things you experience.

  1.  MITIGATES AGING: Researchers at Loma Linda University have discovered that laughter or even the anticipation of a good laugh, will produce an increase (as much as 87%) in the level of a specific anti-aging hormone called HGH. Human growth hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, stimulates growth in childhood, but as we age, the released amount tends to decrease.
  2. IMPROVES HEART HEALTH: Laugher oxygenates the blood and stimulates its circulation. In addition, it has been indicated through research from the University of Maryland Medical Center that laughter causes the tissue that lines the blood vessels to expand, allowing for improvement in blood flow. Interestingly, persons with heart disease were found to laugh 40% less often than those without heart disease.
  3. SPURS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM: Laughter creates a double whammy here. Not only does laughter reduce stress hormones, but it assists the immune system to function at higher efficiency. Laughter helps immune system components like natural killer cells, B cells, T cells, and lymphocytes.
  4. IT’S EYE-CATCHING: If a smile makes you more attractive, what might a good laugh do for you? Research actually shows that by laughing, you will increase your attractiveness as viewed by others. When you are laughing, you appear comfortable with your surroundings, leading others to also feel safe.
  5. FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: Laughter truly may be the best medicine. According to Mayo Clinic, laughter actually produces physical changes in the body. It is very helpful for pain management, enhances digestion, relaxes tight muscles, stimulates many organs and releases endorphins, the feel good hormone in the brain.  Laughter has even been found to increase longevity or lifespan by 7.8 years on average.
  6. IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS: Although you can laugh at yourself, laughter is usually shared with at least one other person and shared laughter contributes to bonding with others. In fact, we are 30 times more likely to laugh when we are with someone else. In general, couples who laugh more together tend to have higher-quality relationships. It is considered a supportive activity.

Laughter is a social sign of affection and affiliation. By sharing life events through laughter, we seek to find greater meaning in ourselves and others. We can enhance current relationships and make new ones. And when it comes to stressful situations, a solution via laughter, can change everything, promoting immediate feelings of well-being. The art of laughter requires no pre-requisites nor fancy credentials. It’s simply about living in the moment and enjoying the people and places that you frequent. It’s about enjoying the life you live no matter the circumstance. So, ..when was the last time that you had a good laugh?