Last summer I went on a weekend retreat to reconnect to my inner joy. It was a beautiful weekend in the Colorado mountains shared with a dozen others who were also seeking their own inner joy. Recently, as I was clearing some paperwork from a desk drawer, I discovered the outcome of that weekend. I called it my joy contract. It was good advice then and remains good advice for me now, so I wanted to share it with you.
I Barbara Elaine Brown agree to seek joy in my life and spread joy in the world each and every day from this day forward by:
These are great reminders, and for the most part, I live by these ideas. I'll find my joy list and post it soon. If you would like help discovering or reconnecting to your inner joy please contact me to see how we might work together.
Until next time, I wish you joy!
Joy is Simple!
Well, it's supposed to be. We make things more difficult than they are. We give people power over us by worrying what others think about us. We lose perspective about situations in our lives by focusing on what's wrong rather than what's right. We complicate our lives by always looking for the extraordinary. We give our power away by looking for joy outside of ourselves. But joy is an inside job and is most easily found in simple moments. And it bubbles up from the inside of each of us when we slow down, feel in, and lean in to joy.
Here are a few suggestions to keeping joy simple
Joy is not an elusive thing, although it feels that way sometimes. It helps to shift our expectations and experience of joy. Other terms for joy include peaceful, contented, and satisfied. Sometimes it's just a moment of feeling satisfied. But so often we lose the moment because we are looking for the extraordinary, or our minds are busy, or we are not tuned in because of distractions, and we miss the moment when all is right with the world. Simple, fleeting moments. But they're there. And when we notice the simple moments we learn to lean into the next moment and the next, until joy becomes a habit. We receive more of what we focus on. Are you focusing on what's going wrong or what's going right? Focus on what's right, even if it's small and simple, and you will begin to notice the simple moments of joy.
Grief can be the garden of compassion.
If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom. Rumi
Grief at any time can be a burden but grief at the holidays can bring you to your knees.
It's the most wonderful time of the year! Or so the song says. But what happens when you are grieving and cannot get into the holiday spirit? There is a disconnect with your surroundings and your current situation making it difficult to keep up with your emotions.
Trying to be happy when you are grieving is a tough task. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to feel all of your emotions, grief, sadness, and all!?
Emotions are there for a reason and contrary to popular belief there is not a filing cabinet where we can file those difficult emotions until after the holidays. If you attempt this it may be detrimental to your healing and your health. The best way to get through it is to realize that this holiday season will be different and allow all of your emotions to flow, tears and all.
I have a friend who recently lost her husband and I have two friends who recently lost a daughter. I've been thinking about them and have written this with them in mind in an attempt to help provide support and comfort during this difficult time where all the world expects us to be happy. No need to "bah humbug" Christmas. With a little self care and permission to be authentic in your emotions you can get through this season and maybe even enjoy a few moments along the way.
I lost my mom on Christmas night 2000 so I understand grief and the holidays. I still celebrate the Christmas season but I do it in a much more thoughtful way. And I have incorporated a practice called the 13 Holy Nights into my routine making the season much more meaningful. This is normally a very tender time for me and I have learned over the years just how to get through the season and feel moments of joy along the way. This year I am also dealing with my 92 year old father, making things extremely difficult. I have leaned into radical self care, the art of saying no, and keeping things simple.
I want to share some of the things that help me through this difficult time. You don't have to do them all. The key is to do something, almost anything to move into another emotion, the goal is to move into a better feeling emotion. First, I think it's important to start with a few don'ts.
Do not use substances to drown your sorrows (drugs & alcohol). First, alcohol is a depressant and even if you feel some relief at first, eventually it was have a negative impact. Also, when you drink or drug you numb ALL emotions, the "bad" and the "good" emotions. So you cannot feel into those simple moments of joy which is what gets you through the grief. Please don't be afraid of your emotions. Allow them to flow in and out, and if you feel stuck seek the support of a trained counselor.
Eat "comfort food" at a minimum. I have found that comfort food is similar to alcohol. It may feel good at the moment but can come back to haunt you in the end. Too much sugar weakens the immune system making you more susceptible to getting sick and grief is already stressing your body. You also run the risk of getting an upset stomach creating more trouble than help. I suggest sticking with a simple diet with balanced nutrition and plenty of fresh water.
Now, on to the "do" list. Here are some things that make me feel better.
10. Listen to music
11. Dance to the music
12. Sing with the music
13. Play with dogs and kitties
14. Call your best friend
15. Meet a friend for coffee or lunch
16. Go to the theater
17. Go see light displays. I enjoy the zoo and botanic gardens.
18. Take a walk outside
19. Eat simply
20. Drink plenty of water
21. Keep things at home tidy
22. Create a vision board
23. Adult coloring books
24. Read a good book or listen to a book on audio
25. Use essential oils. Lavender is great for sleeping. Young Living's Peace and Calming is very soothing. And Joy essential oil is specifically for grief.
26. Go outside at night and look at the stars and moon
27. Sit by the fire and watch the flames dance
28. Ask for help if you need it
29. Allow all of the feelings to flow
30. Understand that grief is a process that circles round and round
31. Practice gratitude
32. Have some fun
33. Be creative
34. Go to church
35. Allow yourself to cry
36. Allow yourself to laugh
37. Allow yourself to stay home
38. Make lists of tasks you need to accomplish
39. Make lists of fun things you want to do
40. Move your body, exercise, take a walk, lift some weights
41. Get a massage
42. Go for acupuncture
43. Meet with a counselor, mentor, or coach
46. Breathe. Remember to breathe!
47. Be patient with yourself
48. Start a new hobby or craft
49. Celebrate and honor your loved one
50. Celebrate and honor yourself
This is my mom, Jeanne, 18 years ago. Just 5 days before she died. She was too ill to make it to my graduation from graduate school but she was very proud of me. There isn't a day that doesn't go by that I don't think about her and many days I think about calling her. I have pictures of her all over the house. Her spirit will always be with me.
"Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings." Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Grief doesn't go away over night. Actually, grief never really goes away. It cycles and becomes a part of us. There are moments when grief seems so far away and sometimes we have moments of profound grief that completely take us by surprise. Allow those moments. Be gentle with yourself in those moments. Breathe in those moments. Rest in those moments. From each of those moments, by allowing the grief to flow, you are able to move to another level of healing. The goal is to tap into moments of joy or at least moments without grief. Let it out. Allow it to flow. Practice self care. Practice self love. If you feel stuck in your grief or have trauma associated with the person you lost, I highly encourage you to seek support from a trained counselor.
As always, if you want my support, please feel free to contact me. I can help you get to the next level of peace and step into more moments of joy. But you must allow yourself to feel the grief to get to the lasting joy. Be well. I wish you peace. I wish you love. I wish you joy.
A Review of the Movie "Happy"
Last night I watched the movie "Happy." Filmmaker Roko Belic traveled to more than a dozen countries, searching for the meaning of happiness. Marci Shimoff, author of Happy For No Reason, narrated as people from all over the world are interviewed about being happy. Following are some of the highlights.
Genes, Life Circumstance, or Intention
From a study of identical twins, they found that 50% of our happiness level is determined by our genes. They also found that only 10% of our happiness comes from our life circumstances, such as our job, health, home, social status, etc. That leaves 40% of our happiness up to each of us with intentional activity and actions we choose to do each day. They determined that variety is truly "the spice of life" and happier people stay active and try new things on a regular basis.
Our bodies create a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This chemical is needed to feel pleasure and happiness. We tend to lose dopamine with age and severe loss can lead to Parkinson disease. Being active and adventurous creates dopamine and makes us feel happier. Regular physical activity and other activities that require us to "be in the zone" such as dancing, music, singing, and SoulCollage® leads to experiencing more happiness than others who don't participate in such activities.
In the movie, they interviewed several authors, professors, and other experts in the field of Positive Psychology who shared their wisdom and insights, including Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the book Flow and Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness. Some of the insights they shared may surprise you.
All Adversity Isn't Bad
They explained that most people have an assumption that "all adversity is bad," but that is a false belief, according to the research. In fact, a key ingredient to happiness is the ability to recover from adversity quickly. "Bad" things are going to happen from time to time but how you deal with adversity and bounce back are key factors in determining your happiness.
Intrinsic v. Extrinsic Goals
Another concept the movie introduced is the idea of extrinsic and intrinsic goals. They suggested that people who focus on external goals are less happy than those people who focus on internal goals and needs including personal growth and a desire to help others. This concept will be discussed further in a future post.
All Work and No Play (and rest) CAN Kill You
The movie took us to Japan, not the happiest place on earth. I was surprised to learn that there is a phenomenon called Karoshi, which means working yourself to death. According to BusinessInsider.com, "Japan's karoshi concept can be traced back to the aftermath of World War II." Young people in their 30's are dying or committing suicide from overwork, lack of sleep and exhaustion.
We then traveled to the country of Bhutan, located in the Eastern Himalayas. As a country, they have adopted a philosophy known as "Gross National Happiness (GNH)." It includes an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of the population. In 2008 they set the goal of the government of Bhutan to focus on happiness. Can you imagine what life would be like if our own countries adopted the same philosophy?
The Happiest Place on Earth
The movie then took us to Denmark, known as one of the "happiest places on earth. In fact, the new World Happiness Report was recently published and for the seventh year ranks Denmark among the top three happiest of 155 countries surveyed. According to the movie, some of the reasons the people of Denmark are so happy is that Denmark promotes social equality and provide free education through college as well as free health care for life.
The movie concluded by saying that "we all need something bigger than ourselves to care about" in order to happy. Being a part of a community, being social, being of service to others, and participating in structured religion or spiritual practices can be beneficial to our emotional state and make us more happy.
Happy people function better, are more productive, are healthier and live longer lives. That's what this blog and my mission is all about. Discussing ways to find more happiness and joy in our everyday lives and journey on this planet. I'm glad you are here and hope you come back often to see what insights I have to share about being happy. I encourage you to check out the movie (I found it on Netflix). I've included the trailer below.