Living a Happy Emotional Life

We all live lives rich in relationships and punctuated with emotion. Lovers arrive, bringing gifts of passion and tenderness, and then exit, marking their passage with anger and sadness. Children flash into being, evoking previously unimaginable exhilaration and exhaustion. Friends and family members tread parallel paths, sharing our emotions, and then pass on, leaving grief and memories in their wake.

Across all our relationship experiences, what balances out our anger and grief is our joy. All human beings share the capacity to relish intense joy and the desire to maintain such happiness in an impermanent and ever-changing world. Also universal is the fact that our personal joy is determined by the quality of our interpersonal connections. When our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and romantic partners are happy, we are happy, and when they’re not, we’re not.

Yet, joy doesn’t drop magically from the sky into our hearts and minds and stay there. We create joy – through every decision we make and every thought, word, and deed. When we manage our emotional experiences and communication poorly, the interpersonal sorrows we wreak on others reflect back on us in the form of personal unhappiness. When we steadfastly and skillfully manage our emotions, the positive relationship outcomes we create multiply, and with them, our happiness and the joy of those who surround us.

I encourage all of you to keep this thought in mind:

We create joy – through every decision we make and every thought, word, and deed.

Everyday Acts Of Courage

There is no small act of courage. You can’t compare the courage it takes to battle cancer with the courage it takes to become a doctor.
Both are very brave acts. You can’t compare the courage it takes to become an Olympian with the courage it takes to raise a physically or mentally challenged child.
Both are incredible feats. You can’t compare a firefighter who saves a life to an eight year old child who consistently stands up to a bully. Both acts are heroic.

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as brave people.  Yet that’s exactly who we are. If you reflect on your life, one decade at a time, and write down your bravery, I’m sure you’d be surprised.

I think every brave thing we do in life counts. It’s time we claim our bold and audacious selves.

It’s time to celebrate our fearlessness. As we do, we can begin to think of ourselves as bold people who are sometimes fearless instead of fear-filled people who try to be bold.

Everyday acts of courage to practice and celebrate:

  1. Apologize.

It takes courage to admit when you are wrong. It’s a bold act to admit when you make a mistake. Apologizing takes you out of your comfort zone and enhances your relationships. That’s big.

  1. Be yourself.

Don’t imitate anyone. Take off your mask. Allow yourself to become vulnerable. Share your flaws with others. See perfection in your imperfections. Who you are is a gift to the world.  Allow yourself to shine.

  1. Take responsibility.

You are where you are in life because of the choices you make. If you don’t like what you see, change it. One question I ask myself often is, “Is this the life I want to create?” If you don’t exercise, make a change. If you need to get out of debt, spend less. Responsibility brings freedom.

  1. Keep your commitments.

Write down everything you say you are going to do. Write down the promises you make to others. When you keep your promises, you build self-respect. Others respect you as well.

  1. Rock the boat.

Speak up. Make a difference. Share your feelings when you witness an injustice. Practice sharing your opinion. Don’t allow someone to take advantage of you. Learn to say, “no.” Refuse to hold back when your gut says to move forward.

  1. Let go of the past.

Stop wallowing over what could have been. Forgive yourself.  Forgive your parents. Forgive everyone. What happened is over unless you keep it alive by reliving it in your mind. When we know better, we do better. It takes courage to move on.

  1. Grow.

Learn something new. Step into the unknown. Change the way you do things. It doesn’t matter if you get it the first time. Try again. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Seize the opportunity. Growth brings new opportunities.

  1. Listen.

Listen to people who disagree with you. Listen to family members who think you are wrong. Listen to the elderly person in the coffee shop. Listen when you only want to speak and give advice. Listen and thank the other person for sharing.

  1. Help others.

Help someone who doesn’t help you. Help others when you don’t have the time. Help someone who can’t pay you back. Help someone when you are the one needing help. Learn to be of service. That’s why we’re here.

  1. Love.

Turn the other cheek. Overlook annoyances. Be kind to each other. Be truthful. Accept differences. Love is a verb. Spend time together. Act like a loving person. You can love difficult people as well. Forgive them and wish them the best. Let them go with love.

  1. Practice gratitude. Count your blessings. Tell the people in your life “thank you.” Be grateful for the people you love and for the people who love you.
  2. Choose to be happy.

Make a decision that you will think happy thoughts, speak kind words, and spend time doing things that bring you joy. Have a good attitude. See the glass half full. Look at the bright side. Expect the best. Choose to focus on what’s good.

  1. Learn from your mistakes.

Reflect on what went wrong and what you could have done better. Look for your lesson. Choose to grow forward. Be gentle with yourself. Make a new plan. Try again. Refuse to give up.

  1. Relax.

In our intense and fast-paced world, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out or being left behind. You do too much, work too much and miss the joy of everyday living. It’s bold to step back, take a break and relax.

  1. Follow your dreams.

Take action daily toward your goals. Ask for help. Network. Research. Plan. Take more action. Adjust your plans as you go along. Be open to something even better. Never give up. Adjust. Push on.

  1. Enjoy the small things.

Take time to revel in a flower blooming, the taste of a glass of cold water, the different shades of green, a child’s smile or an elderly person’s worn hands. Enjoy the smell of clean clothes and the taste of a fresh slice of bread. Enjoy a brisk walk, a quiet morning, or a star filled night.

  1. Go the extra mile.

Allow someone to go in front of you in traffic or at the grocery store. Do more than what is required of you at work and at home. Hold a door open. Surprise someone. Don’t keep score. Leave a big tip and help someone believe the world is a generous place.

  1. Ask for help. When you are stuck, addicted or unhappy, seek professional help. Hire a coach, a therapist or join a support group. When you are overwhelmed at work, ask for assistance. When you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation.
  2. Put family and friends before stuff.If you value your loved ones, make them a priority in your life. Work less and play more. Laugh. Create traditions and rituals. Find hobbies and activities that everyone enjoys. Have fun. Experiences bring more meaning than needless shopping.
  3. Love Yourself. Accept your imperfections. Be your own best friend. Show yourself compassion, understanding and respect. This is the most courageous act of all.
From Theboldlife.com

Top 10 Happiest Songs (of all-time!)

After you look and/or listen to these songs, let us know what song(s) you would put on this list. Let me know if you agree/disagree, what song is missing that I didn’t put on the list. Have fun! And remember, don’t worry, be happy!!!

  1. What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

  2. Ode to Joy – Ludwig Beethoven

  3. Happy – Pharrell Williams

  4. Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

  5. Happy Together – The Turtles

  6. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

  7. Shiny Happy People – R.E.M.

  8. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys

  9. I’m a Believer – The Monkeys

  10. Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves

Hope in the Age of Trump

Chicken Little is famous for thinking the world was about to end. Chicken Little would exclaim to all the animals she could find, “the sky is falling – the sky is falling!” An acorn had fallen onto Chicken Little’s head and that’s why she thought the sky was falling. And though Chicken Little’s fate did not end well (she was lured into the den of Foxey Loxey), the sky never fell.

When Donald Trump became president, I was in complete and utter disbelief. I said to myself, “this can’t be good.” Scandals began almost immediately. As in past presidential elections, and though the winner may not have been the one I voted for, I always want their presidency to benefit our country and the world. But as the Trump administration has “progressed,” I began to be more fearful almost daily. I thought of Chicken Little and asked myself, “is the sky falling?” Fear was settling in. This was a new kind of fear that I haven’t felt before. The fear is of our once great nation losing it’s “high-ground” on the world’s stage. Losing it’s “moral” standing in the world. I then asked myself, “what’s my responsibility as a citizen of this nation?” I decided to counteract the fear of the sky falling by recommitting myself to spread hope and happiness in our world.

There are many ways one spread hope and happiness, but the one thing I know for sure, is that to spread hope and happiness your own house needs to be in order – you need to be hopeful and happy yourself. So, a couple of weeks ago I did a hope and happiness check of myself. Am I ready to be an agent of change, a beacon of hope, an example of living a good life and writing my own story? I am! There are several things I do daily to be a force for good in my community. Once I’ve had my morning coffee and a shower, I get into a gratitude state of mind. It’s starts with being grateful for my morning cup of coffee and the hot shower I just enjoyed. Then I think about my car, my home, and what this new day will present. As I step out my front door and go courageously out into the world, I start looking for ways to do random acts of kindness; and let me tell you, when you go out into the world full of gratitude and looking for ways to be kind to people (animals too!), you are almost certain to have a wonderful day!

I encourage you to try this and see if it makes a difference in your life. These are but just a few of what I do to spread hope and happiness in the age of Trump.

Finding Hope

“Hope, I have broken-through and found you at last!”

When you feel hopeless, it is difficult to take any steps toward change.

In 1965 Martin Seligman “discovered” learned helplessness. He found that when animals are subjected to difficult situations they cannot control, they stop trying to escape. They become passive.

Human beings are the same. If you experience devastating defeats, a persistent situation that you couldn’t change, or experienced a terrifying situation that you could not control your exposure to, then you may have lost hope for your ability to change your life or to change painful situations. Sometimes an ongoing mood disorder can lead to feelings of hopelessness.

Apathy or hopelessness may be puzzling to those around you. Why wouldn’t you try to get a job, make friends, eat healthier, or leave someone who is abusive? When you have no hope, you see any efforts to change your life as futile. You may blame yourself. You might say that you cannot manage life, cannot make friends and cannot succeed in getting a job. You accept whatever happens as beyond your control. You may begin to despair.

When you don’t have hope, you have no energy or motivation for therapy or for any effort to change your situation. What’s the use in reaching out to meet people?  You are sure you will be rejected.  Why bother exercising or cleaning your home or volunteering–it won’t really make a difference. You know you will always be lonely, depressed, anxious, unemployed, or stuck in the same situation that is making you miserable. You don’t want to risk the pain of further disappointment by even trying.

Unfortunately, this painful despair and resignation sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you have no hope, no belief in therapy or that any action you take will make any difference, then that may well be the outcome. Change is very difficult, has multiple ups and downs, and requires motivation and commitment.

There are many ways to find hope. You may have your own way. I’d love to hear what has worked for you or someone you love.

1.  Find a clear path.  Being able to see how the steps you are taking will lead to desired change is critical to having hope. If you don’t logically see how what you are doing can have a positive result, then carrying out the plan will likely be difficult. Write down each step that you need to take to get where you want to be.  If someone else is working with you, then push him or her to explain how the steps lead to the results you want.

2.  Look for role models who have found solutions.  There are many, many people who have overcome tremendous adversity.  Reading their stories and surrounding yourself with supportive messages and people can help you build hope.

One resource is Project Hope Exchange. (link is external)  Part of this project is a page on their website where people record their experiences of overcoming adversity and there is a special section for mental health challenges and life challenges.

3.  Do what you know you can do.  When you are in despair, taking one step that is out of your routine can help break the sense of powerlessness you have. Make your bed. Cook dinner. Talk to a friend. Take a step you know you can do and that action can make a difference over time. Keep doing it and then try to add more actions. Overcoming the inertia of helplessness can help you build hope.

4.  Perform an act of kindness.  Doing acts of kindness can have a dramatic effect on your mood and outlook. Kindness triggers the release of serotonin, so it has an anti-depressant effect. It also calms stress and helps reduce pain.

Small acts of kindness that you do repeatedly can help you feel more connected and have a greater sense of contribution. Notice that doing acts of kindness repeatedly is important. Do acts of kindness daily. Even watching others perform acts of kindness can have a positive effect.

Notice your judgments, the thoughts that pass through your head stating that nothing will work for you or that acts of kindness is a useless idea. Let those thoughts pass through and not control your behavior. Your lack of hope may lead you to think that these ideas won’t help you.

Part of kindness is to stop judging yourself and be kind to yourself as well. How would you treat someone else who was in your situation? Practice thinking of yourself with compassion.

5.  Turn to your faith.  Your faith can be a strong ally in holding onto to hope. Sometimes your faith offers the support of not being alone and trusting that a higher power is with you.  If you are questioning your beliefs, then talk with someone in your faith that you respect. Others have encountered difficult times and they will understand. Voicing your questions is a step toward resolving your confusion and is also a step toward hope.

6. Practice mindfulness while doing acts of kindness and in your everyday life.  Your thoughts may naturally wander to the past and focus on events that didn’t work out or other situations that were painful. That will often add to your depression and hopelessness. When you are depressed you have difficulty seeing any positive events or remembering that you were ever happy.

When you focus your attention in the here and now, you are able to find more peace and less stress.

Overcoming Depression by Zack Beauchamp

(courtesy of vox.com)

I don’t know what was going through Anthony Bourdain’s mind when he took his own life. But I remember what was going through mine when I wanted to end my life.

Depression, for me, wasn’t sadness. Sadness is a feeling, and my depression was the opposite of feeling — a numbness, a sense that all value in the world was snuffed out. In order to feel sad, you have to care about something: My depression annihilated the very idea of caring.

My friends and family didn’t really matter, said my depression. I would never find a partner, it whispered. Life was nothing but emptiness, and there was only one escape. I was 25 years old, a young man in the prime of his life, and utterly hopeless.

I’m 30 now. I survived — and, more than that, I’m happy. I’m getting married in October, I spend tons of time with my friends and family, and I’m thrilled with my career. The happiness my depression said was impossible is here, and it’s real.

My story isn’t everyone’s. I’m not a psychologist, and I can’t speak in universals about something as personal as depression. But what I can say is this: If you’re depressed, neither Bourdain’s fate nor Kate Spade’s has to be yours. You can get better.

Here’s how I did.

(video courtesy MSNBC) For me, the key was getting help.

I don’t know what was going through Anthony Bourdain’s mind when he took his own life. But I remember what was going through mine when I wanted to end my life.

Depression, for me, wasn’t sadness. Sadness is a feeling, and my depression was the opposite of feeling — a numbness, a sense that all value in the world was snuffed out. In order to feel sad, you have to care about something: My depression annihilated the very idea of caring.

My friends and family didn’t really matter, said my depression. I would never find a partner, it whispered. Life was nothing but emptiness, and there was only one escape. I was 25 years old, a young man in the prime of his life, and utterly hopeless.

I’m 30 now. I survived — and, more than that, I’m happy. I’m getting married in October, I spend tons of time with my friends and family, and I’m thrilled with my career. The happiness my depression said was impossible is here, and it’s real.

My story isn’t everyone’s. I’m not a psychologist, and I can’t speak in universals about something as personal as depression. But what I can say is this: If you’re depressed, neither Bourdain’s fate nor Kate Spade’s has to be yours. You can get better.

Here’s how I did it:

 

I got help

For a long time after my depression got truly threatening, I didn’t talk about it. I went about living my life, trying to distract myself from what was happening. For a time, this seemed like it was working: When I started at Vox, the validation of a career I loved kept the sense of pointlessness at bay.

But this was a Band-Aid. As my time at Vox progressed and the job became a normal part of my life, depression started creeping back in. The same old fatalism permeated my thoughts.

It’s easy to see depression as a product of bad things happening to you — you lose a loved one, for example, and it ruins you. That is how it works for many people. But for me, depression wasn’t situational and couldn’t be fixed by professional or personal successes.

It was a war, and I was losing. It wasn’t until the summer of 2015, more than a year after the dark time began, that things started to turn around. And I know exactly why: I stopped hiding the way I felt, and clued in people who loved me about what was going on.

One of the many lies depression tells you is that you should feel ashamed of being its victim. That if you tell the people around you that you’re suffering, they’ll judge you or they won’t care. The best thing you can do is keep them from worrying and put on a brave face. I was really good at this: People would always tell me how happy I seemed on the outside, how bubbly and friendly I was, even when on the inside, I knew I wasn’t.

There was only one person who figured out that something was wrong: my mother. When I would go over to my parents’ house for dinner, she would ask me what was wrong. I always made up an excuse. But one day, I finally stopped lying and told my family. They listened, and told me that they loved me, and that I could get help if I needed it.

There’s a Catch-22 with depression: The most generally effective treatments are medication and therapy, but it takes some work to get yourself an appointment with a doctor or therapist (assuming you even have access to affordable mental health care in the first place). If you have serious depression, though, you’re convinced that any work is hopeless — you won’t try to find a therapist because your depression is telling you it won’t help anyway. The best treatment is precluded by the disease.

My sister — and I’ll never be able to repay her for this — did the research for me. She found me a therapist and connected us via email. Having someone else do the simplest work, writing an email, broke the Catch-22. I went to my first appointment in July 2015.

You have to open up

Therapy isn’t a panacea. It doesn’t help everyone, and even many people who do benefit wouldn’t say their depression has been “cured.” But that wasn’t the point for me. What my therapist did was help me manage my depression, and not just with medication. She taught me mental techniques, routines and habits of thinking that could check depression’s influence over my mind.

I won’t go into details of my therapy sessions. Some of them, like the specifics of our conversations about suicidal thoughts, are still too raw.

What is important, though, is that they helped. These tools helped lift the cloud of depression. It’s not a coincidence that in the second half of 2015, I went on my first date with the woman who will soon become my wife. Before therapy, I don’t think I was open enough to the idea that anyone could love me and be able to make a real relationship work.

The more I used therapy tools, the better I became at opening up and convincing myself that life was worth living. Between this self-care and the successful relationship it enabled, I was in a good enough place that I stopped needing regular therapy appointments altogether.

I don’t want you to think that my life is perfect. I still have problems. But they’re more mundane problems, like handling family finances on a journalist’s salary, rather than life-threatening ones, like suicidal thoughts. That seemed impossible three years ago.

The one thing I wish everyone could understand about depression is that it is a social disease. The part that makes suicide look like a way out is that you feel profoundly alone. This is a lie, but it can only be shown to be a lie through honesty with yourself and the people around you.

If you think someone in your life is depressed, ask them how they’re feeling and tell them you’re there if they need you. Maybe they’ll say they’re fine, and maybe they’re telling the truth. But if they aren’t, just keep showing them you’re there. And if they tell you they’re in trouble, then help.

And if you are suffering, you can get through this. Tell someone — anyone. The stigma around mental illness — it shut me up too, and it cost me dearly. There are people who care about you, who will do the work necessary to help you survive. All you have to do is ask.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. It’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week; you should call if you’re having suicidal thoughts of any kind.

Hope, I have found you at last!

There once was a seed that lived for a long time just being a seed. It knew no other way of being, no other way doing, no other way of experiencing, just a seed never changing. It had many things done to it, many insults to its existence as a seed. The seed was unaware of living any other way. The seed was not alone, as it was amongst many other seeds. They were placed in confined spaces with just enough resources to survive as the seeds they were. The seeds were all bounced around from one confinement to another…packaged, boxed. Not going forward or backwards in life as there didn’t seem to be any other way of living; after all, being a seed is all they knew. Continue reading Hope, I have found you at last!