3 Steps to Overcoming Difficult Times and Increasing Your Joy

Life is full of setbacks and hard times. It’s not about avoiding the experiences. Instead focus on living fully and navigating the difficult times by cultivating resiliency in these 3 steps.

As we continue to turn around the sun and move closer to the spring equinox the natural light continues to lengthen each day. Metaphorically we can capitalize on this concept and work to increase the “light” in our own lives. 

Finding the light in our own lives requires that we practice activities we enjoy. This can be difficult during hard times and many struggle to allow themselves to feel joy at all. Joy can be the hardest emotion to feel because people worry “this good thing” will end. As a result they cap the enjoyment they can feel. They fear the pain of disappointment so much they contain joy. Doesn’t that sound awful … but most of us do it. 

I have worked with so many people who work to never feel sadness and disappointment. They have been operating in a numbed existence, the middle between joy and sadness, “to be safe” and “not get their hopes up” thus making sure they are protected. Problem … by protecting themselves from the pain of sadness and disappointment they are also protecting themselves from the full feelings of joy. Life becomes mundane, lackluster, and boring. The fix? Stop being afraid of engaging fully – in every emotion that shows up. 

Sadness and disappointment are about losing. They help us see how much we cared, what we value, and as a result add richness to our lives. This is why life becomes lackluster when we cap them off. We lose the vibrancy all experiences can provide by holding back full emotional engagement

Joy, different than happiness, comes from within. By cultivating practices we enjoy we build a deep wellspring of contentment and joy bubbles up. We begin to find small things that contribute to “living the good life”. We find pieces of each experience, no matter how painful, that bring lessons and some good (even if tiny) into our lives. Happiness follows as we continue to engage in activities where we find positive aspects. Happiness tends to be fleeting based on external factors and experiences we are engaged in. When we cultivate the activities that bring us joy and work to find the positive in every situation happiness follows regularly. 

eMeals

Now let’s talk about when awful things happen. So many people I work with and see in my office are going through difficult times. Something has happened, they grew up in difficult situations, or have been taught to negate good in their lives. Over time this leads to feelings of despair and thoughts like “what’s the point anyway” and “it’ll never work out the way I want it to”. Soon they are repeating the mantra of “play it safe” directly and/or indirectly. As outlined above this just decreases the ability to feel joy and find vibrant exciting experiences in life. They hunker down and just get through it. 

Some people struggle here because they are going through a very difficult experience that has shook the core of who they think they are and how they view the world. Thus making it hard to focus on anything good happening right now, and forcing them into the pain of loss and disappointment. Although, not easy, these experiences offer rich ground to work with joy, sadness, disappointment, expectations, and personal empowerment.

When something difficult strikes it is important to honor how you feel. Maybe you are angry, sad, guilty, disbelieving, or feeling shameful about the situation. Honor those difficult feelings and allow yourself to feel them. They exist to tell you this is important and you need to pay attention. Maybe a loss has shown you that you need to pay more attention to the relationships you are currently involved in. Maybe your guilt is telling you never to behave like that again. Shame is harder as it involves a belief system that you are “bad” and often comes as a result of external factors (childhood emotional trauma, emotional neglect, social system paradigms, etc) and may need therapy to help shift old messages about what is right, wrong, good, and bad as they relate to your personhood. Disbelief is part of the grief cycle and can shake our sense of safety and reality in the world while we go through the grief cycle itself. 

As you work with the situation at hand, the first step is to honor where you are, then accept the situation as it is. this is very difficult and many struggle with this step. Often the situation is not one they wanted, expectations shattered, future plans destroyed, however it is important to work on accepting to the best of your ability. Once you can accept the situation as it is, right now, right here, you have more choice on how to deal with it. Again, you do not have to like the situation, want it, agree with it, or approve of it, you just have to accept it. 

The position of acceptance creates room to respond in the most healthy way you can muster. This creates a sense of personal empowerment and taking steps with empowerment builds self esteem and confidence. As you build self esteem and confidence you build your ability to deal with difficult situations. The cycle becomes a positive one to help you deal with life on life’s terms in the most healthy ways possible right now. 

This week, while we move toward longer days of light, work on cultivating your joy. Work to build activities into your life you enjoy. Then allow yourself to fully and wholeheartedly enjoy them. If you are going through something difficult work on honoring, accepting, and turning toward choices that empower you to move through in the most healthy way you can. Whatever your situation right now, work to be fully in it, without capping it off to “play it safe” and avoid negative feelings. Allow yourself the gift of vibrant and intense human experience. 

3 Things To Do To Build A Life Full of Joy

For those of us in the US, July brings up a sense of freedom. Freedom from schedules, freedom from the dark days of winter, the cold, each other, oppression, tyranny, working to find freedom from the heat, the sun, the laziness that takes over during the summer months. We symbolize July as a month of freedom. Yet as Shawn Mullins sings in The Gulf of Mexico, “freedom’s just a metaphor when you’ve got now where to go” and many of us are just giving lip service to the idea of freedom, we don’t feel free at all. 

Many of us feel stuck in our lives. We are locked into work schedules that make us feel like we are on a marry-go-round we can’t get off, locked into debt so we have to stay on the wheel, in relationships we find un-inspiring to say the least. We claim to be free, but we aren’t. We are stuck in patterns that get us to the same spot everyday and we hate it, and we are scared to make the jump to what we really want. 

Most of us have been taught we must be “this” or “that”, we must live up to the expectations set for us, stuck under someone else’s rule. We must continue to produce in our society to be worthy, which keeps us stuck feeling unworthy. Many of us learned that we must have all the same things as the people around us have, which keeps us feeling less than. We learned that we should have those things even if we can’t afford them, which keeps us locked in work we hate. We learned that if we don’t stay on the track created for us we have failed and let others down. Ugh, it feels heavy just to write all that. Are you ready to change these patterns and really find freedom?

First, you’ve got to look inside. By slowing down and really listening to your own voice you find the way out. As you listen, take note of what feels exciting for you, where do you lose time doing tasks and it’s exhilarating, where do you finish an intense project and feel fulfilled, not drained and overwhelmed? What brings excitement to your life? These are all hints of your calling and the unique gifts you have to give the world. 


Here’s one of the ways I find freedom – finding easy ways to eat healthy and not do the work myself 
Delicious, Stress-Free Paleo Meals


Second, look for ways to incorporate the above excitement into everyday life. Freedom isn’t always about doing whatever you feel like in the moment, but it is about doing what you love and what brings you joy. As you balance your daily life between things you want to do and things that help you live that life (like work, I love electricity and flushing toilets, I want to earn enough money to pay for those things, even if I don’t always like the work) you find joy in daily living. The Budda said “Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good”. This tells us focusing on the small things, little by little, you fill yourself up. Little by little we build a life full of joy. It’s by doing the small things everyday that you fill your internal well of happiness. 

Third, you must notice. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent with people telling them to notice the small joy that surrounds them everyday. Somedays people fight me on this one – hard. They can’t seem to find even the smallest glimmer of good in their daily life, but you know what, they always figure something out. Things that bring drops of joy into your life are little, they are things like the way the breeze feels on your skin, the way the sun glints through the tree leaves as they dance, the way the water sounds as it tumbles into the pot. The feeling of knowing you did a good job or having something to eat. Joy comes in small drops and it comes from within.

The way to find joy is to notice. Most of us are so distracted everyday we miss all those small important and mundane moments. We have to notice and drink them in. This is the only way they’ll pile up and life will have the balance and focus we crave. As we find these small items, the profound finds us. 

So many of us are busy looking forward to or searching for the profound event that we miss filling up our inner well, and then feel that life is boring, uninspiring, or un-motivating. We feel that pull of doubt saying “what’s life worth living for anyway”? Before we know it our life is the burden of the metaphor – “freedom isn’t free when you’ve got no place to go”.

Today, break free for real. Get out of your pattern and start to notice all the joy that surrounds you. Delight in the mundane and everyday occurrences that are pretty profound in themselves – like the way my stove lights and my toilet flushes, wondering what the dog is really smelling, hearing the pine trees talking to you, and watching the pattern of people and traffic on a busy street corner. Today take the challenge to pay attention to your life before it passes you by – today find your joy. 

And if you are struggling to feel like your life is going in the direction you want to go, schedule a free 15 minute consultation with me. Together we can see about setting you free. Request Appointment

 

Photo Credits: Top photo: Beautiful in Jesus & Mid article photo: Real Buddha Quotes

11 Ways to Increase Your Joy This Summer

I often get asked how to create more joy. People come into my office and ask “how can I be more happy”. The answer isn’t in big changes. The answer lies in your perception of everyday.

When you make small conscious choices to notice more of what’s around you joy begins to follow. When you make a conscious choice to look for good things – we can all find the crap – it’s those of us who find the beauty that surrounds it who find where joy lives. Deep within us.

Finding joy can be difficult to do, especially if you’ve been taught to find the negative. Here are 11 actions you can use to bring more joy into your life starting right now.

  1. Rest more – we hear this all the time, and the reality is rest helps us balance our lives, our bodies, and our emotions. By making sure you are getting enough rest – not just sleep but rest – throughout your day, you are more likely to enjoy your days more.
  2. Take it slow – along with more rest comes taking it easy. This isn’t about doing less, but being more deliberate in what you do chose to do. Rather than rushing from item to item on your to do list, build in buffer time. Personally I struggle with transitions and “wasting time” if I arrive somewhere early. However, in reality the 10 minutes I think I’m “wasting” help make sure I go to the bathroom, find a parking place, and arrive in a relaxed mood for my next project etc making the quality of my life much better. By slowing down a bit I notice more and am more engaged. In the end it doesn’t get wasted after all. Thanks – Roxann – still hard for me, but great advice!
  3. Laugh – hard, really hard. Laughing is good for our physical system and good for our soul. Find something every day that makes you laugh. Maybe it’s a movie, a song, a child playing joyfully, a friend who tells funny jokes. Doesn’t matter where you find your inspiration as long as you can laugh deeply and fully – big belly laughs. Don’t have anything to laugh at? Here’s a trick … just start laughing. The physical sensations and act of beginning will eventually keep it going.
  4. Find Water – this time of year those of us in the northern hemispheres are feeling the heat cranking up. It’s time to find water. Water helps us release and let go, it helps us recognize that all things are fluid and to find strength. If you haven’t seen the strength of water’s steady determination check out this video … just might help you figure out how to accomplish #5 & 8 below:
  5. Watch the moon come up and find the stars – for many of us, the lazier days and later sunsets have us up into the late evenings. Go outside and find the moon. Watch as she rises and the stars come out. We need moon light just like we need sunlight. Enjoy a full moon hike or lay out under the stars while it’s warm and enjoy preparing for sleep in the quiet of the evening.
  6. Smell the “green” – During the summer months when plants are in full swing there is more oxygen kicking around and you can smell it J Humans like oxygen. Take advantage by taking deep breaths and observing the behavior of leaves, the feel of the breeze, and the smell of “green” as I used to call it when I was little. Up here in the Rocky Mountains flatlanders pay for this stuff (in bottled form) on the ski slopes and in their hotel rooms. When the trees and grass is green no need to shell out the extra bucks.
  7. Read – Summertime is a great time to read. Find a good book or two and just lounge while you read. Get into your imagination as you make your way through a story. It is so fun to find good reads and finish them under the sun or in the shade of a great tree made just for leaning against.
  8. Hang with friends – in the season of vacations – the ones we chose, not necessarily the obligated ones we experience in the winter, allow us to pick our adventures and who we want to adventure with. Find some friends, find an adventure, enjoy! Then repeat.
  9. Start your day with mindfulness – by taking some moments to enjoy your morning beverage on the porch (because it’s warmer) you have the option to breathe deeply and experience # 6 above or talk to a passing neighbor (human or animal) enjoying # 8. By starting with mindful observation you participate in #2 and I think your day incorporates more of #1 just because you set it up to start that way.
  10. Sleep in or wake up early – many of us have an altered schedule in the summer. Be it due to school being out, or co-workers and clients on and off vacation, many of us have something slightly different in the summertime. So take advantage. Maybe you want to do # 5 above so you sleep in, maybe you want to wake up with the sun and have a full fun and long day. Whichever your preference today – make it happen.
  11. Did I say rest more? Even if you ignore all the others on this list … make sure you get this one done!

Here’s to a happy and fun summer – Enjoy!

Live the Life You Love

How much do you love what you are doing? With your life? With your partner? With yourself? Are you able to look around your life and feel like YES! this is what I want to be doing? If not then it’s time for you to reevaluate your life and how you life it.  Read on to change your life.

First, take stock of what you are doing and why. What drives your daily routine? Is it material items you don’t care about? Is it work that you feel betters the world around you? Is it what you want to do or what someone else wants you to do?

Now I don’t ask these questions with the expectation that you will drop everything to do a 180 in your life today, however you can start small.

The next thing you need to do is figure out what you want to do. Write a mission statement. Begin by writing down one statement that encompasses what you want your life to stand for. Sometimes it can be helpful to start this process with a paragraph about you someone might read at your death. What would you like them to say about you? What is the impact on others and the world you have left behind? Once you have an idea around what you would like your life to stand for write down the why behind your passion. What is the driver of this desire?

Then write down one thing you can do each day to move closer to this living this life. Now start doing that thing every day. My experience has been as I begin with one thing it snowballs and soon I am doing a number of things that support the life I want to live and I am no longer living a life that drains my energy, steals my excitement, and leaves me feeling life – less. Instead I feel life – full.

10 Healthy Things I’m Thankful For

We have arrived at the start of the holiday season. Regardless of spiritual beliefs this is a time of introspection and reflection. A time to assess what you have, where you are, and dream about what comes next in your life. Research shows when we are thankful we invite more of those blessings into our lives. Here’s a short list of things I’m thankful for. Maybe you’ll resonate with some and quite possibly add your own. 

Comment on our Facebook Page to add your gratitude items. Community is a great place to share our gratitude and we all reap the benefits of reading others’ thankful prayers.

  1. My body & its health
  2. My mind’s ability to challenge me (in a variety of ways – at least I stay on my toes)
  3. Family (including my dog)
  4. Friends
  5. Meaningful Work
  6. Yoga
  7. The smell of snow in the air – means I’ll be hitting the slopes soon!
  8. Good (healthy) and tasty food that nourishes my body as well as my soul
  9. Tea – I love it anytime of the day!
  10.  A good book to snuggle with on these longer winter days

And your gratitude list …. ?

The Power of Mindfulness – Build Your Brain

So today on this longest day of the year – just for the next 30 minutes – commit to Mindfulness. Just to see what happens. Just to notice if something is different in your regular routine after you try it. Just get curious. Just see…

This isn’t about a new age-y trip or about religion or yoga. This is actually about building your brain circuits. So why not try it out. See what happens in your brain when you become mindful for a short time. Just notice, see what is different than before. Maybe nothing … but I’ll bet something shifts for you.

This isn’t about a new age-y trip or about religion or yoga. This is actually about building your brain circuits. So why not try it out. See what happens in your brain when you become mindful for a short time. Just notice, see what is different than before. Maybe nothing … but I’ll bet something shifts for you.

Begin by noticing how your body feels, your posture, your hands, fingers, feet, and toes. How are you breathing? How are you holding yourself. Make a commitment to return to noticing as needed.

Then allow yourself to become immersed in whatever project you are doing. Turn off music, put away any distractions, tell your co-worker to be quiet (nicely). Allow yourself to connect with each detail of your project. What are the colors? Textures? Sights? Smells? Sounds? of what you are doing.

Finally, each time you find you are thinking about the future or the past note it as thinking and allow those thoughts to move through and out. If it helps you can tell yourself you won’t forget anything important that needs your attention – but for now you are focused on this project and will come back to those important thoughts once you are finished here.

No judgement – this is a practice for a reason. It’s not easy. So just give it a whirl and notice how it impacts your day. Commit to yourself for just 30 mins – Go On, Give it a try.

Let us know how it worked for you and read other’s comments by adding your story on our Facebook page under this post.

5 Ways to better life balance. Balance your life responsibilities

On Monday we looked at our lives subjectively. Are there areas I feel out of balance and I can I see ways to change. On Wednesday we took an objective look at how we spend our time and decided if how we spend the majority of our time is how we want to spend the majority of our time. Today we look at 5 ways to manifest better balance into our lives.

Once you have determined areas of your life you want to change it is easy to blame why you don’t change on others:

  • My kids need too much
  • My significant other doesn’t want to eat healthy
  • I have too much to do
  • I am taking care of my parents
    the list could go on.

The bottom line is – change is hard, there is a reason you are caught in the patterns you are caught in, and if you really want your life to look different you will have to figure out ways to make that happen. Small steps can make that happen.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Write down your goals
  2. Delegate – are there jobs you do (laundry, cleaning, cooking, errands, car pooling) that others could do. Hint: they will do it differently than you and that is ok.
  3. Create some boundaries. Do you need to tell people no more often – “no I can’t cook X for the upcoming pot-luck”, “no I can’t coach soccer this fall”. Get clear about what you want. This is critical to honoring yourself and others in your actions. Be kind, open, and honest when turning down offers and be ready for resistance from people who are used to hearing yes.
  4. Create a goal poster – clip pictures of your life vision and set the intention to achieve them. Place it where you will see it often everyday.
  5. Commit to live with intention. In each moment ask yourself if this is what you want to be doing/thinking and honestly listen for the answer. When you find yourself answering no decide what you do want to be doing and make efforts to move in that direction.

    These are not suggestions to shrink from life responsibilities. All of us would rather be doing something else at times but by listening to what you would rather be doing you begin to see a pattern of what is working and what is not working in your life. By visualizing what you want you are better able to recognize activities which might move you in that direction. In doing those activities more often you are more likely to get the life you want one step at a time.

What Makes You Happy?

Being happy has far reaching consequences. What makes you happy? Have you ever thought about that? I mean really thought about it. Right now today what makes you happy? What brings a smile to your face and warms your heart?

Many times we are looking outside ourselves for the experience of happiness. We may feel like if only I could be more like or do such and such better I would be happy. Many claim if only I had ____ (that car, the bigger house, more money) I would be happy. Many times what we think makes us happy is really good marketing.

In this time of economic crisis it is a great time to ask yourself what makes you happy, truly happy to the core of your being. As the world checks it’s desires its a great time to look deep inside yourself and find what truly makes you happy each day and set about participating in and enjoy being happy each day.

I realized I hadn’t thought too much about what truly makes me happy and I certainly wasn’t doing something each day to create happiness in my life. Now my experience has been that it is very simple things that make me happy, a cup of tea in the sunshine, flowers, bird song, slow sunsets with a friends, watching my kids play, simple stuff.

Some may say happiness is a byproduct of life, and that may very well be true, but I don’t see anything wrong with going out and bringing it into your life everyday.