The importance of JOY

George E. Vaillant, a psychoanalyst and research psychiatrist at Harvard, directed a 30-year study on adult development. According to Vaillant, joy, love, compassion, happiness, and delight “help us to broaden and build. They widen our tolerance, expand our moral compass and enhance our creativity,” as well as help bind us to others. Vaillant’s experiments document that while negative emotions like shame, guilt, anger, and hate narrow our attention, positive emotions, especially joy, make thought patterns far more flexible, creative, integrative, and effective.

On the flip side, when you dwell on negative feelings, you damage your physical and spiritual well-being. Negative emotions cause stress on your body – and you’re less pleasant to be around so they can have a huge effect on relationships. Continue reading

Nat Geo on happiness

I read a great article in National Geographic about places where people are happier than most. The article looks specifically at the effect of “place” and how your environment shapes you. But it’s never really the place, is it? It’s a package. And what Nat Geo was looking at was long-term happiness – not a simple “good time” vacation get-away.

In Costa Rica, happiness comes from strong family bonds, universal healthcare, strong faith, lasting peace, equality, time spent outdoors, and generosity. In the 1940s, Costa Rica elected a teacher as president. This resulted in a decision to provide free education for all, to eliminate the army, and to set up a universal healthcare system with a goal of keeping people healthy rather than trying to cure them after they’re sick. Continue reading

In praise of a backache

I’m directing a big Christmas musical at a local community theater. This show has taken up pretty much every minute of my free time over the past 10 weeks and I’ve loved every minute of it. Theater for me is a passion that brings energy to all of my other work and even to chores.

For the last 10 weeks, I’ve been at the theater almost every day – teaching, directing, building sets, making props. To make time for this, I’ve read less and blogged less. I’ve skipped running and meditation. And I’ve been eating on the fly and drinking coffee. I look like a bag lady wherever I go – hauling around work, my planner, scripts, and props.

I thought I was holding it together until Wednesday night when I threw out my back, and last night missed the opening of the show.

Here’s why I’m deeply grateful for this. Continue reading

Consider Meatless Mondays

It’s probably unfair to post this right after a huge Thanksgiving meal. Or maybe this is the perfect time :).

If you want to be efficient and do great work, it helps to be healthy! And a huge part of being healthy is being mindful of the foods you eat and how you feel after you eat them. More and more people are experimenting with foods – testing how they react to sugar, to gluten, to corn products, and to dairy products.

I would argue that it’s also important to test how you feel when you eat less meat. There’s nothing evil about meat, but it’s hard to digest. It’s high in fat. Many meat animals are fed unnatural grains and other substances including antibiotics so you don’t know exactly what you’re eating. And meat production can be taxing on the environment.

You don’t have to give up all meat to try out a month of meatless Mondays. So why not try it and see how you feel? Continue reading

The Power of Positive

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen writes about small steps she took each month to improve different aspects of happiness in her life.

Why?

Because research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likable, more creative, and more resilient. They’re more interested in others. They’re friendlier. And they’re healthier!

If there was a magic elixir to help you accomplish this, wouldn’t you be tempted? And wouldn’t you like to hang out with the happy people described above? So why not be in that group? Continue reading

Work out with a group? Or on your own?

I was talking with a friend over the weekend who said she hurt her hip doing yoga. I tend to do the same thing when I work out with a group – I push things past where I should, and always end up with an achy something.

That discussion got me thinking about the pros of working out with a group v. working out on your own.

Pros to working out with a group Continue reading

How to improve your concentration

Being focused on what you’re doing helps you do good work. And it’s fun to sink deep into a project.

If you’re feeling a little scattered, here are 5 Buddhist tips for meditation that also help with concentration.

Pay attention to where you’re working
If you’re trying to do serious work in a noisy, active place – good luck! When you need to focus, give yourself the best shot possible by finding or creating a calm, quiet place with few distractions. You may think you can concentrate amidst chaos, but give quiet a chance and see how much it improves both the amount and quality of your output. Continue reading