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

Did you have fun last weekend?

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

What’d you do last weekend? Anything fun? Anything “story-worthy?”

A common regret at the end of life is that you lived a life others expected of you and weren’t always true to yourself. That you had ideas but didn’t listen to your gut. Some of this comes from being raised to “get along.” And some comes from the ease of doing things that are expected rather than really thinking about what you like to do. And then having the courage to do it! 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

The peace of the pause

I wrapped up a big theater project last weekend and Monday morning felt like I’d hit a wall – face first! Every step, every thought took effort. What was going on? I was exhausted after 3 months of intense work, 6-7 days a week. And I was sad. Ending a show feels like the end of summer camp. You’ve had a great time with a new group of friends you know you’ll never be with again in that same setting. And while everyone is still around, you grieve the moment that’s lost.

AND to make you crazy, the songs from a musical run in a continuous loop in your mind for another week or so! Torture.

So this week I’ve spent time meditating on the challenges we met, the fun we had, and the show we produced. I’ve sent out thank you notes to add closure. And I’ve tried my best to be quiet to give myself time to pause for a couple of days between projects. Continue reading

No regrets

In case you were wondering, I have to say something about my last post that started with the mysterious “444444444.” Does anyone else work on a computer where your cat stretches out between the monitor and the keyboard? And MOST of the time it’s okay? Yeah, well right as I hit “publish” last week, Flynn stretched out and added his little signature line, which is apparently, “444444444.” And once you hit “publish” in a blog post, there’s no going back. So from Flynn to you, I wish you a very happy “444444444.” And now on to to my current post 🙂

A common regret you hear about from people near the end of their lives is that they didn’t live a life that was true to who they were, and instead lived a life others expected of them.

You don’t want that! You want to go out a big smile on your face because you’ve done the things you’ve dreamed about. You want to think back on the opportunities you created. The people’s lives you touched. The energy you brought to the earth. Continue reading

Making a small change

You know the theory that the air stirred by a butterfly’s wing can eventually cause a hurricane? Well, I would posit that making a tiny, simple change can lead to an avalanche of energy!

Test this out for me, would you?

Change one thing this week on your body from your shoulders up.
This could be a new hat. A haircut. New earrings. Add or don’t add make-up. Buy new shampoo. Shave off your mustache. Shoulders up – what’s one simple thing you can change? 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