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

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

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

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

Get some sleep!

Our society seems to value getting by on very little sleep. How many times have you heard someone say, “Yep, I get by on five hours a night,” and you think, “I should be able to do that.”

But the thing is your body needs deep, uninterrupted sleep every night. Sleep is when your brain reorganizes and recharges. When you cut that short, you wake up groggy. You can’t answer a question until you’ve had at least two cups of coffee. You fantasize about taking a nap as you head into a late afternoon meeting. You have a heck of a time staying focused.  And good luck getting to the things you want to get done.

You may feel like you’re getting by just fine, but new medical studies show that a lack of regular sleep can have significant health implications – with brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, and on your over-all good health.

I loved a recent write-up in the Smithsonian about how even jellyfish have to sleep. This means that this sea creature becomes completely vulnerable for certain periods of the day or night – and yet has survived for millennia. Continue reading