Tag Archives: becoming happy

Feeling Good about Feeling Good: Part 2 – Ignoring Cultural Negativity

Feeling good about feeling good isn’t easy – in fact most of us feel just a little bit guilty or self-conscious when we’re really truly happy.  Our culture doesn’t look favorably on true joyfulness – maybe it’s the puritanical roots?  I talked a lot about it in the first post in this series, which focuses on the personal drama we create.  In this post let’s focus more on the drama and negativity that is culturally conditioned, because as it turns out, there’s a ton of it.

Step 2 to Feeling Good: Ignoring Cultural Negativity

The great myth of Western culture is that we are more financially blessed and privileged as a society and so it logically follows that we must also be happier than other societies, and that those two things are related. Like the happiness maybe comes from something we’ve earned, or bought or treated ourselves to. This isn’t the case. In fact, a remarkable body of research called the “World Happiness Report” found that financial factors play a small part, but social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity and the perception of corruption also have big roles to play. The World Happiness project essentially does a mountain of research to determine which countries are the happiest and how that happiness changes with large world events. The results are highly surprising. Here’s a look at the top 10 countries (U.S. came in #13 if you’re curious) and the key showing what each color represents:

Feeling good about feeling good - the top 10 happiest countries according to the World Happiness Report. (see link in text).

Feeling good about feeling good – the top 10 happiest countries according to the World Happiness Report. (see link in text).




THese are the factors that matter in happiness - financial wellbeing, social support, health (as life expectancy) generosity, honesty or corruption of the society you live in and the general angst of your country, summed up in "dystopia."

These are the factors that matter in happiness – financial wellbeing, social support, health (as life expectancy) generosity, honesty or corruption of the society you live in and the general angst of your country, summed up in “dystopia.”

All well and good, but what does this mean for our own happiness?  Here are a few key points, in the form of actions you can take to boost your happy:

  •  Stop Watching the News.  Especially North American News. Why? Because sadly journalism is a huge industry now and the thing that makes news sell is fear or moral outrage.  More people watch more news if it’s scarier, more shocking or more directly threatening to you and generally that means spinning information to have the maximum impact. News is made scarier, bigger, more fearful,  more threatening, more anger-provoking or inciting. This is not because the world is more fearful, only because news is a business and fear sells. But really, do you need more anxiety hormones coursing through your bloodstream? Really?
  • Let go of Crisis Planning. We are kind of a nation of catastrophizers – everything is going to be something awful. The media has some impact on this because if you listen to the news it sounds like there’s going to be a terrorist showing up on your street at any moment. It’s also just human nature to fear the worst and for god’s sake we have a whole industry of Worst Case Scenario Survival Guides and Zombie Apocalypse Kits. I mean really. Ironically in the World Happiness Report (I’ll call it WHR for short) countries that were impacted by some crisis actually became happier if the social structure was strong (and unhappier if it wasn’t, which leads us to our next point).
The report provided evidence of an interaction between social capital and economic or other crises, with the crisis providing a test of the quality of the underlying social fabric.
If the fabric is sufficiently strong, then the crisis may even lead to higher subjective well-being, in part by giving people a chance to work together towards good purpose, and to realize and appreciate the strength of their mutual social support; and in part because the crisis will be better handled and the underlying
social capital improved in use.
  • Help Your Neighbors.  That whole “social fabric” thing that they’re talking about it something that you and I can actually impact.  Social fabric is strong if you’re in a community that would get out there and make sure everyone has food and water if the sh*t really did hit the fan. It’s weak if you feel like everyone in your neighborhood would get their gun to safeguard their food and water from looters.  So how do we live in a society with good social fabric? Start simple by being a good neighbor and society will follow.
  • Don’t Judge. Sure sure, haters going to hate, but you don’t have to be one of them.  The WHR shows that freedom to make life choices is a really big deal for happiness and that includes the freedom legally but also socially. This means if you don’t feel like you can do what you want to do (even if it’s legal but socially unacceptable) then your happiness is impacted. Likewise if you’re adding to someone else’s feeling of not-being-able-to-do then you’re making them less happy (and yourself as well).  At the end of the day every human on this planet is doing the best they can with what they have so being a little easier on them would help all around.
  • Fix What You Can, Drop Everything Else. Someone else said this better than I will ever be able to, so whether you’re a religious person or not, I’m guessing you can grok this:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and  wisdom to know the difference.

– Reinhold Niebuhr

  • Give Away. Generosity is a simple step to happiness that you have complete and utter control over. You can choose at any moment to give something to someone, to be generous with kindness, with your smile, with laughter, with love.  And it makes YOU happy. You feel good when you help others feel good plain and simple.
  • Practice Pronoia.  I *love* the whole concept of pronoia as visioned by Rob Brezsny. Pronoia is the opposite of paranoia and involves the deep seated belief that the Universe is conspiring to shower you with blessings.  Sure, you could expect the worst, but this is far happier. It is just as likely that the Universe is sneaking up on you to make all your dreams come true as it is that it’s out to get you so might as well engage in some constructive fantasy of the former, rather than the latter (I wrote a  whole post on this too).
  • Learn Optimism. There’s a whole body of research that suggests joy is a talent that you can practice, cultivate and increase just like any other talent.  Let’s do that and start feeling good about feeling good. In fact, there’s a whole book on it.



Benefits of Lemon Water for Liver, Gallbladder and Energy

We’ve discussed lemons for skin health and beauty, but what about the awesome benefits of lemon water for your liver, your gallbladder and even your energy? Not to mention the zesty taste! Lemon water has this sort of ambiguously detox-y reputation on the interwebs.  Seems like a lot of people like the way it makes them feel, most people seem to feel it does something related to detox but isn’t sure quite what, and some people claim it’s the cure-all. I’m not going to ever call anything a cure-all because every person’s physiology is unique, but there are some things that are pretty universally good, and as it turns out having a nice, hot lemon water in the morning is one of those.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.

The benefits of lemon water make this little guy a superfood. Thanks to Evan Amos for the great photo.




The Actual Benefits of Lemon Water

Detoxify

  • The acidity of lemon juice makes it a much-used cholagogue for herbalists and even the doctors of yore (yore has to be one of my favorite words – I couldn’t resist a chance to sneak it in there). Cholagogues promote the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward.  In plain English, that means that when you eat or drink lemon or lemon juice it stimulates your body to release bile into your intestinal tract to pass through into the stool. Bile helps you to digest fats that you eat, and it also helps eliminate cholesterol and fat soluble toxins.  This makes lemon water a gentle detoxifier.
  • Just as a fun factoid, if you’re not sure if something is a good cholagogue (the new word of the day), just taste it.  Cholagogues are usually strongly sour or bitter and you can feel that little salivary gland at the back of your jaw start to freak out.  Lemons are all over this!
  • Your liver does much of it’s heavy lifting overnight while you sleep. In the morning there can be a back-log of toxins from the night before that your body would love to eliminate. To do that it honestly benefits pretty greatly from both the water – especially warm water, and the lemon juice itself.
  • Lemon juice may even stimulate healthy production of both bile and stomach acid and it was used historically to do just that, although there isn’t research out there to support this use.

Hydrate

  • In addition to the lemon, there’s the water and the water is actually key to this whole thing.  Detoxification, which is essentially cleaning, requires water just like every other washing job you’ve ever done.  Have you ever tried cleaning the dishes without water? Washing the car? Yup. All hinges on water.
  • Let’s face it – we all struggle for that 8-10 glasses of water we’re supposed to get every day. With lemon water at least one of them tastes good!

Think More Clearly

  • There is a strongly established link between getting enough water and using your brain effectively. The mountain of research on this link for adults is huge and there’s even research showing clearly this link in kiddos.
  • Essential oil of lemon, which is the lemon smell released by the lemon water, is also shown to improve mood and cognitive performance in adults, so double whammy.
  • Triple whammy! The bioflavenoids in citrus fruit are also shown to boost cognitive performance including nobilitin and hesperidin.

Lose Weight and Boost Heart Health

  • A study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that drinking more water boosts metabolism by about 30% for both men and women.  That is incredibly helpful! The study went on to say that people who drank 1.5 liters of water per day burn an additional 17,400 calories over a year just through this one simple step. That’s a weight loss of 5 pounds, just by drinking water.
  • An additional study on the lemon detox diet showed that adding lemon detox drink to a low calorie diet actually improves the cardiovascular benefits of that diet.  They compared three groups, one eating a normal diet, one eating a calorie restricted diet and one eating a calorie restricted diet plus lemon water sweetened with maple syrup. Both low calorie groups lost weight, lowered their insulin and reduced their waist-hip ratios but only the lemon water group showed improvements in cardiovascular inflammation.

Get Your Antioxidants

  • Lemon water from the recipe below has about 22 mg of vitamin C, or 36% of your daily value. It also has small amounts of vitamin A and vitamin E.
  • Citrus bioflavenoids are an incredibly diverse group of compounds that are high-powered antioxidants and every day there is new research emerging for compounds such as hesperidin, quercitin, rutin, nobilitin and there are literally hundreds of others that have yet to be researched.

Boost Your Happy

  • Lemon essential oil is one of the scents most associated with elevated mood.  It is stimulating to the energy but not agitating – it remains calming to the nerves. In short, it gives you the happy.

Not only that but one of the best benefits of lemon water is that you can drink this, and also your coffee. It doesn’t have caffeine and so won’t conflict at all with that beloved morning ritual. Now – if you want to enjoy the health benefits of lemon water, here’s a fantastic recipe:

Lemon Water Recipe

Juice from 1/2 large lemon or 1 small lemon
Zest from the peel – just a few swipes will do
12-16 oz hot water (I prefer 16 to soften the tartness)
If you can’t tolerate the tartness then a little bit of raw honey

Mix it all together in your favorite mug and enjoy the lovely fresh smell, the tart wake-me-up taste and all those health benefits of lemon water. And no worries – you can still have a coffee or tea if you want without worrying about being over-caffeinated.



Lifehack to Making changes – What Are You Resisting?

Let me be the first to say that making changes in life really sucks.  That’s a technical term. There are many reasons why making changes is difficult – you have your routines, you making changes means the people around you also have to adapt and shift, etc… But I believe the biggest reason that making changes is so difficult is that human brains are tricksy and the change you want to make is actually just a thin veneer over the change you NEED to make. Let me explain.

Your life is the way it is because that is the easiest way for it to be right now and the way that “works” even if there’s something about it that clearly isn’t working. When you look at your life there are areas that are easy, areas that are messy and areas that are downright dysfunctional but all of those parts of your life are doing *something* for you.  No matter how crappy parts of your life might look, they are giving you something positive (even if you complain about it constantly or feel like you need to change it). If it wasn’t giving you something positive  you wouldn’t be doing it that way.

Lifehack – Follow the Resistance

It’s easy to look at the end points that you want to change – I want to lose 10 pounds, get my groove back, have a better relationship with the in-laws, learn to really communicate with the kids, etc… Those are the goals.  To get to those goals there are things you have to change and somewhere in there is a change that you’re resisting.  Especially when you’ve had the same goal for a long time (like that same 10 pounds has been waiting to come off for five years).  Somewhere there is something that you’re resisting doing, resisting looking at, or just not seeing.  The most important thing you have to do when you’re making changes is to follow the resistance.  This is where the real meat of the matter lies.  The problem is that sometimes it can be hard to find the resistance, and as it turns out there is a  way to find that resistance and toddlers already know it.  It’s to just keep asking “why?”

Just keep asking "Why?" Making changes is hard, but it's easier when you know what REALLY needs to change.

Just keep asking “Why?” Making changes is hard, but it’s easier when you know what REALLY needs to change.

Just Keep Asking “Why?”

That sounds really simple, but it isn’t. Here’s an example that I have had the opportunity to explore recently.  One of my clients has an issue with her weight – we’ll call her Jane Doe. She is a mother of four, has a full time job, and a happy marriage. Her family is financially comfortable but doesn’t have a lot extra.  She eats well all day, exercises and has an active job but then falls apart in the evening and gets cravings for salty-crunchy, that are incredibly hard to resist.  We had been working together for some time and just kept getting to this same block.  She was beating herself up for not being able to get past this, for not having the will power, and for not being able to just make it change. After a few months of futility, we sat down and had a heart-to-heart to follow the resistance. Here’s what happened (slightly paraphrased because the whole conversation gets really annoying before it actually resolves).

Amy: “Why do you binge on the salty-crunchy in the evenings?”
JD: “I can’t stop myself”Amy: “Why?”
JD: “I just can’t – it tastes too good”
Amy: “Why do you need something to taste so good?”
JD: “It makes me happy. It’s instant pleasure”
Amy: “Why?”
JD (clearly annoyed now): “It just is – it’s easy and makes me happy”
Amy: “Why do you need something easy that makes you happy?”
JD: “everyone needs pleasure in their lives”
Amy: “Why is your life not giving you pleasure?”
JD (kind of angry with words coming out in a rush): “I work so hard and then come home and have more work. I clean, I cook – my husband helps but between the two of us we’re always running kids here and there, spending money so they can do their stuff, there isn’t really time or money left over for me, so this is what makes me happy.”

Then she cried.

You know you reached the resistance when you cry. Or get angry, or shout and scream, or storm out of the room.  THAT is the resistance.  THAT is the thing that is lurking underneath that really needs to change.  It isn’t the weight, or the binge eating, it’s the lack of time and energy for her own happiness.  Is it easy to change? Nope.  Is it going to require a big step back to find a solution? Yup. When she figures it out will it make a way bigger impact on her life than the silly 10 pounds would?  You bet.

What You Resist Might Just Be What You Need To Change Most

The funny thing about making changes is that it’s all linked up.  There is the thing we might want to change (the 10 pounds) and then the change that we really REALLY need to make for our life to work (JDs lack of time for her own happiness). The change we want seems to always hinge on the change we actually need in the big picture – it’s like some wonderful cosmic synergy  that happens. I tend to call anything along this vein The Great Mystery. It’s like the universe keeps bumping us up against the things that will help us the most if we can just get to the bottom of them.  The really hard part is getting to the bottom of them. So – did Jane Doe just make some time for herself and la-di-da 10 pounds fell off and everyone lived happily ever after?  Um… No.

Making Changes: Resistance is Tricky

No – Jane certainly did not make time for herself and those 10 pounds melted away.  Here’s how the rest of the conversation went:

Amy: “Now we’re getting somewhere! What else could you do that would make you happy?”
JD (genuinely angry now): “You don’t understand.  We don’t have time, we don’t have money. The kids have gymnastics, soccer, summer camp and tutoring and it eats all of the money and I have to run them around to these things. There just isn’t anything left over.”Amy: “Why do you have to run them around?”
JD: “Because they have to do those things – they love them and I want them to have every opportunity.”
etc… etc… etc…




There was a lot more back and forth in which Jane got incredibly frustrated with me, got angry, got indignant, called me a bunch of names for being insensitive, and ended up crying again.  At the end of the day we were friends again, but there was a lot of messy, dark, ugly ground to cover before we got there.  The whole conversation is too cumbersome, but the bottom line was that Jane was beating herself up against a made up idea called “good parent” and to be a “good parent” meant giving up everything that makes you happy so that the kids can have all of the things they’re supposed to have.  That one isn’t an easy fix at all.  But, by managing to fix it not only Jane’s life would be better but her whole family dynamic is better too.

Jane just had an appointment after about 6 months of silence after the above conversation.  I really wasn’t sure if what we did helped or if I’d made her angry enough to go somewhere else.  As it turned out it was a great thing – and also still a work in progress.  Jane ended up sitting down for a conversation with her husband who, as it turns out, felt exactly the same way but instead of turning to food he turned to alcohol.  The two of them tried to shift things around and give each other more breaks and more space, but time management wasn’t really solving the problem.  At this point they sat down with the kids to have a conversation.  Then the floodgates opened.

The kids were stressed out – they could see that mom wasn’t entirely happy and dad was distant and all of them felt guilty for it in different ways (kids always seem to think they cause any problems around them).  Sitting down and talking about it was stressful for the family but got a lot of simmering issues out in the open.  It also revealed that what the kids wanted more than gymnastics and summer camp was time with their parents. The kids really missed the sit-down dinners they used to have before everyone started running in twenty different directions.  They missed the lazy Saturday morning brunch with waffles and they wanted to go camping again and roast marshmallows on the camp fire.  To get those things back, everyone would have to dial back their extracurricular activities.

This wasn’t easy – the kids liked the stuff they were doing, but at the end of the day they liked time with their family more. Did this help Jane?  Not at first.  The things they wanted to do were all food-intensive (as family activities tend to be).  Jane actually gained weight at first because the brunch was all carbs, the sit down dinners were all comfort food and they only managed to go camping once but it was an absolute festival of hot dogs on sticks and popcorn over the campfire and marshmallows galore. As the time went by though and Jane relaxed into a little bit more leisurely schedule, things started to shift. Jane was feeling happier and less rushed and over-scheduled.  She felt like she was enjoying her kids more and not just seeing them as to-do items.  After this six months, the weight was actually starting to come off.

Best of all, Jane said she was actually enjoying her life in a way that she didn’t realize she was missing. Her slow creep into losing her own joy had been gradual enough as to go unnoticed by her and everyone else.  She would never have said at the beginning of that conversation that she wasn’t happy.  Her resistance pointed to a problem that she wasn’t seeing or acknowledging and by doing the hard work of actually addressing that problem, she is seeing a huge reward.  Jane came back to say thanks – how awesome is that?

If you notice that you are making changes, or trying, and you’re coming to a block somewhere that doesn’t seem to move no matter what you do, maybe it’s time to follow the resistance.  Get into it and find the big thing hiding underneath – your life will be better for it.



You don't need to be that guy. Seriously, transition sucks but chances are it won't matter in a year. Don't let little stuff change your happiness.

Manage the Unexpected – Coping With Change

I’m realizing how much we humans like to think we’re in control of things and how things are stable – coping with change isn’t our inherent strength.  More precisely I’m beginning to understand how fearful you can get when you realize you AREN’T in control of things.  On some level you know, with absolute certainty, that life is going to do whatever it wants anyway and you don’t really have a choice in the matter.  Still, it’s human nature to go through elaborate gymnastics to try to pretend that the universe isn’t inherently chaotic. Which is hilarious, when you really think about it. Your happiness can’t depend on what’s happening around and to you – it has to be about how you cope with it.

This has come to the surface for me because, like every other topic I write about, something in my life has triggered it.  As many of you know I’m recently married, recently pregnant and moving – which means I need a good reminder about coping with change and keeping my joyfulness in the process.  In times like this, where one uncontrollable situation piles on top of another it is easy to watch yourself fall back on the human defaults.  Eat more comfort food, drink more wine, get Grumpy or Weepy or really any other one of the Seven Dwarves with the possible exception of Sneezy. Maybe I have some control.  Or, at the end of the day, maybe I don’t. Why should that change how I feel?




Here’s the thing – it’s really scary and vulnerable to know that you don’t know what’s going to happen next.  The more the outcome matters to you, the scarier and more vulnerable it is. This is admitting that you are adrift in life and can’t see what is coming around the next corner. It is also liberating in a strange way.  It means letting go of all of the things you think “should” happen or  “could” happen and just waiting to see what is actually going to happen.  It means letting go of what you want, and just waiting to see what IS – waiting for reality to show up.  Actually allowing life to unfold in a surprising and often wonderful way and accepting whatever comes.

Of course in medicine this is a common crossroads for people to walk.  The waiting for test results, the waiting for therapies and the waiting to see if a treatment plan is working.  Accepting your own limitations, especially if those limits are changing, and learning to work with a new normal.  My experience has been that for many people dealing with not being in control is more difficult than dealing with the condition itself.

Take Care of You First When You’re Coping With Change

Chances are if you’re coping with change or some unexpected situation has happened then this is when your schedule is most likely to be overfull, action-packed and non-stop.  It could also be when your budget is the tightest, your pennies the most pinched and generally when you have the least extra anything.  It is also the most important time to take time for you.  Whether you have it or not, you can’t do without it.  Your happiness is a priority. Don’t cancel the massage or the lunch with friends or the hour that you get to read or whatever.  Leave room for you in your schedule because this is when you need recharge time the most.  It’s also when you need real sleep and good food the most so those areas aren’t the places to cut corners either.  Here are a few quick fixes for getting through tough times:

  • Streamline Your Time – Quit the PTA, the extra committee at work, the neighborhood association that meets too frequently or whatever it is that you feel like you should be doing, but don’t need to be.  The bottom line is that those things will go on just fine without you but you’ll move forward much better without the extra obligations. You can always go back to it later but right now you need that time for your life.
  • Minimize Other Stress – If one area of your life is unexpectedly blowing up, then make sure the other areas of your life are staying calm.  Say no to extra projects at work, delegate whatever you can, and stay away from office politics as well as actual politics – this isn’t the time.
  • Ask for Help – You have a community of people, and humans are social animals.  It helps your friends to feel like a part of your life if they can help you in some small way – especially when you’re in a crisis.  It doesn’t have to be huge stuff, it can be tiny things but everything adds up. Besides there’s a wonderful warm-fuzzy that happens when someone in your community steps up for you.  Besides – you will get to step up for them at some point, it’s what we do.
  • Offload Junk – I’m not sure why this helps, but I’ve found that for a lot of people sending a load of stuff to goodwill and clearing some of the clutter out of their home actually helps to clear up mental clutter too – it’s like the magical sneak-attack stress fix.  If you haven’t worn it or thought about it or dusted it for 6 months, toss it. It’s not making your life better in any way.
  • Don’t Take On Other People’s Problems – Ironically, we love to do this.  Roll around in someone else’s muck – for whatever reason it’s a very human thing.  When everything is fine in your life that probably doesn’t really have any negative consequences, it’s probably just fine.  When your life is blowing up is when it’s a problem. If you’re coping with change then you don’t also need to cope with other people’s change.  So – what does this actually mean?  Take a break from the evening news, from the water cooler gossip, from the facebook and the twitter.  They will still be there when you re-emerge, I promise.  But for now, take a break.
  • Tackle One Thing At a Time – If you write out the whole list of what needs to be done and look at it like that you’ll probably take to heavy drinking.  Make it into bite-sized pieces and just take everything one step at a time.  Calling moving companies to get a quote is one step.  Just do that one thing and you’ve made progress.  Looking at the whole list can put almost anyone into a panic attack, but looking at single steps is doable.  I use an organizer called todoist that syncs between my computer and phone and that helps to keep me on track.  Break up the big jobs into single steps and divide those throughout the time that you have to get this transition finished. Leave tomorrow’s tasks for tomorrow. Just do one thing now.
  • Make Sure Some Things Stay the Same – Okay so lots of things in your life are changing.  Is there something you can keep constant to make you feel stable and secure no matter what is happening?  Maybe it’s a cup of your favorite tea at night or having your favorite foods on-hand. Maybe it’s keeping your favorite pictures close or making sure you have your favorite candle burning so the room smells the same.  It could be your favorite T shirt, your favorite socks, your favorite football.  Whatever – the thing that stays the same doesn’t matter, it’s that *something* does.  You need a good touchstone to tell you everything is okay, because it is.
  • Hire Help – There is plenty of stuff you will have to do during a transition that is above and beyond all the normal stuff you have to do.  If you can, hire out some of the normal stuff. Hire someone to mow the lawns, clean the toilets, prepare the meals, or whatever normal stuff you just can’t get to.  It can be a really nice thing to take those basics off your to-do list.  If money is tight then these are great areas to ask for help (although it would be a really good friend who would clean your toilets for you).

Change Your Words For Coping With Change

There is a great loophole here. A back-door to coping with change and with the unexpected.  That is simply that the way you see things changes everything. Change your story about what’s happening and keep your happy. It is not the situation that’s happening, but your perception of it that matters.  Your view on what is happening to you determines how you actually feel. The words you use about a situation become that situation.  I like this video as an example of how words change people’s perceptions of things:

The situation in the video doesn’t change – a blind man is still asking for help, but how he’s asking is more likely to resonate with people in one scenario than the other.  Words are powerful.

If you say something is too much for you to handle, then it is.  You are right.  If you say you’re handling it then you’re right – you are.  If you try to see the wonderful possibilities and the good surprises that could come out of this change, then I honestly feel you’re more likely to notice those blessings when they happen.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson Ph.D.  - great strategy for coping with change.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson Ph.D. – great strategy for coping with change.

It’s a bestselling book (by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.) because most of us aren’t good at not sweating the small stuff.  At the end of the day though, it really is small stuff.  Don’t let the little stuff that normally gets to you add to the big stuff that’s happening right now. Most of this won’t matter in a year and really won’t matter in five. Just let it go.

You don't need to be that guy.  Seriously, transition sucks but chances are it won't matter in a year.  Don't let little stuff change your happiness.

You don’t need to be that guy. Seriously, transition sucks but chances are it won’t matter in a year. Don’t let little stuff change your happiness.

Coping with change means letting go of a lot of the little things that you would normally stay on top of.  Don’t worry about perfect – good enough is good enough right now (that’s why they call it good enough).  Really it doesn’t matter if the dishes aren’t done, if the dog misses a walk or if your lawn is too tall. Just get through the big stuff and everything else will sort itself out. Other people live through this, you will too.  And the best part is that you can stay happy while you do – you just have to make happy a priority.



Start feeling this good. Create your own happy now.

Nine Practices to create Happiness

Wouldn’t it be great if you could create happiness – if happiness was a simple goal you could achieve? As it turns out, it is exactly that.  It is a process of doing – it isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you chose to be, and part of that choice is acting in a way that leads towards happiness. Here are nine practices, developed by Don Richard Riso, to help you on your journey:

Treat Others With Kindness and Integrity

One of the simplest ways to help others be kind and helpful to you and to treat you like an independent worthwhile human is to do the same for them. And god knows kindness goes a long way towards happiness.

Love Yourself and Others Equally

Love your neighbor as yourself – but also remember to love yourself as your neighbor.  Many of you (women especially) tend to care for others, for the needs of the kids, the spouse, the parents and forget about your own needs. Don’t forget to add yourself to the list of cherished loved ones and to make your needs count for as much as those of everyone else.  There is no way to create happiness if you don’t factor yourself into your own life.




Be Authentic And Truthful in All Matters

Research has verified that lying, no matter how much you have convinced yourself it doesn’t matter to you, actually raises the levels of your stress hormones and contributes to anxiety, stress and the aging process.  The same might be true for the soft lies – the moments where you go along with what is going on just so you don’t make waves, even if it isn’t something you want in your life. To create happiness be true to you – your body always knows the difference.

Joy! Create happiness in your life today.

Joy! Create happiness in your life today.

Discover Beauty and Pleasure Everywhere

It’s out there. Beauty is out there all over the place and it is so easy to walk by and not notice because you’re caught up in the latest drama at work or your to-do list or that tiff you had with your partner.  Don’t miss it – if you don’t see the beauty and enjoy the little moments now, then when will you? The only time you can change is right now so if you want to be joyful then live into what is happening RIGHT NOW.

Learn from Everyone and Everything

It is so hard to remember to truly appreciate every situation and so easy to pop up the defenses. Of course you can approach every situation like the expert – you already know it, you’ve done it before, you know how this goes. The basic problem with that is that you only leave room then for one possible outcome, and that is that you come away from that situation with nothing new. In short, you don’t grow or change, you just stay stagnant. Try for one day approaching every situation as though you are new to it and as though you can learn something and I promise, you will learn something. You will grow and evolve – how wonderful is that?

Trust Your Ability to Face Challenges and Contribute Willingly

It’s so easy to worry and it feeds into so many basic states of pathology. Worry is a way of creating drama and tension, of pretending you might have control over the uncontrollable and also it’s one of the biggest ways of doubting yourself or your loved ones that you can engage in. By worrying constantly you are sending the signal that you don’t trust your (or your loved ones, if you worry only for other people) ability to cope with life, to deal with the challenges that arise. But here is the thing – if you or the people you worry about are still alive then you are entirely capable of facing everything that life has thrown at you so far. That is kind of a powerful thought – you have effectively dealt with every challenge that has come at you. That is one hell of an awesome track record. Boosting your trust in yourself and the universe is a great way to boost happiness.

Start feeling this good. Create your own happy now.

Pure Freaking Joy. Create your own happy now.

Be Attached to Nothing and Experience Real Freedom

This doesn’t mean don’t attach to anything therefore don’t love anything. Love with your whole heart, but let that love grow, evolve and change.  Let everything grow, evolve and change.  It’s so easy to get into a place where you try to keep things the same, keep them stable and predictable and uniform but life isn’t like that.  Everything grows and develops and ultimately might even fade, but none of that is bad.  By allowing your relationships, your life, your patterns to evolve you also allow yourself to find deeper joy, greater authenticity and more freedom.  In other words don’t try to control or be attached to life being a certain way, because then you don’t allow it to ever get any better.

Let Go of Willfulness and Empower Others

This one can be a challenge to see because society trains you to learn to get your own way. It’s actually one of the biggest skills you learn as an infant or toddler because at that stage of development it is important to be able to get what you need from the people around you.  As an adult, however, it can be helpful to notice the behaviors that you have adopted that might push people to behave a certain way around you or give in to you.  Guilt, shame, blame and judgement can be subtle (or not so subtle) ways of bullying people and using those tools can be entirely unconscious.  To create happiness isn’t it time to examine the ways you might manipulate those around you?

 Value Yourself and Engage with the Tumult of the World

This is the hardest one for me – both to understand and to follow.  You might, like me, notice the internal tendency to being the peacekeeper, to trying to keep things smooth and even and to keep everyone around you happy. Peacekeeping is a strong gift and can be of great value in your life, but it can also slip over into a form of self-denial.  The small ways you don’t speak your truth because you want to keep the peace.  Again, there are degrees of health here.  Sometimes engaging with the turmoil and allowing there to be bumps in the road can be the most authentic path forward and can allow you to experience real happiness and to be absolutely true to yourself.  This doesn’t mean that you should cause problems just to stir the pot, but you should be able to give true expression to problems that are already there and not try to dismiss them.

Dog smile - thanks for the picture to Pixel blue eyes (smiling) and her person Jenny.

Dog smile – thanks for the picture to Pixel blue eyes (smiling) and her person Jenny.

Create Happiness Now

Waiting for someone, something, some circumstance to make you happy is common, but it’s also a dead end. If you’re waiting to be happy and don’t do something to change your mind, you will always be waiting to be happy. Start today – take a simple step to create happiness. There is no reason to wait.  It might not happen overnight, it might not happen in a month, but it will happen and you have the power to control it.



Life is Short – Live NOW.

Life is short, and sometimes you come to a crossroads where you have to choose what really matters moving forward and what really doesn’t. I am at just such a crossroads now in my life and when that happens I usually wander back through my journals, blogs, etc… to see if I can get any clarity about the arc of my life. In doing so, I found this post from my previous blog and it struck a cord in me about what actually matters in life, and when it comes to the most important questions, what I might truly value.  This post was written in 2011 and I’ve left it in it’s original form. I hope it inspires you to think, just a little, about what really matters to you today.

I wish I could say that the inspiration for this post is a happy one, but it’s anything but.  I found out today that three colleagues, two of whom were dear friends from graduate school, have passed away recently.  Eli was a completely hilarious, quick witted, sarcastic man who kept everyone around him laughing and would go out of his way to make people happy.  Susan was a beautiful, vibrant woman who was somewhat quiet and always smiley but when she did speak up it was always with something unexpectedly funny that would take everyone by surprise.  She was one of the kindest, warmest people I’ve met. Stacey was in school after I was, but we worked together and I was impressed by her positivity and drive.

These three were all young (30s and 40s), vibrant, and did everything for their health. They had great relationships, children, careers and busy lives. I don’t think any of them would have anticipated leaving the world so early. I can’t begin to fathom that they are gone.

Life is short - Live NOW. Photo by Ian Britton, www.freefoto.com

Life is short – Live NOW. Photo by Ian Britton, www.freefoto.com

As I sit in my house, surrounded by my stuff and reminders of the things that normally weigh heavily on my mind I am struck by the sheer madness of my entire existence.  That I am here and whole and healthy is such a miracle – such a gift.  I feel so ashamed at the amount of time I waste worrying about things that don’t matter. When I look around today, after learning of these three deaths, my worries are so trivial and tiny and neurotic.  I have everything I need, I have wonderful friends, amazing family, a house I love and good food on the table. What does the rest of it matter? Where is there any kind of problem?




I’m also ashamed of the time I waste doing things that don’t truly make a difference in the end.  Sure it’s a good idea to make sure my business keeps running and my house is in good repair. But what about the time I fritter away on the internet or with some kind of escapism like TV or movies or books?  Doesn’t that just amount to watching other people live instead of living myself? Am I willing to spend some of these precious moments that way when I know that life is short? There is nothing like the stark reality of death to make a whole bunch of silliness just fall away.

This also throws light on the social and emotional stuff that can become issues in my head but are utterly meaningless.  Remember, life is short. How many times have I not called a dear friend because I was too busy or had to get one more thing done at work? How many people have I failed to keep in touch with, or not shown my feelings for  – for some ridiculous reason like laziness or shyness or inconvenience.  How many activities and events have I missed because there was something that really needed doing, or work, or I was so tired from work that I couldn’t muster up the energy, or some other equally small excuse.

At moments like this it is so hard not to look at my life and feel like maybe I’ve missed something somewhere. If Susan or Eli or Stacey had just a few more days – would they spend them working? Taking care of responsibilities? Or would they smile with their loved ones, maybe go to a park, pick flowers for their bedside table, eat chocolate or watch the sunset. Or maybe something totally different and fun and wonderful – who knows? The point is – they’d probably make joy and love and laughter a pretty high priority. And shouldn’t we all? I’m not saying we should ignore real life and let everything go – but what if work and money and stuff mattered just a little less and life and people and friends and joy mattered just a little bit more? Your life is short too – what do you choose to do with it today?

life is shortlife is shortBoth of these gorgeous images are from http://www.symphonyoflove.net/ – Thanks!



Be an Urban Wildling: ReWilding YOUR Ecology!

So rarely do I find an idea that just zings with me like rewilding does, but ZING! Wow WOW am I ever excited about this. Let me back up and tell you what exactly I’m going on about before I go on any further…

I’ve been talking with the Urban Moonshine people, mostly because I love their bitters but partly because I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to be upset that I’m talking about them.  In any event, they were kind enough to send me this article, by their Chief Herbalist Guido Mase RH introducing the concept of rewilding our Urban spaces.  Not with big sweeping gestures, like knocking down buildings and tearing up pavement; but with the small gestures that gently nudge environments and ourselves back to health and balance.  The tiny things that will help our pollinators, help our soil health, help our internal health and maybe bring us all a little closer to wonderful.

A wild garden from ourhappyacres.com - rewilding at work.

A wild garden from ourhappyacres.com – rewilding at work.

Selected Rewilding Excerpts from Guido Mase, RH “Re-Wild Our Ecology This Spring”:

It’s always puzzled me that life and vitality even exist. After all, there is a vast amount of decay and destruction all around us. Many speculate that the universe will eventually end up a homogenous, barely warm field of force[i]. Yet somehow there is also this tendency everywhere for more and more complex beings to spring up, interact, and reproduce. These two trends seem to stand in opposition, two basic drives, somewhat of a paradox.




For us humans there is no escape from this basic fact. Some say we are becoming more and more separate from nature[iv], which of course is impossible (we are nature)

If you fail to recognize how important it is to fully interact and engage with the diversity of life, consequences inevitably follow. Less bees[vii], fewer flavonoids, more heart disease. Fewer monarch butterflies[viii], absent bitter compounds, more diabetes. That’s the thing: complexity works at all levels of the ecology, and our current culture has places where things aren’t as connected, aren’t as linked up. We may be fully jacked into the information stream, but our phytochemical stream has very low bandwidth. Maybe the best way to link up is simply to do as life does: increase the chaos, increase the diversity, open up access, re-wild within and without. It seems to me that the spring season is a good time for this. It’s when the ice cracks, and the seed breaks through the soil.

One strategy is to change the ecology, little by little. We can look to the parking lot, the lawn, the edge of the cornfield. Scatter seeds of resilient native plants – wild bee balm, dandelion, red clover. Leave some grass uncut – watch the trefoil, wild carrot, and asters grow. Leave thick buffer zones between your gardens, rich in weeds like St. John’s wort, mugwort, and chicory. These plants will attract pollinators, giving them a much needed source of safe food. They will change the chemical interactions of microbes in the soil[ix], affect patterns of bird nesting and reproduction[x], and speed the dissipation of contaminants[xi]. This will help our cities, gardens and fields link up.

In our bodies, herbal medicine is the best way to achieve similar diversity, and it may be the easiest as well (life, after all, appears to be the path of least resistance). While much of herbalism is devoted to specific constitutions, or well-defined patterns of imbalance, it also has a rich tradition of plants applied tonically, ritually, daily: planting a wild garden inside. The life-enhancing power of tonic herbalism is the exposure to an ever-changing cocktail of phytochemistry, enriching the internal ecology and helping us connect to seasons as they change.

This spring, try a simple version of the classic bitter tonic: gather dandelion leaves and roots and mix them with an aromatic plant like motherwort, mugwort, or mustard, the young leaves still fresh and vital. To these add something with a little hint of salt, like parsley or chickweed. Get your plants locally and, if you can’t find them, plant them. Chop the herbs up well and cover the mix with vodka, or even apple cider vinegar. After a few weeks, strain this mixture and take a little bit every day. Great on the tongue, this tonic wakes up and supports all the internal organs. It encourages vitality because it is vitality: life, diversity, complexity, efficiency. This will help our bodies link up.

Rewilding - The wild garden in the former churchyard of Saint Mary-at-Lambeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Rewilding – The wild garden in the former churchyard of Saint Mary-at-Lambeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

What Does It Mean – To Plant A Wild Garden Inside?

I *love* this imagery. I want to roll around in it and fill myself up with having a wild garden inside. Not a cultivated garden in neat little rows, but a wild, crazy, sprawling garden booming with life. My own internal rewilding. I imaging the idea of having a wild garden inside might be a little bit different for every person, but to me that feels free and alive and rich – like I would be filled to bursting with life and vitality and color. I agree we need a little more chaos and a little less cultivation – not only that we need to embrace the chaos more and to live into the changes rather than trying to avoid or control them.  There needs to be more native seed scattering and less lawn-mowing. I’m not just talking about the health of the earth here, I’m talking about for our own health, our own sanity.  I don’t think it’s normal to cultivate and tend and regiment everything down to well-oiled-machine status.  I think life is supposed to be a whole lot more than that.  It’s time to get out of those boxes and shake things up a bit. The wonderful thing is that rewilding can mean whatever you want it to mean – this can be your codeword for anything you want to make richer and more adventurous in your life. Any way you can nudge your own self back to balance.

Here’s a little list of ways I’m going to ReWild, and ways I’m going to nurture my wild garden:

  • Schedule fewer things so there’s time in the day to stop and smell the roses (or dandelions)
  • Appreciate more the richness and diversity of the “weeds” in my garden and worry less about keeping them out. I’m not just talking about the literal weeds – I’m also talking about the nuisances and hassles and personalities and minor chaos in life.  Sure – it’s there. it’s going to keep being there. That just adds depth and texture.
  • Make wishes and blow the dandelion tops when I see that they’re ready to re-seed, because bees and other pollinators need more dandelions, and I could use a little more child-like joy. I’m considering getting some kids bubble wands for the same reason.
  • Invest in some great native seeds from Native Seed Search and Native American Seed and scatter those in places that need to be made a little more beautiful. I’m also going to start to look at my home and see what there needs some metaphorical wild seed? Are there clothes I got because someone else thought they might look good (but don’t feel like me?) what about things in my home? Does my environment make me feel alive and wonderful or boxed-in and dreary? What about my living space can I rewild?
  • What about my routine is just routine? Where have I become stagnant and started doing the same things, not because they’re vibrant and wonderful but just because.  Am I in a rut with the foods I eat? With books I’m reading? Clothes I’m wearing?
  • Spontaneous road trips! Let’s have more of those. Just jump in the car and pick a direction. Why not?

I feel like rewilding is an idea that needs to pervade everyone’s life – we have become too domesticated and lost our fires and our sparks and our instincts.  Let’s work to rewild – to loosen and let go and shake things up. Life doesn’t need to feel like a cubicle job – it needs to feel alive and like a grand adventure that you look forward to every day.