30 Days of Gratitude (or…At Least A Few Days of Gratitude)

The last two posts were about a day without a negative aspect (complaining and judging) These were very enlightening experiments.  But now it’s time to focus more deeply on the positive side.  Previous posts have included the value of gratitude and appreciation, but lately I’ve become more aware of their incredible power.  And, more importantly, I’ve become more aware that I haven’t been doing them regularly!  Yea sure, I’ve been grateful for lots of stuff and I appreciate tons of things.  But honestly, it’s been kind of a hit or miss activity.  I do it when the mood strikes me or when I’m in pre-crisis mode and need it as an emotional emergency pick-me-up!

Noticing that I (still!) tend to focus a little on the what-is-lacking-in-my-life side, I decided to really get on the gratitude-appreciation bandwagon and see what happens.  There is a definite power in writing things down, like helping with focus and motivation.  And it also comes in handy for accountable reasons.  In other words, the ego can’t trick us by saying we already were thankful today, when we really weren’t (After looking on dated list: ‘Oh yea, that was yesterday…’).  So, I’ve got a piece of paper (a journal just sounds too formal and off-putting for now) and I’m writing down about 5 to 10 things every day that I am grateful for.  That’s it.  My aim is to do this for 30 days, but again, that sounds too formal.  I’m going to try it out for a few days (thus, the alternate title) and see how it goes.

Benefits of Gratitude and Appreciation

During the experiment I did some research about its possible benefits.  Studies have actually been done that show the beneficial effects of gratitude and appreciation.  People who consistently practice gratitude report feeling better physically, are less depressed, sleep better, are more understanding of others’ wrongdoings, have more self-worth, mental focus, and resilience.  Gratitude also helps us to stay in the present.  In other words, we spend less time worrying about future events.  When we are more focused on finding the good, we naturally spend less time in the negativity mindset.

Additionally, there is the law of attraction angle on gratitude and appreciate – what we focus on, we get more of.  To get more good stuff, appreciate what we already have.  Simple enough.

The Experiment

Back to the experiment!  After a couple of days, one of my first thoughts upon waking was that I couldn’t wait to write on my gratitude list.  That’s especially significant because, some mornings, I wake up dreading my day.  Having an initial feeling of excitement and joy is a major turn-around!

Shortly thereafter, I didn’t want to wait till the next day to write on it.  So, I wrote on it twice a day, then three times a day.  But under no pressure, only if I felt the urge.  I only “had” to write on it once a day.

Some neat things started to happen.  Nothing noticeable to an outsider, but small things that mattered a lot to me, like, less time with an irritating co-worker, getting well-priced deals, finding $1 and $10 on the ground, a small pay raise, life-changing insights, meaningful dreams, an overall more joyful feeling.

Another neat thing was that I had a dream about something to be grateful for that I hadn’t thought of in waking life.  This showed my waking self that the feeling and energy of gratitude was now in my subconscious, as well.  So even when I’m not actively thinking about gratitude, I’m thinking about gratitude.  This must be a good indicator!

Then, after several days of writing down heaps of material possessions, as well as, relationships and nature-type things –and even though it was certainly nowhere near all-encompassing– a shift in subject matter began to happen.  I shifted from obvious things for which to be grateful, to the people that had a part in assembling those things I was grateful for!  The factory workers that made my appliances, my car, my clothes, my electronic devices…pretty much every material thing I owned, somebody had a part in creating it.  Without their contribution, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy so many of my belongings.

Then there’s the people that came up with the ideas to invent something new or improved and those that started a business.  And gratitude for their courage to follow through with the ideas.  Then it extended to people that were providing a service, like the cleaning guy at work, trash collectors that come to my house every week, the postal carrier that nicely places oversized packages on my porch (extra appreciation since Amazon Prime!).  And then to authors, which I love and have been so inspired by, that had the strength and took the time to write, organize, and complete their books.  And then and then and then…so many people working for me, helping me.  Most of whom I do not even know.

I was recognizing that the Universe was supporting me, not hurting me or trying to make my life miserable.  This is a major shift in perception.

Amidst the gratitude, the ego chimed in and said, ‘That’s their jobs.  They aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.  They’re getting paid for it’.  Kaboom – my bubble burst.  But I quickly realized, their motives not need affect my gratitude.  And then got back to the experiment.

I started recognizing good things about myself, my appearance, things I was good at, and my strengths.  Then I noticed things I did not necessarily like about myself but was grateful for anyhow.  For instance, I was grateful for my fear of sending a professional email to a stranger regarding an article submission (that I so badly wanted to work out).  I was grateful for my fear because it provided me with an opportunity to feel worthy and courageous by facing a fear.

With this in mind, I then intentionally thought of situations that weren’t so great and then appreciated them, as well.  (I have done this practice before but, again, in a haphazard fashion.)  For instance, I was grateful for a “bad” event because it was an opportunity for personal growth and to learn from mistakes and flaws.  I was even grateful that someone had wronged me because it helped me get better at honoring myself.  Could being grateful be helpful in increasing self-worth?  I don’t fully understand the why of this, but the answer seems to be, yes!

I then had a glimpse of knowing that current things that weren’t so great would be okay eventually.  So I was able to have gratitude for “bad” times before they got better.  This led to gratitude for things that I currently desired but did not yet have.  I was appreciating them ahead of time.  That’s some trust and faith right there!

And after that, I experienced nirvana!  (Yes, let’s be overly dramatic about this!)  It was just a fleeting moment, but for that jiffy, I truly did not care about my desires.  I honestly was happy, satisfied, and content in the moment right then and there as things currently were.  No guilt about my past, no worry about the future, not wanting anything different than how it was in that exact instant.

And then my heavenly state was gone.  But, I could tell what was happening over the course of this experiment – my gratitude was becoming unconditional.  In that, there is total freedom because I don’t need conditions to be a certain way to be grateful for them or…to be happy.  What I have figured out from this gratitude experiment is that gratitude helps us to focus our thoughts, our attention, our lives on finding the good – unconditionally, no matter what.  As the Dalai Lama says in The Art of Happiness, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.  The power is within ourselves whether to be grateful and happy, or not.  This experiment surely is proof of that.

Disclaimer!!  I don’t want to give a false impression that I am now impeccably blissful and every time a challenge comes up I am grateful for it from the get-go.  I still have my daily issues and concerns.  But, there has been an undeniable shift.  Something is certainly different than before I did the gratitude experiment.  And that’s why I’m going to extend the experiment.  If a mere 30 days had this effect, then what will continuing on do?  I intend to find out!

Don’t take my word for all of this.  Start your own Gratitude List Experiment today and see what happens for you.  No need to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by needing to list the unconditional things.  Just start out with a few material objects you appreciate having in your life.  Your list will expand naturally on its own.  Happy Gratituding!

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Changing Old, Cranky Habits

When we start focusing on feeling more joyful, we soon become aware of some of our habits that are getting in the way of our joy.  These habits can be actual behaviors or merely thought patterns.  But trying to change an unwanted habit can be a daunting task.  It used to make me very grumpy, to say the least, to try to stop doing that old habit!  And that’s even when we are intentionally attempting to break the habit.  But sometimes, we don’t even realize we are doing the old habit.  It’s almost as if our brains are on autopilot.  Lo and behold, that actually is the case!

In fact, scientific research has discovered neural pathways in our brains.  These are like highways in which messages travel.  A simple example of a pathway forming is if we feel stressed (or worried, threatened, anxious, etc.) and then drink alcohol or go shopping or rant to a friend or binge eat or do whatever that makes us feel better, then cells become wired together that tell the brain the next time we feel this stress, take this same road to feel better.  The more the messages travel on the highway, the better formed the highway becomes.  Hence, pathways -habits- become difficult to alter and responses become automated.

But, fortunately, with our conscious awareness, these roads can be changed.  Neuroplasticity is a fancy term meaning the brain can form new pathways throughout our lives.  Research has shown that new neural pathways are formed through new behaviors, and even by imagining behaviors.  What matters is the repetition of the behavior, actual or imagined.  We all have experienced that the more often we do something, the easier it gets. This is the highway becoming better formed.

Think of it as a trail through the woods.  The first time through, it needs careful, slow footing and an axe to get through the heavy bush.  But once the trail is blazed then it becomes a path to easily walk on.  But what happens to the old pathways that are no longer traveled?  Just like the trail in the forest would become overgrown if not walked upon, the pathway will naturally fade out if not used.  But, how to not use these well-treaded paths?!

False Brain Messages

In the book, You Are Not Your Brain by Schwartz and Gladding, they suggest that we train our brains to perceive habits – good or bad ones – as vital to our survival.  Deceptive brain messages, as they call them, convince us we must do this certain behavior to stay alive.  Essentially, the brain’s job is to ensure our physical survival.  When we feel a negative emotion, the brain sees it as an alarm it must take care of immediately.  So, whatever seems beneficial and makes us feel better in the very short term is the route the brain will take.  The brain, on its own, will not bypass immediate relief by considering long term goals and desires.  The brain isn’t concerned with our future well-being, it just cares about preventing our imminent death.  Our brains are not actually smart; it’s our minds that have all the wisdom.

Clearly seeing the brain’s function for what it is, it becomes easier to break free of old habits.  When we notice we are engaging in an old habit, ask ourselves, what benefit does my brain think I am getting from this habit?  Then use our mind to tell ourselves this is a deceptive brain message and that the brain thinks this habit will help us to survive.  This is where it is essential to remind ourselves that the false brain message is not true and then to go over why it isn’t true.  (Hint: it probably has to do with feeling unworthy.) Schwartz and Gladding say to then refocus by doing a different behavior or think a different thought.

An Example of Breaking a Habit

One of my negative habits is to check and re-check my work at my “day job”.  And after I check it twice, to then check it again…and maybe again!  The deceptive brain message from which this habit stems is about not being capable of doing my work correctly (which originated in childhood, but we don’t need to get into all that now).  This message – even though not true – triggers the uncomfortable sensations of anxiety and worry.  To immediately alleviate those sensations, I have trained myself (unconsciously) to check, ad nauseam, to make sure my work is correct.  This gives me immediate relief from worry and anxiety, which is all the brain is concerned with – get those bad feelings to go away ASAP!  Benefit achieved.  But the problem with that is that the false brain message just keeps coming back and, what’s more, it gets worse (the trail get more and more blazed as it is used).

This is where the conscious mind must come in and say something along the lines of, ‘Whoa!  This is not helping me in the long run.  Yea, checking my work makes me feel better in that moment and may even prevent a panic attack, but I now know that I will feel more anxiety about this later.  I now know this message of incapability is false.  I learned it in childhood and have perpetuated it into my adult life.  I know this message is not true now because I have successfully been doing these work tasks for years.’  And so on, until I have convinced myself the brain message is not true.

Next step is to refocus on a completely different activity or thought. I keep a few refocus activities stashed in my mental pocket, so they are available to me without having to struggle to come up with something when I am deep in false brain message mode. Some of mine are going for a walk, learning Italian words, looking at nature, appreciating a beautiful object, Googling a place I’d like to travel, crafting.  The refocusing activities should be positive things or, at least, not detrimental.  We don’t want to replace a bad habit with a new, but still not helpful one.

What old, negative habit do you want to let go of?  What false brain message is associated with it?  Why is the message not true?

Research shows that it takes a few weeks of persistence, practice, and focused repetition to make a new neural pathway.  Remember you are not just breaking a bad habit, but squashing false brain messages.  So give it a try and hang in there!

Manifest Our Desires (aka, Get Things We Want)

Of course we can be joyful without any material object or relationship.  The ultimate goal is to be happy regardless of any external thing.  But…we want things!  And that is perfectly normal and natural.  We are in this world of physicality.  Let’s embrace and enjoy material things, always mindful that we don’t need them to be happy.  But that it is more than okay to have fun with and enjoy things.

So how do we get things we want?  A lot of hard work and physical effort?  Wrong!  But it seems that is what most people believe.  From the Puritan Work Ethic, conservative religion, governments, etc. trying to control the masses, whatever the origin, this is what has been ingrained in most people’s minds in our society.  But it simply is not true.

The work hard motto has definitely been ingrained in my mind.  But by playing around with, testing out and doing some experiments for fun, I’ve seen, first-hand, what can be manifested by not putting in that 110% physical effort.  At least not in the typical way.  It all has to do with focusing our thoughts.  Manifesting physical things all begins with what we think and how we feel emotionally.

The way we feel is the indicator of what we are thinking and what vibration we are.  Feeling good means we are thinking good thoughts (joy, happiness, appreciation, fun, enthusiasm, love) and indicates we are at a high vibration.  Feeling bad means we’ve mostly had negative thoughts going on (worry, sad, angry, jealous, bored, guilt, confused, fear) and means we are at a low vibration.

Whoa.  What the heck is vibration?  This is where the science comes in.  Yep, that’s right…science.

I’m definitely not a scientist nor completely understand science.  (And please pardon me if I have some slight errors in explaining the science.)  But I think it is worth it to take some time to ponder the quantum world.  Not just for the sake of expanding our minds, but to fully realize that we shape our reality whether we are aware of it or not.

Science proves the existence of vibration.  Quantum physics has shown that everything is made up of energy.  And all energy is moving, or, in other words, vibrating.  Everything is made up of millions of subatomic particles that are vibrating.  Everything vibrates at different rates or frequencies.  Including us.  (Also including our thoughts. But, we’ll get to that in a minute.) Envision everything as masses of vibrating energy, rather than as what we can see and touch.  This is not just theory but proven scientific discoveries by esteemed scientists like, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Max Planck (names to google, if you desire).

Einstein’s famous equation, which most of us have at least heard of, from the 1920s, E=MC2, states that matter (physical objects) and energy can be converted into each other and thus are essentially the same!  Energy – something we cannot see – and matter – that which we can see – are the same things in different forms.  He theorized, through mathematical equations, that everything is made of atoms and that all atoms consist of sub-atomic particles which consist of pure energy at their most basic level.  Even things that appear to be very different.  At their basic level, everything is made up of this same energy.

It was just Einstein’s theory; for there was no way to prove it at the time.  But it has now been proven over and over again by highly regarded scientists.  In other words, it is not just some out of the blue, airy-fairy idea.  (Although this is where I do not fully understand the science behind it and cannot seem to wrap my head around these experiments!  This is where I trust the scientists and move beyond to where this fact can actually benefit my life.)

Then came the Copenhagen Interpretation by Niels Bohr, also from the 1920s.  This says that a particle doesn’t exist in one state or another (energy or physical) but in all possible states simultaneously.  It’s not until we observe it that it chooses its state.  Quantum physics has proven that the same atom can be a solid physical particle or a non-physical wave of energy depending on what the observer is expecting.

So what this means in practical terms is that our thoughts create physical things!  Everything that was created was a thought first.  Again, this is not a self-help or new age-y idea.  This is scientifically proven and accepted as fact in the professional scientific community for almost one hundred years.

The idea of Quantum Entanglement began in the 1930s in a paper by scientists Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen, which was later proven in multiple experiments.  In these experiments (which continue through the modern day), subatomic particles of energy were split in half.  It was found that each half affected the other half regardless of how physically far apart they were and the effect was received instantly.  It did not matter if the halves were close to each other or across the globe.  Regardless of physical distance, interacting with one half always had a simultaneous effect on the other half.  Because the effect was instantaneous – did not take time to travel through space – this means each half is still connected with the other.  If the Big Bang theory is correct (note that Einstein’s theories, and many other esteemed scientists of the time, could not be proven at the time until technology advanced to provide ways to test the theories), then everything in the world was “entangled” at the start, so that means everything has an effect on everything else.

Our Thoughts are Energy

How do we know our thoughts are made of this same energy?  It seems like thoughts could be an exception (says the ego).  But consider this: Our brains generate an electrical field which these days can be measured by ordinary medical equipment, such as, electroencephalogram (EEG).  An EEG works by measuring the fluctuations in voltage within the brain.  Voltage is defined on dictionary.com as electromotive force.  In other words, energy!  So that is confirmed – our thoughts are energy.  The same energy that Einstein stated made up everything.

So that then means the same principles that are proven for quantum physics (above) also apply to our thoughts:  Matter and energy can be converted into each other; All possibilities exist simultaneously and our observation or expectation determines state; Everything has an effect on everything else regardless of distance.

These “strange” phenomena happen not only in lab experiments with particles, but in our everyday lives!

The difference between our thoughts and particles is that we have free will over our thoughts.  We can think whatever we choose.  (See previous post.) We can direct and focus our thoughts and thus affect our environment and everything in it.  In other words, we can get things we want by thinking about them.

If the case is still not made that our thoughts create reality (my ego is very stubborn!), perhaps some more science will settle it.  Experiments starting in the 1970s at Princeton University showed that thoughts affected a random event generator (REG).  A random event generator is a device that produces completely random and unpredictable series of numbers.  When a person intentionally tried to direct the numbers, the sequences shifted and were significantly proven to not be by chance.  They also did experiments in various field settings (outside the lab) with activities comprised of large groups of people.  They found that the output generated by the REGs shifted based on events such as touchdowns in football games and peak moments in performances.  Thus, unintentional, as well as intentional, thoughts both affected the REGs.  This is a really neat experiment that shows the effect of our thoughts.

In Hidden Messages in Water, scientist Masaru Emoto wrote about the effects of words and thoughts on water.  When water is frozen, crystals form.  He found again and again that positive thoughts and words made the ice form beautiful crystals; negative ones made deformed crystals or no crystals at all.  (Check out the Water Crystal Photo Gallery for some fascinating pictures: masaru-emoto.net/english/water-crystal.html).  Not only does this support our case about our thoughts affecting our reality, but it also shows that thoughts affect our bodies because our bodies are 70% water!

Try some experiments for yourself to really seal the deal to your doubting ego.  I love the book, E-squared, by Pam Grout.  She’s got nine DIY energy/thought experiments that are not only convincing but fun!

How fascinating are quantum physics and these experiments!  In a nutshell, science says that our thoughts create material things and everything is possible.  The quantum physicist Niels Bohr said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”  Even the genius Einstein deemed quantum entanglement theory as “spooky”.

Please share your ideas and comments about quantum science and creating your reality.  Or even better, examples of what you intentionally created with your thoughts!  Next post, we’ll talk specifically about our thoughts in terms of visualization and imagery.

Law of Attraction and Joy

I haven’t written much in the Keys to Joy blog about the Law of Attraction.  Possibly because it may rub some people the wrong way.  But I’m okay with that now; to each their own.  Also, because it was quite pervasive for awhile.  It seemed like everywhere you turned, the buzz phrase, “Law of Attraction”, was written or said.  I think it got “old” fast and not fully understood.  Regardless, Law of Attraction is a very important part of my life and belief system.  Although it is only recently that I fully realized the high level of its importance.

Firstly, the definition of Law of Attraction is “like attracts like”.  We attract things into our lives with our thoughts and feelings, whatever is a match comes to us.  This is an oversimplified definition as there are many factors to consider such as, ego (limited perspective), intentions, past lives, everything is energy, the overall (rather than specific) vibration (energy) of things, etc.  Please read anything by Esther and Jerry Hicks (Abraham) for very in-depth information.  But this definition will suffice for what I’d like to get across in this post.

I was in a slump.  Thing after thing was bad and getting worse.  It started with being slightly annoyed with someone.  Rather than work through this by figuring out what it was reflecting in myself or focusing on something else, I let it bring me down emotionally.  My annoyance turned to anger.  From there, I fumed and fumed.  Thoughts about all things I didn’t like in my life seemed to percolate in my mind. Then I felt hopeless and full of despair.  Then the “real” evidence began to appear.  I got swamped with work I did not like, co-workers were not respecting me, my body had new aches and pains.  Fortunately, I had been doing inner work long enough to stop and ask what was going on with me, rather than simply blaming others and circumstances.  I used the affirmation – Only good will come from this.  And then asked, what was the good?

That’s when I realized the good was seeing how the Law of Attraction works in a real life example.  It also helped me to fully understand that the crap I was experiencing wasn’t because I was bad or unworthy of good.  It’s simply the Law of Attraction.  Abraham (Esther Hicks) says Law of Attraction is a very fair friend.  It always gives you exactly what you are a vibrational match to.  This can be a harsh point to face when our lives aren’t as we want them to be. But, Law of Attraction is responding to our feelings and energy, not what we say we want.

If we say we want a million dollars but most of the time we complain about not having enough money or wonder how we are going to pay a bill or be bitter or jealous towards those with a lot of money, the Law of Attraction is “hearing” our overall feeling of complaining, jealousy and distrust.  Those feelings are not a match to abundance.  We may be saying or even thinking we want a million dollars but then we feel otherwise.  And those feelings are much stronger than our words.  Consider this, we may be saying one thing, but deep down we are actually feeling the opposite.  And remember Law of Attraction is responding to what underlies our words, not the words themselves.

Fortunately, we have the ability to focus our attention.  It is absolutely, 100% our decision what we focus our thoughts on (it may seem difficult, especially in certain situations, but it is just one of those things where practice is key).  The Universe “hears” whatever we are focused on.  Even if we say we do not want something.  In our negation, we are focused on it and so it comes to us.  Just like an internet search – suppose you type in, “not polar bears”.  What that search will yield is tons of information about polar bears.  It’s not going to bring up everything not about polar bears.  And so it is with your thoughts and the universe. If you’re saying not polar bears, you actually are thinking about polar bears even though you don’t want them in your life, and polar bears is what you will get.

But how do we not think about what we don’t want?  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make ourselves full-on stop thinking about something we are already thinking.  But by giving more attention to what we do want, we naturally flood out those unwanted thoughts.

We can also commit to paying more attention to what we are thinking. When we become more aware of our thoughts rather than just letting them fly haphazardly, we have the control to divert their direction.  To get started, put a reminder note – What am I thinking? – somewhere that you see often, or ask a friend to remind you every day, or ask the question during a routine activity so you link it to that daily activity, like showering, brushing your teeth, or eating dinner.

We can designate a specific time of day or activity where we focus on something specific we want.  First thing when we open our eyes, at noon, driving to work, waiting in line, during (muted) tv commercials are all opportunistic times to deliberately focus our minds on what we desire.

It has also been shown that those who practice meditation have an easier time focusing their thoughts.  Research has shown that the more we practice thinking a certain way, our neural pathways actually change.  So meditating will actually help us later to focus on what we want.  A couple of deep breaths with our attention on the breath is a type of meditation.  So no ego-excuses about not being able nor having time to meditate!

Remember to keep it fun! Or at least not a chore.  If focusing on what we want becomes chore-like, then our root feeling is negative which then cancels the entire focused thought process.

What fun, creative ways have you discovered that help you to keep focused on what you want?

Next post we’ll talk more about manifesting specific desires and the science behind it!

Psychology of Joy

I recently stumbled across some psychology terms that made a lot of sense for Keys to Joy.   These are concepts that I have learned through my own trial, error and personal experimentation. I love that the realizations that I pieced together on my own, from my own life, have been scientifically studied and “proven”.  It is nice to have that objective confirmation.  It also motivates me to keep on chugging!

These concepts are in relation to a field of psychology called positive psychology in which Dr. Martin Seligman is a pioneer.  He studied the concepts of Permanence, Pervasiveness, and Personalization in terms of Learned Optimism (which is also the title of his book).  Pessimists and optimists differ in the way they handle these 3 P’s.

If you are interested, check out his work in depth.  But in a nutshell and in my words, I’ve summarized the 3 P’s as such.  When faced with a challenge or unwanted circumstance, to be optimistic -or joyful- we must tell ourselves the following:

Permanence:  This is not permanent.  In other words, this too shall pass.

Pervasiveness:  This need not affect all areas of our lives.  Just because this one thing is not going as we want it, we are still happy in other areas of our lives.

Personalization:  This is not because we are unworthy or bad.

Awareness of these 3 P’s have saved me many times from falling into a terrible funk.  In retrospect, and possibly more importantly, I now clearly see that the times I did fall into funks were usually a result of believing it was an everlasting situation; letting it infringe upon the other areas of my life that had no relevance to that particular situation; and believing that my unworthiness, being not good enough, somehow was responsible for its occurrence. The 3 P’s definitely led me to the Pits!

An example of Permanence was, well, pretty much every time I got down I never could see the end of the tunnel.  My ego always had me thinking the bad stuff was forever.

An example of Pervasiveness was a time when I had a series of crappy work situations.  I completely lost perspective and I actually remember thinking these exact words:  ‘I can’t enjoy fall this year.’  My work life was so bad (or so I imagined), that I thought I did not have the right to find joy at all.  Even in nature and the weather!

Looking back, I can see how this doesn’t even make sense.  However, when I add the Personalization part, I can understand how this idea came to be.  When I believed the bad work situation was a result of my lack of worth or incompetence, then of course, how could I allow myself to find any joy when I believed I lacked value as a person.

The 3 P’s really work together and feed off of each other.  So, how do we keep the feeding frenzy in check?

First, realize this is the ego at work.  Permanence: The ego is not aware that everything changes and nothing is permanent.  The ego does not know about the soul and how Life goes on.  Pervasiveness: The little ego cannot get perspective to see that one thing does not affect everything. It can only see from its limited view.  Personalization:  The ego thinks everything is about ourselves and how great, or not great, we did.

The next step is pretty simple.  When faced with a negative or challenging situation, remind ourselves the crap isn’t forever.  Even if the situation does not change, the bad feeling will.  We can still enjoy other things in life amidst the unwanted circumstance.  And most importantly, remind ourselves that we are worthy and have value no matter what situation or circumstance confronts us (increasing self-worth posts).

Have the 3 P’s worked against you?  Realizing how can help you to not do it when the next challenge or negative circumstance arises.

Learning from Joy and Fun

A lot of the focus of this blog, in a nutshell, is on getting out of the bad (e.g., unworthiness) and into the good (e.g., worthiness).  Very important stuff, indeed.  It also is about learning and growing from negative or challenging situations.  Also important.  But, it recently dawned on me that we can – and should – learn and grow from joyful and fun situations, as well.

Upon reflection, I realize that I learn and grow from challenges out of a sense of desperation and much needed relief.  I reframe the “bad” event or situation to what I learned or what good came of it to get something out of it rather than just feeling bad because of it.  (Check out this previous post.)  So its’ occurrence wasn’t just in vain.  This is absolutely necessary to be joyful and I will continue doing this.  But, this is also the reason why I haven’t been learning and growing from good, happy, fun events and circumstances – there was no need.  I was happy so that was the end of that story.  I had fun, the end.

But I wonder, why not milk the good times for all they are worth?  Not only reminiscing and reliving those good feelings but making a deliberate point to see how they helped me.  If you believe in the law of attraction (and I do), then it would follow that putting more time and focus on the good, fun events and times will create more of them.

So, how do we learn and grow from fun and joy?  I have to admit, when I first had this idea, I had no clue!  I asked for divine guidance and intuitively received some answers.

First the basics – we must sincerely appreciate the joyful, fun event or situation.  Acknowledge it. Feel the goodness and revel in that good feeling.

Next, to the “work”.  We look at how we got to this fun, happy situation.  How were we acting, thinking, and feeling beforehand?  Did we deliberately bring about this fun, happy situation (perhaps from our Joy To-Do List)?  Or did it seem to come about on its own?

After that, then ask, what specifically about the fun, joyful time did we like?  Was it the people involved?  The topic?  Our own behavior?

Because self-worth is such a major subject for me, I then ask, how did self-worth play a role?

Answering these questions will help us to find not only valuable insights and lessons, but also tools we can use to bring about more enjoyable times and events.  The insights, lessons and tools are there.  It’s up to us if we choose to see them.

An example of mine comes from watching an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  First, I acknowledged and appreciated my laughter and the fun I was having.  Then I saw that I got to this fun place by honoring myself.  I had deliberately taken a few minutes from my busy day to do something enjoyable and special for myself.  What I specifically liked about this fun time was not just the comedy, but the fact that they were talking about how people should lighten up and laugh at themselves and their situations, even “bad” situations.  I learned from this that I have ideas and beliefs in common with other people.  I’m not the oddball I sometimes feel that I am.  Self-worth played a role because I felt worthy enough to honor my desire to do something purely for the benefit of feeling good.  If I hadn’t felt worthy, I wouldn’t have taken a break from what I “should” have been doing and then wouldn’t have laughed.  This reminds me that we could go all our lives and not laugh or enjoy ourselves if we do what we “should” and don’t deliberately take time to do what gives us pleasure. That’s quite a lot of valuable insights from an 18 minute laugh session.

What fun thing are you going to learn and grow from today?  🙂

Joy in Serving Others

Not only is having a connection to people a key to joy but helping others is another key.  Whether it is formal volunteering or simply doing something for those in your regular, daily life – strangers, acquaintances, friends or family – does not matter.  Even merely thinking kind, loving thoughts towards others counts.

Research shows that those who volunteer or simply help others report higher levels of happiness, better physical health and more self-confidence.  Neuroscientists, James Rilling and Gregory Berns of Emory University found that the part of the brain that activates in response to rewards and pleasure also lit up when participants helped others.  Research has also found that oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphin – which are brain chemicals responsible for a lot of good stuff – levels rise when people help others.  Many more studies are showing the benefits – mental, emotional and physical – of helping others.

Deepak Chopra says, “Helping other people is an expression of the fullness we feel inside.” “Giving is really just a flow of your loving self to others.”  So, after we have a foundation of self-worth and love for ourselves, serving or helping others just naturally flows.

What I discovered about serving others was that it took my focus off of my problems.  In serving others, it turns our focus off our ego worries and fears.  When we help or think of others, ego is instantly turned off.  And we know what happens when our egos are not in charge…relief, joy, all good things!  Then, our true selves can effortlessly shine through.

In an indirect way, working on our own growth is another way of serving others.  When we don’t give up when challenges arise or we find the good in a bad situation.  This provides an example which may inspire others when they feel down or like giving up.  When we live our truth and not hide it, it is a way to teach and serve others. I know I have had countless examples of being inspired by others’ personal work which helped me, beyond measure, to keep going forward.

I also experienced that what you sow you reap.  In making others happy, I became happy.  I like how Dr. Wayne Dyer expressed this concept: “When you serve others, the Universe says, How can I serve you?”

Just as I made a Joy To-Do list, I made a Serve Others list.  This is a deliberate way to remind ourselves to do this.  It’s a good reminder to quit thinking so much of ourselves and our problems.  Who is on your Serve Others list today?