Thursday, March 26, 2020

The happiness prescription for troubled times.

If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, or if you have met me, you know that it is my fervent desire to always be focused on happiness. My happiness to be sure, but also to use my platform as a way of spreading happiness, joy and …love… and all that airy fairy stuff.

Well guys, here we are in the middle of something that we couldn’t have predicted a year ago. We are social distancing; all but essential businesses are shut down; we are cloistered in our homes; we may be running out of toilet paper; and hand sanitizer hoarders are now a real thing. Those of you who have been preparing for the zombie apocalypse are probably doing the “told ya so dance” right now.

For someone like me who’s always talking about happiness, how do I even deal with this level of crazy that we are finding ourselves a part of right now? I deal carefully, thoughtfully and deliberately. What I know for sure is that we can maintain our happiness in this troubled time. I’m not talking about putting a happy face sticker on a terrible situation. What I mean is reaching for inner peace instead of panic. I’m not suggesting we spend our days LOLing at those hilarious quarantine memes and gifs, even though they are super funny. What I am suggesting is being able to reach for inner joy in times of crisis and being unshakable in our determination to think the best thoughts we can in each moment no matter what each moment brings.

That sounds difficult. How does one even go about doing that?

Please know that I’m not in any way simplifying the reality of this and for those adversely affected I want you to know that my heart goes out to you in this time. What I have found is that in times of good and plenty and in times of adversity, sticking close to these 5 steps for happiness has been sustaining and life giving for me. I am writing this in the hope that it may bring someone some peace in this time.

1)      What do you believe?
It took me a long time, many years in fact to come to this way of thinking. I grew up in a very traditional sort of family and so I was never taught that we create our own existence. Sure I learned that if you put your mind to it you will succeed and that hard work results in success, but at no time was I taught that thoughts become things. That what we focus on is what manifests. It took me seeing that first hand and even playing with the manifestation process to actually realize that what we are putting out there energetically is what we get back.

I’d tried all the other ways of being that I was taught and I wasn’t seeing the results and so I decided, ok, this screwy idea sounds…well… screwy but I might as well try being happy and focusing on inner peace and watching to see what happens. I had in the past just had emotions based on what was showing up in my life. If things were great and the sun was shining, then I’d have a big smile and if things were going to the dogs, then my mood would be too. This ground breaking idea of not letting the circumstances of your life be the reason you feel the way you feel just seemed crazy to me, but reading book after book by guru after guru saying the same thing encouraged me to at least give it a 30 day money back trial. That was many 30 days ago. And TBH there have been ups and downs on this journey. Every day is a new day with this and that leads me to step 2.

2)      Practice
What I can absolutely say is that I’m still a work in progress every single day. Like I said, I didn’t learn this way of being growing up. What I learned and what was modeled to me was: There are some things that are just beyond your control. What I know now is I always have control over my emotions and how I choose to feel in any given situation. That doesn’t mean that unpleasant things don’t happen at all or that I look at the world through rose colored glasses. It means that because I am practicing every day to maintain my inner peace, on the days when I need it most I’ll be better able to weather the storm.

It’s just like anything else. I remember the Christmas when my baby (now 5 years old and in kindergarten) was learning how to creep. That little sweetie made me laugh so hard! He could only creep backwards. He was determined though, if he wanted to go get something, he would calculate its location in his little baby brain and then back his way towards it. I’m pretty sure that in 11 years when he goes for his driving test he will ace reversing! Anyway, he kept trying to go forward, and one day he got a little green talking dog stuffed toy named SCOUT. Scout had been programmed to say his name, it had flashing lights, and it could sing songs for him that included his name and all kinds of features that are catnip to babies. When he saw Scout for the first time, his desire to creep forward had never been greater, he had tried and tried, he had practiced, sometimes getting a few inches forward before moving backward again, but this time all his practice paid off: he moved forward all the way across the room, grabbed Scout (who promptly went into his mouth,) and he hasn’t looked back since.

I’m constantly sharing stories of my crazy kids and their shenanigans but I share this to say that reaching for inner peace during a crisis may not come easily, but we have this overwhelming desire to feel better when things are at their worst and so it’s probably the perfect time to practice. But how? You can practice emotions. True story! Let’s try this: close your eyes and think about something for which you are truly grateful. It could be hugs from your kids, amazing support staff or a lovely life partner. Whatever it is that is meaningful for you, close your eyes and focus in on the gratitude you feel. The object of your desire may not have been in the room with you while you visualized your gratitude, but that did not stop the warm feelings from flowing into you did it? We can do this with almost anything, it just takes knowing how, focus and practicing.

3)      Morning and daily routine
I’m going to share with you what worked for me; What helped me to build my happiness muscle.  And I’ll say again, we are all a work in progress, especially me, but I’m better today than I have ever been. This was recommended by one of my most trusted mentors and I have to say this may have been the game changer, no, life changer for me.

a)      Morning Routine
There is a little space in the morning when I wake up, when I know I’m awake but before I start planning my day and going off on all my tangents. I try my best to get control of my thoughts in this space and consciously project thoughts of appreciation and gratitude. Appreciation for another day, for health, for my family, for my internal plumbing working the way it should as I rush off to the bathroom. Once I’m squared away, I try to introduce some movement / exercise. Usually yoga works well for me at this time and then I spend a few minutes meditating. I do a spot of journaling and then I listen to something inspirational to help set the tone for my day. This means for me that I have to get up a bit earlier so as not to be disturbed by my little ones but the time is worth it, and I notice that on the days that I miss incorporating this routine, that navigating challenges is a little harder. I also avoid all media, social and otherwise during this time. The emails will still be there when I’m done!

b)      Daily Routine
One of my mentors is a coach and teacher of universal law. She introduced me to deciding how I want to feel before I move into each different portion of my day. For example walking into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for my kids before getting them on the bus, I want to feel efficient and in flow; As I drive to work I want to feel safe and secure; As I treat patients I want to feel in flow and knowledgeable; when I return home to my family I want to feel love and joy …and patient; going to bed I want to feel relaxed and in gratitude. You can break this down into even smaller chunks of time, but what this ensures is that you are at all times paying attention to how you feel.

c)       Don’t beat yourself up
There are days when my morning “glow, “lasts longer than others. On some days I’m rushing so much that I’m not paying attention to how I want to feel and wander into uncomfortable emotional territory. On some days, things just overwhelm me. That’s ok. Let us please not beat ourselves up for not being happy enough! Every day we have an opportunity to continue our practice and every day our happiness muscle builds and gets stronger, helping us handle the toughest situations with ease calm, peace and grace.

4)      Taking care of you
We’ve all heard that you can’t pour from an empty cup and that you should put your mask on first before helping others. These are not just platitudes. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to reach for happiness, it may elude us because of something physiological. Have you ever noticed that when you feel healthier, well rested, well hydrated, when you are fed, you have exercised and when you have avoided negative people places and things, that you just feel amazing, like you could conquer the world?

Let me just put on my physician and recovering researcher hat here for a minute to let you know that yes there is a change in your brain and body chemistry in response to all these things. I won’t bore you with the details, at least not in this article. Just look it up on PubMed though, I kid you not, these things affect how you feel, not just physically but also emotionally. So let’s make sure we are doing all we can to maintain our health in this time. Let’s lay off the quarantine snacks for a minute guys!

Now is the time to infuse our diets with healthy plant based foods, (great news, so far the produce aisles continue to be STOCKED, there is a run on TP but not on fresh veggies!) Let’s not skip meals even though we aren’t on our regular schedule. Let’s supplement our health with key nutrients. In times like these a quality multivitamin, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, a quality antioxidant, omega 3’s and probiotics, to name a few, can go a long way. Make sure we are getting quality sleep. With our schedules upended, we may be tempted to stay up late nights bingeing streaming TV, or reading or whatever. That is fine, just make sure you are getting enough quality uninterrupted sleep. In the colder months we can be tempted to let our hydration fall by the wayside. Don’t forget however, that we are about 70% water and we can’t run many of our repair reactions nor can we eliminate waste successfully without water. So drink up during this time. Try to get about ½ oz per pound of body weight - that is on average about 64 oz per day.

We might find that we have more time in our schedule for moving our bodies, so let’s do it. Exercise releases endorphins as well as dopamine and serotonin in some cases. These are all chemicals produced by our bodies that can help us feel better naturally. Doing some yoga, going for a walk in nature, joining a virtual group exercise class, going for a run or even lifting weights in the basement all count towards helping us feel better. And as for keeping the negative influences in life to the barest minimum, well, that’s just good sense. All that being said, if you suffer from not just situational depression, but clinical depression, incorporating these ideas as well as working with a professional counselor can be tremendously beneficial.

5)      Community
I’m a firm believer that we don’t have to go it alone and that everything is easier with a collective of likeminded supportive individuals. On our journey to improving our lives through this season that we are currently in and beyond, success is so much more likely when we can ask the audience or phone a friend. In this time when social distancing is mandated, let’s look for opportunities for heart and soul connecting. It is my hope that we exit this crisis better than we were at the very beginning. That we rediscover what is truly of value in our lives, that we look for the opportunity and silver linings in all of this and reach for innovation and deeper purpose.

My offer to you: 

I curate an amazing community called Ladies Power Lunch (LPL.) I invite you to join us at Ladies Power Lunch as we mastermind to raise our vibrations every day together. As a member of Ladies Power Lunch, engage daily in our Facebook group, monthly at our LPL meetings, come to our conferences, summits, and retreats. 

Most of us go to webinars, listen to talks, read articles and engage in all sorts of other self help activities, and at the end of the day we go back to living our lives as usual. What I have learned is that in order for us to truly move forward successfully, we need a container of support, and that is what we provide for each other, every day, at Ladies Power Lunch.

If you would like to have a group of like-minded supportive individuals for accountability, conversation and support, then I invite you to join us today, for FREE.

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