#happiness (How can I get some of that!) Part I

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#happiness is one of the most popular hashtags around right now. Makes sense right? Whoever doesn’t want happiness in their life say “I” (room goes silent now). But the question is…how do we get this thing called happiness? How do I summon this greater power throughout the day? Let’s examine.

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First of all, what is happiness? That is a loaded question, so let’s start by looking at one happiness researcher’s definition. In her book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

OK, so where does happiness really come from, and how does it mysteriously appear? Some scientists have said that it arrives as a reaction to outside events, the events that bring us joy. While other scientists discuss it as being an inside job (it is conjured up from within ourselves). I believe that it is something that arrives from within ourselves. Sure, it seems like an outside event is the trigger, however the exact same outside event can mean different things to different people. It’s intentional activity that’s really important here; it’s how we choose to create or do an activity, and ultimately our response to it. Think about it – a simple thing could seemingly cause one person to be unhappy while another person could be joyous. The event is exactly the same. It’s our reaction to the event that can be so different.

In fact, according to research, approximately 50% of our happiness is accounted for by genetics, 10% by life circumstances, and 40% by intentional activity. The 40% intentional activity is what we should focus on changing, and I will discuss some ways to do this shortly.

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Now what about “joy”, how does this relate to happiness? We are all well aware of the moment-to-moment times of joy that seem to arrive from external things, like when we see a baby smile or a tail-wagging happy puppy. But have you seen the popular movie Inside Out where we learn from the character named Joy – that real happiness involves a suite of emotions including sadness. Yes, you saw that correctly, sustained happiness will include times of sadness, believe it or not. Happiness is not simply a constant euphoric state without negative emotions included along the way. Unhappy emotions like anger, fear, and sadness are quite normal, and at times, appropriate. If we continually set a high bar for happiness, we can become disappointed when we don’t meet that bar. An acceptance of some “negative” emotions is ok.

So happiness – how does it appear and continue with us along our journey called LIFE? This is a question many of us talk about and, we at Embrace Life have often wondered about this illusive word too. So let’s get to it…here are two ways of conjuring up more happiness in our lives:

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1. Practicing “pro-social” qualities like human connection, gratitude, and compassion, etc. Some examples of this could include practicing “Three Good Things” (or you could even try One Good Thing)”. Practicing Three Good Things involves, on a weekly basis, writing down three things good that happened in your life. This activity reminds us to seek out and savor positive things. This could include our connections with our friends and family, or considering how grateful we are for little things throughout the week. Regularly practicing pro-social qualities can help us feel more connected to others and connecting to something higher outside of the self. Check out this fantastic 12 minute TEDtalk on an exciting 75 year Harvard study on living the good life. The #1 thing learned in this study is that good relationships keep you happier and healthier….period! The quality of your relationships really matter, not necessarily the quantity. Good relationships with family, friends, and community are what really matter. And besides general happiness in life, there are many other benefits as mentioned in the video.

2. Mindfulness and awareness. Be present. In an article on Mindfulness , well-known mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn discusses how to cultivate mindfulness as follows: “although mindfulness can be cultivated through formal meditation, that’s not the only way. It’s not really about sitting in the full lotus, like pretending you’re a statue in a British museum,” he says…“It’s about living your life as if it really mattered, moment by moment by moment by moment.”

Here are a three key components of practicing mindfulness that Kabat-Zinn and others identify:

• Turn your mind to your breathing, really noticing it, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.

• Notice what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.

• Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.

Mindfulness is important in that it includes awareness. Self-awareness – we can’t be authentic without being ourselves. And we can’t be ourselves without really knowing ourselves. Therefore, being authentic all starts with self-awareness. Consider being more aware of your reaction to words and actions, be it positive or negative. Try pausing for a second before a reaction to anything, and generally pausing from time-to-time in your everyday life. This gives your prefrontal cortex time to access a more positive road to take in your reaction to anything, be it positive or negative. Consider Gandhi’s famous quote:

‘Happiness is when what you think, say and do are in harmony’

Personally, I have found meditation to help with taking pauses at opportune times, and for thinking things through with greater clarity and purpose.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Practice the above and we think that you will see a difference over time. We are making strides to practice these things too – and we really hope that you will try this too. We would love to hear how it goes!

Stay tuned for Part II of this Happiness blog where I will discuss further happiness actions to include in your daily routine.

Kevin

Take Moments to Enjoy the Journey

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A simple reminder that we should take moments in our lives to experience joy, wonder, and “awe” along this journey called Life! Take a moment from what your mind perceives as the seriousness of life, and look up at the sky, or at anything in nature; really anything that puts you in a state of wonder or awe. Also, let’s remind each other how amazing life is, because we are all in this together. Joy, wonder, and awe are simple tools we can use to Embrace Life within ourselves, and outwardly with those around us. Eckhart Tolle said:

“Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be”.

Kevin

New Years GRATITUTIONS (Part II)

wisewords_bannerNew Years’ Resolutions have a reputation for setting you up for failure more often than not… When I did a Bing internet search for “failure+New+Years+resolutions” it returned 18,000,000 results!  Can being grateful everyday have the same failed outcome?

There is a difference between setting a goal (resolution) just because the earth will begin another rotation around the sun, and your calendar starts on page one… and practicing gratitude everyday because, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”  – Eckhart Tolle

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If your goals for the New Year were the most common New Years’ Resolutions, for example:

  • to help others, be more generous and kind
  • live a healthier, more fit lifestyle, lose weight
  • pay off debt
  • get better grades in school
  • quit smoking, quit drinking

Gratitude would help you to achieve these and more.  

Gratitude, according to the “What Good Is Gratitude?” (infographic) makes us:

  • more giving
  • more community minded
  • healthier
  • make more money
  • have stronger relationships/friendships
  • perform better academically
  • make better choices, regarding addiction
  • live longer

Do New Years Resolutions provide these benefits?Can you achieve Resolutions successfully without gratitude?  No.

So, let’s then begin to refer to resolutions and Gratitutions and provide a frame of success and encouragement to achievement of goals each year!

As each New Year begins, how do you recognize it if you are celebrating the things you are grateful for from the previous year, and then creating an action plan for gratitude for the New Year?  If you aren’t setting new goals, as some choose to do, many unsuccessfully, with resolutions, on January 1st, what will you do instead?

GRATITUTIONS Examples:

Gratitude Jar

On New Years Eve or New Years Day gather with your family and/or friends and create Gratitude Jars.

Once a day, several times a week, once a week (on a Sunday, perhaps)… you decide… write what you are grateful for and place it in your jar. The following New Years Eve or Day, gather together and read all of the things you were grateful for throughout the year.  Then , start your jars again the next year with a celebration of gratitude, and continue to practice GRATITUTIONS!

Gratitution or Gratitude Box

FullSizeRender (5)  It’s a Gratitude Jar, but in a box!IMG_7177

This is what we did this year as a family,with a few of our daughter’s friends, on New Years’ Day.

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Gratitude Journal

Similar to the Gratitude Jar, just a different format…  It’s a book instead of a jar!

You can write in a Gratitude Journal every day or once a week.  You can list three things you are grateful for, or you can write a story. This is your journal.  Again, just as you do with the Gratitude Jar, celebrate GRATITUTIONS on New Years Eve or Day with family and/or friends, each year!

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Be creative and create your own!!!

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So what is the benefit of Gratitutions versus Resolutions?

New Years Resolutions focus on what you do not have, what you have not yet accomplished, failures… each New Year.

New Years Gratitutions focus on what you already have, what you are grateful for from the previous year, and how you can continue to build on that successfully and positively to achieve new goals each New Year. 

Which one do you choose to ring in the New Year with this year?  I know which one I’m choosing… the soon-to-be-famous, GRATITUTIONS!

Wishing you a joyous 2016 and a New Year filled with an abundance of gratitude!

Krista

 

New Years “GRATITUTIONS”… Forget Resolutions (Part I)

This New Years, instead of making “resolutions“, why not change it up and make “GRATITUTIONS“?

What are gratitutions, you ask?  Well, first of all, let’s be honest, I made up the word… but it will soon be famous, I’m sure of it! 

New Years Gratitutions are a soon-to-be tradition. You reflect on the things you are grateful for from the past year, and create an action plan for gratitude for the New Year; rather than setting new goals, referred to as resolutions.  Why, you ask?

  1. Gratitude makes sense of your past, provides peace for the present and creates a vision for tomorrow
  2. Gratitude allows you to reach more goals, because your outlook changes and opportunities seem to open up everywhere
  3. Gratitude teaches you to appreciate the sunshine and the rainstorms, all of the ups and downs in life
  4. You can always choose to be grateful
  5. Gratitude turns what you have into enough and more

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The thing to understand about Gratitutions versus Resolutions is this:

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New Year’s Resolutions, list of items

According to John Norcross (Journal of Clinical Psychology), approximately 50% of the population makes resolutions each New Year.  Some of the most popular resolutions are: quitting smoking, weight loss, exercise, better money management and debt reduction.

“Cultural Procrastination”, an effort to reinvent oneself; this is Timothy Pychyl‘s definition of resolutions.  As a Carleton University psychology professor, he believes that although people make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, they aren’t usually ready to change their habits. Thus the high failure rate of resolutions.  New_Years_Resolutions

I believe unrealistic goals and expectations are another contributing factor. Discouragement from goals not being met as easily or quickly as anticipated can lead to old behaviours returning.

To change a behaviour, you have to change your thinking!

Gratitutions allow you to see only the positive by being grateful for things, big and small, hourly, daily, weekly…. If your mind is focused on the positive, and the abundance that surrounds you, it is much easier to achieve a goal!

Resolutions on the other hand, focus on the opposite, what you do not have, what you need, what you have not yet accomplished, what you lack, … this is discouraging and not conducive patterning to change behaviours over the long-term.  Hence, New Years resolutions are famously known to fail.

Focus your thinking on successes and how you can continue to improve upon them, such as with my proposed, Gratitutions. In order to create new behaviours and thought patterns, you must create new neural pathways in your brain to change habits and behaviours; do this in a way that allows you to be positive, present, and mindful.  Do not live in the past (except to build upon positive experiences for which you are grateful) or future. Be aware of your physical, mental and emotional present state, and pause and be grateful for it. Use gratitude as your encourager, and you can achieve anything!

Part II, New Years GRATITUTIONS, will delve further into the failure of New Years Resolutions, the benefits of Gratitude, and concrete strategies to embrace New Years Gratitutions!  I will post it in a couple of days 🙂

Be kind to yourself, practice gratitude, check back before the New Year for Part II!

With heartfelt gratitude,

Krista

 

Motivation – it’s an inside job

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Motivation is a word that’s used a lot, but do we fully understand it? What is motivation and where does it come from? Why is it so important?

Now, motivation can be seen as something outside of ourselves. Like when we watch something or hear of something that really motivates us. But therein lies the key to the world of motivation…something triggers or sparks our inner drive. Motivation is really self-specific. It’s individual. It’s what’s inside of you. It’s always “there”, ready for a trigger…ready for you to be the best you can be. So let’s dig into this fascinating word called motivation.

Motivation can be defined as an initiation / desire / willingness to do something. Like I mentioned, it’s specific to you. Unfortunately it has the potential to get buried deep in all of us, especially during tough or seemingly difficult times. Sometimes it feels like it will never surface again, or maybe we can’t remember the last time we were motivated.

So then the question is – how do I unleash this beast called motivation?!? We all know it’s a beast because we’ve likely all seen it. Remember those times when you’ve been driven to, and taken, resulting action to do that thing you’ve wanted to do? How did it escape? Where oh where did that thing inside of you come from?

It really comes from the stories, thoughts, and emotions from within us. So then how does it appear when we need it? How can we conjure it up at a moments notice? Here are three tips for unleashing the beast (or if you prefer, accessing our inner motivation):

  1. Visualize it. Remember a time when motivation came to you naturally. What did it feel like? What were you doing? What was the visualization or picture in your head? Try to focus and re-create this. This helps to see what it is you’re after with clarity. Or if this doesn’t work, think about what would make you jump out of bed every morning, or if you prefer, ask yourself what’s really burning in your heart?
  2. Watch it. Type “motivational video” into a Youtube search and there are several great ones to choose from. Pick one that really resonates with you. You’ll know it resonates with you if you can’t get enough of it! Check out one of my favorite motivational videos here. Seriously take six minutes to watch this…I cannot get enough of this powerful video… Unbroken – Motivational Video
  3. Affirm it. Look at this blog photo which states “wake up every morning and tell yourself – I can do this“. Telling yourself you can do it can help unlock your potential inner desire. If this doesn’t work at first, practice telling yourself “I can do this” every morning. To help reinforce the desire, affirm it a few times throughout the day.
  4. Write it. What do you really want to achieve (i.e. what’s the goal)? It helps if you can write/type it. Now add short-term steps that will help you get to this long-term goal. Now add actions (short term, like tomorrow and next week; and longer term actions). These actions should have some sort of a line of sight to your long-term goals.

Regarding #3, don’t worry if these include baby steps. Baby steps are still much better than taking no steps at all. In fact, I encourage baby steps. These steps can help keep you going on the right path, rather than attempting to attain a larger goal that seems insurmountable or unattainable.

I hope these steps help you unleash the inner drive that creates your moments of motivation. If you have any other methods towards triggering your inner motivation I would love to hear them!

Motivationally,

Kevin

 

 

 

Endless… the Benefits of Gratitude!

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How can being more grateful benefit you?

  • it brings you HAPPINESS, despite your circumstances
  • boosts feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm and others
  • reduces anxiety and depression (clinical studies prove this)
  • helps you to reach more goals
  • encourages deeper sleep, more energy and improved health
  • allows us to see outside ourselves and support others
  • increases our likability
  • more intense and passionate love life

I will put a personal spin on this! I believe that I have always appreciated the life I have, and the goodness and love and benefits I was provided throughout childhood, my youth and early adulthood.  However, it wasn’t until I was presented with more evident struggles, that I really became familiar with the benefits of gratitude, and how gratitude alone can keep your head above water some days.

My late husband fought the demons of severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which progressed to Borderline Personality Disorder before he took his own life; and although he loved our daughters and I, those demons affected all of us.

Our youngest daughter, internationally adopted at age 3, also fights her own demons.  She suffers from severe mental illness as well, due to horrific early childhood trauma. She has psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies, Reactive Attachment Disorder and Complex PTSD.

To say our household was stressful for many years, is an understatement.

Gratitude, which I encourage in our girls as well, provided resilience, happiness for us and a sense of stability that could not have existed otherwise.  It benefited us, particularly myself, as I was old enough to understand it, emotionally/socially/physically.

Emotionally, it allowed me to be more resilient, more relaxed, hold onto happy memories, have more positive feelings than negative ones.

Socially, it made me less self-centered, less materialistic, more optimistic, increased my self-esteem, helped me to achieve goals, be kinder, strengthened relationships, promoted forgiveness, made me more helpful, altruistic, compassionate and empathetic, .

Physically, I had increased energy, I was more motivated to exercise, had improved sleep, and was less sick.  Gratitude studies have shown that it strengthens the immune system, lowers the blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness,…

What does Krista mean by gratitude??? Is this what you are asking right now?

How can this word, gratitude, provide stability in the midst of a storm?

How can it provide all of these benefits and so much more?

Gratitude is simply appreciating the little things (and sometimes the big things)!   It is not looking for extraordinary things and celebrating grand events, holidays, vacations, parties, accomplishments and trying to hold onto those memories.

Brene Brown said it best,

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”

What are some of the little things we can be grateful for?

  • a smell
  • a colour
  • the ocean waves crashing on the shore
  • a childs laugh
  • your favourite meal or dessert
  • time with a friend or loved one
  • time for your favourite activity
  • a smile from a stranger
  • a beautiful bird flying by
  • food in your fridge
  • your home
  • your family

What if you noticed things like these, 3 times a day?

Really noticed them…

Now 10 times a day?

Breathe them in…

Now 25 times a day?

They always bring a spark of joy to you…

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot”

-Hausa Proverb

Recognize that there is joy everywhere and do not allow pain and adversity to overshadow it.

What if you always stopped to pet that dog, smell that flower, listen to your favourite song?  What if you always did that, for you?  Would you not feel happier and more resilient to the things that are not as appealing?

I don’t know the things that make you happy…  Think about them.  Really think… even make a list if that helps to get you started.

I, personally love dogs, textures, food smells, food, coffee, kids, babies, people, laughing, smiling, bright colours, oceans, sunshine, turtles, all animals (except jungle cats, I’m not a huge fan as they prey on some of my favourite animals), artwork, architecture, books, I could go on and on.

I always try to take the time to appreciate my passions, the things that make me happy, and to be grateful for them.

Now, consider this… being grateful doesn’t just benefit you.

If you stop to pet a dog, interact playfully with a baby, smile at a stranger, appreciate an artists’ piece of art… you are also filling their bucket with gratitude and thus joy and happiness.

The benefits of gratitude are simply endless!

Grateful for my walk, hand-in-hand with my true love along the ocean today,

Krista

Gratitude is a Choice… I’ve Made It, Have You?

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Do you find yourself in what feels like an uncontrollable downward spiral of misfortune, bad luck, resentment, failing relationships, emotional instability, pessimism, decreased self-esteem, or decreased energy?

Do you feel like things don’t usually go your way?

Do you frequently question how others can be so lucky?

Do you resent them for their good fortune?

Do you want to improve your physical health or reduce anxiety/depression through exercise or a better sleep routine?

Do you want to achieve a goal or increase your productivity?

Do you want to strengthen your relationships?

Even if you only answered yes to one of these, you can benefit from increased gratitude.

Gratitude opens the door to an abundant life! It turns what we already have into enough and more.

Over the past decade, researchers have really begun to delve into studying the benefits of gratitude.  These studies have documented the social, physical and psychological benefits, and these benefits are within reach to most anyone who practices gratitude, despite adversity.

To begin practicing gratitude, is a choice.

To make any change in your life is a choice.

Are you ready to practice gratitude? Are you ready to make this change? Then make the choice…choose to practice gratitude.

Unlock the fullness in your life and allow gratitude to create clarity for today and a vision for tomorrow. Gratitude allows you to see the positive through the negative, the calm through the chaos.

Begin to find emotional balance and happiness by simply acknowledging:

I am grateful for…

Choose to see what you already have as enough.

Open the door to YOUR abundant life!

 

Grateful for time to write about gratitude, as I sip apple cider in a cafe with my true love,

Krista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embracing Life Every Day

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As I sit here having breakfast in southern Texas, y’all, I look out of a restaurant window and can see snippets of the ocean. As wonderful as this is, you know what I found more exciting? You guessed it – one of my fave songs from the 80’s (I have many) appeared on the radio station – Heaven by Warrant. Isn’t it interesting and wonderful how joyous moments can appear anywhere you are? We’ll get back to this thought in a moment.

As human beings we have the ability to make a conscious choice to embrace life. It’s almost magical how fear, anxiety, anger, etc seem to diminish when you are “in  the moment”. Now, embracing life can mean different things to different people. I don’t suspect hearing Warrant on the radio is an absolute joy for many of you as it is for me and I’m ok with that. I’m me and you’re you. More on this shortly.

Embracing life is really about showing up for life, accepting life as it is (suspending your judgment), learning from your mistakes, and then making better choices every day because you learned from your mistakes…right!?!

Keep in mind that better hourly and daily choices often involve:

  • opening your heart424441_10151345454700648_1452729985_n
  • taking a few deep breaths
  • taking the “high road” whenever life challenges you
  • and most importantly accepting who you are! You are beautiful…YES YOU!

Embracing life has many different facets. This blog has covers several different areas of life that we will fully explore in the near future. Krista and I plan on taking you along on a wonderful journey as we explore and hack life. Please stay tuned for more exciting content!

If you have anything to add to this or any general questions on embracing life we would love to hear from you. We are all in this together.

Embracing life as best I can,

Kevin

 

 

What Good is Gratitude?

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Gratitude: It’s a National Holiday… Check Your Calendar!

In North America, we recently celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day, Veterans’ Day, and now American Thanksgiving is just around the bend.  What do all of these celebrations have in common?  We express “GRATITUDE”.

On Thanksgiving, it is customary, to gather with family and friends and give thanks traditionally for the harvest of the preceding year and the many wonderful blessings and benefits we enjoy.

Remembrance Day and Veterans’ Day, both on November 11th each year, are memorial days observed since the end of the First World War to remember and honour the members of the armed forces who sacrificed their lives, and died in the line of duty.

GRATITUDE… One upcoming and three recent national holidays, on the North American calendar, that make us pause, take time out from weekly and daily routines, to remember and be grateful.

Do you take the time to acknowledge gratitude in your daily life when it isn’t on the calendar? Do you discuss thankfulness around the dinner table with family and friends more than once or twice a year? Think about it… how often do you reflect on the meaning of gratitude in your life?

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Have you ever wondered how important gratitude is to your happiness, well-being, your growth as an individual? Can anything new truly come into your life if you are not grateful for what you already have?

Henry David Thoreau may have said it best:

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” 

‘Perpetual’… Thoreau’s gratitude occurs repeatedly; it is continual, neverending, sustained, relentless.

Gratitude can change your view of the world! It is that powerful! Gratitude can change negativity to positivity, sadness to joy, scarcity to abundance, and so much more. If we are simply grateful for who we are, and what we have, not only can it turn what we already have, into enough; but, it can also attract more good things to come our way.

Count your blessings.

Allow yourself to enjoy those blessings.

Set aside your complaints and be grateful for what you do have.

Stop looking for what is missing.

Life isn’t about always having everything you want… Want what you already have.  And be grateful for it. Always.

Remember, the things that you take for granted, someone else is longing for.

Be GRATEFUL everyday, not only when gratitude is on the calendar.         You WILL see positive change.

“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgivings;

Turn routine jobs into joy;

And change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

-William Arthur Ward

With Heartfelt Gratitude,

Krista