Happiness is a choice

In this inspiring presentation Justin Lyon takes us through his journey that brought him to be involved with the ground-breaking children’s television show, Yo Gabba Gabba! Justin spent a large portion of his time in Haiti and the people he met there, struggling, but happy, remind us that happiness is a choice and we can all be happy if we allow ourselves to be happy.


Getting grounded in a few simple steps

MuladharaIf like me, you’ve been doing yoga for a few years, you’ll have come across the Chakra system. The first chakra, muladhara, is the root chakra and is all about grounding. It’s our foundation, our roots.

Being grounded can bring up different visuals. For some, standing upright with ones feet solidly planted is what grounding means, while for others might visualize spending time with family members. Both visuals have one thing in common and it’s the act of slowing down. Simply slowing down once in a while, can you get grounded.

We all lead busy lives and have a million and one thing to do, but stopping even for just a few minutes and getting grounded is a very soothing practice. wrote a great article entitled “Heal the Hurry with Mindfulness: A Mindful Parenting Guest Post“, in which she offers this exercise:

  • Wherever you are, standing or sitting, notice your feet on the ground.
  • Imagine the earth beneath you.
  • Feel your feet.
  • Soften the muscles in your legs.
  • Feel the pelvic bone point down toward the earth.
  • Relax the belly.
  • Feel your chest lifting up slightly toward the earth from the back of the heart.
  • Imagine an expansive collarbone.
  • Feel the crown of the head rise up to the sky.
  • Come into your Breath.
  • Focus on the exhale.
  • Exhale Fully — all the way out.
  • Notice the deep inhale that arrives now.
  • Do this three times.
  • Then ask, “What’s the next right thing to do?”

I often find myself benefiting from this exercise immensely while in difficult situations such as waiting for security check at the airport, sitting in traffic jams or on hold listening to dreadful elevator music. Next time you catch yourself feeling like you are about to blow up and scream, give it a try.

Filtering out negative thoughts

I can’t count how many times a yoga teacher has advised me to take advantage of my practice to filter my thoughts and simply watch them; not judge them, but just watch them drift. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so hard, but once you do, I’ve found it disturbing how many thoughts are negative.

Photo by guercio

I constantly catch myself thinking things such as “you’re/he/she is so stupid“, “the world is so sick“, “of course it’s hard, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, why should you be a pro in only 10 minutes.” Most of these thoughts remain in my head and are therefore harmless, but they do cause damage after a while. Thinking negatively can affect everything around you and, well, turns you into a negative SOB.

It’s not easy to shift one’s habits but there are some great tools that are easy to implement.

Whenever you catch yourself saying “I can’t” try adding yet at the end of it. I can’t yet is much more hopeful and positive.

Keep in mind that every decision you make is a choice. “I choose to work on this project, because I’m great at A, B and C” is a better mindset than “I can’t do D“.

Limit your exposure to negative folks. This is a tough one especially if these are family members, but it’s important for your mental health. People that bring you down to their pit of despair are simply no fun to be around. This applies to social media as well. Use the #firstworldproblem hashtag once too often on Twitter and that’s an immediate unfollow in my book. This might sound silly, but do you really want someone in your twitter stream complaining about everything? Ugh.

Email communication is another tricky area. I only use email for business communication and as a result my emails are very curt and to the point. Perhaps they are a bit standoffish, but I value people’s time and thus I’ve adopted these guidelines for all my email communications:

  • Email may not be the best medium for everyone and so if your email is too long or poorly written, I’ll just pick up the phone instead.
  • There’s usually no urgency. It’s sometimes great to craft an answer and save the message in draft mode, then go back to it a few hours later or even the next day. This pause may allow you to think of alternatives, different view points or questions you hadn’t thought about.
  • Venting in draft mode. We’ve all been there. You get an email and you’re screaming with rage and thus hit reply right away and start hitting the keyboard maniacally. When doing so, it’s best to remove the email address for the send field, just in case you accidentally hit send.
    Once you’re done, just delete the email. It’s a total waste of time, but getting your anger out on “paper” may release some of that negativity. Just walk away for a while and you’ll probably find a more appropriate way to respond.
    I’ve also found myself doing this on twitter. I’ll hit reply, will write my tweet and then delete it. Negative tweets can be just as bad as negative emails and starting a twitter fight can be very emotionally draining.

David Spinks wrote a great article and goes further in detailing why negative emails shouldn’t be sent.

I think that the world would be a much better place with a bit more positive, don’t you?

More often than not, getting angry serves no purpose

One of my yoga teacher once told us in class, than when we get angry, our body releases a chemical that is only effective a few seconds. If we remain angry, it’s because we feed that hunger and go back to fetch more chemicals.

Photo by Josn Jannsen

Photo by Josn Jannsen

These words were spoken many years ago and I never bothered to look up the exact chemistry of this process, but I’m a firm believer that our bodies are smart and wouldn’t just keep us angry for nothing.

Yesterday afternoon, while enjoying a leisurely bike ride, my husband got hit by an SUV. Luckily the driver wasn’t going fast and no one was injured. The bike took a hit of course, and my husband was swearing like a sailor when he landed, but chose to remain calm. The driver stopped, exited the car and proceeded to apologize profusely. The event was followed by email exchanges which again revealed more apologies.

Late last year, my mother and father were waiting at an intersection and once again, a driver failed to pay attention to her surroundings, and knocked my mother down as she was crossing the road. She immediately stopped, exited and proceeded to apologize and was clearly mortified by what she had done. My mother was rushed to the hospital and, luckily, discharged immediately since only minor bruising was found. She could have been angry and pressed charges, but decided against it. She was even quite concerned about the driver and informed the police officer on the scene to let the driver know that she was ok.

Could the incident have been prevented? Probably. There’s no doubt that both drivers were at fault and distracted, but getting angry and “making them pay” wouldn’t have changed anything. As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I’m convinced that anger is simply a waste of time. Being kind, forgiving and understanding, even in the worse situations is a far better choice.

Choosing to be Happy

David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. His speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. This short video is an abridged version of the original audio recording and contains a simple yet elegant explanation of the real value of education. His message is very powerful and well worth the 9 minutes.

The video was pulled from vimeo and is no longer available, but here’s the full speech.

The art of complaining

Complaining is easy.. so easy. Yet it serves no purpose whatsoever. It might make you feel better for a few minutes, but does it really?

I took a meditation class with Padma several years ago and she gave us a great exercise to do. Working in pairs, one person had to say something negative, and the other had to repeat the sentence but in a positive way. So it went something like this.

First person: It’s always raining in Vancouver.

Second: Thank goodness we get so much rain in Vancouver. We never have to worry about water shortage.

The sentences both say the same thing, but one of them is just so much happier. Nothing is worse, then being surrounded by a complainer. I find complainers just get you down and drag you in their pith of misery.

There are a lot of complainers everywhere. In Vancouver, folks are extremely critical of the architecture. Vancouver is bland, boring, lacks ambition, stale, all the same. et… During my last visit to Ottawa I took a series of photos of some of the architecture there. Some of these towers are much older, but overall it’s much worse then Vancouver. Considering how gorgeous Vancouver is, it might be nice for folks to take another look at the city and try to complain a little bit less.

Social media allows us to react very quickly and complain even more. I’ve been catching myself writing tweets and then deleting them more and more these days if I find that all it is, is a complaint. And then someone tweets something very funny and encouraging.

Complaining affects all of us and it’s simply not necessary. I think we could do with a little less of it.