Five Shortcuts To More Joy…

Sigh. That elusive thing that we all want… more happiness.  We’re told that we’ll get it if we buy the right car, have the perfect body, millions of dollars, the perfect spouse. But these days people are starting to clue in that this is not actually the way.
A growing body of scientific/psychological study known as neuroplasticity is showing that we can rewire or prime our brains towards experiencing more joy. Many of us default to focusing on what’s not working, what could go wrong, what we messed up, what we haven’t got. It’s natural. But it creates more of a sense of anxiety, dissatisfaction and depression.
So here’s the good news…
What we appreciate appreciates!  Put another way, what we choose to focus our attention on, gets stronger.  If you are focusing more on what you’re not getting done, or ways that you feel you’re falling short in your business or life, that feeling of despair and dissatisfaction will grow. Conversely, if you work on actively noting and acknowledging your successes, your overall confidence and satisfaction will increase.  Makes sense, right?
If we start focusing more on the positive, it trains our brain to be more positive… even to the point of altering its chemistry.  It’s a practice – and like starting to work a muscle you haven’t used for a while (if ever!), it takes some time and effort till it becomes stronger and you use it unconsciously.
A major way to do this is with the help of some sweet and simple practices from the world of mindfulness. (And “simple” is key here, busy people).
We know by now we “should” be meditating at least 15 minutes a day – but in our overwhelmingly busy lives it can feel challenging finding the time. What I love about these practices is that they’re instant…and portable. You can do them any time, any where.  And they make a difference – both in the moment to give your system a little boost, and over the long term.
I invite you to read through and pick one to try out this week.
For more simple but powerful mindfulness practices to rewire your brain, check out Rick Hanson’s awesome little book: Just One Thing.
 1. Find Beauty
Beauty really is all around us. Look around right now and notice one thing that pleases your eye. It could be a painting, a color, a tuft of grass growing through a crack in the side walk, a child’s smile, the design on a chair… The more you pause to notice what you find beautiful as you pass through your day, the more deposits you make to your “wellbeing bank”. The key is to pause and savor the feeling of that beauty. Breathe it in.
Let it fill you. Then carry on…with a little more spring in your step.
2. Count your blessings! (Aka Attitude of Gratitude…)
This one’s especially useful when you’re in a funk or stressed out… Though our brains often want to hang on to the negative self talk and judgment (that’s a whole other topic), we CAN cut them off at the pass by stopping and doing a gratitude inventory. I find it’s useful to change your physical geography when you do this – step away from your desk and stretch, step outside, take a walk round the block, or even just look out the window.
Sometimes, if my brain is really resistant to changing course, I start reeeaaal basic. “Um, I have legs”, “I have clean water to drink”, then keep going and before I know it, something’s shifted… even just a little.
Practice this when you’re driving, or making dinner. Or make a game where every time you walk through a certain doorway you find one thing to be grateful for.  Try starting off your day with a list of your “gratitudes” – see how it sets a different tone for the day.
3. Savor the flavors
Multi-tasking is our way of life these days. But I invite you to try uni-tasking. Do. Just. One. Thing. And do it fully. Instead of drinking tea while checking email, just drink the tea. Slowly, savoring each delicious mouthful. Notice what this does to your mental state… (Ironically, studies show that when we slow down and do less we become MORE productive).
Take a breath before eating your meal, really taste each bite, savor the flavors. Feel the sensation of the water on your skin in the shower – rather than planning out the day or thinking of your shopping list.
Turn off your cell phone for a while! (What!?)
4. Breathe
Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Take a few minutes to stop and breathe. Seriously. Take three long deep breaths into your belly. Let your exhalations be twice the length of your inhalations – this calms your nervous system. Notice the feeling of your butt on the seat, your feet on the floor. Become aware of the sounds and smells around you. If thoughts start to invade, bring your attention back to your breath. Do this for 5 minutes a day and you’ll notice a difference…
5. Smile!
Yes, it’s true! The simple physical act of smiling tricks your brain into being happy. It triggers the release of dopamine and seratonin, and relieves stress. Plus, if you take that little smile on the road and shine it on random people you meet, you’ll notice that it lights them up too. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Ready to play the game and pick one (or more)?  Go on.  Add a sprinkle of joy to your day!  You deserve it…
By |2018-07-22T01:50:24+00:00June 2nd, 2016|Balance and Mindfulness, Productivity|