Ho Ho Ho, Merry Thanksgiving and Happy 50% off!

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The holiday season is rapidly approaching!

Snow is falling in some areas, temperatures are changing in others, the Menorahs are being pulled out of the attic, and Christmas trees are being decorated; latkes are being made, the mkeka and Kinara are being placed; the social gathering invitations are starting to roll in, the smell of cookies baking is beginning to fill homes…

Whether you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, or one of many other holiday traditions, the joy of the holiday celebrations are upon us!

American Thanksgiving is this weekend.

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This means:

bestbuy-and-walmart-black-friday-deals  black-friday  Black Friday Shopping (which now begins on Thursday, THANKSGIVING DAY, at most stores, meaning many people are missing Thanksgiving dinner with family in lieu of “doorbuster deals”)

    macysparade-cropped  macys-parade  macys-santa-and-sleigh the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Santa Claus making his first appearance

o-prayer-thanksgiving-facebook  431e971b954b4ba1e6f07f2a58fd4dc6stuffing ourselves like turkeys as we enjoy time with family and friends (hopefully…if you aren’t on the social media diet plan this Thanksgiving)

images-3  images  images-1 NFL football

toysrus-cyber-monday-2016-dealsCyber Monday shopping (now…Cyber WEEK… both online and in-store, cyber no more!)

2014_0510_nbcuxd_upfront2014_christmasroccentr_alternateimage_1920x1080_ca  Christmas tree lightings in major cities (NYC, November 30th)

 and many more festivities.

So…unless we, as individuals, take the time to acknowledge Thanksgiving as a day to be thankful; gratitude on Thanksgiving seems to have been overshadowed by the consumerism of the holiday weekend, and possibly even by Christmas.

Did you notice, in fact, that Thanksgiving is no longer about Thanksgiving? It is mostly about preparing for Christmas!  We aren’t given the opportunity to even celebrate one holiday, before the next one has completely upstaged it.  Black Friday now begins on Thanksgiving Day. WHAT???

Christmas appears to now be a six-week celebration that begins Thanksgiving Day. Is this why statistically more US citizens have had a family turkey dinner at Thanksgiving than at Christmas, in past years… are they simply sick of the celebrations by the time December 25th rolls around?  With Black Friday bargains, and the need for more “stuff” beginning to outshine quality time and experiences with family and friends, in the eyes of many, will Thanksgiving dinners begin to dimish as well? Black Friday now begins on Thursday… what next?

images-2What if Thanksgiving were celebrated as Thanksgiving?  A time to observe our blessings and give thanks, rather than to take part in 50% off sales and pre-Christmas celebrations.

If the lines were not blurred and we took the time for three days of solace and gratitude in a hectic, highly connected world, would we not experience more peace and more joy this Thanksgiving?  Has the commercialism, the almighty dollar, the iPad on sale, become that much more important than our peace of mind?

Many Canadians have jumped on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bandwagon.  And I have had my home decorated for Christmas for a week now (due partially to convenience, and partly due to love of seasonal ambience), as have many others.  So we are ALL at fault. However, when it comes to gift giving, our family, in the past few years, has begun to focus more on experiences and time together, than on material “things”.  I guess we just need to make sure we are ALL questioning what is important.

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In gratitude, joy and thanksgiving,

Krista


I Found It… The Secret To A Happier Life

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If I said I found the secret to a happier and more fulfilling life, and it is an effortless habit, that takes only minutes a day…

Would you be interested in knowing what it is?

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It can:

  1. Lift your mood
  2. Increase motivation
  3. Help you focus your time and energy on the things in your life that you really want to “live with intention
  4. Not allow you to take things for granted
  5. Lift your spirits; experience joy, even in more difficult times

thG4IX9KVM    Have you guessed yet? (here are a few more hints…)

  • Focus on what is already here, what already surrounds you
  • Focus on what you can be grateful for in your life

Focus on GRATITUDE EVERYDAY, throughout the day!

That’s right… it is GRATITUDE!

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Gratitude fosters happiness, and doesn’t everyone strive for happiness?

To cultivate both gratitude and happiness:

Pause/Breathe:    simply pause throughout your day, a brief pause, and ask yourself the question –  What or who can I be grateful for today, in my life? 

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Enjoy the View:    look around you throughout your day, and appreciate and acknowledge your surroundings, be grateful for them (the beautiful sunset, the laughing children, the cute puppy, the majestic mountains)

Be Insightful:    improve your self-esteem and self-confidence by being appreciative of yourself.  Make a habit of identifying things you can be grateful for about yourself each day (you helped someone out, you made a good decision, you met a goal, your sense of humour was spot on today)

The Little Things:    look for the small daily things you can appreciate, the things you may take for granted (your lunch, your dog welcoming you home each day, your car getting you to work each morning, the pen that allows you to write your thoughts/lists)

Timing is Everything:    You will learn to recognize and acknowledge gratitude all the time, before you know it! But until then, it helps to set aside 1 minute in the morning each day or 1-2 minutes in the evening, before bed, and use a journal or Gratitude Box

IMG_7189  GratitudePinterestLI   gratitude-journal--225x300  (see: New Years GRATITUTIONS (Part II) for some great ideas!)

Yell It From the Rooftops:    You can’t keep all of this gratitude bottled up inside! You need to express it! You are grateful for all that surrounds you and you are happier, so let others know you are grateful for having them in your life – make them happy as well!

So there you have it! The secret to a happier and more fulfilling life:

GRATITUDE!

Happiness isn’t about finding something new, it is about focusing on what is already here, and appreciating it, being thankful for it.

Gratitude turns what you already have into enough.

You can always choose to be grateful, which in turn, means you can always choose to be happy.  Think about it…

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With overwhelming gratitude for my multitude of simple life blessings, and in happiness,

Krista


#happiness Part III

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It’s here! That’s right, now that the International Day of Happiness is upon us, what better way to celebrate than by checking out the Day of Happiness website. Also, let’s add a few more actions to increase your general happiness! Remember in Part I, I discussed practicing Pro-Social Qualities and Mindfulness as ways of increasing happiness. Then in Part II, I discussed taking actions like Flow and Awe as methods we can use to tap into more happiness.

So let’s get right to it, here are two further researched happiness actions you can try…

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5. Laughter. When is the last time you laughed? When is the laugh time you had a really good belly laugh? If it’s been a while, get on it! There are lots of funny movies, funny people, and other things that can induce laughter – like remembering funny times in the past, or surrounding yourself with people who like to laugh and find the humour in everyday life. So, try not to be so serious all the time, seriously. A vast amount of research has shown that laughter can contribute to overall health and wellness including increasing your resilience and improving your overall mood.

6. Self-compassion. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion, says that self-compassion is a state where you understand your own suffering and use mindfulness, kindness, and openness to hold it non-judgementally and consider it part of the human condition. In other words, self-compassion is where you would consider grace for the self even despite unfortunate circumstances. Kristin Neff says that self-compassion entails three core components: 3-Elements-of-Self-Compassion1

She goes on to say that we must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.

Research has shown that people with self-compassion tend have an inner strength of a self that is worthy of respect, and their sense of self-worth tends to be less rattled. They also tend to worry less about social comparison, and feel less need to retaliate for perceived personal slights.

This research suggests that self-compassion provides a sense of calmness. Think of it as a safe place from a perceived hurricane of positive and negative self-judgment. It can shelter you from questions like “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By practicing kindness, and realizing that all of us have an imperfect human condition; you can be confidently on your way to feel more safe and secure, feeling like you belong, and embracing life fully.

Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds and it does take some work to realize and practice self-compassion. It may take baby steps to break old habits. A pause for self-awareness can help to self-identify when we need more compassion for ourselves. Consider how allowing, with an open heart, life to be as it is could help you change your life for the better.

You may be asking “isn’t it selfish to consider the self”? In response to this I would say that allowing self-compassion into your life may, over time, allow you to respond to others and lifes’ challenges in a way that is more open-hearted and loving.

So there you have it. That’s 6 all together. Let’s summarize these happiness actions one more time:

1 & 2 Practicing Pro-Social Qualities and Mindfulness or Awareness

3 & 4 Flow and Awe

5 & 6 Laughter and Self-Compassion

So what are you waiting for? After you reflect on these a bit, start practicing these actions to increase your #happiness. Let’s GO!

Please let me know how this goes for you, or if you have any questions on these Actions. And don’t forget to go to the International Day of Happiness site to join in with other people celebrating this day of happiness!

Benjamin Franklin said:

“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances”.

-Kevin


Happiness is an inside job

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Happiness is an inside job. Outward circumstances, and actions of others, do not create lasting happiness. That’s a lot of power to assign to anyone or anything else anyways. Sure, these outward circumstances may cause you to feel moments of joy. But deep and lasting happiness – that comes from within. You are ultimately responsible for your happiness. It’s a big responsibility. Are you ready for this?

See our Part 1 and Part 2 blogs on #happiness for some concrete actions you can take to increase your happiness. Part 3 is coming March 20th…stay tuned!

Krista and Kevin


#Happiness (how can I get some of that) Part II

 

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Did you know that there is a day dedicated to happiness? It’s called the International Day of Happiness, and it’s coming up on March 20th. As it states on their website “We’re inviting everyone to focus on their connections with others.”

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In Part I of this blog I had stressed the key finding of a 75 year Harvard study which demonstrates the importance of our connection with others. In the Part I blog, I had also included a background to happiness, and mentioned a further action to help induce moment-to-moment feelings of happiness: Mindfulness. Being present.

Before we get started on Part II, I’d like to mention a further way to incorporate mindfulness into your day-to-day routine, which as I mentioned previously has been shown to lead to happiness. 5-10 years ago I was a meditation non-believer, but after practicing it for several months now, I absolutely see and feel the benefits meditation can provide. In fact, a multitude of studies show how meditation can have positive effects on several aspects of health, resilience, and better relationships.

So let’s continue on to Part II of #happiness. Here are a few more ways you can take action in order to increase your #happiness!

3. Flow. Famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly coined the term flow to describe a particular state of heightened consciousness. Flow can appear when we do certain activities throughout the day or week, ones that can increase our joyous moments. These activities should be ones that you really enjoy, a favorite activity. Think about this for a moment. What are some things that have brought you joy over the years? Was it a sport or an activity? Visiting family or friends or animals perhaps? Achieving a goal? Reading? There are so many possibilities! Other ways of referring to this state of Flow are “being in the zone” or times where you are involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter and you may lose track of time. Researchers have shown that states of flow have a strong association to happiness.  

thG4IX9KVM4. Awe. You know, that experience you feel when you look up at huge beautiful trees, or perhaps looking at this beach photo here, or a beautiful painting. When was the last time you went star-gazing and saw a shooting star? What tends to put you in a state of awe? It’s really about experiencing awe / wonder / beauty, which makes us feel like we are in the presence of something larger than ourselves.

Researchers have linked positive emotions – especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality – with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (which are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder). Elevated cytokines have shown association to autoimmune diseases and depression. UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner says “that awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art – has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”

And there you have it, Flow and Awe are another two ways to tap into #happiness. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list and we will explore more ways to tap into happiness in the months to come.

Keep in mind that happiness is different things to different people. There simply isn’t one happiness strategy that works for everyone.

One final note, please try to not let your happiness depend on what others say or do. Remember that happiness is truly up to you and it’s yours and yours only. It’s an inside job.

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Benjamin Franklin said:

Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind, than on outward circumstances.

Looking forward to continuing on this happiness journey with you. Remember, we are all in this together!

Kevin


#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