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I did not fully understand my addictive tendencies until I found myself on a hospital gurney with nurses bustling around me and the medical monitor blaring warning sounds like a fire alarm.

I stared at the ceiling and asked myself, How did I get here? Like most people, I ignored the warning signs. I was too busy with the intoxicating feeling of false joy from my addiction.

A false joy to me is in outcomes that fill me with euphoria that I want more — bigger and better of the same thing. A false joy is where I dropped everything else in my life: my writing, hiking, reading, even my relationships to go after that feeling. A false joy urges me on. I tell myself: Just five more minutes or just one more game and then hours later I feel the exhaustion that physically shuts me down.

The stock market fed my addiction, the New York Stock exchange where thousands of stocks trade. Making $600 my first trade hooked me. The false joy I felt from making easy money gave me a rush I’d never experienced before in my mundane life.

I decided I needed to learn more,4 about stocks, so I scoured books about the market, the trade strategies, and the memoirs of those that hit it big. I told myself I needed to watch and experience the market more. So, I awoke at 4 a.m. when the market opened and traded in the pre-market and during the day and then the aftermarket. I traded 10-15 stocks a day in search of that now elusive easy money that gave me a rush of false joy.

All those green and red lights twinkling up from the screen enticing me to play the game. The rush of dollars into my account made me want more. Unfortunately, what goes up eventually comes down. My accounts were no different.

Well, fast forward five years, and my account is down $15,000. I awoke before dawn one morning and felt something wasn’t right in my chest. I went to the hospital and found my heart racing at 150 beats per minute, my blood pressure extremely high.

I made promises to myself that I would change. I would turn my back on this false joy. The doctors pumped me with medicine; my heart rate and blood pressure came down. They released me with an assortment of multi-colored pills to swallow daily. The medications keep my heart in check.

“The false joy I felt from making easy money gave me a rush I’ve never experienced before in my mundane life.”

I stopped playing the market for a few days. Then, I wondered how my Boeing stock was doing and regretted that I didn’t buy American Airlines. Other stocks kept calling me back. So, I’d peek at it and then closed the screen. Nothing happened. My heart was okay. Then a few days later I opened my account screen, again, looking at the blinking red and green lights. I made one trade — nothing happened, my ticker still worked.

A week later, I checked the stock market. I stayed on for a couple of hours and that’s when it happened. I could feel my chest pounding. I sensed something was wrong. I quickly got off the computer, but the damage had been done. I took my blood pressure. It had shot up way passed my normal rate as did my pulse. I took myself for a walk in the forty-degree predawn air. I did some chores. Drank lots of water. Eventually, the blood pressure came back down.

I asked myself, “When will I learn I am addicted to gambling in the stock market?

Well, I’ve been clean now for a few weeks.

My urges to glimpse at the market have subsided. Occasionally, my mind says take a peak, but I haven’t so far, and I’ve learned a lot these past few weeks.

What I learned from my experience.

I took time to think back about my actions both pro and con in hopes to avoid future mistakes and learning how to recognize my addictive behavior. This is what I learned:

I learned to distance myself from the stock market and activities, objects, and even people where my mind says, “Oh, just a little longer.”

I deleted my access to the market. I restarted my journal. I wrote stories, letters, and blogs. I hiked the hills and marveled at nature. I walked into my neighborhood and stopped to talk with neighbors. I read many books. I spent more time with family and friends. My wife and I go out to eat more with people we connected with. We babysit our grandchildren three days a week.

I learned to recognize my addiction signs: avoidance of activities that I enjoy doing; emotions that rise and fall acutely; urgency in my behavior toward an activity, person, place or thing and when I’m more tied to the getting that next rush than living my normal daily — which is actually a pretty good life.

I learned false joy comes with a price tag. The cost is my health, wealth, friendships and everything else that brings me true joy.

I learned that expectations of some end result, like making money, winning something, getting something, or reaching for something is not true joy. Once I felt the rush I wanted more and bigger rushes and expected that same level of “high” again and again.

I learned that genuine joy comes from the journey and not the result.

Urges are like ocean waves that build inside me, but then the wave passes over me and subsides.

I learned that the simplest actions can provide distractions from my struggle. Sometimes when I concentrate on these everyday moments, whatever I am doing at that moment, and give myself fully to it, whether I’m creating through words or listening to a friend, there is great joy in these moments — true joy.

I learned that my addictions begin with urges, pulling me toward the addictive behavior.

I learned urges are like ocean waves that build inside me but then the wave passes over me and subsides.

I learned I have actions I can take to fight the urges until they pass: I can engage in conversation: call it what it is, “an urge” and tell myself I know it will pass like a wave; I can do meditation/breath; I can redirect the urge to positive activities (walking, art, writing, a game, etc); I can change rooms/settings (new studies show that changing my place, going through a portal such as a door alters your mind’s focus).

I learned addictions come in many forms besides drugs, alcohol, gambling. I never knew I could even get addicted to a person, place or thing. I knew I could become addicted to a video game, but I never knew I could get addicted to a sport like pickleball where I tell myself, just one more game.

I learned that true joy is found in the process and not tied to an outcome that can be a false joy. My true joy soars when engaged in my talents, abilities or passions and the outcome is just a secondary benefit.

“Desire and ignorance are the root of all suffering.”

The Buddha

I learned that when I fixate outcomes or end results, I miss the opportunity to experience true joy.

I learned that true joy has no time limits. In Robert Pirsig‘s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he mentions the clock. Time constraints are the killjoy any interest. If there is no time element involved in an activity, then the activity can become play. If there is a time constraint, then the activity may become work.

I learned that sometimes it takes hitting “rock bottom” where the pain of the world far exceeds the false joy felt from the addiction before I make better choices. Lying in that hospital bed was my “rock bottom.” I am grateful for the second chance at enjoying this bountiful life.

That’s where I can pull myself back to the things that bring me the genuine joy of life.

Peace, Joy, Love

Perceived Joy Vs Actual Joy

The 23-foot sailboat where my imagination knew no bounds.

Not long ago I found a boat for sale. It was a sailboat of 23 feet that its current owner abandoned in a boat storage yard. The manager of the yard said I could have it for what the owner owed for the storage rent, which was only a few hundred dollars.

I’ve always imagined the joy of owning a sailboat, sailing the open seas, feeling the sun and breeze, and smelling the salt air; all the joy my imagination my mind could perceive.

The picture above does not offer a good image of her capabilities. This boat was in good shape; it had all the equipment needed to ply the local waters; and was ready to go.

I climbed in the cockpit, grabbed the varnished wood tiller and imagined sailing her in the open water. What joy I imagined I would feel if I bought this boat!

I drove out to look at her weekly for the next few weeks. I climbed aboard and just imagined the joy of owning it. It’s comfortable seating; it’s efficient cabin for sleeping; it’s ability to take me places I couldn’t go to otherwise.

I knew boats took time and money but what stopped me from buying the boat was what one blogger wrote: “Everyone is in love with the idea of owning a boat, but the reality is boats are a lot of work.”

He’s right I was in love with the idea of owning a boat. I decided not to buy.

His words hit home with me, and I thought about the reasons I wanted the boat. I did imagine it would bring me joy but that experience lasts only for so long before I get bored. The boat needed some work, and I weighed my time constraints with traveling an hour to the boat yard, sanding and painting the boat then driving an hour home. Did I really have that kind of commitment?

My imagination of what I thought the joy of sailing would bring, would be but a small percentage of the responsibility, work and money the boat required.

I sensed my interest in sailing would wane quickly and the boat would be like most in the storage yard, left gathering dirt and dust.

This experience led me to reflect on imaginary joy versus an actual joy.

I thought about other times in my life, times have I imagined or perceived potential joy?

Before most decision, I ran the pros and cons of a futuristic experience and judged the degree of joy or happiness it would bring me: Going to a party, taking a certain vacation; buying a certain car; writing this blog, going to the gym . . . anything and everything I might judged my level of joy.

The truth is I didn’t really know if I would feel joyful with these experiences and many others until I’m actually engaged in the activity, object or people and have some actual proof of how I felt.

This helped me develop fresh realizations about my life.

  1. I don’t know what joy I have in the foreseeable future until I experience it.
  2. I must try different activities, meet different people, eat different foods, and be open to new experiences without judgement as to whether or not they will bring me joy.
  3. I must move out of my comfort zone.

To help me along these three paths, I sensed the need to alter my perspective in these six areas.

Listen with an open — but objective –mind.

This sounds easy but the society, friends and family around me bombard me with their own judgements of what brings joy. Most of it meant to tug at my emotions, insecurities, or judgements and sway me to a decision of their recommendations.

Occasionally, what other people say altered my decision. Take movies or Netflix shows, someone might highly recommend a show, a book, a restaurant, etc. I will decide to choose their recommendation with the anticipation of the joy it will bring only to find I did not like it.

When I was younger, I was more easily swayed to other’s opinions. Sometimes in life altering ways. For example, when I started college, my aunt cornered me one Christmas to encourage me to get a degree in business. “You’ll make good money,” she’d say. “That business degree will open many doors to jobs for you.”

“It takes courage to do what you want. Other people have a lot of plans for you.”                                                                        Joseph Campbell

My aunt was a smart successful woman. I imagined that’s what I wanted. I perceived a great joy from attaining that goal: get a business degree.

I earned a degree in Business, Finance option and found I hate working in the field.

What I realized now is I needed to actually experience the career in some way to see if I like it, I mean really like it.

I read on Facebook and forums people asking what they should do for a living. I witnessed a variety of answers. I asked myself, “How did a person make sense from the myriad of choices.

The only way I know now to help with choices is to experience them.

The only real joy comes from the real experience.

Listen to Intuition

I leaned on my intuitive notions probably more than I should. Intuition is that feeling one gets with little or know knowledge to make a decision. Science shows that intuition works best when a person has some experience in the subject he or she intuits.

Instincts have lead me true in cases where I have experience with a person, place or thing, but in situations where I am new with not so much experience I could not depend on it.

However, I do have years of experience knowing myself. I listened to my intuition of my needs on many occasions. For instance, this blog was a result of my intuition. Something told me I should write a blog about Joy, not once but many times.

The this blog fills me joy. When I finished a day’s work, my “well” is full, and I can be more for my family and friends. I did not think writing this blog would bring me this much joy. I had to experience it first before I knew.

Learn from the past experiences.

I have a host of life experiences and reflecting back on them helps to separated my imagined joyful experiences versus real joyful experiences. A tool called the seven-story exercise helps individuals learn from their past, almost forgotten experiences, what brought them joy.

This method used by career and life coach professionals encourages their clients to search their memories — good memories — write them out and look for similarities of what made them joy.

I have written my seven stories and synthesized out what experiences were enjoyable. I have incorporated them into my current lifestyle.

To go back to the sailboat I wrote about in the opening, I look back at my experience with sailboats. When I am honest with myself, I realize I found the refinishing a boat brought some joy, but the actual sailing I found boring: Tack this way, travel that direction, while the first 30 minutes felt joyful the remaining time I fought tedium. Another reason not to buy the boat.

Block judgment of a person, place, or thing.

I will stop making judgements and come to an experience with an open mind. I don’t know if joy will be part of the experience until I move toward it with an open mind.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, encourages people go on dates by themselves. She calls them “artist’s dates.” The goal is to experience something out of the ordinary day’s activities.

Though Julia Cameron’s bestseller leans toward creativity,
most people can benefit from a reading.

Choose something different. At this time of my life, I choose Artist’s dates that involve activities I’ve never tried because. I am retired and I want to try new recreational activities.

If I was young and seeking career ideas, I would go on these artist’s dates only I would call them “career dates.” I would call up someone in a career that interests me ask for an interview; ask to experience the job. I would make a different career date weekly. I’ve done this later in life and it saved me much time and money figuring out what does not bring me joy.

To me, the key to any truly joyful experience is not just feeling good or telling myself, “Yeah, I can do this.”

No, it feels euphoric to the point where my confidence soars and I want to give back to other people. I become more passionate, more generous, and above anything else I feel like I can make a difference in the world. That’s the feeling of absolute joy to me.

I stopped asking others to make a decision for me and instead summoned the courage to go find out for myself. I found it much more rewarding in the long run.

Build concentration in the moment.

How much attention I bring to the activity can have a strong effect on my level of joy. Some philosophers posit all joy is found in the here and now.

To practice focus on this moment is said to induce more joy.

“The real secret to life is to be completely engaged in the here and now.”

Alan Watts, philosopher

Instead of looking into the future, past memory or present judgement to find joy and happiness, maybe — just maybe — all joy is right now, right in front of me . . . if only I focus into it. This takes concentration and builds concentration.

Writing this blog builds my concentration. I focus on its creation. Creativity, is my gift to the world and in concentrating on it, putting focus into it, I feel so much joy in that moment.

That joy would not have come about had I let my mind wander.

Experience everything.

Life is about experiences, some large and sublime other tiny and fleeting. I will work to come out of my comfort zone and experience the unknown without judgement whether or not each will bring me joy.

I will work to observe more of the people, places, and things around me I take for granted.

I will work to concentrate and finish that which I started so I appreciate the full experience.

The sailboat experience is gone, but there are so many more opportunities awaiting.

Peace, Love, Joy!

Who to Sacrifice to feel Joy?

The author Ursula LaGuinn wrote a short story titled The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. In it there is this town called Omelas where everyone feels joy all the time, people are happy, prosperous, and loved, but that euphoria the townspeople came at a price.

To feel joy in the town of Omelas the people must allow for one young child to be in misery and pain. The child is locked up in a room in a basement that’s no larger than a broom closet. The child is scared, maltreated, and alone forever. The child wails in pain, hides in fear, and starved for kindness.

It’s part of the deal for the town to prosper. This child must never feel joy. Everyone in the town knows about the child, but no one does anything to make the child’s life better. The townspeople make excuses. Making the child’s life better means making the townspeople’s life worse.

When the town’s youngsters reach their teenage years, they are encouraged to visit the child to learn the town’s “reason for happiness and prosperity,” but when they are shown the child in the closet and learn this child must live in pain, suffering, and starvation forever, their first reaction is anger or sadness. but given their well being, many come to accept the situation as necessary, but some empathetic souls question the community’s action or inaction. They must choose to go on living prosperously in the town accepting this atrocity or walk away from this nirvana forever.

LaGuinn’s, story feels strangely allegorical in these pandemic times. Should I accept that many more people should die from covid 19 in order to restart the economy so they can feel more joy, contentment, and well being? Or, do I do my best to follow the guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus and STAY AT HOME and suffer the sacrifices necessary so that more people can live?

Personally, I can only control my choices. I am responsible for my own actions to help not spread the virus. So, I promise myself to do these three things:

  1. I will follow the guidelines recommended by my doctors and elected leaders: to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash my hands and stay at home whenever possible.
  2. I will not give in to peer pressure by those who try and make me feel bad for following the guidelines. Instead I will use my integrity and “doing the right thing,” follow the guidelines.
  3. I will ask people to wear a mask in my present. I will stay my distance even as they get closer. A number of people have the mask with them. They just don’t put it on.

I see no joy in another’s death for the sake of my well being. Talking with individuals that caused another’s death either by accident or on purpose, I notice high stress; I see remorse and depression, even after ten years the incident.

Joy comes in the simple act of giving and caring for others. We see this around the Holidays.

I will adapt; I will persevere; and I will survive and do so by caring for the mortals around me.

In story LaGuinn’s story, not everyone accepts the situation of the little boy. Occasionally, adults go back and revisit the child and when they walk away they choose to keep walking away from the town. “They keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas, through the beautiful gates. They keep walking across the farmlands of Omelas. Each one goes alone, youth or girl, man or woman.”

I choose to walk away — six feet away from people, wearing a mask, or I can just stay at home.

Peace, Joy, Love

Finding Humor in Your Disasters

A new U.S. television series called The Baker and the Beauty has two supporting role characters that I like to watch more than the leading role characters. It’s Rafael and Mari Garcia, the mom and dad of Daniel Garcia. What makes them interesting to me is their attitude toward their relationship, their children and their life experiences — good and bad..

The Garcia’s owns a bakery, which if you know anything about bakeries you know they are a struggle, but though they struggle and tensions flare slightly, they always come back to what’s important, each other and life and more often then not, they use humor to get them through.

In the second episode, the bakery oven breaks down when they have chance to make an impression on a prominent food critic. They try to fix it, but in the end, instead of yelling at each other the mom and dad start laughing about it.

Two children stand dumbfounded at their parents respond to disaster. When the oldest asks, “Why they are not more upset and yelling and screaming.” The mom replies “Sometimes you just have to laugh.”

I agree. Sometimes you just have to laugh. It’s healthier to laugh than to anger. Yelling and allowing my tension to ooze into the environment does little to help any situation and does more harm to the people around me.

I had a minor disaster this morning — lost money in the stock market.

My wife could feel my tension even though I never said a negative word. My tone and facial expression spoke volumes of what happened.

She, in turn, picked up the tension and her voice and body language mirrored mine — how sad.

I’ve come to realize my mom modeled how to raise one’s tension over even a minor disaster like lost keys. As a kid, her yelling added to my tension and left me feeling like it was my mistake.

After our breakfast, I I tried it this morning after I meditated.

Three things that help me get to joy in times of disaster

One, I choose in my mind to look at my situation with a little humor.

“Just because you’re miserable, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your life.”

Psychologist Annette Goodheart 

Thoughts are just that, thoughts. I can choose which thoughts to bring into my mind, which one’s to hang on to , and which ones to let go. It’s my choice.

In my mind, I have grabbed onto my negative thoughts and let them bring me down. In my mind, I’ve projected horrible outcomes for my life, but my mind, I’ve reflected back on regretful choices.

Never did my dwelling on these thoughts ever help me be a better person, but the opposite. Meditation and the practice of choosing which thoughts to pursue in my mind helps me grow in real life. Sometimes it’s humorous thoughts because my mom’s modeling is hardwired into me.

When I looked back at my folly of thinking I could beat the stock market this morning and instead of anger with my decision making, I switched my mind to use humor to look at my poor decision. And instead of berating myself mentally, I took the experience as a lesson.

Two, I surround myself with people that have a little humor in tough situations.

 “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.”

Jim Rohn

You know these people. When you get off the phone or finish a conversation you feel uplifted. Sometimes they make you laugh even at your own mistakes. Yes, they may have a bit of “pollyanna” but sometimes we need that.

Call up someone you know is positive and maybe funny and see what happens to your mood.

Three, I choose to watch or listen or read to things that make me laugh.

“People throughout history have used humor, stories, music, dancing to cope with human tragedy,”

 Melina McLain

My wife always said if she got cancer, she would watch I Love Lucy reruns 24/7. No show ever made her laugh so hard or made her feel so good, but each one of us has a different idea of what’s funny.

On the internet I see people asking for cartoons or pictures that are funny because they need a little humor in their life — like now — and people respond to their need. We all get to laugh, then.

What shows or movies make you laugh and change you mood. I found this Funny Videos site. It made me smile. This activity is more passive and, I believe, the least effective of improving one’s attitude, but it’s still an option.

Humor helps keep me from spiraling down he rabbit hole of despair in my mind.

I look for songs the put a smile on my heart

It was Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning that brought this to my attention when he said, ““Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Include humor to help get though a tough time.

Peace, Joy, Love

Face Fear, Find Joy

During the first World War, a young French officer had been disciplined by his colonel for showing fear in battle. When the commander heard of the incident, he choose to reprimand the colonel rather than the officer saying, “None but a coward dares to boast that he had never know fear.”

We all feel fear. In times like these fear holds me captive in my thoughts. It blocks me from feeling joy. I have bowed to fear, dropped to my proverbial knees and done everything I could to avoid feeling fear, but I found in the long run it was better to face my fear, go through it, slice it and dice it until I no longer fear it. My fear level has dropped significantly.

Here are a dozen ideas I found that helped me to grow passed my fears and to find more joy in my life.

Write Thoughts Down

Writing down my fears has always helped me with sorting out them out and creating possible courses of action. It was a way to express my pent up feelings and brainstorm courses of action. Many times writing helped calm my mind.

Act Selfless

There were times in my life when fear kept me in my bubble when I actually needed to grow. It was thinking of others, like my family or teammates or squad that pushed me passed my fears, calmed my mind, and motivated me to action. Who needed me right then motivated me to be more than a ball of fear.

Study the Source

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many of my fears come from a lack of information — true information. That means researching assertions to ascertain its falsehood or truth. Once I read, study and learn from reliable sources my insecurity calms down, many times it helps me deal with it. Sometimes I call them “epiphany moments,” those times where I say, “Oh, that makes sense.” I avoid the sensationalism or exaggerated news, sometimes called “yellow journalism,” that raises my stress like watching a horror movie. Instead, I look for objectivity and facts. “Tell it to me straight.” The unknown causes me more anxiety than the known.

Study the Science

Looking at the science helps . I say science because with many unfounded “stories,” wives tales, and home remedies posted on the internet it’s easy to fall into believing they are true. Data usually does not lie. Science is backed with data and studies over a wide group of people. So, once I find information, I check how many sites actually support the information and, in particular, how many scientific sites.

Read “the Book”

I have books in my library, religious or otherwise, that inspire me to calm the storm in my mind. Just reading a few lines each day calms me enough to move through my day.

Concentrate on Breath

Concentrate on breathing not your thoughts. Thoughts are just that. They are not reality; they are perceived reality. When I concentrate on my breath, count the air flow in and out, I take power from my fear and give it to my body. This calms my mind because I no longer put energy toward my imagination. It’s a meditation technique. I meditate daily and concentrating on my breathing is a large part of it. When I am most anxious, I’ll do the meditation technique three times in a row until my mind starts to quiet.

Be Grateful

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met the man who had no feet.”

Helen Keller

Sometimes just being grateful helps me remember how much I have in my life. I must also look at the things I take for granted and be thankful. I look around me or at myself. I am so blessed. It can always be far worse, and if my time comes, I will be thankful for the life I have been given.

Develop positive affirmations

Certain affirmative phrases come to mind that help me through a situation. I like many of the same ones. They are like my mantras: “This too shall pass;” “Out of everything bad that happens, something good will come;” or “I will not go quietly into this good night.”

Set Goals

Setting goals helps me feel more empowered and less a victim. Where is it I could realistically be in five years? I focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t do. Sometimes that means radical change for me.

It’s so easy to put energy into past regrets or future uncertainties. I look to focus where I realistically can and want to be instead of what might happen. Sometimes I need to ask questions, activate new a approach or prospective or make tough decision before a more focused future was possible.

Listen to Music

This song moves me closer to joy.

There’s no doubt in my mind music helps calm my soul, raise my optimism, and motivate me to greater things. For my wife, it’s country music for me rock and roll. Sometimes it’s just one song you need to hear over and over — like the one to the right. When I get low, I crank it up.


To me prayer is a form of mediation. It soothes my mind depending on my degree of fear. I do pray. Prayer can be in many forms.

Choose Courage

“Courage is often caused by fear.”

French proverb

When I think back, I needed to be courageous at different stages of my life. I felt fear many times. It felt like a fire, an anxiety fire, as I moved through my situation, my decision, or my actions. It felt horrible, yet, as I stepped through that fire, I came out the other side stronger and wiser. This would never happen had I not chosen to face my fears. When I avoided facing my fears or avoiding actions needed it cost me in my personal growth.

So, moving passed my fears, some with painful consequences, has helped me become a better me.

We all feel fear. I hope to keep learning techniques for dealing with my fears.

Peace, Joy, Love

Finding Joy between Trump and Pelosi

How do I feel joy when my leader’s behavior makes me feel anger and sadness.

Watching President Trump give the State of the Union address and Congresswoman Pelosi’s reactions, I couldn’t help but draw the analogy of a dysfunctional family, both of them trading unprofessional behaviors. They reminded me of an angry husband and wife or ex-husband and ex-wife acting badly.

Afterward, the news media fed the negative emotions to the viewers or readers by re-showing the insults. After all, it’s about getting an emotional reaction from viewers, isn’t it?

Then citizens carried the negativity on to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and other social media, with their own pathos posts, meant to stir up more anger and strife. If I remember my psychology, anger turns to depression and becomes a vicious cycle. 

Does our leaders behavior increase the depression in our society? How does this help a nation already struggling to feel good about life? How can people learn to deal with this bombardment of negative emotion? How does one find joy in the election process when what we see is poor behavior from our country’s leaders?

I know, I’ve been there. I’ve been so hurt, so upset, and finally so angry by our leaders that I fed into the same negative talk. After all, I wanted to get my jabs in at the other side, as well, but I have learned no one wins in these negative battles and it certainly doesn’t make me feel better.

I for one have found three actions I can take that keeps sadness at bay and brings me back to more joy in my life during the election process.

1) I accept responsibility for my emotions.

No one can make me feel bad or negative. I have to allow that person’s negativity into my boundaries, my psyche. I chose the feeling. I alone chose the attitude for the action. I alone choose to read or watch something that feeds my negative spirit.

I alone allow someone’s actions or words to affect my mood. A favorite book that helped me understand this was Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow, by Karen Casey. Just reading this book when I get so upset by another’s words or actions calms me down.

The anger that festers inside me does not hurt anyone but me. That anger, annoyance or irritation I harbor from someone effects my health. It affects my relationships around me. I might think angry thoughts that turn into a snarky comment to some poor child or friend that happens to be in conversation with me. That may cause the other person to be infected by the negative energy and go on the defensive or worse say something negative to someone else because of my behavior.

I’m hurt! doesn’t that mean I can hurt them back? Yes, that’s one choice, but I don’t feel better and most times I feel worse.

Changing my attitude about the offense makes a difference. I try and look at it another way. If a two-year-old said the same thing to me, I might smile, laugh, at the very least I will not give that two-year-old power over me by reacting. I don’t change my attitude or feelings because of a baby. So, I will think of the offending person as a two-year-old child. Suddenly, my attitude has changed.

2) I Forgive

“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance . . .”

Ben Franklin

It helps when I forgive them. I don’t know the experiences that caused them to feel a certain way. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes.

I don’t know if it’s an age issue. Studies show the coginitive fuctions in humans do not fully develop until later in life and could explain the immature behavior.

I don’t know who or what pushed his or her button, caused the hurt to make them act that way, and if that’s the case, I wish them more peace in their life.

I don’t know what fears drive the negative emotions. I wish them to feel calm and clarity.

3) I am Proactive

“Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself . . .”

Ben Franklin

For the longest time, I read Facebook messages that I saw were meant to make readers feel angry or fearful. I did not feed into the shark frenzy, but I didn’t do anything either.

I asked myself, “Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?”

Am I part of the problem feeding angry words to a divided society or am I part of the solution choosing my mindset to overcome the emotionally charged negative emotions and write constructive comments to mitigate the tension?

This is hard. I’m the type that avoids conflict, but I’m finding the courage to say something at the risk of becoming the target of negative energy.

I can do one of five things.

One, I post statistics or studies that prove a point when opinions run wild. My feeling is data talks a verbiage walks.

Two, in a neutral way I call out the person feeding negative emotions

I call the writing or depiction what it is: a post meant to rile people and feed their negative emotions. This has caused me to become the target of those individuals trying to stir up emotions, but I calmly restate my opinion and point out the emotionally charged language. Sometimes I call it “Word Vomit.” Hey, I’m not perfect.

Three, I thank people for posting information that helps me with informed choices.

Can I be proactive in this election year and stand up for decency in a dialog? Can I say or write something that will bring more positive emotions to the world? Can I model how to handle the insults, the words or actions meant to cause me to feel anger?

Four, I write a letter or email to a congressional leader.

Write the media and express concern about their choices of wording or articles. Use your dollars to avoid such media. Write to congressional leaders expressing your gratitude for the professional manner or your concern about their non-professional manner or encouraging them to bring civility back to civic duty.

Five, I get involved

I can get involved either with my money or my time to bring civility back to the world.

The Joy of choosing my response.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man [or woman].”

Ben Franklin

There is a period of time between the stimulus and my response, where I decide how to respond. according to Steven Covey, an American author, speaker, and businessman who wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Will I choose a negative response or a productive response? Bringing peace to the election process begins with me.

It’s not easy, but I am determined to speak out in my small way to quell the fire of anger and fear that depresses our nation.

I know these actions will help me feel more joy when I choose the right response.

Peace, Joy, Love,

Money can buy happiness, but happiness is also free

By John Baxter

There was on a comic strip that has stuck with me the last 40 years. The first frame showed a young man sitting at his office desk saying, “I only make $25,000 a year. If I could make $50,000 a year, then I would be happy.”  In the second frame the now middle-man explains, “Now I make $50,000 a year and I’m still not happy.” The last third frame shows that same man standing, pointing his finger to the sky and saying, “But! if I made $100,000, then I would be happy.”

The research shows money does make you happy. According to the psychologist at Purdue University and the University of Virginia, the ideal income for the optimal, peak happiness is now $95,000 a year and after that much money, the degree of happiness starts to decline. 

That much money is earned by less than one percent of the world. Does that mean the other 99% of the world’s population is not happy?

When you can’t have the money to make you happy, what works to make people happy if they don’t have money?

Try these ten to raise your level of happiness:

  • Kindness: Studies show being kind to people even in little ways or volunteering to help raises one’s level of happiness.
  • Friendship: People with strong connections to friends and family, people they can talk and laugh with are happier, healthier people.
  • Time: Finding time for yourself is another proven method of raising one’s happiness level.
  • Exercise: Endorphins improve our mood through exercise. Regular exercise has shown to have many benefits and making use feel happier is one of them. But, not just any exercise. Choose an exercise you enjoy. I personally love swimming laps. I feel so good after that. What would be your form of exercise?
  • Nature: Have you ever sat and watch the rolling ocean waves, the swaying trees in a breeze or looked out at a vast expanse like hills, valleys, oceans or sky. Or, maybe you prefer watching a small bird flying, a flower about to bloom, or some other nature’s flora or fauna.
  • Fun: Don’t underestimate fun. When was the last time you had fun? What were you doing?  I like dancing. I would take myself to a place to dance.
  • Acquaintances: According to an abstract in the  Personality and Social Psychology bulletin studies show that even short interactions with acquaintances can boost your happiness level, so get out and smile at people.
  • Now: Stay in the “now.” The only thing we have is the present moment. Looking back at the past can bring on regrets or longings. Looking toward the future can bring on fear, anxiety, and stress. The present is all we have and where peace and contentment can be found.
  • Sleep: Ever not get a good night sleep and wake up feeling wonderful? Yeah, me neither. A good night’s sleep is a mood changer for the better, according to research.
  • Meditation:  Does your mind control you or do you control your mind? Meditation can help reign in your thoughts with just a few simple techniques.
  • Music: Belt out one of your old favorite songs (no breakup songs) or listen to your favorite music. Studies show it raises your wellbeing (happiness level.)

Notice that none of these have to do with money. Almost anything can be done for free to raise one’s level of happiness.

We’ll  look at these and more over the next few weeks to find out what makes people happy.

More later,