Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Kindness Through Loss

Before you know what kindness really is, you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment… only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say ‘it is I you have been looking for’ and then goes with you everywhere, like a shadow or a friend. –Naomi Shihab Nye

The future feels like it is dissolving around me lately: dreams dissipating, relationships abruptly ending, and young people overcome by their possibilities, or lack of them, are taking their own lives. This is what my days have been full of. One has only to pick up his or her local paper to bear witness to the loss and struggle that characterize the lives of so many. We are collectively awash in things lost and running as fast as we can to re-imagine a future, any future.

Loss and the stages of grief that accompany it are universal. Little by little, beneath the anger, denial and depression, our sorrow carves the unbelievable into our psyche, making the grooves in our brain expand to accommodate what our hearts cannot hold. This is the truth of deep sorrow; it changes us bodily if we allow it. Refusing is no good; although it is unfortunate no prizes are ever awarded for the mighty efforts made to resist our own pain. The resistance becomes its own storyline, which the Tibetans call “shenpa.” This is the places where loss hooks us, and rather than actually experience the depth of our sorrow and pain, we devolve.

Shenpa is pre-verbal. It is the electrical charge behind our emotions, our thoughts and our words. It often is the energy behind the storyline that we fall into continuously, often without our own witnessing. Whether we are hooked by our attachment to who we think we are, what we have or don’t, who we love or who doesn’t love us, as soon as “shenpa” takes over, we lose the chance to feel what is really going on. The more someone tries to get through, the more closed off we become.

Our storylines can replace our life experience for our entire lives if we aren’t careful. Losing the ability to feel works both ways, it isn’t only the painful emotions we miss, it is the joy and pleasure too that gets devoured by our habitual reactions that don’t serve to protect our hearts nearly as much as they numb them.

I have been practicing leaning into the losses lately. It is not pretty, trust me. I am not trying to paint a rosy glow of the unbearable and intense loneliness and abandonment that translates from loss and sorrow for me. Staying with it has been exhausting. But it also has been a window. Insecurity, fear, loss are the roots of our natural intelligence. They have the power to shine a light on what really matters if we have the courage to unhook ourselves from our stories. They can stand alone and wash over us, seemingly swallow us up whole, but then just like the tide, they retreat. Shaken up but still intact, our hearts strengthen from vigorous use. They will not break under the weight of our feelings; they will grow stronger and more compassionate.

We are all out there being tossed around by the waves of success and ruin. It is the most universal experience of humanity. Not only hope springs eternal, real kindness grows from what we lose. We become our own friend, like our shadow that is with us in the light and the dark.

Wendy Strgar is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love and family. Wendy helps couples tackle the questions and concerns of intimacy and relationships, providing honest answers and innovative advice. Wendy lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, a psychiatrist, and their four children ages 11-20.

via Kindness Through Loss | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

How to start a garden, save money, and eat fresh!

AARP the magazine featured a great article recently, detailing a full plan for a vegetable garden in your yard. I’ve been looking for something like this all summer! This year was too busy and I spent too much time away from home to start my organic vegetable garden, but I’m armed with all the information I need to get a great start on next year!

The article talks about specific plot sizes, how to prepare your soil, keep out greedy animals, what is will all cost and how much you can save on groceries.

The author also points out how a garden can be a teaching experience:

Most vegetables are annuals, planted anew each year, but I tuck in a few alpine strawberries, too. These tiny, exquisite plants bear fruit all season and remain in place from year to year, to our grandchildren’s delight. They head for the strawberry row the minute their parents pull up in the driveway. Our sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes are also kid magnets, and I like to think our small foragers are gleaning far more than a healthful snack. They’re learning that growing food brings joy, and that dividend is priceless.

I would add to that, not only does growing food bring joy (which it definately does) but also that it nurtures an understanding that the food you grow needs balanced care, sunlight, water, protection etc, just as people do. This lesson makes it easier to understand why it is unhealthy for people to eat and drink junk and fake foods, and to have respectful balanced care for their own bodies. What a great lesson to draw on, especially in the teen years!

Dirt Cheap Eats.

4 Tips for Happiness

selected from Delicious Living

While you might already be familiar with some feel-good tips, like exercising regularly and making time for families and friendships, research has uncovered more ways to build on these fundamentals. Here are four things you can do right now to take your well-being to the next level.

1. Use your brain

“When it comes to brain chemistry, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” says Joe Dispenza, DC, author of Evolve Your Brain, (Health Communications, 2007). “When you think differently, you create new circuits in the brain, which creates new patterns in behavior and feeling.” Meditation can open up those circuits and boost happiness by cultivating contentment increasing blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain–the source of the higher-level thinking that enables us to chart our own course instead of just reacting to our environment. It also enables you to recognize and minimize thoughts that lead to unhappiness–such as those that center on guilt, blame, judgment, and pessimism–and favor those that foster a more positive state.

2. Foresee and reflect on happiness

It’s true that happiness is in the now, but thinking
about positive things in the past and those that you anticipate in the future can actually boost your present happiness. “Savoring past pleasurable experiences boosts your positive emotions in the present, and positive emotions are the key to happiness,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness (The Penguin Press, 2008). Relish in the contentment the event triggered, not rue the fact that the experience is over. Anticipating happy events–like watching a funny movie–can also lift your mood. Research has even shown that you don’t need to laugh to reap the effects: Men who were planning to watch their favorite funny movies saw a significant increase in mood-enhancing hormones even before the movie started.

3. Buy someone a present or give to charity

Whether having more money boosts happiness over the long-term is up for debate. But research from the University of British Columbia has found that using your own money on someone else’s behalf produces a happiness surge. The researchers gave students either $5 or $20 and told half the students to buy something for themselves and the other half to spend it on someone else. Those who donated their money to charity or bought a gift for a friend reported a significantly bigger increase in well-being. And there was no difference in the uptick in good feelings between those who spent $5 and those who spent $20, suggesting that even small gestures have a big impact.

4. Eat dark chocolate

Food feeds your brain in addition to fueling your body. “Dark chocolate is the perfect brain food,” says Cheryle Hart, MD, author of The Feel-Good Diet (McGraw-Hill, 2008). While you don’t want to overdo it, indulging a little can give you an extra boost just when you need one. Sugars fuel the brain, caffeine provides an energy lift, and magnesium helps the body manufacture serotonin. Hart suggests one or two ounces of organic, high-quality dark chocolate in the midafternoon, when serotonin typically dips to its lowest level of the day.

via 4 Tips for Happiness | Healthy and Green Living.

Lasting marriage linked to better health

Lasting marriage linked to better health

Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:26pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who get married and stay married may enjoy better health than the perpetually single, but losing a spouse could take a significant health toll, a new study suggests.

Historically, studies have found that married people as a group tend to be in better health than singles — though recent research suggests the health advantage of marriage may be fading.

In the new study, researchers found that middle-aged and older Americans who were currently married tended to give higher ratings to their health than their never-married counterparts. They also reported fewer depression symptoms and limits on their mobility.

On the other hand, divorced or widowed adults fared worse than the never married on certain health measures — including the number of chronic health conditions reported. “Previously married people experience, on average, 20 percent more conditions and 23 percent more limitations,” the researchers write in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Remarriage seemed to lessen some of the health effects of divorce or widowhood. However, remarried men and women were still in generally poorer health than those in a lasting marriage.

“We argue that losing a marriage through divorce or widowhood is extremely stressful and that a high-stress period takes a toll on health,” researcher Linda J. Waite, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, said in a written statement.

“Think of health as money in the bank,” she added. “Think of a marriage as a mechanism for ‘saving’ or adding to health. Think of divorce as a period of very high expenditures.”

The findings are based on data from more than 9,100 Americans age 50 and older who took part in a national health survey in 1992.

Overall, 55 percent had been continuously married, 4 percent had never married, and the rest had been divorced or widowed at least once.

Marital history was linked to overall health even when Waite and colleague Mary Elizabeth Hughes factored in participants’ age, race, sex and education.

The findings do not necessarily mean that simply staying married is a health boon, however.

A shortcoming of the study, the researchers note, is that it lacked information on marital quality. Past studies have found that people who remain in an unhappy marriage may have increased risks of health problems like high blood pressure, depression and heart disease.

SOURCE: Journal of Health and Social Behavior, June 2009.

via Lasting marriage linked to better health | Health | Reuters.

Happy couple starts their life together with a boogie down the isle

By Michael Inbar

TODAYShow.com contributor

updated 10:31 a.m. ET July 25, 2009

Most couples wait until the reception before breaking out into the Funky Chicken on their wedding day, but Kevin Heinz and Jill Peterson figured, why wait to unleash their unbridled joy?

The 28-year-olds floored their wedding guests by having their whole bridal party — including seven bridesmaids, five groomsmen and four ushers — boogie down the aisle in a choreographed dance more at home in a Broadway musical than in a somber church.

Groomsmen split into sides as Heinz did a somersault in front of the wowed crowd — and the gown-clad Peterson quickly followed, shaking her hips to Chris Brown’s “Forever” while pumping her bridal bouquet into the air during the June 20 ceremony in St. Paul, Minn.

via Secrets behind wacky YouTube wedding dance – TODAY Weddings.