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Inner Peace: Joy is infectious (Part I)

What do you think is the most popular category for re-pins on Pinterest and for responses and shares on Facebook? Inspirational sayings, right? Part of it is a reflection of economic realities. Having economic fears and anxieties simply means that you’re aware and paying attention. Our health is a legitimate concern as well. For the first time in history, life expectancy and overall health measures of adult Americans are declining. (If none of these categories apply to you, have compassion and generosity for the rest of us.)

In a reality where glib “don’t worry; be happy” platitudes are lacking in wisdom as well as empathy, how can someone like me insist that Happiness is the goal of ALL of my programs?

The first reason is physical health. Anxiety and worry depresses your immune system, raises your blood pressure (which damages kidneys and arteries and leads to premature death and an end to sexual function), and wrecks your skin.

The second is that joy is infectious. All your other problems start easing when you approach other people with a glow. You can talk your bankers into outrageous rule-changes, you can encourage discounts and more-time-to-pay from nearly everyone, you can blind hiring managers to your flaws and weaknesses, and you can convince everyone else to have hope for their future as well.

You can even have the faith to commit to healing of long-festering problems if your expectation for your future changes. One caveat: Don’t allow a preference for a positive twist on your situation to morph into suppressing your first duty to tell yourself and others the truth about your life. But joy can be part of Truth, too.

Carve out time in your day, every day, for joy. Joy is your natural state when you are fully present in your body, in your reality. So:

• Stop rushing from place to place, so you have time to breathe deeply and look up at the clear blue sky or the new daffodils or the cute dog walking your neighbor.

• Have less things on your to-do list, if you have to, but make time for Reiki, tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT), yoga and meditation.

• Give yourself time to breathe and be still, accomplishing nothing tangible, unless you count better physical health, sharper thinking and — joy. As one of my Pinterest pins reminds me, “It’s just a bad day, not a bad life.”

And make time, at least once a week, to be creative.

• Build something. Go to a craft shop, just walk around and, when something catches your heart, don’t talk yourself out of it, second-guess or shame yourself. Buy it. Take it home. Try it out. When you let go of the desire to “do a good job,” and get others’ approval, not only do you create great art — because “great art” is anything that is an authentic reflection of your feelings and your vision — but you will feel such an intense upwelling of pure joy, it will take your breath away. Keep going into mindfulness, to keep the critical voices at bay. It is the PROCESS of the creation that reduces stress, gives you new insights into your life and makes you bubble with joy. 

• Learn a new skill. There are hundreds of tactile skills like crochet. Sign up on www.Coursera.org for free online courses, the local Southern Oregon University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), or another learning site. When you are learning, your pre-frontal cortex lights up, and when it lights up, so do your joy circuits. And your Pride-in-Yourself circuits. You deserve to feel that good. 

People like the Dalai Lama, who encourage you to seek joy in the midst of your troubles (while also having compassion for your legitimate pain and difficulty), are your true North Star if you want a life that soars.

Next week: Joy Part II

For more about Victoria Leo, go to www.soaringdragon.biz or Leo's Facebook group, "Healing Minds, Healing Bodies," or her blog at SoaringDragoninJapan.blogspot.com. You can find her books on Amazon or at Bloomsbury Books.