Oct 30 2009

What fear can teach us about happiness

Jamie Lee

fearThe only thing we have to fear is fear itself. This phrase, made famous by FDR, speaks volumnes about the paralyzing nature of fear; but have you ever considered how powerfully fear motivates?

We all know that fear of something can stop you from doing things that might benefit you. A fear of flying might keep you from traveling. A fear of public speaking might keep you from impressing your boss. A fear of dancing might keep you from having a good time at the holiday party. But, fear can also motivate you like nothing else. For instance, a fear of illness might make you eat healthier foods. A fear of being fired might make you work harder. A fear of being embarrassed on stage might make you practice your backup vocal part over and over for six days straight until your family wants to rip your tongue out. Oh, wait. That was me.

Yes, fear can definitely motivate you by frightening you with potential consequences. But, what if you flipped that tactic on it’s head? What if you could motivate yourself by thinking about the positive benefits of overcoming a fear?

With the spooky, scary Halloween holiday upon us; I’d like to invite you to do something that scares you. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something that makes you uncomfortable, something that makes you push just a little bit past the boundaries of your “comfort zone.” You may be surprised at what you can accomplish if you set your fear aside for a minute. And, if you do succeed, you’ll reap the benefits of new experience, expanded horizons, and increased confidence. Even if you fail, you can still say you tried. In truth, the act of trying is more than half the battle when it comes to conquering fears. You may not succeed the first time out of the gate, but it will be that much easier to go for it a second, third, or fourth time.

Each time you conquer a fear, your capacity for happiness grows. Happiness is often a by-product of feeling in control and accomplished. When you eliminate fears, you increase your ability to control your world and to accomplish whatever task is at hand. Think how wonderful it would be, for instance, if you no longer had to agonize over every little presentation you had to give. Or, what if you didn’t have to spend time worrying about looking silly in front of your child’s Kindergarten class (and the other moms), but could just go in there and have a great time?

Fear has it’s uses, but I prefer to focus on the positive ones.

How do you use fear? Do you motivate yourself with the threat of punishment, or the promise of a positive benefit? Which works best for you?

Photo Credit: Luna DiRimmel

Oct 29 2009

Lower your expectations.

Jamie Lee

sadprincessYes, that’s what I said; but it isn’t as pessimistic as it sounds. It might be more accurate if I said, “ditch” your expectations. Let me explain …

Have you ever gotten yourself all worked up about an event (like a party, concert, dinner, etc) only to be really disappointed when the big day finally arrived? I’ll bet you’ve walked away from more than one Big Deal something-or-other thinking, “Wow. That was anti-climactic.”

It’s easy to make the mistake of setting yourself up for disappointment by placing huge expectations on something. The “something” might be a new job, a special event, a relationship, or even – gasp! – you. The trouble with expectations is that you expect them to become reality, and then – when they don’t materialize the way you’d expected – you are sorely disappointed, even angry. You feel gypped out of something that was rightfully yours. You feel betrayed. You might feel foolish.

But, you say, you don’t want to go through life low expectations. Of course you don’t, and I don’t want you to either. I want you to go through life without any expectations. Ditch those expectations and replace them with aspirations. It’s a subtle but powerful difference. Put simply, an expectation is something you expect while an aspiration is a goal or objective. Often, expectations spring from a sense of entitlement, but aspirations usually spring from a desire to attain something through your own actions. An expectation is passive, but an aspiration is active. If you expect to have a great time at a party, you’re waiting for someone or something to create that good time for you. If you aspire to have a great time, you’ll find a way to have a great time – regardless of outside circumstances.

You should fill your life with goals and objectives, but put expectations out of your mind. Instead, work towards your goals while enjoying the journey. Expectations can be very limiting – closing us off to undiscovered possibilities. Ultimately, nothing we do is as much about the end result as it is about the journey … but that’s a post for another day.

Do you have expectations or aspirations about things? If you have expectations, how do you think your outlook would change if you shifted to aspirations?

Image Credit: Gabriela Camerotti

Oct 27 2009

Good Moods 'n' Gratitudes

Jamie Lee

gratefulIt’s after 9PM and I’m feeling like I ought to just give in, take a shot of NyQuil, and call it a day. So far, this week has been plagued with technical difficulties, insane work schedules, a nasty cold, and – to top it all off – continued falling in the Good Mood Gig voting polls. Rough week, and it’s only Tuesday.

So, what does all this have to do with being in a good mood? I’m so glad you asked.

Whenever I’m having a particularly rotten day – you know the kind I mean – I take a moment to make a mental note of the things I’m grateful for. From the huge items that we often take for granted (like our overall health) to the small details that we often overlook (like sun shining through the window, warming the back of your neck while you work), each day holds many large and small pleasures for which to be thankful. The act of expressing gratitude automatically puts you in a positive frame of mind. How can you be cranky when you’re in full appreciation mode for the wonderful gifts in your life?

Think I’m crazy? You may want to try the gratitude journal experiment: For one month, take a few minutes at the end of each day to jot down five things you’re thankful for. I did this for one year and was amazed at the power of this tiny committment to consciously appreciate the good things in my life.

Today, I’m thankful for:

  1. Being able to take time to chaperone my daughter’s Kindergarten class on a visit to a local farm
  2. A great first meeting between two business associates that I referred
  3. Having the money available to buy my mom a couple nice birthday gifts (she deserves them!)
  4. The patience of my wonderful beau who always looks out for me – even when I’m the one driving me crazy
  5. An easy-breezey bedtime with my daughter tonight – bath, books, & bedtime

How about you? What are you thankful for?

Image Credit: Sno Shuu

Oct 26 2009

How to easily turn on your good mood

Jamie Lee

ericHDo you have a personal soundtrack? I highly recommend getting one.

Whether you capture it on your iPod or 8-tracks, a collection of songs that put a little extra spring in your step is a valuable asset and a gift that keeps on giving. The right music can calm your nerves, bolster your courage, and brighten your mood. The right music mix can be a highly effective health tonic with no side effects (unless you count involuntary toe-tapping ).

Here are 10 grooves that always do the trick for me with a random pick for the embedded video:

  1. Amazing – Josh Kelley
  2. New Shoes – Paolo Nutini
  3. Stitched Up – John Mayer with Herbie Hancock
  4. Sounds Like This – Eric Hutchinson
  5. Rock & Roll – Eric Hutchinson
  6. Ok It’s All Right With Me – um … Eric Hutchinson again :) … see below
  7. Agua del Pozo – Alex Cuba
  8. Don’t Tell Me – Soulive
  9. Legendary – Hamilton Loomis
  10. Fibre De Verve – Paris Combo

So … what tunes get your mood into an upswing?

Oct 23 2009

Friday Fun: Animals in Good Moods

Jamie Lee

That’s right – we humans don’t have the market cornered on good moods. In fact, animals are probably much better than we are at reveling in the good mood just for the sake of it. We should all take notes and incorporate a little more pointless play into our lives.

A picture can be worth a thousand words, and sometimes a video can be worth a dozen smiles and a belly laugh. So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy these videos showing animals having a great time with their good moods.

Oct 22 2009

Are happy people stupid?

Jamie Lee

spreadjoyI have a theory that people curb their expressions of joy in order to avoid looking stupid. Think about it. If you see someone letting loose with full-blown enthusiasm and happiness, isn’t your first thought that they must be a little crazy? Sadly, happy people are often regarded as slightly off balance, “touched,” or maybe not quite as “sharp” as the rest of us. After all, if they really knew anything about anything, they wouldn’t be so damn happy, right?

That’s sad.

Take this video for example. There was a part of me that expected a piano to drop out of nowhere and squash this guy in the middle of his infernally happy song. I kept waiting for it. I figured, “No one can be this genuinely passionate about spreading joy.” There has to be a catch, a punch line, something. But, no, there’s no catch. According to the creator’s site, a guy named Mike Strickland got tired of watching all the violence on TV and wrote this little ditty about spreading joy. Seriously. How simple is that?

As corny as it is, this song made me smile. I can relate to the guy who wants to go out and teach people to see the joy instead of the horror. That’s a big part of what I find so appealing about the Good Mood Gig – the chance to do just that, help people realize how easy happiness can be. It just takes a change in perspective and the courage to look a little stupid sometimes. Personally, I’d rather be happy and stupid than miserable and brilliant. How about you?

Oct 21 2009

Mother Nature’s medicine

Jamie Lee

bradleypathMother really does know best – Mother Nature, that is. No matter what ails me – sadness, apathy, lethargy, angst, confusion, worry – a walk through woods and fields always helps me to rebalance my emotions and regain my perspective.

There is something about the great outdoors that gives your mind the space it needs to function more productively. John Burroughs, American naturalist and essayist, put it best, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

Although I enjoy the unique bounty of each season, fall has always been my favorite. It is the season of deepening contemplation. A walk through autumn woods invites reflection and aimless meandering thoughts. The crisp air is ripe with the scent of decaying leaves, alive with the sound of creatures preparing for winter’s long sleep.

No matter the season, the natural landscape is rich with enlightening metaphors. I cannot count the number of times I have gone into the woods with a question weighing heavy in my mind, and come out an hour later with the answer. Though she cannot speak in our language, Mother Nature finds other, more poetic ways to make her point.

Though I may outgrow many teachers in my lifetime, I know I will always learn from and be healed by the wild world. As another famous naturalist, John Muir, put it, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” So very true.

Oct 19 2009

Are you realizing your misery to its full potential?

Jamie Lee

miseryAre you searching for the secret to happiness? Do you mull endlessly over what might make your life more complete, balanced, centered, and fulfilling?

I recently asked for opinions on what lies at the root of a good mood. While writing that post, I started thinking about what most typically gets in the way of a good mood. After all, sometimes the best way to define something is to define what it’s not. Once you identify the things that make you snap, you learn to anticipate and avoid them – meaning you get to maintain your good mood.For me, the things that send me into a funk include running late, miscommunications, people with a sense of entitlement, wasted time, traffic, and so on.

While “researching” (read: cruising YouTube) this topic, I came across the enlightening video above. It does a great job of helping you put your head around some of the things that commonly derail a good mood – sending you spiraling into pits of doom and despair. Not pretty.

Do you fall prey to any of these all-too-human vices? Shhhh – you don’t have to say it out loud. But, if you can, just acknowledge it quietly to yourself and see if you can’t start to break the habit. In the meantime, enjoy the video and share it with your friends – I’m sure they are guilty of a few transgressions, right?  😉

Oct 15 2009

Give me 24 minutes and I’ll make you smile

Jamie Lee

muppetsMy friend Mimi commented on yesterday’s piano stairs post  saying that she smiled because the video brought out the “kid” in her. That got me thinking.

And then, last night, I curled up on the sofa with my daughter and my beau, our Boboli pizzas (chicken and broccoli for her, pepperoni for him, and Hawaiian for me), and a DVD of the Muppets, Season Three.

You remember the Muppet Show, right? Please say,”yes.” Don’t make me feel older than I am.

Jim Henson’s masterpiece of a puppet-run variety show was a family favorite when I was a  kid. As I sat down to watch the episode featuring Kris Kristofferson and his lovely wife Rita Coolidge singing sappy duets with each other and Muppet friends, I was transported back to my much more carefree youth. Watching Kermit, Miss Piggy, Continue reading

Oct 14 2009

Do you know how to have fun?

Jamie Lee

Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.
Brandan Gill

This saying is one of my favorites – partly because it makes me smile, and partly because if gives me a Douglas Adams-esque sense that, “Oh, well, that’s all right then.”

When it comes to inspiring a good mood, few things are more potent than good, old-fashioned fun to get the ball rolling. The trouble is, as grown-ups, we often forget how to have fun. Our days are so full of busyness, busywork, busy bees, and Other Important Things that it’s hard for us to take a moment to breathe, never mind find ways to have fun.

The video above is Continue reading