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The Science of Happiness: 5 Ways Nature Makes You Happier

“Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness.” Samuel Johnson

Who doesn’t want to be happy?

We all could use more happiness in our lives, so I’ve compiled some of the scientific research on what makes us happy.

In the video below, I share insights from studies in the fields of positive psychology, medicine, and behavioral economics on the important role that nature plays in our happiness.

From these studies we learn that:

  • Deepening our connection to nature improves our happiness
  • Spending time in nature lowers our stress levels and makes us happier
  • Exposure to nature increases our happiness and helpfulness

Watch to discover how you can use nature to boost your happiness and improve your health. For more easy ways to increase your happiness, download our daily happiness half-dozen. This is a pdf of 6 activities you can do in a few minutes each day that are scientifically proven to increase happiness.

How would you describe your connection with nature? Email me your thoughts on how you . interact with nature to boost your happiness.

Look & Feel Amazing: A Guide To Fitness Success for Every Woman

In this episode, fitness coach Mel Prickett (www.excelwithmel.com) and I discuss how to avoid the traps and myths that undermine our success in achieving our fitness goals. We discuss why fitness is critical to the reaching our optimal level of success in life.

Read on to discover:

  • Why weight-loss programs with pre-packaged meals are dangerous.
  • Why skinny isn’t an appropriate fitness goal.
  • How to decide which type of exercise is going to get the best results for your body.
  • How to find time to prepare healthy meals.
  • How to tell the difference between a plateau and a healthy weight.
Practicing daily body affirmations can give us the energy and motivation to meet our fitness goals.

Practicing daily body affirmations can give us the energy and motivation to achieve fitness success.

Listen to the Audio on Fitness Success


“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” –Eleanor Roosevelt


Watch the Video on Fitness Success

  1. It’s not that you don’t have enough time for fitness. It’s that fitness has not become a priority for you.

  2. Stop listening to what other people tell you that you should look like and feel like. Do what works for you.

  3. The keys to meeting your fitness goals are: be patient, be consistent, and increase your knowledge.

  4. 80% of fitness is the food you put into your body. J.E.R.F. (Just Eat Real Food)

  5. Once you get to your happy weight, work on finding balance.

Fitness helps you look and feel great; yet the benefits go beyond your physical body. Focusing on your fitness goals will help you feel more confident, energetic, and can help you accomplish your other personal and professional goals.

You have enough time for everything important in your life; decide what's important. Click To Tweet

Join the Conversation

What are your thoughts on the relationship between physical fitness and personal success? How do you maintain your fitness goals in the midst of the busyness of life?

WOW: Women of Wisdom

Women of Wisdom is a podcast that brings you insights from amazing women about how you can live a healthier, happier, and more rewarding life. If you have suggestions for future topics or would like to be featured on an upcoming episode, please email me [email protected].

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How to Palooza Your Birthday: The Secret to Getting Better as You Age

Positive Aging Through a Birthday Palooza

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan

In my book, Your Life As A Celebration,  I discuss how you can transform your life into a celebration of you. You can create a life that affirms your core values and engages in your life purpose. In short, you can create a life that honors your purpose, personality and perspective. This is a life that fills you with energy and joy because it is an authentic reflection of you. Rather than living into someone else’s definition of success, you are able to create your own personalized success vision. This personalized vision of success inspires you to take action.  Your inspired actions transform your life into a true reflection of your innermost desires. Here success is not a destination, it is the process as well. The goal is to have every day be and more complete expression of your talent and purpose.

One way to express and track this transformation is through your birthday celebration. Your birthday becomes an opportunity to celebrate what you love about yourself and life. Your birthday also allows you to track your progress of becoming more authentically yourself.  Here, I describe the process of turning your birthday into a celebration that honors the gift of you.

Your Birthday: The Most Important Holiday of The Year

Everyone who knows me, knows how serious I am about my birthday. I have never gone to school or work on my birthday. My friends say that’s because I have a summer birthday. But I believe that if you only celebrate one holiday a year, it should be the day you were born. It’s a celebration of your life and all that you contribute to the world. That is worth missing a day of work or school.

Unfortunately, too many women avoid celebrating their birthdays. For them birthdays marks their decline in beauty, vitality, and worth. The negative images associated with aging lead many women to attempt to remain 29 years old forever.

Yet as you connect with your life purpose, you will find that you have much to celebrate with each passing year. You are no longer wandering through life or looking backwards to some romanticized glory days of youth. You are  daily living out your life purpose.  You are nurturing your gifts and contributing them to your community. This is definitely worth celebrating. Since you grow within a community of supporters, your celebration should also be communal.

With each passing year, you know your heart better. Now you can incorporate that wisdom into activities that fill your life with purpose, meaning and joy!

Creating Your Birthday Palooza

My birthday celebration takes up an entire month and is affectionately known as Keshapolooza. I encourage you to make your own personal birthdaypalooza. It may be a day, week, month, or even a year for special milestones. Regardless of the length of time, it should be a celebration of your life’s purpose and contribution.

Here are some questions to consider to help you plan your own birthday Palooza:

  1. What activities bring you joy?

Joy is an amazing emotion in that it feeds off itself into expanding circles of joy. Regardless of what they are, joyful activities will shape your bio-cognitive functioning. For a better understanding of how your emotions influence your health, read my article on natural boosters of your immune system. The experience of joy also improves your general sense of well-being. Thus, it changes how you experience other areas of your life.

2. What images symbolize your life’s purpose?

Living a life of purpose is critical for your happiness. Individuals who have a clear sense of meaning and purpose in their life are happier, healthier, and live more productive lives. While most people are clear on the importance of life purpose, they remain confused about how to identify it for themselves.

If you are looking to gain clarity on your life purpose, sign up for my free life planning toolkit. This resource will guide you step by step in identifying your life purpose. You will then use that purpose to craft your personal mission statement and vision statement for your life. These resources serve as guideposts in decision-making about your time, energy, and resources. They also inform the imagery and symbolism of your birthdaypalooza. Because, the symbols of your birthday celebration are powerful affirmations of your life purpose.

3. On the best day you can imagine, what are you doing? Who are you with?

The answer to these questions will give you a concrete lists of people and activities to include in your birthday celebration. You may not be able to do all these activities, or include all these people. But this will serve as your initial brainstorm planning list.

Be as creative as possible in thinking about how to include this list in your celebration. If an activity you dream about doing is climbing Mt. Everest, perhaps you can include indoor rock climbing or a local hick as part of your celebration. Or perhaps you can include images of Mt. Everest in your celebration.

There may be people on your list of ideal birthday celebrants who live far away or are no longer living. Think creatively about how you can connect to that person or your memories of that person across the distance. Remember, this is your celebration. Whatever activities evoke personal connections for you are ones that you want to include. This reminds you that you are not alone and allows you to experience the joys of life with your community. Such social connection is crucial for happiness, health, and longevity.

4. What foods or tastes bring you pleasure?

Food is a sensory pleasure that connects us to feelings of satisfaction and well-being. The strong connection between food and emotions is where the “emotional eating” ritual begins. Except now you are not using food to escape painful feelings. Rather than mindless eating, you intentionally savor the food and all the other sensory aspects of your celebration. This practice of mindfulness intensifies the joy and pleasure of the experience.

5. What music/sounds immediately transport you to a happy place? A peaceful place?

Music has been described as the “universal language” because of it’s ability to communicate directly to our souls. With our without words, music moves us. Music is highly personalized. What moves us may not have the same effect on others.

For your birthday celebration, identify a piece of music that is particularly moving for you. Make sure that this music inspires you and reminds you of your life purpose. This will be your “theme song.” Every great movie (and great hero) needs a theme song and so do you. You should play your theme song frequently throughout the day, throughout your birthday celebration, and throughout the year. Play it when you are feeling happy, depressed, confused, angry, ect. Play it whenever you need reminding of your purpose and inspired into action. You may need different theme songs for different phases of your life. I change my theme songs annually.

6. What have you learned about your heart this year? How would you like to apply or/ expand this insight in your upcoming year?

Remember that your birthday celebration is a way of tracking and celebrating your self-discovery process. Be as specific as possible about what you have learned about yourself and about life in this past year. Each birthday is a sort of graduation celebration. You want to be clear on what you have accomplished thus far. We recognize that life is a journey. Therefor we can look forward with anticipation to the upcoming year(s) and all these wonderful gifts we will discover and experience in the next leg of our journey.

Document Your Growth

Write all your answers to the questions above in your birthdaypalooza journal. These will become the seeds of your creative brainstorming about how best to honor your life journey this year. The form of your birthday palooza will change with each year, but it should always be a “full-sensory” event, including sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and movements that bring you joy and help you to connect with your life’s purpose. The meanings of these objects and activities do not need to be obvious, only significant to you. You may decide to consult books about color therapy or aromatherapy in your selection of specific images and smells, or you may choose to go with what you know at your gut level moves you. This is your personalized holiday and today you can have it your way!.

I’d love to hear about your birthday palooza and join in your celebration. Please feel free to share photos, cards, or notes about your process. You can tweet photos and descriptions of your birthday experiences to me and our community @coachkesha #birthdaypalooza. Your celebration is not selfish or self-centered. It is a public recognition that you are a unique creation and that your life matters. This is true for you and for everyone else who shares this planet with us. Honoring yourself gives others permission to do the same.

Honor: Your Gateway to Health & Happiness

honor yourself for health and happiness

“Health is guilt-free abundance.” Dr. Mario Martinez

You’ve been selected to have dinner with a very special person. This person is worthy of tremendous honor and respect. She is amazingly talented and an important contributor to our world. She is beautiful, both inside and out.  How do you feel about this dinner? How will you behave? What will you say?

What if I told you that you will eat with this person every night? What if I told you that you have already eaten with her every night because that person is you?

Are you surprised? This is not a silly trick, it is absolutely true. You are an amazingly talented and beautiful person, worthy of great honor. Yet, many people ignore, disbelieve, or misunderstand this truth.

My goal is to remind you of the importance of honoring yourself. Honoring yourself is not arrogance and does not make you an egomaniac. Honoring yourself is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. Moreover, honoring yourself is critical for your physical and mental health.

What Does It Mean To Honor Yourself?

First, honoring yourself means recognizing your worth and committing to meeting your own needs. There is a feedback loop between you and others. As you recognize that you are worthy of great care, you can be fully present in taking care of others and yourself. As you do, you are demonstrating a model of self-care for those you love as well.

Caring for yourself is not selfish and it is not mutually exclusive with caring for others. Rather, self-love is an integral aspect of loving others. They are two sides of the same coin. The entire moral code of Christianity is summarized in the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord with all your heart soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” I suggest that this moral commandment reflects a commitment to self-love and honor.

If you do not love yourself, what kind of love can you show for your neighbor? If you only love yourself, what kind of neighbor will you be? Self love that extends to others. Most importantly, healthy relationships, healthy communities, healthy societies are based on balanced expression of love.

Therefor, honor is the embodiment of self-love and self-respect. People who honor themselves are healthier mentally and physically. They are more likely to be compassionate towards others. They are more socially responsible. In general, people who honor themselves are happier, healthier people.

The Destructive Power of Shame

In contrast to honor, shame reflects an understanding of the self as unworthy. Shame reflects a lack of honor, compassion, and respect for the self. Shame is different from guilt. Guilt suggest negative feelings about problematic behavior. Shame suggests negative feelings about oneself. Thus, shame is more globalized and not limited to specific behaviors.

Because guilt affirms your core value system, it is consistent with honoring yourself. It encourages you to make amends to repair the damage caused by violating your values. Guilt leads to positive behavioral outcomes and is considered a pro-social behavior. But, shame often leads to more destructive behavior directed against oneself and others. Prof. June P. Tangney, a leading expert in the study of shame and a professor of psychology at George Mason University, explains:

“Guilt is a useful emotion, It pushes people to repair the harm they did….But feelings of shame about oneself seem to motivate people more to want to hide, escape, deny or a lot of times to blame other people.”

In her research study published in the Journal Psychological Science, Dr. Tangney found that prisons who felt guilty were less likely to break the law again. Their guilt led them to refrain from future illegal behavior. This outcome was not seen in individuals returning from prison who did not show the evidence of guilt.

In another study of children, adolescents and adults, Dr. Tangney found a clear difference in the outcomes of guilt as compared to  shame. Guilt led to constructive behaviors and shame led to destructive behaviors. Shame lead to anger, aggression (direct and indirect), self-hostility, and negative long-term consequences.

Although shame is clearly linked to a host of negative mental health outcomes, the damage does not stop there. Shame also damages our physical health. Subjects asked to write for 15 minutes on a shameful experience, showed physical inflammation. The researchers concluded that shame increased the inflammatory response of their immune system.

Honor Yourself with Health and Happiness

We know that shame is damaging to our physical and mental health. Yet, shame also damages our relationships with others and our relationship to ourselves. Shame is a manifestation of devaluing and disrespect for the self. Learning to honor the self is an antidote for shame. Honoring yourself promotes healing, vitality, and happiness.

Dr. Mario Martinez reminds us that positive emotional states improve our physical and mental health. The emotional states that have the greatest impact on our well-being are love, commitment, and loyalty. Dr. Martinez refers to these emotional states as “healing fields”. He teaches individuals how to cultivate these healing fields and promote optimum health.

Honor is an important healing field because it communicates love and respect for the self. Because our immune system operates according to a moral code, honor enhances the functioning of our immune system. Expressions of fear-based bio-emotional states produce visible damage in our physical bodies. Expressions of love-based bio-emotional states promote visible healing and regeneration in our bodies.

This relationship between honor, self-love, and physical healing is documented in the medical research by Dr. George F. Solomon. Dr. Solomon revealed that women who expressed righteous anger toward their abuser were less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, regardless of the presence of a genetic marker. The anger these women expressed was a logical and appropriate response to the violation of someone they loved and valued (themselves). Those women who were not able to connect with this righteous anger were more likely to develop a chronic illness. Thus, there seems to be a connection between protecting yourself emotionally and physically. In both cases the protection comes from a sense of self-love and value. This is an example of the healing field of honor.

When we honor ourselves, we love and protect ourselves on every level. On the cellular level, we promote healthy immune functioning to take care of our cells. When we honor ourselves, we care for our bodies with healthy nutrition and exercise. When we honor ourselves, we choose only to be in relationships with people who treat us with love and respect. Dr. Martinez reminds us that:

 “We never abuse what we mindfully love.”

How Can You Practice Honoring Yourself?

Practicing small and large acts of honoring yourself is a way of mindfully loving yourself. It communicates to you and others that you are to be loved and respected. It triggers the holistic healing fields that promote your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.

Here are simple, yet powerful ways, that you can practice showing honor to yourself. Remember, honor is a healing field. As you take part in the activities below, you promote your health and well-being on every level. You can honor yourself by:

  1. Committing to meeting your own needs.

When you honor yourself, you commit to meeting your needs rather than waiting on others or the circumstances of life to do so. Relying on others to meet your needs leads to feelings of disappointment and depletion. It also often creates conflicts in your relationship with others. The other person may feel inadequate or resentful that they are unable to meet your needs.

Yet, relying on yourself to meet your needs leads to feeling energized and confident. It also gives other people permission to do the same. When people see you loving yourself it inspires them to do the same. Charity begins at home. Give yourself the love and care you give to others. You are worthy of love and admiration.

Think about where you are currently feeling emotional dissatisfaction. List three emotional needs that are currently unmet. What would you need to feel satisfied? For each emotional need you identify, think of one way that you can give yourself the gift of meeting that need.

  1. Create rituals of honor for yourself.

Honor rituals are important reminders to yourself that you are worthy of honor. You can create a series of habits that you do on a daily basis. The goal of these actions is to remind yourself that your are someone of tremendous value and worthy of great respect and honor.

For me, the rituals I create around the celebration of my birthday are important ways in which I honor myself. In next week’s blog post, I’ll describe in more detail how you can turn your birthday into a celebration honoring your life.

Yet, there are also simple daily actions you can take to honor yourself. For example, the Sanskrit greeting “Namaste” translates to “The light in me salutes the light in you.” What a wonderful daily reminder that you are worthy of honor. It also reminds you that every person you meet throughout the day is worthy of honor as well.  What a double blessing!

Share your success….

I’d love to hear about your large and small honor rituals. Please share below how you remind yourself of your tremendous worth. Let our community know how you practice giving yourself the love and respect you deserve.

You do not have to wait for others to love, care for, and honor you. You can do that for yourself. Commit to honoring yourself by meeting your core emotional needs today.

How to Get the Perfect Female Body

how to get the perfect female body

Getting the perfect female body requires learning to love, not loathe, your body.

Beach time is quickly approaching and many women are buying diet pills, body wraps, and any other product promising to give us the perfect body. Although Americans spend more than $60 billion annually trying to lose weight,  71% of American adults are obese or overweight. A 2007 report by British researchers found that women in the UK spend about 31 years of there life on a diet. This is not a continuous healthy eating plan, but rather a yo-yo diet with most women giving up in less than six weeks. The reason why our “health obsessions” lead us to even greater levels of poor health is because they are based on loathing our bodies. The secret to getting your perfect body immediately and permanently is learning to love the body you have.

 

Body Loathing vs. Body Loving

Body loathing includes words and actions that insult, harm, and degrade your body. It involves criticizing your body or parts of your body, damaging your body by depriving it of sufficient healthy and nourishing food, and publically insulting your body. In fact, much of our female-female conversation involves the body loathing ritual of trading criticisms about our bodies. All of these body loathing activities harm our physical and emotional well-being and make it difficult for our bodies to be healthy and functional.

While you might consider criticizing your body as motivation to improve, it actually has the opposite effect. Science teaches us that human behavior is improved by a positive encouraging environment, not a negative one. In a 2005 study published in the American Psychologist, researchers documented the critical element in promoting human flourishing. Flourishing is living at the optimal level of functioning and performance. It is associated with perceptions of goodness, creativity, growth, and resilience. It is estimated that less than 20% of Americans are flourishing and this lack of flourishing is linked to a host of physical, emotional, and economic problems.

So what best predicts whether an individual or an organization will flourish? The ratio of positive to negative thoughts. Those with a ratio of at least 2.9, approximately three positive thoughts for every one negative thought, were much more likely to experience flourishing: peak human performance.

As an educator, I know the great importance that my attitude and approach can make in student performance. If my students perceive me as caring about them and their well-being, they are able to take in my instruction and feedback and use it to improve their knowledge and skill. However, if they perceive me as a harsh task master who cares more about my instruction than them, they will resist learning anything from me. This principle underlies all human behavior and performance.

Recall the individuals in your life who have been great teachers and/or coaches. Who were the people that were able to inspire you to work your hardest and get the most improvement in your performance? What did they think of you? How did they treat you?  Most likely these were individuals who had high standards for you and communicated a high regard for you. They valued and respected you and your ability. They knew you were talented and worked diligently to cultivate that talent. And in this context you flourished.

Now compare that experience to the external and internal messages you take in daily about your body. Do these messages affirm the inherent value and beauty of your body? Do they celebrate your body’s function and performance? Do they nurture and cultivate your body in a loving, supportive environment? If you’re like most of us, the answer is no. It’s no wonder that our bodies respond like rebellious children, refusing our explicit instructions to be well and perform.

 

Body Loathing Cannot Produce the Perfect Female Body

When you separate yourself from your body, evaluating it as a set of components, you are objectifying yourself. You are treating your body as an “object” separate from you- the beautiful soul that inhabits your body. It is a mistake to believe that you can demean your body and love yourself. It does not work because there is a permanent connection between our bodies and our souls.

Belittling our bodies diminishes how we feel about ourselves. When we demean our bodies and say explicitly or implicitly that our bodies are not good enough, we are saying to ourselves that we are not good enough. We are not good enough to be loved and respected by others or ourselves. That’s why we believe it’s appropriate to demean and brutalize our bodies with forced deprivation, injurious workouts, or feeding it unhealthy food.

Both the so called “healthy” behaviors and the unhealthy ones come from a place of body loathing and our bodies respond with resistance. Resistance may be in the form of a plateau where your body refuses to release any more weight in spite of your best efforts. Resistance may be in the form of returning to your pre-diet weight with a few extra pounds for support against the task master of self-deprivation. Resistance may be in form of weakened performance and diseases as your body withdraws from the hostile climate you’ve created.

All of these forms of resistance are natural and appropriate responses to assaults on the dignity and worth of the self. Resistance is the natural response to oppression, even when we are the ones creating the oppressive environment.

The way to end this resistance and reconnect with our bodies is to create a body loving environment. A body loving environment will remind us that our bodies are not objects to be controlled, but rather visible extensions of our unique selves. Body loving environments affirm our inherent value and dignity. They operate from the assumption that we are already “good enough” and create an environment to remind us of this truth and encourage us to do our best.

 

A Better Definition of the Perfect Female Body

Perfect comes from the Latin word perfierce, per- meaning “completely” and farcere meaning “do”. Thus saying something is perfect suggests that it is whole, complete, and lacking nothing. You have successfully developed into a full grown woman with all of the curves, lines, rights, and privileges that status entails. You are whole and complete. You are perfect!

Claim your perfect female body today! All it takes is recognition that you already have it.

You are already good enough.

You are already beautiful.

You already perfect.

You do not need to get her eyes, butt, breast, skin in order to be beautiful. Nor do you need to lose, gain, shrink, or enlarge any part of your body to be deserving.

This moment, at this size, is your perfect female body. As you come to understand and accept this truth, you will be able to love and nurture your body (and yourself) in a way that brings out your personal best. You will care for it as you do a newborn infant. Providing it with all the nourishing foods and experiences it needs to grow and flourish. Celebrating its changes and development. Affirming its inherent value and worth.

Loving your body means feeding it nourishing foods out of your care for its well-being. It means being gentle will your body, giving it the rest it needs and deserves. Loving your body involves moving your body, celebrating it’s growing strength and improved functionality. Loving your body also includes protecting it from harmful toxins and emotions that damage its functioning. Finally, loving your body includes speaking loving words of praise, gratitude, and affirmation regularly about your body. As you love your body, it will love you back.

As you do these actions, you and your body will develop a beautiful relationship built on love, respect, and cooperation. In this body loving climate, your body will transform to its optimal performance. You and your body will flourish.

Just as a loving teacher brings out the best in her students, your loving care will bring out your personal physical best. You will look and feel great! Most importantly, these changes will be permanent and built on healthy, respectful actions.

Body Loving Affirmations for the Perfect Female Body

A group of over 1,800 women shared their body loving affirmations on a hypnobirthing blog post. I’ve posted a few of my favorites here to get you started on celebrating and cultivating your perfect female body. I suggest that you practice these affirmations standing in a full view mirror so that you can experience the full impact of learning to “see” yourself differently and learning to love what you see.

    • My mind is clear and open. My face radiates beautiful kindness. My head is held high and proud. My eyes reflect the beauty of the world around me. My shoulders are strong and stable. My arms are open to giving and receiving love. My hands are capable and skilled. My heart is courageous and loving. The roundness of my belly connects me to our Mother Earth. My hips are free and fearless. My legs support and carry me through my life. My feet are always moving me forward towards my goals.

 

  • I see myself with loving eyes, and I love everything I see.

 

  • I am grateful for this body! It allows me to experience the world around me and gives me sensation beyond measure.

 

  • My body is love. My body accepts love. My body gives love.

 

  • My large feet keep me planted firmly on the ground. My thick thighs provide plenty of lap space to sit on. My soft arms create a cushiony pillow for small heads.

 

  • My body cannot be owned. It is not my possession, rather, my body IS myself. I do not look upon it as “other.” As I include my body into my sense of self, empathy for its story is the only thing left to feel, and I accept my wholeness.

 

  • My body is a miracle.

 

  • I am always the perfect age.

 

  • My body and spirit are a perfect team and are always working together.

 

Congratulations on claiming your perfect body! As you celebrate your body, you give other women the permission to do so as well. So please share your insights and your commitment to creating the perfect female body.

The Secret of Maya Angelou: A legacy of triumph

The Phenomenal Legacy of Maya Angelou

The Phenomenal Legacy of Maya Angelou

In 1928 Marguerite Annie Johnson, the great spirit that we have come to know and love as Maya Angelou, began her life journey. Maya gained strength and wisdom from her family and community that enabled her to thrive in spite of the oppressive force of Jim Crow segregation. Through her writings, Maya Angelou taught us how to transform our own suffering into triumph . As I reflect upon her legacy, I am struck by three major themes that shaped Maya Angelou’s life and writings. These themes present important life lessons to us about how we can transform our suffering, maximize our joy, and impact our world.

 

Maya’s Legacy to Us….

We too can transform our adversity into success.

Transform our adversity into success.

  1. Use the power of your voice

As a woman who enjoyed a long and prosperous career as a writer, poet, actor, and singer, it is hard to believe that Maya Angelou’s voice was ever silent. Yet from the ages of 7-12, Maya experienced selective mutism. Maya Angelou was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Shortly after her telling her brother about the abuse, the man who abused her was found dead. Maya refused to speak believing that her speaking caused his death. Even her silence was a result of Maya’s belief in the power of voice. Fortunately, Maya regained her willingness to speak and through her writings has helped so many people who were also victims of sexual abuse also find their voice.

 

Maya Angelou quote

 

The first of her autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, discussed this traumatic event and other painful memories of growing up under racial segregation. This book was an immediate national and international success, catapulting Maya Angelou onto a worldwide stage. It also made literary history as the first non-fiction best seller written by an African American woman. Maya Angelou’s willingness to courageously voice her truth paved the way for her success and enabled her to help countless people around the world who have read and benefited from her work.

Use the power of your voice to shape your world.

Use the power of your voice to shape your world.

This is the power of voice. Imagine how your life can change and how other people can benefit from the contribution of your voice. Do not shrink from the challenge of the task by playing small and suggesting that there is nothing for you to contribute. Your challenges and triumphs have given you a unique perspective that will add value to others if you are willing to give it voice. If there is something you want to say, chances are there is someone who wants to hear it . Activate the power of your voice.

  1. Never stop growing and contributing

    Love Life quote

    Live your life passionately!

Maya Angelou’s artistic career began in her late teens and continued until the time of her passing in 2014. She was always producing without recognition of the clock of ageing and cultural expectations about slowing down. Maya Angelou published her first memoir at the age of 41. She began her academic career as a college professor at the age of 53 and was invited by President Bill Clinton to write a special poem for his Presidential Inauguration at the age of 65.

Much of the reason for Maya Angelou’s longevity in her career is the vitality with which she approached life. She was always learning and growing which enabled her to continually make fresh contributions to our world. The writings of Maya Angelou are not recycled versions of her earlier work; they reflect change and growth. Maya demonstrated a willingness to engage in new forms of expression and start new careers past the age when society expects us to retire from life.

Lifelong learning is the key to vitality and longevity.

Lifelong learning is the key to vitality and longevity.

Maya Angelou serves as a positive model for aging, especially for women who are often taught to connect our vitality to youth. I remember the wisdom she shared with Oprah about the glory of life after 50. Although I was barely 20 at the time that show aired, I remember thinking how excited I am about turning 50! And then Maya returned to the Oprah show to report that 80 was even better!

Maya Angelou showed us that our beauty, vitality, and ability to make valuable contributions to the world does not stop at any age . Her commitment to life-long learning and her openness to sharing makes Maya’s legacy so impactful. She did not shrink from the painful, dark places both internally and externally. She faced them with courage, humor, and love and invited us to do the same.

  1. Expand your horizons through travel

Travel teaches us new things about ourselves and our world.

Travel teaches us new things about ourselves and our world.

Maya Angelou spent much of her time in the 1960’s living abroad. She lived in Egypt for some time and worked as an editor of the English language weekly, The Arab Observer. Later Maya Angelou move to Ghana where she worked as a freelance writer and editor of The Ghanaian Times. These extended travels outside of the United States helped to expand Maya’s understanding of herself and her place in the world. She later returned to the US to help her good friend Malcolm X build his new organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity(OAAU).

The experiences and relationships that Maya formed during her travels expanded her understanding of the human struggle and the possibilities for our collective future. Travel can do the same for us. Too often we remain in our comfort zones, interacting only with people who share our identities and perspectives. Whether we are traveling across town, across the country, our across the world, travel can disrupt our comfortable notions of ourselves and our world . This disruption is valuable because it requires developing a bigger, more comprehensive perspective that can incorporate the new perspectives and experiences of the diverse people we encounter through our travels.

 

Continuing Maya’s Legacy….

 

Be the hero for this time and this place.

Be the hero for this time and this place.

Maya Angelou has given us a precious gift by sharing her life and her art with us. Although we can no longer ask her questions about the new challenges of our day, we can continue to draw upon her wisdom. We are the beneficiaries of Maya Angelou’s legacy and we can commit to making sure that this powerful legacy does not end with us. We can choose to share the courage, wisdom, and love that Maya shared with us . We can give the gift of our voice, commit ourselves to lifelong learning and growth, willingly share our contributions with the world, and expand our horizons by engaging people and places outside of our comfort zones.  In doing this, we rise to greet the possibilities of each new day with the hopefulness embedded in Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning.”  Please listen to the poem below and imagine Maya Angelou speaking to you about the power and potential that exists within you at this moment.

 

I invite you to share your own reflections on the legacy of Maya Angelou for you below.

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Tactics to Address Poisonous Thoughts

Are you drinking poison on a daily basis without even knowing it? Most likely, you are. Negative thoughts limit our potential, drain our energy, and create dis-ease in our physiological and psychological states. Like ingesting poison, accepting these thoughts is a silent killer of our well-being. Here I’ve identified types of poisonous thoughts you may be ingesting daily. I’ve also provided you with the antidotes to restore your energy, improve your relationship, and restore your sense of well-being.

Types of Poisonous Thoughts

Self-limiting beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are self-imposed limitations on our actions and goals based on what our beliefs about what is possible. Our beliefs serve as the horizon that frames our understanding of ourselves and our world. We shape our behavior to conform to such beliefs. For example, it was once believed that humans could not run a mile in under 4 minutes. Once Roger Bannister broke that record in 1954, it expanding our thinking about what was humanly possible. Now highly trained athletes commonly run a mile in less than 4 minutes. That is the power of breaking a self-limiting belief.

All of our self-limiting beliefs begin with the phrase “I can’t because….” I can’t do that because I’m not good enough. I can’t do this because people will reject me. I can’t try because I will fail. Once we pronounce that we can’t we have imposed an upper boundary on what is possible and we limit our dreams and behaviors to remain within this narrowly defined limit. Through this thought process we condition ourselves to play small, not to try, and to shrink our desires. Self-limiting beliefs are a silent, but deadly, killer of our passion and potential.

Fundamental attribution errors

Psychological research has documented a pattern of behavior known as the fundamental attribution error. These pattern reveals that we are much more likely to attribute the cause of a person’s behavior to internal factors (character traits), rather than external factors (situational causes). Thus, the person who cuts us off in traffic is doing so because he is rude and selfish, not because he’s just received a call that his son has been taken to the emergency room.  The interesting thing about this attribution error is that we do it with everyone, but ourselves. When we are running late, it’s because there was heavy traffic or something unexpected happened; while when others are running late we assume they are just irresponsible.

The fundamental attribution error leads us to see the world as a dangerous place filled with people who are fundamentally unlike us. On an individual level, it produces feelings of isolation and disconnection from others. On a larger level, it undermines group trust and shared identity. Our heightened feelings of fear, stress, isolation, and anxiety are consequences of a daily diet of this particular brand of poison.

Fixation on the negative.

Have you ever gotten feedback on your work or performance that was overwhelming positive, but afterwards you exclusively go over the critical component of the feedback? Trust me, you are not alone. Many of us have the deadly habit of fixating on, almost to the exclusion of everything else, the negative events of our life. So when I give a talk that was well-received by most of the audience, I may spend the rest of the day thinking about the one person in the front who sat with her arms crossed and didn’t laugh at any of my jokes. We may frame this to ourselves as a necessary step for “improving”, but this fixation on the negative impedes our development.

Whatever we focus on becomes magnified. When we fixate on the negative events that happen to us, our perspective of ourselves and our life becomes disproportionately negative. Instead of seeing our strengths as well as our weaknesses, our challenges seem to loom large and our perceptions of our strengths shrink in comparison. Our energy is drained and we begin to see ourselves as incapable, incompetent and unworthy. We may try to act as if that judgement is not true, but the content of our self-limiting beliefs reveals what we truly believe about our power and potential.

The poisonous thoughts that we ingest on a daily basis damage our bodies, emotions, and relationships. However, solving the problem of negative thinking reconnects us to ourselves, our community and provides us with the energy and resources needed to pursue our life goals.

Solutions to Negative Thinking

Ingesting these daily will provide you with increased energy, joy, and well-being.

Ingesting these daily will provide you with increased energy, joy, and well-being.

Physics teaches us that two distinct forms of matter can not occupy the same space at the same time. So you can not think poisonous and healthy thoughts at the same time. Rather than focusing on trying not to think poison thoughts, I encourage you to identify a replacement thought that you will begin to think about the moment you notice yourself ingesting a poison thought. Below I identify the antidotes: the specific replacement thoughts designed to counteract the effects of the three brands of poisonous thinking. Each time you observe poisonous thoughts entering your system, administer these antidotes and they will increase your joy, energy, and well-being.

Self-empowering affirmations

Reading stories about people, like Roger Bannister, who have gone beyond what we think of as possible for ourselves challenges the validity of our self-imposed limits and encourages us to reach for more. Self-empowering affirmations also have the power to shatter those false limits and motivate us to take necessary steps toward achieving our goals. These empowering statements affirm our ability to grow beyond our past and achieve above our previous expectations. I encourage you to write down a specific affirmation that reminds you of the tremendous creative potential within you and review that affirmation daily.  You can use an affirmation you’ve seen elsewhere or create your own for the specific circumstances of your life. By reciting these self-empowering affirmations on a daily basis, you will expand your vision of yourself and your expectation of what you can achieve.Some sample self-empowering affirmations are:

Acknowledgements of our shared humanity and dignity

Supporting ideas that affirm our share humanity shatters our self-imposed isolation and makes collective action possible. We can replace our experience of isolation with an experience of social connection by choosing to adopt different thoughts. The truth is that this is our choice because we truly don’t know what motivates other people’s behavior. In fact, we are still in the process of discovering the complex forces motivating our own behaviors. Since our knowledge of others is always incomplete, why not start by granting them the compassionate light that we tend to use in assessing our own behavior? This is a cognitive version of the Golden Rule: think about others as you would think about you. This basic reframing allows us to recognize our shared humanity and replaces feelings of anger and judgement with empathy. Acknowledging our shared humanity and dignity promotes feelings of empathy and trust within us and our communities.

Expressions of gratitude

Gratitude invites us to focus our attention on the positive within ourselves and our world. Since what we focus on becomes magnified, practicing gratitude magnifies our positive emotions and supports an optimistic sense of our future. Psychological research reveals that people who practice gratitude regularly report higher rates of happiness, better relationships with others, less stress and better sleep. One way to incorporate gratitude into your life is to keep a gratitude journal. Writing regularly in this journal the things that you are grateful for increases your joy. By focusing your attention on the “small gifts” placed in your day, you solidify the memory and the positive feeling associated with it into your mind.

Our thoughts are real things that shape both our internal and external reality. While we might not be able to exert full control over every thought that enters our minds, mindfulness allows us to notice and engage our thoughts in a manner that promotes our physical and emotional well-being. Once we notice the presence of poison thinking in our minds, we can quickly apply the needed antidote to restore our sense of balance and well-being. Practicing such mindful engagement with our thoughts on a regular basis reprograms our thought patterns.  Now that you have the tools to do exactly that, doctor heal thyself!

I’d love to hear which poisonous thoughts are prevalent for you and how you replace them. Please share your insights and successful practices below for others to benefit as well.

 

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