“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:
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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. Click & Tweet! 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. Click & Tweet!
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.
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.
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.
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 Click & Tweet! . 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. Click & Tweet!
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.
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.
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 Click & Tweet! . Activate the power of your voice.
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.
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 Click & Tweet! . 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.
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 Click & Tweet! . 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.
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 Click & Tweet! . 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.
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. Click & Tweet! 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.
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. Click & Tweet!
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.
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. Click & Tweet! 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.
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 Click & Tweet! .
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:
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 Click & Tweet! . 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 Click & Tweet! . 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 Click & Tweet! . 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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