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.
People who are successful in life and their careers have mastered the skill of saying no. They don’t say no to everything. Instead, they say no to people, projects, and activities that are in not line with their core values and life purpose. In this article I share how this simple word can help you create balance in your life and work. I also share two easy techniques to help you develop the habit of saying no to everything that is not in line with your core values and purpose.
Early in my career as a college professor, I was overwhelmed with service obligations. I was new on campus and everyone wanted to take advantage of my new energy and areas of expertise. They frequently invited me to participate in their projects, classes, and committees. Additionally, the fact that I was also one of a handful of black faculty on campus meant that I was the first person to come to mind for any request related to diversity.
Service is my way of life. I am always looking for ways that I can add value to others through my unique gifts and talents. I was also eager to get to know and work collaboratively with my new students, colleagues, and administrators. But the expansiveness of my service and teaching obligations made it difficult for me to find time for my research, my family, and my other life priorities.
I quickly learned that I needed to perfect the art of saying no if I was going to be able to thrive in this career and in all the other areas of my life.
Developing the habit of saying no to most request was difficult for me and is challenging for many of the women I work with. Many of us pride ourselves on being helpful to others. We are also very concerned about hurting others feelings or disappointing them. However, once you fully understand the value of saying no, it becomes clear that this is a loving and compassionate act for you and others.
By saying no to most request, we protect our time and energy. This enables us to say “yes” to things in line with our core values and life purpose.
We all have a finite amount of time and energy. Spending time on a non-priority project provides less time for our high priority projects. Many of us are overwhelmed because we are doing too many activities. When something that we really want to do comes along, we add it to the list because it’s too great to pass up. But adding to a crammed schedule means that we will not have the focus and energy to do our best in this activity. We may not even enjoy it as much because we’re exhausted from all the other activities jammed into the day.
Often times we don’t want to say no because we don’t want to disappoint the person making the request. Just imagine how disappointed they will be when you don’t complete the job. What about when you don’t do your best work because it’s not high on your internal priorities?
People make requests of us because they value our talents and competencies. They expect us to bring our best game to the requested project. That’s difficult to do when it’s not something that we value. This is what often leads to “forgetting” to do an activity or missing a deadline on a project. It may seem as if we are disorganized or too busy. But in fact, we are unwilling to prioritize that activity given our limited resources. If we communicated this to the person at the time of the request, they could have found someone else who could focus on the activity. But, now they are doubly angry. First, because their activity didn’t go off as envisioned. Second, because they believe that you are the reason that it didn’t.
It is disingenuous to accept a project that is not in line with our purpose and values because we can not do our best work. It’s better to say “no” upfront. We will experience a smaller level of disappointment compared to the disappointment later in the process when we haven’t performed our best.
Resentment occurs when we feel out of control. Saying no helps us to regain control of our life choices. This prevents our growing resentment of others for the choices we make.
Accepting projects based on other people’s values and priorities creates resentment. We act as if they “made” us do something. This resentment is compounded if we think that they are not grateful for our “sacrifice”.
When you do things because they are in line with your purpose and values, you’re not disturbed by the outcome.
If the outcome is different than you expected, or if others don’t appreciate it, you still believe it’s valuable. It’s always nice to have your work valued and appreciated. But when you work on things that you value, it is already valued and appreciated!
We do our best work when we are focusing on projects and activities in line with our core values and life purpose. This is how we get in the flow. In flow, we are fully engrossed in a activity that we find intrinsically meaningful. As such, we are willing to go the extra mile to achieve optimal results.
Also, we gain energy when we work on activities in line with our purpose. This energy enables us to remain engaged in action. It also provides us with creative insight that isn’t available to people with more peripheral interest.
Have you found that when others tire and shut down, you can sustain your engagement? Are you able to see possibilities and opportunities more clearly than others? This resilience and problem solving ability comes from your sincere passion and curiosity. It is easy to do your best at things in line with your purpose. Your passion gives you the curiosity, insight, and motivation needed to excel.
Reflecting upon how you feel after an activity is an indicator of its relationship to your purpose and values. If you feel physically tired but emotionally energized, you are likely doing something in line with your purpose. If you feel drained and depleted, you’re probably not working within your purpose.
While the work may not be easy; it is easy to excel at activities in line with your purpose.
You owe it to yourself, and others, to only accept projects that bring out your best. This is where you can make your greatest contribution.
You understand why it’s critical to say no on a regular basis. Now let’s consider how you are going to build that habit into your life. Having “yes” as our default position has become a habit for many of us. That bad habit is not going to change without intentional intervention.
I’ve listed two proven strategies to help you address your habitual yes. These techniques will shift your default response from “yes ” to “no to anything that is not in line with my purpose and core values”.
Fasting means to refrain from food or activities for a specific period of time. The purpose of the fast is break existing habits. It is also intended to promote reflection and introspection.
Taking a yes fast means that you will say “no” to all requests of you for a specific period of time. That period may be a month or a year. I suggest at least a month so that you can say “no” long enough for it to become your new default. It will also give you enough time to observe the consequences of saying no. This will help you become more comfortable with the new habit.
At first saying no may feel very uncomfortable and others may exert even more pressure on you. This is especially true if you’ve developed a habit for saying yes. But, staying the course will allow you to observe that others’ can adjust and the world will go on. Although you may believe (or people may suggest to you) that you are the only one who can do this activity.
Saying no allows you to see that other people really can step up and do the activity. Or if the activity doesn’t occur, perhaps that’s fine as well. Perhaps that was not the best way to meet the need/goal anyway.
This will be a scary experience in the beginning.
Developing a habit of saying no requires both faith and courage.
Faith to believe that you really are meant to do those things in line with your life purpose and core values. Courage to protect the space to do that. Your faith and courage will reward you with increased time and energy. This reclaimed time and energy can be invested developing yourself and your purpose.
If the thought of saying no to absolutely everything is too scary for you, set a narrow parameter. Your parameter should require you to say no to 90% of new requests but allows a small fraction to still get a yes.
After my early years of teaching, I realized I needed to change from my default yes. But, I felt unprepared to go 100% cold turkey no. After discussing this with my trusted friends and mentors, I decided to say no for an entire year to any request that would take more than two hours of my time. The two-hour time limit included the time to prepare and participate in the activity. This was a very difficult thing for me to do. I called my closest friends on a weekly basis with all the reasons why I should make exceptions to my rule. Thankfully, I have great friends who continued to remind me of my commitment and why it was important.
With the help of my support team, I was able to stay the course. By the end of the year, my default was no longer “yes”. I was able to experience the value added to my life of saying no to the many “good, but not purpose-driven” requests made of my time.
Another option to help you move from a default of yes is to establish a No Committee. The No Committee takes the stress away from you of deciding whether to say no.
You select close friends and family members that know you, your work, and your life well. You then explain to them your intention of saying no to non-purpose driven activities. Clearly articulate to the No Committee your life purpose and core values. This will become their guide for all their decisions. Inform them that you commit to abiding by the decisions of the committee.
Because the committee is made up of people who love you (but are not you) they can evaluate the request with emotional distance and clarity. They agree to compare the request to your established priorities and core values. Then make their decision based whether the request is line with your purpose.
The No Committee must have an odd number so that there is never a tie. The committee must agree to respond with a quick turn-around to any request that you pass along to them. I’ve served on a No Committee for years. I have found it a useful and effective way to support my loved ones in achieving more balance in life and work.
Your balanced life can begin today! It requires you to prioritize activities related to your purpose and core values. Say no to everything else! You’ll be amazed at how you can increase your impact on the world and your own happiness. If you’d like other resources to help you better manage your time and balance your energy, check out my YouTube videos on time management and emotion management.
Share you thoughts on effective strategies to create balance in your life. Let’s keep the wisdom flowing! Comment below.
Why would the woman who founded Mother’s Day spend the rest of her life trying to end this holiday?
Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world, but the American version was initiated by Anna Jarvis as an attempt to bring reconciliation between the North and the South after the Civil War. Ms. Jarvis started the first Mother’s Day celebration in 1908 and it eventually became a nationally recognized holiday in 1914. Ms. Jarvis was so disappointed with the commercialization of Mother’s Day that she spent much of her wealth and time in legal battles trying to end the national holiday.
It’s also interesting to note that this woman who founded Mother’s Day was herself never married and had no children. Ms. Jarvis founded the day to honor the death of her mother and celebrate the contributions of mothers across the country. Today, many women like Ms. Jarvis (women who are single, women without children, women who’ve lost their mothers) feel excluded and injured from our contemporary celebrations of the holiday.
Rather than working to ban the holiday as Ms. Jarvis did, I propose we adopt a broader view of Mother’s Day that is more inclusive and more in the spirit of Ms. Jarvis’ original intent. This more inclusive view of Mother’s Day focuses on the act of mothering Click & Tweet! , in stead of the status of motherhood. In this expanded focus we are able to embrace all women in our national celebration.
It’s may be hard to believe that Mother’s Day celebrations can be seen as exclusionary and painful for a number of women, but it’s true. As someone who struggled for years to conceive a child, I know first hand how isolating and painful our Mother’s Day celebrations can be. It seemed as if every woman my age was already a mother and that left me feeling even more alone and like a failure because I was not able to achieve this sacred status of motherhood.
Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it are already an emotional challenge for many of the 6.7 million women struggling with infertility. In the Savvy Auntie® Facebook community, courageous women shared honestly about how they feel being childless on Mother’s Day. These women reported feeling:
The painful feelings associated with Mother’s Day are not limited only to women who are childless. Women who have lost a child or are separated from their child also report feeling excluded on Mother’s Day. Women who have put a child up for adoption or have children in prison or in the streets struggling with drug addictions are frequently left out of our cultural celebrations of motherhood. These women’s separation from their children is often thought of as examples of bad motherhood and their own moral failings. Women who’ve placed their child up for adoption or who have children in prison or on drugs experience the pain of not living up to what society expects of you as a mother.
Finally, there is the pain of women who have loss their mothers or have emotionally distant relationships with their mothers. For both these groups of women, celebrations of Mother’s Day can remind them of their loss, grief, and anger. The lack of public acknowledgement of these feelings can result in these women feeling even more isolated and alone.
So how do we help to ease the suffering of these women and include them in our cultural celebration?
Let’s draw a bigger circle of love that can include all these women in our celebrations of Mother’s Day. We can not change the fact that they do not have a child, or their child is in prison, or their mother is no longer living. However, we can acknowledge that we see them and their pain and that we celebrate them and their generous gifts to our world. This more inclusive celebration of Mother’s Day can be achieved if we switch our focus from the status of motherhood to celebrating mothering.Mothering focuses on the act of nurturing others. Click & Tweet!
Motherhood focus on the status of having a child. Mothering is more expansive and allows us to celebrate the ways in which we have been nurtured by our mothers and other women in our lives. Mothering also encourages us to reflect upon and celebrate the ways in which we all have nurtured others- regardless of whether they are our biological children.
When we recognize the potential that is in a person and we give both the encouragement and correction necessary to develop that potential, we are mothering. When we generously invest our time, money, and resources for the physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional development of person with no expectation of reciprocity or self-benefit, we are mothering. When we affirm and protect the dignity of a person’s life regardless of their social status in the world but simply because we know that this individual is of immeasurable value, we are mothering.
Sometimes we have the opportunity to mother our own children, but all of us have the opportunity to mother other people’s children. In fact, this public mothering (mothering other people’s children) yields the most benefit to our society and merits a public celebration.
In her groundbreaking book, Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins uses the concept of “othermother” to discuss the central role of black women’s activism and community building efforts. Othermothers are sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, neighbors, teachers, or any women who actively cares for the well-being of a child that is not their biological child. These othermothers are a critical source of support for both the child and his/her biological mother. Othermothering includes social activism as a loving action of care and protection of our children. The practice of othermothering builds a network of love and support for children and adults that affirms the value of caring, ethics, teaching, and service.
This connection between mothering and community building was central to the ideas of the original founders of Mother’s Day in our country. Ann Jarvis organized the pre-cursor to Mother’s Day, “Mother’s Friendship Day”, to build community and promote reconciliation between former Union and Confederate soldiers. Another precursor to Mother’s Day, “Mother’s Peace Day”, was organized by abolitionist and suffragist Julia Howe to promote world peace. For these women and many others like them, Mother’s Day provided an opportunity to reach beyond our households, biological families, and narrow group identities to embrace those different from us and to affirm our common connection. This is what we need to reclaim in our current celebrations of Mother’s Day.
The fact that we are still here implies that we are the beneficiaries of some quality mothering. Someone cared for us when we were unable to care for ourselves. Someone invested in us regardless of our ability to pay or reciprocate. Someone cared for us enough to expect greatness from us and to create opportunities for us to see and develop that within ourselves. These acts did not stop when we turned 18. We are always in need of this mothering. And the best way to say thank you for these tremendous gifts is to literally say thank you to your mother and/or othermothers and to continue to extend this gift to others.
Think about the many women who have and are currently mothering you. Write down the names of your othermothers. List the specific memories you have of moments when you could clearly see their generous gift of mothering to you. As you reflect on this list, say thank you. Express gratitude for each of the women who individually and collectively nurture life within you and within our community. Click & Tweet!
Reach out to your othermothers and share your gratitude with them. It may surprise them to hear your comments about their mothering and what it has meant to you. Like many people in our culture, they may only associate mothering with motherhood. Help them to see themselves in the celebration of this day. Help them to experience the the warmth of the light they create in the world through their acts of mothering.
Reflect on and renew your commitment to mothering other people’s children. Regardless of whether you have children in your household, we all share responsibility for the children of our world. Mothering provides us to reach beyond the narrow boundaries of ourselves and invest in the care and well-being of others. This is a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility. Our mothering nurtures, protects, and sustains life, dignity, health, and love in this world. Do not limit these valuable gifts to your household, we are all in need of your gift of mothering.
Mothering is hard work. It is unpaid labor and rarely receives the gratitude and appreciation that is due. We would not be able to continue as a species without mothering. Every woman who engages in this critical, life sustaining act should be acknowledged and celebrated this day and every day.
So let me say to each one of you who so generously gives of your time, resources, and attention to lovingly invest in the nurture and development of others, Happy Mother’s Day!
I’d love to hear about the mothers and othermothers you are celebrating, please share their stories below.
We often look for ways to improve their immune systems; protecting ourselves from being bed-ridden during flu season or or catching every bug that travels through our workplace.. Health food stores sell millions of dollars’ worth of supplements of Vitamin C and other vitamins known to improve your immune functioning. Yet, there’s an overlooked way to strengthen your immune system that is research proven to be effective and it’s FREE.
Emotions play a critical role in the functioning of our immune system in both positive and negative ways. Emotions has a significant impact on both our production of antibodies and our natural killer blood cells (NK cells) that serve as our first line of immune strength. Antibodies help to identify and attack foreign germs in our bodies. NK cells work to destroy tumor cells, disease tissue, bacteria as well as to help antibodies fight against infections in their early stages. In this article, I identify emotions that are known to impact our body’s production and operation of antibodies and/or NK cells. We can clearly see the dangerous emotions that weaken the immune system as well as 3 emotions we can practice as a daily boost to our immune system, naturally.
Anger raises our blood pressure, increases our heart beat, gives us headaches and compromises our cognitive function. But did you know that anger can also make it easier for you to get the flu? In a study published by the Journal of Advancement in Medicine, researchers asked people to recall either an angry situation or a loving situation. The participants who recalled an angry situation experienced significantly lower immune antibodies. Moreover, the decrease in antibodies cause by anger lasted for six hours. Anger suppresses the immune functioning long beyond the situation that made us angry has passed.
Social isolation and the feelings of loneliness that it produces also works to weaken the functioning of our immune systems. A research study found that infant monkeys caged alone and separate from their mothers generate fewer antibodies in response to viruses. The act of physical and social separate suppresses the power of the immune system, making us vulnerable to a host of minor and major diseases.
Anxiety also known as stress is a primary driver of many health problems, often operating by weakening the immune system. While a short dose of fear can produce a healthy, enhanced physical performance, sustained states of fear for one’s safety a security dramatically reduce the health of the immune system. In fact, the negative impact of social fear is even greater than the impact of physical deprivation on our immune system.
In a study reviewed by the Harvard School of Medicine, mice were put into a cage with a highly aggressive mouse two hours a day for six days and repeatedly threatened (but not injured) were twice as likely to die as other mice that were kept in tiny cages without food and water for long periods. The social stressor of fear is a even more powerful impact on immune functioning that the stressor of physical deprivation.
Emotions are produced by thoughts, but they are not isolated in your mind. Your emotional state triggers a cascade of physical reactions in your body. Every time you operate from feelings of anger, loneliness, and fear you are pouring waves of toxicity through your body, damaging your immune system and compromising your overall health. The good news is that the impact of our emotional state on the functioning of body goes in both the positive and negative direction.
We have the power to choose our emotional state. Much of our emotional state is a product not of what happens to us, but rather how we think about what happens to us. In a previous article, I review how we can replace the negative thinking that produces unhealthy responses with more positive thoughts that promote our physical and psychological well-being. As we practice creating positive, healthy emotional states for ourselves, we remove and repair the damage created by anxiety, loneliness, and fear. We can literally make ourselves healthier by intentionally cultivating the following emotional states in our daily lives. Click & Tweet!
Humor can be a great way to combat the damage created by created by anger and other negative emotions. Humor dramatically improves not only our psychological sense of well-being but our immune system as well. Humor curbs stress hormones and boost our NK cell production.
Injecting humor into our lives significantly improves the functioning of our immune system hours after the humorous event and days leading up to a humorous event. In a research study where men were told three days in advance that they were going to watch a funny video, they experienced a significantly lower drop in stress hormones (as compared to those men who were not anticipating the funny video). Moreover, 12 hours after watching a funny video, the research participants still had higher biological indicators of immunity than those who did not watch the video. Laughter is truly (long-acting) medicine.
You can significantly improve your immune system functioning and your overall physical health by injecting more humor into your day. Allow yourself “indulgences” of humor, like a funny 5min youtube clip or a funny movie. Too often when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, we remove these activities out of our lives because we “don’t have time” for such frivolous play. But there is nothing frivolous about humor. It is an essential part of a healthy life and will provide you with immediate and long-term benefits to your productivity and physical health. So go ahead and tell a funny joke. Improve your and someone else’s immune system today.
Humans are social creatures and have an inherent need for connection to maintain health and overall well-being. This positive impact of connection includes three dimensions: connection to self, connection to others, and connection to nature. While these three dimensions of connection are distinctive they are interrelated and connection in one area enhances and expands the capacity for connection in the others. Promoting our connectedness strengthens the functioning of our immune system. Click & Tweet!
Research shows a positive correlation between social connectedness and immune functioning. Individuals who have a network of social support produce more disease fighting NK cells than those who don’t. Scholars conclude that increasing social support might provide a “high natural immunity” to disease and infection. So take the time to connect with your family and friends and visit loved ones who are sick. These emotional bonds strengthen both your and their immune systems.
A number of other research studies have shown connecting with nature also enhances your immune functioning. A study that compared men taking 2 hour walks in parks or forest to men walking for the same amount of time in the city found that that visiting parks and forests raised the production of NK cells by 50%. Another study focused on women found the same effect and noted that the increase in NK cells lasted a week for those women who walked in nature. Practicing sensory walks in nature is a great way to boost our immune system and become more aware of our connections to the larger world.
Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and a member of the UCLA Cousins Center, and his colleagues have spent years studying the impact of happiness and other emotions on gene expression and physical health. They distinguish between two types of happiness: happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life and happiness focused only on pleasure seeking and self-gratification. In their report to the National Academy of Sciences, they found that happiness resulting from a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life promotes the gene expression of antiviral and antibody genes. Happiness focused only on self-gratification had the opposite effect, suppressing the health of the immune system.
Happy people are healthier and live longer. Click & Tweet! Yet this relationship between happiness and positive health only exists for those individuals who cultivate happiness from a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life. These are people who are clear on their unique contribution to this world and have developed a life that reflects their personal truth.
Thankfully, we all can cultivate this kind of happiness. I’ve provided some free resources on my website (www.yourlifeinfocuscoach.com) to help you in cultivating a life of happiness that reflects and affirms your core values and life purpose. If you’d like more clarity on discovering your life purpose, sign up to receive my free Life Goals Planning Toolkit.
Wishing you a life filled with joy, connection, purpose, and health!
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LiQ MK, Nakadai A., Inagaki H., Katsumata M., Shimiza T., Hirata Y., Hirata K., Miyazaki Y., Kagawa T., Koyama Y., Ohira T., Takayama N., Krensky AM, Kawada T. 2007. “Forest bathing enhances natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins.” International Journal of Pharmacology. 20(2):3-8.
Miyazaki T., Ishikawa T, Hirofumi I, Miki A, Wenner M, Fukunishi I, Kawamura N. 2003. “Relationship between perceived social support and immune function.” Stress and Health. 19(1):3-7.
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