Thursday, August 25, 2016

Need a Little Joy in Your Life? Try these 6 things!

Joy is not an externally driven emotion.  We think it is.  Once I have the job, the house, the car, the family, then joy is possible.  Not true.  Joy is one of those emotions that is deep inside.  It is present even when we feel sad about events in our lives.  For example, I was once a part of a funeral service for a dear uncle and friend.  I was extremely sad he passed, still am.  But on that day, with those people, the rituals we created, I felt absolute joy right alongside my sadness at being able to share and celebrate his life.  Because, what I felt about him was connected to my sense of self and the meaning I have in my life.  Joy is deep.

Since joy is not manufactured from external sources, YOU have to create it.  You have to go deep within and make an effort to connect to joy more and more often.  Remember, what fires together, wires together.  What your brain and nervous system spend time doing, they get better at doing.  Do joy!

1)  Breathe:  Combine your breath with a mudra into what I call the Breath of Joy.  A mudra is oftentimes just the hand placement in a pose or meditative state.  In this breath, however, it is a full arm movement.  Breathe in – arms lift, as in photo below.
Exhale hands together, through center, as in photo below.

 Inhale arms half way up, and exhale back down to your sides.  
The benefit of moving and breathing together in a synchronized way is that the awareness of the breath goes from an unconscious, automatic process into one of conscious and purposeful intent.  This means a different part of the brain altogether is at work - the thinking part instead of the automatic, reactionary part.  As a result, you will have more access and control over the rest of the nervous system, particularly the parasympathetic which is the relaxation, turn down the stress, calm down the anxiety side of the nervous system

2)  Meditate:   Thich Nhat Hanh is a great teacher of mindfulness.  His books encourage us to make just about every activity a mindful activity.  His meditation Present Moment, Wonderful Moment is one of my favorites for encouraging contentment and joy. 

We begin with mindful breathing meditation. Mindful breathing is very commonly the focus of meditation research, because it is simple and clear.  Focus on your breath - how it sounds, how it feels, how your body feels as you breathe.  When your mind wanders away to other thoughts, great, just bring it back to the breath.  Think of that as a bicep curl for your mind.  With every curl you do, your mind will get stronger and more able to stay focused. Unsure of how to practice?  Here is some guidance. Once you understand the practice of mindful breathing, add this layer: As you inhale say, "present moment" and as you exhale say, "wonderful moment."  And smile softly.

3)  Relaxation:   Relaxation can be really challenging.  The practice of savasana at the end of a yoga class is often too difficult for a few in every class.  Busy minds make for tense bodies and the cycle of being unable to let go of stress and tension which in turn creates more stress and tension, continues on and on and on......

Lie down, scan the body, starting at your feet.  Where there is tension, wiggle, move, stretch and release it. When the body feels relaxed head to toe, breathe to relax the nervous system.  Breathe on purpose with conscious intent to relax. Then, smile softly and enjoy.  Let yourself enjoy this time, so your mind and body want to come back here.  Train your system to want relaxation!

4)  Cognitive Behavior Therapy:  There are 2 ways to get at mental health issues: the top down and bottom up approaches:  Top down means working with the mind to support changes - CBT is one of these.  Any therapeutic technique in which the changing of thinking and beliefs is important is a top down approach.  A bottom up approach means to work with the body and the physical systems active in the mental health symptoms.  Using mindfulness is one such technique. Putting the two together is a double whammy against stress, anxiety and depression.  So, combine the breath and your thoughts to create a powerful connection.  Breathe in what brings you joy or just a feeling of joy, exhale what is getting in the way of joy.  This can be a regular inhale and exhale or make it the Breath of Joy from above.

5) Power Pose:  Trees are beautiful symbols of life and some deeper knowledge of meaning and support in the world.  The sense of being rooted, centered, and strong combines with the extension and reach toward the light of the sun.  Tree pose is a beautiful pose full of meaning and joy.  Get guidance in the pose here.

6) Chant: 
 There are several artists out there today making beautiful versions of chants that you can practice along with.  Deva Premal is one.  Here is a chant for joy from her - Om Tare Tutarre Ture Swaha (pronounce: Om tah-ray, too-tah-ray, too-ray, svah-ha).  The meaning is to create deep connection to enlightenment and liberation from difficulties and suffering. Joy!

Make your plan, your daily routine for one or all of these practices to be present in your day -every day!  The mind can not change without practice. Contact me at:  OR check out my website or Facebook page for more information and guidance!

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