Monthly Archives

April 2015

Joy, Love, Mindfulness, Neuroplasticity, Psychology, Self-love, Soul

Ode to Joy



noun: joy

a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

anger, grief, frustration, disappointment, sadness. all are absolutely appropriate in many situations. they give us important information about our needs and values. they can be healing and help us to connect to the vulnerability that links us all.

then there are those of us for whom feelings of dissatisfaction become a default state rather than based on the actual reality of our lives or present moment conditions. (now, i’m not talking about those struggling with clinical depression or other mood disorders).

par example: my lovely Courageous Living Coach Certification leader, Kate Courageous, recently invited us coaching trainees to ponder and practice joy by devising a list of 22 activities, things, people in our lives that inspire delight–things we can turn to when in need of a mood boost or relief from “Victim Mode.”

within a few minutes, i filled my 22 blank lines with simple, accessible, life-affirming moments and then some. it was effortless and…joyful! i finished my list and thought of even more sources of “great pleasure and happiness” that are easily available to me.


looking at the abundant gifts in my life in list form I wondered:  with all of this joy in my life, why don’t i feel more joyful?

well, part of the reason is due to a habit that afflicts most of us homo sapiens–what psychologists call negativity bias. that is, from an evolutionary standpoint, humans developed a strategic mental defense to surviving in wild, harsh and unpredictable conditions. this has the brain hardwired to scan for what’s wrong or lacking and to overly focus on it. additionally, we often experience intense reactions to pain and dismay that can overwhelm and drown out our quieter moments of pleasure and delight.

so while creating our joy list and making a point to do more of what we know brings us joy is a start, we also have to help out our heads a bit by doing 2 things.

1. pay attention

be open to experiences, however small, that feel good to you–pay attention to what’s going on around you to allow for positive connections, beautiful sights and sounds and then notice when you are feeling joyful. bring attention and awareness to the experience and really let it sink in and think, this feels good. yeah? yeah.

i love how the late, great Kurt Vonnegut put it in Man without a Country:

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

2. stay with it & let it linger

take 20-30 seconds to allow the joy to fully register in your brain…intentionally draw out the moment and focus in on the feelings of pleasure, wonder, amusement, satisfaction…don’t let them pass unnoticed. you know the kind of attention you have placed on a fear where it is all-consuming and obsessive. try that out with bliss or contentment. where do you feel the joy your body? what are the joyful thoughts? savor it to allow it to be internalized and stored into your long-term memory. build your joy muscle by focusing in on it and marinating there for awhile. neuropsychologists tell us we can overcome negativity bias by increasing the intensity and length of our happy moments and wiring them into our brains. notice when everything is okay, even…no rapture or glee required. even just taking the time to feel the safety and comforts we often take for granted can shift our perspective.

oh yes, our brains can be retrained!

your assignment: write out your joy list! practice bringing these joyful things into your life more! take the time to notice, appreciate, and integrate your joy!

Lionessa’s Joy List

1. yoko snuggles

2. sunshine warmth on skin

3. birdchirps

4. > 70% chocolate

5. loud house music in my headphones

6. dancing

7. learning something new & interesting

8. beaches/oceans

9. laughing with friends

10. hugs with special friends

11. mangoes

12. the movie, The Jerk

13. Eddie Murphy

14. Louis C.K.

15. looking at/making art

16. walking in the woods

17. sitting by a stream

18. one on one connection

19. colorful bright designs

20. pretty stationary, writing letters

21. fitting into clothing that makes me feel great

22. bath with soothing scents

what’s yours??

Awareness of Sensation, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Movement, Whole Body

movement practice 2

let’s dive right into this practice! if you did the first, the instructions are pretty much the same. this time, think of a song that doesn’t bring the same kind of natural ease and desire to dance. this doesn’t have to be a song you actually hate…a strong reaction might be distracting, so better to pick a track that you feel neutral about or even like but can’t imagine dancing to.

this is all about exploring and allowing awkwardness and confusion…so even less reason to be a “dancer” in this exercise. embrace your clumsy movements and unsure footing! stay with it, stay with yourself. surely there are times in life when we don’t know what we are doing, when we’re in new territory, when we have to do it anyway and persevere through our discomfort. bringing some curiosity and loving attention to these moments can lighten the load and create space for learning and growth.

so, here goes (download worksheet here for a complete set of instructions)

Think of a song that you find challenging in some way…either you just don’t connect to it or when you’ve tried to dance to  it,  your body feels tremendously awkward and your mind confused, a song where you just don’t know what to do or how to groove. Cue up your song and have it ready to go.

For reflection afterwards, respond to the following questions as best as you can. Again, stay curious and non-judgmental. (here are my answers!)

Song artist and title:


  1. Describe in 5-7 emotion words how you felt as you heard the song. Pause to breathe into those feelings. What are you feeling now?


  1. Where did you feel the music most in your body? How did your body feel?



  1. Did you move mostly in one place or did you travel around the room? Why or why not?



  1. Where in your body did you feel the most stuck or unsure? What parts of your body were you able to move?




  1. Did you notice any shift happen for you as you kept up the practice? Did anything get unstuck? Did you find any movements you liked?


  1. Did your feelings about the song change or stay the same?



  1. What do you think are the qualities or sounds in this song that make it challenging?


  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much of you was fully in the experience of moving? Where else were you if your attention was divided?