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  1. January is often regarded as something of a downbeat month after the holiday season, with little to recommend it. However, in fact, there were plenty of positive news stories that made it into the press this January. Ed Gould shares his top ten inspirational news items that are full of hope and happiness. 1. Belize Ends Oil Operations In an effort to protect one of the largest barrier reefs on the planet, the state of Belize has banned all oil operations in its territorial waters. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the suspension of drilling and exploration for oil – which came into effect in January – will help to safeguard the future of around 1,400 different species. According to a WWF reef scientist, the government of Belize has stepped up to become a world leader in ocean protection by ending all oil industry activity in its waters. The move marks a significant step forward for 'people power' and was brought about by a public campaign supported by around 450,000 people. The WWF is now expected to target other governments with valuable reef colonies in its oceanic waters. 2. World Record Wind Power in Denmark According to an announcement made by the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate, the country is on track to exceed its carbon reduction target set by the European Union thanks to its take up of wind power. Reuters reported that the use of wind power has been so successful in the country that it accounted for 43.4% of all the electricity consumed there last year. The International Energy Agency praised Denmark's efforts, which mark it out as a global leader in de-carbonisation. Wind turbines: almost half of all electricity consumed in Denmark was generated by wind power 3. Robots Take Over Blood Deliveries in Africa The Guardian reported in January that a robotics firm has helped to slash the delivery times of blood needed for transfusions in Rwanda thanks to their innovative drone delivery systems. Zipline, a tech company in the US, teamed up with the Rwandan health ministry to deliver blood parcels in rural areas of the state. In many cases, this brought down the number of time patients had to wait for their precious blood for as little as 30 minutes. The high-tech drone deliveries are thought to have saved many lives – including those of infants in childbirth – since the work began. The government of Tanzania is currently in talks with Zipline about providing similar services to their population. 4. Passenger Air Travel Continues to Set Safety Records The Civil Aviation Safety Review for 2017 was released in January. According to the Netherlands consultancy that produced the industry-wide report, passenger air travel has never been better. In positive news that all nervous flyers will want to take on board, in fact, jet passenger travel in 2017 was the safest on record. The report's author stated that the chance of a passenger on a jet being involved in a fatal accident is now as low as one in 16 million, making air travel just about the safest of all transportation options. 5. LGBT Weddings Boost Congregation Numbers Although it's often reported how congregation numbers across the Western world are in a steady decline, a positive news story in the Telegraph may offer hope to faithful worshippers who feel they are becoming increasingly sidelined. Their report focused on a study by the University of Leeds and York in which churches which carry out LBGT weddings and who actively engage in that community tend to pick up more followers. By opting into the LBGT community, the study argues, churches are successfully able to market themselves as inclusive places of worship. By attracting the LGBT community, churches are appearing to become more inclusive 6. Brain Functions Similar in Friends, Science Reveals Have you ever noticed how close friends might finish off each other's sentences or know how the other is thinking without exchanging words? It might not just be pure empathy, but to do with our neural networks, according to a report in the LA Times. Following a study programme that placed people in an MRI machine, it was found that similarity in brain functions was associated with an increased likelihood of friendship in a correlation that the scientists called 'dramatic'. The work was conducted by a team from UCLA and Dartmouth College. 7. Ear Growth Hope for Children With Microtia According to the esteemed journal Ebio Medicine, Chinese researchers have found a new way to help children suffering from microtia. The condition means that their outer ears do not develop normally or, in some cases, form at all. The scientific work has led to a new way of creating a prosthetic ear that the body won't reject. Basically, health professionals use a 3-D printing model using cells taken from the body of the patient. Not only does it bring happiness to the children who undergo treatment, but it helps to improve hearing function, too. 8. Curry Improves Memory, Study Shows For some, nothing brings greater happiness than a delicately spiced curry. Indian cuisine is popular all over the globe, but new research indicates that curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, may improve memory functions. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that ran for 18 months, a 28% memory improvement was found in tests given to those involved with the trial. Doctor Gary Small, the director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA's Longevity Centre, said that the outcome may be as a result of curcumin's noted ability to reduce brain inflammation. Curry: tastes great and may boost your memory power too! 9. Fur Farming Ban Announced in Norway There were some 340 fur farms operating in Norway with no limit on their future until the Norwegian Animal Rights Organisation announced in January that the activity would soon be outlawed. Thanks to a 30-year campaign against farming animals for their fur, the practice will be banned. Reuters reported that farming of animals such as fox and mink will no longer be possible from 2025. 10. Humpback Whales Spotted in New York New York City may not seem the obvious place to see these majestic ocean-going creatures. However, according to Popular Science magazine, humpback whales are now often spotted in the waters surrounding one of the world's greatest metropolises. Demonstrating just how clean the city has become and how little water contamination there now is, the return of humpbacks to this area means that sufficient food must be available to them. It's thought the whales feed on zooplankton in the ocean around the city whilst migrating to the Caribbean Sea. Legislation that led to cleaner waters has taken time to yield results, but campaigners point out that the numerous sightings of humpbacks represent a long-term success. ● Photos: Colourbox.com, Unsplash Written by Ed Gould Ed Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
  2. When we are going through tough times, or don’t feel satisfied with life, it is natural to focus on what we lack, and take the things that we do have for granted. That is a missed opportunity. Many studies have shown that one of the keys to living a happy and fulfilled life, is gratitude. How can we develop a gratitude practice? And what benefits are there to being grateful? What is gratitude Gratitude is the affirmation of goodness in the world, of the gifts and benefits we receive. And recognising that the source of this goodness is outside of us. Gratitude allows us to: Celebrate the present. Handle toxic or negative emotions better. Be more resistant to stress. And have a higher sense of self-worth. https://youtu.be/s58bLjPw16E  Gratitude practices and programs One of the leading researchers on gratitude is Robert Emmons. He has developed gratitude programs and practices, that centre around: Keeping a Gratitude Journal of three or five things you are grateful for, and thereby developing a daily gratitude practice. Remembering the Bad. To be grateful in the now, it helps to remember hardships you have overcome. Asking Yourself Three Questions. “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?” Learning Prayers of Gratitude, or looking for secular alternatives to express gratitude for existence on a regular basis. Coming to Your Senses. Appreciate everything you can see, smell, taste, and hear. Using Visual Reminders, to help you appreciate what you have. Making a Vow to Practice Gratitude, which could be as simple as a piece of paper saying “I vow to count my blessings each day.” Watching your Language. Use words like a blessing, fortune, abundance, and so on. Focus on your speech on others instead of yourself. Going Through the Motions. Doing grateful actions will make you more grateful; smile, say thank you, and write letters of gratitude. Thinking Outside the Box. Look for new situations and circumstances to feel grateful. On a practical level, your gratitude practice can consist of many things, from writing a handwritten ‘thank you’-letter, to creating an appreciation calendar, saying “I’m grateful” for everything you touch on a given day, calling your parents or children and expressing your appreciation, sharing a positive post of gratitude on social media, or giving your time or money to a cause or charity. The benefits of gratitude The benefits of gratitude practices range from physical benefits, like having a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, and better sleep, to psychological benefits like higher levels of positivity, more alertness, joy, and pleasure, to social benefits like being more helpful, generous, compassionate, forgiving, and more connected. People who experience the most gratitude (and therefore the positive effects) tend to: Feel a sense of abundance in their lives. Appreciate the contributions of others to their well-being. Recognise and enjoy life's small pleasures. Acknowledge the importance of experiencing and expressing gratitude. In short, developing and maintaining gratitude practices radically transforms your outlook and experience of life. Practice gratitude on a regular basis, and start reaping these benefits yourself!  Written by Arlo LaibowitzArlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
  3. Gratitude and happiness often go hand in hand, especially when gratefulness is seen as something essential in our daily lives and not just as a passing emotion. Time and time again, scientific findings have proven that far from being a monolithic concept, gratefulness is a complex emotion that has physical, social, and cognitive benefits. Sounds interesting? Below we discuss this in deatial.  5 science-backed reasons to pick up a gratitude practice 1. Stronger Relationships The social dimension of gratitude is one of the most important reasons to set up and/or persevere in a gratefulness practice. It can help us build stronger relationships because by practising it, we are acknowledging not only the existence of things to be grateful for in life but also and more importantly, we are acknowledging the source of those things. In the majority of cases, the origins can be traced back to other people, whether they are family members (such as your partner preparing your favourite meal) or strangers (the postman delivering your mail, farmers producing the foods that will be on your table, etc.).  When we think about how other people improve and bring pleasure to our lives, our appreciation for them increases naturally. Noticing the small things and how they came about can be a real eye-opener. It helps us feel more interconnected, part of the whole, and in unity with the world that surrounds the people in it and us. The result: we are less likely to feel lonely or isolated and more likely to live meaningful lives.  The link between conscious gratefulness and stronger or more fulfilling relationships is not just subjective:  Researchers at the University of Manchester have established that gratitude influences our perception of social support, encourages reciprocity, and helps create a more supportive environment. 2. Higher Cognitive Functioning Gratitude has also been shown to have the potential to turn us into better functioning individuals, and science leaves little room for doubt about this. For example, Dr Christina M. Karns carried out extensive research into the neurological aspects of gratitude. Her findings (which you can learn about here, especially in the second half of video) revealed that brain imaging scans show how practising gratitude activates two areas of the brain that are responsible for processing information for decision-making purposes.  This has been confirmed by studies at other universities, which showed that grateful individuals were more likely to be patient in receiving rewards and made better decisions in the long term, whereas individuals who were not feeling grateful when faced with a choice preferred immediate rewards even if those were not as beneficial. Researchers concluded that there is a connection between gratefulness and self-control. Combined, these two virtues can help us become more rational and focused when making decisions.  Even better, research at two US universities shows that feeling grateful releases dopamine, a molecule that keeps neurons functioning and that according to Science Daily, can increase motivation and energy levels. Gratitude practices like letter writing or journaling were also shown to help people achieve their goals more consistently, and this only makes sense. Consciously and intentionally set aside some time to reflect on the reasons we have to feel grateful sets a precedent for analytical thinking, which can then be extended to other aspects of our lives.  3. Happier And More Positive Emotions When being grateful becomes an integral part of who we are, savouring the little pleasures in life becomes an essential part of our day-to-day routine. And the more grateful we feel, the more enjoyment we can get out of life. This is more than just a hypothesis. A paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggested that gratitude is strongly related to other positive emotions like life satisfaction, a sense of agency or control, and hope. At the same time, the study found an unlikely correlation between the feeling of gratefulness and negative emotions, such as depression, envy, and anxiety.  From a science point of view, our brains have a built-in negativity bias that makes us more likely to remember bad experiences than good ones. This happens because negative events trigger an adrenaline rush that engraves negative feelings and memories in the brain, but the good news is that a gratitude practice can help re-wire our brains to overcome this bias. Research findings show that gratitude makes us more resilient and gives us reasons to be happy even in difficult times, establishing a link between gratefulness and the ability to cope better with problems and stress. Other studies found that people suffering from depressive symptoms reported a 35% reduction in their symptoms after starting a thoughtful gratitude practice.  It is interesting to note that gratefulness seems to have a cumulative effect, as participants reported that happiness levels kept increasing over time. 4. Self-Improvement When all the benefits discussed so far are taken into consideration, it is evident that following a gratitude practice is an excellent way of boosting our opportunities for self-growth and personal development. In fact, bringing gratefulness into our lives can transform our personalities for the better. Scientific studies conducted in 2010 suggested that this emotion serves as an intermediary between positive personality traits and well-being, especially when it comes to areas like self-acceptance, purpose in life, openness to others, and autonomy. The beauty of this is that there is no way of predicting where a gratitude practice will take you, as adopting gratefulness is like going on a journey of personal discovery.  5. Better Overall Health Grateful living has benefits that we can experience at a physical level too. Dr Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, is a well-known expert in the science of gratefulness who affirms that gratitude can be beneficial to our bodies and improve our overall well-being. The research carried out by Dr Emmons, and his team highlighted the mind-body connection and showed that grateful individuals tend to be more aware of how their lifestyle choices affect their health. For example, being thankful for how good exercise make us feel is likely to keep us motivated to work out frequently, and in turn, regular activity is linked to a stronger immune system, lower cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure.  On that note, practising gratefulness appears to be good for our hearts too, and quite literally so. Scientists at the University of California – San Diego examined people who were at high risk of experiencing heart disease and who also kept a gratefulness journal and found that their symptoms worsened at a slower rate than participants who didn't follow the same practice. And in case that wasn't good enough, feelings of gratefulness cause higher activity in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates sleep patterns, metabolism, and stress levels.  As you can see, the benefits of incorporate gratefulness practices into your daily life are enormous. Why not give it a try and experience first hand the transformative power of gratitude?     modelphoto: colourbox.com  Written by Dee MarquesA social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in Nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
  4. Fed up with the almost constant stream of bad or worrying news that seems to flow into your consciousness? If so, then you are not alone. The trouble is that so many important news stories are negative, unfortunately. Nevertheless, that does not mean that good news stories, full of hope and happiness, are not out there. They are! Read on to discover just a few of the brighter things that happened over the course of an eventful November 2017 in our positive news roundup.  Positive news stories from November 2017 Dogs Love Human Smiles Humans might be the only animals capable of smiling, but dogs can recognise the facial alteration in humans they know and, therefore, detect happiness. What's more, they respond positively. Research at the University of Helsinki has revealed that dogs seeing their owners smile will prevent them from feeling fear and improve their emotional well-being! The professor who led the study said that the effects of smiling promote dog-human communications no end. The key to the way in which dogs focus on their visual world, and see their owners smiling, is a hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin which also affects the social behaviour of other mammals, including people.  Origami Inspires Engineering Breakthrough Scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have used techniques drawn from the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, origami, to develop new lightweight engineering techniques. Developing robot muscles and skeletons for limbs means needing a light, but stable structure and using paper folding methods has led to some remarkable results in the field of robotics.  Woman With Downs Syndrome Breaks Down Barriers US beauty pageants may not be everyone's thing perhaps because they seem to promote conformity to a particular look or lifestyle. However, one entrant to a pageant in Minnesota in November broke the mould because she entered even though she has Downs Syndrome. In a first for America, it turns out that Mikayla Holmgren was the first entrant in Miss USA to have any form of disability. Holmgren won Miss Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing in 2015 and is now set to continue her career.  Irish Scientists Offer Hope to Parkinson's Disease Sufferers A debilitating disease for those who suffer from it and for those who live with people who have the condition, Parkinson's patients have been offered a ray of light thanks to work conducted at the National University of Ireland in Galway. Publishing their findings in the academic journal, Scientific Reports, the team claimed that brain repair for people living with Parkinson’s can happen. Their method means replacing the dead brain cells they find and transplanting healthy ones in their place. In more positive news, Niamh Moriarty, a PhD student who has been working on the project, was recently given a highly competitive Travel Award from the Campaign for Alzheimer’s Research in Europe in recognition of her contribution.  Firefighters Perform a Festive Good Turn When a man who was hanging up his Christmas lights fell from his ladder, the emergency services in his part of America needed to be called out. Unfortunately, the man in question had to be rescued and then hospitalised due to his injuries. However, the firefighters who came to the scene were not content with that and finished the job of arranging his festive lighting for him to come home to.  Technology Used to Help Reduce Suicide Risk The social media giant, Facebook, announced in November that it was starting to use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect whether a user might be at risk of suicide. Essentially, the algorithm they have put together identifies whether a user is showing signs of suicidal thoughts or might be considering self-harming. The idea is for Facebook to then step in, if necessary by alerting emergency services. According to the Times of India, the system is being rolled out from the US to other countries.  New Generation of Insecticides Will Not Harm Bees Bee-friendly insecticides are being developed which will allow farmers to keep their crops safe from pests while protecting bees. Professor Ke Dong, an insect toxicologist at Michigan State University who co-authored a report into the new generation of insecticides, said that his team's observations “open the possibility” of designing a range of new methods of controlling insects which are pests whilst protecting those which are not, namely bees.  Research Offers New Hope to Bald People Going bald can be a traumatic thing for both men and women, especially when there is little that can be done about it. However, new scientific work has led to a discovery that may bring some happiness back to those afflicted. A protein that is known to be responsible for hair loss in androgenetic alopecia, the most frequent form of baldness in adults, has been identified. By controlling the protein with a yet-to-be-developed therapy, it should be possible to treat this type of baldness in people in future. In the meantime, the research team has developed a treatment that has been shown to promote follicle growth among mice in the laboratory.  Burns Victims Face Improved Recovery According to research undertaken in the UK, something a simple as a vitamin D pill could help untold numbers of people to recover from burns with less scarring. The study has shown that patients with higher levels of vitamin D in their body face fewer complications when they are recovering from a burn injury. Anything from major burns to a little sunburn will be less affected by permanent scarring if patients top up on their vitamin D intake, they claim.  Cancer Modelling May Lead to Diminished Numbers of Animal Tests The Institution of Engineering and Technology awarded a prize fund that will be used to create three dimensional engineered functional cancers, following a breakthrough in the technology. Professor Rui L Reis, who is based at the University of Minho in Portugal, won the prize to continue his modelling work which, it is hoped, will mean fewer animals are tested in medical laboratories when regenerative therapies need to be assessed. That has to be positive news for all animal lovers.     Photos: Colourbox.com  Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
  5. You would be forgiven for assuming that I must have a long standing love of the sea and sailing - in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. As far as boats were concerned, back in the 1990’s, I’d never been on anything smaller than a ferry, and, when I was just three years old, almost drowned in the sea; only the quick thinking of my father, a serving police officer trained in CPR, saved my life.  Although too young to appreciate it at the time, I truly believe that this experience, which I still remember vividly to this day, not only left me with a fear of deep water but also created an inbuilt sense of survival, adventure and a desire never to be beaten. I am delighted to share five life lessons that have made me the person I am today, which could, perhaps, help someone else to always see the glass as ‘half-full’.  These are the 5 life lessons I learned Don’t waste a single moment I moved from England to Ibiza, one of the Spanish Balearic Islands, in 1986, and, to my delight, my mother and stepfather decided to follow me out there in 1989, after their retirement. I was so fortunate to experience the pleasure and the happiness this brought, of actually getting to know my mother as a friend and not just a parent. Then in 1991, she was rushed to a hospital and died a week later, having been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.  This was a life-changer for me as my mother was only 68 years old and believed that she had many years ahead of her; I decided not to waste a single moment of mine. For all of you that have mothers, (and fathers), still living, be sure to spend time with them, no matter how busy life gets, and ask them questions that need answers because, one day, as I discovered, it will be too late.  Life is to be lived, and I truly believe that if you are miserable, sad or grieving, then it is time for a change, however radical. I had many wonderful friends in Ibiza who rallied around me - two, in particular, were very keen sailors, working for a local day charter company. They took me for days sailing on a 35-foot yacht, to the beautiful island of Formentera. This was one of those extraordinary life lessons for me, as, although my fear of deep water was very much present, I realised that sailing itself was amazing and I didn't need to get my feet wet, although getting on and off the boat was a major challenge!  Never turn your back on an adventure A plan was formed, the 40-foot yacht purchased and my first ever long-distance sailing trip to Gibraltar undertaken. After an incredibly scary trip around Capo de Gata in gale force winds, with VHF radio support from several other yachts also trying to stay afloat, we stopped off at several Spanish Costa resorts, during which time I seriously reconsidered the wisdom of what I was doing. However, determined not to give into my fears, I concentrated on the many adventures and life lessons ahead, including my first-ever visit to Gibraltar.  Gibraltar greeted us with high winds and an engine that wouldn't start, driving us towards the dangers of the rock itself. Fortunately, a passing fishing boat realised the peril we were in and came close enough for us to throw a rope so that they could tow us in. This act of kindness has led to a lifelong friendship with the fishing boat skipper, who is now retired and living in Spain. After a major refit of the yacht and six wonderful weeks on the 'Rock’, we set sail for the Canary Islands, visiting most of them before stopping at Puerto Mogan Marina, Gran Canaria, in readiness to stock up with supplies for the ten day Atlantic crossing.  Never let your fears get the better of you Out on the open sea, with no land in sight, seemingly all should be safe and well. However, nothing could be further from the truth. There are constant dangers present, from whales through to cargo ships operating on autopilot while the crew sleeps. Upon leaving the port, I felt confident that the yacht was highly visible, with her red sails, and large enough to be able to be seen at all times. This false confidence soon became apparent when, on the fifth night, during stormy weather and a big swell, I realised just how insignificant we were when we were almost mown down by a massive cargo ship which, quite simply, could not see us.  Frightening though this was, the danger was averted by a hard tack, leaving me wondering what on earth I was doing on this, as was now apparent, tiny 40-foot boat! When I gazed up at the sky, and the stars were so vast and close that I felt as though I could reach up and grab one. I have never seen stars and such a black sky like this since, and, despite having been extremely frightened, I knew that I was embarking on a once in a lifetime challenge which would ensure that nothing would scare me again.  See the beauty in everything Ten days is a long time to be on a relatively small yacht with two other people. The Atlantic swell and 24-hour watch shifts soon began to take their toll and tempers started to get frayed through lack of sleep and privacy. This left us with a choice: either suffer in silence or to make the best of it. We, of course, decided on the latter, especially after discovering with gratitude the sheer beauty and peacefulness of the night time watches; life lessons were coming thick and fast. The sunrises and sunsets were stunning, and, during the hours of darkness, almost every stellar constellation could be seen with total clarity by the naked eye.  A beautiful quote, along with many inspiring others, which have been put together by Stephanie Sarkis PhD, comes from the poem Endymion by John Keats  A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness Dolphins playing in the wake of the boat following us for hours, man-of-war and jelly fish, with their stunning colours, would float by, deadly yet incredibly beautiful, there for all to see forever more. The bluest of skies and, in light winds, the red, yellow, green and blue of the cruising chute billowing out on the bow; all these wonderful life experiences made the inconveniences of life on board pale into insignificance.  Happiness and contentment is inside us all We encountered several bad storms, including a hurricane, while at sea, but managed to survive relatively unscathed, mainly, I have to say, due to the sailing skills of my companions. We experienced cruising from one gorgeous Caribbean island to another and then on to the South American coastline, during which important life lessons were learned. The sheer happiness of arriving at a beautiful anchorage, just metres away from a deserted sandy beach; dropping anchor and going ashore to explore cannot be underestimated. Then back to the boat, sitting on the deck watching the sun dip below the horizon while sipping a Jamaican white rum and cola, this is true contentment. I realised that no matter how serious challenges are, there is always something extraordinary afterwards, even if it is, simply, just the fact that I have survived and am looking forward to the next adventure.  Big life questions There is a big question asked by Gerri Luce LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker: "Are happiness and contentment the same thing?" According to Gerri Luce, they are not, and, whilst I agree with her to some degree, in other ways I don’t, as she focuses on our need to be one of two; I feel that it goes much deeper than this.  Indeed, Arthur Dobrin D.S.W. asks another question. "Can you live alone and be happy?" Having experienced the solitude of night watches through to sharing a relatively small space with my friends, I do not feel, for myself, that living alone and having one's own space is a bad thing.  This is perhaps one of my most valuable life lessons - we all make our own decisions, many of which can make or break us. Life is too short, and this is why I never waste a single moment regretting even wrong moves; this, for me, makes happiness and contentment the same thing.     Photos by colourbox.com  Written by Marilyn Coates-LowerI am a free spirit who wakes up with a smile every morning. My life has been an adventure and, although now officially retired, I continue to work as a writer and proofreader. I live in a stunning part of Brittany, France together with my horse and cat, enjoying views of the woods that surround my house and across the valley to the village. By way of my experiences, I hope to inspire people, through my writing, to become more positive, happy and forward thinking.
  6. We might not like to admit it, but death is a reality and very much a part of life. How should we handle it for the greatest chance of happiness? From an early age, we all learn that we are going to die some day. Nevertheless, for the vast majority of us, the sense of mortality we ought to feel simply does not come about in any meaningful way. Some of us never really seem to be preparing for death and what it means for us. This is particularly true of youngsters and adults in their twenties. They may have never faced dealing with trauma or the loss of a loved one. Why is this?  Some people put it down to the fact that a younger life sees many years stretching out before them. Therefore, being close to death is something of an alien concept. Some scientists offer a more mechanistic point of view, stating that the frontal lobes of youngsters are not yet fully developed. According to Gary Wenk, PhD, “the reason the frontal lobes are not fully engaged [with the rest of the brain]... is because they have not yet completed the process of neuronal myelination.” Myelination can be thought of as the electrical wiring that is inside all of our brains.  Women tend to finish the process of neuronal myelination in their mid-twenties. For men, on average, it happens at the age of about thirty. Further research is required into how this process impacts on views about death – and many other aspects of life. It does offer an indication as to why our thoughts can turn to the subject in later adult life compared to when we were younger.  Is Death a Taboo Subject? One of the reasons we are not preparing for death and that it is not discussed in modern society is that it remains a taboo subject. Certainly, sociologists have looked closely into the theory that death is not mentioned in contemporary literature very much, such as Tony Walter's 1991 study into British popular culture. Walter poses several questions which challenge the idea that death truly is a taboo subject or constrained by society in some way. He points out the many examples of death that are available in culture, from TV shows to newspaper articles.  Although he stresses that many taboo theories exist (up to six in all). He says that people can switch between them depending on the argument they are creating. For example, someone might say that it is individuals, not modern society, that denies the reality of death. Whilst – almost in the same breath – individuals discuss it, but it is not a mainstream topic for the media of healthcare professions. Ultimately, we are left with the idea of whether preparing for death is a taboo subject or not is a confused picture. In some circles, it may be, but palliative care physicians, like BJ Miller, are increasingly arguing that it should not be.     Death and Dying – A Palliative Care Giver's Perspective Although religion has been happy to talk about preparing for death and, by extension, the afterlife, few outlets for expression about dying exist. Miller's view is that people in his line of work are able to talk about death and its implications for family members. Few healthcare professionals really discuss dying itself though. This is a subtle distinction but an important one. Death might be the subject of many discussions and plans, even philosophical theorising but dying isn't. After all, aren't many of us more comfortable with the idea of being dead than we are of dying? In Miller's view, the reason for this is that:  Dying can involve pain and suffering. In other words, we fear it more than death itself. Miller, who lost his lower limbs and hand in an accident in his youth, says that his relationship with dying began that day. It has informed his views of palliative care ever since. He says that we need to open a 'big conversation' about the experience of dying. This will help us to improve the way in which care is given to those nearing their final moments affording them greater happiness. “The American health care system has more than its fair share of dysfunction to match its brilliance,” he says. “[Working in]... a hospice and as a palliative medicine doc, I've seen care from both sides... but we are unwitting agents for a system that too often does not serve.”  Preparing for Death - Rethink and Redesign how it is we Die Miller's concept is, “to rethink and redesign how it is we die”. In hospitals, he calls for patients not to be whisked away immediately after they have died. For cleaning crews not to be immediately called in, for instance, but for a moment or two of reflection to be allowed. Indeed, he says that hospitals are not really designed for handling dying patients but for saving lives.  He calls for people to be able to die in greater comfort than they are often able to in medical facilities. There they are often hooked up to monitoring equipment and various tubes. Working in a hospice, Miller has a clear view on what makes for a more dignified departure from life. It is to spend the last few months, weeks or hours doing what it was we enjoyed in life. He cites the example of one person for whom having her dog by her side was her priority. In another case, he says he knew of an individual who wanted to enjoy her smoking habit to the end since she was past any health benefit she might derive from giving up. It is hard to imagine either scenario in a standard hospital today.  De-medicalising the Process of Dying Put another way, Miller's ideas are about de-medicalising the process of dying. He is calling for an approach which is person-centred. Not focussed on medical procedures or dealing with individual instances of pain or bodily deterioration as they might crop up. It is easy to understand why healthcare professionals take the approach they do. They have been trained to heal and to help handle pain all of their working lives. However, by so doing we can be missing one of the fundamentals of dying. It is a natural phenomenon and very much a part of life.  Shouldn't we all, therefore, consider the merits of preparing for death? And doing that in a way that has a meaning and connection with the way we have lived? Surely, if we do, then the chances of a greater dignity in death are vastly improved. This will be of benefit not just to ourselves, as individuals, but to those around us – both professionals and loved ones – in our final moments.  The Role of Psychology in Dying Miller's ideas are from throwing the responsibility of preparing for death onto individuals - thereby letting healthcare givers off the hook. The new cultural approach to dying sought by Miller, and others, requires a societal approach. Thankfully, psychologists have already started work in this area. For example, Phillip M. Kleespies, PhD, wrote in his book, Life and Death Decisions: Psychological and Ethical Considerations in End-Of-Life Care of 2004, that psychological interventions can make a huge impact on dying people who are preparing for death. He says they can help with the ability to cope with and adapt to loss and advanced illness as they develop.  The psychologist William E. Haley, PhD who works at the University of South Florida states that, psychologists are already training. This happens in the mental health treatment of major chronic illnesses in increasing numbers. These include conditions such as heart disease, cancer, AIDS, dementia and, in some cases, conditions which lead to chronic pain.  The Concept of a Good Death According to Emmanuelle Bélanger MSc, PhD Candidate of the Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry and Department of Family Medicine at McGill University, the concept of a good death is one that has changed in the last fifty to sixty years. In the 1980s, it became associated with dying well or dying with dignity. This was very different from the Middle Ages. Conception of a good death would have involved both a family and a priest being present. In the eighteenth century, as more was known about medicine, so the role of the doctor became more important in the concept of a good death.  This old-fashioned conception is now being overturned by some in the medical profession, notably Atul Gawande, a practising surgeon. His book Being Mortal argues that the concept of a good death should be turned on its head. That the focus ought to be on a good life, instead.  In Being Mortal, he makes a compelling case for where medical interventions should stop and where a dignified process of death should begin for greater happiness. Echoing BJ Miller's ideas, he points out that many medical procedures make life more uncomfortable, not less. It even reduces the amount of (concious) time we have left in some cases.     Modelphotos by colourbox.com  Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
  7. Gratitude is a catalyst for happiness. When we are grateful for what we have we stop focusing on the things we lack. Why gratitude? Gratitude expert, Robert Emmons shares that when people help one another, they feel happier. The actions they take release the feel good chemical Oxytocin. The same chemical that positive touch activates. So while gratitude itself doesn't release the happy chemical, the actions we take when we are full of gratitude do.  From my personal experiences, I know that holding gratitude in my heart and mind always leads me to feel happier. For me, it’s not just the actions I take but the reminder that I have so much to be thankful and appreciative for. That alone can get my thinking from dark and depressed to being full of joy.  Gratitude is a vital step in my happiness.  Gratitude Yoga Since I’d done the Compassion Yoga with Adriene, I wanted to try Grounding Into Gratitude - Root Chakra Yoga with her as well. Gratitude—in my experience—is more practical as opposed to just a ‘feeling’, so incorporating it into my yoga practice sounded like an excellent method for increasing my gratitude and therefore, happiness.  Right from the start, Adriene asked that we trust ourselves, her, and the Gratitude Yoga practice. She opens with a request that we are the ‘observer’. It made perfect sense to me since, in order to feel full of gratitude, we have to be able to observe the good happening all around us. It takes us from a place of internal focus and allows us to look outward.  The video is also shorter, only about 30 minutes. So it’s a good video for those that don’t have a full hour for daily practice.  Chakras Next, she has the practitioners focus their energy in their root chakra which is the space right behind the pubic bone. Our root chakra is our base, foundation, our connection to the earth and the physical. When it is out of balance, we can experience higher levels of negativity, trouble eating, greater insecurity, greediness, and more. With all the negative aspects of the root being out of balance, having a practice that focuses on balance seemed the right choice.  While I mentioned the heart chakra in Part One, I didn't get much into it. But in this case, understanding chakras is helpful as they are often used in Yoga to focus on a particular area of the body, an energy flow. The chakras are associated with seven energy points in the body, colours, organs, and they have corresponding Yoga poses to help balance them.  Because yoga and balancing the mind, body, and spirit are very connected to the thoughts in our heads, Yoga Journal uses words like ‘imagine’. Which took the idea of the chakras from a place of ‘this is real, and therefore we must prove it’ to a place of ‘this is real in my mind and therefore, helpful for visualisations during my practice’.  I mention this because when I go to therapy, we often discuss the differences between things that are proven scientifically and things that we simply believe. Belief is powerful; there’s no doubt about it. But science and belief aren't the same. So if you are new to the idea of chakras and desire a science-based explanation, you might do better with the idea of chakras as visualisations as opposed to actual energy points in the body.  For our purposes here, the root is our base and our balance.  The Practice The first pose of Gratitude Yoga in which I felt my energy and grounding (or connection to earth with) was the in the Malasana pose. It is hard to stay in the pose at first as I felt unbalanced. But I kept trying.  Slowly, my hips opened. I felt my energy shoot from my root down through the floor and into the earth. Then fresh energy back up into me. I visualised this energy, and the more I did so, the sturdier I felt. Finally, I was able to stay in the Gratitude Yoga pose and fully embrace that feeling of balance. Which then led to me feeling so much giddy happiness. Because when I feel balanced, I feel like I can trust myself and that is a vital step in maintaining my joy.  During a variation of Malasana, Adriene has the practitioner work with their feet. She mentions that feet are an essential step in finding grounding. Since my feet often ache, I took what she said to heart and massaged my feet while rocking back and forth in a sort of frog-like squat. It’s close to Malasana, but not quite the same.  I found this helped me relax into the more challenging poses later on. If I was struggling with balance, I rubbed the bottoms of my feet for thirty seconds, and I was instantly able to balance more efficiently. Another Gratitude Yoga pose I found helpful was called Humble Warrior. I’d done Warrior pose many times, even Peaceful Warrior, but not Humble. I was amazed how much this pose released in my body. All the tension I carry in my shoulders and neck began to loosen, and the longer I maintained the posture, the more I felt the release.  Gratitude, I am, and Happiness I can’t deny that when I finished the video (and this happened multiple times) that I felt lighter, more grounded and connected to earth, and at peace with myself. One of the mantras Adriene used—because as she stated in the video, it relates to the root chakra—was ‘I am’.  During the entire session, I focused on gratitude for all the wonderful people in my life, for the healing in myself that I've allowed happening and worked so hard for, and also the thought “I Am”. I kept repeating ‘I am’ in my head. Sometimes I’d say it aloud. Each time, I felt more accepting of myself. Less judgement and self-shaming behaviour for all the things I am not.  I've known about ‘I am’ for years now. In fact, my first introduction to it was when I was young and being raised in a religious household. I was told that this was God’s response when asked what he was. Later I was shown meditations and Native American and Buddhist practices that incorporated it. But I didn't understand that really all ‘I am’ means is acceptance and embracing of the self. It’s not to embrace my bad habits, but to embrace that I have those bad habits and to choose to love myself anyway. It’s in accepting myself fully that I find the ability to break my bad habits.  Not only is the mantra ‘I am’ helpful for self-acceptance, but it’s also useful for gratitude toward others as well as affirmations. I am thankful… I am grateful… I am happy… Self-acceptance is an important step on our path to happiness. Self-help books and large goal setting can lead to unhappiness. There's a ‘should be’ and ‘should do’ mentality and it directly leads to ‘I am not enough’. The right place to start with developing one self though is self-acceptance "I am enough". While self-acceptance—I am—can result in seeing our worth as we are. As I mentioned above, this isn't reason to perpetuate bad habits. What it is, is an opportunity for embracing ourselves and loving who we are.  I feel gratitude, the ‘I am’ mantra, and happiness are connected. I didn't possess any of these until I jumped onto the wheel (as I see it in my mind’s eye). Once I had gratitude, I felt happier. Once I felt happier, I was able to accept the parts of myself that I was judging. Then when I let go of self-judgement, I felt a deeper level of gratitude. If I stay on this wheel, these things feed one another, and I end up feeling each stronger.  ~Namaste     Modelphotos: colourbox.com, Yoga with Adriene  Written by Sienna Saint-CyrSienna Saint-Cyr is an author, advocate, and the founder of SinCyr Publishing. She speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on the importance of having a healthy body image, understanding enthusiastic consent, using sexuality to promote healing, navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships, having Complex PTSD, and more. Sienna loves sharing her journey of healing and finding happiness with her readers. Along with writing erotica and romance, Sienna speaks at conventions, workshops, and for private gatherings on such sex-positive topics as a healthy body image, using sexuality to promote healing, and navigating diverse or non-traditional relationships. She writes for several websites. Find out more at https://siennasaintcyr.wordpress.com/.
  8. Accepting you feel happy enough, as opposed to constantly pursuing an ephemeral idea of what happiness might be, is the route many now choose to greater well-being.  Remember that old REM hit, Shiny Happy People? In it, the lyrics encouraged you to put “it in your heart” where “tomorrow” and “gold and silver shine”. Okay, let's not set too much store by a pop song, but it illustrates something important about modern culture:  Happiness seems to be shiny, attractive and – like gold an sliver – material to some extent. In fairness to the songwriters, happiness is something that we might observe in others. The so-called shiny people of the song - if not ourselves.  Now, a jangly rock anthem may not really be the best route to understanding what happiness is conceptually, but it certainly reveals the way many of us think about it on a day-to-day basis. However, the pursuit of happiness, like the pursuit of anything material, can lead us in the wrong direction. This is what today's psychologists refer to as the happiness trap. Let's examine what this trap is, how you can identify the extent to which you might have fallen into it and – perhaps most importantly of all – the measures you can take to get out of it.  The Misguided Pursuit of Happiness According to Greek philosopher Aristotle, happiness involves activity and exhibiting virtue but the word he chose to describe it was eudaimonia. Often translated as happiness, this term is probably better described as human flourishing. We seem quite removed from that sentiment when you consider how contemporary mass culture depicts happiness. Think of all the happy messages the mainstream media bombards us with just to begin with.  Ask yourself how many times a day that you might hear that you can be happy – will be happy, even – if only you choose these clothes, that form of transportation or this particular adornment. There again, the pursuit of happiness might be marketed as being concurrent with the pursuit of other goals. For example, you may have heard you'll be happy if you pursue your youth - with an anti-wrinkle cream, of course. Or that you will be happy if you pursue greater wealth by choosing one investment product over another.  Eudaimonia has little to do with any of that. Over the ages, spiritual leaders have taught us to abandon the relationship between happiness and material wealth. Bear in mind that it is not so much that material aggrandisement won't bring you happiness, rather than the detriment it can cause to your perception of happiness. Although the current generation of Westerners are, by and large, richer than ever before the variation of how people perceive their level of happiness is high, to say the least.  Are You in the Happiness Trap? Feeling unhappy or sad is perfectly natural and all humans will go through mental states like this from time to time. However, a general malaise in your sense of happiness may reveal that you are, indeed, in the happiness trap. If you think that your personal happiness ties in with the images you might see on TV or in lifestyle magazines, then that is a sure sign. Equally, if you are constantly comparing the level of happiness you feel with that which you perceive in your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues, then this may also indicate your entrapment of a false perception of happiness.  Psychologists now write with increasing frequency on the downside of happiness. Essentially, they are posing questions about  when happiness is appropriate what level of it is best whether there are 'wrongful' ways of pursuing happiness Indeed, despite the oft-noted benefits of happiness, some leading authors are posing the question as to whether there are wrong types of happiness that might be better avoided. If you think you might be in the happiness trap, then you are certainly not alone. Modern scientific thinking may well agree with your self assessment.  Cognitive and Behavioural Strategies for Feeling Happy Enough So far, we have focussed on whether we have our priorities right with happiness and whether there is an over-connection to material considerations when pursuing happiness. Now let's turn our attention to being able to feel happy enough. If you like, this is the ability to accept with gratitude the happiness you feel. Then to have the strength to resist the temptation to seek more.  Identifying and accepting the state of being happy enough is the key to getting out of the happiness trap. If you feel happy enough, then you won't feel the need to carry on pursuing the false idols of materialism or of keeping up with the Joneses.  Deciding to feel happy enough may be easier said than done given our materialistic culture. Indeed, a 2003 psychological study by Schooler, Airey and Loewenstein suggested that pursuing happiness as a goal was doomed to failure anyway. Thankfully, Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky and others offer some cognitive and behavioural tips, you can follow to offer you the best chance of avoiding that empty sensation of not feeling happy enough.    Setting Aside Time With so much that contributes to modern life pointing you towards the happiness trap, it is a good idea to simply set aside time to recall moments of gratitude. By doing this regularly, you are much better positioned to see past the short-term nature of such messages and to keep an eye on what really contributes to your happiness. You could, for instance, keep a journal where you can count your blessings. For example the love of people close to you or your general health. In addition, writing letters of gratitude can help to reorientate your perspective on to what really counts. There is something about the mental activity that goes on during the act of writing that helps to rebalance our cognitive processes and application of this can shape your feelings surrounding happiness.    Positive Mentality Strategies As mentioned, writing can have a beneficial effect on the way we think about a range of circumstances, including the way we feel about happiness. However, it is not the only positive mental strategy that you can use in a self-regulatory manner. Positive thinking about oneself can come in other reflective forms. You can have a look back through old photos of heart-warming and cheerful life events. Or you might prefer to talk about your happiest and unhappiest moments in life with a loved one. Another possibility is to have a discussion about your life goals for the future with your partner or a trusted friend. By focussing positivity in this way, you naturally engage less with shorter term aspirations and material objectives.    The Power of Altruism Studies have shown that practising altruism can help you to feel more satisfied with your level of happiness. Helping you to understand what is good about your life, altruistic acts are also of benefit to their recipient. Simply making the decision to be kinder and more understanding in your everyday interactions is a good first step. You might consider doing something practical, too, such as donating your blood. By routinely committing to acts of kindness or trying to make a loved one happy, you will end up feeling more empowered about how happy you feel and less reliant on what other people think about you.    Reaffirmation of Your Values Refocussing on your most important values is another key step in accepting the level of happiness you feel. Think of it like restating your marriage vows – if you ever made them, that is – as a means of getting back to basics. By reaffirming the true person you are, it becomes possible to shake off sometimes years of misguided happiness that has become more and more reliant on a false idea of perfection. One that is modelled on an 'ideal' life as depicted in modern culture so much. Take a step back to focus on what makes you tick and reaffirm your commitment to it.    Engendering Positivity By taking the time to savour positive experiences in life, rather than rushing on hedonistically to the next chance of happiness, you are more likely to enjoy the moment. Think of a greedy diner who, enjoying their food gulps it all down rapidly only to feel disappointed. Compared with someone who savours every mouthful to the maximum. Both might consume the same food but gain very different experiences from their meal. Slow down. See the whole picture. Focus on the positivity of any given situation in order to feel happier in yourself.  Image(s) licensed by Ingram Image  Written by Ed GouldEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
  9. Journaling isn’t just something that teenagers do. As Arlo Laibowitz says, keeping track of your innermost thoughts, plans, ambitions and reflections can help you develop as a human being. Here he explains some different methods of journaling and the benefits the practice can bring. Happy writing! Many of us have started writing a diary or journal at some points in our lives. And many of us have also stopped writing in them not that much later. That is a shame. Many famous artists, writers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and thinkers keep or have kept journals. For many, it is a creative necessity and outlet. For some, it is a place for exploration, and yet for others, it is an art form in itself. Journaling can be enriching and fulfilling on many levels. It can lead to insights, personal growth, and setting and achieving goals. Journals record our thoughts, feelings, and reflections. In doing so, they create a through-line in our life, a place of refuge and reflection, that we can visit and revisit. So, what are the benefits of journaling? What different forms can we use if we want to journal ourselves? And how do we go about starting and sustaining a journaling habit? Documenting little details of your everyday life becomes a celebration of who you are. ~Carolyn Hamilton~ What are the benefits of journaling? In different studies, journaling has been identified as a keystone habit: a habit that is defining and catalysing more habits in your life. As Charles Duhig writes in The Power of Habit, these keystones are “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives." The benefits of journaling are emotional, cognitive, creative and possibly even spiritual. Journaling helps us to: Know ourselves better, by clarifying our thoughts and feelings. Release thoughts and emotions, by recognising and tracking them. Increase focus; deepen our learning and problem solving, in ‘decluttering’ our minds. Greater stability, detach and let go of the past; similar as in meditation practices, by developing our awareness of our thoughts and letting go of our clinging to them. Resolve disagreements with others, by detaching ourselves from the conflict and reflecting on it. Especially when we keep a gratitude journal, there are some added benefits. People that keep a gratitude journal are happier, healthier, more balanced, generally more optimistic, less self-centered, and less susceptible to feelings of envy, more relaxed, better in decision-making, and more strengthened in their emotions and developed in their personality. Dream diaries: journal in them to keep track of your nightly dreams... or maybe your ambitions? Journaling: some different forms Enso Drawing There are various forms of journaling. We can choose a traditional way, with pen and paper, or write in an electronic journal, use various media, or add art practices to our journaling (like drawings or collages, or even specialised forms like enso drawing). Ten minute routine An easy way to start journaling is practising the Ten minute routine. Before going to bed, ask yourself so-called “requests”: what are the things that you are trying to accomplish, and write these down. Then, in the morning, write down your answers and thoughts on these questions. This way of journaling is especially efficient to review and sharpen your to-do-list and life vision, as they become forged in your subconscious mind. Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. ~Christina Baldwin~ Stream of consciousness Another tried way to journal is journaling every day in a stream of consciousness. Write down any thought, memory, to-do-list, feeling, drawing, or whatever else pops up. Just let it flow as you write, without trying to censor or edit yourself. Morning memories A different method is writing Morning Memories. Schedule your journaling session each morning, before you start your day’s activities. Use the same journal every day, sit in the same spot, and when you’re done writing, take time to reflect on what you have written and accomplished in that session. Gratitude journal Probably the most researched journaling method is keeping a gratitude journal. For maximum benefit, take 15 minutes per day, three to four times a week, to journal what you are grateful for on that day. Be specific, choose depth of gratitude instead of breadth, try to get personal (being thankful to people is more efficient than to things), see good things as a gift, saver surprises and unexpected events, and revise if you repeat, by writing new or different things if you are expressing gratitude to the same person or situation. Successful journals break the deadlock of introspective obsession. ~Alexandra Johnson~ Intensive journal A comprehensive method of journaling is using the Intensive Journal process. This copyrighted process, which can be learned in specialised workshops, enables the person journaling to get to know themselves on profound levels. The Intensive Journal Workbook is a large notebook filled with paper and divided into four dimensions of human experience: Life/Time, Dialogue, Depth and Meaning. Each of these aspects is divided into several subsections, to work through in the path that the method prescribes. Some of these paragraphs are used to write about our memory of the events of our lives as well as dreams and images. Others are more geared towards stimulating insights and creative activity. Journaling: start putting pen to paper and reap the many rewards How to start and sustain a journaling habit There are as many ways to initiate and maintain your journaling, as there are different forms of journaling. A straightforward way to start journaling is by starting every day with writing down tasks and goals that you have for that day. Only write a few items, to make it easy to start and make progress. It is useful to mix personal and professional things. By keeping each journal entry short in the beginning, it is easy to succeed. At the end of each day, look back at what you have accomplished, what you have learned, what you want to explore further, and what you want to pursue the next day. Once you have developed a basic journaling practice, you can dig deeper and further expand your practice. Some commonly held beliefs and ‘best practices’ include: Start writing about where you are in your life at this moment, and build on that in subsequent journal entries. Start a dialogue with your inner child by writing in your non-dominant hand, and switching back to your dominant hand. For sustaining your gratitude practice, maintain a daily list of things you appreciate, including uplifting quotes. Start a journal of self-portraits; draw, write, or collage who you are today, and learn to appreciate and develop yourself. Keep a nature diary to connect with the natural world: record what you experience in looking at the sky experiences the weather or walks in nature. Maintain a log of successes, starting with big ones that you remember, and then add them as they occur. Keep a log or playlist of your favourite songs. Especially, write about the moods and memories they trigger. If there’s something you are struggling with or an event that’s disturbing you, write about it in the third person, to create distance and perspective. Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper can help bring about greater perspective Travels to our interior As we have seen in the above, journaling is a powerful habit that enables us to get a more in-depth and clearer understanding of the thoughts, feelings, and issues we are working through. Whether we use journaling to accompany our meditation, forgiveness, or gratitude practices, or to work through emotional trauma or creative stumble blocks, a daily practice enables us to focus and develop further. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train. ~Oscar Wilde~ Personally, I seriously started journaling some years ago, as part of the Morning Papers practice of The Artist’s Way. I have written notebooks full of journal entries related to personal growth, gratitude, creative development, project ideas, personal insecurities, blocked traumas, to-do-lists, goals, dreams, and wishes, and much more. I have journaled for weeks or months at a time, and have also not journaled for weeks in between entries. Every time I come back to the practice and sustain it on a regular basis, I feel I can go deeper, explore things more explicit, and in the process, experience a wonderful journey to my interior. I wish you the same journey as you explore your journaling practice! ● Photos by Cathryn Laver, Ben White, Haley Powers, Estée Janssens on Unsplash Written by Arlo Laibowitz Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.