6 ways to nourish your skin in winter

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Are you struggling to ensure that your skin is well moisturised in this dry weather?

Do you moisturise your skin regularly and yet still struggle to keep it moist and supple?

This is a real struggle for most of us as the weather changes and the days and nights becomes dry and cold. In my health coaching practice, many of my coaching clients suffer from chronic skin conditions and have a tough time keeping their skin moisturised at all times of the year. The winter season can be especially hard for those who have very sensitive and dry skin.

If you have dry skin issues you are definitely not alone. In this post, I have written about SIX ways that you can nourish yourself through food and keep your skin well hydrated and moisturised in the dry season. At the end of the day, the appearance of your skin is simply a manifestation of what is going on inside your body. Mineral imbalances, toxin overload, oxidative stress and underlying chronic inflammation all contribute to various skin disorders. 

There may also be other potential causes for dry skin like low estrogen, nutritional deficiencies, bathing too much. However, most people benefit quite a bit by focusing on foods which address nutrient deficiencies and keeping our bodies well hydrated. 

(I have shared the recipe for the natural and moisturising body butter that I make for my family and friends every winter as a FREE download at the end of this post)

6 ways to nourish your skin this winter

  1. Hydration is key and is always the FIRST step that I recommend. Many of us can become chronically dehydrated as we usually end up drinking less water as we sweat less and feel less thirsty during this season. Ensuring adequate amounts of water intake is critical in maintaining good skin health as it serves many purposes including cleansing toxins from our body.
  2. Decrease your intake of tannins. Black tea (and to a lesser extent in green tea and coffee) is loaded with tannins which are polyphenols or phytonutrients that plants produce to protect itself from predators like insects and germs. Tannins are dehydrating and are what gives tea and red wine their distinct bitter flavour. Make sure to reduce intake of all forms of tea (black, green, white) as this has nothing to do with whether it is caffeinated or not. 
  3. The third thing that I recommend is to increase the intake of omega 3 fatty acids. This is another key driver of dry and flaky skin. Most of us are deficient in this essential fatty acid since it is very low in our modern diets. The best sources of omega 3 fatty acids are fatty, oily fish like salmon, cod, sardines, seaweed and algae, chia/flax/hemp seeds, walnuts, soy bean. I also usually recommend a high quality omega 3 supplement  for most of my clients since it is often difficult to get adequate quantities of omega 3 fatty acids from these food sources.
  4. Focus on foods rich in Vitamin A, Zinc and Vitamin E as they are all important for skin health. Zinc is critical for the formation of collagen, a protein molecule that forms connective tissue and skin. Foods rich in Zinc are meat, shellfish, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans), seeds (pumpkin, hemp), nuts, eggs, dairy, whole grains (wheat, rice, oats). Vitamin E helps to combat oxidative stress and keeps the skin youthful. Foods rich in this fat soluble nutrient are sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, other nuts (like hazelnut, pinenut), spinach and other greens. Vitamin A is a fat soluble nutrient that plays an essential role in body growth, immune health, vision, reproductive and skin health. Good sources of vitamin A are animal liver, cod liver oil, egg, sweet potato, carrot, spinach, broccoli, mango, watermelon and papaya.
  5. Low vitamin D level is yet another major contributor to dry skin. Ideally, you should be getting adequate vitamin D naturally from sun exposure but this becomes doubly hard in this season. Supplements can help in boosting the levels once you know what your current levels are. Also, food sources which are high in vitamin D  are pretty much similar to the food sources for Vitamin E. 
  6. Bone broth or collagen supplement is another thing that I recommend for my clients who consume animal products. Collagen is the protein most abundant in our body and is the building block for connective tissues which you find in joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, skin and hair. We start making less and less collagen as we age and it lessens the skin elasticity and hydration leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles. Bone broth is a simple way of harnessing the benefits of collagen through food sources like bone broth, organ meats and egg yolks. For those of you who are unable to make this at home, you can add collagen to your daily smoothie or juice in the form of a supplement. My favourite supplement is this one. For those of you looking for a plant based option, check out this one

FREE DOWNLOAD : "Home made body butter recipe using only 3 ingredients"

These 5 books will help you realign with yourself

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Reading is a practice that contributes immensely to our mental, emotional wellbeing both of which are intricately connected to our physical health. However, there are too many of us who are not taking advantage of this amazing source of information and collective wisdom. In this post, I have encapsulated a collection of books that have personally contributed tremendously to my own personal growth and wellbeing especially in terms of bringing clarity to what gives my life meaning and what is important to me.

Those who know me well know that I am a voracious reader. I truly believe that reading is an extremely effective way of gaining insight into other people's experiences and wisdom. We can be inspired and motivated by others who have led a rich and meaningful life on their own terms. This post, in particular, is about books which will help you to realign with yourself and your purpose. With that, given below are five books that you can pick up today that will change your life in one way or the other.

(This is the first in a series of posts that I will be writing every month or so on books and resources that you will likely benefit from)

The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith

This book is a powerful guide to finding meaning in our lives. It gives a different perspective on what we know about happiness. Social scientists are now proving what philosophers have known all along; that the pursuit of happiness actually makes people unhappy. Emily Esfahani Smith identifies four pillars upon which meaning rests: Belonging, Purpose, Storytelling and Transcendence.

In this book, the author gives an insight into what determines a life lived purposefully. She stresses on the fact each of us has different strengths, abilities, insights and talents and we will need to be aware of these and have knowledge about ourselves to live a life filled with purpose. She goes on to show that those of us who have a purpose in life, contribute towards the goal that we set for ourselves, ultimately lead lives which are more satisfying and meaningful. A must read for anyone who is looking to find ways to incorporate purpose, belonging as well as happiness in their lives. The Power of Meaning  by Emily Esfahani Smith (October 2017)

 

 

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This book is one of the books that I tend to read again and again. This is the book which first brought awareness to the fact that rather than focussing on how we can do more and more, we need to focus on doing the right things. So rather than trying to fit everything in our to-do list and our life and suffering from overwhelm, overscheduling and stress we can learn how to say "no" to things that are not important and start focussing on the right things.

In this book, the author writes about the staggering choices that we are forced to confront on a daily basis which keep us stuck as we battle decision fatigue. The information overload in the digital age and the myth that "you can have it all"  is contributing to the stress in our modern life. As an alternative, the author shows us ways to apply more selective criteria to understand what is truly Essential and saying "no" to what is not.

Personally, this book has helped me to revaluate the decisions that I make on a daily basis and helped me to focus on what is really important in my life. This book will help you to discover your priorities and provide you with a template to "do less, but better." Essentialism by Greg McKeown (April 2014)

 

 

The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

This book was initially written as a blog post by a palliative nurse taking care of terminally ill patients. After working with such patients her life was transformed. She wrote about it in a blog post which encapsulated the most common regrets of those whom she had cared for at the very end of their lives. This struck a chord with people all over the world and it was read by over three million people.

This encouraged her to write her own personal story as well as the top five regrets of those at the end of their lives. At the end of the day, this book is not so much about dying but about how to actually live a life with peace, clarity and purpose. Read this book to gain an insight into finding out what truly matters to you, what you want from life and how to garner the courage to walk your own path.

This book has brought immense clarity to my own life and has taught me just how precious my life truly is. While the writing style may be a bit difficult for some of you, do continue with this book and read it to gain an insight into how you can live a life that is well lived and worthwhile. The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware (May 2017)

 

 

Mindset by Carol Dweck

This book is written by a professor of psychology at Stanford University and is the book on "growth mindset". The author and her colleagues did a groundbreaking experiment with a group of students which showed that contrary to popular belief, their mindset played a key role in their achievements and motivation levels. They also found that by changing their mindset they were actually able to improve the outcomes.

This research showed the way in terms of how success in school, work, arts, sports and many other areas in life can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our skills and abilities. This book can help us to change the way we think about failure, foster resiliency and transform our life.

This book has helped me to change the way I think about effort, failure and my own abilities. I have been able to apply these principles in different areas of my life including parenting, work, business and relationships and have seen firsthand it's transformative power.

Read this book to learn more about "fixed" vs "growth" mindset and how you can work on your own mindset and build the right mindset in children in particular.  Mindset by Carol Dweck (January 2017)

 

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Fransesc Miralles

Ikigai is a word that is used to describe our reason for "being." I came across the word"Ikigai" a couple of years back and it has stayed with me ever since. It is a Japanese word/concept which means "a reason for being" and has a profound effect on longevity and the quality of life.

Our Ikigai may be different for each of us, but we are all searching for something that gives meaning to our life. Knowing that what we are doing with our life is at the intersection of our values, our passion and contribution to society give us the strength and the conviction to carry on even during difficult and uncertain times.

I am truly blessed to be one those fortunate few who is in the centre of this convergence in my own life and I urge you to make an effort to work towards your own beautiful whole. Read this book to find begin your search for and discover your own "Ikigai". Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Fransesc Millares (September 2017)

 

These are the 5 books that I would like to leave you with at this time. I will be sharing such books and resources on various topics which will contribute either directly or indirectly to your health and wellbeing. Books are a major part of my life and help me to learn and grow in more ways than I can count. I hope that you will take advantage of what I have shared and give yourself the "gift" of reading.

As someone had said wisely..

A book is a gift you can open again and again

Celebrating your unique self

Reading Time: 6 minutes

For the past several weeks I have been writing on the topics of self worth and self compassion. I have touched upon various facets of our lives that contribute to our sense of self worth and self compassion which include topics like resiliency, self acceptance, choosing yourself.  (You can read them HERE)

In the last post in this series, I want to celebrate all that makes you, well, YOU!

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We often tend to overlook aspects of our lives that make each and every one of us unique and worth celebrating. We often focus too much on our shortcomings and all the things that we need to work on and improve about ourselves. As someone who believes in self growth and that we need to be constantly moving forward, I need to be careful not to ignore what is already working well in my life.

I know that self development on a consistent basis is the key to improve different aspects of my personal and professional life. However, I have also realised that there is often a hidden danger in this. If I only look at all the things that need improvement in my life, I can very easily overlook all that I have achieved and the person that I have become over the years. I try and avoid this pitfall by using my strength of gratitude as a way of appreciating all that I have and by fostering self acceptance towards myself to keep my self worth intact. However, this is something that I need to constantly work on, it does not come naturally to me.

As you think about what I have written above, ask yourself these questions-

What makes you unique?

What makes you stand apart from others?

And in what ways are you "whole" today? 

One of the pitfalls of working on ourselves to improve our situation and moving towards the peace and happiness that we are searching for is that we can end up becoming fixated on the notion that we are somehow "broken". A feeling of inadequacy can creep in unknowingly as we look to self help offerings to "fix ourselves". Also, we can even up missing out on the happiness and fulfilment that is in right in front of us at this moment as we embark on a self improvement journey.

So today, do not look for all your flaws and your perceived imperfections. Instead, take out some time and see if you can

STOP...

seeking approval from others in order to feel valued and see if you can find ways to give yourself what you are seeking from others

comparing yourself with other people and start living life on your own terms

competing against yourself and instead, look for and embrace your strengths AND your flaws

We spend most of our lives trying to fit in, moulding ourselves in the space that is available to us.  Girls (even more so than boys) are conditioned to do this right from the start and this becomes a way of life. Later, as women, we learn how to say the right things, in the right manner and at the right time. We learn how to modify our behaviour to please others and keep the peace. With time, many women start to lose their identity and often reach a point in their lives when they no longer know who they really are or what they stand for.

I see this often with my coaching clients (who are mostly women in their mid-thirties to early fifties) who are struggling to give themselves the time and effort that they need to work on their health issues. As a part of working together to reclaim their health, we peel back the layers gently one by one so that their true self is revealed and they can connect once again with the innermost part of themselves. They realise that in order to heal, they need to treat themselves with dignity and respect and that they deserve the same love and kindness that they give their families.

Becoming free of disease is NOT the same as being truly healthy. If we are to truly heal ourselves in the true sense of the word, we need to work from the inside out

This means becoming aware of the nature of our thoughts and then working on developing the right mindset to give our bodies what it needs from us to heal. I find that often, this means that at the very least we need to simply stay out of its way. And then as we become more aware we find that we start treating ourselves with the compassion and respect that we deserve. And with time, no longer do we feel like indulging in activities and thoughts that bring out the worst in us or harm us in any way. We start celebrating all the ways that we shine and stand out from others.

More importantly, we start embracing our imperfections and our quirks. The way that we laugh with abandon, our inability to remember names (I definitely struggle with that!), our need to keep everything in perfect order, our tendency to worry or overanalyse- whatever makes us "one of a kind". 

If you struggle to know what makes YOU unique, take out some time and ask yourself these questions

What are the things that I value most in my life? 

What makes me really happy?

What brings a smile to my face just by thinking about it?

Which activities/hobbies do I try to fit in whenever I get the time? 

You may find that as you write down the answers to these questions, you have rediscovered a part of yourself that has long been forgotten. A part of you that helps you to rediscover your passions and sets you on an exhilarating journey of self discovery. A journey that takes you away from a life lived on autopilot to a life lived with intention and meaning.

(You can read my earlier post on related topics of finding your purpose and self acceptance here and here)

This path of self discovery also helps us release old patterns of limiting beliefs and old patterns which are no longer serving us.

WE...

no longer beat ourselves up for making mistakes or feel ashamed by our flaws

embrace our strengths, our weaknesses and all our imperfections

celebrate every small win and understand that failure teaches us a lot more than success ever could

no longer try to become someone we are not in order to fit in with the crowd

we find the strength to present ourselves to the whole world just as we are- imperfect and unique

I hope that this series of posts have made you think and has encouraged you to travel within yourself to look for what you may be seeking from your outer world. And I hope that you realise that you are indeed WORTHY - first and foremost of your own love and kindness.

I get it, this path is not easy. I have travelled the same path that you may be on right now. It has taken me some time and much effort but over time I have learned to embrace all that makes me "different" from others. I am no longer afraid to show up just as I am, my imperfections are there for all to see. I now realise that none of us is broken or damaged- we are exactly who we are meant to be. It is up to us to keep searching for this WHOLENESS, for this will set us free.

As the poet, author and activist Maya Angelou had said so beautifully

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high.”

~Maya Angelou

How you can bounce back from life’s challenges and become more resilient

Reading Time: 7 minutes

"I’m not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship"
— Louisa May Alcott

Life is filled with all kinds of moments- both good and bad. Few of us will get through an entire lifetime completely free of challenges and stressors. Infact, pain and suffering is an inevitable part of the human condition, of being alive. Failure is an inevitable part of our life, what really matters is how you deal with it.

Some people face their failures and setbacks and bounce back by responding effectively and decisively while others never seem to get their act together. What differentiates these two groups of people? In a word, RESILIENCE. 

In my previous post (fifth in a series of eight posts), I had written about the need to look for and find the joyful moments in our lives in order to have meaningful happiness. In this post, I am writing about those other kinds of negative moments that are woven into the very fabric of our lives- stressful, frustrating, dreary, tiring, dull and even traumatic and devastating ones.

We can learn how to remain grounded in the face of adversity and not get uprooted. We can also learn to take risks and endure failure (it is not a matter of if but when) and have the courage to learn, grow and adapt.  Using the tools of self compassion, empathy, self awareness, confidence, calm and courage we can train ourselves to deal with the adversities when they come and adapt to the circumstances. In other words, we can learn to become resilient.

"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again"

-Nelson Mandela

Many of us ask ourselves these questions when faced with adversity in our daily lives

Will I ever recover from this?

How long will it take me?

How can I help myself cope with this better?

Research now shows that our brain can be consciously rewired so that we become more resilient to future events. We know that due to neuroplasticity, we can train our brains for the better just like we would do with a muscle. Infact, due to evolution, your brain already has all the capacities that you need to develop and strengthen your resilience.

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

So the question then is not whether you can cope with the adversities that come your way, but rather how do you tap into the resources that will help you to cope with them effectively. Developing resilience is a personal journey that takes practise like any other skill. It is important to develop thoughts, behaviours and actions that allow you to bounce back and also to understand what works for you. Research also shows that the two most effective practices that help us choose new experiences and rewire and reshape our brains are mindfulness and self compassion.

We all know that despite our best intentions things go wrong, some times very wrong. But how do we typically react at that time? More often than not we criticise and shame ourselves for not knowing better, for not doing better.

We ask questions like

"Why me?"

"What's wrong with me?"

"I should have known better!"

We blame ourselves and others and try and fix things rather than giving ourselves a break. Instead of tuning into our emotions and how we are feeling at the time, we do anything and everything to avoid feeling pain. And when we do that, we often get hijacked by the way our feelings filter our perceptions and our emotions guide (or rather misguide) our responses to our experiences. All this usually happens at a level that is below our radar of consciousness and undermines our confidence and our ability to bounce back from life's challenges.

Mindfulness, on the other hand, helps us create a moment to moment awareness that helps us become free to choose how we respond to painful situations in a kind, curious and non judgemental manner.

As we practice doing mindfulness, we find that it leads to self awareness and brings clarity in seeing how we react to a situation, respond in a more effective manner and face the prospect of change in a much more open manner. It helps us to engage with our feelings and get curious about what emotions we are experiencing and how they are connected to our thoughts and behaviours.

It is important to acknowledge those moments in our lives that threaten to overwhelm us, make us feel ashamed and isolate us. Mindfulness helps us to become aware that we are feeling something in those moments and enables us to investigate the stories that we often tell ourselves. We can also see what is true or not true about what we are noticing and what is working and not working in what we are observing.

(Take out a bit of time to do the following activity and note down your responses to the prompts given below) 

Think back to a time in your life when you were in a difficult situation recently and try and remember as to what you were feeling at that time -

I felt _______________________ (disappointed, frustrated, sad, regretful, heartbroken, confused, scared, worried) right now

 I was __________________ (in a lot of pain, ashamed, embarrassed, overwhelmed)

I am not sure what I was feeling, I simply wanted to feel better

You have just taken the first step towards acknowledging your feelings that come with accepting failure as an inherent part of our life. Practising mindfulness is an important skill that you can develop to take this level of awareness further.

Many of us have a notion that being resilient means being tough and that it hardens our weaknesses and helps us become less vulnerable to hardships in life. It could not be further from the truth!

Resilience in fact requires flexibility, mental suppleness and being open and vulnerable so that we can access the broken and dark places deep inside us. It requires that we really see ourselves- our hurt and pain, thoughts and feelings, our beauty and longings, wounds, mistakes and regrets and make space for them so that we can hold them all with compassion, curiosity and love.

We also need to realise that we deserve to feel better. Seeing ourselves this way also helps us to become more tender with ourselves and as we do so, we often see a path to becoming more tender with others, too.

Self compassion is a wholesome combination of acceptance and connection- both to ourselves and others. Using mindfulness along with self compassion helps us to reshape our brains and guide it in a positive direction.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing

-Naomi Shihab Niya

(You can also read my earlier post on a related topic of self acceptance  at "How self acceptance can compensate for being ‘NEVER ENOUGH” )

Take out a few minutes to do the following exercise and then write down your responses

First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation?

Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends. Notice any warmth, concern, and goodwill arising in your own heart for your friend. Allow yourself to feel the empathy, compassion and love that arises naturally in you.

Now think about times when you feel bad about yourself or are struggling. Was there any difference between the two responses? 

Now return to the feelings of warmth, concern, and goodwill that you felt for your friend earlier. Without changing anything, simply redirect this flow of empathy, compassion, and love towards yourself. Allow yourself to receive your own empathy, compassion and love for your own pain, for your struggle or whatever you have done or failed to do. 

How did this exercise make you feel? Did you notice anything different about how you respond to your own pain versus that of a friend? What would you do differently with this awareness the next time you are hurting?

There are too many people in this world who are struggling today- they act out instead of feeling hurt, they inflict pain instead of acknowledging it and choose to live a mediocre life to miminise the risk of being disappointed. In other words, they end up living a life that is filled with unfulfilled dreams, fear and regrets.

It doesn't have to be this way though! You can make different choices with different outcomes. 

Can you think of ways to....

be present in your life?

show up just as you are when you need to without trying to control the outcome? 

enjoy the journey- to find ways to pause and savour all that comes your way?

show yourself the same compassion that you would show another who is hurting and understand that you deserve the same kindness and understanding? 

incorporate tools of mindful self compassion in your life to be able to bounce back from life's challenges?

The sufi poet Rumi captured the essence of what I have said in this post so beautifully in his poem  "The Guest House"

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Why deciding to be happy starts with inviting JOY into your life

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

(This post is the fourth in a series of 8 posts that I am publishing every week on the topics of self-worth and self-compassion; you can read the others HERE.)

In the last few posts, I wrote about how self acceptance frees you up from the shackles of feeling unworthy and undeserving of love and how we can set boundaries to protect our most valuable resources- our energy and our time. In this post, I shift gears a bit and discuss why we need to invite JOY into our lives.

In a world that is filled with suffering, discontentment and conflict it is often only too easy to undervalue joy. This is true for those who feel deeply connected to others and care about these issues and it is equally true for anyone else who is seeking meaningful happiness in their lives. Even those who are in the profession of serving others can end up feeling burnt out over time if they are not intentional about mining for joy in their lives.

What about you? Are you willing to set an intention to "be happy" no matter the current circumstances in your life?

It helps to realise and to accept that everything changes. Our bodies, our circumstances, our minds, the seasons- everything!  Hence, there is nothing in our lives that can bring us everlasting happiness. That is not to say that there is nothing we can do about it. What we can do is train our minds to cultivate joy and live in a way that allows us to be truly happy with the way things are in our lives. We can learn to see and appreciate all the little and big ways that joy permeates our life and allow for more happiness in our lives even as we aspire to grow and change for the better.

All of this starts with setting the right intention (which is quite different from setting a goal); that is, an intention to invite happiness into your life. In order to do this, you must be open to finding and embracing joy in your life.

Ask yourself these questions in an open and compassionate manner-

Are you truly open to the possibility of finding true joy in your life at exactly this moment; the way that your life is right now?

Are you willing to allow joy to happen in your life?

OR

 are you waiting for the magical moment to arrive where you can decide to be happy?

Once you are clear on this, you may actually start to see all the ways that joy is already present in your life.

We are NOT trying to force joy into our lives and think only positive thoughts all the time. This is simply not possible and we would fail miserably at this. What we CAN do is to set a clear intention and train our minds to create an environment where joy can thrive. You will also find that as you start paying attention to your life, you will notice moments of joy when you least expect it and in the most unlikely places. This is equally true for those days in your life that are completely ordinary and those times in your life that are difficult.

As the wise fox explained to the Little Prince (in the book by the same name) "It's the time you spend on your rose that makes it so important"

In other words, it was paying attention to that single flower that brought the prince great pleasure.

Being present in your own life makes it possible for you to recognise the thoughts that arise given a particular stimulus and helps you to switch from habitual autopilot mode and make conscious choices that are more constructive. It also helps us to remain open to what life has to offer us, reframe our experiences when needed and be more open to joy.

Take out some today from your busy schedule (even 5 minutes will do) and see if you can do any of the following-

simply sit with yourself and see what comes up for you in your body and pay attention to your thoughts without trying to change them  

as you have your cup of coffee (or tea), notice the aroma, the taste and how it makes you feel as you sip and savour it

take a walk and pay attention to every step that you take; the grass or the ground beneath your feet, the breeze in the air and how it makes you feel

listen to a piece of your favourite music and pay attention to the lyrics and/or each instrument and how it affects your mood and makes you feel

We can miss out on the joyful moments in our lives if we fail to acknowledge the many ways that our lives are blessed every single day- both big and small. A grateful heart is in fact a prerequisite for a joyful life especially when times are difficult. It is impossible to feel bitter, angry and resentful when our hearts are filled with gratitude for what we have. A grateful heart also helps us to see the wonder that is around us and makes it apparent just how available joy is in our lives.

Joy is really the simplest form of gratitude

- Karl Barth

It is of course much easier to find joy when things are going well. What happens when difficult times arise? Obstacles, challenges, pain and suffering due to circumstances beyond our control is an integral part of our lives that we simply cannot avoid. However, how we choose to respond to these circumstances is very much in our hands.

Infact, the practice of accepting difficult emotions and circumstances is a vital part of inviting joy into our lives. The more we are able to understand and come to terms with our lives when things become difficult, the greater the possibility that we can keep an open mind so that we can meet our suffering with love and compassion.

As singer/songwriter Roger Miller had said

"Some people walk in the rain. Others get wet"

So I ask you once again, are you willing to be open to the possibility of finding joy in your life irrespective of the circumstances?  

Given below are some of the ways that you can reflect on what joy means to you and how you can find more of it in your life

(courtesy: Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee and Awakening Joy by James Baraz)

  • Keeping a joy journal and making a note of any moment that you feel a sense of joy; writing down where you are, whom you are with and what you are doing
  • Creating a Mood board (either physically or on Pinterest) is another useful way of curating people, things, places and activities that bring you joy
  • Imagining and reliving a joyful moment; think about how it makes you feel right now; making a list of all the things that you would like to do at this moment and then set about doing what you can
  • Making a "joy" album by going through photos on your computer/phone and printing those that give you a sense of happiness; making a "happiness" video along the same lines or curating a music list on a streaming service of your choice
  • Developing a healthy relationship with your body and taking care of it
  • Finding a joy buddy; partner with someone who is also on the same journey as you so that both of you are accountable to each other
  • Indulging in creative and nourishing activities on a regular basis

I hope you realise by now that joy is your birth right. Babies are born with it and all young children express it as an inherent part of their nature. You do not have to create joy, it is already there inside, you simply have to find it again.

I find joy in those precious moments when I wrestle with my 9 year old son, learn to play a new piece of music on the piano or when I am indulging in an activity with my family like board games or family night.

People find joy in those moments when they

act with kindness and generosity

let down their hair and act silly and playful

are in the midst of nature 

indulge in something creative like their hobbies

We all have unique ways of experiencing and expressing positive emotions like joy.

It really does not matter what it looks like for each of us ; it matters that we decide to be happy and allow for joy in our lives

As the famous poet Robert Louis Stevenson had said

"Find out where joy resides and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all"