Smile File, part deux

April 29, 2013

Completely unrelated to my earlier post, I just came across this little guy today.  So adorable my toes ache watching this!

Smile File*

April 29, 2013

Interspecies Love and Christian the Lion

Have you seen this one already?  It makes me feel all sorts of positive emotions every time I see it.  But be warned if you haven’t seen this before – yes, you may smile but you may also feel your heart swell with love and compassion and awe.  Eyes have been known to get leaky.

We are just one note in the vast harmony of existence but the grind of our daily lives can leave us only hearing our lone tune.  Well-being rests upon the wisdom that we are part of something much greater.  One of the surest ways for me to add some positive experiences to my day – and to help me remember that my note is just one in billion zillion – is to see a story about connection between species.  It almost feels like these stories get processed differently in my brain – bypassing my often annoyingly active reason mind and going straight to the seat of wisdom and compassion.

One mention about the tortoise and young hippo becoming friends or a quick look through this tumblr page and my mind relaxes a bit, comforted in remembering that life is so much more complicated, interconnected, and full of wonder than we will ever be able to see with just our eyes alone.  This story about Christian the Lion is one of my favorites.


*To learn about the benefits of introducing positive emotions into our everyday lives, visit Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s lab webpage.   This is just one small example.  Please remember.  I am not suggesting to ignore uncomfortable emotions.   We need them too!  What I am suggesting is that we can seek out experiences that might add a smile, even when we are in pain.



Only Connect!

EF Forster famously wrote “Only connect!” in his 1910 Novel Howards End to mark the 100 year Pre-Anniversary of a time when we could be digitally connected with our iThingy at all times, day and night, alone or with others, on the subway or while at dinner with friends.  Sure, at the time his prose were interpreted as a call to connect with others, and connection with others was the only reason to get up in the morning.  But we know better, don’t we?

“Friends don’t let friends lose their capacity for humanity.”

Sadly, it seems being connected with our digital gadgets can have a real impact on our ability to connect with others through a withering of our capacity for empathy.  A friend passed on this interesting article about the neuroscience behind the harm we are doing to ourselves when we spend too much time plugged in, rather than being tuned into the people around us.  Worth a read!  Original article here.  

Positive Psychology:  What it is, What it is Not

Here is a great description of what’s so great about the science of positive psychology.  My only quibble is that Martin Seligman once again is elevated above the many others who have been a part of this movement.  No doubt we owe a lot to his hard work and publicity, but “co-founder of the positive psychology movement” tends to make it sounds like there was no movement before him.  And turns out Buddhism has been talking about the same principles since a good bit before Seligman arrived on the scene.  But I digress!

Smile File

February 8, 2013


Did you know that penguins propose to each other?

And did you know that penguins fly (with a little help from a plane)?

To learn about the benefits of introducing positive emotions into our everyday lives, visit Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s lab webpage.   This is just one small example.  Please remember.  I am not suggesting to ignore uncomfortable emotions.   What I am suggesting is that we can seek out experiences that might add a little smile, even when we are in pain.

Smile File

January 30, 2013

As promised at the end of my last post, I am going to start posting things I find on the internet that might introduce some kind of positive emotion into your day.

You can visit Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s lab webpage to learn about the benefits of introducing positive emotions into our everyday lives.  But remember.  I am not suggesting you ignore the uncomfortable emotions!  What I am suggesting that we can seek out experiences that might add a little smile, even when we are in pain.

The Guy at the End of This Video certain adds a smile to my day.  Who is that guy?  And how did he come to be so awesome?!

dew on a delicate mushroom

Why I Don’t Like Optimism

I am not an optimist.  In fact I am very wary of optimism.  To me, optimism means that one only registers facts that work in their favor and dismisses facts that are perceived as negative or unwanted.  Imagine if Google maps had two street views:  one showing Truth Traffic and the other showing Optimistic Traffic.  The optimistic view might look great on your screen – clear streets all through Chicago during rush hour!  You’ll only need twenty minutes to get from here to there!  Exciting to think about how easy your commute will be.  But that false information will only make you more frustrated when you actually get downtown and are stuck in the real time hour and a half commute through the gridlock.  Staying balanced and finding well-being requires that we be fully aware of the reality that is going on around us (the good, the bad, and the ugly) rather than selecting only what we want to see as true.  I prefer to use truth as my guide, even when the truth is painful.

Why I Like Positive Emotions

I start a post about positive emotions with this message to be clear in my intent with my next statement.  We need positive emotions in our lives to find well-being.  And if we don’t have enough events in our days that are making us feel positive emotions, we need to create them.   Now I’m not saying to ignore the negative emotions.  A person who ignores their negative emotions is like a ship without a rudder.  But we need to be sure we are open to experiencing a wide range of emotions throughout our days.  Barbara Fredrickson used cutting edge statistical techniques to determine that a person is much more likely to lead a flourishing, satisfactory life if they experience positive emotions in about a 3:1 ratio with negative emotions.

Positive emotions are amazing.  They literally change us at a biological level.  We are quicker to return to baseline blood pressure, our visual attention shifts, and we are even less likely to catch a cold.  Dr. Fredrickson also explains that during a positive emotion we experience:

  1. “A widening of awareness”
  2. We are better able to “see past difference and to see towards oneness”
  3. We “see larger forms of interconnection”

How To Increase Your Positive Emotions

So if you aren’t meeting that ratio you need to do something about it.  So here is the trick.  These positive emotions can’t be:

  1. At the expense of ignore the truth if we don’t like it
  2. At the expense of comparing ourselves to others and feeling superior
  3. Faked

These positive emotions can be:

  1. Small
  2. Quiet
  3. Found even in the middle of a terrible day (in fact, that’s probably when it is most important to create some)

There are lots of ways to increase positive emotions.  For now, I am going to focus on the smallest of things we can do to help ourselves.  To increase positive emotions we only need to put our attention on something that evokes positive feelings.  This might mean looking at pictures of baby otters online, watching silly videos on Youtube, or practicing gratitude.  Practicing gratitude is an especially powerful way to bring more positive emotions to your life.  There are lots of different gratitude exercises.  Here is just one:  try naming five things you are grateful about right now.  Think small – did you have enough money to have toothpaste?  A bed with clean sheets?  Legs still strong enough to carry you?  Funny how the smallest things loop around to being the most important.  Challenge yourself.  What is one thing you can do today to introduce the SMALLEST of positive emotions into your day?

To this end, I’ve decided I am going to begin sharing small things I find online that have introduced a positive emotion into my day.  And I’d love if you share things with me that you’ve found to do the trick.  But please don’t forget that we need BOTH positive and negative emotions to find our path.  NO emotions are bad emotions.  We need them all so invite them all in, don’t get stuck in any one emotion, and keep moving forward.

First Positive Emotion Post Coming Up!  Just as soon as I figure out what to name it without sounding too optimistic.


Love, Actually

Barbara Fredrickson radically changed the way I think about the purpose of positive emotions in our lives.  I am forever grateful to have learned from her first hand in her positive psychology seminar at UNC.  It seems Dr. Fredrickson is at it again, this time discussing the experience we call “love” in her new book:  2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. In her recent article on CNN she explains, “Love, as your body experiences it, is a micro-moment of connection shared with another.”  Love lives in the moment of our experiences with another.  Love can be all around us if we are open to it.

Why Vulnerability Must Proceed Love

For me in this moment, a highlight of her article is this explanation that love does not belong to one person.  When we are open to being moved by others, love can exist in many forms and come from many places.  And as with so many other things, we must first be open to being loved before we can experience connecting in love.  The first step towards connection must ALWAYS be taken by us, and that first step is ALWAYS towards – yep, feeling vulnerable.  And how could it be any different?  When we remain guarded and don’t show our true self, there is nothing that we put out for other people to be moved by.  But when we risk showing our true messy-beautiful self with the world “we open to the possibilities of making [our] prospects for love — defined as micro-moments of positivity resonance — nearly limitless.”

The full article is definitely worth the read.  I look forward to reading this book!

We See What We Look For

January 20, 2013

Suffering Exists, And So Does Something Much Bigger

This video shows a crowd spontaneously breaking out into song after being trapped in a tunnel for three and a half hours.  The song, fittingly, is “Lean On Me.”  This video gives me goosebumps.  It is such a beautiful example of human nature. The world is such a complicated place, full of more beauty and heartache then we could ever see in our own lifetime.  When we let ourselves sit in our fears and anxieties then our view narrows to only see the sources of our fear and anxiety, thus causing us to feel even more scared and anxious.

We must take personal responsibility to widen our range of view…  to see more.  I am not saying to deny that pain is in the world.  Of course it is, and denying its presence would be futile.  But look for the beauty that is also there.  So often it is the very sources of human suffering that becomes the soil for the growth of beauty, compassion, and connection.

Buddhist Wisdom From Mr. Rogers’ Mom

Mr. Rogers has said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”  Don’t close your eyes to the truth of the world.  We HAVE to see the suffering that exists in order to grow our compassion and connection with others.  But don’t dwell on the suffering.  Pull back and also be open to seeing the human impulse for kindness that will also be there.  Looking for and finding these kindnesses are like finding glimpses into a warm light shining through cracks in the wall.  That light that comes from the place deep within each of us, who all seek to love, to be loved, to belong to something bigger than just our single story.  The world is full of suffering.  And it is also full of beauty. To be fully present we must be open to seeing both.


January 18, 2013

It’s so easy to forget to that at any moment we can give ourselves the gift of slowing down, looking around, and remembering the fact that it is a miracle that any of us are even here at all.  Ask yourself, what are you grateful for in this moment?  Look around you.  Smell the air.  Forget the big stuff.  Some of the best sources of gratitude live in the smallest parts of our lives.

Also, the little girl at the beginning of this video makes my eyes get all leaky.  She is too much!