What an interesting question.

When I started reading Marci Shimoff’s book, Happy for No Reason, it felt like she was sharing bits of my story, and also bits of my dreams.  But it all starts with answering this simple, but huge question.

Are You Happy?

I feel like there will be a range of answers to this as some of you will say you’re happy sometimes, or you’re happy when…, or you’re happy if…. But the majority of you, if we’re truly honest, will answer no, or more evasively, not really.

The rates of depression these days are staggering.  It is estimated that by 2020, which I’ll remind you is right around the corner, that the amount of people struggling with depression will be second only to heart disease when it comes to the burden on our health care system.


Why are so many people so unhappy these days?

The statistics around society’s plague of unhappiness weighs heavy on my heart. As someone who has experienced the dark pit of depression and managed to find the light it is so hard to see and hear so many people who feel hopeless when it comes to their mood and who believe that medication is the only answer.


I am not discounting the medical management of depression when a person is a real or potential harm to themselves or others. Medication saves people’s lives and if you are clinically depressed you should seek medical assistance.

I also believe though, that we need to be teaching people about the options, and the research that has time and again proven that there are other solutions to managing and truly healing our depressive moods. All of these methods should be explored and compliment one another on an individualized basis.

So for now lets just leave that debate aside and focus on the important part, that when we live our lives unhappy or try to fill our happiness with external factors we are truly missing out on living a fulfilled life.

So what is being fulfilled?

Fulfilled is a feeling of happiness and satisfaction created from fully developing our abilities or character. Being fulfilled is a growth process through failures and victories and building habits that lead to joy. This kind of happiness comes from within and it’s lasting throughout all the ups and downs of life.

But I was born Unhappy.

So this is a story I told myself for a long time and then in addition to my negative life’s experiences depression took hold and swallowed me up.  Research has conceptualized that every person has a happiness set point.  Like a thermostat.  And no matter what happens to you in your life you tend to return to your happiness set point.  There is of course some situations in life that can take a longer time to recover from, such as the death of a child or spouse, chronic unemployment, or extreme poverty are among what researchers has discussed. But in the face of either positive (like winning the lottery) or negative (like developing a disability) situations the change in happiness is mostly temporary and people then return to their happiness set point.

This set point is equally influenced by our genetics and what we learn.  So to say we were born unhappy could be partly true, some people’s set point may be genetically lower, but we can choose the other 50% and raise our happiness by practicing happy habits.

50% of Our Happiness We Control

Well lets say 40%, because 10% of that control is related to our situation and sometimes that is not entirely within our grip of control.  So the focus we’re going to take is on the remaining 40%.

When we have negative thoughts, feelings, ideas, and habits we create negative neural pathways in our brain.  When we repeatedly think and feel these same things we strengthen the pathway and make the groove deeper. Think about when you first take a walk through a field of tall grass and then think of what the path looks like after you’ve walked it 20 times.  It becomes a defined trail right?

Now we used to think that our brains were fully developed in childhood and we couldn’t make any modifications to them, but now the science of neuroplasticity has proven this to be wrong.  When we change our negative thoughts, feeling, and ideas we can create new positive pathways and thereby increase our overall experience of happiness.  This is the happiness that comes from within.  It’s changing the way we see ourselves and the world and we are the only ones who can do this for ourselves.

No matter how much we try to achieve happiness through acquiring more or waiting for something to happen in our lives we will never truly find that inner peace and well-being that we are all craving.  The next hair style, or weight loss product, or even finding love, or getting a new job will not fully satisfy that craving until we start practicing happiness habits.

Three Guiding Principles of Happiness

In her book, Marci Shimoff identifies three guiding principles behind the habits of happy people.

  1. What expands you makes you feel happier. I love this because it’s something I’ve been using and practicing for a while now, except the concept I use is the “compass of joy”. When we take a moment to evaluate whether something will bring us joy or not and make our decisions based on this assessment we will always feel good about our choices.  So the next time you’re faced with a decision, ask yourself if it will make you feel free, open, joyful, and light (this is expansion) and visualize the choosing the different options to help you identify how you will feel.  If the choice makes you feel anxious, tight, agitated or heavy then this is not the option to go with. This is a beginning to trusting your intuition and learning to be guiding by your inner knowing and has been a huge shift for me.  I used to labor over every decision and then lament over it after finally making it.  After practicing the compass of joy concept I have developed a deeper trust in myself and a belief that my intuition will guide me correctly every time I need it. Just try it out and I guarantee you’ll feel what I’m talking about.
  2. The Universe is Out to Support You. This might be a difficult concept to fully accept depending on where you’re at in the spiritual belief spectrum as well if you’ve faced unimaginable trauma this can be a tough belief to adopt. So rather than try to convince you of it I would encourage you again to just try it on for a while and see if it fits.  When you’re up against a struggle or challenge, tell yourself that you’ll be ok because the universe has your back.  No matter what the outcome there is a blessing hidden inside of the experience and you believe that even if it doesn’t feel great that it is for your greater good.  Try it out and see if it changes your outlook and your mood.
  3. What You Appreciate, Appreciates. This is all about having gratitude. When we can recognize and appreciate even the smallest of things in our lives it changes our outlook on everything.  Throughout the day practice taking a moment and appreciating things around you, maybe the sun shining, or your children laughing, or your partner’s touch, or good food, clean air, or literally anything.  At the end of your day try starting a gratitude journal.  List out 5-10 things you are grateful for.  It can be small or big things it doesn’t matter, the key is to show gratitude for them.  One thing my family tries to do every time we sit down for supper is to say one thing that we are grateful for that day.  It was shocking how difficult this was in the beginning but it’s getting easier and it pulls at my heart strings big time to hear what my family comes up with every night. Lately we’ve added a second topic and that is to name one thing you love about yourself, and I thought the gratitude list was challenging, this one is 10x harder.

I’m excited to share more of this with you all as I believe it’s at the center of every one of our lives.  We’ve spent all our time checking all the boxes and lining up all of our ducks in effort to have the truly happy and fulfilling life but have found that something still is missing.  Finding true happiness and fulfillment is exactly what’s at the heart of my “Full to Fulfilled” workshop and coaching programs so be sure to check out the next one coming up! If you have further questions please comment below or send me a message.  Have a happy day!

When a Dream Dies

I have a strong belief that absolutely anything is possible and that we all live with a limitless potential to create a life that we desire. But sometimes the vision that we have does not play out exactly how we thought.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about resilience and how I had built my emotional strength over the last years. But what’s come to my attention lately is that some traumas break open wounds that have multiple layers, and even though I have built my emotional muscle there will be times when dusting myself off and getting back up again is more challenging.

Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard you work no matter what you do, you just can’t shake it and you just can’t let it go. I couldn’t understand why this particular experience had taken such a strong hold on me.

I think I equated the word grief with having lost something significant and I couldn’t see how losing a possibility, or feeling like a dream for your life was stolen, could create such emotional trauma.

But it can.

I acknowledge that writing about a situation without giving details can be frustrating for a reader but this, like many traumatic situations, involves other people, so I choose to leave out the details in an effort to sustain the positive work I have done.

The predominant feeling I experienced was anger which shifted between sadness and loneliness and then a bit of acceptance back to anger back to sadness and back to loneliness. It seemed like a vicious cycle I just couldn’t break.


The word grief had been coming up so frequently that I took a moment to think about what I had learned as a nurse about it. I recalled that it was a cycle where you moved between different emotions in a non-linear step by step process.

A quick Google search will give you Kuhbler Ross’s 5 stages of grief and loss as:

  1. Denial and isolation;
  2. Anger;
  3. Bargaining;
  4. Depression;
  5. Acceptance

It was like a huge lightbulb went off as I realized that was exactly what was going on with me. After even more reflection I realized I’d even participated in the bargaining stage by trying to come up with alternatives and different solutions to keeping my dream alive.

I’m not trying to compare the grief someone experiences when they lose someone they love to my experience but rather to paint a picture that grief can show up in the strangest places.

The Path to Acceptance

The path to acceptance in the face of this type of grief is forgiveness, gratitude, love and belief. Belief that I’ll be OK even though my dream may not look the way I envisioned. Forgiveness and love for everyone involved including myself. And Gratitude for my life and my family and everything that I have. The anger, the shame, the sadness, the depression and the loneliness can’t survive in the face of forgiveness, gratitude and love.

Steps to Take

With these answers in mind I am making a promise to myself to take the steps to truly find forgiveness, let go of my negative emotions, and to practice gratitude.

So I ask of you. Is grief showing up in your life? Is there an anger or another emotion you are struggling to let go of?

If so I encourage you to try these steps along with me and see what happens.

  1. First of all I’ve learned forgiveness isn’t excusing someone who has wronged you or even forgetting about the incident. The relationship may need some work to move forward after forgiveness or you may choose to not have that person in your life. Either way it’s not about the other person. Forgiveness is for YOU to remove the heavy negative emotional burden from your life after you have fully identified and felt the hurt and expressed and released your feelings and this requires a willingness to process and let go of trauma. When we don’t release our negative emotions they remain trapped and can begin to express themselves as physical, mental and emotional ailments. So give yourself permission to feel everything you are feeling.
  2. Write a letter in your journal and acknowledge fully the situation. Be honest about your feelings and how the situation has impacted you and your life. Accept your involvement, your mistakes, any hurt you have inflicted as well as your growth from the experience. Allow yourself to be unedited and fully expressed in this letter. Remembering no one has to see this except you.
  3. Reread the journal letter. Try to step outside of the memory and see a new perspective of the situation, yourself, and the others involved. Try to find compassion and understanding.
  4. Practice stress management during moments of anger and resentment. An aroma reset can be a helpful technique.
  5. Don’t go to sleep angry. Every night make a gratitude for at least 10 things you are grateful for. Reframing your life in a positive view is the best way to fall asleep and feel more joyful the next day.
  6. Look for other ways to build positivity and joy into your life rather than persistently focusing on the negative. Look for love beauty and kindness and refuse to let the negative swallow you up.
  7. Decide if the relationship needs some work.  This may mean you have to follow Brene Browns advice and Rumble through some vulnerability.  Meaning you may have to show up and lean into an uncomfortable unpleasant situation.  To truly let go may mean you need to find closure on the situation or the relationship itself. Look for mediation or a relationship counselor if you feel the situation requires it.
  8. Practice emotional release techniques.  We can stuff our anger, sadness and fears deep down for a long time but eventually the energy they hold will start to manifest in different ways.  There are a variety of energy therapies or emotional release modalities available to you.  My choice is Aroma Freedom Technique.  To learn more or to schedule your own session click here. Schedule
  9. Lastly find forgiveness for yourself.  Accept that as a human you will make mistakes.  Owning our errors and holding yourself accountable is important and then offering yourself grace, love and forgiveness is essential to denying the hold the negative emotions may have over you.
  10. Reach out for support.  You’re never alone in this world and there a whole list of people who are here to support you and guide you through.  Isolating yourself and feeling alone is a symptom.  Getting support is a big part of the solution.

The Disease to Please

I always liked the idea of setting boundaries, it sounded very strong, like I was building a fortress protecting myself. But actually determining what boundaries I wanted and setting them was not something I ever did.  Maybe it was too powerful for me to accept as a possibility, as something that I didn’t feel I had the capability of creating or the confidence to enforce. Or maybe it was the guilt that came with saying no, and the fear that standing up for myself would end up losing me relationships.

I’ve gotten much better at this over the last years.  After realizing that “setting boundaries” isn’t really such a formal activity, rather more of a guideline that I could create to identify my limits and how I will respond when someone passes those limits.  It turns out it’s not that difficult to actually set them, but it is much more difficult to enforce.

Why Set Boundaries?

To set boundaries is important to ensure that relationships are mutually respectful, supportive and caring. They set the limits for acceptable behavior and help others to know where you stand. Unknown or weak boundaries leave you vulnerable and likely to be taken for granted or hurt by others.  But the benefits of boundaries are huge for our confidence, our self-esteem, and our emotional strength and energy.

Why We Avoid Them

When I reflect back on many times in my life where I was hurt by someone I can see that I had really weak boundaries.  I was willing to let people walk all over me.  This came down to really how little I valued myself.  When you don’t feel worthy of respect, you won’t demand it.  It’s not that I, or anyone, is born untrusting, but certain life experiences can create a lack of trust and low self-esteem and make us more susceptible to boundary violations.

Fear and Guilt are by far the main reasons that many have a hard time standing up for ourselves, or saying no to things we don’t want to do and tolerating rude or mean behavior of others towards us.  Like a lot of things it’s a vicious cycle, the more we avoid setting boundaries, the more we’re taken advantage of, this violation lowers our self-esteem further, and so the weaker our boundaries become and so on.

So How Exactly Do You Set Boundaries?

  1. The first step is ALWAYS awareness. Set up a time where you can write out a promise statement to yourself that will allow you to become aware of what your limits are. Include in your promise what your boundaries are protecting and how you will respond if they are breeched. This is mine. “I promise to communicate my boundaries in professional and personal relationships. I promise to always stand up for my beliefs and my values if I feel they are being compromised. I promise to never let another person make me feel less than or unworthy, and if they do I promise that I will stand in my power and demand the respect I deserve. I promise to speak my truth and ask for what I need and to never compromise my emotions or my desires because of fear and guilt. I promise to value my body and my emotions, as well as my time and my energy. I promise to take action verbally through assertive communication to enforce my boundaries when I feel they are being violated and if the disrespect continues I promise to be firm and seek outside support.” Print it out and post it and remind yourself regularly.
  2. Practice Setting Boundaries. There are multiple types of boundaries you will want to look at setting as well as many different relationships to set them in. The types include, personal space, emotional interactions, intellectual, ethical, touch and sex, material or possessions, time, and energy investment.  Boundaries also don’t have to be rigid, then can be flexible as long as they stay within your promise to yourself and don’t leave you feeling any negative emotional energy. You may have more flexible boundaries for your loved ones and more rigid boundaries for professional situations.  Always be open to evaluate and adjust but learn to trust your intuition or your gut reactions to situations and relationships and never veer from your promise to yourself.
  3. Be Assertive, not aggressive when it comes to expressing boundaries. If you don’t feel confident in the moment to speak up, then take the time to process what you’re experiencing. When confronting someone who has violated your promise to yourself you want to ensure you are speaking from a place of honesty and clarity and avoid blaming, name calling and accusations. For example “you are a jerk for saying my cooking sucks”. Try instead using an “I feel” statement such as, “I feel hurt when you criticize my cooking when I’ve tried my best to do a good job”. Then follow this up with what your boundary is. “What I need is kindness and appreciation for my effort”. No blame or shame, just words expressing how you feel and how you are impacted and what your boundaries are.
  4. Learn to Say NO. This is hard. So often we just say yes to everything because we feel fear and guilt of hurting or disappointing others, all at the expense of ourselves.  So we are left with an excessively busy lifestyle that leaves us exhausted and burnt out and resenting everyone and everything. We don’t need to justify our reasons for saying no we just need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and believe in the importance of saying no for our own needs
  5. Get Support. If you are having difficulty setting and enforcing your boundaries get support from someone skilled to help you effectively determine your personal limits and communicate them. Never feel alone in any of life’s paths, there is support out there, you just have to accept it.

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Contrary to popular thought, there’s no one way to achieve health. While every expert has an opinion and every internet search tells us something new, the perfect recipe for health cannot be defined. There are too many variables that make each person’s life unique. The first step to determining what will work for you is to determine why you want to be healthy in the first place! What’s your intention behind losing those 10 lbs. or having more energy or building more muscle? Read more