Improving Your World

Believe it or not Jolly John is not always jolly. I’m not a happy person most of the time. I think when I was younger and had less responsibility I was much more happy. As I grew older,  added more responsibilities to my life, and lived through more challenges it seemed as if what joy I had turned to Mr. Grump. Then several other life events sideswiped my joy and happiness even more. However, after reading several books dealing with depression, positive psychology, happiness and mindfulness, I’ve learned some amazing and insightful facts that are helping me to turn my life around. The facts of scientific research shows that many things influences our moods and state of mind either positively or negatively. Our moods tend to be influenced by news, events, and things happening around us.  Our brains perceive and react to these outside stimuli way before and even outside of our conscious awareness. A persons brain deciphers and sends out the chemical messages it thinks appropriate for The given information. Since it must react quickly to negative (death causing stimulus) it tends to focus more on negative imput over the positive. Which makes perfect sense since the brain needs the body in order to stay alive. What this means for our moods is that there are things getting in the way of our happiness that we most likely are not even conscious of. One researcher showed that watching the TV news for just six minutes can lead to being more negative six hours later. This effect is very pervasive since we hear and see many such negative messages everyday.

So, if one wishes to overcome this negative drift they need to realize the it is a part of the culture we live in but it doesn’t have to prevent us from being our more happy and positive selves. An easy way to build resilience against the negative is to consciously look for the positive, even in the midst of challenges. Remember,

A Summer View

As the summer days continue their march forward and the sun beats down many people stay in doors to remain cool. Today was just such a day for me. I really wanted to write another post for this blog and this time instead of adding the pictures as a after thought I decided to place one in the heart of it all.

 

East Across the River

East Across the River

By why this picture? As I I was eating my lunch today, my wife was reading about balsamic vinegar and how it is made. She read that to make it some is aged for 25 years. The person or company that makes this stuff must be thinking twenty-five year into the future. Will there even be people who want this stuff in 25 years? The idea of creating something that takes that long before it is ready to use in a world of instant gratification is so refreshing. It is like taking in an amazing vista for the first time. Then I look at this building and so many older building that were built to last a long time. I also think about the way they must be cared for by their owner in order that to provide for the future generations.

Today, I am thankful for those individuals, groups and companies that have sacrificed rewards today to provide blessing and benefits for those in the future. I know that struggling with  choices today can be very difficult when the resources are not there and waiting is not something I do well, but when I think of what it means for someone’s future it makes is much easier to bear.

Thanks for listening to these words and may the gifts we’ve been give and have been blessed continue to remind us of how we are living for those who will follow us. May God grant us the wisdom to live with compassion and grace.

Blessings, Peace, Joy, Hope and Laughter,

Enjoying the Your Summer Days, Jolly John

A Sunny Day

Tree2How does a sunny spring day make you feel?  Even when it is cold but sunny, it seems to add a brightness to my mood. Sunny days seem to hold out so many more possibilities. Could it be that the darkness of gray overcast days really keep us from seeing the great details that add a vibrancy and excitement to life in our world. Our eyes just seem to soak in the light and our bodies bask in the vitamins that enrich our whole being.

However, changing a bad mood into a good mood is not as easy as walking out into the sunshine and breathing in the cool fresh air of spring.  The process is a little more complex than that.  The sunshine may produce a chemical reaction when out skin or eyes sense its presence, which then may tell the brain to release other chemicals into our blood stream. And yes, this is where it becomes more complex because if there are no receptors within the body to “feel” those chemicals the process stops and our mood remains unchanged. Or the change is so small it’s not recognized. Or the change does not happen because there are too few receptors and now the body must produce more receptors, so the “feeling can be felt” and registered as change..  If I’ve lost you by this point in this convoluted process do not become stressed because even though I may not be clear about the way it works, just know that it does.  Yet, also know that the process of changing a mood is not that simple and it takes time. In our instant everything world, however, finding the patience to allow the process time to happen just derails the process even more, so relax.  Get some sunshine and enjoy the feeling, anyway!.

Blessings, Peace, Joy, Hope and Laughter,

Enjoying the Sunshine, Jolly John

Getting Started

It has been a long time since my last post. A friend of mine told me I should get writing no matter what. So today I am going to start once again. The challenge is writing something that will be worth reading. Something that will be coherent and clear and make a difference for those who take the time to read it. With millions of blog posts flying out into the world wide web, how can the words I write be found, let alone bring the skills of positivity to people so they can incorporate them into their daily lives? I am concerned about grammar and punctuation, logic and value, but will I be able to fulfill that standard. Right now, I am content to admit I am a novice when it comes to getting everything right and perfect before I share it with the world. However, I have insight, courage and a message that could help others and so I can’t remain silent even in the face of my fears.

In Elie Wiesel’s acceptance speech before the Nobel Peace Prize committee, in talking about his experience of surviving the evil of the German Concentration camps, he said, “I must explain how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.” These words echo in my ears as I think of the challenge of helping people to see the dangers that our cultures face from the enemy called, ‘Ignorance.’ Then Elie goes on to say, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”  Interfere when bullies act, when intimidation and shame are heaped to gain power and supremacy to keep awesome, creative people from reaching their full potential. Being and remaining positive helps people by providing their brain, mood and body with the best building blocks necessary for find the creative solutions for peace, harmony and life. The truths are available for us when we listen to those who won’t remain silent.

Blessings, Peace, Joy, Hope and Laughter,

Sharing Positivity, Jolly John

The Challenges of Life

Do you have time to just be? I know this sounds a little odd, but we are so caught up in doing that we hardly have time to just think. We have been taught that taking a few minutes everyday to step off the merry-go-round of life to find some perspective and ask ourselves where we are going, is a waste of time.  It is not a waste of time. Trying to stop everything, even thinking and just breathe helps us to get centered.  It helps us tune into the blessing of who we are. Allowing ourselves time to consider who we are, can be of great assistance when we would also like to help others. Taking time to be is also called mindfulness. Mindfulness practice, as it is called, is a way to go “out for recess” while still on the merry-go-round. Just plain standing on a merry-go-round takes practice but the more we do it the better we become.

Words

Everyday we use words to communicate. We use words to express emotions like joy, happiness, love, contentment as well as anger, dislike, frustration and boredom.  Just as these words have different spellings and different sounds they also have different meanings. However, there is another aspect of words which we often forget, and when we do, it can make a huge difference in the response we get. Words also have connotations and denotations. They can be highly emotionally charged as well as being very benign or innocuous. The real challenge in communication is resonance, that is, using the right word, with the right inflection that the hearer will understand as it is meant. If the hearer hears some tone or emotion in the words which was NOT meant, then they will not really understand the message of the speaker or writer. Decoding words, understanding language and deciphering messages is a life-long endeavor.  Think about the way we express ourselves. Could we do a better job sometimes?

Blessings, Peace, Joy, Hope & Laughter,

“Jolly” John

To Take a Nap or Not?

This may seem like a funny question to be asking in a blog which shares information about positivity and creativity, happiness and joy, but when you realize the benefits of taking a nap between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. you may change your thinking.  One of the books that I read on my journey to this place is “The Brain Rules” by John Medina.  It if filled with great information about how our brains work and the best ways we might benefit from using this information to optimum health. Here is a little snip it of his wit and wisdom. Just click http://vimeo.com/93047638 and you see a short video with his explanation.

Once again, I am doing my best to bring you useable information to make your life more positive.

Blessings, Peace, Joy, Hope & Laughter,

“Jolly” John

Staying Current

I can’t believe it. It has been a year since I started sharing Up With Positivity. One thing I found out about myself, while keeping up with the aspects of my life that really do matter most to me, is that it all takes time. To stay current, I need to spend time writing and posting, reading and growing. Yet, in the midst of all the “positivity work”, there are grand children, family events, a little work, eating, sleeping, yard sales, and de-cluttering (which I have been in the process of doing for the last year).  In the midst of it all, I still have to stand strong against the demons of negativity and “what’s the use” thinking.  Today, I logged in to put something new on my website. I do this to tell you all I have not forgotten the promise of Up With Positivity. I realize we all need encouragement. Our children, students, employees and even the strangers we meet during our daily journey, need encouragement. Yet, when our mood is depressed by the negativity of life it is hard to do that for others, which is really just what we need. When we encourage others, when we smile at others and seek to give joy to them, it raises our joy and our mood. I hope to do a whole lot more mood raising in the future. Please keep me in your prayers.

 

Blessings, Peace, Hope, Joy & Laughter,

“Jolly” John

Find More Joy, Hope and Meaning

Many people wish to make positive changes in their lives. There are habits which we would like to change, but change is often very difficult. And change is even more difficult when we are stressed and overwhelmed with the choices in our life. The science of recent brain study shows us that when we are stressed our body is flooded with hormones which have been triggered by the brain to get us ready for some perceived danger. And when our body is preparing to meet the danger it shunts the valuable resources of oxygen and nutrients to the heart and the muscles, effectively cutting off the prefrontal cortex which is where our creative thinking takes place. So you see, if we are stressed it is more difficult to think creatively. However, in our modern world of negativity stress seems to be chronic. In order to neutralize these stress hormones our brain needs to signal these chemical producing glands to stop producing the stress hormones. Using the skills of positivity to create a different mindset helps us to teach our brain that we are really okay.  When we do things like laughing or smiling, we show our body that everything is all right which causes it to produce chemicals such as oxytocin, one of the feel-good hormones, that leads our bodies to de-stress. In this de-stressed condition we are more readily able to access the prefrontal cortex or the creative thinking part of our brain to more effectively solve the challenges which make us stressed in the first place.

As we add more practices of positivity to our life we will begin to see more joy, hope and meaning which will in turn allow loss to be in a more positive place. This is how positivity broadens and builds in a family, a community, and even in our society. I hope you will join us in making our community a more joyful place by signing up put to learn more and join us as we establish a real Laughter Club in Bay City, Michigan to help the positivity broaden and build among us.

Blessing, Peace, Joy, Hope and Laughter,

“Jolly” John

 

 

Figuring “It” Out!

One of the hardest things I have to do is organizing or prioritizing what is important in my life. I love to learn new and exciting information about the world around me. However, learning for myself can be a pretty selfish pursuit. So I also seek to figure out how the things I learn can be integrated into my life and shared with others. My passion in life is and, I think, always has been to improve “life” (however you define it) for those my life touches. As the youngest of four, I was the brunt of a certain amount of “picking on”, ridicule and criticism. As a teacher, I heard and saw how children “picked on”, put down and ignored some of their classmates.  And I believe we have all felt the shame of “not being enough” in the eye of someone we may like or even look up to. I have recently become aware of what this behavior can or does do in the developing brain and awareness of young, very young impressionable children.

Therefore, I am embarking on this website, a different course in my life, and the risky goal of changing a whole community of people. These are people like you and me, who were raised by good people, doing the best that they could with the knowledge and understanding they had at the time. Yet, many of the patterns, styles and methods they used did things that were never intended.  They left adults who struggled to mature. They created a world where children have become a nuisance or an inconvenience. These seemingly harmless methods, that were meant to help, have in many ways lead to a culture less creative, more hostile and saturated with negativity. By turning our gaze often, daily and intentionally to see the extraordinary ordinary positive realities all around us, I believe that a world, a society and a culture can be turned around, unlocked and become amazingly more creative.  We can change the world if we will unlock the power found in the “broaden and build” effect described by Barbara Fredrickson in her recent book titled, Love 2.0. My goal is to make the community I live in the Joy Capital of Michigan using the skills, behavior, actions and methods I continue to learn about through positivity and the fruit that grow from its core.

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If you wish to join me, smile at someone, and then, if you wish, write a comment to tell me how it made you feel. Then do it again. Make a habit of it. Spread the joy of a sunrise or the serenity of a sunset and watch the positivity grow!

Blessing, Peace, Joy, Hope and Laughter,

“Jolly” John