I am writing this blog in honor of my friend David who passed March 26 after a 20-month battle with Glioblastoma. His wish was for his friends and loved ones to create joyful moments in his honor. During the virtual service, there were over 400 participants from all over the world that joined the Zoom meeting to pay their respect to David, who passed at age 51. He left behind two young children, ages 12 and 10, a wife, and a mom. As if things couldn’t get any worse, two days later, David’s mother lost her longtime boyfriend to the Coronavirus.
Throughout several virtual meetings of Shiva, I was able to reflect on what is really important in this life. Right now, so much of life seems like it’s been put on hold, but what’s important to us should always remain forefront in our minds. David specifically asked that after his passing everyone create joyful moments, so this blog is meant to be a reflection of his wish.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what is important to me and how the awareness of what is important in your life can help you feel happier during stressful times. This is an activity blog that requires some participation. In order to really make the most out of this blog, it is important that you get a notebook and a pen so that you can do your own reflections and come away with practical solutions that will help you create your own joyful moments!
Reflect back on your life and write down five occasions or situations that brought you immense joy.
Take a look at these things that you just wrote down and ask yourself: Is there a common thread between all of them? How recent are the items on your list? When was the last time you actually did something that brought joy to your life?
I came up with the following five things that bring joy to my life:
Connecting: Spending quality time with family and friends.
Giving back: Helping other people and empowering them with the right tools and skills.
Learning: Learning something new and exciting related to physiology and psychology.
Being active: Traveling around the world and in nature and exploring new places and moving around. For me, this one also involves simply being physically active—working out, walking my dog, etc.
Practicing mindfulness: It took a very long time to learn and execute, but now that I feel that I have a much better awareness of how to practice mindfulness and am able to do it regularly, I find joy in even the smallest moments.
A specific example for me of practicing mindfulness came when I was watching Grey’s Anatomy with my girls and talking about the show. I was really being present. My middle daughter asked me to scratch her back. I’m sitting there, next to my 12-year-old, and as I’m scratching her back I’m just taking in the fact that she has the most beautiful giggle. This moment brought so much joy into my life.
I’m going to be honest and say that when she first asked me to snuggle her I had such a mental to-do list in my head. I knew I needed to finish writing a blog and work on a growing list of content and summaries from some of my sessions. I also had to return so many more emails and the list just went on and on. Once I was able to push all these thoughts away, I focused on using all my senses to truly be present with my daughter. I looked at my daughter and her beautiful eyes and was able to feel that moment with the entirety of my mind and body.
What is on your bucket list?
How many times do you find yourself wishing you could achieve certain goals but you never actually get around to achieving them? I would like you to really get into it and imagine how you would feel if you actually achieved these life goals? Do you feel a little excited?
I created a bucket list a few years ago after watching a very inspiring TED talk called “Is Your Stuff Stopping You?” What stood out to me the most was the fact that this woman had always wanted to live abroad, but she never actually did because of all the “stuff” that she had been busy accumulating over the years. The “stuff” wasn’t on her bucket list and yet she was missing out on the experiences that were. When she finally did decide to leave and teach in Europe, she ended up having a health scare that delayed it again. In the end, she ended up selling her house and donating most of her belonging and moved to Europe with her husband to teach at the university she was dreaming about.
What is on your bucket list then? Why is it that we need an extreme event—like the pandemic we are experiencing—or the death of a loved one to shake us and force us to think about what we really want?
Now, I am going to ask that you stop reading and take a few minutes to write down your bucket list. If you are not sure what to write don’t stop writing, just brainstorm with yourself.
I’ll share some of my bucket list here...
Execute my KARMA coaching training and empower as many people as possible with the right tools and skills to help them feel more empowered and in control and happier. Use my coaching program as a preventative program in schools grades 5-12.
Do a TEDtalk about KARMA and my Happiness Project.
Open 50 branches of teen wellness practices that are holistic and collaborative in as many countries as possible.
Get an apartment in Israel near my family.
Create a mentoring program where teens mentor younger teens after learning the KARMA coaching method.
Develop an awareness of what is it that is blocking you from achieving your goals.
Is it your fears? Insecurities? Money? Time? Once again, I’m going to ask that you write down at least three things that you think and feel are preventing you from achieving your goals.
I’m going to share one of the major factors that has blocked me in the past from taking steps toward achieving my goals with the hopes that it will help and inspire you to remove whatever it is that is blocking you and pave the way toward a happier more fulfilled present and future.
Insecurities: Since I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and I didn’t have self-confidence, I had no skills to empower myself or drive myself to a better future. For many years I was practicing negative self-talk—I told myself that because I came from poverty and my parents got a divorce and I left my family to live with a different family that meant that I was defective and no one wanted me. On top of everything, I was dealing with body image issues and thought that I was ugly and fat. I also thought that I wasn’t as smart as everyone else, which translated into me truly believing that I would not be able to achieve my goals and dreams. Once I was able to redirect my thoughts and tell myself a whole different story, I began to remove much of the blockage and actually start working toward my goals.
Think of someone you idolize.
Who is that person? It can even be two or three people whom you think highly of and you envy. What is it that these people have that you think you don’t? Right down with as many details as you can the traits and characteristics that these people possess that you think are helping them achieve their dreams. Can you focus on one or two traits that resonate most with you that you can strive to achieve?
Finding joy can be difficult right now and we are all struggling with this pandemic in our unique ways. However, putting pen to paper and taking the time to reflect, make plans, and identify what it is that makes you happy are all tangible ways you can discover joy amidst the stress and make small (and sometimes big) changes that will help you create a life with lots of joyful moments.
In honor of my friend, I am also leaving the link to donate to the David Justus Joyful Moments Fund. Every single cent will help enable families dealing with brain cancer to create special moments of joy. His family wrote: “At Emma and Oliver’s suggestion, we are planning to use some of the money already raised to specifically help families with brain cancer in quarantine by creating home “joyful moments kits” that might include things like Netflix gift cards, board games, snacks, arts and crafts, etc. The details are still being worked out but we will make sure we support those who need it most during this extra difficult time.”