Waiting for a Perfect Protest?

A demonstrator clashed with a policeman during a civil rights protest in Nashville in 1964. Credit Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Media outlets and commentators representing a range of political persuasions have called attention to recent outbreaks of violence in Berkeley, Calif., Boston and other locations where anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrators have gathered. Intentionally or not, they have often promoted a false equivalency between groups that advocate white supremacy and those that seek to eliminate it.

Even mainstream media outlets that typically fact-check the president seem to have subtly bought into Mr. Trump’s “both sides” narrative regarding right- and left-wing extremism. They’ve run headlines that highlight small violent skirmishes while ignoring the thousands who marched and protested peacefully, to say nothing of the injustices that inspired the protests.  Continue Reading.

Searching for Happiness in all the Wrong Places

Have you ever gone shopping, done a little retail therapy  to give yourself a ” happiness boost’?  When was the last time you ate a box of cookies or a pint of rocky road, or skipped a work project to watch Frankie and Grace marathon on television or look at Facebook in order to lift your spirits? Did that happiness last very long?

Chances are, you got a bit of instant gratification, which then gave way to malaise, and then possibly led to feelings of guilt and shame. “I can’t believe I did that, what is the matter with me?”

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. A 2016 Harris poll on happiness says less than 31% of Americans consider themselves truly happy, and most people look, every day, for instant gratification to fill the void.

Think of all the things you do during any given day to scratch that itch. You spend time looking at Instagram for a little dose of socially-driven dopamine, the happiness hormone. You play games on your phone, eat a sweet treat, or indulge in playing lotto online, but nothing seems to make a lasting difference…

 

You are searching for Happiness in all the wrong places.

 

Try to think about a time in your life that you felt really good. Accomplished. Empowered.

Perhaps it was you scored the winning touchdown. Maybe you published your first book. Had your art work accepted into a gallery or you won an award. Maybe it was a promotion at work, or a good grade on a difficult assignment, you made that sale that you have been after for weeks. It could be you volunteered at the local soup kitchen or  read to children at the library. This accomplishment gave you something to brag about. It brought you fond memories for weeks or years to come. It not only lifted your spirits…it elevated your entire life.

The momentary pleasures of ice cream and Facebook are fleeting, but that sense of accomplishment lasts forever.

Social psychologist Sonja Lyubormirsky, PhD, the author of The How of Happiness A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” And their findings are having a dramatic impact not just on the field of psychology, but also on the way many of us are cultivating happiness in our own lives.

At first glance, the notion of investigating happiness may not seem particularly revolutionary. But, in fact, the new interest in happiness represents a relatively contemporary shift in psychological focus. Historically, it seems that psychology has been more interested in fixing mental-health problems and illnesses than boosting actual happiness.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., a prominent figure in the study of happiness, and the author of numerous books, including  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience said “Most people, when they ruminate about the cause of their wretchedness, become more wretched,” he says. “For most people, that’s just compounding their misery.”

The Positive Psychology movement focuses their attention to advancing the knowledge of what makes us feel satisfied, energized, hopeful — and happy.

What they’ve discovered is that some people are just born happier and are wired to stay that way, but happiness is also something we can practice and cultivate. Happiness hinges on our choices, attitudes and thoughts — and when we know more about how these choices, attitudes and thoughts affect the quality of our lives, we have a recipe for a more joyful, meaningful life.

5 keys to a happier life:

Notice what you are noticing

Andrew Shatté, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and coauthor of The Resilience Factor gave students 12 seconds to solve some puzzles what he did not tell them was there was no solution. He asked them after a few seconds how are you feeling…frustrated, angry, and stupid? “The point is, every one of these thoughts was wildly inaccurate, given the truth that the puzzles were unsolvable. We make mistakes in our thinking and we pay a price for them.” Pay attention to your instinctive emotional responses and begin consciously challenging the negative thoughts and limiting belief systems that underlie them. So many of our responses or reactions are based on faulty thinking.

Make a difference in someone’s life

Tim Kasser, a psychologist at Knox College , and the author of  The High Price of Materialism  considers well-being to depend on the fulfillment of four psychological needs: safety and security, competence, connection to other people, and autonomy or freedom. “Our research shows that when people have strong materialistic values, they tend to feel low satisfaction of those needs,” he says. “Fundamentally, they’ve hinged their sense of worth on what others think of them, so their [happiness] is always fragile and contingent.”

Therefore refocus your energy and actions on the people and experiences that matter most. Ask yourself how can I make a meaningful difference? Practice random acts of kindness.  Be considerate, loving and generous. Express gratitude for kindnesses you receive. Get involved with a cause that inspires you to share not just your money, but your time and expertise.

Focus on relationships and community

Ed Diener, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has conducted countless studies on the variables that contribute to happiness. His lab has explored many different cultures, including Amish, African tribes, Calcutta slum-dwellers, as well as American college students. According to his research the happiest people are in positive social relationships. Happy people cultivate friendships, marriage and companionship. Make time every day to connect with the important people in your life. Establish at least a weekly routine to interact with others in meaningful ways. Find what makes you come alive through meet ups, painting classes, book clubs, exercise or sports, learning opportunities, mentoring or volunteering, dancing, chorale groups.

  1. Creative Expression makes your happier and healthier.

According to research on art in chronic illnesses, making art can help people with illnesses to express themselves and their feelings about their illness. Art helps you process your emotions, increase self-awareness and change the way we think about an experience or challenge we are facing.

In addition art makes us feel good.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has suggested that we can experience a state called flow when we’re working on an activity. We will lose our our sense of time, we may forget to even eat or that we are tired. Kurt Vonnegut once said that practicing any art ― no matter how badly ― makes the soul grow. “Make time for creative expression. It can be, journaling, coloring in a coloring book, scribbles and doodles, crafting or playing an instrument. But if you don’t consider yourself an “artist,” don’t worry, experimenting with a new dinner recipe to creating a new Pinterest board can give you that creative boost.

5. Gratitude

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Through appreciation, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. Gratitude helps people connect to something greater than themselves, to other people, nature, or Infinite Intelligence. It has been known to actually improve your health, deal with adversity and build stronger relationships. Begin and end your day with I am so grateful for…

I am going deeper into some of these topics on my upcoming free webinar The Art of Health and Happiness. Register here. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-art-of-health-and-happiness-tickets-36608493991 

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Forgiveness Challenge

 Forgiveness Challenge

 

Do you wait for other people to apologize?

Have you turned unforgivness into a habit?

Are you able to forgive yourself?

According to Fred Luskin, Ph.D. a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University and the co-founder of the Forgiveness Project. “Unresolved hurt and anger prevents you from being flexible and adaptive and ultimately less capable of generating and optimal response.”

Sometimes the stuff we carry around for years affects how we conduct ourselves from day to day. “Every time you’re reminded of someone or something that caused you emotional distress, it’s another reminder of your helplessness, says Luskin who also teaches forgiveness classes.

Researchers in the field of positive psychology have given considerable attention to the matter of forgiveness. Their findings show that forgiveness does not entail forgetting, nor does it entail pardoning or condoning. The goal of forgiveness is not reconciliation. The goal of is to replace the wounds, restore and increase personal wellbeing for the one who forgives.

You can choose to stay stuck, bitter and a victim, or you can do yourself a favor by willingly forgiving what happened in the past; letting it go; and then moving on to create a joyful, meaningful and fulfilling life. You have the freedom to make your life anything you want it to be because you have freedom of choice.

Let’s explore, experiment and play in the realm of forgiveness for the next week.

  1. Writing a letter of forgiveness is a powerful tool of transformation. In the letter, describe an incident where someone wronged you. Be sure to include the emotions that you were feeling at the time of the incident. Do not feel compelled to actually share the contents of the letter with the actual person you are imagining. You can keep it, burn it or release it to the water. If you decide to send it be prepared for feedback and consequences. You might get a call, text or email or absolutely nothing.

 

  1. Answer the following prompts: When I forgive others I change in the following positive ways…When I forgive myself I will….

 

  1. Create an affirmation of forgiveness, keep it in your purse, put it on your tablet, put it in your car or mirror. Repeat it several times during the day. Some examples: Forgiving other allows me to accept people for who they are rather than what I want them to be. I forgive myself for not being perfect. I release myself from my anger and let the past go. I forgive everyone from my life and love myself. I move beyond forgiveness to understanding and I have compassion and kindness for all. I am forgiving, loving, gentle and kind and am safe in the knowledge that life loves me. Forgiveness is a gift I give to myself over and over again. When I make a mistake, I realize that it is only part of the learning process.

 

  1. Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu have developed a four step process to teach you how to forgive. Desmond Tutu knows a few things about forgiveness. As one of the spearheading members of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commissionthat provided a platform for victims and perpetrators of apartheid, Tutu believes that forgiveness is “the way we stop our human community from unraveling.” Listen to this video now. http://www.humanjourney.com/forgiveness/

It is time to dive into forgiveness because you will:                                                                

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Be more empathetic
  • Increase your capacity for joy
  • Bring peace to the world

I am Rae Luskin, the author of ART from my HEART, and the award winning book, The Creative Activist: Make the World Better, One Person, One Action at a Time. My vision is create world where women and children are safe. They are free to step into their brilliance, power and purpose. They have access to quality education and healthcare. They have the freedom to be, do, have, and create anything they want. Forgiveness is a cornerstone of personal responsibility and global healing and change.

I would love to hear about your forgiveness experiences and tools below.

 

If you are interested in receiving the forgiveness mandala practice that I use sign up here.   https://forms.aweber.com/form/92/1820515992.htm

Matthew Hoffman Uses Art to Change Chicago

by Ariel Parrella-Aureli

by Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Matthew Hoffman Uses Art to Change Chicago by  guest blogger Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Anybody walking the streets of Chicago knows they are beautiful—or at least has seen the large signs posted on fences, billboards and buildings. The bold, white ‘You Are Beautiful’ words can be seen plastered around the Andersonville, Englewood, Rogers Park, West Loop and Downtown neighborhoods, among many more, and are the created by the mastermind and custodian of the project Matthew Hoffman, a Chicago artist and designer.

 

What started out as a small idea blossomed into a global phenomenon, with Hoffman’s work being internationally recognized. Back in 2002, Hoffman started anonymously distributing small, unique ‘You Are Beautiful’ silver stickers all over Chicago to make life a little better and give people hope in times of disparity and violence that can surround Chicago and the world overall. His goal was not to be known, but to share a powerful message through easily visible art that could touch all kinds of people, regardless of ideals and backgrounds. Sending out this small but meaningful message got the attention of the community, and soon enough Hoffman was spreading his words onto bigger art installations throughout the city–in the form of murals, sculptures and sticker books.

 

Now—14 years later—with over 2 million stickers and art installations shared globally, Hoffman is seeing the large affect of a small idea, and is always working on new projects. Hoffman has since spread his entrepreneurial skills to colleges and universities, receiving grant money to create public artwork and partnering with local arts school Columbia College Chicago. In 2014 he helped the school with an interactive project that was part of the Wabash Arts Corridor, which showcases local mural and interactive artwork through the Loop neighborhood. In 2015 he was back at Columbia, this time talking to the community about not being afraid to fail and make something out of nothing, like he did. The talk was part of the college’s first Tedx event, which is the college edition of TEDTalks.

 by Bryan Allen Lamb

by Bryan Allen Lamb

 

He wants to make sure people know it is okay to fail in order to do better and reach your full potential. In the beginning of his artistic journey, the stickers he printed did not adhere properly and were printed in the wrong color. Small failures like this made him keep going in his art to make it better and more powerful to the public.

 

Especially for aspiring artists, muralists and designers, Hoffman’s words and career can be inspiring. He stresses the importance of looking at each failure as actually an opportunity—one that you can learn from and incorporate into the next step of your career. Whether an artist or a writer, those words can be uplifting to career-seekers in something they love—another strong point of Hoffman’s that paints his stubbornly confident character that has gotten him far.

 

A couple of years ago, Hoffman created a subscription called You Are Beautiful Everyday for his viewers who wanted more stickers. Hoffman said the series gives people 31 stickers a month that surround a monthly theme, and include appearances from local Chicago artists or notable figures that get their own spotlight for a month. The series makes the stickers more interactive for the viewers, which makes the project more powerful and personal for the community. People can get to know their neighbors and other stories within Chicago—a special way of uniting the people through something as simple as small stickers and words. Hoffman wants to engage people and give them something different and new that keeps them on their toes. The daily stickers are a way of doing this, and help people remember the simple goal of his project.

 

Another way of doing this is his involvement with the Design Museum of Chicago. When the executive director of the museum, Tanner Woodford, approached him for a different kind of project at the museum, Hoffman was all in. Enter the ‘You Are Beautiful’ hotline. The two paired up to create an experimental hotline where users could phone in and record uplifting messages or words of wisdom that contained the phrase “you are beautiful.” The goal was to repackage the You Are Beautiful idea in a new way for people to consume it in a different manner, and hear people’s stories about how the mantra had affected peoples’ lives. The January exhibit was displayed at the museum as recorded messaged for the public to hear.

 

These are just some of the side projects Matthew Hoffman dives into—not to mention his collaboration with local art studios, libraries and schools. Hoffman is always looking for artistic connection with other artists in Chicago. What makes Hoffman stand out—besides his social message and his trademark stickers—is his approachable, humble attitude that so many people relate with easily. Because he is loudly speaking what we all are feeling.

 

“Personally, I want to experience moments. To really feel all the highs and lows. In my work, I want to create moments for others. I do my thing, and they are able to feel whatever they need to in that moment.” – Matthew Hoffman, as said on his website, http://www.heyitsmatthew.com/

National Moment of Remembrance

WWII MEMORIAL"  STEPHEN BROWN COLLECTION

Memorial Day is a Federal holiday in the United States remembering the people who died while serving in the  armed forces. It began as Decoration Day after the civil war in 1868 in Decatur, Illinois, when an organization of Union veterans decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers.  Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, many commemorative events took place including a more formal practice of decorating graves of soldiers as well as the creation of national military cemeteries., Memorial Day was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking people to stop and remember at 3:00 P.M

In March I was in Washington DC. And I took the evening monuments tour. It was the first time I had visited the National World War II Memorial which honors all 16 million people who served as part of the American armed forces, including the more than 400,000 who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The memorial sits along the central vista of the National Mall, at the east end of the Reflecting Pool.

Public memorials and monuments attract millions of visitors each year throughout this country.  Memorials serve many functions such as preserving history, connecting us to those we lost, remembering, aiding in the grieving process, educating visitors.  Indeed, most Americans are familiar with the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and other tributes in the nation’s capital and numerous memorials throughout the country.  America’s passion for public memorials began with the Washington Monument which was completed in 1885.

My favorite part of the tour was walking through the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. On the National mall, it is the fourth to honor a non-president and the first to honor a man of color. The memorial was designed as a lasting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy and will forever serve as a monument to the freedom, opportunity and justice for which he stood.                                                                                 ap_mlk_memorial_quote_kb_130723_16x9_992

”The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. His likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope, which emerges powerfully from two large boulders. The two boulders, which started as one, represent the Mountain of Despair. The boulders are split in half to give way to the Stone of Hope, which appears to have been thrust forward toward the horizon in a great monolithic struggle. The Stone of Hope and the Mountain of Despair together represent the soul-stirring words from Dr. King’s history-making “I Have a Dream” speech. On the visible side of the Stone of Hope, the text from King’s famed 1963 speech is cut sharply into the rock: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Every visitor enters through the Mountain of Despair and tours the memorial as if moving through the struggle that Dr. King faced during his life. Visitors end in the open freedom of the plaza. The solitary Stone of Hope stands proudly in the plaza, where the civil rights leader gazes over the Tidal Basin toward the horizon, forever encouraging all citizens to strive for justice and equality.” – See more at: http://washington.org/article/martin-luther-king-jr-memorial#sthash.jQ1dVUT6.dpuf

On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day who resolve their sacrifices were not in vain and that we continue to fight for liberty and justice for all.

As we honor our fallen heroes, consider what do you stand for. What do you want to be known and remembered for?