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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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/

Protect Our Children

ncjw

April is Child Abuse Prevention month. It is a time to acknowledge the importance of individuals, families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families Last month I had the privilege of marching on the hill in DC. with the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) telling the senators to Do Their Job. NCJW is committed to endorsing for laws, programs and services that protect children from abuse, neglect, bullying, exploitation, trafficking and violence. I urged Illinois Congressional leaders to fully fund the Runaway Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act to Illinois.

Every day in this country, youth run away from home, are kicked out, exiting juvenile detention centers or welfare systems with nowhere to go. According to the National Runaway Safeline (Formerly the National Runaway Switchboard,) between 1.6-2.8 million youth runaway each year in the United States.  Children can begin running as young as ages 10-14. The youngest are the most at-risk for the dangers of street life.

According to the National Runaway Safeline, children runaway because:

  • 47% of runaway youth report conflict between them and a parent/guardian in the home.
  • Over 50% of youth in shelters or on the streets reported that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care
  • 80% of runaway & homeless girls reported having been sexually or physically abuse.
  • 43% of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home.

marian wright edelman

For over four decades the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RYHA) provided three types of assistance to help communities deliver lifesaving supportive services for youth. The Basic Center Program provided shelter and basic necessities for younger children up to 21 days. The Transition Living Program is geared for older children 16-21 providing developmentally appropriate and readily accessible trauma informed services. The Street Outreach Programs provides service referral, crisis intervention at street locations and drop in centers.

 

In 2103 the money ran out. Since then state and local agencies have been attempting to fulfill those roles. But like many states, Illinois is cutting back on mental health services and needed care. Today with bipartisan support The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (s262/hr1179) would reauthorize and strengthen these three critical programs in addition to collecting trafficking data, adding a nondiscriminatory clause and increase the length of stay in Basic Center to 30 days, requiring suicide prevention services in transitional living programs

 

Runaway and homeless youth are especially vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.   Traffickers prey on their vulnerability. They say” I will take care of you. I can provide food and a place to stay. Let me help.” The National center for Missing and Exploited Children said 1 in 5 of the 11, 8000 runaways reported in 2015 they were likely to be victims of sex trafficking. Furthermore, 28% of the youth living on the street trade sex for basic needs such as food. A growing number of homeless youth identify as lesbian gay, bisexual or transgender. (LBGT): Data suggests they make up 40 percent of runaways today. This bill gives them protection from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation or gender, much like Violence Against Women Act or Head Start. The non-discrimination language is key not re-victimize youth when seeking care

We know for forty years that RHYA has worked. Each year 25000 youth find shelter through the RHYA street outreach program. In 2104 after receiving trauma informed counseling and care, 85% of youth exited these programs and returned safely. In 2103, 72% of youth RHYA temporary housing reunited with their families.

In addition federal programs like this are cost effective. Homeless and runaway youth are disproportionality involved in public healthcare, juvenile justice systems. In 2009 the public cost of services for a homeless individual in Los Angeles, including shelter, health care was $2897 per month- significantly higher than $605 per month for residents in supportive housing. I know what it is like to be sexually abused. I did not run away but I know plenty of people who did. I know what I have spent on healing. The long term consequences of abuse, physical, mental and social are devastating. The actual dollars spent on additional health care is huge for the individual.  Studies indicate moving 500 youth from the juvenile justice system to transitional programs could save anywhere between 5 and 20 million dollars.

 

The modest investment in Runaway and Homeless Youth act programs has laid a foundation for a national system of services for our displaced youth. This essential program must continue. Please write your legislatures today and tell them to fully fund the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act.

 

 

 

 

 

What Would You Do With A Million Dollars?

 

Powerball Lottery Reaches Third Highest Jackpot

I joined a 31 day challenge recently to write 500 words a day. It is all about finding your authentic voice. What is the message and vision you have to share with people? This is my day one.

What would you do if someone handed you a million dollars?

Not too long ago the Powerball lottery prize was 1.6 billion dollars. People who never would consider buying a ticket did. In California we heard of people standing in the pouring rain for hours just to get a chance.  Have you really thought about what you would do with that money? How it would change your life, what could you do to change the world? Now I didn’t stand in the rain but I did buy a ticket.  Now my coach whom I love said why…you have the ability to create money. I said to accelerate my dreams.

Now I have always been a big picture thinker, one of my best skill sets. Over the last three years I have been encouraged to dream big, to stay in the question what would I love to express, to be, to do, or create in four areas of my life. The first is time money freedom, the second is creative expression or work in the world, the third is relationships and the fourth is wellness. It took some real soul searching to come up with a vision that truly was an authentic expression of my values. How many of us have lived our lives based on should, trying to please other people?  How often have we taken the “comfortable or safe path” because we are scared we might fail?

Now I have a big, bold, audacious vision. I want to engage, inspire and connect one million creative activists. What is a creative activist you ask? They are people like you and me who have embraced their personal gifts and power to create a better life for themselves, their families and community. They see a problem and look for a solution. They know the best way to foster change is being an example of what they would like to see. They share their voice, their stories so you know you are not alone.

I know how hard it is to share your story. Now those who know me now would never believe this but I was shy, retiring, I never had an opinion, I sat on the fence and waited to see how the wind blew. I usually agreed with the last person who spoke. If you know a bit about my background it might make sense.

As a child I was sexually abused by my grandfather from age 7-13. Now in those days no one talked about it, not on the news, no after school specials and if you grew up in my house you know that like Vegas whatever happens here stays here.  I was afraid no one would believe me, a pillar of the community could do that…so I kept quiet. I never told anyone until I was in my early twenties and I went to therapy for the first time.

Over the years I realized traditional talk therapy was not enough for me. I was surviving but not thriving. I would lay in bed after my kids would go to school and contemplate walking in front of a train. At night I would drown my sorrow, my grief and fear with pints of ice cream, cookies and cake.  I reached a critical point, I could not go on like that…I was going to live or die. I chose life.

I became a workshop junkie. I traveled the world in search of answers. They came much closer to home, actually they were inside me all the time.  My imagination, my intuition, my inspiration, my creative genius was there all the time. Over the years I just lost sight of it. Actually I put it away because one teacher said you are not a very good writer, a choir director  said mouth the words, my parents said you will never make a living being an artist. Where have you experienced this in your life? Who tried to set you straight? What did it cost you?

So I took out my crayons and began to scribble and doodle. I read a thousand self-help books and answered the questions in them. I created a gratitude and did well journal. I painted, took photographs of flowers, did body work, listened to music and I danced. Little by little I saw enormous changes. I felt better, I looked better, I had more energy, more confidence, I had a positive attitude, and my relationships got better. People asked what happened you seem different. I was different. As I let go of the past, when I embraced my gifts and talents when I asked how I can use this experience to make a difference in the world, my life opened up. I experienced more joy and a sense of well being and love.

You may be asking how this relates to being a lotto winner. A 2015 Camelot study group found that 44% of people who ever won large lottery prizes were broke within 5 years. Other studies suggest that lottery winners frequently suffer from a high incidence of depression, divorce, suicide and addictions. They don’t feel they deserve it. They often lack a clear vision for how they will use the money, how they will relate to their friends and family when they ask for money. They don’t have a good support team in place to help handle their finances. They never really considered how they can use their increased wealth to make a difference in the world.

Well I still play lotto. I believe in miracle, magic and a bold vision for success. I have a burning desire and a clear action plan to engage 1 million creative activists. I am international speaker sharing creativity as a path to personal and planetary healing. We have an online program that offers tips, tools and techniques to become a fearless thought leaders and a creative problem solver. We offer a community resource guide of “best practices, creative programs and solutions.”  Finally, hosting Dream a Better World television. Everyone has a story. I love creating a safe space for them to share their voice and vision.

I would love your comments. Thanks