Tag Archives: joy

The Playground of the Soul

(Taken from Chapter 12 of Soul Health:  Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

To share laughter is to connect with Soul. ~~ Alison Stormwolf

012Play is a great way to connect with others. Laughing and having fun not only helps us to bond more deeply with other people, but also to enter a deeper understanding and connection with our own soul. Laughter unlocks our resistance and releases inhibitions, thus opening us to close connections that might not arise without this mutual joy.

The soul craves connection. It wants to be understood, heard, and embraced by those who can appreciate and honor it—oneself, especially, but close family and friends as well. Only then can the soul itself play. It wants the freedom to revel in whatever elicits its joy, experiencing every aspect of fun and elation that life has to offer. However, as we all know, there are times when life could not offer less fun. Those are the times when a playful connection with our own soul and others’ is most distant, yet most vital.

Just like any playground, the human condition can create bumps and bruises amidst the fun and laughter. Yet even in the worst of times, it is often our ability to see the humor in our situation that allows us to muddle through it. Finding joy in the midst of darkness allows us to soften the impact of life’s challenges and open us to the possibilities that something good could come from our pain. The key is to understand yourself well enough to know when you need a good dose of fun, or when laughter will be your own best medicine.

Exercise

What is fun to you? Stop right now, and list ten things that you do or could do on a regular basis that would be fun. How difficult is it to create this list? Who do you have the most fun with in your life? How often do you spend time with these people? Who would you invite into your personal playground if you could?

What relaxes you? Stop, and list ten leisure 12 Dec pic2activities that you do on a regular basis. How difficult is it to create this list? Who do you relax with the most? How often do you take time to relax with those who make it easy for you to do so?

Answering these questions will help you to create your soul’s playground. By identifying what and who helps you strengthen your recreational branch of health, and by committing to doing what enhances it, you will give your soul reason to sing. You will also enhance its evolution.

No one can deny that they feel the most radiant and alive when they have had a good dose of pure fun. Our driven culture often dismisses and even denies how important simple joy is to our health, yet the lack of it drives many of our vices and unhealthy behaviors. The reality is, if we tuned into our inner joy more often—regardless of our daily struggles— our soul health would be much brighter. Instead, we keep losing sight of the inner light and are frantically searching for other ways to soothe our discomfort.

What do you need in order to commit to joy?

 

  (To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at          www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

 

Joyful Soul

(Taken from Chapter 12 of Soul Health:  Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~ Norman Cousins

06 June picI have long lost track of how many people have entered my psychotherapy office bringing with them their sorrows, but leaving behind any sense of joy. They have lost their enjoyment and feel as if their zest for life has completely disappeared. When asked, few can say what used to make them smile, let alone remember the last time they really laughed. When I ask what they do for fun, the all-too-common answer is “nothing.” Certainly, when people are anxious, depressed, grief-stricken, stressed, or in any other state of turmoil, their experiences of joy are rare. But reacquainting with what brings them joy is guaranteed to free them from the gravity of any challenging circumstance or situation.

Our soul is nothing without joy. Without joy we are void of all light that reminds us why we live. In times when the human condition has us in its darkened grip, our experience of joy is less tangible, and so is our connection with our soul. We cannot see as clearly how to make decisions that suit our wisest ally, and we often go further off track rather than closer to our inner wisdom. Consequently, it’s not unusual for people who are distressed to report that they no longer know who they are, as their despair further disconnects them from their soul.

Our sense of joy—or lack of one—, thus, serves as another measure of our soul health. Our sense of joy is much like the pilot light for our inner ally—as long as it is lit we are still experiencing at least some pleasure in life and are able to tolerate the darker sides of the human condition. However, when that light is dim or snuffed out, nothing seems to matter—not even oneself. Therefore, awareness of what brings us joy is of utmost importance to our overall health. Essayist Logan Smith notes, “If you are losing your leisure, look out; you may be losing your soul.” Indeed, our souls do define us; and if we don’t listen to them, we will never find our way back home to this inner ally. More tragic is the risk of losing who we really are.

Joy stems both from the fun and leisure we create06 June pic2 in our lives and from the meaning we place on the activities we choose for recreation. Individual recreational needs may differ as widely as the people on the planet do. What we all have in common, though, is that fun and leisure not only buffers the unpleasant aspects of our human condition, but also fortifies or feeds the soul.

The recreational branch of soul health relates to both the fun and the leisure we allow, invite, or create in our lives. There is a difference between the two, though. We experience fun through “acting playfully”—reacting in a light-hearted, humorous, or jesting manner —at home, work, or social situations. Leisure time, however, allows us to find respite from our responsibilities—personal and professional—which usually represent the heavier aspects of our human condition. Both fun and leisure are necessary in fortifying our soul and promoting its evolution.

Unfortunately, most people don’t make or take time for fun and leisure. In a 2010 survey, an online travel agency found that only 38 percent of Americans use all of the vacation time they were allotted. This may not be surprising, given the standards for long hours of work in this country; however, the physical and emotional cost may outweigh the praise we get for the long hours worked. In fact, there is often a direct impact on physical health when people don’t take time to relax. One researcher found that people who don’t take time to slow down from daily life may find it harder to relax in the future since the neural pathways that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it increasingly more difficult to shift to less stressful states of being. This demonstrates that our bodies are indeed restored when we are at rest or at play—and that this is necessary in sustaining our well-being.

(To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

 

Financial Security and Soul Health

(Taken from Chapter 9 of Soul Health:  Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

My soul whispered that what I really yearned for was not financial security but financial serenity. ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

DSC_0156Our perceptions about lack or abundance are at the heart of our need for financial security. But our ideas about what is really necessary can conflict with the needs of our soul. At a basic level, of course, we do need enough resources for our survival, but beyond that we are often fooled by society to think we need more objects, success, or status in order for our souls to thrive. Though certain pleasures and possessions can serve our soul’s health, few are necessary for its evolution.

Author Sarah Ban Breathnach, in describing her own struggles with finding financial security, said that the more she focused on “lack” the more depressed she got, and the more depressed she got, the more she continued to focus on what she did not have. This is when she discovered that finding peace within was the key to a healthy relationship with the simple abundance in her life. She recognized that the simplicity in her life was more valuable than vast wealth. She learned to appreciate the simple things in life that brought her joy and went on to become a best-selling author as a result, which brought her more wealth.

Our financial security depends primarily on what we perceive our needs to be and whether we believe we have enough money to support them. Many have the resources to meet their needs, but their built-in fears prevent them from attaining them. Others may not have the financial resources to acquire what they think they need, when, in truth, their desired objects are not necessary for their soul’s growth and evolution. 

What we regard as our genuine needs within our experience of the human condition can be complex, though the needs of the soul are strikingly simple. As humans, we often believe we need many things around us—cars, houses, televisions, cell phones, and so on—to make us feel secure and complete. However, our souls need much less in order to evolve. In fact, we often grow more when faced with the idea of having less. Our feelings and ideas about money, when we examine them closely, can lead us to peace no matter how much or how little we have.

  • What has created your sense of financial security or lack of one?
  • What helps you to feel more peaceful when you think of your resources?
  • What does your soul really need to feel more secure?

(To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

 

Fun, Leisure, and the Soul

(Taken from Chapter 12 of Soul Health:  Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

DSC_0055 one stepResearch shows that people who don’t take time off for vacations are at higher risk for serious health conditions and also shortened life spans.  The Framingham Heart Study, likely the most comprehensive ongoing research on the development of heart disease, has followed twelve thousand men for over a decade to see if there are ways to improve both health and longevity.  The study found that people who took frequent breaks or vacations from work tended to live longer.  A survey done in the state of New York indicated that men who took annual vacations reduced their risk of death by 20 percent, while those who had taken no vacation within the preceding five years had the highest incidence of heart disease than any other men surveyed. The positive impact of leisure time is unquestionably good for mental as well as physical health.  A study of women who took frequent vacations showed that they were less likely to become depressed, anxious, or fatigued, and they also reported less stress at home. Overall, leisure time consistently shows positive enhancement of health.  Not only does time away from everyday stressors allow us to reconnect with ourselves, but there is clear evidence that intentionally planning leisure time into our lives promotes creativity, staves off burnout, recharges our batteries (both physically and mentally), promotes overall well-being, improves higher performance and productivity once back at work, and strengthens the bonds between people outside of work. Fun—our ability to let loose and play— is highly under-rated among adults.  As our responsibilities increase, our pursuit of fun decreases, often drastically.    And the longer we go without this pleasure, the less we seem to think it is a priority.  Even so, how many people do you know who fantasize over working more versus playing more?   It seems that even when we wish for more fun and time to play, we often don’t make a point of creating this in our lives. DSC_6888 Biologically speaking, fun does more than soothe the soul.  When we engage in playful activities, our serotonin level—the substance balanced by a typical antidepressant—boosts instantaneously.  In addition, our stress hormones drop, our endorphins—the natural pain killers—increase, and sometimes adrenaline rises, too, which boosts our energy levels.  If that isn’t enough proof that fun is good for our health, then consider that vicarious enjoyment—just watching others play or laugh—is also enough to boost these chemicals. Laughing at yourself also helps with managing difficult experiences within the human condition.  This self-directed joviality has been shown to lighten our perception of stressful events and allows us to maintain a level of resilience in the midst of life’s battles.  We cannot deny the issues that need work in life, but the research does offer hope for a healthier life when we can think of the events of everyday life as manageable.  In other words, when we find humor in the human condition, we can heal many aspects of our soul health. Despite the positive effect of pure fun and leisure, many people nevertheless either avoid them or think they are unworthy of joy or unable to experience it.  Unfortunately, they often turn to unhealthy substitutes such as alcohol, other drugs, over-spending, sex, gambling, or any other vice that may temporarily numb their stress.  The problem with these substitutes is that they always negatively affect other branches of soul health.  These substitutes for joy further disconnect people from their soul, often while actively damaging the health of other branches.  This can create a vicious cycle; they dig themselves further into the ditch of ill soul health, only to continue seeking false relief through one of their vices. The ability to recognize that your recreational branch of health needs work takes honesty and courage, given that the work may go against what you were taught a child.  If your caregivers were workaholics, overachievers, or simply naysayers about fun, your sense of self-worth may influence you to follow in their footsteps.  If your parents weren’t playful or fun, you may not have learned to integrate it into your own life.  But, no matter what the reason, if you don’t feel you have enough fun and leisure in your life, you probably don’t.

(To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

A Confession of Fun: How Play Enhances Soul Health

I’m embarrassed to admit what you’re about to read….. I forgot the importance of play. Literally and figuratively.

Sunshine for your soul quoteYears ago, I said that my first book would be about adult play. From early in my life, I observed that the adults around me didn’t have enough fun. They balked at the idea of being goofy, avoided laughing just for the sake of laughing, and undoubtedly worked far more than they played. Somehow we got the idea that we were lazy or irresponsible if we allowed joy into our lives. Instead, we’ve instilled guilt into those who choose to enjoy fun and leisure and came to believe that those who “indulge” in too many joyful activities are behaving badly through such reckless use of time.

This awareness stimulated my mission to write a book about how adults need to have more fun in order to live more radiant lives. I did presentations in graduate school about the importance of play, I bought Play Dough and Slinkys for workshop participants, and I read all of the research I could find on the positive benefit of fun and leisure on our physical and emotional health. I did what I could at the time to illuminate the fact that fun was a key aspect of our everyday experience as humans—one that is healthy and also second nature for anyone experiencing the human condition.

Then I got busy. And I got stressed. Life took over, and throughout the completion of graduate school as well as in the early years of my career, the notion of sending the message of fun got lost… just like in most adults. I forgot my mission.

Branch with border

Even when I was creating my “whole” health model, the fun and leisure branch of  health was overlooked until I had a conversation with a client about the different aspects of wellness. In the middle of the session, it dawned on me that the branch that I had once so strongly endorsed had been swept to the shadows. Right at that moment, I realized why the system felt incomplete, and soon after the final link of the soul’s influence on each aspect of our existence clicked as well.  Our soul—the voice of our inner truth—rules our lives so much that it seemed inadequate to call the model anything other than The Soul Health Model.  Fun completed the model and raised it to the level of evolution instead of remaining an inessential element of the human condition.

Sick Tree aka SoulAFun feeds our soul, and no one can convince me that the healthiest person on earth omits this essential ingredient from their lives. In fact, I would go as far as to say that humor saves lives.  Research is clear that laughter decreases stress, helps us fight illness, improves our outlook on life, and much more. Without the nourishment of fun, our souls can starve, wither, and most definitely lose that radiance that is an inherent right for all of us. But with healthy and frequent doses of this elixir of life, we can remain buoyant even when life tries to dunk us under.

I’m curious—have you forgotten fun? What do you do for to play? What feeds your soul? Are you lacking humor? How do you use laughter to lighten even the heaviest situation? When was the last time you intentionally scheduled fun into your life?

I would love to hear from you and also hear any specific stories of the use of laughter that show the powerful healing that can take place when you have allowed yourself a good dose. Email me at evolve@drkatherinetkelly.com. I plan to compile a list of “reminders” for others who have forgotten their own way down the fun and leisure path.

Twitchy Without Travel: Confessions of an Adventure Junkie

 DSC00982If there’s anything that makes me uneasy, it’s a blank travel schedule.  Seriously!  I start to feel anxious, sometimes a little depressed, and get an uncomfortable sense that something is missing.  I call it “twitchy”—a feeling that isn’t calmed until I actually have at least one trip on the books.  I’m always pondering where to go next, whether hitting the road, flying the friendly skies, hiking in a national park, or floating on a giant hotel somewhere in the Caribbean.  It’s in my blood.  And I have no intention of trying to ditch the habit.  I simply need my fix.

I experienced my first taste of transformational travel quite by accident.  My best friend and I went to the Grand Canyon the summer after my dad died, which was also the year after her sister had passed away from a long struggle with Leukemia.  We both held hectic college and work schedules and decided to take a break to head to the Four Corners region and head down to the giant hole in the ground.  Needless to say, we had an amazing trip!  The drive gave us time to laugh, talk, and air out our souls, while taking in the interesting topography along the way.

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I will never forget the sound of her gasp as my friend saw the Grand Canyon from the passenger side window for the first time.  It was my turn to drive, and I’m glad it was—because hearing the absolute awe in her voice was just as memorable as seeing the canyon for myself.  We treated ourselves by taking a helicopter ride through the canyon, getting a close-up view of the steep walls, the Colorado River below, and the seemingly teeny lodges perched on the rim.  What was most notable about the trip, though, was how rested and restored we both felt as we drove back home.  Both of our souls had been filled—and fed—in a way that nothing else had done following the loss of our loved ones.  We had both been transformed by a three day visit to one of the wonders of the world.  With 6 visits to date, the Grand Canyon remains both my favorite national park in the United States, and also my most cherished place to clean out the human condition and restore my soul.

A transformational travel junkie was born!

DSCF5455What transpired next was a variety of adventures both in and outside of the U.S.  From Niagara Falls to the Everglades, Alaska to Florida, and everywhere I could stop in between, I went to every place that I could find an excuse to visit.  I traveled to Europe, both Central- and South America, and various islands in the Caribbean.  I set a goal to reach all of the natural national parks (27 of the 56 so far…), visit all the major cities, and take as many road trips to unique places as time and money would allow.  I’ve driven Highway 1 up the coast of California, the Overseas Highway down through the Florida Keys, all of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and many other scenic roads and major highways throughout the country.  Years ago I decided that every adventure I had would include an element of reflection and spiritual enrichment, which isn’t that difficult given all of the magnificent features that this world has to offer.  I always take my journal and as a result of some dedicated time away in majestic surroundings, I always return home with a new perspective and heightened mood.

The fun of my work now is that I can take it on the road!  As of next month, I will be working with Cross Country Education to do nationwide continuing education workshops throughout the country.  No better way to see more of the country than to make it part of my passion of work as well!  Not only will I be able to teach others within mine and related fields, but I will be able to nourish my travel bug at the same time.  Not a bad gig.

Most exciting is that I am now creating transformational travel excursions for others as well.  Yes!  I have found yet another way to make my work another form of play!  As the author of Soul Health, I am well aware of the need to “align” one’s life with what feeds their soul in order to create optimal living.  And because travel has fed my soul so well, I am well-nourished and able to provide transformational travel for others.

AZ UT Trip Galaxy 360

There are many research studies which show positive health benefits of travel.  Those who take time away are shown to have both better mental and physical health than those who choose to “bank” their vacation time.  This statistic is a bit scary since only 38% of Americans use all of their allotted hours away from the office.  Studies also show that when we experience awe and wonder, we also feel more connected within, to the world, and to all others.  So, if travel can be such an uplifting experience, why not pair it with a transformational adventure designed specifically to help you learn, heal, and evolve?

Life, itself, is an adventure.  But when we consciously choose our travel destinations and journeys to enhance our growth, we open ourselves to a level of evolution that nothing else can stimulate.  I know for myself that it is difficult to reach this awareness in the day-to-day grind.  So, it gives me great pleasure to create transformational travel experiences for others.

Soul Health Travel is simply an extension of my passion to help people evolve beyond their previous ways and align their lives for optimal living.  When we feed our souls through travel, we provide the essential “nutrients” for not only optimal alignment of our human lives, but also for our soul’s evolution.  What could be better than visiting a magnificent sight while also growing our soul?

For more information, visit www.soulhealthtravel.com.  I’m excited to take care of the details so you can fully take care of you!

“Banking” Laughter

“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”  ~ Mark Twain

I have a confession to make.  The Recreational Branch of my Soul Health Model was the last one I added to the tree, even though I’ve always placed great value in the benefits of laughter and play.  Long ago I even said that my first book would be about adult play since we seem to take our lives too seriously, causing a great deal of stress and enjoying our lives way too little.  It is rare that I meet someone who says they have enough fun.  Why is that since it is well-documented that laughter can bring great benefit to our overall health?

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Almost 20 years ago research indicated that children around the age of   7 laughed approximately 500 times a day, while adults laughed about 10 times in the same time period.  Now, studies show that children of similar age laugh about 200 times a day, and adults less than 5.  It appears we are heading in the wrong direction, if you ask me.

Research also indicates that less than 40% of Americans use all of their vacation time, choosing instead to “bank” the hours and continue to work their typical long hours.  What’s wrong with this picture?

It is up to us to make fun and leisure happen.  We may say we “don’t have time”, “don’t have the money”, “can’t find anyone to play with”, “feel too guilty”, or that “I don’t know what is fun to me anymore”.  But why do we all long for more of what we won’t create for ourselves?

Fun feeds the soul and laughter bathes the psyche.  But many—no, most people don’t have enough of either in their lives.  Is it that we don’t value ourselves enough to carve out the time to have some fun? Are we ashamed to “laugh out loud” in reality while we are more than willing to type “LOL” in a text or email (which I’d bet happens much less frequently than the usage of this abbreviation implies).

True soul health requires that we feed the soul in all ways necessary to enhance our overall experience of life, including nourishing ourselves with laughter.  Can you honestly say you have enough fun?  Do you really want to get to the end of your life and wonder how much more laughter you could have created?

 DSC_2353 As you plant the seeds of change for this year, consider your Recreational branch of health and determine what needs work.  What would you regret not doing this year to create more fun and leisure in your life?  Is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to go?  Why not plan a trip?  Have you been putting off taking that art class?  How about signing up?  Have you missed hanging out with your friends or family who make you laugh?  Give them a call.

Fun rarely comes to us—we have to go toward fun.  In our culture, we must intentionally plant it in our day in order to reap the benefits that lie within and store up on this much needed commodity.  Consider spending some time identifying what is fun to you, then put a plan into action to plant the seeds of change so that fun and leisure are a bigger part of your life.

What needs to happen to make love and laughter blossom as a more important part of your soul health?