“Above all, being real, being sincere”

Honing a theme that’s been running through these recent posts, particularly ‘Simple Thankfulness’, here are some additional reflections on taking the time and care to intentionally guide our emotions. A part of that discipline (and it is a discipline) falls under the auspices of “gratitude practices,” although I prefer thankfulness because of its emphasis on internal relief. As a friend pointed out to me recently, that’s not about positive thinking; it’s about getting a handle on how to choose which emotions we frequent or bottom out into. For example, how we emotionally perceive or shape past events we’ve already lived (as in the Molly Bloom Soliloquy in the last post). I’d add here that that’s not living in the past – it’s freeing oneself to be fully in this moment by not tumbling into old, ineffective (and often inaccurate) emotional and mental patterns that drag us backward and downward. Of course, this functions equally in the present moment, in choosing to perceive and consciously generate positive emotions for the obvious and subtle reasons we have to be thankful right now but often ignore.

“And above all, being real, being sincere.”

Looking at emotional skillfulness from the outside in, there are also external actions we can take that will produce positive emotions and a more balanced state of being in general. Decades of research in medicine and psychology fields have identified that we experience pleasure, joy, peace and wellbeing when our hormones and neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins are released. There are natural activating triggers for these – employed and evolved over millennia – proven to significantly alter our emotional state, and each of them can be produced by specific activities. Here’s a list of some of the most effective activities, with simple commentary (although you can find more information about each suggestion throughout this blog):

  1. Exercise. Especially cardiovascular and slower forms, such as yoga, Tai Chi and deep stretching.
  2. Time in nature. The more immersive and longer time spent, the more effective.
  3. Nutrition. A balanced, full-spectrum diet (minimizing empty calories – processed carbohydrates, sugars and fats), but also with attention to how much and when.
  4. Meditation or prayer. Of any kind that leads to deeper mental and emotional quietness; simple slow diaphragmatic breathing can be done pretty much anywhere at any time.
  5. Listening to music and engaging art. See ‘Leaning into Art’.
  6. Generosity and kindness. Including in the simplest exchanges (not to be mistaken for gratuitous or strategic niceness).
  7. Accomplishment. Small or large makes little difference, but particularly potent when there’s creativity in the process.
  8. Thankfulness. Easy to activate and just a second away at any time.
  9. Physical or conversational intimacy. Especially when uncommon, real emotions are expressed and accepted.
  10.  Laughter. Purposely engaging the people and activities that make us laugh.

For advanced practitioners, parents, healers and educators of all kinds, all of these suggestions can be at least directly encouraged if not actually produced for others. For those who are very creative and sincere, most or all suggestions on this list can be generated in one session. But even just choosing to focus on one or two that we don’t usually attend to will give us a better chance at uplifting our emotional state, and consequently, the experience and outlook of those with whom we interact. Especially during extended periods of intensified stress and strain, some focused attention directed to our emotional wellbeing – and the emotional wellbeing of those we sincerely care about – can make a world of difference.

A great example of hitting many of the above suggestions in one stroke (#s 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9), as well as exemplifying the title of this post, here’s a piece of art that expresses well, and calls upon, some emotions we’d probably be better off frequenting more often:

Painting by Andre Zadorine

(Thank you, Guy, for the suggestion of the Barbara Fredrickson video)

5 Comments Add yours

  1. MISSSAZA says:


  2. R. says:

    There is almost something shockingly simple about your 10 suggestions (indeed, it could all be taught to a child).
    Although I know these pretty well, I can see where there is place for improvement (I like your comment on number 9 especially). For some, it was surprising to look at these through the angle of simply rebalancing my emotional state.
    I see your emphasis on others here, how it is a win-win situation if we take more time to play/explore with these ideas. We can then become more present and loving and life is more enjoyable for everyone.
    Love both the sailing and wolves powerful analogies in the video.
    Yesterday I went for a walk along the river and I was really struck by the beauty of that place I often visit. I had never seen it in that light before, not with that scintillating beauty. I also noticed how amazing listening to a calm piano music piece is so nourishing for my soul…
    Thank you for your care and for all those excellent reminders. Your posts have really helped me sailing the rough seas of the last 18 months or so!

  3. anon says:

    Before reading a word of your last post, I was immediately crumbled by the visceral rawness expressed through the girl’s piercing expression, that which seems so intimately familiar in recent months portrayed by all the dynamics within the painting; mesmerized in humble awe for the words of the Boz Scaggs dig…Thanks (back) to you. – A

  4. J.R. says:

    The idea that we have the power to re-wire our emotional reality is a profound one. It is easy to understand that with focus, precision and practice we can transform and develop our physical body. However, taking care of our emotional body, as you’re offering a blue print for here, is much less commonly understood (although we would all benefit from it).

    I especially appreciate your emphasis on “real and sincere” rather than positivity without exception. The tiller and the boat metaphor in the video is excellent as is the phrase “toxic positivity”, while much of the current Western (read: New Age) angle on well-being leans superficially and falsely positive to a fault.

    Relishing listening to Boz Scaggs’ silky smooth voice and masterful gesture while I let the pieces fall together. Thank you for the opportunity to have a rare moment of a change of pace and different, personally rewarding combination of emotions than I’ve had all week… How hard it is to find that these days.

  5. Aka Guy says:

    The leaves are falling
    and the river flows
    The Sun is rising
    and the Moon glows.
    (Author: A fountain pen in tears)


    I have to add my 2 cents comment here by proposing to those virtues written above the following one: “Being humble” to seal this trinity. Being real and being sincere are keys to open people’s hearts as well as being humble is opening ours. I feel this creates a true dynamic of Being.

    Humbleness can be faked and manipulative of course. (Like professional beggars on the corner of the street.) I’m thinking more about being humble toward an insignificant object often disregarded like a wrapper. We kinda look at objects as inanimate things but the day you feel affection coming from that wrapper, the perspective changes into respect to a living thing.

    A little story. A few years ago, a friend of mine was telling us about how they treated a wound from a spear or an arrow in ancient times. I don’t recall the whole story but the punch line was that they were treating the arrow or spear that created the wound. Hum! That sounded weird but was it? Should the wounded soldier apologize to the arrow or spear for being in the way? That’s crazy, right?

    Out of curiosity, I wanted to test this for myself but this time with objects that were on my way. Everyone experienced hitting the big toe on a chair leg while half asleep in the morning? That is the kind of example I’m talking about. My test field was renovation work.

    Especially when one is tired, the tendency is to hit your knee, elbows, fingers, head on whatever is close to you because your awareness is weaker. In my case, I have a tendency to accuse the object that I hit, especially when I feel pain.

    Well, you would be surprised that when I apologize to the object sincerely, the pain goes away immediately. I’m not gonna try this with a bullet obviously, but this kinda confirms to me the validity of the story.

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