Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the beginning of a new year, maybe it’s because I’ve been feeling under the weather the last couple weeks, or maybe it is because its been gloomy all day, but I’ve been thinking about happiness.
I figured that happiness is all about creativity. What I mean is you create your own happiness. You can’t really find it in your pocket or in the glove box. So, here are the Three things I came up with today that allow me to be happy. I figured I would share, and see if you can enjoy them as well.
Come up with your own definition of what it means to be happy. Make sure it is your definition. I like this one, I borrow it from time to time.
Happiness is being the creator of your experience, choosing to take pleasure in what you have, right now, regardless of the circumstances, while being the best you that you can be.
Whenever I’m in the moment, and I’m really present to what I’m feeling, seeing, hearing, or doing, I allow myself to experience a sense of euphoria. It isn’t often that in our fast paced society we are able to stop ourselves from thinking about the future, or dwelling over the past, so a nice dose of now is a refreshing change.
Don’t Become, Just Be.
If you’re constantly thinking into some future where you can be happy, you’ll be in the habit of trying to be happy. If you are trying to do happy, you aren’t doing it, you’re just trying. Instead, if you just become happy with your current situation, you can be happy any time and place.
When you’re working on being happy, you are the type of person that created the possibility that you are not currently happy.
And that’s it… I know that hardly covers what it takes to be happy, but it is definitely a start… Besides, I have art to create. 🙂
As some of you know, I am a big supporter of smiling. In fact I’m all about inspiring a smile where ever I go with my #inspireasmile campaign.
Right now, you are either nodding your head or rolling your eyes, but do you know why smiling is so important? Let’s break it down.
Obviously, smiling has well-documented social benefits, you aren’t going to be invited to many parties if you constantly wear resting-bitch-face. A genuine smile and positive attitude can make you seem more likable, attractive, intelligent, trustworthy or outgoing.
But did you know that smiling more often—regardless of your mood—can improve your health and help you live longer?
1. Improved Mood
Smiling can boost your mood when you’re feeling blue, and may be beneficial for people struggling with anxiety and depression. A 2010 study found that making yourself smile when you’re feeling down helps improve your mood and increases positive thoughts. So, if you’re having a bad day, try smiling anyway—it may lead to a genuine smile and lift your spirits.
2. Lower Blood Pressure
Smiling and laughing more appear to help lower your blood pressure, which is good news for your heart health. A 2009 review explains that laughter causes an initial increase in heart rate, followed by a period of muscle relaxation and a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, which helps reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
3. Stress Relief
Did you know that smiling more often, whether you’re feeling happy or not, helps your body deal with stressful situations more effectively? A 2015 study published in Psychological Science found that smiling can result in a lower heart rate during stressful tasks. Stress generally causes increases in heart rate and blood pressure. So, maintaining a smile when stressed provides you with both psychological and physical health benefits.
4. Better Relationships
Have you noticed that you’re drawn to people who smile a lot? People who smile are perceived as being more likable than people who don’t smile, according to one 2014 study. Being likable makes it easier to build and maintain better relationships with people, which is important for your overall health and well-being. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions have more stable marriages and better interpersonal skills than people with negative emotions. So, keep a smile on your face to help create stronger, healthier social bonds.
5. Stronger Immune Function
Believe it or not, laughter (which often begins with a smile) appears to help boost your body’s immune system. Mayo Clinic reports that laughter and positive thoughts release signaling molecules in your brain that fight stress and illnesses, while negative thoughts decrease your body’s immunity. One 2015 study found that laughter therapy increases immune responses in women who have just had babies. So, maybe laughter really is the best medicine.
6. Pain Relief
Pain relief might be the last thing you’d associate with smiling and laughter, but there are, indeed, links. Mayo Clinic reports that laughter causes your body to release its own natural painkillers. And a 2012 study found that social laughter increases your pain threshold, creating a higher pain tolerance. So, if you’re in pain due to an injury, illness or chronic disease, watch a funny movie, attend a comedy show or hang out with friends and family who make you smile.
7. Longer Life
It turns out that the fountain of youth might be right under your nose. A 2010 study found that smiling and positive emotions are associated with increased life spans. Talk about a reason to smile!
So, Happy National Smile Day!! Go ahead and give us a smile!
I talk a lot about ways to empower yourself and investigate some of the patterns we play out in our minds that may cause us to feel like victims. To determine whether or not I am feeling powerful, I ask myself whether a situation, circumstance, or person makes me feel like a victim, or do I feel empowered.
Anything that causes you to feel like you don’t have control over your emotions is a sense of victimhood. I don’t mean expressing those emotions, you can sit down to have a good cry because you know it will make you feel better, that’s empowered crying.
A good way to feel empowered and happy is to spread it like a contagion into the world. I do it through art, but I also have a few weapons in my arsenal against feeling like a victim.
1. Smile at people.
It’s amazing to me how powerful a smile can be.
2. Be positive.
Be conscious about your words and actions so that you can be a positive force, rather than, you know, a drag.
3. Give genuine compliments.
I’m a firm believer in saying what you mean, when you want to say it. That means being genuine. What is interesting is that a lot of people assume that being genuine means being mean, but I find that when you are truly genuine with yourself and others, everything is infused with love.
4. Encourage creation.
Themed movie nights, to adventure walks, to art parties. Encourage yourself and others to have creative fun.
5. Live outside your comfort zone.
6. LOVE real big. QUESTION everything.
In every given moment there is an opportunity to fear, judge, or love. We sometimes have to seriously question our own beliefs and where they came from in order to get to love. The thing is, the more you love yourself, the more you can love the world… So start by questioning beliefs about yourself.
Being an agent of positive change in this world is a label that I’ve proudly given myself. I ask that you also wear it wisely and wear it well. It takes real determination and commitment, but it brings color and wonder back into the world.
I wanted to let you guys in on a process that I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed or dark. I write a letter to myself and then respond from a different point of view. This isn’t something that someone typically shares with folks, but I know I’m not typical, so here it is.
Warning, you may read things that concern you, don’t worry, I’m fine, this is just a way to get the feelings out in their rawest form.
This week has been a tough week for me. I’ve been wading through an emotional cesspool of insecurities and old painful memories. As a result my environment has lost some of it’s vibrant color. I am walking around in a world that I recognize, yet haven’t visited in a long time. It is a dark grey world in which the sunlight is nonexistent. For a person such as myself, an artist who thrives on vibrant colors and light, this is what I imagine hell would feel like.
It’s interesting to me that when your mind takes you to a dark place, it seems like the entire world has conspired against you. It’s like you’re in a movie and the set design is based on the overall feeling of the main character. You watch yourself on the silver screen of life following an old dramatic script that you have rehearsed so many times that it seems like it all comes so naturally. You are the main character, yet no one else is experiencing what you are experiencing, feeling isolated and alone, surrounded by smiling faces, yet totally by yourself.
So, my question is this, what do I do now?”
After a short pause… I read the letter, take a deep breath and respond as best I can.
“Dear Dramatic Self,
Good question! Well, you get off your ass and out of your head. Listen, I understand that sometimes shit happens. You are going through a point in your life that might be transitional. Maybe you feel like you lost a sense of direction, maybe you are going through something emotionally taxing, maybe some button got pushed that hasn’t been pushed for a long time, maybe things just suck right now. No matter what it is, you have every excuse to feel the way you do, but that’s the thing, they’re just excuses.
In my opinion, things that people call emotionally chronic are simply practiced. You’ve spent years practicing how to be dramatic and respond to certain thoughts or situations in a certain way. That dramatic script you mentioned is a real thing, people can follow the same script over and over in their lives without even wondering if they can change it. They can feel like their thoughts are thinking them, instead of them thinking their thoughts.
You find yourself in a rut and what do you do? You sit, slump, cry, withdraw, and replay events over and over in your mind, and repeat. You find something or someone to blame for what you are feeling. Maybe you even pull yourself momentarily out of your funk by putting all your energy into being angry at this person or situation. Yet, nothing changes, this just keeps replaying over and over in your life. So much so, that you think this is just the way it is, “this is my life”.
You believe your story, you shape the world after your story, and discount anything that challenges that story. The story has to be true, if it wasn’t true, then it means you are torturing yourself for nothing.
Well, guess what? It is true. It’s true because you think it’s true, and your brilliant mind is going to do everything in it’s power to make it the truest thing you have ever experienced. Your doubt is going to punch you in the face, your insecurities about yourself are going to knock you down, your judgments and fear about people will come true, and everything you surround yourself with will be a constant reminder of your misery and fear.
Do you know what else is true? That your courage will destroy anything doubt can throw at you. Your determination will pick you up when you fall, stronger and better equipped than ever before. Your hope and unconditional love will present itself to you in overwhelming love and kindness, and everything around you will glow with vibrancy and light, this being a constant reminder of your sense of optimism and hope.
It’s ALL true… Every last bit. The question isn’t who is right or wrong, or what is true or untrue, or what you should or should not do… but simply, what would you rather do? How would you rather feel? What would you rather think? What do you want to focus on? Who do you want to be? And what do you want to believe, right now… in this moment?
We don’t carry feelings in our pocket, or find them in a box buried somewhere. We produce those feelings based on our perspectives and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. You can believe what ever it is you want to believe about yourself and what is possible for you, and you can do that right now.
Honestly, this moment is all we really ever have, this moment, right now. So make a choice, despite the script you have been rehearsing all your life. Just make a choice.
Now quit whining and pick yourself up like the awesome person I know you to be.
As this week comes to a close, I look around my messy studio and ponder the events that lead up to this point. Several projects in their half finished state screaming for my attention, wanting the closure that all artistic creations seek.
Yet, in this myriad of untidy unrest I find myself happy.
Not because of the mess… I’m actually not fond of messes. I feel like your mind is a reflection of your surrounding, so a cluttered mind equals a cluttered house. In my case a holy crap batman studio equals a holy crap batman mind.
I think it’s because this week I was very deliberate about how I spent my time. I looked at every moment as a gift and decided to spend it doing something meaningful.
Now, I have a lot of projects that I’m working on, such as artworks, pieces for the art hunt, videos, planing an exhibition, so you would think my time is always pretty deliberate… but it’s not.
Recently, I had gotten in the habit of sitting on my couch in the studio and vegging out. Like full on, staring at nothing for who knows how long, minus the drool… that’s gross.
I realized that during that time, I wasn’t thinking about what I was thinking. I was just thinking random things and not necessarily noticing what I was thinking. It wasn’t good things either, I was complaining to myself about things and not even noticing that I was complaining.
So, I decided to pay attention, I was going to think about the things that I decided to think about, not just random happenstance.
And so, when I looked around today, I saw passion and a sense of love for what I do. I felt full… much better than sitting there mindlessly wondering what I would do if I was fighting a zombie dressed as a clown… Not that I wouldn’t take an opportunity to think about it, but it’s so much cooler when you do it deliberately.
Recently I created a painting titled “The Substance Of The Real.” It shows a rather stoic, old century style, statue of a man struggling to hold on to a big red balloon on a string.
The statement for this piece is as follows:
ABOUT THIS PAINTING So many things that we hold near and dear… thoughts, beliefs, or habits, we hardly ever question. Yet, many of those hold no substance. This piece is meant to be a daily reminder to question everything, to look closely at your own motivations, and to determine what is true for you… Not to ferociously hold on to something that you don’t quite understand.
Now, I wanted to clarify something about this piece and my belief in what is real in the world. I know that a lot of spiritual beliefs state that the world is an illusion, and a lot of people will be surprised to hear that I don’t believe that.
I do believe that we live in a delusion… I know, let me explain.
I don’t believe that the world is unreal in of itself. It becomes an illusion when we look at it. We look at the world through our filter of understanding, through the eyes of our knowledge, understanding, prejudices, judgments, love, ideas, opinions, and current circumstances.
That world is unreal in the same way that a dream is unreal, because it’s based on delusion. The world is just there minding it’s own business, open for interpretation, it is our interpretation that is the illusion, and thus the way we see the world is an illusion based on our own beliefs.
You take two people to see a symphony, they sit in similar seats, have the same physical experience, and yet they will have a completely unique experience. One person tells you it was terrible, the other will say it was amazing… who’s right? who’s wrong?
Whoever you agree with the most will be right, and the other person will be wrong.
I like the idea of questioning the whole delusion… Cause, you know, I can’t be right ALL the time, and chances are a lot of what I believe has the substance of a red balloon.
In my opinion, you get to choose how you feel about the world, people, politics, religion, love, relationships, anything and everything.
If you ever find yourself repeating some crappy saying that you’ve just never thought about, I suggest you look at that. Where did it come from, some older generation that maybe didn’t have their shit together yet? Maybe an old racist uncle? A victimized mother? A womanizing father? A corrupt grandfather? A jealous aunt? A hypochondriac grandmother? All people that love me, all good people, just screwed up.
I say question everything, remember that the world you see is your delusion, and that you get to decide how you feel about the world you see. You can choose love, and not hold on so vehemently to those beliefs that are outdated.
Some of you know that Klee and I have a YouTube channel where we talk about life, art, tips for aspiring artists, and other goofy content. We even have a small following that seems to be growing every day.
Now anybody that has done any filming and video editing knows how much work goes into producing a well edited short video. If you don’t, it’s a lot of work, like you can hire a team to do it and it would still take time. Considering that I’m pretty much my team with the occasional technical assistance from Klee, it begs the question, why do it?
Admittedly, I’ve had to ask myself the same question. I mean, I can be creating art instead of videos, and that would make me more of an income than the videos ever will.
But, I just can’t help myself. There is something about the whole creative process that I love. I love the writing, filming, lighting, sound, content, editing, Klee and I bouncing off one another and most of all, I love the creatives who follow us on YouTube.
Our 2018 goal is to release 2 videos a week by streamlining the process. Well, that’s the plan at least.
I plan on introducing new segments as we figure out this whole video side of Klee and me. We want to make sure we remain true to ourselves and that what we do in our videos is stuff we truly enjoy, and not something that doesn’t make sense for us.
We also have huge plans in place for art projects this year, from specific pieces to series. Klee’s has also been working on music, and getting the perfect picture.
I guess the reason I have a YouTube channel is because just like my paintings and sculptures, it gives me the opportunity to connect to people… And I love people.
I think when you are a creative person, you want to connect with people through your creations… And if you are us, you have a lot of expression coming out of all the places.
Recently I finished three pieces in a series called The Nature Of Being. This series has evolved over the last four years from beautiful crudely dripped forms to detailed flowing figures, but the message remains the same.
It represents our purest form of growth.
We find ourselves on this blue ball hurtling through space and time, constantly in search of meaning. The whole while we are almost overcome by our immediate circumstances, and our world seems to only consist of what is around us. Our fears, triumphs, and aspirations revolve around the ideas we consume growing up.
But our world is so much bigger than that, and we all feel it. We all go out and search for meaning in something to fill that sense of missing. We can find personal meaning in our job, hobby, marriage, kids, religion, clothing style, etc.
But rarely do we look for meaning in things that are not outside of us, but simply in being.
I feel like I’ve been running around my entire life trying to find my purpose in things that are fleeting, when the one constant in my life has been the possibility of having a relationship with myself and finding meaning there.
This series is about being rooted here and now in your world, yet constantly growing and reaching higher than you ever have, naturally and organically. It’s about being flexible and naked to the world and showing yourself as you are, never hiding behind a facade of fear.
Growth, in my opinion, is not about how much you know, or how powerful you are, or the things you’ve collected, it’s about finding that sense of perfection in the simplicity of life. Not worrying about the opinions of others, or how they perceive you.
It’s about stopping, looking, listening, smelling, feeling, sensing, while you experience the fullness of every moment of your miraculous life.
We tend to get lost in our minds, thinking about our problems, looking for solutions, and missing out on the wonderment that it is to breathe a single breath.
Find meaning in you, your experience, in the now, that’s where it’s at.
I seem to have always been fascinated by birds, from the pigeons in Chicago with the iridescent neck feathers, to the occasional happy bright red cardinal.
Recently someone asked me “So, why do you paint birds?”
I though about the question for a moment and said “Overwhelming fascination.”
When I was a wee little artist, my mother who was young and dangerously overprotective, didn’t let me go outside much. For years, my entire world was from a large third floor picture window that looked down on a busy street.
I spent hours a day looking out at the people going about their day, the different birds roosting and flying about, the abstract landscape over the buildings, the little bit of greenery that would emerge from fascinating places in the concrete. I also gave everyone personalities and stories, people would have daily novellas play out in front of me, and so did the birds.
But, although I felt that the humans had dramatic stories of heartbreak, turmoil, and moments of happiness, the birds symbolized something powerful.
Birds symbolized freedom and perspective. Because they fly high into the sky, I believed they were messengers who provide humans with a bridge between the mundane daily routine and powerful spiritual life.
I know, I know… I was a weird kid.
Every once in a while I would see someone at a bench feeding bits of bread to the pigeons. From my third floor window I could see a powerful dance taking place between the person throwing the bread and the birds. I could see something beautiful, a powerful connection to something greater, a brief moment of stillness among the chaos of daily life. No one else seemed to notice, they just hurriedly went about their day, barely glancing up or interacting with one another.
Years later, with no window barrier between me and the world, I was part of that chaos. I hurried importantly past people to get to work, or anywhere for that matter. I pounded my fist and certain index fingers at people who drove too slow. I was an adult, I was busy, I had things to do, I was responsible, I didn’t have enough time, and I was miserable.
One day, the overwhelm hit a fever pitch. As I was barreling down the road cursing in my mind at the lady in the car directly in front of me, my heart started to beat out of my chest. I loosened my tie and found that my forehead was soaked in sweat. It was so bad, that I pulled over.
I stepped out of my car to get some air and walked over to a bench.
As I was sitting there, wondering if I was going to die in my stupid suit, on a dirty bench, in a strange part of town, I noticed an old man walking towards me with a crinkled up paper bag.
“Great, he’s gonna ask me for money, just look away.” I thought to myself.
The man sat down, opened his bag, and started to sprinkle little bits of bread on the ground in front of us. Like a scene out of the movie “The Birds” a hoard of pigeons and other birds descended on us.
Didn’t he see that I am an important person? I was appalled at how rude this man was, surely a bird was going to shit on my suit.
Then, my heart started up again, and I breathed in deep… and just relaxed.
Suddenly, amidst the gaggle of birds was a pop of bright color. A cardinal flew on to my armrest merely inches from my hand. I found myself mesmerized and just stared at it, we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. It then jumped down, grabbed a scrap of bread and flew away.
I’m not sure how long I was on that bench. I just sat there and time seemed to slow down. I could see the world hurrying past me, people waving their fists in their cars, and others looking at their watches every five minutes. I felt like they looked so… so… stupid.
At that point the old man looked at me, I could feel him studying me.
“Taking time to do nothing often puts everything into perspective. Remember that, young man.”
Then he got up and left.
I get visited by that cardinal every once in a while, when I get caught up in hurrying through life. I sound like a crazy person, but it’s true.