Today I drove from Edmonton to Canmore.  That’s nothing new.  I do it all the time .  Today was different.  It was a bright , crisp blue sky and the snow covered mountains were calling so I turned off Highway 2 and drove to Rocky Mountain House so that I could wander back through the foothills to Cochrane and take 1A into Canmore.

If you have ever done that drive you know the vistas are beyond spectacular. The Rockies are majestic and today you can see Mount Lougheed from Sundre.   The road is mostly straight through the rolling hills and the small towns are so typically small town-ish.  I saw one sign that offered hand crafted gun racks and sewing alterations in the same facility.  It was a great day for a drive.

I was on what is known as the Cowboy Trail.  I love cowboys and the idea of cowboys.  The quiet confidence and humility that comes from working with animals on the land tells me that they learn something out there.  There is a rugged individualism with a sense of down home manners and sensitivity that is likely a stereo type.  It could also be a myth.  Who cares.  This is fantasy.  What is for sure is that there is a mystique in those mountains, on those ranches and in those fields that you can’t really find anywhere else.

Today I was reminded of a question I was once asked by a teacher from Hong Kong.  We were at a teachers of gifted children conference ( Not to be confused with a Gifted Teachers Conference) when the subject of attraction to the opposite sex came up.  I walked into a conversation and was asked rather suddenly.  “What kind of man do you find sexy?”  I was a little taken aback because I hadn’t really thought about it but there it was just falling out of my mouth….”There is just SOMETHING about a cowboy…”   I smiled in reply. The debate raged.  Suits were sexier.  Doctors in Lab coats.  Fighter pilots. Sailors on the high seas. Oilmen.  Academics.  Everyone had an answer that worked for them.  It was another example of the individual nature of humans in cultures.

Not sure why that conversation stayed with me but there was a raw emotion attached to it that has lingered.  Driving through the beautiful Alberta Foothills today with the Rockies shining in the background, I thought of cowboys today and it made me smile.  It always does.

What do you do on down days?  Some days it is just hard to get out of bed let alone your pyjamas.  Everything just seems a little off, a little chaotic.  The fifteen projects you have started at work and at home over the past few weeks are in a state of incompleteness and that’s how you are feeling … incomplete, dishevelled, off.

It’s a serious question.  If other people are depending on you it can put you further into the “just leave me alone” spiral.  Or it can pull you out knowing that you would disappoint them by not showing up.  Sometimes it is difficult to show up for yourself let alone others.

Here it is a sunny winter day in beautiful down town St Albert and I am sitting feeling sorry for myself.  How can that be?  Life is good.  I am doing what I love to do.  I hang out with people I love.  I have wonderful friends.  I have a great place to live and another to work and yet …..

The voice in my head is screaming JUST FINISH ONE THING AND YOU WILL FEEL BETTER.  I know that is true and still I mope from one unfinished task to another, bored and cranky.  Where is the antidote for down days, for blue days?  Sometimes I think you just need to move through them and hope the energy wave hits tomorrow.

Go play the piano…..

Tuesday February 4th, 2014 I will be broadcasting the first in a series of SHIFT webinars. It will be a 40 minute discussion of how the SHIFT model can be used to improve life experiences.
http://pulseinstitute.adobe.connect.com/shift is the URL

It will be a live broadcast that will be recorded and made available to you if you cannot attend.  We will be broadcasting each month on the 4th at 10:00 AM MDT.  Here is the list of topics we have created.

February 4th – SHIFT Happens
March 4th – PULSE in review
April 4th – Checklists for every PULSE conversation
May 4th – GHOST a way to speak and listen
June 4th – The POWER of deep listening
July 4th –  The PULSE Enneagram grid
August 4th – Intelligences – Ways of Knowing
September 4th – a Sharp Mind
October 4th – a Happy Heart
November 4th – an Independent Spirit
December 4th – a Fit Body
January 4th, 2015 – a Trusting Soul
The webinars are free to attend just enter the URL or go to the PULSE website events page and click on the calendar of events.  The link will take you to the webinar.

Hearts … the organ that keeps us alive or takes life from us. The thing we cannot see and yet we feel it everyday. Our language around heart is telling. Our hearts are bursting with pride or joy. They are broken by love and loss. All emotion is tied to our heart.
Yesterday my mum’s heart stopped … One breath she was here and the next she was gone. Code Blue.
My heart is heavy.

“Sit up straight” How many times have you heard that from parents and teachers? Today it sounds like good advice. It is not just about how you sit which is the physical wellbeing aspect of posture. It can also apply to all the other scales of wellbeing.
“Sit up straight” on the sharpness scale asks you to pay attention and be aware of your surroundings. Sometimes when I am reading my mind wanders. If I were to say to myself “Sit up straight” I know that the physical act of doing that would bring my focus back to the words on the page.
“Sit up straight” on the Happiness scale could be a reminder to choose happiness and not allow yourself to move into that slouchy, depressed state that is often easy to be in and difficult to get out of. When we “sit up straight” from the heart we can feel the lift that we get and it can make you smile.
“Sit up straight” on the relational wellbeing scale of independence is an invitation to take charge of the situation and make the most of the relationship you are working on. Don’t allow others to make decisions for you. Use your back bone to straighten the situation in your favour.
“Sit up straight” on the Fitness scale allows your organs the room they need to work properly and lets your back do the work it was built to do. Using the muscles in your back this way strengthens them and you in many ways.
“Sit up straight” on the Trusting scale is another invitation to pay attention to the “coincidences in your life, the unexplained, the miraculous. Trust that your intentions when shared are powerful and that we are all in the right place, doing the right thing.
The significance of good posture, of sitting up straight is enormous. So it for a day or two and see how much better you feel.
SHIFT will happen.

SHIFT is often what we need when things are not working.  A SHIFT in perspective can change everything and really there are many ways for that to happen.  With one measure of intelligence on each of your five fingers you can quickly access where you are today and evaluate what might work to SHIFT you to a new perhaps healthier perspective. The measures of well-being are a Sharp Mind, a Happy Heart, an Independent Spirit, a Fit Body and a Trusting Soul.  They describe your level of mental, emotional, relational, physical and spiritual well-being and you can put them on your fingers so you remember to assess them daily.

In the last blog I talked about shifting your score on the Sharp Mind Scale and today I want to explore the Happy Heart measure of emotional well-being, the one I use my ring finger to measure.  Like the mind, the heart has its own intelligence and we know when our scale is close to the palm of our hand when we are feeling low or disconnected from our feelings.  When we are past the second knuckle on our ring finger, we are feeling pretty good and we are in touch with those emotions.  That can range from joy to pain.  The idea is to experience more joy than pain but recognizing that you have emotional pain is definitely the first step.

How can you learn to experience more joy, deeper emotions and improve your emotional well-being?  There are so many books about happiness and how to achieve it.  Every one from the Dali Lama to your next door neighbour has either published a book on happiness or has a suggestion for how you might be better at being happy.  Happiness is characterized by positive or pleasant emotions and the scientific study of it has been prolific in recent years.  You can even earn a degree these days in positive psychology and if you are American you have an inalienable right to pursuit happiness.

Here are some ideas for moving your score from 1, near the palm to 10 near the tip of your finger.  Smile.  Just smiling can change your mood. Find something to smile about.  There is usually a happy place you can go to in your heart when you are feeling blue.  The trick is to learn all of the ways to get there.  Gratitude is important.  The old adage of counting your blessings can bring you back to happy.  Accomplishment and a sense of pride in yourself can improve your happiness score.  Remind yourself of happier times.

Appreciation, affection, attention, approval and allowing given or received can also move the scale toward 10.  Sing, dance, move, call a friend, share, play, connect, organize, plan … do what makes YOU happy.

Happy is an individual state, different for each of us.  I think part of it is learned which means you can get better at experiencing happy just by noticing when you are and what is happening at that moment.  Put that experience in your smile bank for use when needed. Knowing, doing and being happy will take different levels of energy on a given day.  Assessing it daily with the other scales of well-being is an important step of awareness.

For a quick fix go back to the RENEW idea.  Rest: Give yourself an emotional break. Energize:  Read something happy, visit your happy place, watch a happy video. Nurture:  Some forms of nutrition have magical happiness qualities, comfort food, chocolate.  Go easy on the mood enhancers though. Exercise:  Releases endorphin, the natural happiness drug.  Water:  Hydration is good for you and your heart.  Keeping your heart healthy goes hand in hand with keeping your emotional well-being score high. Rest, Energize, Nurture, Exercise and Water.  RENEW.

We sometimes assume that others are in charge of our happiness.  Not true.  It’s up to you.  That will be the topic for the next Blog on relational well-being.

Don’t worry….be happy…..

The first scale for measuring well-being on the SHIFT hand from the last blog, SHIFT Happens, is the scale for mental or intellectual well-being. It can be found on your pinky finger. How sharp are you today? That is the first question. Are you feeling on top of things mentally or are things a little foggy and dull today? On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your mental well-being today?
Scales are personal. Only you can determine what they mean for you. Generally speaking you have an average day that ranks around a 5 on your scale, a day where nothing gets missed and things go well. Nothing too exciting happens.  You answer questions that are asked of you and you accomplish routine tasks in routine ways.
Then there are days where a spark of curiousity illuminates the ideas in your head and you can hardly stand how brilliant you feel. Usually someone notices that you are ON and that lights you up again and away you go. The ignition is usually based in curiousity and the fuel is satisfaction of the curiousity, a new idea or a synthesis of thoughts that create new packaging for old ideas. A 10 day on the scale from 1 to 10, where your ideas are at your fingertips … literally.  You have a sense of feeling encouraged and motivated and in the groove.
And then there are days where you can’t even string a sentence together. On those days you tend to rely on your other modalities or intelligences to get you through. Some days all of the scales are close to the palm of your hand, at a 1 on the scale. On those days it might take the igniting of one intelligence to pull the scales up for all of them. Mentally it is curiousity. If you can find something to be curious about you can improve the scale almost immediately. Sometimes I just get curious about why I am feeling so dull minded. That can be enough of a spark. I write about it because words and language serve our mental wellness. Or I read something that might provide a spark.
Rest is important. We are dullest when we have had little rest. Energy is important and we can take energy from that spark of curiousity. Nutrition is important. There are many studies about brain food. Exercise is important. Sudoku or cross words or brain teasers give us a work out. Water is important. Hydrate you r brain. That three o’clock drop in mental capacity is best served by a tall glass of water. My First Nations friends always remind me that water is the first medicine. To improve on our sharpness scale it is important to keep hydrated.  Rest, Energy, Nutrition, Exercise, Water = RENEW for brain health and wellness.

Keep the mind Sharp so that we can SHIFT our integrated scales toward greater personal well-being.

A Sharp Mind – Pinky

A Happy Heart – Ring

An Independent Spirit – Middle

A Fit Body – Index and

A Trusting Soul – Thumb

Use your fingers to do your own check in now.

Watch for the next blog on ideas for improving your Heart well-being on the Happy Heart Scale.