well being

the colour of joy

The topic of colour has been surfacing lately and its made me think about the impact of tones and hues that surround us. Scientists have found that blue extends creativity and pink can calm the mind. And we all know that a burst of red can cause a bull to rage and charge. Some colours we can’t control – we can find ourselves in bleak, cold landscapes or living at the edge of the sea – both complete with their own natural palette.

But it turns out, we have a great amount of input and control over really basic colour choices. How we decorate our homes, the colour of pen we hold, our plates of food, and of course the bits closest to our skin – our wardrobes.

I’m a mad fan of colour in all its forms. I have bright pink club chairs, an orange and purple chandelier, and flouro blue deck chairs. And that’s just the view from my writing desk. My clothing tends to follow this trend and I’m often spotted wearing brightly coloured pants, dress, coats and accessories. And you know what, I’m convinced these crazy bright colours deepen my JOY. After all, black is the universal colour of mourning and those emoticons only smile with yellow.

If colours can add a burst of levity, perhaps its worth stirring up the black and neutral uniform of so many and adding a splash of colour. Especially if its a grey and rainy day or you’re feeling just a little less than spectacular. Go ahead, be brave. . . brighten up your clothes and I reckon your mood will follow.

stress trampoline

Its fascinating, and a bit sad, to find the space to observe the stress levels of others. People get worked up over all sorts of seemingly trivial topics. The traffic is heavy, the sun isn’t shining, the sun is too hot, my coffee isn’t right, why can’t that person in front of me just walk a bit quicker or exit the ferry faster? People are feeling these frustrations on a regular basis and sometimes you can see it on their faces and often they can be heard expressing their disdain to everyone within ear shot. While its painful to witness, it can also be painful to absorb. If you’re an empathetic human, you can quite easily feel the pain and stress of others.

I’ve found that when I’m surrounded by stress, its incredibly helpful to know if the stress is mine, or if it belongs to others. On a typical day, almost 99% of the stress I encounter isn’t mine at all! This simple recognition can be powerful. I find myself acknowledging the stress, empathising with the owner of that stress, and then quickly celebrating that I don’t own it. I literally tell myself ‘that’s not my stress’. Because if we stop noting that most stress isn’t ours, we can easily become overwhelmed by the negative energy that surrounds us and spiral downwards.

Lately, I’ve started to conjure up a playful image along with my words that helps to bring me back to my natural state of JOY. And that’s the notion of being a stress trampoline. Yes, you might bounce down on me with your heaviness and leave an imprint, but I’m a source of bounce and will launch your stress back into a space of levity. Hopefully, I can bring you with me.

optional joy

I came across a quote recently that has struck such a deep chord I need to share:

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”

There is so much truth and richness in this set of words. We can all relate to pain. Physical pain, emotional pain, sometimes a longing and often accompanied by different layers of hurt and discomfort. Pain can be acute or a dull ache that never seems to end. We feel pain fully in our body and often at a very specific location.

Suffering though is something quite different. It’s wholly a manifestation of our mind, not our body. Once we realise that we create our suffering, we might also realise that we too can end our own suffering. Once we’ve flung ourselves onto the constant wheel of suffering it can seem impossible to jump off. We feel bad, the world is no longer a friendly place and we’re convinced that things won’t change. And the more certain we are of our condition, the more likely it will continue to flourish.

But perhaps you can catch yourself just for a moment and examine your spiraling thoughts and stories. Where are they coming from? As it turns out, the external world isn’t trying to cause you harm. Instead, you are the only person putting together a string of stories in your head and turning them into your own private movie to be played out across the screen of life. Once you catch a glimpse of this reality you are now in the driver’s seat and can change the direction of your thoughts.

As it turns out, what we experience depends on our own self directed outlook. So, do you know where to look for JOY versus suffering?


Sometimes, right in the middle of living an incredibly JOY filled life, we can fall into a hole. When we do so, its important to first check for injuries. Is there something that needs your immediate attention in order to move forward and out? If so, dive into it and reconfigure the layer that might be bringing you pain.

If not, don’t panic. Instead, start to consider your strategies for getting out. But don’t rush. Its OK to find yourself in the occasional hole. You might even find a friend or insightful shadow in that very same hole. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns and sometimes the uneven earth can seem to swallow us up for a bit. Getting out can be a revealing and rewarding experience if we find the courage to look around and look inside.

Take time to consider what lifts you up in life. The company of others, a deep belly laugh with a friend, a piece of music, a walk on the beach, a soulful meditation session, the hand of a lover? Know yourself and seek out what fills you up – then see how much lighter you can feel. Soon enough you’ll be back to floating along in your very own JOY bubble.

compassion beats fear

An incredibly joyful friend recently shared that she’s been diagnosed with an incurable, degenerative disease. And as she shared her news, I made that face. The one that speaks of pain, disbelief, injustice and fear. As soon as she saw my face she said “don’t do that to me . . . don’t feel sorry for me!” At the time I thought it was the most courageous and intelligent reaction I’ve ever witnessed. How quickly are we to place our fear and outrage onto others when they share these unfair twists of fate? Instead, perhaps we need to listen for and ask what they need from us after trusting us with their own deep confidences.

This recent chapter was echoed while reading an incredible book by Stephen Levine who eloquently shares:

“Pity arises from meeting pain with fear. Compassion comes when you meet it with love.”

This is such a noble and powerful approach to pain. I wonder how often we can meet our own pain or that of others with pure love? It feels like an incredibly daunting challenge, and yet to consider the ramifications of pity and fear . . . perhaps its enough inspiration to try a new approach.

evaporated stress

I just know you’ll enjoy this guest post . . . its by my divine and inspiring partner, Richard. He’s such a wealth of ideas and a master at sourcing JOY and integrating it into his daily life.

For most people the daily commute is a chore. I know driving in busy traffic turns me into a frustrated lane hopper. And bussing makes me feel like I’m a pawn in a human traffic ring. However there are many ways to brighten up the routine. Recently, I have ignored social pressure and found joyful ways to commute. My favourite is via kayak. An option for me as my work is often directly on the other side of Sydney Harbour. The paddle takes about an hour each way, which isn’t a fast commute, but I enjoy every stroke and would like to be out exercising for that time anyway. I do get some funny looks as I walk from the beach to office with little more than a paddle in hand, but most people offer encouraging remarks. I have yet to witness a traffic jam on the harbour, there are no parking issues and I arrive at work (and home) with a wide salty smile. As a bonus, I feel like spoiling myself with super foods on the money saved from tolls, ferries, tickets, petrol, parking, etc. Cycling is another lovely way to commute. Although, it can involve some stress when competing with hurried cars, trucks, buses, and taxis. It’s a little different for me as I’m on a rather tall, 36″ geared unicycle, which is another joy-mobile. Running is a healthy option, although since it’s a long run for me, it’s only practical infrequently. I also enjoy commuting by motorcycle. It doesn’t satisfy my need for exercise, but it is a lot more liberating and faster than driving, and it feels much safer than cycling. Walking is a beautiful option. A 30-60 minute walk is, in my view, much more attractive than a 15 minute vehicular commute. Many people can combine a long walk with public transport, which can be made even more joyful by sharing part of the walk/commute with a loved one. Let’s face it – anything is better than stressing behind a wheel or squished into a bus. Many employers support these healthy alternatives by providing showers, lockers and laundry services in the workplace. I encourage everyone to de-stress by seeking out more active and JOYFUL ways to commute.

Hopefully this leaves you inspired to re-think your daily commute! Get creative and imagine arriving at your place of work with a mile wide smile versus a collection of stressful layers.


I noticed today while running on the sand that at some level I was continuously evaluating the different tracks and paths that unfolded. My internal dialogue included:

“Should I move over to that one? That one looks quite firm and maybe offers better footing. Hmm, that one looks good over there by the shore. Oh, look at that one – its fresh and no one has been on it yet!”

While it was entertaining to observe my crazy monkey mind at work, it also made me think about our daily choices and how often we adjust and reevaluate our decisions. This tendency has the power to turn a dangerous corner – one of second guessing ourselves or assuming the ‘sand is always softer’ across the way. And, once we make a choice, do we have the gumption to stick to our path? While running with the divine Mr Richard, by contrast to me, he seems to pick his route on the sand and stay the course. He even takes pleasure in retracing his own footsteps on the return journey. I can see the need and benefit of both approaches – sticking to our path at times and shifting to a new track when motivation or just pure curiosity arises.

I think for me its about finding the right balance – staying open and curious to new paths but also having the strength and conviction to stay the course when the path is serving me and feeding my JOY.

getting soft

I love yoga. There is no real surprise in that statement. But with further introspection, its interesting that I tend to narrow my yoga experiences – being drawn towards the most dynamic forms of yoga. Fluid movements that stretch the body and mind and tend to generate a fair amount of heat capture my attention and time. If its full of action and energy I seem to excel and truly thrive on the pace and physical challenges of twisting and turning my body into various asanas – typically held for a series of 5 breaths.

Lately, since I’m focused on physical healing and tuning into my body, I’m working hard to listen to what I truly need . . . and rather surprisingly, the notion of yin yoga continues to surface. After trying to disregard these internal pokes and reminders, I eventually gave in and signed up for a 2 hour yin workshop.

Turning up I had forgotten that yin yoga includes a seemingly unusable amount of props. I was given multiple bolsters, blankets, blocks and pillows. These soft support mechanisms don’t readily equate to yoga in my narrow yang driven mind. But after getting past my fear of drowning in endless props and slowness to the point of stillness, I started to sink in and fully appreciate the surrender of holding asanas in a static state for over 5 minutes each. I experienced a juicy release in several postures that left me feeling quite soft and floating up towards the ceiling. After 2 hours of ‘release’ I left my mat in a loopy euphoric state and it struck me, perhaps its only when we are fully supported can we fully let go and sink into the juiciest chapters of our lives and bodies.

Find your joy and seek out what supports you and your physical health. With it comes the best bits of life I reckon.

Ambition Overload

We seem to live during a time where achievement is celebrated above all else. I’m a big fan of being productive and certainly believe that goals play a critical role in our self-growth and happiness. But when ticking off a list of achievements starts to creep into your ‘free time’ it might be time to reassess your well being.

I remember my Dad and I talking about one of his attempts to retire from the teaching career he loved. I asked him what he was struggling with most during his self-imposed retirement. He answered,

“the hardest part is doing enough each day to answer Jan’s question at the end of her working day which is always ‘what did you do today?’”

My Dad didn’t suffer from achievement overload, but he did feel the pressure to meet some unspoken expectation of being productive.

Finding the right balance between accomplishing things and just listening to what your body needs in the moment is a big step forward. Perhaps its time to do less and be more.

What if being productive were more selfish? What if we prioritize our own energy levels and mood? Tune in, listen to what the body and soul need and then deliver. Maybe you need to dance around your living room to your favourite tune, head outside and just take pleasure in watching a bird for a very long time or even give in to that temptation to nap.

Nurture yourself. Sink in and listen. Let your measure of productivity be about producing more JOY. After all, its very contagious.

Decider’s Guilt

The first pea-sized spots appeared on my face and legs soon after the retrenchments. As the months progressed, so did the sores, soon covering my neck, chest, back and legs, growing from peas to red and itchy plums.

My rash became angry welts as the next round of retrenchments loomed. The burning sores on my back made sleep elusive. Not able to hide, my face and eyes become swollen blotchy reminders of being unwell. Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Dermatologists and Chinese doctors couldn’t agree on cause nor treatment, but one thing was certain. I was suffering from adrenal fatigue and given my cortisol levels, stress was the primary suspect.

When I took the role as CEO I had no forewarning (perhaps naively so) that I would feel so responsible for so many. Emotionally I was internalizing every last bit of stress connected to the tough decisions. And you simply can’t continue to do so without your body eventually revolting.

After retrenchments there is well know syndrome referred to as survivor’s guilt. I felt another layer – decider’s guilt. Looking at my internalized stress and declining well -being, I had twisted the responsibilities of my CEO role into a ball of guilt. And while working through major agency restructures can be a bit soul destroying at best, surely there must be a way to do so without causing your body to crash into adrenal fatigue and display open wounds.

My mistake was to shoulder too much weight. Not to let others into the pain and feeling of overwhelm and simply not to have enough avenues of releasing my stress in a healthy fashion. I needed to be more vulnerable, wag the white flag of surrender and call for reinforcements more quickly. And I also needed to forgive myself. Guilt is a powerful force and can eat away at an otherwise healthy body. Knowing there were many failings on my part, but also recognizing that I operated with compassion and selfless ness has helped my chapter of forgiveness unfold.

So where is the layer of joy in this tale of woe? I think it begins with self-care. Our glorious bodies give us so many signals of being out of balance and we simply need to tune in. And having the courage to truly evaluate our actions, their causes, and effects is a powerful practice. For me that evaluation crystalized my need to resign. Not because I had failed, but because I had much to absorb and needed to focus on my well being.

We can’t avoid stressful situations but we can learn to spot the signs and better manage our responses. During times of stress it’s incredibly important to recognize what is draining your well being while it’s happening. And, to ensure you have recovery time to fill back up your reserves. The longer we stay caught in the web of stress, the greater the chance of becoming totally depleted.

So what are your early warning signs to stress? Can you listen to them and change your course of action or thinking? How do you recover and fill back up your energetic tank? Do you need to offer yourself forgiveness?

These are all questions that help us back onto the path of self-care, wellbeing and even more JOY.