Practice forgiveness. When we hold onto bitterness, it is as if we are drinking poison and wishing the other person will get sick. Not forgiving others only hurts us. It is fine if you don’t want to continue a relationship with someone who has hurt you, but to hold onto hurt and bitterness actually takes up energetic space in our body and drains our energy. Here is a practice you can do. Ho’oponopono, the Hawaiian ritual of forgiveness is four simple phrases: Thank you, I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me. Just repeat this while keeping the person whose forgiveness you are seeking in mind, until you feel better.
It sometimes feels like it is so hard to avoid feeling down or depressed these days. Between the sad news coming from world headlines, the impact of the ongoing raging pandemic, and the constant negative messages popping up on social and traditional media, it sometimes feels like the entire world is pulling you down. What do you do to feel happiness and joy during these troubled and turbulent times? In this interview series called “Finding Happiness and Joy During Turbulent Times” we are talking to experts, authors, and mental health professionals who share lessons from their research or experience about “How To Find Happiness and Joy During Troubled & Turbulent Times”.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lea Grimaldi.
Lea Grimaldi is a Connecticut-based author, reiki master, yoga, barre, and meditation teacher whose mission is to help women decrease anxiety and increase peace through physical, mental and spiritual practices. In her book, Increase Your Peace from A to Z : Simple Steps to Find Calm Amid Chaos she outlines attainable and affordable ways everyone can build pockets of peace into their day. Based on her experiences with anxiety, she shares her techniques and teachings in the hopes of helping others.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in PA, in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in a little town called Washington Crossing, which is where George Washington crossed the Delaware River. In a blended family before this was common with two step-sisters and one brother, I had a fairly typical childhood — my father was a landscape architect and mother was a nurse. We took trips to Avalon, NJ in the summer. All my siblings and I — along with neighborhood friends — worked at McDonald’s in New Hope. We went to a large public high school called Council Rock and were active in sports, cheerleading and band.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My current career combines health and wellness writing and teaching, and energy work. I loved writing from a young age and when I was in the third grade won a Young Author’s contest for a poetry book I had written. My third grade teacher Mrs. Kahil and my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Holton both encouraged me to write, and when you are a young child and an adult sees a talent in you and encourages that talent, it really has an impact.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My grandmother gave me my first journal when I was in high school, which I still have today. She wanted to encourage me to write and said that I should have a special place to put down my thoughts and opinions. Today I still enjoy writing long hand in beautiful journals.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I graduated with a degree in English and concentration in journalism from the University of Delaware and moved to New York City after graduation. After a brief job at CNN/Headline news in the ad sales department, I got a job as an assistant editor at trade publisher Miller Freeman, Inc. I loved being part of a team putting a magazine together, and really enjoyed the company.
However, I traveled to Southern California on vacation and immediately wanted to move there. Within six months following my vacation, I moved to Los Angeles and was able to keep my job as we had an office in Woodland Hills. I was the only editor in an office of ad sales people, and soon decided to switch to the sales side of publishing. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a mistake, as I feel that no learning is ever lost, but while I did enjoy sales, I was not as passionate about it as I was about writing. My lesson was that while I of course enjoy earning money, I am not completely money motivated.
I did enjoy my time in sales and it gave me the bigger picture of the publishing process, but ultimately returned to writing and added fitness to the mix which previously had been a passion but not a career pursuit. Living in Southern California I ran every day, and was soon training for the Los Angeles Marathon. Tight hips from running 6–10 miles daily urged me into a yoga studio where I discovered pigeon pose and was soon hooked on yoga. Within a year I took a yoga teacher training course which furthered my yoga path. That was 1999.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am working on a six-month long online course, Increase Your Peace from A to Z. I’ll teach each of the chapters (one a week) for 26 weeks through video and live modules. I think it will help people because everyone right now is going through something related to Covid, and anxiety is very high. I like to think that through my own experiences with anxiety I can help others, allowing my pain to become their cure.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
My three characteristics are empathy, tenacity and enthusiasm. I am empathetic and compassionate, which makes me a great yoga and fitness teacher. I am a caring listener and want my clients to succeed. I like to teach mixed level classes and encourage people to measure their growth against their own starting point, not in comparison with each other.
I am tenacious. I do not give up. I tore my ACL years ago and did not have surgery. The doctor told me I would probably not be able to run a marathon. As that was on my bucket list, I said to myself, watch me. A year later I ran the Los Angeles Marathon. If I set my mind to do something, I will accomplish it.
Enthusiasm is my third winning trait. I am a happy, energetic, optimistic person by nature. I was a cheerleader in middle school and high school, and I still am a cheerleader for people and causes I support. I believe life happens for us, not to us, and in all our challenges are opportunities for growth and lessons. I believe showing up is 90%, and showing up with a smile and pep in your step may make it 100%
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
I am an optimist, always. I find joy in life’s small details. Part of the reason I moved to Los Angeles was because I’ve always talked to strangers, saying hello to people on the street. At the time when I visited, I was living in the west village of Manhattan. I didn’t like the way no one made eye contact on the subway, and how you could be packed in like sardines in a can and yet no one spoke. It is unnatural. I went to LA on vacation and strangers said hello on the street. I was sold. Of course we all experience hard times and sadness, but we can shift our mindset to allow ourselves to see joy in our everyday activities: a child’s laugh, a sunset, a flower. All are a miracle. Our lives, our breath, our body, all are a miracle.
Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about finding joy. Even before the pandemic hit, the United States was ranked at #19 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low, despite all of the privileges and opportunities that we have in the US?
I think the ranking is so low because in the US, our capitalist society teaches us we always need more and therefore many people are always striving. I lived in Australia from 2008–2011, and they have the right mindset about work and happiness. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, businesses shut down. The dry cleaner was closed. The coffee shop? Closed. We went to Sydney for New Year’s Eve and many of the restaurants and clubs were closed. That is one of Sydney’s busiest tourist seasons due to the amazing fireworks, and the club owners did not care. They want to enjoy life. They do not live to work, they work to live. I think we in the US could learn a lot from the Aussies.
I also think the US media feeds into fear and many people are too fearful right now to feel joy. In my yoga training years ago a wise teacher taught me to choose love or choose fear. If we choose love, we are strong and powerful. If we choose fear, we give our power away.
What are the main myths or misconceptions you’d like to dispel about finding joy and happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
Myth: one event makes us happy. We tend to have a happiness set point, so say for example someone wins the lottery. They will be happy for a time, but they will return to their previous happiness level. It is not the events in our life that make us happy. Happiness must come from within ourselves, from our own contentment, from being present and mindful and enjoying the pockets of peace and joy we find in our daily life. Mindfulness helps increase our happiness set point, because we are noticing the world around us and not focusing on what is wrong with life.
Gratitude is another winning practice to increase joy. I kept an online gratitude journal for 2019, posting something I was grateful for daily. When we are truly feeling grateful, we cannot be unhappy. My capacity for joy increases tenfold when I am actively practicing gratitude. Remembering how much we have to be thankful for really helps us appreciate it more.
I like to think of happiness habits, and these also go hand in hand with health. Staying fit and taking care of ourselves lead us to happiness. If we are not physically healthy or if we are in pain, it is difficult to be happy. These are also simple, such as eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, and finding time for stillness or spirituality.
In a related, but slightly different question, what are the main mistakes you have seen people make when they try to find happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
Sometimes people look to others to make them happy. No one else can make you happy. Happiness is an inside job. Others can enhance our life and make it better, and of course it’s fun to have a playmate along for the ride. But true happiness bubbles up from inside and is not dependent on another person. Conversely, we cannot make anyone else happy either.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 things you need to live with more Joie De Vivre, more joy and happiness in life, particularly during turbulent times?”
1)Move every day. Exercise in some capacity, it doesn’t always have to be a huge sweaty workout; it can be walking for a mile or two, or taking a yoga class. Exercise is proven to increase our brains’ “feel good” chemicals while decreasing the “feel bad” ones.
2) Take care of your energetic health. As a reiki master, I work with energy fields. We should take care of our energy body just as we do our physical body. See an energy healer to help clear any blocks. Often, if we keep our energetic vibration high, physical and mental disturbances and diseases may never manifest in our body.
3) Practice gratitude. A daily gratitude practice will make what is good in your life great, and what is not so good bearable. I like to say thank you upon waking, thank you for the day, for my life, for my family. Find at least three things you are grateful for every day and journal about them. Make it a practice, and notice how your capacity for joy shifts.
4) Practice forgiveness. When we hold onto bitterness, it is as if we are drinking poison and wishing the other person will get sick. Not forgiving others only hurts us. It is fine if you don’t want to continue a relationship with someone who has hurt you, but to hold onto hurt and bitterness actually takes up energetic space in our body and drains our energy. Here is a practice you can do. Ho’oponopono, the Hawaiian ritual of forgiveness is four simple phrases: Thank you, I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me. Just repeat this while keeping the person whose forgiveness you are seeking in mind, until you feel better.
5) Practice Stillness. Sit quietly and focus on your breath, taking nice long, deep inhales and exhales. This allows you to get in touch with your body, your breath, and what you are feeling. It is a form of meditation, but it can be as simple as just sitting quietly and breathing. When we spend time in stillness we connect more readily with our intuition and are more likely to make better decisions when we operate from a place of strength and calm.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
Be there to listen. Ask how they are doing and check in often. Don’t necessarily offer solutions, unless they ask. People who have anxiety and depression often feel very isolated, and unable to talk about these issues. Let them know that you care, that you are there, and you are listening without judgement. We’ve come a long way, but there is still a stigma around mental health issues.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about hurting themselves. If they haven’t, you aren’t giving them the idea. If they have, refer them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
SUNplugDAY Each Sunday I unplug for at least a few hours, sometimes all day. I post on Instagram the reasons why unplugging is so important. I am in the process of developing an online SUNplugDAY retreat, with shirts, yoga, meditation, breath work, and kindness exercises. If SUNplugDAY could become a movement I believe it would impact many people in a positive way.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Katy Perry. I love her music and find her to be quite inspirational too.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!