Action. Thinking your way into happiness doesn’t cut it. Taking action does. If you truly want to be happy, you need to do things that make you happy. Establish happiness habits and joyful rituals that contribute to a gleeful state of mind.
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 Ryn Gargulinski (aka Rynski).
Ryn Gargulinski (aka Rynski) is a writer, artist, coach, consultant, Reiki master, healer, speaker and dog lover who once traded her artwork on the streets of New York City just to eat and get her daily beer. She has since given up drinking and now has enough money to eat (even organic!). She has also expanded her art into a successful enterprise, her writing into a thriving business, and her consulting, coaching, speaking and Reiki into a growing practice that has already helped many attain freedom of the soul. More at Laughing Wolf Healing with Rynski.
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?
Thank you for inviting me to join you!
Invitations were rare during my lowest point in life. I was much too morose and absolutely no fun to be around. But it didn’t start out that way.
I was born into a loving family in suburban Michigan. Although I was shown love, encouragement and support throughout my early years, a rage inside me was brewing. I started hating everything somewhere around the age of 14, convinced that Michigan was to blame.
So I hopped on a Greyhound bus to New York City. It was right after high school graduation. I was 18. I took a duffel bag packed with Sharpie markers, 200 dollars, and a bottle of wine swiped from my parents’ fridge.
In New York, I was convinced everything would be better. It was for a while, especially when I discovered the legal drinking age was 18. Thus my daily drinking career began.
Even though I drank daily, I managed to go from homeless and jobless to having an apartment and a job. I went to college. To the world, it appeared I was doing A-OK. But I really wasn’t.
By the age of 29, I had a bachelor’s degree, was at the tail end of my master’s program, worked at a local newspaper — and was literally dying of alcoholism. Hitting my alcohol-fueled bottom was the absolute biggest hell on earth. It also turned into the biggest blessing.
Now with 22 years of recovery, I am an entirely different person. That rage inside me ended up being depression. I got help to deal with it. I learned how to deal with all kinds of things that used to make me run for a drink.
I also learned that life is too short to be cranky. A big fix for crankiness has been to create a life that makes me feel good. It feels good to use my talents. It feels good to help others. It feels good to laugh. Most of all, it feels good to love.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Writing and art always came naturally. It was more than a hobby or fun thing to do. It felt like a calling. So I answered the call. I created first book of illustrated poems by the age of 8 and have kept on creating since.
I was encouraged along the way by the works of Shel Silverstein. I was (and still am!) absolutely in love with his humorous take on life. I remain a huge fan of his illustrated poems in “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” (“I’m being eaten by a boa constrictor….”)
His quirky humor, amazing talent and unique perspective was too much fun. I wanted to spread my own brand of delight. So I just kept drawing, making art out of debris, painting on rocks, and writing, writing, writing.
Not only was it tons of fun, but it fed my insatiable urge to create. I was able to channel that urge into a career in journalism (until newspapers started folding), and then content marketing. Both let me use my writing and art skills to create fantastical things.
While I was living the dream as my own boss with a writing and art career I loved, I eventually wanted to do more. Like help other people have as much fun as I was having. To help them live THEIR dreams. That’s when I added personal coaching, business consulting and spiritual healing to my lineup.
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 mom and dad have been there through everything, and I mean everything. And when your past includes a rage-filled teenage era and hopeless alcohol-saturated bottom, there are a lot of things in that everything.
One story that sticks out the most comes from a shift inside of me, rather than a specific action from my parents. We had a very rocky relationship when I hit my teenage years. I started building up resentments and anger that I carried around for decades — especially against my mother.
She was trying to rule my life! All she did was nag, nag, nag! I put up my strongest defenses every time I spoke with her, afraid to tell her anything.
Nothing changed until a mentor pointed out how I was seeing it all wrong. Mom wasn’t trying to stifle or rule my life. She loved me and wanted to protect me. She didn’t want to see me in pain. Can’t I see the wonderful things she’s done for me?
She and dad paid for my college. They helped me buy a house. They encouraged my writing and art. Mom even convinced dad to drive from Michigan to New York City to pick up my pet rat after the landlord had discovered my rat and said it had to go.
Wow. And it wasn’t just the material things (and pet rats) she helped with. She was always there to listen. She was always there to hug.
Once I changed my outlook, our whole relationship changed. Floodgates opened. The defenses came down. Love poured in.
I am so grateful I was able to repair my relationship with both my parents, especially since my dad died in 2016. Mom and I continue to love and support each other. I know even if we see things differently, she’s going to have my back.
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?
Well, the mistake certainly wasn’t funny at the time. But I can laugh about it now.
I broke the company website.
I had been working as a blogger at a former newspaper site. The paper had folded its print edition, laying off 60+ employees. It was now a blogging site that retained me and boss as paid employees, along with a handful of work-for-free local bloggers.
One of my blogs for the day included a really bad joke — which I thought was funny — but one local blogger twisted into being offensive. So the local blogger slanted my words, skewed my intention, and posted a rant with a direct link to my blog on Reddit.
The nasty comments exploded. First dozens. Then hundreds. Then thousands. Total strangers called me names. Attacked my family. Wished me dead. Loyal readers who tried to defend me were attacked just as vehemently. It was a mess.
Once the nasty comment mark hit 25,000, the site could no longer take the mad influx of mad traffic. It went down. It shut down and stayed down until our IT guy could fix it.
While my then-boss months later told me the site went down for another reason, I’m convinced it was due to all the nastiness and negative energy. Ouch.
I learned a heck of a lot of lessons from that one:
- Don’t take things personally.
- If you do get attacked, look at the source.
- Grow a really thick skin if you’re going to use a byline.
- Insist on permission to monitor and delete comments.
- Stay away from Reddit.
- And perhaps the most important: Run my jokes by someone else before I post them online.
Not everyone always gets my offbeat sense of humor.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I won’t be working on a bad joke blog, but I do have several other projects in the works that can hopefully help some folks lighten their outlook and overall life.
One is a choose-your-own horrible adventure book. The working title is along the lines of: “Once You’ve Been Stalked, Homeless, and Nearly Killed, What’s a Little Pandemic?”
It’s not meant to make light of the pandemic, but to show that it’s not the end of the world. You can get through it. You can even enjoy your life while you’re getting through it. My book will tell you how.
Like others I know, I’ve gone through many things that felt like the end of the world — and survived. Not only survived, but learned to thrive.
The book will feature a series of my real-life stories that include having a stalker, living on the streets of New York City, teetering on the brink of an alcoholic death — among others. Each story will share methods I used to get through the horrible adventure.
People can adopt the methods for their own lives to help them through their own horrible adventures.
Readers can pick and choose which horrible adventure to endure next, all from the comfort of their favorite armchair. They can put the book down at any time, take a look at their own life around them, and let the gratitude roll on in.
Another project is creating a lifestyle brand that pulls all my interests and services together. Like a one-stop-shop for things designed to make your life happier, easier and more fun.
Right now I have four different websites: writing and art, personal coaching, business consulting, Reiki and energy healing. It’s time to bring them all together so I can better focus my energy and have a stronger channel to deliver the help I love to give. The working title for this project is “Rynski Life.”
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?
The top three character traits that immediately pop into mind are honesty, humor and grit.
Honesty means being upfront and truthful with people, yes. But it also means being honest with myself. That includes being myself, not hiding who I really am. None of my undertakings were destined to succeed if I wasn’t engaged from my deepest core and was truly being me.
Did I enjoy what I was doing? Did I believe in what I was doing? Was I using my creative gifts? If I could not answer these questions with a resounding “Yes,” it was time to move on.
I’ve had several jobs that I believed in and were marginally creative, but they were not enjoyable. One even prompted nightmares! Another job was enjoyable, but it didn’t provide a creative outlet and I didn’t believe in the product. Ongoing success (and happiness) needs all three for me.
Humor is a must in every aspect of my life, as it’s saved it a thousand times. It’s also won me several writing and presentation awards, along with lifelong connections from people across the nation. It plays a huge part in my coaching, consulting and speaking, especially when tackling topics or issues that could otherwise leave people writhing on the floor.
I like to use humor in my self-help books. I find it can transform a treacherous task — like self-examination — into an entertaining one. I present a lot of tough tasks in a lighter way. Just because we’re doing serious work doesn’t mean we have to be scowling the whole time. If something is fun, people are more inclined to do it. If they’re more inclined to take action, they’re more inclined to succeed.
Grit is another trait that’s greatly contributed to my success. Some call it resilience. Others call it scrappiness. I call it the need to keep on keeping on no matter what.
Winston Churchill said it best: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
I’ve gone through more than one patch of hell on earth throughout my lifetime. Grit to me means bouncing back. Finding creative solutions. Using what you have to get what you need.
An early example comes from my days of living on the streets of New York. I had little money. At one point I had no shoes. But I still had my creativity — and my Sharpie markers. So I found some intriguing-looking debris, drew a skeleton on it, and walked into deli — trading my artwork for a sandwich.
I definitely needed grit when the big corporation that owned the Tucson newspaper where I worked decided it wasn’t making enough money in Tucson — so they shut us down. More than 60 long-time journalists were left jobless. There was only one other newspaper in town, and they already had a full staff.
The real estate market had just crashed, leaving me owing more than my newly purchased home was worth. I couldn’t simply find another newspaper job and move. I was stuck in Tucson competing against dozens of former colleagues for whatever sort-of-writing jobs were around town.
I figured I was doomed — until I realized the situation presented a golden opportunity to thrive. While I had always wanted to be my own boss, making a living with my writing and art, I had always been “just comfortable enough” not to leave my full-time jobs. I was too afraid of failure. If I never tried it, I would never fail, right?
Apparently I needed a big push from the universe to give it a try. The push had come. I’ve been my own boss ever since. My business continues to grow as I do.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
I’ve been through hell on earth and I’m still alive. Better yet, I’m happy. Not the fleeting kind of happy that needs to be constantly fueled with the next new shiny thing to stay intact. But that deep, inner peace that lets me know I am loved, I am important, and I am safe. No matter what’s going on the outside world, my inside world is sweet and serene.
And I absolutely love helping other people find that sweet and serene spot within themselves so they can be happy, too.
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?
It’s true there are so many privileges and opportunities in the US — and I think having the wrong attitude toward those privileges contributes to the low happiness ranking.
Some take the privileges and opportunities for granted. Even worse, they don a cloak of entitlement that demands the privileges and opportunities without having to work hard to get them. Or without having to work at all.
Instead of being grateful, they may get spiteful. Instead of working hard, they may expect things handed to them. Instead of finding joy within their souls, they look for it in the outside world.
Materialism and the constant need for things and more things is another factor that can bring down happiness. You’ll never be truly happy if you’re in a constant state of want.
A constant state of want can also bring on another happiness basher: the overwork-yourself-to-death mindset. The more you work, the more money you make, the more things you can buy. One of my favorite quotes says something like, “Nobody ever said on their deathbed, ‘I wish I would have worked more hours.’”
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?
There’s the idea that you can chase down happiness like a butterfly. Happiness is not a thing you can trap or catch. It’s the natural byproduct of living in a way that makes you feel good.
A great example comes from my running away from Michigan to New York. I was unhappy in Michigan, so I figured Michigan was the reason I was unhappy. If I just moved to New York, I was sure to be happy, right? Wrong.
I kept up that same kind of thinking for a long time. I’d be happy once I went to college. I’d be happy once I got the right job. I’d be happy once I published a book. I’d be happy once one of my award-winning pet rats was mentioned in “The Wall Street Journal.” Wrong, wrong and wrong.
Outside circumstances change. They are rarely under your control. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you always take you with you. That means happiness has to come from inside for it to really stick.
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?
I’ve seen people make some of the same mistakes I’ve made in the past when it comes to attaining happiness. One of the biggest mistakes is not giving themselves permission to be happy.
At one point, I had such low self-esteem and self-hatred that I felt I didn’t deserve to be happy. Even when things in my life were great, I would stifle any bubbling up of happiness. It wasn’t something I was “allowed” to have. I wasn’t worthy of it. End of story.
It wasn’t until I attended a yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico, that I was able to start correcting this mistake. An ongoing theme that popped up during the retreat was, to my horror, happiness. Sigh.
When I examined what was going on inside me, it became clear I was blocking my own happiness by denying myself permission to feel it. While I wasn’t able to simply switch on happiness like a lightbulb, I was able to take action that eventually led to my giving myself permission to be happy.
One of the first was creating a cartoon T-shirt that said: “I am allowed to be happy.” For extra reinforcement, a second line said: “And I’m allowed to admit it.” While the T-shirt helped a lot, there was much more work to be done.
I had to build up my self-esteem. I had to transform self-hatred into self-love. I had to change my behaviors and thinking. I had to dispel the lie in my head that told me I didn’t deserve happiness. I then had to lead a life that made me feel good so happiness could start to flow naturally.
My belief now is that everyone deserves to be happy.
I believe we were put on this earth to learn lessons, yes. But we can still have loads of fun along the way. If you’re not having fun, there’s something wrong with all you’re doing.
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?” (Please share a story or an example for each.)
The 5 things you need to live with more happiness form the acronym LAUGH. They are:
- Love. Your life is going to reflect what you project. If you project love, more love is going to come your way. If you project anger and negativity, you’re likely to have a hateful and angry life. I know this well, as I had one heck of a hateful and negative life. I was once one of the most negative people on earth. Switching that negative thinking to positive thinking took years of practice and reinforcement. When I first started down the positive thinking path, I remember telling my therapist at the time that it was like brainwashing. With all the quotable quotes, positive reinforcements and happy pappy sticky notes all over the bathroom mirror, I was simply brainwashing myself into thinking positive. She responded, “What’s wrong with that? You had been brainwashing yourself into negative thinking for years.” Today I keep my heart fueled with love by regularly connecting with people I love, maintaining a strong spiritual connection, and hugging my dogs at least eight times a day.
- Action. Thinking your way into happiness doesn’t cut it. Taking action does. If you truly want to be happy, you need to do things that make you happy. Establish happiness habits and joyful rituals that contribute to a gleeful state of mind. One of the easiest and most immediate ways to invite happiness into your life is with a morning ritual. Most people get up and grab their phones, which immediately pulls them into a whirlwind of negative chaos before they’re even half awake. My morning ritual includes a journal page, exercise and meditation. I’ve been meditating for the past 20+ years and never leave home without it. It’s a stabilizing force before I head out to face the whirlwind of the day. I remember the one day I skipped it, thinking I didn’t have the time. I had been in the midst of moving and jumped right into packing instead of taking time to meditate. Sure enough, every single box I packed that day had to be unpacked and redone.
- Understanding. Understanding what’s blocking your happiness can be the key to unblocking it. The more blockades you have, the less room joy has to come through. Some of the biggest blockades I’ve found are the things that no longer serve us. Humans tend to accumulate gads of clutter on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. Negative thinking sneakily stuck my head, even after all that positive reinforcement. I didn’t realize how insidious it truly was until I actually wrote down every negative thought I had throughout the day. Wow. I got rid of them by switching the negative to positive — right there on the paper. With enough practice, it became an automatic habit. Negative thoughts now have a much tougher time getting into my head and blocking the joy path.
- Gratitude. Gratitude is another form of positive thinking that brings even more joy and love into your heart. My morning journal page includes a gratitude section, automatically bringing to mind the wonderful things in my life. If I don’t remember to be grateful for them, I start taking them for granted. Back in my morose days, I remember in grumbling about something minor while waiting for the bus. My head was screaming “Woe is me” over whatever was bothering me at that particular millisecond. Just then a man in a wheelchair wheeled up to the bus stop. My grumbling stopped immediately. I had my health. I had the ability to walk. I could run, jump, swim, do yoga. The gratitude I felt at that moment instantly erased all the grumbling from the moment before.
- Healing. We have all been through difficult situations. They’re inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we have to wallow in the wounds forever. If we tend to those wounds with loving care, they will eventually heal. We’ll no longer be burdened by the deep-seated fear, resentment and anger old wounds tend to produce. One of my old wounds came out sideways not too long ago. I was scheduled to chair a meeting for which I was running a few minutes late. I figured the participants would wait for me to start the meeting, as was the usual routine. I instead walked into the meeting already in progress — and no one even glanced my way to say hello. A deluge of emotions exploded. It was so bad I had to leave and go buy a table. (Yes, shopping therapy is another habit I’ve been weaning out of my system.) Once I got home, I wondered why I had exploded over such a seemingly minor thing. I realized the explosion wasn’t from the meeting starting without me. It went much deeper than that. It was actually residual emotions I never dealt with from the old wound of being an outcast through most of my teenage years. It wasn’t until I was able to get to the deepest source of the wound that I was able to properly process the emotions and begin to heal. Healing is one of the best ways to clear the pathway for joy to come through.
VIDEO LINK: https://youtu.be/ujrzu2FyqQg
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
While you may feel compelled to jump in and try to fix their world, one of the most effective ways to support them is to simply listen. Hear them. Acknowledge their pain.
Let them know you’re there for them if there’s anything they need you to do.
If things don’t start getting better, you can offer to help them find a therapist, coach, support group or other place where they can get additional assistance.
If nothing changes, nothing changes. Taking some type of action can help immensely. You can be there to help guide them into taking that action.
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.
My movement would be based on one of the questions I use when giving people a quick happiness check. I ask which is true:
- They laugh more than they swear.
- They swear more than they laugh.
The movement I’d love to inspire is:
The Laugh More Swear Less Movement (#LaughMoreSwearLess)
This movement would be a fun way to remember to switch negative for positive, or to find the humor in situations that could otherwise leave you boiling. You can put the movement into action anytime, anywhere and any place — no special training or equipment required.
It’s also a reminder to LAUGH more, or continue to use the five happiness elements of LAUGH:
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 🙂
Esther Hicks, I would be over the moon to have lunch with you.
Watching her videos and reading her work always sends a surge of gleeful, motivating energy through my soul. I’d love to experience that same radiation of joy and love in person. Just being in her presence seems like it would be delightful, having a conversation, even better.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can visit any one of my websites. Based on the happiness topic, I’d suggest Laughing Wolf Healing with Rynski. They’re also welcome to connect on social media.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!