My mom was a very happy and optimistic person even as she raised three daughters during times of great hardship in Russia without much money or much help from her alcoholic husband. Even when she was going through breast cancer treatment, she couldn’t understand why some of her fellow patients kept complaining, “Why me? Why did I get sick?” She would say, “Anybody can get sick. It’s not like somebody deserves to get cancer.” And this is the legacy she left me and my two sisters: blaming anybody else for your problems is useless—take charge of your own life and do the best you can for your family and yourself with a smile and a song.
My mom passed away on January 2, 2006 at age 51—too young; life is not fair. I miss her every day. Yet what I remember most is her unrelenting optimism—she could always find the bright side even in the most dire circumstances. Nowadays my life is much more comfortable, sheltered, and secure than hers was at the same age, so as far as I am concerned, I have no excuse to be negative or petty. Yet as I get older I find it becomes more of an uphill battle to maintain my sunny disposition because with life experience comes an accumulation of scars from the past, stories of other people’s suffering, and fears about the wellbeing of my own family and community. Most of the time these fears never materialize, but they are still able to ruin a perfectly good day (or several). One quote I keep coming back to goes, “Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.” It takes consistent effort to keep worry at bay, and I find yoga helps with this the most. So rather than practicing yoga for some specific physical benefit, I find myself drifting more and more toward doing it for the mental benefit—to feel more centered in the body, present in the moment, and aware of the simple joys in life.
When I ask my seven-year-old son how his day was, he gives me two thumbs up with a big grin—this is how I want to feel at the end of my day too. So I am starting this new project I’m calling Happy U, and I hope you will join me on this journey. I envision it as a place of ongoing exploration, discussion, and community support for those of us who make a conscious choice to live a joyful life. As modern science tells us, you can actually wire your brain for happiness. We will read inspiring and educational books, implement the best ideas into our lives, and work on removing the roadblocks that prevent us from feeling happy from day to day. We will make sure we apply these lessons to all four major areas of our lives: health, work, relationships, and play. I invite you to join our book club, try our weekly challenges, and check out our yoga series. Here’s a bit more information about Happy U—if it sounds good to you, sign up for our Happy U weekly newsletter, and let’s dive in!