How many of you have seen the movie Inside Out? If you have not seen it, you should go when you go home and take your family.
Inside Out is about a little girl named Riley. The movie takes place in the headquarters of her brain. You watch her life unfold as five emotions personified as the characters Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Joy control her daily life. Riley’s lead emotion is Joy. And Joy works very hard to make sure that Riley has the best life possible.
Joy recognizes why the other emotions need to be present. She needs Fear to keep her safe, Disgust to keep her from being bothered by bad food or people, and Anger to help her face things when they seem unfair. Joy doesn’t see the reason for having Sadness- she does not want Riley to ever feel sad.
When Riley turns 11, her parents make a surprising decision to move from their happy life in Minnesota to San Francisco.
As they pull into their new home, the emotions chime in. Sadness whimpers, “I don’t want to live here.” “It is the worst,” Disgust agrees. “The absolute worst.” “This house stinks!” Anger agrees. “San Francisco is terrible”, says Fear. Joy is determined to keep Riley happy through this difficult transition, but Sadness is messing that up.
Joy and Sadness accidently get thrown out of the control room and go on an adventure within Riley’s mind. While the rest of the emotions, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, try to navigate Riley’s life without the leadership of Joy and the presence of Sadness, everything within Riley starts to go haywire.
As Sadness and Joy try to get back to the control panel, they run into Riley’s old imaginary friend named Bing Bong. Bing Bong is part cat, part elephant and part dolphin, but is made up of cotton candy. How people come up with this stuff, I will never know! Bing Bong helps the two emotions try to get things back under control.
At the conclusion of the movie, Joy realizes the importance of Sadness. She finally sees that it Sadness that evokes empathy from others and unites people in response to loss, particularly her parents, which is exactly what Riley needs right now.
There are many other plot lines in this movie that I promise I have not given away, and you may have an entirely different interpretation!
Telling you the story of this movie leads me to this. Of course it is important to experience many emotions. That is what makes us dynamic and alive. But, like Riley, there are some people that have Joy as the lead emotion in their brain or their personality. If you do not have Joy as the leader in your brain, is there a way to train that emotion to take the lead?
There are brain scientists and psychologist that say you can work towards this goal. In gathering information from folks like Kristin Race who wrote Mindful Parenting and Dan Harris who wrote 10% Happier, these are the five practices that I have found to help Joy be a prevalent emotion within you.
1. Savor: This is the practice of being mindful and noticing the good things around you. Prolong the good stuff, make it linger, take it all in, and eventually it will become a habit. Savor the past by reminiscing, savor the future through positive anticipation, and savor the present by practicing mindfulness. By doing this, you are training your brain to nurture the seeds of happiness. Practice this while you are at camp. Peace be the journey, right?
2. Practice Gratitude: This simple act fills us with optimism and self-confidence, knowing that others are there for us. When we express our gratitude to someone, we get kindness and appreciation in return. It deepens our connection with others. Try to practice this daily even for little things. Thank the staff for giving everything they have to make your Cheley experience a great one. Send a thank you note to your parents for sending you to camp because it is their gift to you- financially and emotionally.
3. Give and Be Kind: When you give someone something, it makes not only them happy, but you happy. Studies show that being kind makes us feel less stressed, isolated and angry, and more connected to the world, open to new experiences and more joyful. I often hear you all say “at camp you are your best self.” I would imagine that part of that is striving to be more kind to the people around you. Of course we want you to aim for this at camp, and also in your own community at home.
4. Practice Empathy- To empathize is to have the ability to care about other people, to imagine and understand the thoughts, behaviors, or ideas of others, especially those that are different from us. When we empathize, we become less judgmental and angry, and in turn develop patience. This also strengthens our relationships with those around us which is essential to happiness.
5. Quiet your mind- Without sounding like a yogi, an essential oil believer, or someone who collects crystals and lives in a yurt, scientific studies show that we can rewire our brains to achieve more joyfulness by taking a short time out of our day to quiet the chatter in our minds. Big organizations like Google, Twitter and the military have put meditation into practice and have found that their people have become more effective, resilient and happier. Scientists have conducted studies on people’s brains that do short doses of meditation, and have found that it has grown the grey matter related to self-awareness and compassion and has shrunk the area associated with stress.
Trying to quiet your mind is not an easy task, believe me I know. It’s like holding a live fish out of the water and as hard as you try your mind will start, “My bum hurts because this bench is hard,” “I wonder what is for lunch,” and “I wonder how long this chapel talk will be.” As our lives continue to move so quickly and we constantly have things coming at us and it seems as though anxiety is not going anywhere, I think it is important skill to learn. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we help teach you 21st century skills. You have vespers, solos, chapel, rest hour and we have now. So humor me and let’s give it a try. Sit up straight. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath, when your mind starts to wonder start over and start over again and again and take your mind just back to your breath. Try it for one minute and then maybe try to take it to five minutes.
I do not think that life is always about being happy. As pointed out in the movie, it’s important to feel and live with all the emotions. If I could choose one emotion to take the lead, it would Joy and I think aiming to have more Joy in your life is a pretty good goal. It benefits you as well as the people around you.
So, take a short time out of your day to quiet the chatter, savor, practice gratitude and empathy, give and be kind.
We hope you are having a great term.