It's the holiday season, which means that expectations to be joyful and grateful are at an all-time high. It was with a healthy blend of skepticism and optimism that I listened to - no -  experienced - the fantastic storyteller Faye Lane at the annual Virginia Women's Business Conference, which always attracts about 600 women business owners and leaders in the DC region. 

I hear a lot of keynotes, and I give a lot of keynotes, so my standards are high. I tend to discount the hype when conference promoters excessively gush over those they've chosen to magically transform us to a higher level of self-belief. I underestimated Faye. 

A Texas-born, New York based author, speaker, performer, and flight attendant, Faye took us on a journey through her life and dreams as a child growing up in her mother's beauty salon alongside the train tracks of a small Texas town. It was here that she first envisioned herself as a glamorous flight attendant and Broadway performer.

She eventually realized her dream but learned that our dreams don't always manifest the way we imagine. Instead, it is our responsibility to create the dream we imagine. 

Faye's vivid imagery and re-creation of the colorful characters and experiences she encountered along her journey paved the way for her to share her 5 poignant tips to cultivate a life of gratitude and joy. 

  1. Write Your Own Story. 
    Are you living the story you have written for yourself, or are you living the story that others have written for you? When you think of your most fulfilling and joyful life, does it correspond to the one you are living? Or did you follow a plan that someone else has laid before you? Many people automatically live the story that others have written for them. 
  2. Remember That Everyone Else Has a Story and You Are In It. 
    While you are the protagonist in your own story, remember that you are a "spear carrier in another person's story," says Faye. Being cognizant to our role in another person's storyline enables us to remain connected to those around us. 

    Faye shared many stories of how her experiences as a flight attendant taught her that we all have our own story lines, and simultaneously we all fill roles in the stories of others. It's important to remember the interconnections we have with one another. We are all connected, even when we feel alone. And we can decide at any time how we want to show up for others. 

    We must always remember, when we feel at odds with others, that it's never between us and them. Rather, it is between ourselves and who we want to be in this world. 
  3. Actively Create Positive Stories For Other People.
    How often do you stop to share positive stories about others? Especially in today's self-promotional, critical, and judgmental environment, it's important to honor the beauty that others bring to this world.

    Our world has become obsessed with the sport of celebrating the downfall of others. Faye shared that it takes 5 positive stories to have the same impact as 1 negative story. Sharing positivity lifts the giver, the receiver, and those that witness the kindness. 
  4. Find Creative Ways to Express Gratitude.
    Expressing gratitude is one of the most psychologically powerful ways to fight feelings of sadness, anger and depression.

    In addition to using tools such as the 5-Minute Gratitude Journal, Faye suggests writing "happy letters" to yourself to read when you are sad, which remind you of the good things in your life. Positive psychology studies prove that 5 minutes of daily gratitude increases life longevity 5-10 percent.
  5. Smile And Be Kind. Smiling triggers feel-good chemicals in the brain, helps your heart, builds trust, strengthens your immune system, and even reduces pain by releasing pain-blocking chemicals. 

    Further, kindness is contagious. When you perform an act of kindness, you strengthen your immune system, the other person's immune system, and those who witness it.

Given that Americans spend more than $200 billion annually treating mental health conditions, it's great to know there are simple and profound ways to increase joy within our own lives and the lives of others.