Making the Mona Lisa Smile

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da VinciDoes Mona Lisa Smile For You?

Confession time. When I first learned that the famous Mona Lisa was smiling, I was surprised. Maybe this will sound odd to some, but I’d honestly never perceived her expression as happy when I was growing up. Now, obviously, this statement reveals more about my childhood than it does about the Mona Lisa.

Growing up as a latch-key child with an emotionally absent alcoholic father and a physically absent mother doesn’t do a whole lot for creating an atmosphere of joy. So yes. I totally missed that she was smiling.

The Creation of Happiness

I am happy to report that she does indeed smile for me now, but sometimes it’s work; sometimes I need to consciously fish around in my mental storage bin for my virtual rose colored glasses.

I accept responsibility for my emotions now but with that responsibility comes the requirement that I study and learn techniques that might be obvious to those with a solid foundation in early childhood happiness. It’s one of the reasons I strive to create as full and happy a childhood for my children as I can; perhaps they won’t have to work as hard as I sometimes do to create happiness.

Love and Accept Your Body Before You Transform

You may be wondering what all this jibber-jabber about art and attitude has to do with transformation so bear with me while we take a little journey.

One of my early active steps towards my transformation was plunking down a wad of virtual cash for an eBook. I’m not a relic but it took me some years to come to terms with my failure to transform on my own and be willing to part with cold hard cash for something seemingly intangible.

I eagerly “ripped open” my shiny new transformation program, only to be hit with a lecture and some airy-fairy exercise on loving my body. Now while I’m as airy-fairy as the next person, the guy who wrote this particular program wasn’t. I’d been watching his videos online and had even met him. I know one thing and that is that he had no business trying to get all woo woo on me.

However, I put that aside and went on with the exercise. (And by exercise, I mean writing crap on paper, lest you think I was doing something physical.) As expected, it fell flat. I’ve done intensive personal growth seminars and made great positive strides. Sitting with a piece of paper doing some contrived mental exercise wasn’t going to do a darned thing for my belly fat. In losing faith in the exercise, I lost faith in the program.

This dude and the mainstream fitness mafia can pile on all the guilt in the world that I have to lurve my body and accept as it is before I can successfully transform. I call bullsh*t.

In hindsight, I’m so glad I did! I stand by my conviction that anyone who pretends to hold expertise outside their actual field of expertise loses all credibility with me. And in giving up on this program, I was able to continue seeking out the answers and ultimately find my way here to Venus Index where information is research based.

I Hated My Body and Transformed Anyway

This may be a hard pill to swallow but when I finally began the successful stage of my transformation journey, it was without feelings of love towards my body shape and size. I was quite clear about who I am as a person and that I am a person of character, and I am also clearly blessed to be gifted with a functioning body complete with working parts, but at the same time, I was hiding my body away by choice to avoid humiliation. This was not who I was. In avoiding social situations, I was depriving both myself and my children of a chief source of joy in life.

It turns out, there’s research to back me up on this; it turns out that depressive episodes are strongly linked to excess adipose tissue and inflammation.

Online Socializing is a Poor Substitute for the Real Thing

Realizing that I was doing us all a big disservice was one of the driving forces behind my successful transformation. I wanted joy for us and I wanted to be comfortable enough in my own skin to be pleasant around other people. The bulk of my socializing had moved to online. Many studies are saying this is a good thing but it’s interesting that the timing coincides with the obesity epidemic. Perhaps others hide away for reasons similar to my own?

One of the reasons winning a transformation contest was attractive to me is that it involves a clear deadline. The focus I’d be putting into the necessary work would soon come to an end and I could move to the next leg of the journey. The whole point of the exercise was to create more joy in our lives. With that in mind, you can bet I became a student of maintenance early on in the journey; every tool I added to my toolkit got stored away for use at any future time. I regularly rotate through these tools now.

Creating Joy

Would it surprise you to learn that once I reached my goal, I wasn’t actually completely happy all the time? Some of this had to do with having been hit with a few extreme life challenges and still doing internal work to ascertain what my part I’d played and how I could grow from the experiences and move on with my life. But the bulk of my failure to feel happy more of the time was just due to still not knowing how to be happy.

Enter Transformation as an Ongoing Journey

It was at that point in my personal journey that I realized that simply achieving the physical body I’d always dreamed of was not going to be the biggest achievement of my life, nor should it be. (Perhaps that sounds silly but I went for it with that much tenacity.)  There are so many things I am capable of doing and that bring me joy. I found myself energized by the open book my life had suddenly become at the age of 47. I find myself more able to be the parent I wanted to be, but also wanting to return to my personal life journey that had been put on hold during my earlier years of parenting.

Sometimes, it’s overwhelming. There are so many ways in which I’d like to improve and they simply cannot all happen immediately. And in fact, it is not possible to ever achieve the level of success that I dream of in all endeavors simultaneously. This is an area in which I am learning to shift my thinking. I am choosing a few priorities and setting goals. I used to set too many goals and fail across the board. Now I strive to set what I call “mini-missions” that I am sure to complete and get a feeling of accomplishment that propels me to further success.

Stop and Savor the Espresso

What makes even small successes worthwhile is consciously thinking about them. I am tired of missing out on the joy as if I move about head down with blinders, getting it done but not enjoying the process. There is joy in the process!

One way in which I keep being able to enjoy the success of maintaining my Venus body shape and size is by having just an espresso for breakfast whenever the mood strikes me. I’ve learned from Brad Pilon that breakfast is not a requirement and that if you stop and listen and find you’re not hungry, there is simply no reason to eat. But I still pop out of bed eager for that espresso! In fact, the last thought before my head hits the pillow is tomorrow morning, I get to have an espresso! Along with this simple ritual comes a reflective morning peace that might lead to a bit of weeding in the garden or reading in the morning sun.

Creating my Happy

As life constantly changes, so must one work at the formula for creating happy today. I use many techniques, most of which you’ve likely heard of. Here are a few techniques I cycle through:

  • Take time regularly to be truly grateful for things. Get creative on this one so it is not done by rote.
  • Truly connect with people. I mean in person. Yes, even you introverts. Make some eye contact!
  • Get present and simply remind yourself to enjoy the moment.
  • Unplug completely on a regular basis.
  • Get out in nature.
  • Pay it forward: help someone with no strings attached. Or do volunteer work.
  • Declutter and simplify.
  • Keep up with chores.
  • Feed your mind daily with interesting and challenging new information.
  • Put an event on your calendar. Simply anticipating it will bring you untold hours of joy!
  • Feed  your soul with worthwhile brain candy.
  • Use color, scent, music, art, etc for mood enhancement. Taste is not our only sense! Don’t neglect the others!
  • Take up an old hobby or join a group that does something you love.
  • Hang out with dogs, cats, children – whatever energizes you.
  • Challenge your body (within reason).
  • Dress well!
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself. We have been led to believe we should own more and accomplish more than is reasonable.
What do you do to get  your happy? It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.
About John Barban & Vaclav Gregor

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  1. Thanks for writing this, Omi! I loved it! It speaks to me as a wife to the Viking, as a mommy to our Vikingette, and as a homemaker, with a full-time job outside our home, to boot. VI, ESE, AGD, anything and everything the two Brads and John and Vaclav, have put out are slowly and surely dispelling the myths of the fitness mafia.

  2. Thank you for writing this article. I connected with it in so many ways. I’m especially happy when you said, “This dude and the mainstream fitness mafia can pile on all the guilt in the world that I have to love my body and accept as it is before I can successfully transform. I call it bullsh*t.” I’ve read that so many times and couldn’t buy into no matter how hard I tried. Honestly, I can’t stand the skin i’m in and I refuse to except this post-baby and aging body. Rest assured that I don’t hate myself, I just want my old body back and it’s abilities. I’m so happy to fiind John and Brad’s concepts about nutrition and fitness and the VI community.

    • Thanks, Franchesca. When I first failed at transforming, I searched for proof in the form of other moms in their 40s who had done what I hoped to do. I needed belief because it just wasn’t working. I now know it’s simple math. It’s not magic. You don’t do a dance or spray a hose at your dishes. You just pick each one up and wash them until it’s done. This is the same. One step at a time of stuff that’s mind-bogglingly easy to understand.

  3. Thanks Omi, great article and it is so true that you have to remind yourself to stop and smell the roses. Enjoy life and who you are……also loved the airy fairy, woo woo comment. I totally agree that the online fitness mafia should stick to their knitting.

  4. Loved this Naomi. There is more to happiness then a great body..other things can really fill us up too! The list your wrote is fantastic! I find recently I’ve started to practice many of them and they really have brought me a lot more joy:)

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