2 Feb 2015
I am so flattered to be Katszone’s first guest writer of 2015! Katherine and I first met on a cold November night in 2006 outside the Danforth Music Hall, surrounded by a handful of dedicated Teddy Geiger fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the young musician after his concert. Spoiler alert: We didn't get to see him (or Bon Jovi - sorry Abigail!). What we did get out of that night though was a friendship that has spanned over many social media platforms and wonderful chats over dinner and coffee. I like to be coy about my age, but I will say that Katherine has been around through many major milestones in my youth-turned-adulthood, and I am very grateful for her friendship.
I did not take Katherine's request to write February's Katszone lightly. What do I write about? I thought to myself, panicked. Should there be a theme? What do people want to read? Will they like what I write? That line of questioning plagued me for a solid week and a half before I finally settled on a topic: happiness. You see, by the time you're reading this it will be the first week of February and chances are your New Year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside, your body is lacking vitamin D thanks to the elusive winter sun, and your annual cabin fever symptoms are starting to kick in. This is the time of year that you can set the bar low on things that please you - and I meant that in the best way possible. For me personally, any day that is remotely sunny counts as win. Something as simple as cooking homemade chili means a good couple days are ahead. Finding a copy of Elle with Lena Dunham on the cover last week nearly moved me to tears! It doesn't take much to please a person during the dark winter months. Because of this though, February is the perfect month to start making active changes to your day-to-day life to make you a happier person. Your small steps now will have bigger rewards later. That's where this story fits in...
This time two years ago I was the most miserable I have ever been in my life. My dream job as a national publicist and publicity coordinator at a recognized music management company in Toronto had imploded after only six months and I was left jobless and directionless for the first time in my life. The relationship I had with my previous boss can only politely be described as verbally abusive and I was left sitting in my parents house wondering if I'd ever be able to move on. So dramatic, I know! This is when two seemingly different things came into my life and shook me awake: Gabby Bernstein's book May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts For Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness, and improvisational comedy (or 'improv' as it is lovingly referred to). I found myself transfixed by these new things and quickly threw myself into Gabby's daily exercises and my weekly improv classes. In the cold, dark of February I started to reenter the world as a confident, authentic young woman and have been seeking out the continued path of happiness ever since.
For those not familiar with improvisation, it's a form of comedy in which the actors (known as improvisers) perform in front of an audience with absolutely no memorized script or pre-determined anything. They turn to the audience and ask for a suggestion such as a location or relationship and go from there. It is terrifyingly wonderful. This past year was when I started to see the connection between my spiritual teachings and my improv teachings. Lessons that were seemingly improv-specific, began manifesting into parallels and metaphors in my day-to-day life. Which brings me right back to this month's Katszone and my hope to spread a little bit of happiness from your inbox into your life. Below are three fundamental rules of improv that I've taken out of my Second City classroom and actively work on in my "real" life. There's no need for stage, an audience, or even a laugh track (though to be honest, I'd love one of those) - all you need is a willingness to change!
Presence in our day-to-day lives is critical. Let's use waiting for the bus as an example. Obviously we are physically present waiting for the bus. We are standing there in the cold, peering out of the shelter every few minutes hoping to see the blue lights in the distance. If you're like me though, you're not mentally present. Just last night the following thoughts went through my mind at the bus stop: what to have for dinner, how much money is in my bank account for groceries, my crush is cute, I need to go see an improv show soon, god my crush is cute (yeah, again), it's cold, what should I have for dinner (yes, again). We all do it - we're busy people leading busy lives! However, next time if you find yourself floating above your head in the land of questions and cute boys, check yourself. Take a deep breath and come back down to Earth and feel yourself present in your body. Look at those eye-level yellow dots on the bus shelter wall. Notice the small patch of ice by the newspaper. Watch the tiny bird hopping in the bushes. A wave of happiness will come over you just for being in the present moment, here and now.
In the same vain as presence, listening can indeed give you a boost of happiness. With our internal dialogues running wild through our heads everyday we've become robots hearing the chatter of our families or coworkers but not really listening to what they have to say. Let's take the power of presence one step further and ground ourselves in daily interactions and actively listening to what someone else has to say. I know this might seem redundant, but once you start practicing your listening skills you'll be surprised what you pick up. Not only the words that other people use but their tone and body language will seem heightened to you. Interactions will seem more connected and both parties will walk away from the conversation happier: you for connecting with someone and them for feeling like they've been heard.
3. Don't Forget to Laugh!
So this final point may seem unnecessary but I know far too many adults who've lost their sense of humour to have not included this on the list. As we grow up we forget how to play and somewhere along the way laughing becomes a rarity. Can you honestly remember the last time you laughed so hard you cried? I can, but that's only because in the past two years I've become borderline obsessed with laughter. Even at my worst I would drive home from work and force myself to laugh in the car. It was a bit psychotic in hindsight, but it never ceased to give me a boost of happiness. So let's all infuse just a little bit more silly into our day-to-day lives! Tell a bad joke and then laugh at it, watch a silly viral video on YouTube, or tune into Funny 820 AM for stand-up comedy if you live in the GTA. Whatever it takes to make you L-O-L at least once a day!
So, there we have it, the first guest Katszone post of 2015 in the bag. Thank you to the wonderful Katherine for this opportunity and to all the readers who took the time to read my rambling thoughts. I've been so excited to share my love for improv and personal growth, so please don't hesitate to let me know how these little tips affect your day-to-day. You can reach me at email@example.com or you can follow my 140-character ramblings on Twitter, @jmilbz. Now let's go be happy!
Jaimie Milburn grew up in the small town of Port Perry, Ontario with big dreams. She attended Durham College's Music Business Management program straight out of high school where she was quickly propelled into Canada's music scene. Jaimie landed her dream job as a publicist and press coordinator at one of Canada's top music management companies by the age of 21. The experience balanced her love of pop music with Canada's burgeoning indie music landscape and allowed her to work with immensely talented local and international artists. She currently works at a business management firm, handling finances for bands, songwriters, and entertainers including Shawn Mendes, Lights, and Colin Mochrie. Next up on the journey of big dreams is making a career out of comedy and personal growth in order to empower young women to live their authentic truths. Jaimie currently lives downtown Toronto with her black cat Prem, and on any given day can be found laughing at her own jokes.
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