trying-to-be-happy The French Phrase Joie de vivre literally translates to "the joy of living." I must confess: I used to believe that this meant being happy 24-7. So in my mind, this meant that to feel a negative emotion meant that I had somehow failed in life. My mind told me something like this:

Tonya feels a feeling. The feeling is not happiness. Tonya = Zero Everyone else on the planet = 100

Then I met Olivia during a chance meeting in Monaco. She grew up in a little village in Provence, a quintessential French lady. She turned to me over wine and asked....

 "Why are Americans always trying to be so happy?"

"Because happiness is to be pursued," I answered. "No, that is not accurate." she replied. She continued:

"LIFE is to be pursued."

I had no response.

[do action="script-font-first-words"]"If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time. " ~ Edith Wharton[/do]

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I realized that for most of my life, I was unwilling to feel all of my life. I only wanted to experience the good parts. So, if anything other than bliss was present in my experience, I'd eat, shop or do something to avoid it. Ironically, my inability to feel anything negative created much more pain. When I was going through my divorce, even with all my fancy mindset tools, I was sad, confused and scared. I wanted to hurry the process and feel better. (ever hear of instant gratification?) So, I asked a friend of mine (who also happens to be a psychiatrist):

"I want to quickly change how I feel. What can I do?"

His reply was short and sweet:

Sit with it.

"Really? That's all you got," I asked. But, I did. For days, I cried, curled up in fetal position and felt every morsel of sadness that was running through my veins. I felt sad and so alive. So human.

French kissing your life is about feeling ALL of life.

In fact, when you open yourself up to the experience of being human, you will feel more than ever -- from ecstasy to deep sadness. Oh, I felt it. It was there. Knot in my stomach, that was rising to my chest. It was blue and soft. If it was an animal, it would be a puppy. Probably a Golden Retriever. I've learned to sit with it. Thru practicing. And then I've also learned something else: You can be in a not so great mood and move through it in a graceful, elegant way. Through adoring myself. My french girlfriend, Olivia, told me something I'll never forget:

[do action="script-font-first-words"] A bad mood is a reminder to adore yourself.[/do]

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What she meant is, instead of trying to run, use this as an opportunity to dive into loving myself. Just like I do with my daughter or a lover. So, now when I have some feelings that I know that I need to "sit with", I approach them a la Francaise style.

And here is my 10-step secret Tonya Leigh recipe that I'd like to share with you:

1. Look Fabulous

While you may feel like shit, you don't have to look like it. Get up. Get dressed. In fact, this is when you need to pull out your most fabulous dress and heels and, of course, put on some lipstick.

2. Listen to Music

Pandora is my therapist. Some of my favorite "sad" channels are:

Ella Fitzgerald (thank you Ella!) Madeleine Peyroux Dave Matthews Band Classic Indie Radio Chopin

3. Move Your Body

A walk through nature reminds me that I'm always being supported. Dancing also moves me through sadness. Staying stagnant is the perfect petri dishes for a negative emotion to grow. Get moving and so will your emotions.

4. Call a Friend

This feature is not just for "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." Friends are your lifeline. Use them.

5. Have a Conversation with YOU

Figure out what's going on. Here are some of my favorite questions to ask myself to get to the core issue.

What are you afraid of? What's this feeling trying to show you? How is this situation perfect? What's the worst thing that could happen? What's the absolute most fabulous thing that you may experience?

6. Step Away from the Fridge

I've learned to not eat when I'm feeling deep in the dumps. Food is not going to take care of the problem. If anything, it creates layers and layers of junk to get through when you eat to avoid an emotion. Feel then eat.

7. Buy Yourself Some Flowers

When I'm sad, I surround myself with beautiful things, starting with some fresh flowers.

8. Get Out of the House

If you are at home, get out of your house. If you're at the office, go outside. Change up your scenery. Sometimes, a new place can spark a new emotion.

9. Get Some Sunshine

Sunshine is better than Prozac. I feel that the sunshine is a way to illuminate the pain so I can understand it and let it go.

10. Take Incredible Great Care of Yourself

When you're feeling blue, it's not the time to overeat, beat yourself up, not exercise and forget your physical needs. In fact, this is the time when you need the most TLC. Get a massage, read great books, watch classic movies and treat yourself like a queen.

11. Gratitude

I am thankful for...

This phrase is like a little jolt of happiness to my sadness. Enough of those, and you shock yourself out of a bad mood.

12. This Too Shall Pass

Nothing is forever. Nothing stays the same. The sun will shine again. This is what allows me to feel, learn and be with what is. What is is always changing. And if you find that you're feeling is indecisiveness, you might want to check out this post.

Now it's your turn:

Please share in the comments an example in your world about how you are pursuing life (and not just chasing the feeling of happiness) and if you're brave, share one way that you'll be willing to try to choose to adore yourself next time you're not feeling so hot.