Founder of Project Happiness
We sat down with Randy Taran, founder and CEO of Project Happiness, to discuss her newest book Emotional Advantage: Embracing All Your Feelings to Create a Life You Love.
For years, Randy has been one of the leading experts on happiness and positive psychology. Her current research is an expansion of her groundbreaking work. Randy’s new book explores the ways acknowledgement of and engagement with all of our emotions helps us create a life we love. It’s a privilege to share her uplifting message with you.
Randy is also co-author of the Project Happiness Handbook, which uses journaling to bring the best of positive psychology, neuroscience, and mindfulness to youth. Randy produced the award-winning documentary “Project Happiness” exploring the nature of lasting happiness through interviews with George Lucas, Richard Gere, Richard Davidson and the Dalai Lama.
Randy’s work will transform the way you engage with your emotional life. To learn more, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.
A Message of Hope
With a community of 2.5 million people on Facebook and Instagram, Randy’s messages of hope, along with science-based strategies for greater well-being, are reaching people when they need it most.
For years Randy’s focused on happiness and positive psychology, and she remains enthusiastic about the benefits of a perspective shift toward positivity. But recently, she was hearing from more people who wanted to learn how to live with other emotions like anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger. Randy found herself drawn to this question both as a topical issue and on a more personal level as well.
She explains, “Writing this book gave me an opportunity to delve into the history, science, and strategic applications and insights that come from embracing all of our feelings.”
Randy’s research suggests our emotions are gifts. “Our emotions are messengers that provide information. They are like data points,” she observes. “Our emotions are messengers from the deepest part of ourselves. If we welcome and appreciate these messages, they have the power to enrich and inform our lives.
Our emotions are messengers that provide information. They are like data points.Randy Taran
Randy acknowledges the emotions she writes about are powerful, and there is a tendency to want to sweep them under the rug. Guilt is an example of a powerful emotion. “No one wants to feel guilty, and so sometimes we run from this feeling,” Randy points out. “But guilt brings us back to our core values. It’s a wakeup call that announces when something doesn’t feel right.” In other words, she explains, “guilt provides an opportunity to course correct.”
Anger is another significant emotion with potential benefits. “Anger can feel like a forest fire burning up everything in its path. Anger is a potent emotion with power. But, where would Martin Luther King, Gandhi, or the suffragette movement be if these individuals didn’t listen to and channel their anger productively. Anger inspires action.”
The key is to channel emotions skillfully. Randy believes we all have the potential to do so.
Name the Emotion
There is value in naming an emotion. Sometimes we don’t know what we are feeling. If we can name what we are experiencing, oftentimes we get to the heart of the matter.
Randy references the catchphrase of our friend, Dr. Dan Siegel. Name it to tame it. When we can label our emotions we can manage and channel them more effectively.
Randy’s Tips for Engaging with Emotions
- Don’t wait for the fire. Check in when your emotions are just a spark. Tune in and ask, “What am I feeling in this moment? Journal about the feelings you identify.
- Before an emotion gains momentum. Take an inventory. How do you feel? Are you tired? Hungry? How is your physical state impacting your emotions?
- Examine triggers. Understanding why a feeling comes to the surface is key in understanding how best to engage with it.
- Identify your options. What can you choose to do with this emotion once you’ve named it?
- When_____ happens it triggers feelings of ______.
- When I think about_____ I usually feel______.
- When I am anxious my body feels like______.
The Choice to React
As Randy’s work shows, we have a choice to respond to our emotions in a constructive way and let these feelings help us advance. The other option is to make no decisions, to simply suppress emotions or unload them externally without a sense of resolution.
Assess Your Response
Try these journaling prompts to assess your response to complicated emotions when they arise.
- What kind of patterns did I repeat?
- Where did I gain awareness and successfully course correct?
Our emotions can appear to come out of nowhere but when we learn about our triggers we can identify what to do to keep ourselves in a balanced state of mind.
Speak to Yourself with Compassion
Randy cited the inspiring work of Dr. Kristin Neff, whose work identifies the three elements she refers to as composing self-compassion. These are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
1. Self-kindness. Speak and journal to yourself as if you were your dearest closest most beloved friend.
2. When we acknowledge common humanity, we recognize that people experience difficult emotions that can make them feel isolated. This knowledge reminds us we are not alone in our struggles. Challenges are normal and universally felt.
3. Mindfulness is about being aware of and engaging with the feelings you are experiencing
Self-compassion Promotes Emotional Resiliency
People who practice self-compassion are shown to bounce back from disappointment and challenges faster than people who just power through emotional struggles. Self-kindness, Randy teaches, sustains us on a deeper level and opens the door to positive change. These acts of compassion also strengthen neural pathways so that eventually this gentle response becomes our go-to modality.
What the Research Shows
Fear and anxiety are dominant emotions in the landscape today. Randy references one study that shows 1 in 5 Americans suffers from anxiety. Among teens this statistic is said to be even higher.
The World Health Organization has declared depression to be the greatest cause of suffering around the world for all ages, regardless of socioeconomic factors or gender.
These startling findings reinforce Randy’s notion that we must work with the big emotions that rise in our life. We need to use these emotions to empower ourselves and to foster a connection with ourselves.
The crux of Randy’s work shows that expressing the whole range of human emotions is how we experience life in a deep and meaningful way. It is how we maintain our humanity and develop empathy for others.
Your Action Plan
- Learn more about Randy’s work. Visit her online at Project Happiness.
- Read her new book, Emotional Advantage: Embracing All Your Feelings to Create a Life You Love.
- Listen to my conversation with Randy.
- Try the prompts Randy provides in this article.
- Practice self-compassion, and use your journal to help implement this principal.
Self-care, Randy reminds us, is never frivolous or selfish. Quite the opposite. When we are gentle with ourselves, when we meet our emotions with curiosity instead of judgement, that action impacts others as well. When we help ourselves we make the world better.
If your enjoyed this interview, you might also find our conversation with Dr. Dan Siegel helpful.