Kaia Roman is the author of the new book, The Joy Plan (Sourcebooks, July 11, 2017). Over the past twenty years, Kaia has been a planner, publicist, ghost writer, and editor for people, projects, and products working toward a better world. Today, she teaches Mindfulness to elementary school students and is a blogger for minbodygreen and other sites. She writes about how she went from joyless and anxious to grateful and optimistic so she can remember how she did if she forgets. She believes in the healing power of words and stories. For everyday joy and mindfulness tips, sign up for Kaia’s newsletter at TheJoyPlan.com.
Your Personal or Professional Goals:
For most of my life, outward recognition was very important to me. I wanted to make an impact, and an income, that I could be proud of and when my career took a devastating and unexpected turn a few years ago, I saw neither, and I panicked. I was riddled with anxiety, overcome with depression, and had no idea what to do next.
This ended up becoming a critical turning point in my life where I was able to make the shift from having goals that were all about what I was “doing” to simply caring about how I’m “being.” These days, my biggest goal is to be a good person. I want to be kind, generous, compassionate and spread laughter, joy, and positivity wherever I go. Anything else that follows is just a bonus.
What’s your offering to the world:
I’m a new author and my upcoming book, The Joy Plan, came out on July 11 2017. I call it a “memoir with benefits.” It’s about the neurobiology of joy and how to apply it to your own life, with my story as the backdrop. When I faced a setback I was sure I could never recover from, my friend Niko suggested the crazy concept that making joy my top priority for 30 days would be long enough to turn my life around.
Joy seemed like a distant dream, but since I didn’t have any better ideas at the time, that’s what I did. I knew I needed to put my ingrained habits of stress and anxiety behind me and find a new way to live. So for 30 days, I dove into a plan dedicated to the singular pursuit of joy in hopes my life would somehow change. The results were astonishing—and lasted much longer than my initial month-long project.
The Joy Plan is my story—but it’s also an inspirational guide for readers. I offer myself as a guinea pig, showing readers what following a Joy Plan really looks like on daily basis, so that they can do the same—whether that means giving up on complaining, finding a way to meditate that’s actually more calming than it is stressful, or turning the mental dial from worry to gratitude. I’m excited (and nervous!) to share it.
What Inspires You to Write:
My natural surroundings inspire me. I go on hikes in the redwoods near Santa Cruz and sometimes emerge from the forest with entire novels swimming in my head. Also, strangely, I love the fog. There are few things I love more than the cozy feeling I get when I look out my window at a blanket of fog while I’m indoors writing.
I frequently get new creative ideas when I’m exercising, taking a bath, or just about to fall asleep. I’ve learned that these are times when creatives regularly have bursts of inspiration because when our conscious minds rest, our subconscious thoughts can bubble up to the surface. I’ve also learned to keep pads of paper all around me.
One funny thing that I do for inspiration is take my iPad and wireless keyboard to the gym and set myself up to type while I’m on the elliptical machine. I get funny looks sometimes, but that’s where I get some of my best ideas (thank you, endorphins!).
The Dalai Lama once said, “If every eight-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” I may not be able to reach every eight-year-old in the world, but I am doing my part as a mindfulness teacher to elementary school children.
Mindfulness is simply the act of bringing awareness to the present moment—including your thoughts, feelings, and sensations—without judgment. Many of us think of mindfulness as a tool to use in times of stress, discomfort, and conflict, but I’m teaching my students to create a daily practice under everyday circumstances.
Even one minute of deep breaths a day can make a profound difference for our brains. It’s so simple, but the infusion of oxygen into our brains calms the amygdala (the brain’s stress sensor), lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and increases the feel-good hormone serotonin, filtering a soothing effect throughout our entire bodies. Eventually, mindfulness can become our habitual way of being, rather than just a practice we sit and do for 15 minutes each morning (although that’s great, too!).
I’m so passionate about this that I suppose you could call it my mission.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” —Henry Ford
What is your best mistake?
Oh my goodness, that’s a hard question to answer because I’ve made so many “mistakes” and I’m really grateful for all of them! Every experience I’ve had that didn’t go according to plan—jobs, relationships, money-making endeavors, etc.—helped me see more clearly what I truly want from life. All of my best learning came from my mistakes.
Funny enough, I find my creative juices flow much more freely when I’m experiencing some kind of struggle in my life. I’m not alone in this—many famous artists and creatives faced hardships or struggled with depression. Not that I’d trade my happy life for creative output! But I’ve learned to see the blessing in the hard times, and look forward to the breakthrough that’s usually waiting on the other side of a breakdown.
When did you start writing?
I was about five years old when I started writing stories. Even before I could write, I remember telling my parents the words I wanted them to write down for me. When the stories were complete, I would draw pictures to go along with them and then my dad would record me reading the books on a tape recorder, ringing a bell when it was time to turn the page. I’d recorded dozens of audio books by the time I was seven or eight.
I write to make sense of my world. Often I can’t truly process a feeling, experience, or thought until I’ve written about it. This form of creativity is deeply important to me because it’s how my mind works. I think through my fingers.
Online and Social Sites:
Website URL: TheJoyPlan.com