I have to be honest, full transparency: I love this subject of happiness. It has been an area of constant interest and research for over 30 years. What is happiness? How to feel happiness? Can happiness last? How to create happiness? I have read blogs, theories, ideas, research efforts to name a few, even conducted webinars on how to maintain and create happiness.
One thing that I consistently noticed over time in resources and suggestions about the nitty gritty details of cultivating happiness: these resources tend towards the emergency end of the spectrum. When in crisis and panic, how to surface, how to end the survival, reptilian brain overload and feel happy?
An interesting point of reference here, the same strategy for emergency care works as a long term sustainable happiness tool: gratitude! Wait, I leaped a bit ahead of myself. Back to thinking about more permanent tools for happiness.
Only employing the emergency approach keeps the body in stress mode, relying on cortisol and adrenaline. What would a long term, repeatable strategy to cultivate sustained happiness look like? Firstly, a retraining of the body’s tendency to exist in stress and flight, fight, or freeze and shifting to relying on metabolic healthy energy from a balance thyroid. Secondly, a solid approach to experiencing lifelong joy is repeatable and trainable! Empowering isn’t it?
Three techniques I personally have found helpful:
1 – Accept that life contains a myriad of experiences, sometimes pleasant sometimes unpleasant.
Attempting to force a certain outcome for every situation uses a large amount of vital force and emotionally could lead to disenchantment. An effective way through the unpleasant moments is to acknowledge how we feel without any need to change the situation. Research has shown that an emotion lasts only 90 sec. Judging it and making it wrong causes the emotion to stick around a lot longer.
Creating a life template and habit of honoring what is arising creates the space for openness and receiving while staying grounded and connected in; as opposed to constantly fighting, pushing against, shutting down, and contracting away from something we deem as “bad”. Remembering that we live in choice pulls us out of the rabbit hole of victimhood. Then we can begin to cultivate gratitude.
2 – Cultivate gratitude.
Recently many studies have surfaced about the benefits of gratitude, everything from creating healthy biomarkers, to emotional stability, to helping post traumatic stress problems, to being one of the main factors in longevity. What I have noticed about gratitude is its ability to include ALL of the emotions, frustrating to anger to compassion to love, etc. As a strategic alliance partner in our life long happiness, gratitude offers the benefit of including everything, the good, the bad, the ugly. Nothing is marginalized.
It acts as the midpoint to shift into higher frequency emotions while honoring everything arising in our world. Using gratitude to include the fear, anger, pain AND simultaneously the appreciation for the opportunity pulls us out of the mire towards awareness and “lightness”. Hard to stay mad with a heart full of gratitude.
3 – Find evidence everyday that life has our back.
According to neuroscience, what we focus on and choose to see reinforces what we will actually see due to the brain’s necessity to filter information. It filters according to what we expect to see. When we create the habit of looking for goodness in and around our life, even in and around our physical body and surroundings, and searching for examples of how life supports our wellbeing, or for the beautiful ways people support us everyday, our brains will cultivate the habit, the expectation of seeing goodness everywhere.
Friends, it works! This is not pseudoscience, rather hardcore neuroscience explaining how the brain functions. Because of neural plasticity, we possess the ability to change old habits and cultivate new habits of goodness. Whew. Empowering isn’t it?!?!?!
Hope this helps! My heartfelt love to you all.