If there is anything I have learned about what stands in the way of happiness, it is that we feed our own fears by the way we think about life, relationships, our bodies and beyond.
We spend so much time in my life being fearful that we don’t have enough. We don’t have enough money, work, meaning, love, attention and purpose. I mean, we don’t even get enough sleep or have enough hours in the day. We look around and try desperately to grab ahold of something that has purpose, that gives us a sense of comfort and guarantee.
But enough is never guaranteed and there is a false sense of security of what having enough really means. The only guarantee is that change is a part of life. I fought this for so long and still do in some moments but have learned to accept that with the wonderful life comes the challenging and the struggle too. We can actually have a say in our happiness by practicing the following.
Let yourself feel what you need to feel and move on quickly.
I use to try to fight my feelings all the time. I would tell myself don’t be sad, anxious, upset or overwhelmed. There is actually research that shows the harder you push away a thought, the harder it will come back at you and the more likely you will believe it to be true. This concept actually has a name, the ironic rebound. When I ask you not to think about the purple flamingo, what do you think about? This can explain why it is hard to fall asleep at night when you keep thinking about why you can’t fall asleep, or why if you forbid something from your diet you keep thinking about it.
The solution to this struggle is actually to let yourself feel what you need to feel. Allowing yourself to think a thought, actually helps lessen the chance that you will continue to think it. Entertain the thought, observe it, even the ones that bring up fear and uncertainty. When allowing yourself to think your thoughts without so desperately trying to change them, you slowly start to develop more self trust that you can handle whatever may come your way. (This has worked especially well for me when I have a hard time sleeping at night).
Stop making assumptions.
We humans are great at assuming. We like to assume what will happen in certain situations, interpret direct words with all kinds of meanings and especially, we LOVE to assume what other people mean (especially in our close relationships) with their actions, glances or even direct words. Even better we believe it to be true. Can you find the humor in this even just a little? I can.
We like to dream up big stories in our mind and assume that our friends are mad at us, our partners don’t love us and even worse, we send emotional fire back to “burn” them because we don’t know how to ask for what we want. Because “they should have known!” It comes down to the fear of what other people are thinking and what they might tell us if we had the courage to ask.
To free yourself from this cage, ask for what you want and say what you feel and need. You cannot expect others to understand that and magically read your mind. It is scary and challenging because we fear the worst. We fear we will lose our relationships if we show up to the world as we really are and asking for what we truly need. When you do this though, you will no longer need to make assumptions because you will have the truth.
Don’t take things personally.
“Personal importance or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me.” Miguel Ruiz
Yikes! Did you ever think about it that way? Nothing is really about our own self when someone treats us poorly and we take it personally, it is more so about them. Yet we make it about us, especially when people are difficult, rude, negative or critical.
Their actions and comments have more to do with how they view themselves, and less with how they view you. Maybe the situation IS personal but if you act on it with negativity and anger, the person will quickly learn they can depend on you for a reaction.
That is exactly what they want. A reaction to prove they have gotten their point across. Say what you feel and mean what you say but when you can temper your emotional response, it keeps you on the high road, it keeps you working to make the situation better, and keeps the tone rational.
I have a saying. The trouble with gratitude is, it always works. Because you can always find something to be grateful for even in the midst of a storm. Being grateful doesn’t mean you walk around happy all the time and never experience pain or sadness, it means you choose to look at the opportunity instead of the obstacles in any given situation. It doesn’t mean that life is always good, it means you find the good when possible.
Studies have actually shown that with the time span of 21 days, dedicating two minutes a day, those you wrote down 3 things they were grateful for every day started to focus more on the positive then the negative aspects of anything. Other options include journaling about a positive experience over the last 24 hours or writing one positive email or note a day? Positively begets positivity.
Happiness is a constant work in progress. Feelings of lack, or not being fulfilled feed the cycle of fears, scarcity and not having enough.
The beauty is, you can break the cycle. Feed your joy instead of your fear by practicing gratitude, abundance, being open in your relationships with who you are and what you need, and the realization that you are enough and you have enough, not when you achieve something big, but in this very moment, realize just how good things really are.