When we are young, happiness is an automatic state of being. As we grow into adulthood, fear, worry and stress become our automatic state.
Life is a series of moments, interactions, and experiences. We cannot control the world around us but we can control our inner world. Our personal external world is often a reflection of our internal state. When we feel overwhelmed, pressured, stressed or unhappy, we view the world around us through that lens. With our focus on the chaos, and the negativity around us, we attract more chaos and negative situations, creating a spiral of negative feelings and experiences.
As we deal with a difficult situation, or find ourselves having an unpleasant experience, in that moment, trying to find a happy place can feel impossible. As humans, we have automatic reactions that we have been conditioned towards, based on the village that raised us. If someone sneezes, your instinct without thought is to say, “Bless you.” In the same way, when you have been hurt, you may find yourself expecting each person you encounter to want to hurt you. Our personal conditioning is what shapes the way we interact with and react to people and situations, and determines whether we get triggered.
We can train ourselves to have a joy-first focus, teaching ourselves to look for anything good about a situation or to find anything in our life that brings good thoughts and feelings. It could be petting your cat, listening to your favorite artist, or even eating chocolate! The idea is to teach ourselves to automatically reach for something better so that when we find ourselves dealing with tough situations, we have the tools in place to change the direction of the encounter or interaction.
Stopping the negative spiral before it gets momentum can completely shift the outcome of any situation. We change our perspectives, can respond with more clarity and, when warranted, even observe the points of view of others and where they are coming from. All this allows us to move through the difficulty in an entirely different way than when we are in a negative and triggered mental state.
Each of our definitions of happiness and joy differs, and sometimes we may not even know what makes us happy. Spend this week actively looking for things that make you smile, feel relaxed and bring you happiness – people, places, objects, food; things you can see, hear or experience. If you are so inclined, create a happiness journal, writing down anything and everything that brings you happiness, peace or joy. When life get overwhelming, you can open your journal and go through the list, pausing on each thing and immersing yourself in the memory and the feelings that said memory brought.
Focus on finding something to smile about through the day, every day. Life is full of hidden surprises – we just need to choose to look for the magical moments around us.
What is on your happiness list? Share something that made you smile today.