So often I catch myself thinking, if this or that would just happen, I’d be happy.
(Like wanting to go kayaking with friends and wishing that lockdown would end).
The problem with this way of thinking is that you never actually achieve happiness. By the time this or that thing happens, there’s something new to want after.
In the present moment we experience reality through our own lens and we have to take responsibility for the filter we use for that lens. Take a woman, unhappy in a relationship. She focuses on what she dislikes being said or done and abandons happiness to the future, to wishes for better communication, more agreeable actions or a “better” partner. In this situation who do you think is responsible for the woman’s happiness? Is it her partner or herself? What if her partner never does or says what she’s longing for, does this mean that she will never be happy or is she not allowing herself to be happy? Can we really say that the partner is responsible for her continued unhappiness?
For situations like this, where I forget I am in charge of my own state of mind, I like to imagine my best friend, I explain the situation to her and imagine what she would tell me to do. Generally it is to voice my opinion as communication is key and to make a change, whatever that might be. This allows me step back and gain a wider perspective of what’s happening, so often we are so close to a situation that it’s hard to view it through a different lens and I find this technique to be a very useful tool.
One of my favourite sayings is “we cannot control anything except our own reactions”. This is a saying I try to follow in my own life and pass on to those that I teach. For example; I asked a young person why they were unhappy, they said it was because a friend had told them they didn’t like one of their other friends anymore. I asked if they shared these feelings? To which they told me no. So I asked then why are you allowing their negative thoughts to affect your own thoughts? I put to them an analogy; if someone offers you a gift and you don’t accept that gift, who’s is it? (Thank you Buddha) They told me it was the person’s who was offering it. Which is exactly right, we may not be able to control what others think and say to us but that doesn’t mean that we have to let it change our mental well being. By not reacting in a negative way, we can not only safeguard our own peace but we can stop the spread of the negative.
How does it stop the spread of the negative? Well I have another real lifer for you that happens regularly working with young people.
A young person is unhappy, they didn’t get to choose which activity they were doing right then and there. So they sulk for a while. As the instructor I could take this personally and try to make them happy by changing the activity to suit them. I don’t do this, because I do not accept their sulking as a gift. I know the young person has all of their basic needs met at this time and that the activity we are doing, although different to what they want, is an enjoyable activity. What I find, in the majority of cases (there’s always one), is that given time and a neutral reaction the young person will come to realise that it is much more enjoyable to join in and enjoy the activity at present, rather than focus on the activity that is going to take place in the future. Imagine I instead reacted negatively to their sulk and changed the activity for everyone, that would be a bad example to set, it would affect the rest of the group, show them that sulking gets them what they think they want and they never learn to enjoy the now.
The best way to be happy is to be happy now. Be grateful for what you have now and make the conscious decision to smile and enjoy the moment. We can never really experience the future, as when it finally comes, it is the present and there’s a new future. All the time we spend thinking I’ll be happy when I loose that extra pound or when I get that new job is a waste of happiness. I’m not saying don’t set goals, what I’m trying to say is, it’s time to stop putting outside factors in control of what only you can bring yourself. It’s time to make yourself happy, take yourself on a date, buy yourself flowers, look in the mirror and remind yourself how beautiful you are, as you are.
Of course you’ll be screaming but how can I just be happy if this or that happens, well life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
This is where our stress bucket (stress container – I prefer bucket) comes in. We all have one and how much it can hold largely depends on the stress-resilience we’ve developed through life. When the stress bucket is largely empty it’s easy for us to control our reactions but as the bucket gets full we run the risk of it over flowing and which can cause us to react more wildly.
A great exercise to do is to draw yourself a stress bucket and write all of your stresses into it, how full is it? Now draw a tap at the bottom of the bucket and write down all the ways you are able to relieve your stress.
This brings us back to control, we are able to continue to control our own happiness by making sure we have techniques/practises/hobbies in place that reduce what’s in our stress bucket, therefore allowing us to continue to react from a good place and to be happy. In case you were wondering, that’s what I’m talking about when I say well being.
Thanks for reading!