As it was world happiness day yesterday it got me thinking about how most of us just want to be happy. So we search, unconsciously or consciously, for what makes us happy.
We naturally move away from pain towards whatever it is that makes us feel happy, content, joyful and peaceful.
Lets consider for a moment what sorts of things that can make us happy, the list is long, things like:
- Getting married, having children, grandchildren
- Having a meaningful job, business or employment to afford the standard of living that we would like.
- Having the disposable income and time for various social activities, sports, other hobbies and travel.
- Friends and family for support and companionship
- Being able to buy the latest technology such as computer, laptop, tv mobile phone and any other gadget or thing we want.
We work hard and strive for all these things and more, but in the end do they all make us really happy?
On a level yes they make us happy at least for a time, until we want more and better than what we already have.
The constant wanting, striving, working harder to have more, to keep up with the neighbours can leave us time deficient; feeling dissatisfied; empty; stressed; anxious; and trapped for example in a job we hate but can’t leave because we need the money. Once on this hamster wheel we tend to lose sight of what our most basic physical, practical and emotional needs are in order for us to be happy, and how to meet those needs. So despite having a lot we can still be unhappy.
Plus what happens to our feelings of happiness when things don’t work out as planned?
- When we lose the job and home we loved.
- When our intimate relationship breaks down.
- When we set the bar too high in terms of our expectations such as how we expect to be treated, how our life should be. Which makes it difficult if not impossible for life and people to deliver, what we expect in order to be happy.
When we don’t take responsibility for our happiness and just depend on others and material things, things outside of our control, to make us happy. We are putting all our eggs in one basket so to speak. Our happiness is transient and reliant on everything going well and staying the same.
We might have even lost sight of what would make us happy and we try this and that, but still happiness eludes us. Over the years working with clients and on my own self development, I have realised a few simple things that can make us feel genuinely happy such as:
- A sense of achievement and being able to be more resilient to cope better with loss, chosen and enforced change, and all sorts of challenging situations that life throws at us.
- Security – to feel safe and have the space to develop and grow.
- A need to feel a measure of control over our life.
- Being part of a wider community and being able to focus on their needs as well as our own.
- Being emotionally connected to others and to give and receive attention.
- Having a sense of status and a feeling of belonging in our social circles.
- The need for friendship, fun, intimacy and love.
- The need to feel that our life has meaning and to find that meaning for ourselves. We make a lot of choices throughout our life but are happier when we feel stretched, when we choose directions that enrich and liberate us.
Fundamentally though we really need to connect to our sense of “self” more often.
What do I mean by “self’?
“Self” is a term for part of our psyche that represents our true and real self. The feelings you get when you experience being in “self” are feelings of calm, being in balance, and grounded. You feel loving, open, relaxed, accepting and kind towards yourself and others. When things happen you are more able to observe events and situations without getting into the drama and lost In your emotions.
When in “self’ we possess the inner strength and understanding to relate well in the world with compassion, free from judgement and have a caring, loving attitude towards ourselves and others. We become more self reliant and less needy, which helps to improve and enrich our relationships. We become disconnected from this part of us when we associate who we really are with our pain, such as anxiety.
Paradoxically the more we fight to repress the emotions we don’t like, trying to keep them hidden from ourselves and others, the more energy we need and the harder it becomes. Then one day, despite our best efforts, our emotions can become overwhelming, we have lost the battle to keep them hidden, and find it harder to be in “self”. People often say “I just want to be myself again” or “ I am not the same person as I was before, I just feel anxious all the time.”
To be happier it is important to learn how to feel each emotion in the moment, allowing the emotions to flow through without staying stuck in them. In order to do this it may be appropriate to heal any pain from past experiences, if it interferes with our ability to be more often in“self” and fully present in each moment.
Being in our true self gives us greater clarity and more choice, and the ability to act from a calm place, distancing ourselves emotionally from the problem. We are then more likely to take more appropriate actions, which enable us to get the results that we are looking for. In this way we are able to stretch ourselves, develop greater resilience, inner strength, and confidence to learn and grow from each experience no matter how difficult.
Two Things We Can Do Right Now To Help Us Be In “Self” More Often
- I invite you to practice the 7/11 breathing technique whenever you feel overwhelmed by emotions, circumstances and need to feel calm, grounded and gain clarity on the situation by returning to “self”.
- Take a mindfulness walk in a forest, wood, park or other beautiful place in nature, even if it is only for ten minutes. However, stay as long as you can, as the benefits are better if you can be in this environment for an hour or more.
Take the time to connect and tune into nature in all its glory. Plus this is a perfect place to practice the 7/11 breathing technique whilst walking or preferably sitting on the ground leaning against a tree.
Walk slowly pausing a while here and there to really listen to the sounds of nature around you, this increases your ability to relax. The sounds of nature soothes our busy minds helping us to think, whilst refreshing and rejuvenating our senses.
To see as if seeing these things for the first time, notice the splendour and beauty of the natural world, the infinite patterns of nature that are scientifically proven to relax us.
The smell of the forest is especially important. Smell affects our mood and behaviour as it is connected to our emotions and memories. Trees release certain chemicals, that you may or may not be able to consciously smell. These chemicals are very healing for us, so when you walk in the woods, it is very therapeutic experience.
There are so many benefits when you take a walk in this way. The Japanese have practised what they call “Forest Bathing” for years, having discovered the science behind the feeling of walking in nature.
I do this type of walking often and have now just decided to offer this once a month to a small group of people, in Exeter and the surrounding area.
The first session is on 29th of March at 3 pm.
My mindfulness walking in the forest or woods includes a meditation, various ways to fully connect to nature, tea and homemade cake and more. If this interests you or you have any questions please go to visit my Exeter Mindfulness Walking page for more details and benefits, or contact me online.