Many months – even years – of our life can be wasted while we wait to complete studies, find the ‘right’ job, meet ‘Mr or Mrs Right’, get in-shape, have children, afford the perfect home, become financially free (and the list goes on and on). We can easily fall into the trap of thinking that we will be happy and satisfied only when we ‘get something’ or reach a particular milestone. Usually, we just end up searching for the next stepping stone to the ever-elusive notion of ‘happiness.’ I’ve written about the ‘postponing happiness’ trap before. It feels even more dangerous amidst the Covid-19 pandemic because we have no idea how long it will last or what the future will look like. We are on day 74 of lockdown and counting. Don’t wait for this to be over and to ‘get your life back’ to be happy. This is your life and you deserve to be happy every day. Find new ways to embrace your current reality and choose happiness!
Here are some Key Steps to support you and I am also available to work with you virtually:
1. Look in and choose it. Instead of expecting that happiness will come from the outside, choose to send it out from the inside. Choose to be happy and genuinely thankful about who you are, what you’re doing and what you have (write a daily gratitude list and regularly scan your life looking for what you are happy and grateful for). This does not mean that you ignore feelings of sadness or loss as they are very common at a time like this and it is important to acknowledge and work through them. I’ve been feeling sad about the general state of the world this past week. I don’t pretend I am not; that’s not what I am suggesting.
I am suggesting that – by and large – you look for happiness within and realise that just by saying, “I will be happy when (we reach stage 1 lockdown for example),” it sends a subconscious message that you are not happy now. Watch your thinking and what you say aloud. The more you say it, the more you reinforce it. Having the ‘right’ attitude on the inside will begin to build and improve the factors on the outside. Remember that happiness can never truly be yours if you chase it or put conditions on it. Happiness is yours when you choose it.
2. Change what you can. If there are things that are causing you to feel unhappy or depressing your mood, do what you can to change them. This could be things like not enough me time, overworking, lack of sleep or quality time with your partner, missing your family and so on. Small steps can make a big difference. I’m running a masterclass this Wednesday at 15:30 where I will work with you to thrive rather than just survive. In the meantime, maybe set time aside for yourself (if you are a working mom, this might just be a 15-minute cup of coffee while hubby entertains the kids or reading a novel for 20 min while they are asleep – this is my treat to myself every night and I really look forward to it). Establish healthier boundaries and get to bed earlier. Have a date night once the kids have gone to sleep. Prioritise virtual time with your family the same way you would a work appointment. Get creative; change what you can and accept what you can’t.
3. Listen to music. Studies find music activates parts of the brain that produce happiness – the same parts activated by food or sex. It’s also relaxing. In one study, older adults who listened to their choice of music during outpatient eye surgery had significantly lower heart rates, blood pressure and cardiac workload (that is, their heart didn’t have to work as hard) as those who had silent surgery.
4. Laugh out loud. Just anticipating a happy, funny event can raise endorphin levels and pleasure-inducing hormones while lowering production of stress hormones. Researchers at the University of California tested 16 men who all agreed that they thought a certain videotape was funny. Half were told three days in advance they would watch it. They started experiencing biological changes right away. When they actually watched the video, their levels of stress hormones dropped significantly, while their endorphin levels rose 27% and their growth hormone levels (indicating benefit to the immune system) rose 87%.
5. Get help if you need it. There is a big difference between having moments when you feel a bit ‘blue’ about current circumstances versus feeling deeply depressed and unable to pick yourself up. Depression is often characterised by sadness, irritability, withdrawal, worry, aches and pains, change in appetite and loss of interest in pleasurable activities. Don’t ignore the signs, your mental health and well-being is as important as your physical well-being. Contact a professional coach or therapist and take steps to get your happiness back because you deserve it and you are depending on yourself to…
“be the difference that makes the difference”