Updated: Apr 11
Being happy has many layers. Here're some thoughts that may help you get started on how to choose and maintain your happiness!
Alrighty..so… bunch of you voted that a series on creating happiness would be most valuable - So, this is for you! Although, I feel like I pulled a trick question because happiness is not created, it’s chosen - but we’ll talk more about that.
I also had quite a few people ask for a series on change so stay tuned for that next very soon.
Ok, so let’s get into it.
First thing we need to acknowledge when it comes to happiness is that our unconscious mind is the most powerful and important thing with regards to how we feel. Our unconscious mind is responsible for ensuring our survival and runs the majority of our lives and physical body.
How to prove it?
How often do you think consciously about breathing or blinking…..exactly. Your unconscious mind handles those things.
How often do you think consciously about navigating a road while talking to someone and listening to music? Again, you don’t anymore because something like driving, which you once had to consciously focus on doing, has been done so many times it has moved to your unconscious mind. Our conscious mind can only hold onto and process 5-9 things at a time. Imagine if you had to consciously think about breathing, blinking, closing your eyes, opening them, where your hands are, where your feet are, and also what you’re thinking while talking with someone…you COULD NOT.
Most importantly though, our unconscious mind contains our actual sense of Self and we tell it what that is.
Now, our “Self” is not our name, age, gender, what we do for work, the role we play in our family, or our hair color. Those are ways of labeling ourselves that make it easy for others to know how to refer to, categorize, or understand us.
Our True SELF is composed of our purpose, the way we give back, and the most important things that define us in the world. For example, I define myself as a human here to give back to other humans by teaching and supporting them in reclaiming their power and thereby enabling them to discover their unique contribution to the world. I am full of gratitude and love and welcome all people and experiences into my life (yes, even the challenging ones) as I live this unique experience.
So how does happiness, or any emotion, fit in here?
Well, happiness is a state.
States fluctuate and they don’t require anything other than ourselves to regulate or change. We can literally change our state at any given moment, instantly. There are no real “steps” needed to changing states and the great part about recognizing happiness as a state is realizing that states don’t have limits. We can be as happy as we want with no ceiling. Conversely, we can be as unhappy as we want, too.
If you are having a hard time conceptualizing this, let’s start with the way you think about how you feel. A feeling doesn’t have any power until we apply thought to it.
When someone asks us “Hey, how are you?” typically we answer with “I’m good.” or “I’m awesome” or “Im stressed.” The problem with that is that this language tells our unconscious mind that we ARE that versus that we are “FEELING” it because of the way we think about something/someone else. We are not depression, we are not anxiety, we are not stress - we FEEL those things as a response to a thought we have about something else. The feeling is a symptom.
So why does this matter?
When we attach our unconscious mind to a state (or literally anything outside of our SELVES), we are more susceptible to being disturbed when the state changes or the belief we hold is challenged because any change to something we identify with tells our body our survival is being threatened. What do we do when we are threatened? Biologically, we produce adrenaline to jump into fight or flight - most of us have learned this in school. A disruption to homeostasis (or our current status quo - whether it’s positive or negative) makes our bodies think we are in danger and we react in-kind. Responding to a “threat” can cause our behavior to shift in a really major way. We can become defensive, aggressive, sad, agitated, or entirely freeze up.
So now what do we do?
When we are clear about who we actually ARE and make the choice to only define ourselves by and attach to things that cannot change or be challenged, we are creating fewer opportunities for your unconscious mind to perceive a threat and compromise your state of happiness. we even extend our sense of SELF to other people.
This is a BIG part of why we feel sad when someone we are close to passes away. We have attached a piece of ourSELVES to them and they exist in our SELF. When they died, we perceived a death of ourselves. This also helps explain why some people react so strongly to their favorite artist or celebrity passing away - they didn’t know them, but a piece of themselves was anchored to that person either because of the way they made them feel, they helped them through difficult times, or were a big part of a really joyful part of life.
The last piece I’ll mention in how we can actively control our state of happiness is by adjusting our expectations. When we expect something from a circumstance or another person (things we can’t control) and then our expectations are not met or exceeded, we perceive the interaction or person negatively and we become unhappy.
Our present thoughts about things control how we feel about them. However, our expectations are shaped by our past experiences in life and the stories we’ve created. These stories are what we run every present event and interaction through and where are they housed? IN OUR UNCONSCIOUS MIND.
The tricky part about these stories and the expectations they produce is 1) our experience is always different from another person’s and 2) so many of us don’t/can’t articulate what our expectations actually are! So we bump expectations with others often.
It’s why often you’ll hear about someone feeling annoyed with someone else at work. The first thing I ask is “did you tell them what you expected or how you hoped this would turn out before today?” and usually the answer is no.
So I follow up and ask “Did you tell them why you felt the way you did after the fact?” - also usually no. Or, if they did it was some diluted or distorted version of their true feelings which left the person unsatisfied and more frustrated. Always share your perspective from the beginning and adjust as necessary or avoid the person/circumstance altogether.
So what are my closing messages about happiness?
1.) We act on feelings coming FROM us, not outside of us.
2.) We are NOT our feelings.
3.) Feelings are states which are controlled and changed by us at any moment. Feelings only have power if we attach thoughts to them.
4.) Take an honest inventory of who you actually are and remove any labels, beliefs, or people who don’t define you so you are less vulnerable to disruptions in your happiness.
5.) Remove expectations about things you will never be able to control or predict. When you encounter those things openly, you can remain flexible and unbothered no matter the outcome.
Reach out if you have thoughts about this series or would like to talk about working on something more in-depth with me!
I hope you take anything you need from this and leave the rest!
See you next time :)