By Jay Forte
I was recently chatting with a friend about why everyone seems to be so unhappy and why they turn to drinking, diversions and drugs (the 3 Ds) as a means to find happiness (or at least feel happy for a short time).
As a coach, I regularly discuss happiness with my clients and why it has seemingly become so elusive. For example, think of the last time you were really happy. More than likely, you can more easily remember the last time you were mad, sad or scared. Why? Because we default into mad, sad and scared but have to use intention to find happiness.
Our brains are hardwired with four primary emotions: fear, anger, sadness and joy – you know, mad, sad, glad and scared. But of those four, fear, anger and sadness are our defaults. This is because they are part of our defense and survival mechanism (i.e. our fight, flight or freeze brain) – they are our protectors. This part of the brain doesn’t care if you are happy or successful; it just wants you to be here tomorrow. So if you want to lead a joyful life, you have to shift from habit to intention.
We have to work hard to search through all the aggravations, frustrations and difficulties life sends us to find the joy. Think about it. In the same moment you notice the tough, challenging and aggravating things about life, you could also notice the amazing, wonderful and terrific things. They are there; you just have to learn and choose to look for them on purpose. Be mindful. Be aware. Be intentional.
The world will never stop sending challenging events – that is just life. How you respond to them, instead of react to them, is the key to achieving happiness. It isn’t elusive. It just requires greater effort than defaulting into being afraid, angry or sad, and the benefits are exponential.
Here are some tips to help you move toward happy.
1. Focus on what works before you focus on what doesn’t work. In this moment, notice 5 things that are going right. Notice when your mind wants to bring in what doesn’t work. Don’t judge or get stuck on what’s not working. Instead, try to stay focused on what good things are happening. Do this once every day, and work your way up to doing it several times a day. This doesn’t mean you don’t and won’t notice what’s not working. It’s about making a point of noticing and celebrating what is working, as well.
2. Notice and change your negative self-talk. If you had friends that speak to you the way you speak to yourself, you would end the friendship in a minute. Most of what we say to ourselves is critical and negative. Notice your self-talk. Start to shut down the negative talk and add some compliments, care and applause. Start to say things like, “nice job with that report,” or, “I love how confident I feel today.” If all you ever hear is negative, how could you show up happy, glad and in a place of joy?
3. Ask why. When you find yourself feeling mad, sad or scared, ask yourself why. Sometimes, it’s an unfounded reality, one you’ve created for yourself that doesn’t truly exist. Keep asking yourself why until you have an answer. This mindfulness practice forces you to intentionally choose to respond vs. react to any event in life because you’re getting to the root of why you feel the way you do.
The events of and people in life can’t make you happy. Happiness lies with your response to them. Remember, you choose your response. So why not choose happy over afraid, sad and angry?
Important Questions from a Coach:
- How many times during your day are you glad vs. mad? Why?
- What is one thing you can do today to look for what’s right in your world instead of what’s wrong?
- How can you start each day with a moment of gratitude about something great in your life?