Have you unplugged from Happiness?
How you can reconnect and ignite your life
Does any of this sound familiar?
- You’re motivated, driven and doing some good lifestyle ‘stuff’ but you’re still not quite feeling that happy thing
- You want to be and feel the best you can
- Perhaps you’re not sure what you actually want
- Perhaps you thought you knew what you wanted but it’s not delivering
- You’re overwhelmed at opinions, solutions, blueprints, apps and other stuff that’s coming at you from all angles
- You can’t be arsed with some of it
- You don’t trust some of it
- It seems like hard work
- You’ve tried stuff… mindfulness, yoga, gratitude, working hard, rituals, affirmations and some of it may or may not have worked but it’s not cut the complete mustard. You still feel…out of whack!
- It feels like there’s something wrong with you, like there’s a happy chip missing
- You’d like to deeply connect with your version of ‘happy’
Well, you’re not alone and it’s not your fault!
I get it and I’ve felt it too. In fact I’ve lived it, breathed it and have the scars to prove it. After a decade of transcending my own shit and learning how to help others do the same I’ve come to some conclusions. That in a super duper connected world we’ve become right royally disconnected — our internal happiness guidance system has gone off-line. Without actually realising it, we’ve unconsciously tuned into someone else’s signal, taking ourselves on a wild goose chase to the happiness holy grail.
If like me and a million others you want to enjoy life, to feel how you want to feel, you’re probably not surprised there are so many blogs, vlogs, apps and hacks promising the secrets to happiness. But come on, really? I think we probably all know that if it were that simple we’d all be sorted . The truth is happiness is complex, diverse and deeply subjective. It’s made up of many parts and while you may be able to shortcut one part it doesn’t work on the whole.
So let’s backup and start at the beginning. What are we all searching for?
Happiness is a hard thing to define as it’s unique to you. It’s a concept, a way of describing being in a positive and pleasurable flow. It’s a moment without suffering. It’s not something you ‘get’ it’s something you connect with. Honestly I spent a decade going after things that I thought would make me happy. I will be happy if I do this, achieve that, earn this, get that and did it work? Nope. Imagine a headless chicken running from one solution to the next…yoga, mindfulness, career change, training courses, escape to the country, gluten flipping free. All the while I kind of knew that I was ignoring the real issue but I didn’t understand what that issue was. I’ll return to this in a bit…keep reading.
WTF have you hooked up to?
How many decisions do you make on a daily basis where there’s a notion of “I should do this” and where you’re unconsciously referring to a set of rules?
I should help at the school fete
What should I take as a gift?
I should get out and socialise more
I should go to the gym…meditate…be grateful
I need a boyfriend…girlfriend…any friend
What should I wear?
I should eat lettuce (I do this one a lot)
Sound familiar? We all do it, right?! It’s kind of normal.
The thing is, we’ve been trained to look outward for answers to pretty much everything. We’re taught from a very young age how to fit into society. We’re educated, we’re shown social and cultural rules. We learn labels — he’s this and she’s that. We understand comparisons and expectations. Does this help us understand, know and develop who we are as individuals? Nope. The need to be accepted, to be liked, drives how we are in the world. We fear rejection. We begin to see the whole thing not as a social construct but as our reality…as our truth.
But it’s not. It’s just an artificial framework. An important one for sure but artificial never-the-less. For every rule there is a conflicting opinion and another one and another one. There is no universal truth. So, when we’re embroiled in these rules of what we should think, do and be, we become disconnected from ourselves and it becomes very difficult to live life in a way that gives you that buzz. We essentially lose our internal compass, the very thing that helps us choose and connect with ‘happy’.
When are we most likely to be in our happy flow?
Kids before the ages of 5,6,7 haven’t figured out the made up social ‘rules’ and their social self has not developed yet. They’re not influenced by the notion of identity, comparison and judgement. Think about a young child in the midst of playing freely, when they’re totally in their zone. They’re free to be curious, to connect with what drives them, what feels good, what makes them happy. They can get into their happiness flow.
As we grow up we start to become more influenced by the world around us. We look outside of ourselves for answers — we adapt, socialise, fit in. We develop beliefs and expectations, we become aware of comparisons. We have shoulds, must dos and need tos. Our 30s and 40s can be particularly problematic when it comes to ‘happiness’. We’re right in the thick of it when it comes to external influences and pressures. With a host of responsibilities, from kids, work and elderly parents, our choices in the way we live and move through the world seem to be more limited. We become disconnected from ourselves.
Apparently, as we get into later life, our 60s 70s and beyond, we start to feel happier again. Could it be that we’re less inclined to care what people think? At this stage of life we are less influenced by opinion, or the need to be liked, accepted and approved of. We are able to reconnect with what we want, what we need and what feels good. We reconnect with the notion that we have a choice.
Connect with you
So, my point here is that when we begin to understand and connect with ourselves — what really drives us, what we love, what we value — we can choose to live in a way that fires up our unique happiness flow.
What happened when I discovered my ‘drivers’
When I began tuning into what really drives me in life, I began to understand why certain aspects worked and made me feel good and why there were times I felt frustrated and disconnected. I had a major ‘ah-ha’ moment when it finally clicked that freedom was important to my happiness and fulfillment and how life had become a little constrained. Between school, clubs, classes, work, chores, have-tos, need-tos and should-dos a part of me was not happy. In one way or another, to get into my flow, I needed more freedom in my life.
The thing is I didn’t need to reinvent myself as a back-packing globe-trotter to sort this out. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind a little travel jaunt or two but finding more freedom was not all about grand gestures. I stopped ignoring the day to day annoyed grrrrr and began to see where I could adjust things a bit and live more in alignment with this value. Last weekend when the grrrr kicked in I shoehorned a counter-measure of a solo walk, newspaper and frothy coffee before hitting the ‘commitments’. The result was I felt flow go for the rest of the day, I felt warm fuzzy feelings for my family and harmony was restored. The alternative would have probably involved me getting to the evening and finding my freedom fix in a large glass of wine and some serious carbs as I (albeit unconsciously) screamed “I can do, eat and drink what i like!” Better to connect with this thing than have a hangover in the morning.
Connect with yourself to connect with the world
Social connectedness is one of the key markers of health, wellbeing and happiness and it can even influence how long you live. In fact one research study suggested that loneliness and social isolation are as damaging to our health as smoking. It’s not just real, physical isolation either — the perception of isolation, a sense of disconnection and not belonging are equally detrimental (Holt_Lunstad 2015).
The quality of our relationships, rather than than the size and depth of our social network, seems to be key in this whole thing. It comes back to the quality of our connections.
If we’re disconnected with ourselves how can we truly connect with the world? How can we deeply connect with others and feel that connection? The answer is we can’t — or rather it’s a rollercoaster. I wonder, do you have days where you feel more connected with the world than others? Well, maybe this is because your experience is at the whim of what happens in a given moment, the mood in the room so to speak. It’s kind of left to chance. You’re winging it a bit.
You may notice that sometimes when you’re with a certain person or group that it just feels so natural, easy and free. It’s like you’re in your flow. When you tune into that experience, that feeling, notice how you’re fully in YOU mode — you’re connected with yourself, your presence and your energy. This is what you’re projecting into the world too and what other people experience. It’s pretty bloody powerful and it’s contagious. You’re allowing the world to see your under belly… you’re saying go on, you can be yourself too. What a breath of fresh air (and happiness flow) that is.
Are you positively connecting in your mind and body?
If you’re a human being (hopefully you are) then you’ve experienced what it’s like for your brain to trigger a reaction in your body and visa versa.
For example, when you think about something that you feel nervous about, like an exam or a presentation, you may start to feel anxious. You might notice that your breathing becomes more shallow, or you might get sweaty palms or a sense of being jittery. The physical symptoms fuel the “oh shit, I’m scared, I’m going to go blank” thought pattern which then feeds back, fuels and sustains the physical symptoms. The point here is, that the mind and body together create an experience.
You are experiencing neuro-biological events constantly, automatically and unconsciously. They’re how you shape your experience of the world.
If you disrupt and change what’s going on in your mind and body you can prevent negative feedback loops taking hold and you can change your experience. Ever heard of neuroplasticity? Well, it means that your brain is adaptable and changeable — you can mold it. This is a game-changer when it comes to your happiness. It means that you can feed your grey matter different stuff and create new, neural connections to create different experiences. It means you can hack it.
Sometimes, it can feel like we’re on a mental treadmill that’s missing a control panel — we don’t know how to stop, get off and do something else instead. Quite frankly we’ve forgotten that we can control it at all. The thing is we can change our reality, our experience of the world by understanding that it’s all brain made. That it isn’t real and it’s in our power to put the control panel back in.
I bet if you think about it there are times, places (and people) that trigger a rather unpleasant automatic emotional response, whether it’s monday morning, your boss, playground politics, family get-togethers, there you are back on that treadmill. But there are some simple things you can do to disrupt the pattern:
- Acknowledge and label what you’re thinking and feeling — ahhh there it is again (thanks brain for that one)
- Dispute what you’re thinking, what your brain is ‘hypothesising’ — e.g. the moody boss may be having a bad day. It doesn’t mean you’re in the shit.
- Change your body — upright posture, deep breathing, expand chest, relax shoulders, soften face, smile, whatever it takes
Now this may seem a little simple or even obvious to some of you but the point here is that when you get in the habit of doing this stuff regularly you’re already changing the status quo. You’re beginning to disrupt these patterns.
How to plug into your version of happiness
So, here we are. Maybe you’re thinking just tell me what to bloody do! Well, the first thing to do is to understand this approach is all about making positive connections. To make things easier I have grouped these connections into three types:
1) Your Identity
2) Your World
3) Your Brain and Body
Often when we see secrets, hacks or formulas they only work on one area rather than the whole issue. But… when all the above things come together, you’ll be creating an environment for your happiness to flow. When you plug into your Happiness you’ll begin to create and experience a different reality.
And this is what i’ll be talking about in my next articles — how we can go about making these connections to feel good and rock our lives. Let’s face it disconnection and “i’m not feeling how i want to feel” happens behind closed doors — we’re all trying to transcend it in private. How can we feel connected when we don’t share? This has become so normal!! So, I think it’s time to clutch the sick bucket, share and shout about what we think, feel and believe. This is also a big part of Plug Into Happy. Connecting with an idea, a feeling, a togetherness so we don’t feel isolated, separate and alone. We transcend when we share, when we find common ground and we’re not afraid anymore.