After teaching yoga the other day a student asked me “What choices do you make to be happy a ridiculous amount of the time?” (quoting me from an earlier interaction). It took me a little while to contemplate this as I actually hadn’t explored the why. It has been a journey, a natural unfolding.
I had to admit that it hadn’t always been this way. As an eternal pessimist seeing the good has been a persistent practice that is clearly now paying off. I remember a shift occurring when I was researching the nervous system (a favourite pastime of mine). I found out that I have been (we all are) running ancient survival software. Pessimists are much needed to store the food in case the winter was extra cold or bitter. Us, the pessimists, had plenty of extra grain to share with the optimists in the tribe. We rock.
As important as this quality was when life was uncertain, it kept me locked in a pattern of looking for what was wrong in minute detail, and ultimately, kept me unhappy. The transformation took dedication and persistence. At first it’s clunky and I forgot much of the time. I saw the importance of it and how quickly things could change.
Stop dwelling and start living.
I felt like a master alchemist when I could shift heavy, stuck states by moving my body and shift my mental/emotional reality. I felt empowered. At first it took effort but now it’s more second nature. It’s a muscle that can be strengthen with time.
Here are a few steps that helped me along the way but remember it’s a dance and there may be some back & forth!
1/ Want it – As will any transformational practice, there needs to be an inherent thirst to change that arises from within. Simply being told to change or feeling like we ‘should’ won’t cut it. You have to want this change. Sometimes it’s enough to realise that the future is simply more of the same if we don’t take action right now.
2/ Commit – Wallowing in self pity (or whatever) can be so satisfying sometimes. In fact there may be some weird benefit to doing it, otherwise you wouldn’t. (Think – do you get extra attention or get out of doing things etc) It really takes resolve to stop it as soon as you notice that your old pattern crept in. Commit to stopping as soon as you notice yourself being negative.
3/ Pattern Interrupt – You’ve being playing an old record for a long time and the needle is stuck in it’s place. To interrupt this negativity move your body, and the more dynamic the better. Dance, shake, shout but at a minimum change rooms, your posture or view.
4/ What’s good right now – Look around you. Keep it simple. Find at least three things that are going well or that you are grateful for. Deliberately shift your focus to positive things. Even if it’s the breath in your lungs, the sun on your skin or that you have a job. As an extension of this here are a few other ideas that have worked for me.
- Start to deliberately speak positively in conversation about “How green everything is” instead of complaining about the rain.
- Notice beauty in the natural world and comment to yourself or out loud ” How beautiful is that tree?” for example.
- Next level (an advanced variation) is to contemplate what is right, beautiful, powerful, or strong in yourself.
Gratitude and appreciation is of course a fabulous gateway. For most people they are relatively accessible so are a great place to start.
Remember at first it won’t stick but gradually with time (and work) you will find spontaneous moments of joy. This positivity may naturally extend into other areas of life. I hope you may be able to sustain this beautiful inner state, more effortlessly. When your inner landscape changes any number of positive emotions may be expressed. Laughter, joy, excitement, connection are all yours. Then, how wonderful to let it flavour all your interactions, decisions, conversations, actions.
Wishing you much peace and happiness always