3 years ago, I asked a therapist if she would talk to a cohort of women leaders about being happy. The lady glanced at me over the rim of her martini glass, laughed dryly, and retorted, happiness is a choice.
Her words marked the start of a new adventure for me, a quest to find the secret formula that would effortlessly sustain this elusive state of happiness. My exploration started with the usual reference points of people, things, places and situations, with the focus on acquistion, achievement and gratification.
Increasingly, I realised that my single minded pursuit of happiness was detracting from my immersive experience of other positive feelings – love, hope, optimism, gratitude, excitement, passion, compassion, pride, so on and so forth. My moment of truth came in a movement arts workshop. My body moved with fluid abandon as I embodied joy but was gently held back when called to express other emotions and feelings.
As I struggled to label this sense of restraint, it hit me that many of us are sensitised to reference a limited framework of emotions and feelings in our lived experiences of them and this, limits our ability to sustain happiness and other positive feelings.
The obvious first step for me, was to expand my vocabulary and to be more specific while exploring, observing or talking about feelings and emotions. As I found my words, my comfort and awareness grew; I started to notice that not all emotions were equal. Some had more valence and therefore, a greater ability to either elevate my mood or cause a crash.
The formula was staring me in the face. Mindfulness, neutral objectivity and conscious exploration for self regulation helped build and sustain a positive emotional state that not only offered a fuller, deeper experience of the present moment, but also radiated outward to impact and uplift the people around me. The quest had shifted from sustainable happiness to conscious positivity.
Mindfulness and conscious positivity is a part of my daily routine now. Conscious positivity is a practice that requires mindfulness and deep awareness of the self and the present. There are bad days and on such days, I use a practice I call the POP technique – Pause. Observe. Pivot – several times over.
My practice of mindfulness, present moment awareness and conscious positivity continues to be a journey. Interestingly, happiness is now a consistent aspect of this journey than when it was a singular quest of its own. I look forward to more discoveries and experiences.