Ironically, I am writing this after letting stress take over my morning for a few hours. Let’s say nobody is perfect and I for sure know what I am writing about here.
Have you ever been stressed? Do you like the feeling of being stressed? Me neither. I doubt that there is anyone who like this feeling, when your chest tightens up and your breaths shorten, your heartrate rises and you are feeling chased the whole day long. It’s not very different from what I imagine the feeling to be of being hunted by something or someone when it is dark and you don’t really know what or who it is, but you are scared, fearful for your life, and without thinking, just keep running because this is how you learned to survive. But let’s get back to our daily fears that we choose instead of happiness.
I used to work not only in the corporate world but in the fashion industry. Things were always stressful and this world almost expects you to be stressed, otherwise you must not be working hard enough, especially when you are leading a fashion company in your mid-twenties. Of course, everything was stressful and hectic. At the various fashion events we all lamented about how hard the week has been so far and that we almost couldn’t sleep anymore. This was the kind of conversations one had to have besides the latest fashion trends, colors and designers. Whenever I mentioned that I would work out every morning and practiced yoga, the reactions were hilarious. Either they made me feel guilty for taking one to two hours for myself every day or they were deeply impressed and wanted to know how I would find the time for it and they wished they could do the same, followed by all the various excuses, sorry, I mean reasons, why they simply wouldn’t find the time for it.
Did you ever make up a story in order not to have to do something? The kind of excuse that makes you feel like you tried, and you really would love to, but you simply can’t? We all have done it or heard it. And when there is no deadline to something, we are most likely to never put these excuses behind. Especially when it comes to our health, we don’t feel like there is a deadline. But our health has a very literal deadline. When we face it and realize that there is a deadline, we often don’t have the time and energy to care about anything else than our health.
The only thing holding us back from a less stressful life is ourselves. There will always be circumstances that challenge us. There will always be great excuses for not starting something that you know would be good for you, but that has no predictable outcome and requires a lot of work. But how we react to it is key. We can’t control the things around us but our reactions to it. You might have heard that before, but I deeply believe, when you are reading it again here, it is for a reason. You need to hear this right now. Is there something in your life that you are not happy with right now or where you feel trapped? Or maybe you ask yourself how you can ever be really happy again? We all go through different phases in our lives and sometimes things are simply not easy and don’t feel great. Know that this is normal and that you can always, always come back to your natural state of happiness. Especially when things happen that are out of our control, the one thing we can always control is how we react to the things that we don’t have under control. You decide whether you let challenges leave you miserable or not. If you keep your mental freedom and happiness despite the obstacles. There is a Buddhist saying:
“Whatever happened to you, might not be your fault. But healing yourself is your responsibility.”
It is just another way of explaining it and I find it a very powerful way. If you want to be happy, be it. Do everything it takes to take back your happiness. Over time you won’t let anyone or anything take it away from you in the first place. If you don’t like to be stressed, stop it. Once you make the choice, the journey begins. Happiness is something we can work on and improve, just like a muscle. We train ourselves to see things from a different perspective. We learn the skills that help us to react to challenges in a way that maintains our inner peace. This takes some time, practice, and patience — it is work — but don’t you think it is worth it? What are a few weeks or months, when you can live happy for the rest of your life because you know that you can handle everything that comes across your way?
We can be happy despite of the most miserable situations.
How? There are many different ways, just as we are all unique. I wish there was a one size fits all solution but there isn’t. But there are a few things we can work on, that help us on our journey. That help us to find our unique way of creating happiness, in the unhappiest of situations.
- Choose how you want to feel: Become aware of how you react to things that challenge your happiness: What emotions come up? How does your body respond (tension, heartbeat, sweat…)? How would you prefer to react? Write down all the feelings you would love to have in your life every day. Especially when you go through a challenging time. Then think of a situation where you felt those feelings or simply FEEL them. How does it feel to be happy/strong/calm/focused/joyful…?
- Create Self-Awareness: Fully love and accept yourself. I started to trust in the process. I always believed that there must be a greater reason why we suffer. Today I know that we can use those times as a chance to grow and to deepen the relationship to ourselves. In some situations we can’t rely on the help of others, so we need to trust ourselves and believe that we are able to be stronger than whatever comes up. And we are. You are. It is our innate ability to adjust to change and overcome obstacles. Trusting ourselves requires us to fully love and accept ourselves in the first place. Know who you are. Know your strengths and weaknesses and honor them. You don’t need to achieve anything else to be happy other than loving yourself.
- Create Mindfulness: Breath is the most powerful tool, I know, to create mindfulness in every moment. Taking a deep conscious breath allows us to focus, and to clear our head from everything that might distract. A deep breath takes us to the present moment. Once you are here, in this moment, you can be mindful about your thoughts and actions and make a decision that is in alignment with your truth. Did someone hurt you with what they said in an argument or a stressful situation before? Maybe you did too? I did. And I know better now. I breathe and calm down before I say things that I don’t mean, even if means just one deep breath. This is a choice you can make every time you interact with someone.
- Practice Happiness: We don’t need to wait for challenges to arise, so that we can learn how to react better. Instead we can create challenges ourselves. When you challenge yourself physically, you will be challenged mentally at the same time. That means exercise! What kind of exercise that is, is up to you. But make sure you explore your limits. We tend to stay in our comfort zone, because, well, it is comfortable. We only learn out of this zone though, where it is uncomfortable. This is one of the reasons why I love interval training so much! You can implement intervals in nearly any kind of exercise. You can look into interval training. But basically you have an interval where the intensity is 100%, this is your challenge. You run as fast as you can or do as many repetitions in a certain time frame, followed by an interval with lower intensity or rest. If you don’t exercise regularly, you can start with creating an exercise routine. It benefits your health and it will challenge you.
- Surround yourself with positivity: The people, music, sounds, smells, locations, everything you surround yourself with have a big influence on who you are and how you feel, very often on a subconscious level. This is why it is so important to bring consciousness to your surroundings. If you want to feel good, surround yourself with what feels good. If you are constantly surrounded by people who complain about life and feel stuck and hate everything, will this support you in being happy? If your home looks messy, do you think that will help to create focus and clarity in your life? If you get stressed out just by thinking about your job, is it worth keeping it? You know what I mean. Question the things you do every day. Because those are the things that determine your life. And you have always a choice to change something about all of it and choose to be happy.
We have the same automatic responses to stress (challenges/obstacles) in different situations. How you react during a run, when you come to the point where you just want to stop, is the same reaction you have in other situations. Let’s say you lose a very important client, your relationship ends or someone hits your car. Think about it. How do you react in those situations? Do you blame others or the circumstances and put yourself in the position of a victim, because you had no other choice? Do you immediately quit when things get hard because you think there is no point in trying? Do you become so anxious that you freeze? All of these reactions are not necessarily healthy reactions. They won’t make you happy and they don’t provide any solutions to your problem. During every workout you can decide how you want to react instead, how you want to feel instead.
There is no reason to be miserable for weeks or even longer, not even after a breakup or after losing someone you love. It is important to honor the emotions that come up with those kinds of situations. Hold space for those emotions and make the decision to let them go and create space for a smile, for gratitude, for love, for joy. I know it is hard sometimes, I do know, believe me. And I also know that those times and negative feelings pass even faster if we work on it.
Happy people work on their happiness every day. It is nothing that some people have, and others don’t. Happiness is something that we need to create, with mindful routines, every single day. Instead of choosing to work on being miserable by giving up or constantly worrying or resisting change and feeding into the negative emotions and thoughts, you can decide to take over and write the next chapter of your life yourself.