Find Your Happiness Switch

Happiness in Rain

Do you feel like your happiness depends on others actions? Or you can’t be happy unless the situation changes.

We are all more dependent on our environment and relationships than we want to be. So how do we really choose happiness when we are surrounded by many reasons to be unhappy?

You find the power in your ability to choose how and what you think about. To find a way to not let irritation make you miserable. In doing so, you decide your happiness doesn’t have to be so dependent on changing others. When you find this ability inside yourself, it is empowering.

Find Your Happiness Switch

I know many of your are thinking that you can’t possibly just choose to be happy. You can – you just have to find your happiness switch.

Identify what makes you go negative. And what makes you see the positives too. Most importantly identify what helps you switch from blame to taking responsibility for your happiness.

We all have emotional and thinking parts of our brain. The emotional side is often louder than the thinking side. Your emotions show up first to the scene and try to direct you through their megaphone approach.

When you get your thinking brain to show up on the scene as well, you get to decide who you want to be in charge. This choice is not a debate where you try to persuade the emotions to quiet down. The power is in the choice to feel or act different even when your emotions are loud. The first time you flip your happiness switch you will know exactly what I am talking about.

The most common things we blame  our unhappiness on is a misbehaving child or an unloving spouse. In these situations, your emotions tell you that you can’t possibly be happy unless your child or spouse changes. But how powerful it is when you find the switch that tells you that you can be happy, even when your spouse isn’t being affectionate or your child isn’t being compliant.

Let Go of Need to Blame

If we are honest with ourselves, it is the blame that keeps us from feeling more happiness. We must be ready to let go of blame, and put our thoughts in charge of our emotions.

Another classic frustration example is choosing to be happy even if driving in traffic. I can focus on how much I have to do, and how much time I am wasting sitting in traffic. And I will get more and more tense and frustrated.

But when I realize I have a choice, I can find my switch. How do I, in that moment, not let the traffic dictate my happiness?

For me, it helps to focus on what I have instead of what I don’t have. So I begin to settle into listening to good music more than grumbling about the traffic. And before I know it, I am enjoying the extra time and arrive at my destination less tense.

5 Steps to Choosing Happiness

To find your happiness switch, follow these 5 steps to choose happiness too:

1. Recognize your miserable feelings. (The easiest step to do!)

2. Identify what you are feeling dependent on. (“I can’t feel happy unless…”)

3. Decide you want to be less dependent on environment/others to make you happy.

4. Find and focus on what makes you happy in that moment (instead of dwelling on what you can’t change).

5. Reap the benefits of flipping your happiness switch on.

One of the hardest times is when a person feels helpless to change. When you feel like your happiness is dependent on others, you will feel trapped and helpless. So how do you take your happiness back?

Others can stay the same if they want, but you are going to think differently. And focus on the power of what you choose to think about.

Please share your success and struggles with using your thoughts to boost your happiness. We can learn from each other.

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Subscribe via Email, and you will receive my “Journal for Self-Discovery: 15 Questions to Increase Emotional Intimacy.” Learn how to take your happiness back without distancing emotionally.

Photo Credit: “Happiness” by Ira Gelb

The Opportunity in Falling Out of Love

couple-love-meadow

“Love is born in a glance, and matures in a smile.” ~ Brazilian proverb

Most people enjoy being in love, because falling in love is  a euphoric ride. You are exhilarated when you fall for someone and the feeling is returned. And you can’t stop thinking of them, wanting to spend every moment together, as if you can’t get enough.

We hope this feeling will never end, and when it starts to dissipate we worry. Life is not like the fairy tales, movies, nor romance novels. Love has seasons that change as the relationship, life, and family changes. But just because love between two people changes, it doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Relationships are always evolving. While change is hard, it doesn’t have to mean something is wrong. Join me in exploring how love and marriages evolve and how we can think about the new seasons with more smiles.

Identify Your Season of Love

Helen Fisher, anthropologist and author of Why We Love, shares her thoughts on how love changes so that our species can survive. With a team of scientists, Fisher scans the brains of people who have recently fallen in love. Through her research, she discovers that certain areas of the brain light up when we are falling in love.

Fisher concludes that all animals and humans feel romantic love in the reward center of their brains. In other words, love is much more complex than having a positive feeling, it is a “fundamental mating drive.”

Through her work, she identifies three interlocking drives that primitively speaking help keep families alive. Fisher explains that “drives” evolved to motivate us to reach different goals:

  1. Lust: “to seek an array of sexual partners”
  2. Romantic Passion: “to choose one partner to dote upon”
  3. Attachment: “to remain emotionally engaged with him or her long enough to rear a child together”

Fisher goes on to explore whether or not these drives (or seasons) can occur at the same time. Do you identify with one or more of the above relationship goals?

Twenty years ago on spring break, I was interested in talking to many young men. But by the end of the trip, I had picked one young man that I hoped to spend more time getting to know. We stayed in this romantic love season until some time after our wedding.

Love Changes and Relationship Patterns Emerge

You gradually start to see your spouse as they are. While you were once blinded by passion and able to overlook their faults, you are now living with their strengths and weaknesses every day.

And predictable patterns of interaction emerge when tension and conflict rise. Depending on how you think about the differences, you may start feeling less attracted and more distant. Since the “romantic love hormones can only last 12-24 months” into a new relationship, how do you deal with these relationship patterns, negativity, and worry?

“We’ve become addicted to the hormone rush fueled by the media hype and don’t know what to do when it’s over, except to find someone new.” ~ Susana, Hubpages.com

As you pick a mate to spend the rest of your life with, the hormones that once attracted you are starting to slow down. So it’s not physiologically possible to stay on the high of falling in love. But many people are distraught that the romantic feelings have gone.

Emotional Distance or Intimacy Evolves

While you can’t return to the original feeling state, you can work on how you think and interact with your spouse. Many people become so negative about their partner and their relationship, that they want to leave the relationship “seeking happiness.” But others want to find out how to be less negative and develop a new level of openness with their mate. Love’s changing season becomes an opportunity to grow your friendship and intimacy by growing yourself.

Instead of trying to get your spouse to meet your needs better, it is seeing them as separate from you emotionally that makes it easier to get close to them. If you are always thinking that they don’t care for you or want something from you, then you will keep your distance.

Everyone feels distant sometimes. When you can focus less on blaming your partner and more on identifying when you feel distant, you can begin to reclaim your happiness. When you become less defined by what your partner does or doesn’t do, you are free to be yourself. Your partner is also free to be him or herself. It is through this “growing up” stage of marriage that emotional intimacy is found, as it’s easier to get close to each other again.

Which opportunity will you take: Is marriage’s changing seasons an opportunity for growth and intimacy? Or is it an opportunity to leave the marriage?

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Subscribe via Email, and you will receive my “Journal for Self-Discovery: 15 Questions to Increase Emotional Intimacy.” Learn how to take your happiness back without distancing emotionally.

Photo Credit: “In Love” by Hartwig HKD

 

4 Steps to Effectively Manage Worry and Anxiety

merry-go-round

Worry is like being on a spinning ride minus the thrill of excitement. Instead worry is  experiencing spinning thoughts filled with what-ifs. One worry leads to another worry with no clear direction of how to stop the dizzying spin.

Worry is not only spinning in circles, but it is also a narrow, negative assumption of future problems. When we worry, we assume we can’t handle something that hasn’t happened yet. Worry makes it hard to enjoy the moment or embrace the way it is.

“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.” ~ Glenn Turner

Are you tired of your worry stopping you in your tracks? When you believe your worry is true, you’ll react as if you or someone you care about is  threatened. Humans are the only creatures who can turn their stress response (fight or flight) on by imagining threatening situations in their mind.

4 Steps to Manage Worry & Anxiety:

It’s time to take your mind back. Step-by-step, learn how to manage your anxiety and worry by sorting out your automatic reactions to perceived threats.

Step 1. Slow Down and Reflect: Since most reactions are outside of our awareness, first slow down and reflect on how you got yourself so worked up. When you notice your heart racing, head aching, or stomach flopping, reflect on what you are anxious about. What are you interpreting as a threat to you or someone you care about? Bringing this into your awareness is the first step to accessing those calmer thoughts.

Step 2. Sort Worry from Reality: People can worry about almost anything and be convinced that their worry is true. It’s important to know the difference between your worry (anxiety = what if) and reality (fact = what is), so you can eventually choose which one you want to think and act on.

For example, your tween daughter comes home concerned about an argument she had with her friends on the playground. You worry that her friends won’t treat her well, and that your daughter can’t handle the problem without your help. The reality is friendships change and you can’t do much about what goes on during recess within your tween’s social circle.

Before you start to give your daughter advice, she tells you how she plans on handling the situation the next day. She just gave you evidence that she is prepared to handle the problem herself, and doesn’t need adults to step in. She just wants you to know what is going on, and needs a warm hug and ear to hear her out.

Step 3. Make a Choice: In this example, you have identified your worry as the following what if: unsure your tween can handle her own problems and wanting to protect her. You also identified the reality as the following what is: your tween has given evidence that she doesn’t need an adult to help her manage the social problems. You could very easily hold onto both of these ways of thinking about the problem,  and stay worried about something you can’t control.

Or you can choose which way you want to think about the problem, so you don’t have to absorb emotional responsibility for something you can’t change in the future. If you choose to only think about the reality of the situation, you will be freeing yourself from holding onto the worry. In that moment, you choose to focus on the facts of reality more than your anxiety about social threats, you set yourself free from worry.

Step 4. Confirm Actions Match Choice: This step can naturally happen once you choose to focus on reality, not worry. But other times, you will need to identify how your actions match the choice in thinking you just made.

For example, if you are choosing to focus on how you think your tween can learn to manage her own social problems, but start giving her advice. Then you just fell back into worry and unsureness. It’s easy to pick a worry back up when your actions don’t match your calm thinking. Instead, identify how your actions can match your thinking about the problem.

Most people skip steps, and try to act less worried. But it is our thoughts and choices that determine how we act and interact. It isn’t until you make a choice on how you think about the problem, that you are able to calm yourself down and liberate the worry.

Which step do you have more trouble with when you try to manage your worry?

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Marci offers face-to-face counseling services in the Kansas City, MO area and is available for coaching via Skype. If you are stuck trying to ask those calm thoughts, so you can manage your worry better, Schedule an appointment today.

Photo Credit: Merry-Go-Round by Ronald Meriales