Happiness is accepting that some days you won’t be happy and being OK about it
When I first discovered positive thinking I was on a buzz. The concept totally changed my life, however there were a few extremes that I needed to level out before I could bed into true happiness.
So for a while, when wasn’t feeling so good I tried ignoring my real feelings, in favour of telling myself, somewhat defensively, that I was happy.
I kinda sensed this wouldn’t work for long.
I ignored my fear, stress, and anxiety because I was afraid I would attract more of the same. Basically, I was asking just a little too much of myself.
I bounced about, watched the (awesome) movie The Secret around 100 times, and cut off any soul who dared express discontentment in my company. I actually became afraid of negative emotion, because I wanted to focus purely on the positive.
Things didn’t go so well. With my passionate personality, this repression resulted in occasional moments of explosive anger and a sense of disconnection from myself that rippled out into my relationships with the closest people in my life, such as my then partner, now husband (yes, we got through that phase).
So basically, my perception of those emotions as ‘bad’ lead to an empty, lonely existence.
Stress is one human condition that we are told to avoid, however research shows that our perception of stress effects how we handle it.
Happiness researcher Shawn Achor suspected and went onto prove that our approach to stress can determine how well we manage it.
He found that stress, which is regarded as the number health hazard in the US and related to 70 – 90 % of doctors visits, is generally regarded as something to avoid in the workplace, to the point where employees fear stress.
He carried out a study, where two different three-minute videos were shown to two groups of managers. The first group watched a video detailing all the findings about how stress is debilitating. The second group watched a video that talked about scientific findings that stress enhances the human brain and body (this is true, by the way).
In fact, said Shawn, stress can cause the human brain to “use more of its capabilities, improve memory and intelligence, increase productivity, and even speed recovery from things like knee surgery.”
The findings were fascinating – when stress was embraced as “enhancing rather than debilitating” those lucky managers used the conditions to their advantage. Harmful effects of stress such as backaches, headaches and fatigue reduced, and productivity decreased.
So over the years, while I continued to practice positive thinking, and came to embrace tools such as gratitude and visualisation and mindfulness, I also came to realise that for me, happiness is very strongly linked to self acceptance. I saw that when I can accept myself in any state, I can do the same for those around me.
A friend of mine, a Zen leader, taught me to “make friends” with my feelings. She said that we learn to resist our not-so-nice feelings, when we should be genuinely embracing them, and in doing so, when we genuinely allow our feelings and even get into the heart of them, they dissolve.
I’ve discovered she’s just so right.
Happiness is accepting that you won’t always be happy. Stress, sadness, loneliness are all normal human emotions, that each of us experience from time to time. So next time you’re feeling unhappy, remember to relax and go easy on yourself. In fact the more you can allow your feelings, the sooner they’ll pass by “like clouds in the sky” as my old karate teacher used to say. And while you’re at it congratulate yourself for being authentically you. In my opinion this is a very attractive, and healthy human trait.
Charlotte Squire is the founder of the New Zealand positive news site Happyzine. On February 1st she is launching the Kea Group – a Kiwi flavoured online community, a whanau, to support people to reach their 2016 goals positively and consciously.