The route to happiness can't be faked. Get real with yourself before you slap on that smile!
The topic of happiness and discussion of ways to get and be happy means nothing when you're miserable. What happens during those times when you just don’t feel the joy? Even though research proves putting a smile on your face does increase joy, it won't bring lasting peace if you're burying pain. For joy to endure, agony needs to end. Pain stops when you get to the root of why it exists.
So if you aren't sensing the joy, stop. Consider what is holding you back. Your answer is the beginning to truly experiencing joy rather than bearing a grin through life.
Drop the happy face and get real
Meet yourself where you are now. However you feel is ideal because it supplies information on how to move forward. Discomfort and pain in our life regardless of whether it is emotional or physical, exists to provide us with information. It’s an opportunity to learn.
Being in distress feels horrible. Refusing to acknowledge suffering is even more painful because it renders us hopeless and powerless. The pain compounds.
When we say “yes” to life — however grueling — we accept ownership for the life we have. We recommit to the journey of a lifetime where we don’t always have the answers but are still willing to explore and engage. As we make that recommitment, we empower and remind ourselves that we have the control to change our actions. We can -- and will -- return to joy. We are already there.
Integrated guidance system
Fortunately for us, we are born with a brilliant guidance system. Our body and mind are closely linked, constantly giving us clues to what is happening in our thoughts and emotions. Even if we attempt to steam roller our way through life conquering our goals and ignoring emotions, our body continues to signal our subconscious feelings. They register within our body mind system. Research has shown that through peptides, specifically Peptide T, we are registering messages of a non-physical nature in a mystical or spiritual domain.
For analytic thinkers, science can reassure that there is a reason behind what is observed and felt. For non-linear individuals, what may have been previously understood through experience alone is now substantiated through research.
Simply by paying attention to physical clues in the body we gain information about our emotions and beyond. How much easier can it get? We get to choose: match emotions to the body, or start with the physical clues to decipher feelings.
Let the learning begin!
Our thoughts, emotions, and physical body give us tremendous clues to our overall state of well being. Next time you are aware of being less than at your optimal level of joy, scan all three of those and reflect honestly:
1. Where are your thoughts?
are they in turmoil, jumbled, scattered ….
Take a few moments to notice what they are and how they are behaving. Don’t try to change them in any way at this point, just monitor their current state.
2. What are your emotions?
are you aware of anger, anxiety, fear, dread …
3. How do you physically feel?
Is your chest constricted, your back tight, your hands clenched …
Also consider your actions. Are you hesitating to respond in any way?
Once you are aware of your existing clues, consider what that data represents for you. If your thoughts were jumbled, do you know why? If your chest was constricted, were you possibly holding back tears and are you aware of your grief?
Use this scan as an exercise and take the time to apply it to your current state. You have the potential to receive tremendous insight. A valuable resource for deciphering emotional and physical language clues, and subsequently knowing how to handle the findings, is Inna Segal's The Secret Language of Your Body: The Essential Guide to Health and Wellness.
Once you are aware of your current state, you have a choice in how to act next. If we register an experience negatively either emotionally or physically, it remains in our system until we somehow defuse it. Making a decision to take positive action for the most beneficial result restores hope and a sense of ownership in life.
Much processing and defusing is done naturally and systematically through exercise and healthy living habits. We don't even think about it. We just get on with life!
But what about the trauma of a person without healthy living habits? Good nutrition, proper sleep hygiene, positive human interactions, routine daily exercise, etc. are all essential for keeping us functioning at an optimal level. Those habits allow us to systematically shed what builds up while fostering emerging growth at the physical and emotional level. Without healthy habits, we aren't creating an environment in which joy can flourish.
Tools to process
Many tools and techniques exist to help unpack our personal mysteries of life and aid us to get real on a routine basis. Creating your personal ToolKit of Resources can be one of the most fun adventures you undertake. Existing practices such as specific forms of yoga, systematically address each component of our body, mind, spirit structure. Seane Corn's Yoga of Awakening is an excellent example of a systematic approach.
There is no single solution though. Only you can put together the combination that will resolve your particular bodily needs with the way your mind functions as you express your unique feelings accumulated within your life experiences. Your choices of actions will -- and should -- be determined by only you.
As you set up your Toolkit, address the three components of caring for body, mind (thoughts) and Spirit (emotions and creativity). Personalize them to your specific life and needs. Change them as you evolve and as the seasons turn. And take time to choose from the many resources available to find the optimal choices that characterize your needs.
The difference between moping and moving through the challenge
It is far more pleasant to be in the company of happy people, and that state of joy is one we are all striving towards. So much so that it is tempting to slap on that happy face, knowing you will feel better, and greet the world. The subtle distinction is in your awareness.
Put on the smile after you acknowledge the challenge. Then make a choice of a positive action. Suppressing and denying difficulty is not the road to values-based joy, or experiential happiness.
Get real and accept your current reality. Choose the most promising action. Then, do it -- take action! When you choose to look at life hopefully and take action for a positive outcome, you accept responsibility and control of your life.
(re)Open to Joy
Perhaps you still won’t feel joyful once you’ve met yourself in your current state, but if you are like me, you will feel at peace knowing you are exactly where you need to be. There is comfort in having tools to process discomfort. Enjoy the curiosity to unpack whatever lesson and opportunity lies within. Joy is always there, waiting. It unfolds and grows with choosing positive action. It's time to get real and get happy.
Jan L. Bowen is a passionately authentic thought leader who helps clients align their lives so they find more joy and greater connection through articulating and living their purpose. To get Jan’s latest book, "Why Do You Get Up In the Morning? How to Demystify Your Life Purpose," download it now. You will also receive her newsletter, with articles only available by subscription.
This article was originally published at Jan L. Bowen. Reprinted with permission from the author.