The relief that accompanies good news may be undermining your happiness and these 2 tricks can help.
The good news for the pet owners in my coyote riddled neighborhood is that lost animals just seem to find me. Upon their fur-babies' return, I'm regaled with the visions people had of sweet Fluffy’s desperate attempts to survive the elements and the beasts that abound and, of course, they feared the worst. Not just once, they feared the worst over and over again in a multitude of scenarios. Then they tell me this: they’re so relieved.
Similarly, I have friends who have received the life-affirming news, "guess what? No cancer." To which they respond, without an ounce of happiness, "whew, I guess I’ll make it to that meeting on time after all."
Reacting to bad news was modeled for us since birth because all of our survival instincts kick into high gear once an obstacle presents itself. Quite simply, problems need our attention, so our focus is swiftly diverted until those problems no longer feel threatening. However, we haven’t been taught how to handle good news at all, yet handling it correctly goes a long way toward decreasing stress and increasing happiness.
If you've never given much thought to how you handle positive outcomes, don't worry, you're not alone. Most people don't. We're not wired, by default, to spend a lot of time on non-issues so unless its been taught to us and we've made a conscious practice of it we'd never know the difference it can make in our well-being. Not to mention everyone's plate is pretty dang full which means the energy being directed toward one issue quickly gets diverted to the next as soon as possible.
Think of the last time you received good news, then answer these two questions honestly:
- How much time and energy did you spend worrying about the worst case scenario?
- How much time and energy are you spending now that you know everything is okay?
It's most likely that there is a drastic difference between the amount of time you thought about the positive outcome that actually happened and the time you spent stressing out about the negative outcomes that might have happened. You readily admit you're glad and that knowing it all turned out okay is a load off your mind but because the perceived problem is solved that’s all the attention the happy ending gets.
If you're like most, for every perceived problem experienced you’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time feeling worried, anxious maybe even angry as compared to the time that you’ve felt truly grateful. The physical toll of that imbalance alone is detrimental to your health and well-being. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what is happening right in front of you and what is happening in your vividly, fearful visions.
That means, every single time you imagined Fluffy panicked and terrified in a mad dash to evade the wild carnivorous beast chasing him you experienced the same harmful stress response in your body you would have if you'd actually watched it happen. The barrage of stress chemicals from your imaginings exacts unseen damage to your endocrine system as well as your liver and kidneys as they try to detox those harmful hormones from your body.
Let’s not even talk about the added damage done with the glass of wine you think you need after all of that self-imposed stress. As harmful as this is to your body, the damage exacted on your psyche is far worse.
Fluffy didn’t come home. That happened once. But your mind played that and all of the imagined scenarios repeatedly and in graphic detail. That may not seem significant until you realize that each story told is filed as evidence in your memory bank. Evidence of something "bad" happening. Combine Fluffy’s inconsiderate sabbatical with everything else you’re worrying about and it isn’t long before you’ve got a monolithic pile of unequivocal proof that bad things happen … all the time … to you … and there’s never a break. Your brain and psyche store these erroneous perceptions up until a belief is built that life is hard and that your life in particular is riddled with strife and you never have a chance to just relax.
Over time, that mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because when stressed the brain shuts down access to solutions or different perspectives that might prevent or overcome new obstacles. You’re practically cementing the pattern of self-destruction into your life simply because you’ve spent more time worrying than you have rejoicing.
You see, relief and gratitude are not the same, each has its own focus:
- Relief that the "bad thing" didn’t happen means you’re paying attention to the "bad thing."
- Gratitude that the "good thing" did happen means you’re paying attention to the "good thing."
What you really require for a healthy state of being is a monolithic pile of unequivocal proof that good things happen ... all the time ... to you ... and you're rejuvenated by them.
This isn't about sticking our head in the sand. Painful events happen in our lives, there’s no denying or ignoring that truth. We're wired in such a way that we cannot help but notice them and attend to them so we don't need to work extra hard in that area. We also have these wonderful, celebration-worthy events happen … that we hardly take the time to notice.
Thankfully, all of that damage can be healed in your body and in your mind when you consciously:
- replay and
- bask in the good news as you receive it.
The chemical reaction that comes with true gratitude (not just relief) heals the body. Go inward and feel the warmth of the good news and you'll not only reverse the physical stress-damage you will also compile a whole new batch of evidence for your belief system to build itself around. You’re reminded that wonderful events do happen, life is often easier than expected and there is always time to soak in this infinite, unforeseen goodness.
An attitude of gratitude creates a positive self-fulfilling prophecy simply because the neurological electricity has moved out of survival mode and into thinking, curious, happy mode. Integrating this change is easier than you think and can be started with two tiny shifts you can practice anywhere, anytime.
2 Simple Steps to Heal the Habit of Relief
1) Let relief be the trigger for gratefulness.
Every time you feel alleviated from your stress you’ll be reminded that there’s an opportunity to celebrate something grand.
You made it on time when you thought you’d be late? That means you can be grateful that you have a car, fuel, safe highways and courteous drivers. You didn’t get laid off? You’ve clearly got a skill set that is indispensable. You also have a good chance at reference letters, you have more time to consider your options and perhaps an opportunity to learn a lot about getting yourself and others through the rebuilding process.
2) Take the time to imagine, in detail, the wonderful nature of your news.
Don’t worry, you don't have to carve out time for this. Just like you didn’t have to carve out time to worry like the dickens. You did that while you were driving, walking, or falling asleep. Now just fill that time with beautiful imaginings.
You find out there’s no cancer after all? Imagine every cell of your body strong, bright, growing and healing. Imagine the good health of that disease-free area is spreading to the surrounding areas and sharing its strength and resiliency with the rest of your body. Really feel what it feels like to be healthy all over. Imagine what will be easier for you now that you’re well.
Fluffy came home. Recognize that he is clever and that he loves and needs you enough that even though his curiousity made him stray he returned home. Take a moment to really feel how it is to know that someone you love is safe and sound. You can even imagine him making new cat, dog or squirrel friends or being a companion to somone who really needed a friend in their time of need - of course it would be Fluffy who showed up because he's wonderful!
It takes time and practice to switch your default response to problems. With practice, however, you will begin to respond to life positively, simply because your new pile of proof about how safe, kind and generous the world is will create the belief that informs your every move.
You’ll be amazed at what begins to change for you once you turn your attention to the infinite gifts that go largely unnoticed at the moment. I can't wait to hear all about it!
Have you already started a practice like this? What has changed for you? If you're just beginning, what will you pick to work on and when? Leave a comment below and let me know how you're growing.
Triffany helps dedicated women with a vision bring their powerful dreams to life. When you’re ready to grow who you are in order to improve what you do start with this free monthly call or schedule a chat with her directly.