Would it make a difference in your life if you smiled more throughout the day? What if those smiles came from feeling more lightness, more moments of joy and appreciation? Sometimes these more desirable feelings seem far away from us when we are feeling weighed down by the stress of our daily lives. Since the crisis of 2008 we have seen a much higher degree of worry and stress from financial concerns, forced career changes, relationship struggles and greater exposure to the turmoil in the world. We have all heard this before and experienced at least some degree of it but most of us have continued on without making positive adjustments in our daily lives. The optimists among us have claimed to not be affected, optimistically trying to keep the positive outlook alive. But the thoughts and emotions around these experiences have an effect on our bodies physiologically and the result can be negative mood, less sleep, anxiety, and a decrease in the experiences of joy or pleasure. Under stress, pleasure itself is harder to experience.
Research on how positive emotions affect behavior and health has shown that people act with more compassion, have greater life satisfaction, and better overall health when they feel positive. According to Psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, increasing positivity in your life not only allows you to sleep better but you also become more open and aware, able to face challenges with greater resilience. Finding positive meaning in our lives allows us to accept ourselves more easily. So what comes first, the positive outcomes in our life or the positive feelings we create intentionally? What is it that creates positivity? Can we actually enhance our ability to lighten up, to enjoy our day-to-day lives more? You might be surprised at how much control you really have over your experience. You can think of it as adding a flavor to your experience, like adding a flavor packet to a soup and all of a sudden it tastes different. It’s enhanced. It’s nurturing, rewarding. We can bring a simple practice into our day to add an injection of positivity into our lives even if we are under stress:
Take a moment and:
1) Appreciate. Consider what you do have. Pause, and really consider. Practicing appreciation has been shown to create positive moods and reduce depression.
2) Wonder. Look around and notice your environment, whether in nature or the city. You may find yourself in amazed admiration for what you see.
3) Empower. Realize there is something you have in you, that you can give today; love, attention, knowledge, something you can do that can help to empower someone or some cause. You make a difference in this world.
Reward yourself every day with these simple practices. You can write the word AWE on a sticky note and place it somewhere easily visible. Consider living in AWE of life every day and you may find your life changed. Amidst the chaos, and even the exhaustion, you can discover your own power to influence how you experience things. On some days you may feel it easier to experience one of these and not the others. If none are easy, try again and you may notice something is there in your life to be in AWE of. After all, our environment is just as much what you notice as what is actually there.