How to Free Yourself From the Myth of Discontent

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Photo by Ryan McGuire on Gratisography

4 Essential Steps To Getting Happy in the Moment

It is said that the key to the Good Life is to live in the present moment. It sounds so simple and yet for most of us we find ourselves constantly living in the future or past, running around trying to get everything “right” with our lives. What if you could catch yourself before you go down the rabbit hole of discontent and shift your mindset?

Just the other day I noticed myself quickening my pace, trying to hurry through the last of my errands so I could finally get to my treasured destination, the beach! It was Saturday, I was supposed to be happy for the weekend but all I could feel was the irritation of not being where I wanted to be.

Catching the Wandering Mind

We all know this feeling, that drive to be “there”, somewhere in the nicer future, where we’ll feel better, more happy and fulfilled. Maybe we can’t wait for the meeting to end, or for the weekend to come, or for the party to finally be over so we can get some rest! These small nagging moments happen to all of us throughout the day. We convince ourselves to hurry, we get irritated, frustrated, or start complaining as we become disheartened by our current experience, unhappy with whatever it maybe.

These moments of our lives are lost to the myth of discontent. They’re wasted on the mental trap that we can just skip over our lives until things get better. And although sometimes we really are struggling with a bona fide issue in the present moment often it’s just our conditioning to think into the future that makes us blind to all of the goodness that exists right NOW.

The idea that our mind wandering could make us unhappy was researched by scientists from Harvard. They found that a wandering mind is more likely to be an unhappy mind. Their research revealed the more present you are, connected to what’s happening now in your mind and body, the more likely you are to be happy. But it’s not enough to know this – you must practice being present.

When I noticed this feeling the other day I was about to go into the bank when I began to feel irritable and impatient that one more thing was keeping me from my happy place, the beach. But then I stopped and asked myself “Is it true? Is it really better over there, where I’m going? What about Now?” And in that moment I opened my eyes wider to look at the people around me, faces and expressions of life, people talking and connecting with each other, the play of light around trees, the beauty that was there. I felt fully alive again in that moment like I had taken back my life. I felt myself breathing through my body, my feet on the ground, and my eyes open to wonder. This is my life! How surprising it was to see that so many moments, so many days, have gone by without this precious acknowledgment.

Letting Go of Our Conditioning

So much of our stressing and discontent has to do with our conditioned mind to judge people or circumstances as good or bad. In negatively judging others we create separation and isolation. Judging our circumstances as bad we agree with the myth of insufficiency, inadequacy, and lose the magic that resides in this moment where we can notice the wonder of our lives.

We can acknowledge this habit we have in these moments, as I did at the bank, saying to myself, “it’s just my conditioning to think this way. I can choose to be right here, feeling the fullness of this moment”.

To remedy this persistent tendency toward discontent see if you can practice these 4 steps in your daily life when you notice moments of dissatisfaction. Remember, practice is the key!

  1. Acknowledge that you’re feeling discontented, incomplete, not good enough, frustrated, whatever you are feeling that is taking happiness and ease away.
  2. Say to yourself “this is just my conditioning” to look for what’s wrong, needs fixing, or to the future when I’ll be “better”. I can let go of this habitual way of seeing. I don’t have to feel this way.
  3. Turn toward this present moment. Let go of needing to be somewhere else or to feel something different.
  4. Open your senses. Invite in a sense of curiosity, feeling the breath in your body, open your eyes wider to notice what you didn’t see before. Take in the beauty and the wonder of your life. It’s really there even in the most mundane circumstances.

In bringing this curious and open awareness to your experience you liberate yourself from the myth of discontent. You’ve finally arrived at your Life.

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How Self Appreciation Can Ignite Your Confidence

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Photo by Allef Vinicius

5 Focus Steps to Feeling Great About You

Most of us know that gratitude is good for our well being. When we’re grateful we usually think of friends, family, or the community of which we are a part. Or we appreciate what we have, our health, food on the table, the comforts of our homes with running water and electricity. But we are rarely appreciative of our own good qualities.

Turning Gratitude Inward

If we try to feel gratitude toward ourselves we might notice that rather than focusing on our positive attributes many of us are tuned to what is not right about ourselves. This negativity bias is the source of so much discontent in our culture of perpetual striving for self-improvement. As neuroscientist Rick Hanson says, we are like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones, so each time we experience something good it is likely to slip away after only a few seconds.

I remember one day I had finished giving a large presentation and several participants told me how valuable they thought it was, their faces smiling and excited. And then one participant came to me with many questions seeming like he was uncertain about how the talk applied to his life. As I walked back to the hotel I could feel how I was holding on to the “negative” outcome, doubting that I had done a good job. I had a skewed perception of myself in that moment. All I had to do was see the whole picture and I could’ve felt great.

If we want to be happy and build a strong inner confidence we need to be able to see the good in ourselves and make it last!

Instead of participating in our usual negative focus training every day we need to find a way to expand our uplifting moments, to relish what if feels like to experience something good, and allow that to influence our perception.

Appreciating Who We Are

One way to do this is to practice self-appreciation. True self-appreciation is a kindness we can give ourselves. It is not selfish or self-centered but rather honoring and strengthening what good qualities we have. Try this self-appreciation practice:

  1. Think of one thing you appreciate about yourself, one quality. Perhaps you are funny, or smart, kind, generous, curious, or a good leader. Give yourself time to think of this one quality…
  2. Remember an experience where you noticed this good quality about yourself. Notice what was happening, who was there. See if you can let that good feeling arise in you, appreciating your good quality.
  3. Acknowledge your quality to yourself by saying it: “I am _______________” (funny, generous, caring, etc.), whatever the quality is. Repeating the statement of the one quality you appreciate slowly, in a friendly voice to yourself, as if a friend were saying it to you.
  4. Soak it in. Really let it in by giving each statement a good 5–10 seconds or more. Keep with it and savor these moments.
  5. Notice how the experience begins to slip and your mind starts to wander. When this happens come back to the words and repeat them again. Bring back the appreciation.

Now that you have given yourself a deeper appreciation of your good qualities see how you feel. This practice is about learning to turn toward what feels good in you. And, letting that good feeling linger, staying with it long enough to rewire a positive outlook into your brain.

Don’t worry if it didn’t last long, this is something we need to train. If you feel a little selfish it’s because most of us were never taught that it’s OK to bring this kindness and appreciation inward. This doesn’t turn you into a narcissist but rather will boost your self confidence and appreciation. If you noticed doubt or judgment, know that it is normal to doubt our good qualities or to expect more from ourselves. Be patient and allow yourself room for appreciation.

Allow this moment to be one of self-respect, of acknowledgment of your values and hard work. And let it be a reminder of the great influence other people had on you in developing this quality that you cherish.

What was your experience?  Could you access a positive feeling about yourself doing this practice?  Please share your experience.

Why Positivity Matters – 3 Simple Ways to Bring AWE Into Your Life

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.