Many people feel they will be happy once a certain milestone is reached. Once they get a promotion, build a house, have a baby, or start a business that makes a profit – once these things arrive, they will be happy. Till then, their happiness, if it exists, is a lesser variant of happiness.
Psychologists the world over tell us today that this kind of reliance on external circumstances to deliver our happiness is not sustainable. The locus of happiness should be within us. Mindfulness – not dwelling in past or future outcomes – is the key to this kind of inner, controllable happiness. And when it happens, we will – like the poet William Blake – be able to see eternity in a grain of sand.
In the blog The someday trap I talk about how happiness does not depend on quantity. It is entirely a function of quality, and how we can choose to experience happiness now.
UCLA Neuroscientists have studied our brains and have come up with some tricks that you can practice to create an upward spiral of happiness for you:
Talk to yourself
When we are unhappy, we tend to spiral down into a vortex of despair. Instead, we need to be aware. We need to ask ourselves, ‘What’s going on? Why am I feeling this way? Only if we understand what emotions we are experiencing and why we are experiencing them, can we take corrective action.
Label negative emotions
When you are feeling low, try to understand what’s going on. You need to assess the emotion and give it a name. Perhaps you feel sad or envious or angry or just restless. Research had proved that if you know how you are feeling, if you recognize the emotion, its negative impact on you reduces.
Too often we are so busy driving ourselves to achieve those goals we forget all the stuff that’s going right. When you are down, remind yourself who you are, what your purpose is, and how you make a difference in the world. For example, you tell yourself, ‘I am a creative writer and insightful linguist. My purpose is to bring insight and inspiration to people through my words, ideas, and thoughts.’ Remembering our purpose and our strengths puts us back in touch with the bigger picture and makes us focus less on tactical failures and temporary setbacks.
Take that decision
According to neuroscience pundits, one of the best ways to defuse anxiety and the blues is to take an action. Action, in these circumstances, is the enemy of destructive thought. When we are stressed or depressed, our minds are fragmented. It is this fragmentation that makes us enfeebled. When we take a decision, it acts as a unifying force, running through the fragments and sealing them up. This is not imagination. It is a real, physiological process. So the next time you’re feeling down, try and take a decision. You will immediately feel better.
Be social. Stay in touch with people. Handshakes and hugs are good.
Get out and meet your friends, spend time with them outdoors, cook food for them at home. Relationships are very important. Make the relationships real, make time to meet and spend time with people who matter to you. According to neuroscience, touch results in release of oxytocin in the brain, which in turn activate painkilling endorphins. Endorphins make you feel happy.
So, in summary, when you’re feeling down, do these five things:
1. Talk to yourself, understand what is happening
2. Label negative feelings
3. Think of your wins, feel gratitude
4. Make decisions
5. Reach out to someone, put that smart phone away
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a Life coach and Leadership coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Sandhya, a life coach in Bangalore, who runs a life coaching academy, can help individuals with a desire for change to examine their beliefs – or their ‘stories’ – and change them for the better, so they can achieve their goals.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.