You may have heard it said that happiness is an inside job. But what does that actually mean?
We Live in Two Worlds
In short, we live in two worlds, our inner world, and our outer world. If you stop and think about it, our inner voice is constantly narrating the things of the outer world. “Gosh” it says, “it’s raining now and I wanted to go biking. It always happens. It’s sunny during the week when I have to work, and sure enough, it rains on the weekend to spoil my plans.”
How is that person feeling right now on the inside? Sad, angry, disappointed?
Did the rain make them feel that way? Think about it. What caused the rotten feelings?
That’s right; their thoughts about the rain. The rain itself is completely neutral. It rains sometimes. That’s a fact. You can’t control it.
That’s your outer world.
And a million things are unfolding in that outer world every day.
Some have absolutely nothing to do with you. And some are right in your face. Your interactions with others, how they treat you, the amount of money in your bank account, your state of health, the traffic, are just some of the things happening in your personal life.
And here’s the point: It’s not the situations, things, events that are unfolding before you that determine how you will feel inside, it’s your interpretation of those situations, things and events that causes you grief and hence determine your level of happiness.
Main point: You are responsible for your own happiness.
Hence, happiness is an inside job.
Have I convinced you yet?
Here’s one more illustration and then I’ll give you some steps to help you feel happier today.
One of my mentors, Leonard Shaw used to teach this lesson like this.
Everyone thinks life is a two-step dance. Something happens and we have a response to it. The government wants more taxes from you and you get angry and feel desperate. Your partner speaks to you in a negative tone and you get hurt.
But, in reality, life is a Three-Step dance. Something happens, you have an instantaneous interpretation of the event, and you respond to your interpretation.
(Event) The government wants more taxes.
(Interpretation) I never get ahead. Something bad always happens.
(Response) Anger and despair.
(Event) Your partner speaks to you in a negative tone.
(Interpretation) They’re rejecting me right now.
(Response) You feel hurt.
Life is a Three-Step Dance
The secret to being happier today is to be aware of those interpretations in step two and to practise letting them go.
Yup. Think of them as just inner babble. Nonsense. Ideas that are likely linked to things that happened to you years ago and are not actually happening now. Old stuff you’ve carried around within you that needs to go out with the trash.
I am not even asking you to change those interpretations. No indeed. They aren’t worth engaging with. They are basically electric charges exploding as thoughts and looking to be released.
And you can do that. You can become instantly happier by releasing those interpretations into the ether.
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How to Become Instantly Happier Today
Step 1: Cultivate self-awareness.
Self-awareness is key to being happier. In fact, it’s the key to most everything about your inner life. And it’s a skill you can learn. One effective way to learn self-awareness is to practise meditation. There are many kinds of meditation. Mindfulness is very popular right now. You can learn mindfulness practices through an app called Headspace. It’s terrific.
In the meantime, you can start cultivating self-awareness today by keeping your inner ear open to that voice inside your head. Simply notice it when you hear it. Oh, and by the way, it’s talking all the time so you’ll have plenty of opportunity. You don’t need to respond to it. Just notice it.
Step 2: Breathe and be grateful.
Whatever is going on inside of you, taking longer, deeper breaths will help you to release the disturbed energy. As soon as you notice the disturbing thoughts and feelings, take a few deep and slow breaths and say to yourself, “relax and release”.
Like this: Breath in – say relax. Breath out – say release. Quietly within.
And when you feel some relief, think about something you feel grateful for. This works best when that something you think about is not related to the event that triggered you.
Think about a child’s smile, a fun pet, a TV show that made you laugh. Or cultivate gratitude for the sun in the sky or the air that you breathe.
You don’t need to have something on the high end of amazing to be grateful. Better to be grateful for the very things we take for granted.
Breathwork and gratitude will change your mood without a doubt. And depending on the degree of the inner disturbance, you might have to do this step many many many times.
Step 3: Affirm
Affirmations are positive, present moment thoughts that speak the truth in that moment.
The voice inside your head that has caused the disturbance in the first place does not speak the truth. It speaks negative interpretations of situations based on past experiences or future worries. Affirmations ground you in the present moment without thoughts of past or future. Try this affirmation as your Step 3.
Affirmation: I am so grateful I control my own happiness.
There you go. Three steps you can take to be happier today.
Just one last thing to remember. These steps are a lifelong practice. It will not serve you to try it once and never again. It is called a practice because that is what it takes, moment to moment practise. I promise, you will get better at it. And I promise you will feel better because of it.
Love to hear from you and how this technique is working for you. Leave a comment. I promise to reply.