Whenever I had the opportunity to make a wish as a kid--you know... the whole toss-a-penny-in-a-fountain thing or birthday-candle extravaganza--I'd always wish to stay happy. I really thought I had the world beat with this wish. Typical 4th kid nature, trying to outsmart everyone else (yes, I did conceal losing a tooth to get to the bottom of my tooth-fairy dilemma).
If I happen to catch the clock at 11:11, it takes me back to those days. I wonder what the hell my magic wish would look like if it came alive. Could happiness really be infinite? It's tough today, we live in a world where everyone on social media has a filter to the perfect life.
I like to think of myself as a glass-half-full kind of gal, but I catch myself now and then... comparing my life to posts from old classmates, my colleagues, friends, and even my own sisters. Social media contributes to those feelings of discouragement; "I'm single and every other post is an 'I'm engaged' shot," "I hate my job and everyone has best friends at work," "I've made a health resolution to lose lbs, but she lives off of fast food and looks like a swimsuit model," we all have kryptonite.
I definitely feel happiness in my life every day, but I also feel stress, frustration, sadness, vulnerability, and failure. Sometimes a single bad exchange or negative thought can snowball, consuming my mind for a 3-day-stretch before I finally get over it.
Why do we fixate on a thing that might not be going well, instead of focusing on the many positives in our lives?
Most people will admit they want to live a happy life, and we all picture that "happy life" differently. When researcher's compared a total up to a total down (think: you won the lottery vs. you will never walk again), after one year both groups measured the same happiness level. What?! I still choose the lottery...
So, in my attempt to kick 2018 off with a better me, I took a deeper look into this idea.
What did I find? Perspective plays a huge role. You'll never really have true happiness if you're constantly focused on the negatives around you.
I tuned into the Ted talk by Matthieu Richard, a Molecular Genetics Doctor-Turned-Monk, all about the Habits of Happiness. He dives into the science behind it, describing how emotions are fleeting. You can't have feelings of love for someone while you are actively hating them (although these feelings can switch on and off pretty quickly), just as you don't notice the good you have going on when your obsessed with your failures.
I'm the first to admit there is a time for positivism, but there's also a time to curl up on the couch and binge watch Netflix because your day was crap. It's not to say we shouldn't feel sadness or defeat, those are normal emotions! But life is too short to live there all the time.
Research shows that musicians who practice an instrument for hours each day, actually alter their brain structure and ability to play (AKA: the more you practice something, the better you become). This exact same concept has been studied, but with feelings of joy. Monks who meditate for hours a day were compared to a control group. The monks' brains showed the ability to feel love and happiness far beyond those who don't regularly practice the same perspective.
For me, sitting in silence for 12 hours a day without T.V., my phone, music, family or friends sounds like torture. But I then reflect on how many hours of my life I spend on what I think makes me happy. Instead of sitting in front of the T.V., what if I spent that time working on being more positive? Could it be the biggest life-changer of all? If we don't all agree to quit life and become Monks (I'm definitely not going to stop Pinning my dream closet or following Gigi Hadiid on Instagram, okay?!), maybe we could incorporate a few small practices together--it could kick our quality-of-lives up a few notches!
Some of my favorite Positivity Practices:
How to Think Your Way Through The Life You Want
This is a little book I got when I was an anxious mess ( jumping into a hospital setting was quite the 180 from my college campus days). It provides practical examples of how you can perceive the same experience different ways. It really helps you practice a positive, more confident outlook!
The Happiness Project
My sister showed me this one. We we were going through a similar period in our lives (we now refer to it as "that year" or the time our other sisters would buy us cards like "beware of sh*t storms"). I can say, years later, she still abides by it! This book takes a real deep-dive into how happiness works, so if this post resonates with you, you might want to check it out.
Reverse Bucket List
This one is a page out of Kate's book! One of Kate's favorite questions to ask me is, "what is filling your cup?" It's the best way to stay focused on the positive and clear out those negative in my mind. This bucket list is a lovely reflection of all you've accomplished, instead of all the things you haven't gotten to yet.
Social Media Cleanse
I love so much about Instagram, Facebook, T.V., Pinterest, blogs (DUH!), but sometimes I can over indulge. The scrolling can become a constant habit. This can start to be a real negative perspective from day-to-day. My mom always enforces a strict "phone basket rule," we all put our phones in the basket during fam-time. It was always super annoying (even as adults, our family spends too much time together...) but she was always on to something. We don't need to be checking Instagram on Friday night to see what everyone else is up to. It's our Friday night, too! Let's focus on the people or pleasures we have right in front of us! This is something I have incorporated in the evenings when I spend time with Joe (the fiancé), and on the weekends with friends & fam. It brings me one step closer to being more present. If there is a specific time when you binge on social media, reflect. Ask yourself if it's helping or hurting your happiness?!
The 5-Minute Journal
A fun way to remind yourself of all of your pearls! Because I am committed to my bullet journal, I found a way to incorporate The 5-Minute Journal concept into it. I write a positive thought about my day ahead each morning, and end it with self-love or my favorite moment.