There is likely a silent conversation you are having with yourself – a conversation that you might not even be aware is going on.
It goes like this: “I can’t choose happiness because…”
Or possibly: “I can’t choose happiness until…”
Have you become so used to “as happy as I should probably expect to be” that you’ve given up on “HAPPY”…?!
Many of us believe that “happiness” is something obtained. Or perhaps a destination, or a result. There are all kinds of variables, inputs, and influences. It’s out there somewhere, waiting. Although we want to feel it (internal), we believe it is external.
(And if “happiness” isn’t quite the word for you, then how about: contentment, fulfillment, joy, ease, peace, presence, satisfaction…or fill in the blank. I’ll keep using the word happiness to encompass these things.)
In reality, happiness doesn’t go anywhere at all. It’s right here. You might call it: a state of being.
(“So true, Betty Mae! But I have a teensy-weensy question: pray tell, why is it so friggin’ elusive?!”)
Thanks for asking!
The answer is: because of…habits.
And habits are established through repeated – usually, unconscious – choices.
So, if you could in fact “choose” your state of mind, what state would you choose?
(Because you are choosing.)
It only “feels” elusive – or odd, or unattainable – that “choosing” our state of being is something we do. But we do. Think about it. If we can’t choose our own state of being, who can? Or who has been in the past?
Nope, it’s our choice and ours alone
Let’s dig a little deeper and discover how we win what often feels like a losing battle. We can, in fact, choose happiness. We can choose our state of being.
Is this a difficult idea to accept?
Habits in this context are essentially neural pathways in our brains. It’s very much like a wagon wheel rut. The problem for us is that we too easily believe it’s permanent.
Not even close. It’s only because we are “used to” a certain state of being (that darned wagon wheel rut) that we “believe” it is a permanent fixture. We let it run along on auto-pilot. We believe that nothing will change. “Because nothing can change.” And so we tire out, we give up on it, or leave it to anyone or everything but ourselves to decide.
But, it remains…our choice.
What would you say your “home state” is? What are you generally feeling like? What is your typical outlook? What level is your energy? What colour of glasses are you looking through? When you’re not thinking about it, what state do you discover you have chosen by default?
This is your habit. These are the neural pathways you have nurtured. It didn’t just happen. Consciously or habitually, you chose it. You are a chooser.
Of course, there are many, many external influences on us. But they remain only that: influences. They don’t choose our state of being for us. We do.
The key is that we have to get below the surface of our conscious selves. I’ve noted before that neurologists tell us that between 90-99% of our daily lives are run by our subconscious or unconscious mind. And this part of our brain runs on patterns. Once we set a pattern, it loves to repeat them.
What’s the good news?
Establish a new pattern, and your unconscious brain will learn to run on that signal! And it’ll get easier and easier to maintain that new state of being. In many ways, it’ll maintain itself.
The first BIG step is to begin making NEW CHOICES.
Are you waiting for something or someone outside of you to change before you can change your internal experience, your state of being?
You make the change. Right now. Make a different choice. Try a new thought. Shake it up.
Do something you regularly do in a completely different way. Take a different route home. Brush with your left. Stand up when you normally sit. Confront the thoughts that keep returning when you’re lying in bed, or doing the dishes, or arriving home to your mate. Practice a new thought or new words or physical posture. Really! Try it differently this time. And do it again. And again.
Your unconscious brain will start to take notice. Persist, because that new habit needs to out-habit the old habit. And once it does, then you really have momentum on your side. Share the journey with someone. It’s ALWAYS better when we support each other.
While you try out some new habits, observe yourself. Be aware.
Notice what happens physically when you change your habit. Did your shoulders release? Did your breath soften? Did your jaw unclench? Did the corners of your mouth start to creep up toward your ears?! If so, don’t you want more of that?
If not, try things the other way around.
Sometimes a physical change in our posture or position instigates a mental change. Just smile. Sound stupid? Gobs of research suggests it’s one of the smartest activities going. Whether you are re-writing the script of your thought patterns or your body’s patterns (or both at the same time), it’s your choice that makes the difference.
Did I just see the spark of a new neural pathway opening up? Thought so!
– Betty Mae