I want to share some of my thoughts about how to create a happy life (whatever it means for each one of us). These thoughts are based on my own observations, personal experiences, reading, knowledge of psychology, my work with clients and God knows what else – I don’t remember all my sources.
To live a fulfilled, fairly happy, harmonious and fruitful life, we need to live in the present (the popular “here and now” slogan), creating a better future while healing the past. All of this happens in three planes of human existence: behavior, thoughts and feelings.
Our past shows up in our habits, automatic behaviors and reactions (area of behavior); in suppressed and unprocessed feelings and emotions and the ways in which we resist them (area of feelings); and various belief systems, thought patterns, expectations and projections (area of thoughts).
All three areas are interconnected. For example, when we do something bad (behavior), we feel guilty (feelings) and criticize ourselves for that (thoughts). Or, when we recall some hurtful event (thoughts), we feel sadness and might start crying (feelings). Sometimes, we might wake up in the morning and for no good reason feel blue (feelings) and then we start seeing the world around us in dark colors (thoughts).
To start changing our life we can begin in any of these areas – whatever is easiest for us. That is, when we change a behavior, we start feeling better (for example, if we go on a hike, it may bring us joy). The same thing happens when we change our thoughts (If I think that rain is good, I feel better about it than when I think that “I hate rain”). When we allow ourselves to feel any feelings completely, until they run their course, our thinking starts changing and we start perceiving things differently. I hope you get the drill.
One of the main obstacles on the path to improving our lives are all the accumulated negative feelings that we didn’t have a chance to experience fully (what psychologists call suppressed feelings). Any feeling that we didn’t experience fully (suppressed, ignored, blocked) stays somehow locked in our bodies (held by contracted muscles) and our energy field. The more feelings we suppress, the more energy it takes to keep them blocked and in check – so they won’t explode!
However, this doesn’t work very well and many people are familiar with situations in which they did explode and felt that their raging emotions were totally out of control. In addition, suppressed feelings often lead to depression, anxiety, lack of energy and motivation, to illnesses, diseases and premature aging. All of this indicates how important it is to deal with old, suppressed emotions.
A second major source of problems are the unexamined and false belief systems which create unrealistic expectations for ourselves, other people, and world around us. “I should be this way,” “I shouldn’t be that way,” “They have to be a certain way,” “Good people don’t do things like that,” “Love is…” “Children should behave that way,” “I can’t cry because it’s weakness,” “I can’t be weak,” “Everybody just wants to hurt me,” “I never have enough money,” “I am never good enough,” “I am a loser.” We could continue this list indefinitely! When life doesn’t meet our expectations (or on the contrary meets negative ones), we feel disappointed, hurt, angry – at ourselves, people and life itself. So, in order to live a fulfilled life, it’s important to question our beliefs and periodically conduct a reality check of our thoughts and convictions. Are they helping us, or stifling our growth? Are they worth keeping, or is it better to re-evaluate their usefulness?
The third problematic area happens when we settle into a routine and our actions become automatic and repetitious. Day after day we do the same things over and over again. We get up, take shower, get dressed, have coffee, go to work, come back home, have dinner and go to bed. We turn into robots, zombies. When this happens, we get bored and fall asleep; we loose the zest for life and the joy of living. It’s very important to consciously do something drastically different from time to time, something that brings us joy and wakes us up. It can be as simple as getting together with friends, taking a different route to work, taking little trips here and there, going to the movies, taking a bath with candle light and a glass of good wine, go hiking, parachute jump, climb mount Everest – anything that feels good and allows us to feel more alive. Ultimately, it all comes down to paying attention to what we do, being present in our own life and turning automatic behaviors into conscious choices.
And finally, we need to periodically ask ourselves:“What is it we want from life?” Is it going the way that we envisioned? Is it the way we want it to be? Do we like the path we’ve been travelling? If the answer is “no,” then we need to ask ourselves, “What can we change? What can we do to take a step in the direction of “yes?” Do we need to change a job or career? Maybe learn something new? Take an art class? Go back to school? Change something in our relationships with loved ones? Find new friends? Read a motivational book or go to a seminar? When we make plans and set intentions, then resources we need start appearing, relevant information comes our way and interesting possibilities show up as ways to achieve our goals. This is the process that I call “the creation of the future.”
If we consider all the aspects of life that were illustrated here and work with them – we can eventually live exactly the life we want and dream about.