si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: April, 2009

Happiness Is Always A Choice

So let’s rock this up a notch. We’ve already discussed that we are not our thoughts or emotions. We’ve checked out not verbalising negative thoughts. What’s the next logical thing to do?

Take it back a step, of course.

If we’re not our thoughts or emotions, well, who controls them?

We do! We’re the damn boss, & it’s about time they knew that.

Oooh, easier said than done, of course (or is it?) If you’ve (as I have) spent a lifetime believing that our thoughts & emotions were us, it can be a tricky mindset to adjust.

  • “I’m angry”
  • “I feel cheated”
  • “I worried about this”

Nope, completely wrong.

  • “I’m experiencing feelings of anger”
  • “I’m experiencing feelings of being cheated”
  • “I’m experiencing thoughts of worry”

Choose to walk? Choose to fly. Pic by missvivienne

Ever seen kids at play? They bang themselves, cry, then two minutes later they’re back playing again, as happily as if it never happened.

What’s going on here? Ok, short attention span might help. Being in the moment definitely helps, but a very important factor is this:

They haven’t been trained that they’re “supposed” to hang onto things yet.

They don’t know about holding onto grudges, or resentment, or pain.

Remember the first time someone really, deeply, hurt you? Still feel that?

Well, how long are you going to hold onto that pain for? Hell, for all you know, the person that caused it is dead now.

Ok ok, so I’m not saying this to belittle the pain you’ve experienced in your life. Not at all.

The point is this – we make a choice. We always make a choice.

With every thought, every emotion, we make a choice. Hold onto it, or let it go.

Sometimes we have rules. Eg, it’s ok for us to let go of these thoughts or emotions:

  • After a certain period of time (“Oh, that was years ago”)
  • After the other person has behaved a certain way (eg, apologised)
  • After the other person has suffered
  • .. or is dead.

All these rules. Why? They’re all bullshit.

They’re all rules that we’re holding onto that stop us from experiencing happiness now.

How about if you had new rules.

  • When the physical pain dissipates, I choose to forget about the incident that caused it
  • It’s safe to let go of pain, because I remember the lessons learned
  • Regardless of how those around me behave, I am the boss of my emotions, & I’ll choose how I react (if at all)
  • I will only continue to entertain thoughts that I enjoy & let the rest go
  • I will actively choose to think thoughts that make me feel better
  • If doing something makes me feel better, I’ll do it more often.
  • If doing soomething makes me feel worse, I’ll do it less.

Or, best of all, just decide, “I’m the boss of how anything makes me feel.”

Because, & here’s a huge secret, YOU ARE.

pic by phuongthao202002

Now yes yes, I can hear you bringing up objections. Life isn’t always that simple. It’s complicated, messy, we never know what’s happening next.

Well here’s another secret (I’m full of them today). It’s not about being perfect. It’s just about being better. Just a little better, tiny steps at a time.

Sure, we all have days where we’re a bit slow on the uptake. Get into a bad spiral & take a while to twig to what’s going on. That’s perfectly ok. Totally normal. Utterly usual.

The point is simply that every moment we choose a higher vibration thought or emotion over a lower one. Ie, we choose to let go of things that bug us, is a moment we become happier.

Another great thing about this process is that if we truly let go, then those thoughts & emotions, over time, stop recurring.

We do, genuinely become happier.

How do I know this? Well, this is exactly what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks.

In some very real & measurable senses, my life is currently the worst it’s ever been. Know what? I don’t care. Sure, I’ve had some freakouts. Total wigouts where I’ve been a mess for a day. Then I pick myself up, let go of the crappy thoughts & emotions. Heal anything obvious.

And then? Yes. Feel better. Feel happy. Truly. Peacefully.

Even in this situation, I can honestly say I have never felt happier in my life. What’s more, every day I know I’m slightly happier than the day before, on average.

The mess around me will be sorted, and soon. Life always changes, & external things will improve. And I’ll be happy then too. Because I’ve chosen to be. Just made a decision “I don’t care what happens around me, I’m going to do everything I possibly can to be happy.”

Life has ups & downs, definitely, but the more of those downs I choose to let go of, the happier I’m becoming… and if I can do it, so can you. One thought, one emotion at a time.


    Stop Whining, Start Winning

    How often do you complain?

    No, I don’t mean half hour long soliloquies at the barista because your coffee is cold, I mean just everyday complaints.

    Anytime you verbally express a negative thought, that’s a complaint.

    Why do we do this? Habit, typically. Sometimes boredom, But deeper than that – oftentimes it’s a social thing (f***mylife is an example) – it’s socially encouraged to bond over misery stories. To sympathise, express empathy & so on. Sometimes it’s a way of adjusting social hierarchies – I’m your superior, but if I express misery that makes us more equal, & thus you more comfortable. If I feel inferior, complaining about you might (in theory) make me feel better about myself by diminishing you somehow. Many entire cultures have whinging as a core attribute (England, I’m looking at you).

    With all those people doing it, what’s the big deal? I mean, really?

    Fundamentally, it damages us.

    Talking about something gives it our attention, our energy. Gives it power.

    Focus on the moon, not the clutter of trees.

    Basically, whining makes you feel shitty.

    If you believe in the law of attraction, then the more you talk about something, the more you’re going to attract more of that thing. Want a miserable day tomorrow? Spend a bunch of time talking about how miserable today was.

    If you think LOA is a bunch of hokum, well think about it this way – why the hell are you wasting you time, energy & attention focussing on something you don’t like? How on earth is that making you any happier? Any more productive? Sorting the problem out, or improving your life? It’s not.

    Sure, undesirable things happen. So what? What really matters is how we react to them. Martin Seligman in Learned Optimism discovered that the key difference between success & failure in life is how we treat setbacks. Fundamentally, we do better, get luckier & have more success the less energy we give to these negative events. Pessimists talk a lot about setbacks. Optimists dismiss them. This is eloquently summed up by Sylvester Stallone who likes to dismiss negative situations with “They probably just ate some bad clams.”

    As Viktor Frankl said, (paraphrased) the only real freedom we have is the freedom to choose how we react to any event.

    The less attention you give negative events (other than the minimum necessary to physically deal with them, of course), the more of your time is focussed on things you actually want. Your goals. Your happiness. Feeling good.

    Whinging takes us out of that zone of joy. Out of expressing ourselves in the world. In the process, it adds nothing positive to our lives at all. The more we can reduce it, the better we feel about our lives. About our days. About how things are going for us. Why? Because how we feel about ourselves is the sum total of our thoughts. The more of those thoughts are positive, the better we feel.

    If you remember nothing else, remember this:

    Your quality of life is directly proportional to how much of the time you feel good.
    Yes, that’s incredibly obvious. You want to have a better life? Spend more of it feeling better.

    Of course, the question is – how do you increase how much you feel good? Well (& a big duh to this one) stop making yourself feel miserable so often. You may not be able to help what happens to you, but you can definitely change how much time you spending talking, thinking or focussing on these bad things around you.

    Try it for a week. Anytime you catch yourself whinging, deliberately let that thought go, & think (or better, say!) something positive instead. Or heck, if you can’t do that, just shut the hell up – that’s a great first step. See how great you start feeling, by comparison. Notice how much better things get in your life – people reacting more positively to you, opportunities arriving, things just somehow going smoother.

    We only have so many minutes each day. Make them count. Make them positive ones. It’s just a choice.

    [If you’d like to read more, my man Dhrumil has a great podcast here about why we complain, & how to help others we see complaining. Also worth checking is AComplaintFreeWorld]


      Meditation for HeadBangers

      Meditation typically brings to mind images of sitting in full lotus on a mountain top somewhere, head in the clouds, a slight levitation visible.

      Ever meet anyone that’s done that?

      pic by pureenergy

      No, me either.

      Fortunately, if you step back & look at meditation as a concept, it’s really just aiming to do two things:

      1. Empty your brain of thoughts (you remember those, they’re the things that are not-you)
      2. Bring you into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness

      This is pretty much the description of flow. Any athlete in peak performance has that. In fact, any peak performer, in any area, is in that state.

      No thoughts, no noise, just pure beingness.

      If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard great things about meditating. Sat down, tried it, & given up due to distraction. Or, you know, found something more important that urgently needed doing.

      So what’s the trick?

      Well, to start with, yep, it can be hard. Thoughts swirl around us like dust in a tornado. We’re assailed from every direction. It can seem damn near impossible.

      Here’s a trick though. Who said you have to be sitting still to meditate? Try going for a walk, or a run – or just sit & jiggle your leg if you’re feeling lazy. That’s fine too.

      Second, who said you have to be quiet? It’s your mind that you’re trying to get to shut up.

      So, how about this. Get some music you really like. Preferably stuff without words – you don’t want to be putting new thoughts into your mind. Preferably reasonably fast – otherwise your brain may (will!) start wandering in the gaps.

      For me, I’m a fan of high bpm (beats-per-minute) dub, drum & bass, and other electronica. It has a regular rhythm, which means you can kind of tune it out, but it’s fast enough that it drowns out most of what’s going on upstairs.

      Crank it up loud & start walking, running, or jiggling.

      You’ll find the music & movement will swamp most of your thoughts. This is a great start. It just makes it easier to see any remaining thoughts that peep out from above the noise.

      Now, what to do when you do catch yourself drifting off? Well here’s the trick.

      Just pay attention. When you see thoughts arising, bring your focus back to the music (or the exercise). Let the thought go. You can always worry about it later, turn it into a haiku or scribble it on a balloon & fling it to the wind.

      Each time your brain starts burbling away, get back into the music. You did choose loud music you absolutely adore, right? Well, that’ll make it easier.

      (be sure to stretch before attempting this super-advanced meditational asana)
      pic by juljo

      As an added benefit? It’ll make you happier. Less crap going on upstairs, listening to music that makes your heart beat that little bit faster, endorphins pouring through your body…

      Besides, you can always sit still & just breathe when you reach the top of the hill.

      ps. If you’re keen to try some other non-standard techniques for stilling the mind, my good friend Dhrumil has an excellent 15min audio on “Falling Still” (or if you prefer, a 20 min video). Then there’s always those old saw-horses EFT & releasing, of course – to get rid of specific thought patterns. Or, you know, just try all of it & see what works for you.