HAPPINESS — WITH REWRITING YOUR LIFE – DR. KEN BEST, D.C. SHEDS SOME LIGHT ON THE ELUSIVENESS OF BEING HAPPY
BY KENNETH BEST, DC, COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTOR –
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2, 2009 – INSIDER’S HEALTH JOURNAL
What Is Happiness?
What is happiness, and why does it make people so miserable? Because we live in a dualistic world of good and evil, right and wrong, the have and have-nots, we tend to look at our feelings and emotions from this same perspective. If we are not happy, then we are miserable in varying shades of gray.
Happiness is often associated with an exalted uplifting feeling, which comes and goes leaving us feeling less than happy. However, happiness can be a state of being that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be jumping for joy every second.
Happiness is probably one of the biggest reasons people are so miserable.
People constantly chase happiness and seldom find it, which leaves them feeling miserable. The idolization of material goods as a source of happiness is usually the culprit. Happiness brought on by the attainment of things is fleeting and leaves us wanting more. It is no different from an addiction to drugs for a contrived sense of happiness.
Feelings should come and go with grace and ease throughout your day. Feelings are your experience of life around you and comprise your internal barometer of how you respond to the world around you. You respond to life by feeling. Emotions, on the other hand, are feelings that get stuck. We tend to hold on to feelings because of thoughts we have about a person or situation. Because we hold on to these feelings, they become distorted and we twist them into different emotions that begin to take hold on us. We can be emotional about something for hours or even days even though the original feeling passed in seconds.
The body responds to feelings by producing chemicals in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is an area of the brain that when stimulated produces chemical messengers that travel throughout the body causing it to respond to certain stimulation. These chemicals are a translation of the feeling and stimulate the body to respond to the feeling in an appropriate way. A feeling of fear, for example, stimulates the body to be prepared to run, hide or fight. Holding on to emotions generates more chemicals from the brain, prolonging the feelings and reactions in the body, which can become self-destructive. The body becomes so reactive to these chemicals that normal body chemistry becomes upset and affects our mood and immune system. The body basically becomes toxic from all these negative emotions that generate chemicals in our body. We need to be able to move out of this over-reactive emotional state and experience our feelings without creating an avalanche of chemicals in our body.
It is possible to maintain a state of happiness while being open to feelings as they come and go; it is possible to feel sadness at the loss of a loved one, without going into despair, by being in a state of happiness.
This is not to say that we ignore or cover up feelings by any means. It is actually being more available to our feelings and being able to respond to any situation. In this ability to respond and connect with life, we are in a state of happiness even if we are having feelings of grief, sadness or anger, if those feelings are appropriate to the situation; if we haven’t distorted those feelings into emotions. Once our feelings become emotions, our thoughts take us into the past or the future and we are no longer responding to life in the moment. That’s when we step outside our state of happiness. And when we do, we allow ourselves to feel alone, isolated or enraged, and we fall into depression or despair.
Joy and happiness are always right here within us.
Happiness seems illusive because we are always looking outside ourselves to find things to make us happy. It is our belief that happiness is derived from an external source that drives us to look for things to make us happy. We allow things such as money, gifts, events and other people to bring out our happiness and joy temporarily, but soon we are cut off from being happy because we start worrying about the past or future, or something gets in the way. If we shift our perspective and understand that we already have all we need to be happy within us, then everything else is icing on the cake. We are able to remain in a state of happiness no matter what is going on in the world around us.
While it may not seem so obvious to you in this moment, you can choose to be happy right now, despite whatever you may be suffering in your life. We give so much attention to our suffering that it gains a certain amount of power over us.
Living in the present moment means being able to respond to life right now.
We feel so unhappy most of the time because we are never really alive and living in the present moment.
If you stop to think about the past or the future, you are no longer experiencing and responding to the present moment. You are feeling and responding to something your mind is creating about the past or future — which may be real, but most often is not. We often create these very elaborate stories in our head and even foresee the outcome, which often creates an emotional response to something that isn’t even real.
We seem to find things to complain about in order to be unhappy. Sometimes we expect so much from ourselves and others that we feel disappointed in ourselves or them. Why do we focus so much on the negative? Because we are taught to find what is wrong, not what is right in life. We are taught that if things are going too well, it is probably going to disappear, or be taken away. As you become aware of these patterns in yourself, you will be able to rewire yourself to think differently.
All of the techniques discussed in Rewriting Your Life™ are effective at changing these old, negative pathways. Each technique works on a different pathway in the brain.
When we focus on and think about the past we may miss the way things were, feel ashamed for the way we reacted, feel guilty for having done something, wonder how we could have done something differently, have regrets, resent someone or something, hold on to feelings of anger, hatred, unrequited love and the dreaded “What my life could have been like if only I had done this differently?”
I say this with compassion but with fortitude: Let it go. Otherwise you will carry it around for the rest of your life. How long do you want to carry around the burden of your misery and suffering? Is it making your life any better right now? No! We sometimes carry our suffering like a badge of honor that says to the world, “Look how much I have suffered.”
The only way to let go of all these thoughts and feelings that plague our mind is to see it from another perspective — to forgive the thought or feeling, forgive yourself, release the energy and embrace life right now, in the moment.
For some people letting go is scary. You may have been holding on to something for so long that it feels safe because you know what it is, but it keeps you from welcoming in a better life. I have people who say I know, I just can’t let it go. And, as long as they keep saying that, they won’t. They will carry it around with them till they day they die. Life becomes a burden when we carry around all of our old hurts and fears. Ask yourself, what is the worst thing that would happen if I let it go? Most people respond, “I’d be happy.” This is when we need to find and change whatever beliefs that are stopping you from being happy.
It is impossible to be in a state of happiness when we are stuck in the past or the future.
Most of us spend our entire day thinking about something that happened in the past or something that we expect to happen in the future. Even when we are in the present, we evaluate or compare it to something in the past with a dualistic view of whether it’s better or worse. Accepting the moment for what it is and not making it better or worse than another moment allows you to respond to the moment and move forward.
Being in a state of happiness implies being alive and responding to life in the moment.
To move from feeling happy into an ongoing state of happiness we have to retrain the way our brain has been wired since childhood. We have been taught to worry about the past and future and have allowed our mind to create so much fear and illusions about the world that we get trapped in it. I call this “Going Down The Rabbit Hole.”
In Rewriting Your Life™ we teach you a simple process of training yourself to be present in order to experience more happiness and create more of what you want in your life.
Kenneth Best, D.C.