What do you do when many of your sources of happiness are found outside externally and then you are told to ‘stay at home’?
All of a sudden you can’t visit your loved ones, have days out, attend your dog training class or horse event, meet up with friends socially, enjoy your sport or favourite pastime or go on holiday!
Little did I know that what I’ve learned over the past ten years, and forms the basis of my coaching, was going to be a life line through the lockdown!
“Happiness comes from contentment”
The past year has certainly been a rollercoaster and often times overwhelming, but these fundamental ways have supported me to find happiness and contentment at home.
1. Listen to your Body
When your mind is racing and cycling fearful thoughts by listening to your body you can find calm. When you first pay attention to your body it may be difficult to acknowledge the feelings. Perhaps you don’t want to feel the pain in your shoulders, the tightness in your lower back, the tiredness in your eyes or the heaviness in your chest. But when you do, those feelings of discomfort will reveal to you what you need to be more relaxed, calm, hopeful and ultimately able to reconnect with your natural ability to be happy.
The pain in your shoulders could be telling you not to push yourself and to ask for help. The lower back – to get support; the tired eyes – to rest, sleep or have an early night; the chest – to release the tears and allow yourself to cry? By acknowledging what your body has to say you will feel lighter.
Equally, your body is the source of your intuition and as you turn your attention inwards and ask ‘how can I find more happiness at home?’ the ideas will come. To read, cook, call a friend or family member for a chat, meditate, write, organise a group WhatsApp call with friends, practise yoga, go for a walk or a run, or start an online training or new skill.
(I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve read during lockdown and I’ve kept in touch with my long-distance friends much more regularly, which has been a great source of comfort and joy)
2. Let your emotions be
In a world where we are conditioned to stay calm and positive, it has been a huge challenge for some to honour their feelings of frustration, disappointment, anger, vulnerability and sadness when told to ‘stay at home’. Yet when we suppress our feelings they intensify and so feelings of fear have escalated into anxiety, vulnerability into panic, anger into rage, sadness and grief into depression, disappointment into frustration.
We have emotions for a purpose – our feelings are communicating with us and when we allow them to speak they will guide us to take the appropriate action to reconnect with our sense of peace and calm.
E.g. Anger is a sign that a boundary has been crossed, which we need to restore; fear a sign to move to safety and protect ourselves; vulnerability signifies that we have reached the edge of our comfort zone and encourages us to experiment, try something new and maybe get support for the process. Whilst sadness and grief are signs to ‘let go’ and release the tears; disappointment an invitation to check on our expectations and maybe reframe our vision.
What about the ‘good feeling’ emotions you might ask? See point 5.
3. Choose more ‘good feeling’ thoughts
Begin by noticing your thoughts and the impact they have on how you feel. When you notice a ‘not good feeling’ thought be curious about where it came from. When I first did this I noticed a thought which said “I should be able to manage on my own”. I believe it came from growing up on a farm, in a busy household with many chores and jobs to do and when I showed an aptitude for a task I was encouraged to get on with it – on my own!
By bringing awareness to this thought I was able to see both the gift and the challenge which lay within it and to choose a more ‘good feeling’ thought.
The challenge was that in believing the thought “I should be able to manage on my own” I didn’t ask for help when I needed it and prior to this realisation I had often made life very hard for myself! The gift is that I have a huge capacity to cope on my own and this has been beneficial as a self employed person. The ‘good feeling’ thought which I have ultimately been able to access is that “I can ask for help when I need it” – which is a win/win.
Being able to reach out and ask for practical and emotional help during lockdown has not only been a necessity but also a great source of comfort and happiness for me.
4. Do what you love – engage meaning and purpose
What do you do when what you love doing the most is not allowed?
Listen to your heart!
I watched my lovely 84 year old Mum struggle in the early weeks of lockdown. A very social person, who loves attending her Inner Wheel meetings, who visits other group meetings regularly, loves going racing and who loves providing for others (baking cakes for example!) found staying at home a big challenge.
However, after realising that she was not able to fulfil her heart’s desires in her usual way she channelled her purpose differently. She kept up her daily walk with her dog, had regular calls with friends, took turns to be the one to ring the ‘more elderly’ members of her Inner Wheel group to check on them, followed her racing interest online and joined her History group meetings on Zoom.
5. Embrace your ‘good feeling’ emotions
Well, that’s obvious I hear you say!
Interestingly, according to various sources, Brene Brown being one of note, one of the most difficult emotions for us to embrace is JOY! Why? Because we are so afraid it’s not going to last that we don’t allow ourselves to feel it, and then our self-fulfilling prophecy is fulfilled – it disappears!
The reality is that our moments of joy are fleeting and so embrace your moments of contentment, happiness, love, joy and excitement and share them with your friends and family. Gradually the time you spend feeling ‘good feeling’ emotions will GROW!
7. Own your projections
This has been my biggest area for learning during the lockdown. My default, when I was tired and sressed was to compare myself with others and what I didn’t want to feel or own in myself, I would see ‘out there’ in other people. I did with this with both negative and positive traits!
For example:- I became really despondent as I witnessed other colleagues and friends move their businesses online and I felt inferior and lacking in some way. I saw in them an ability to be flexible, be vulnerable and learn new technical stuff (the list goes on). When I talked with my coach and kinesiologist I realised that my comparisons were futile. Firstly even though 20% of my business was already online coaching, it’s not possible for me to transfer my equine facilitated learning workshops (the other 80%) online. From this place of compassion I could access my own ability to be flexible, vulnerable and learn new technical stuff so that I could create an online group programme! That’s when I created my Living a Life with contentment online group coaching programme.
“Contentment does not mean that I desire nothing, but rather, it’s the simple decision to be happy with what I have.” Paul Rollo
Equally we can see the more negative traits which we don’t want to own, reflected in others. During lockdown I felt really annoyed and became critical when I felt that people were trying to ‘push’ their business offering on to me. (I’m sure that this has been heightened due to the pandemic!). By acknowledging that this was potentially a pattern within myself, which I was not owning, I was able to be mindful when I was talking to others to offer support and guidance, only when they were ‘asking’ for it! (I so thought that I’d overcome that one years ago! It’s quite usual for our patterns to come up again, we just get another perspective of them each time).
It’s now well known that the very act of feeling grateful for what we have – our health, homes, families, skills, and attributes – makes us feel good and is a huge source of contentment.
It’s also true that simply appreciating what is, can bring us happiness – the orange hue in the sky at sunrise, birdsong, the sight of a squirrel skipping across our garden or of a child smiling.
And so, in this final point I’m going to suggest that you bring to mind (or write down) THREE things which you are grateful for in your life and THREE things which you appreciate today.
If you make this a daily practice it will bring even more happiness into your life.
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If you have read this far you will realise that some ways to be more happy, which I’ve mentioned in this blog, are by directly accessing the joy that I believe is innate and within us all the time. Others require us to pay attention to, acknowledge and feel the ‘not so good’ feelings (and take the necessary action) which allows them to release, so that we can flow back into our natural state of contentment.
Whilst allowing our feelings to flow may sound desirable it’s not an easy process, if it was we’d all be doing it and I wouldn’t have waited until 48 years old to engage with my feelings! So I know that it takes courage, time, patience and support.