With Happiness at aLow, How Can YOU Reclaim YOURS?
Americans are unhappier than we’ve been in a long time. According to NORC at the University of Chicago, some 23 percent of Americans polled in late May said they feel less than happy—the highest percentage reported since 1972. That’s an almost 50-year low. As the public grapples with the fear, grief, and other emotions that characterize our response to COVID-19, it feels like we’re heading into another “Great Depression”—literally.
So…is it possible to be happy in a pandemic? Yes! Even in a world where misery has gone viral, we can train our minds to be happy—but it’s going to take work. Science has proven that our thoughts manifest our reality, and most of us understand this on some level—yet the mind inherently resists changing the thoughts that make us fearful and depressed,” says Karen McGregor, author of The Tao of Influence: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Leaders and Entrepreneurs.
McGregor is something of a happiness expert. In fact, her TEDx Talk on the subject has been viewed by over a million people. She says the mind’s nature is to keep us safe at all costs. This is why it’s hard to tear ourselves away from media coverage of rising infection rates, spiraling economic markers, and other “bad news” stories—not to mention social media conversations that offer up scary interpretations of what’s happening and predictions on how terrible the future is going to be.
Not only will all of our negative obsessing not change the world’s circumstances, but it also drains all joy from the moment. Only when we can deal with the mind’s resistance to change will we be able to experience more happiness. Turning off the TV and taking a break from social media is a good starting point. But to truly free ourselves emotionally, we must start noticing our unwanted thoughts, let go of them, and choose to act without the fickleness, chaos, drama, and stories the mind wants to offer us. Here are six tips to help you find happiness—even in a pandemic.
Don’t resist or analyze your fear-based thoughts
Just let them go. Each time you have an anxious thought, complain or blame or judge, withdraw from life, or feel irritated with the global situation or an individual person, simply observe your fear-based thoughts.
Don’t aim for only positive thoughts or become frustrated because your thoughts are negative. Do not make any of it mean anything about you or anyone else! Simply let the thoughts go. Resistance only creates more of what you don’t want. Let it go.
Move your body to “reset” your mind
If we get fixated on a thought, we don’t have the discipline to move away from it, so moving your body makes this practice easier. As soon as you have the thought, reposition your body, get up, go and look at something completely different, and allow your thoughts to move on to another topic (your mind will follow your body if you let it).
As you move, take full deep breaths and notice what is around you. Focus on something relatively neutral, like a favorite chair or plant. Continue to fill your body with breath, reminding yourself to be present to your breath, feeling it come in and out of your body. Imagine breathing in all the goodness of life and breathing out the process of letting go of thoughts and the stress that comes with those thoughts.
Take ten minutes a day to connect with your inner child
Your inner child often holds onto the original wound that led you to live in your chaotic and stress-filled mind, with thoughts that are trying their best to protect you and keep you safe from unhelpful beliefs created in your formative years (usually around five to seven years old).
Talk to your inner child, instructs McGregor. Get to know what it is that the child is asking for or needs. Perhaps it’s for you to be gentle on yourself, or love and appreciate yourself more. Perhaps you are not standing up for what you really want in life, so the child is feeling angry or betrayed. Perhaps you are living in a lie and want to come back to the truth of who you are, and your child is deeply hurt by your lack of action toward what you know to be your truth.
Whatever it is, assure the child that you—the adult—will take care of what is needed to come back to self and honor self. Then do some small or large action toward fulfilling that promise, as soon as possible.
Eat living, plant-based foods
The energy contained in living foods supports a joyful, calm being, while dead foods and/or excessive animal products, and highly processed foods often contribute to feelings of sadness and irritation. When you grocery shop, try buying 80 percent fruits and vegetables. When you eat out, try choosing meals that are veggie-forward (not hiding in some corner of the plate).
Set yourself a ten-day challenge that solidifies your new calm and joyful state of being
It could look like this: No complaining for ten days, and no blaming anyone or anything for ten days. Replace the complaining and blaming with gratitude. Or try a healthy risk challenge: For ten days, step outside your comfort zone, lean into your intuition, and take risks that move your life and business in a positive direction. Journal each of the ten days, reflecting on insights and lessons learned.
When you become serious about getting to a state of calm and joy, you will take every opportunity to do these six practices. Ignore your mind if it wants to keep you safe in your old ways that are based on fear. Simply acknowledge the thoughts that resist the above practices, knowing that the more you release and let go, the closer you are to true freedom from the traps that keep you in stress and unhappiness.