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How to Be Full From Within: A Psychologist's Top 10 List for Happiness
Over the 8 years I have met with weight loss surgery patients, the one concept I find myself going over and over is this idea of becoming full from within. The idea that if we don't fill ourselves up intrinsically- we will always need some thing to fill the void, whether it be food, gambling, sex, drugs, or alcohol. The problem is- we always end up on empty, psychologically.
The next question often becomes, "ok so how do I fill myself up psychologically? I don't think I will ever be fulfilled because I have never been truly happy. I was not born a naturally happy person? I've spent most of my life feeling empty- how do I turn it all around now? I grew up with unhappy parents, how am I to unlearn all of that early programming?'
"Wondering if you're happy is a great shortcut to being depressed." - Annette Bening, 20th Century Women
I think, unfortunately happiness gets a bad rap. There is a wide misconception that for us to be fulfilled, or full from within- we need to be blissfully happy all the time, and that's just not the case. Not only is it untrue, but it is an unrealistic standard and one that sets people up for disappointment. Rather than always questioning how we SHOULD be feeling, we should just practice acceptance of whatever temporary state we happen to be in at the moment with non-judgement and non-attachment. Like busses, moods come around every five minutes.
Even therapist's aren't immune to life's ups and downs. Believe it or not, as a psychologist who literally wrote a book on Happiness, I have to remind myself certain mantras that help me keep my own life in balance and my happiness and fulfillment sustained. I actually have a list on my phone that says "things to remember," and page through it daily, when I'm feeling off track.
So if you're feeling off track yourself- first understand that you're human and give yourself a break + then thumb through my personal list of happiness tips, little pearls I've gained in my 37 years on this planet, and see if any of them might help to increase your happiness quotient today:
1) In silence, the heart begins to finish its unfinished business. I think I picked this up from a book I read about Sufism. In any case, I liked it and it stuck. Oftentimes, we think that we must actively and aggressively pray, yet Sufis believe that it is in the stillness that God comes to us.
Whenever my life gets a bit too chaotic with all the "should-ing" all over myself- I remind myself that it is often when I take pause, let go, and let God- that what is truly important, rises to the surface and I begin to reclaim my life instead of it claiming me.
2) Do more want-to's vs. have-to's every day. Someone once told me that the "have-to's" will never be done. I repeat- they will never be done. So we might as well splice in some time for the things that we thought we were going to do once they were done.
Take the scenic route to work, take a long walk and listen to that book on audible that you have been wanting to read for the last few months,go shopping with a friend, get a massage, take an extra long lunch and sit out in the sun, or just curl up with your loved one or pet.
A wise man once said "time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time," and I couldn't agree more.
3) Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them. I remember when I was in grad school, thinking "if I can just finish school- then I'll be the relaxed, happy go lucky person I want to be," then it morphed into, "once I get licensed," then "once I get married," then "once I have kids..." You get the idea.
It is not the situations or circumstances in our lives that determine if we are a happier person or not. It truly is the way in which we approach them as they come, that determines what type of person we are and how happy we will be. In the "car of life," that we all have to drive, will you wear stilettos or uggs?
4) Connection with others is key to fulfillment. I am an introvert by nature. I enjoy my downtime, and require coming back to my home base in silence, to relax and unwind. However, there is something inherent in our very nature about the need to feel connected to the world around us- introverts included.
My best girlfriend from childhood came out for a week a while back, and so I was unable to get caught up in the hamster wheel of daily activity. I was forced to be fully present and engaged with her for four days in a row. As a result, I was actually more grounded, more at peace, less anxious, and more optimistic about the future.
Whenever we notice our egoic drives propelling us towards isolation, judgement, rumination, or comparison- we should remind ourselves to get out and connect with our fellow man, and fakebook doesn't count.
5) Like attracts like. Happy attracts happy. When we find ourselves feeling left out, isolated, or out of touch with those around us- it is important to look at our recent focus. Are we always dwelling on the negative, gossiping about someone? You know the saying "what sally says about susie, says more about sally than susie."
Although, many of us sub-consciously believe that if we can just "get it out" about whatever is chipping away at us- it will somehow allay our negative feelings- it really doesn't. In fact, research supports that when we ruminate on negative feelings, it actually increases our negative feelings.
This doesn't mean we should all be superficial and "surface-y" towards everyone, but that we should work a bit harder to find the happy.
6) To receive abundantly, ironically we must give abundantly. It is engrained in our DNA to wake up each morning with a needs list: "when will I get that bonus?" "when will I hear back about that promotion," "when will she call me back?"
Yet, spiritually I truly believe that when we make the shift from "what can I get," to "what can I give?" It is a complete gamechanger. It's almost as if the universe aligns with us and says "yep you finally figured it out."
7) Choose your thoughts like you choose your clothes. Our minds are quick and fast like ferraris. They are an intricate and complex machine designed for ultimate performance, but just like we must use the right fuel for a Ferrari, we must also carefully select and filter which thoughts we allow to permeate our consciousness.
When you notice yourself feeling down, take a cognitive step back and look at what thoughts you were having. Most are unproductive. Choose to let them go. The same tool that created the problem (our mind) is not likely going to solve the problem.
8) Legitimately and truly don't care about what others think or do. I can honestly say that this is still a work in progress for me. I was born a people-pleaser, but as I get older, I realize the more I try to make others happier with me, the less happy I am with myself.
9) Go out into the world with your heart, not your brain. Yes, our brain is required for some part of our days. Otherwise, our bills wouldn't be paid, our tasks wouldn't get done, and our goals wouldn't be met. But, other than that- when we greet people, meet people, share with others, observe, smile, walk- it is quite a different experience to live in our heart space, in that emotional space that is more visceral than verbal.
10) Relish in the remarkable ride. I watched a movie a while back called "about time," and it was all about a man who had time travel figured out. He lived his day once all hurried and bothered about the little stressors of life, but then went back to live it again. He said he would just rest in the moment, relax, and relish in the remarkable ride that was his life.
I love this. After all the late notices have come, all our debt has fallen or risen, our weight has gone up and down, our kids get a failing grade in school, our lover breaks our heart, our cars break down... it always ends the same: none of us get out alive. So why not just sit back and enjoy the ride?