It is a trick of the brain when 2 people can be experiencing the same circumstances and one person enjoys themselves while the other does not. Or the same people can participate in a familiar activity and on one occasion they both have a positive experience and the next time they fail to find joy. Why do we feel differently about life events from one day to the next when nothing really changes to cause the shift?
This tale of opposite reactions could be reduced to our fickle and ever-changing mood. Possibly it is no more complicated than that and needs no further explanation. Yet, how do we set ourselves up to live our best lives if we are subject to the whims of mood? Maybe how we feel on any given day or at certain moments could be explained by our over-arching disposition, or the way we think about life in general?
You have to learn how to stay in a good mood as you overthrow the sour, puckered hallucination that is mistakenly referred to as reality. -Rob Brezsny
Optimism and pessimism are probably two sides of the same coin. When thinking about life as leaning towards one side or the other, there are a cascade of effects. To start with, no thought is benign. Particularly if there are strong emotions attached and the frequency is set to often. We have all seen the memes, thoughts inform action which in turn creates a habit. We think, we act, we are. It is in this repeating pattern that we end up experiencing life in a generally positive or negative way. The trick is changing our minds, if we should want to.
Even when the benefit of moving towards greater happiness is so strong, we still resist. We shy away from change even when it is the far better option. Why is that? Resources. The brain requires a steady supply of fuel to operate well and even more so when being highly tasked. The effort required to modify rote behavior is extremely taxing. Staying the same is so much easier. If our natural disposition is a little negative, becoming more positive is like pushing a huge boulder up a hill.
Our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves. -Wilhelm Von Humboldt
The cost versus benefit of trying to chase happiness, (assuming nobody wants to become less happy), can be an elusive calculation. There are no certainties. One could spend a whole bunch of effort and not experience quick progress. That can be very disheartening. Very similar to anything in life where constant effort over a long period of time is the only way to experience a shift. Exercise would be another perfect example. It takes hours and hours applied over days, weeks and months to notice the slight changes. Even then, the person doing the work is often the last one to realize anything is different. In a world of instant gratification, tiny incremental shifts are a hard sell.
What I know to be true about the tiring effort of changing my behavior, starting with my thoughts is, it works, but it sucks. It is incredibly disheartening to work at changing a habit, or self-improvement in general and feel no difference. At the end of many days, I have even felt worse for the actions which I took to make myself happier. It often felt like a losing battle, as if the cards are stacked against me. I hopelessly wonder if I will ever get to the point where I realize progress.
What I now understand is my life improved a little bit each day when I attend to my thoughts. If I check myself when I am starting to descend into negative self-talk or thinking unkind things about other people, I can get back on track. If I manage to interrupt that kind of thinking, I can turn my day around completely. My actions and habits are following in the direction my head leads. Even my night-time dreams follow along like sheep.
The thing with pretending you’re in a good mood is that sometimes you can. -Charles De Lint
It is not big life changes where I have experienced the greatest shift in mindset. I left full-time paid corporate work at the end of 2016. I wrongly assumed, eliminating that huge time suck was going to free me completely. It did not. The hole in my day left me plenty of time to ruminate about all kinds of things. Most of which were not helpful. It was another example of how the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. But, I had something big to plan and look forward to, which kept my mind busy.
We left Canada in the fall of 2017, bound for Barcelona where we spent two of our ten months abroad. Those first days were tough as I settled into becoming a full-time traveler, a digital nomad and balanced being a wife and mother. I had successfully filled up my schedule again. All the while, my journal was the record of the health of my thoughts. Even in the splendor of our trip, there were some dark days.
By the time we started to drive across Europe in the spring of 2018, I noticed feeling different. Calm. Maybe peaceful. I stopped experiencing such intense waves of disappointment when life did not go the way I had hoped. Of course, I still had my days where I was down in the dumps, like any normal person. But my over-riding outlook was pretty positive. My journal entries became less focused on reliving everything which had gone wrong and more of a record of how good life was.
We arrived back to Canada at the beginning of summer in 2018. A full 18 months since I had left my corporate job. In the miles travelled and the in the space of time I had developed many new habits. By living amongst so many different people in all the corners of the world we visited, I came home feeling grateful. For my health, for my family and friends, for my life of privilege and opportunity. I realized with my own eyes, I had little to complain about. By experiencing so many extreme contrasts to the way my life played out each day, I found a well of happiness in myself that I had not known was there.
By learning to be more optimistic, through practicing gratitude I ultimately filled up my creative cup. That reservoir where creativity lives inside each of us, but can become depleted if we are not diligent in filling it back up. I think that was a lucky side effect, because everything in life is very interconnected. The attitude which we live each day with, seeps into the corners of our mind. Wonderful things can bubble up organically which were never planned. It is truly magic.
People in good moods are better at inductive reasoning and creative problem solving. -Peter Salovey
Join me in this creative journey. I am on a mission to start a global movement, focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives. Together, let us see where we can take this. I look forward to hearing from you! Please share your thoughts. Feel free to send an email to: Christine@dailycreatives.com #creaspatreat
My creative year:
: : Developing, testing and enjoying a life I don’t need a vacation from while working in an office and commuting on public transit!
: : This is where my ideas for creaspatreat will come to life. Don’t miss any of it by joining us!
: : Check out new projects on my youtube channel called creative wandering. #dailycreatives
: : “Fruitless at 40: Rediscovering My Creative Power”
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: : The first chapter from Fruitless at 40 and
: : My tried and true packing list, developed from long-term, around the world travel?
: : Join us!
Daily Creatives Resources:
: : Travel changes a person
: : Consumer anarchy and the Buyerarchy of needs
: : Teach women, invest in a community
: : Crea.spa.treat. what do you think it means?
: : Living in stress, moving to relaxation, looking for ikigai
Latest posts by Christine Westermark (see all)
- The Happiness Budget - February 6, 2019
- Burning the midnight oil & money does not buy happiness - January 30, 2019
- 3 sacred spheres of space and time - January 15, 2019