by John-Paul Davies
1. Accept you’ve always done your best and that there were no reliable crystal balls or fortune tellers available. No regrets, no records of wrongs. You’re never getting the time back, but it’s enough to take the lesson of whatever the difficult experience was, forgive yourself, decide how you might do it differently next time and do what you can to achieve that.
2. Everything you take into your body through your mouth, ears and eyes, is mind, emotion and body-affecting. Try to notice what’s happening from a feeling/bodily point of view when you play that computer game, watch that film, check Instagram or even read the news. You know the news is full of things you ‘should’ be frightened of and/or angry about and/or stimulated by. The media is largely about getting your attention, rather than helping with your well-being, especially in today’s hypercompetitive, clickbait environment.
3. Being grateful for where you’ve been, who you already are and what’s around you now is a key way to connection with self and others. The quickest way to happiness is to want what you already have.
4. Video games, social media and books are all outward-in ways to change your state. Although you choose whatever it is, you’re largely then a passive recipient. You need to be able to shift yourself to happiness and contentment without always relying on outside input. Also try to balance these more passive behaviours with ones that involve movement, action and active interaction, both alone and with others.
5. Do you find yourself saying that someone ‘made’ you, do it/think it/feel it or saying that others ‘drag you down’, ‘wear you out’, ‘wind you up’, ‘do your head in’, ‘let you down’ and annoy/outrage/bore/disappoint/upset you? Try to hold in mind that no one can ‘make’ you feel anything: other people shouldn’t have control over your thoughts and feelings in the way this implies.
6. If you breathe easily, you relax and settle your body, because that’s how you breathe when you feel safe. You slow your heart-rate and calibrate your body to actual levels of safety. With no agitated body to support distressing thoughts and feelings, your thoughts and feelings can calm down – they assume that if your body isn’t worried, then you must be safe. Which you most often really are.
7. A key way to increase happiness through relationships is to help and take care of other people and to accept their help and care where you can. In neuroscientific terms, caring for someone activates your sense of well-being in the way that being cared for does. Being selfless makes you feel good too. Whereas you might believe you’ll ‘burden’ others if you go to them for help, know instead that accepting others’ kindness, support and generosity most often helps them to feel good too. It’s a win–win.
8. Thoughts are just a little passing piece of your human experience. Like the sound of a car driving past or an itch. They’re only a collective idea you’ve learned to hold on to, reusing the limited data you’ve taken in to date. You need to try not to collude with any overinflated sense of the importance of thoughts. They are always an invitation. Acceptance of them by you is always optional.
9. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Instead, only compare you to you in the past and direct most of your attention to taking care of your own business. It’s important to be mindful of and moderate any tendency you might have to compare and compete all the time with other people. Some competition is enjoyable and motivating for you, but always competing is always being disconnected.
10. We might have a tendency to take people-pleasing too far, maybe think about the ‘rule of ten’, i.e. with nine other strangers in a room at a party, three will like you, three won’t mind either way and three may dislike you. It isn’t possible to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s fine – you can still be safe, fulfilled and happy. Try to let go of the need to be liked by everyone, if this is what you experience. When you’re trying to be liked all the time, you’re focusing completely on the other person, rather than dropping inside and checking whether you actually like them.
11. Think in terms of choosing whether or not to respond, rather than reacting, when you’re annoyed about something. Wherever possible, don’t allow anger to be in charge when you speak to others and choose the right time – when both of your nervous systems are balanced, therefore receptive and therefore capable of empathy and connection. This way, you can be sure you say what you mean, that you mean what you say and that, to the extent you’re in control of this, the other person will be doing the same.
12. Try to hold in mind that, while you know the important space you inhabit in the world, no one is less beautiful, or more special, than anyone else. As amazing, irreplaceable and unique as you are, you’re one part of this great, interconnected body of humanity; a part of something much bigger than you and a world that doesn’t revolve around you. Which is quite a relief, actually, because it means you can now just get on and do your own thing.
13. Your brain – possessing no inbuilt, automatic process to identify and expand experiences that make you happy – is not naturally programmed to turn your positive experiences, like that great feedback or an unprompted warm hug from someone, into neural pathways you can keep going back to. You therefore need to try to deliberately do that now, every day, whenever you remember. By doing this, you’ll increase your ability to recognise and grow the good in yourself and others.
14. Distressing and negative thoughts held in mind will then be experienced in life due to your natural biases. For example, people who believe you’re not meant to enjoy your work are unlikely to ever enjoy what they do. This is the virtual reality of thinking. Try to be aware that if you think it all the time, it had better be what you want.
15. Another way of connecting more with people is to try to see yourself in others and others in yourself. We’re all much more similar than we are different. We all cry, can create and destroy, need to love and be loved, get frightened and angry. You can connect to almost anyone by means of a basic, imperfect and beautiful humanity.
John-Paul Davies, Cobham based Counsellor, Therapist, Coach www.thistrustedplace.co.uk
Author of the self-help book "Finding a Balanced Connection", now available on Amazon
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