Have you ever heard a girlfriend describe some quirk she has – like needing to clean the entire house before she can start a project; her compulsion to download recipes to her ipad even though she’s not likely to attempt them; or, her fear of buying stuff from Goodwill because she can’t bear the thought of some stranger having used it – and realizing in a flash, “Thank God I am not the only one!”
Well, my blog last week about the Upper Limit Problem and my own self-imposed happiness ceiling struck a chord – a similar realization – for others, that they too have experienced the Upper Limit Problem first hand!
Several people reached out to me to ask what specifically they could do about it, especially in light of these two questions:
- Am I willing to increase the amount of time every day that I feel good inside?
- Am I willing to bask in feelings of contentment and satisfaction, and be okay with those feelings?
Besides answering a resounding “YES!” to both of these questions, what else could they DO? In other words, “Hand-Over the STRATEGIES, damn it!”
And hand them over, I will, directly from the vault. 🙂
Because, when we are bumping up against our upper limit of happiness, we are usually caught up in thoughts, beliefs, and actions which busts up our feelings of ease and contentment like a pin to a balloon: worry, anxiety, procrastination, getting confused, rushing, feeling tired, feeling overwhelmed, criticizing and blame, the comparison-game, over-eating, skipping exercise, numbing out with cocktails and/or TV, gossiping, and the list goes on.
What we typically avoid are the actions which will bring us back into alignment with our best selves. Here are some things you can do to turn things around:
FIVE Ways to Raise the Ceiling on Your Happiness:
A significant happiness habit is taking 100% responsibility for any problem, activity, or life event in which we are involved. I don’t mean blaming ourselves for what happened, and I do mean looking for ways we may have contributed to the problem, activity, or life event, and actively seek course correction.
What I’ve realized is when I take 100 percent responsibility for the problem, activity, or life event I am facing, I can transform how I experience the event. Instead of being a victim I can completely own the fact there are a range of choices, responses, and actions I can take – and choose the one that has me living from the most empowered, creative place possible.
We can either, avoid 100 % responsibility and contribute to our unhappiness, or we can embrace it, and contribute richly to a life of empowered action.
It is easy to forget how wild and precious life is; it is easy to take the varied aspects of our lives for granted, as long as life is going smoothly. The practice of living from an “attitude of gratitude” is a way to combat complacency, long before life hands you a specific reason to wake up grateful.
Research in the field of Positive Psychology, has also found the power of living with a grateful heart and state of mind extends to one’s personal health. Turns out grateful people have 10% fewer stress related illnesses, be more physically fit, and have blood pressure that is lowered by 12%.
So, how can you up-level your state of gratitude, well before life hands you a lemon, and you find yourself digging deep to squeeze drops of lemonade out of it?
Appreciation is the hinge on which the door to a vibrant, thriving life – filled with easy relationships with events and people – swings open.
Turns out, there is even a happy, little formula to think about when considering adding appreciation to your life. Research has found thriving relationships have at least a five to one ratio of appreciations to negative comments. FIVE to ONE.
Ruminating, brooding, overthinking (they are all one and the same) is toxic. Once we are in this negative spiral, our concentration is diminished, as is our initiative. Overthinking saps our motivation to do anything good and healthy and nurturing for ourselves. We may begin to think, “Why bother?” And soon, we are headed towards feeling really bleak, where it is hard to get out of bed in the morning let alone face a family gathering, go to the gym, or cook a healthy dinner.
Allowing ourselves to settle into feelings of contentment, satisfaction, even joy, is not necessarily something that comes naturally. Our brains are wired, evolutionarily, with what researchers have termed, a negativity bias. We are primed to learn quickly from bad experiences, but not so much from the good ones, since what we learned from scanning our environment for dangers kept us safe and allowed us to survive.
The good news is we can allow ourselves to absorb happy experiences in a way that permits our minds to recognize, appreciate, and ultimately incline our minds towards joy.