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  • Andy Steele

What happiness teaches us

How can we use the experience of feeling happy to help us feel better when we don’t feel so great?

I love June. It’s one of the best months of the year. It’s unlikely to be as hot as July or August but more likely to be sunnier than May or April. Roses are out. The last of the rhododendrons are hanging in there and the first herbaceous flowers such as Scabious, Astrantias & Peonies are now beginning to bloom as well. The Hayfever; I will just skim over. Being outside in June especially with the weather we’re having at the moment is close to perfection. Why we feel better in the sunshine is worthy of a separate post but I wanted to explain what experiencing happiness can teach us about ourselves.

Recognising when we feel relaxed and happy is as important as recognising when we’re feeling stressed or depressed. Our posture, breathing, heartrate, emotions, thoughts, even perspiration are all tied in with how we experience relaxation and happiness. Although there are a core set of reactions that will likely happen in all of us, how we experience them and what else we notice is unique to each of us.

One of the things that really blows my mind when I speak to people about how they experience happiness and sadness is how different we all experience the world when we are in those states. For some of us, it might be that we don’t really have any thoughts at all when we are relaxed, while others will be able to articulate exactly what they feel and where they are feeling it. Some of us might notice that we feel more energised in certain areas; our hands are open, maybe we feel taller, our breath is more likely to be directed at the base of our lungs rather than higher up. Some people might associate feeling happiness with feeling relaxed and restful while others may feel more alert and energised.

Likewise, when we are experiencing tension or conflict, our experience again will be unique to each of us. You may feel tension in your shoulders or stomach or your head or hands. Again, although there will be some commonalities; the combination of sensations, emotions and thoughts will be specific to each of us and may likely change over time.

Adopting positive physical cues

The point of this is understanding how we feel in our bodies when we are relaxed and when we're tense so it might help us to understand in which parts of our body we can focus on when we think about relaxing.

It could be as simple as starting to smile, breathing deeper or straightening your back; whatever you've noticed that you do when you're happy; adopt the same changes in your body to go back to that same positive state.

Adopting positive mental cues

Do you have an image in your mind that you associate with feeling happy? Maybe it’s somewhere you went on holiday or somewhere that as a child you really loved going to? Or maybe it was an event or occasion in your life when you felt amazing?

How do you feel when you think of an image like that? Maybe try closing your eyes after reading this and focusing on that image for a minute or so and come back to this post afterwards.

How do you feel physically in your body? Your head? Shoulders? Hands? Back? Chest? Stomach? Hips? Legs? Feet?

What emotions did you feel?

Do you associate smells or sounds or other sensations with that image?

How can you use that positive image to help yourself to maintain a feeling of happiness? Or help you understand what you need to do to replicate those sensations in you mind and body?

These are open questions which you may or may not be able to answer right now. But the more often we practice noticing when we are happy and how we feel happiness in our minds and bodies; the greater the impact of that sensation can become and also the easier it can become to go back to that happy image when you need it.

As more of us look to travel over the next few weeks, maybe the next time you're somewhere special, it can be a time for you to consciously remember as much as you can about that moment; what you felt in your body, what smells and sounds were around you; the more you capture in that moment; the easier it will be to go back to afterwards without having to rely on finding it on a smartphone or social media post.

As ever, I hope this helps. I’m always interested to hear any feedback from this or any other post in case so I can continually learn and improve the articles I write.

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