A few years ago, I made a big mistake. And I paid for it.
I had just launched @InspireHappyHumans (formerly @HappiestHumans) on Instagram, and my whole life began to revolve around creating the happiest life possible. I became obsessed with feeling happy 24/7, and things felt pretty good. A few months in on my Insta-blog journey, I fell into a rough patch. I became seriously unhappy, stressed out, and I really began to struggle. Cue: inner turmoil, self-resentment, a strong resistance to negative feelings, and increased frustration. So, what did I do? I beat myself up about it.
‘How can I be unhappy when I run a page on HAPPINESS? What a hypocrite! No one will take me seriously. I might as well just delete the account now, because I'm failing at the exact thing I'm preaching.’
I thought that if I had the power to create my own happiness (which I know I do), then to not feel happiness all the time meant I was weak; not doing it right; failing.
THAT was my biggest mistake.
I’m happy to say that my internal dialogue has come a very long way since that point. After my little freak-out and a hiatus from posting to @InspireHappyHumans, I watched the newly-released Inside Out, and boy did that children’s movie teach me a thing or two!
Without sadness, there would be no joy.
We need sadness in order to learn, grow, and appreciate the good times.
Life is full of opposites. Light/dark. Happy/sad. Good/bad. Up/down. Noise/silence. We cannot have one without the other.
Fast forward a few years, and those lessons seem to be surfacing again and begging me to acknowledge them.
“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” – Jonathan Safran Foer.
An interesting study focussed on a new concept called, ‘emodiversity’ – a person’s tendency to feel a diverse range of both positive and negative emotions. The first study surveyed over 35,000 people and found that, “emodiversity is linked to less depression… In fact, people high in emodiversity were less likely to be depressed than people high in positive emotion alone.” (Variety Is The Spice Of Emotional Life, 2014). Which means that people who allowed themselves to authentically express all of their emotions, good and bad, had better overall wellbeing and health. (Take the test on emodiversity.com to find where you stand).
That's where I went wrong. I was so focussed on being happy 24/7, I became unbalanced. I couldn't cope with negative emotions anymore, because I had created the illusion that they're 'wrong'. I resisted the negative emotions. I fought them until they became stronger and more potent than ever, and I became weaker. It made everything worse.
So, how exactly do we authentically express all of our negative emotions?
Accept the emotions fully. Let them come, feel them, try to understand them, then let them go. I found that doing this allows them to pass over me far quicker than trying to resist them. Here are a few tips:
Journal your thoughts.
Take some time out to really feel them.
Talk to someone about them.
Be kind to yourself - negative emotions are normal and necessary.
Find the positives - there is always another side.
That's right, find the positives. Even when you think that’s impossible. Dr John Demartini explains that, like a magnet, there is a negative and positive pull to literally everything in this vast universe. Including personality traits, events, situations, and circumstances. I’ll give you a few examples:
A guy finds a girl who is extremely beautiful and intelligent. He values those traits and thinks he’s hit the jackpot. A few months later, he finds out she’s high maintenance, obsessed with outer appearance, over-thinks every detail, and is brutally cynical.
A person is diagnosed with a disease. They can’t understand why all the bad things happen to them, or exactly what they did to deserve it. Meanwhile, they realise their priorities have changed to highlight what truly makes their heart sing, their relationships strengthen, they begin to take care of themselves, and their perspective on life improves.
For every negative, you can always find a positive, and vice-versa. For everything you love about a person, there will be a few things that you don’t. For every moment of happiness, there will usually be moments of sadness in the lead-up. Life is made up of opposing forces, and we need them all in order to live a whole, full life.
Once you fully accept that there will always be these opposing forces within any situation, you can then begin to critically analyse each side. When you find all the positives and negatives, you can begin to understand the situation on a deeper level. Suddenly, what was perceived as bad isn’t so awful anymore. The situation neutralises. It is what it is.
It's a few years on, and I've learnt a lot. So, what does being a happy human mean to me, now? It means accepting ALL that life has to offer. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Becoming self-aware and allowing myself to authentically express all feelings and subsequently move through them faster. It means deeply appreciating the good times and the pure joy that life brings, and even appreciating the bad times, because I know I need them in order to grow.
Being a happy human means to gracefully skip through life with optimism, a forward momentum, and a knowing that everything will be perfect in the end.
It's something I work on every day.
Love & Happiness
P.S Do you know someone who could really benefit from reading this? To give them the motivation and push they need to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of the young people around them? Share this post with them. Even if they don't embrace it straight away, you've done your part. Thank you.
The next step:
Commit to being the change, and get started on my IHH 10 Days of Gratitude Challenge. Sign up now to receive your FREE copy. I made it especially for you :) (and not once did I let Adobe InDesign beat me! Ok, maybe once…)
From here, get involved in my whole-family approach and register your interest for the IHH Weekly Workshops ONLINE (for adults) and the in-person, Interactive IHH Weekly Workshops (for kids). Both programs launching early 2017! Note: Registering your interest does NOT lock you in to anything – it simply lets me know that people want to make a change, and gives me an idea of when and how I need to make it happen.
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