How happy are you? So-so happy? Super happy? Do you wish you could be happier?
The truth of the matter is, once we´ve met our basic physical needs of food, shelter and comfort, our main focus in life shifts to a search for greater happiness.
The challenge is that we often get lost along the way.
We chase after things, people and circumstances we think will make us feel happy…only to discover, once we have them, that we don´t.
Why is it that what we think we want often leaves us feeling disappointed, disillusioned, burnt out or empty on the inside?
Look closely and you will see that your mind is filled with many beliefs, ideas and expectations of what will make you happy – all of which have been collected over the course of your lifetime, both consciously and unconsciously.
And these beliefs, ideas and expectations not only affect the choices you make, they often have a direct impact you may not even be aware of.
Quite often, even the beliefs you´ve consciously chosen about what makes you happy shift and change over time. After all, what you were sure would make you happy when you were 20, may no longer be true when you are 30. And what you felt would make you happy at 30 may seem far less fulfilling once you turn 40.
Change is all around us. It´s within us as well. And yet, our mind often tries to stay the same.
When you experience a mid-life crisis, you allow your mind to dwell on old dreams and feelings of happiness from your past. Or perhaps you´ve been in a relationship that was less than happy but your mind kept desparately trying to cling to the giddy joy you felt when you were first falling in love.
The mind is an amazingly powerful thing. When it latches on to certain beliefs it can trap us into a never-ending loop of emotional dispair and dissatisfaction.
Only by clearing your mind of false beliefs and assumptions can you begin to see yourself and others more clearly.
Free yourself from the limitations of those old beliefs, and you will open the door to a new opportunity for making better choices and experiencing more positive results in your life.
This is where awareness comes in…
Developing greater self-awareness and learning how to take control of your own thoughts, beliefs and emotions makes way for countless new possibilities.
Your life becomes vastly different when you direct your mind instead of allowing it to direct you.
Though many people may not like to believe this, you are the only one who determines the thoughts you think, the words you use and the emotions you create and express. And your thoughts, choices and perceptions of how things are stem from your most deeply held beliefs.
Working on transforming those beliefs is the key to transforming the emotional quality of your life.
The power to change your life and create the happiness you desire lies within you. No one else can change what you believe or how you feel. Only you can do that. But you don´t have to do it on your own.
Developing greater self-awareness is the first step in creating and living the life you´ve always wanted.
You cannot expect to change what you are not aware of.
Self awareness - or mindfulness, as it´s also called - provides you with the clarity to choose the emotions you feel and express. It makes it possible for you to catch yourself before you fall prey to negative thoughts, words and actions. It guides you in identifying your unconscious thought patterns by helping you become conscious of them, so you can take steps to change them.
It is through self-awareness that you are able to identify those beliefs that create happiness while changing the negative beliefs that drive your most destructive behaviors.
The trick though, is that you cannot learn self-awareness from books.
Self-awareness is developed through observation and perception.
The purpose of books is to give us more information to think about. And the more we think about what we are trying to learn, the less we notice about ourselves and the world around us.
Increasing awareness has more to do with emptying our mind of the incessant chatterof our thoughts so we can see ourselves and life more clearly.
By becoming more aware of your own thoughts and feelings, you enhance your ability to cope with life’s challenges.
By becoming aware of what you tell yourself on the inside, you learn to direct your choices and your emotions.
This is crucial to your happiness because your thoughts, and the underlying beliefs that drive them, trigger your emotions.
While events and some people´s actions may trigger unpleasant feelings and reactions, they do not cause them. The real cause lies in what you tell yourself.
And that brings us back to the beliefs you hold at any give time – most of which operate on a subconscious level.
When you – rather than your emotions – are in charge of what you think, you are in charge of your behaviors and, therefore, have more say in how your life plays out. Developing self-awareness is the basis for transforming your thoughts.
Use these 7 steps to help you become more aware of your feelings and the connection they have with how you think about yourself, others and the world around you.
Start by making a list of situations that trigger upsetting feelings or anger for you. Choose the one that is the least challenging to start working on.
While your goal here is to stretch yourself, you do not want to push yourself to the point of overwhelm. Take it slow. Be patient. And practice. Begin with the least challenging emotional trigger and gradually work your way to the more challenging triggers on your list.
If the process becomes too emotionally intense, you may wish to seek professional support in some form.
Before you begin this awareness process, sit quietly for a moment and take 3 to 5 slow, deep breaths and allow yourself to relax. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Now, mentally scan your body from head to toe, noticing and releasing any tension or tightness you may be feeling.
Imagine yourself in a safe place. Remind yourself that you are not your emotions. You are responsible for choosing and creating what you feel and think. No one can make you feel a certain way, without your permission.
As an intelligent, capable adult, you are in charge of this process. And, should it be necessary, you may choose to stop it at any time.
Continue your breathing – and while you do so – bring the choosen emotional trigger to mind. Remember the last time you felt it.
Without judgement, focus on that place and time, and become aware of how were feeling then.
Now ask yourself, what exactly was it I was feeling?
If you are feeling anger, for example, look deeper. Anger is always a secondary emotion that steps in to protect you from other feelings of vulnerability such as hurt, shame, guilt or fear.
Ask yourself: what am I feeling beneath this anger?
When you delve beneath the anger, you may very well discover you are feeling a mixture of emotions. Write these emotions down on a piece of paper – or, better yet, in your journal.
Now, re-focus on the triggering event…
See what you saw then. Here what you heard. Feel what you felt.
Where in your body do you feel the physical sensation of that emotion?
Gently place one or both of your hands there. Notice the sensation. And continue to ask yourself: What else I am feeling?
As you do this, consciously let go of any need or desire to fix, stop, repress or judge the emotion/s you are feeling.
Now, take some time to describe each of the sensations you were feeling in your journal.
Once again, remind yourself that you are not your emotions.
You have the power to choose what you feel, just as you have the power to release any emotions you choose not to feel.
You can choose to affirm your power of choice over the emotions you feel by accepting your painful emotions as the natural result of what you may have been telling yourself.
Calmly and confidently affirm: I accept that I am feeling _____, at this moment and I can handle this emotion. I am strong and fully capable of handling it - easily, wisely and calmly.
Repeat this affirmation as often as needed to help you experience a shift in your emotional state and intensity.
A powerful way to handle your negative emotions is to remember a time in the past when you were success in dealing with them. If you were successful once, you can be successful again.
Each time you handle the emotion reinforces your chain of successes. This helps you to grow and strengthen your confidence as well as your ability to learn from, handle and turn negative emotions into assets.
The next step is for you to notice the thoughts running through your mind when you picture the triggering event, most particularly the negative ones.
Our thoughts have the power to trigger both emotions as well as physical sensations in our bodies. That´s how the brain works.
Use this exercise to observe any disturbing thoughts from a safe distance:
When disturbing thoughts surface, imagine yourself seated in a luxurious train traveling at high speed. See yourself sitting comfortably and looking out the window, observing those upsetting thoughts as they zip past you on the other side of the glass – out of reach and with no way of touching or hurting you.
Now, pick up your journal and, next to the emotions and physical sensations you´ve written about already, write down the things you tell yourself (your self-talk) when you are experiencing each of those emotions.
Understand that, although other people or events may trigger painful emotions in you, they are never the cause of those emotions.
Your self-talk is the culprit. What you tell yourself is the underlying cause for the painful emotions you feel. And what you tell yourself is responsible for the physical sensations you feel in your body as well.
The good news is you can choose to change the way you talk to yourself. You can choose to think thoughts that calm and empower you while boosting your ability to make brilliant choices in life.
You are the only person in charge of your emotional responses, thoughts and actions. You have the abilility to create your own happiness and peace of mind, no matter what is going on in the world around you.
Remember: thought triggers feelings and feelings communicate vital information on what you need to do to both survive and thrive in your life.
As you gain greater awareness about the emotions and sensations you experience in response to what you are thinking, you will begin to recognize the strong connection between your self-talk and your emotions.
Changing the way you choose to talk to yourself about the events you experience, can have a tremendously positive impact on how you live your life.
In the sea of life, feelings are your navigation system. The more aware of them you are, the safer & more enjoyable the journey.