Happiness Habits – Day 6: (un)Wanted: Stress – For the Killing of Happiness!
It’s really, really hard to be happy when you’re stressed. But I don’t have to tell you that. I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself. Think back on high stress situations like missing a flight to go on vacation, or when you were planning a special event, and things got overwhelming and started to fall apart. Hopefully you were able to recover and enjoy your time away or your event, but chances are that you weren’t too happy while you were stressed out. Stress sucks the happiness and joy right out of us.
And then, there’s what one of my teachers called “red wine syndrome.”
Let’s pretend you went to a party that you were really looking forward to. One that you would get into your favorite outfit, and sing in the car (or the subway or bus or taxi…) on your way to because you were so glad to go. You go to the party, you have a great time, you talk to people, maybe you dance, and everything is great. As you are leaving, you accidentally run into someone who spills an entire glass of red wine on your favorite outfit – full body splash, top and bottom. Even drips on your shoes!
For many, many people, the party was just ruined for all time. That accident at the end literally colors the entire experience, from learning about the party, to going there. Rarely, if ever, is anything recalled about the party other than the spill. Something that could have been a joyful memory turns into a bad one from just one moment out of several hours worth.
It’s Always One Thing or Another
The reason goes back to the way our brains are wired: first, humans can only experience one emotion at a time, fear or joy. Everything else relates back to one of those two. If you experience fear, you can’t feel happy at the same time. Fear interrupts happiness. Second, when fear sneaks in, it takes over in a bigger way than joy because it’s all about survival. Your brain won’t let go of fear until it’s absolutely sure there’s no danger. Unfortunately, happiness isn’t as “sticky” and that’s why I’ve been making a big deal out of making it a habit.
So, it only makes sense that one way to increase your happiness and your quality of life is to de-stress. Not only is it good for your soul, it’s also good for your overall health and wellbeing to reduce the stress in our lives. Here are some simple things you can do to reduce or eliminate stress and its effects.
Get Enough Sleep
An easy way to stress less is to make sure you get a good seven to eight hours of sleep at night. When you don’t sleep well, and don’t sleep enough, your body runs a constant state of stress, trying to make up for the lack of sleep. Sleep helps you relax and gives your mind time to process everything that’s been happening. Stop burning the midnight oil and get some sleep. You’ll get more done when you’re fresh, and rested and you’ll be less anxious. Hint: there’ll be another whole post on this topic, it’s that important. I’m a bit of a sleep fanatic, in fact…
Move Around And Get Some Exercise
Without doubt, the best stress reliever is exercise. Start moving around and burn that stress right out of your system. If you can get outside to workout, even better. The fresh air and sunshine will do wonders. Go for a run, or even just a short walk whenever you’re feeling stressed. For best results, work out regularly. Guess what? Another full-length post about this is coming! Aren’t you surprised? [Come on, laugh! It’ll make you happy, and counts as exercise!]
Take Some “Me” Time
There are times in our lives when we have to spend a lot of focus and attention on others. Maybe you are raising a toddler, or maybe you’re working hard to get a new company off the ground, or an important project. Doing activities that take a lot of attention and time, make it easy to forget about ourselves, or put our own personal needs last. Make an effort to spend at least a little bit of “me” time each day. It doesn’t have to be much. Even ten minutes spent relaxing and doing something completely selfish can be a great way to decompress and distress. Read, watch a short video, create something easy (writing or art or music, for instance), sing a happy song, anything that allows you to do something you want just for you.
Let’s wrap this up with one last technique that can keep stress at bay. Try meditating. Again, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on this. Sitting quietly going through a guided meditation once a day can do wonders. Once you get in the habit of practicing meditation daily, and get better at it, you can draw on the techniques you’ve learned whenever you encounter a particularly stressful situation. You can spend a minute or two in meditation, even at the most stressful time and allow your mind to relax. Trust me, this will come in very handy when life throws you a curveball, or when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed.
To get and give support and encouragement from total strangers (also sometimes called “accountability”), get access to our awesome Happiness Habits 2016 Challenge Facebook group here. It’s a private group, so you can only access it if you’re on the email list.
To get a reminder prompt from me via email to make sure you don’t miss a post, sign up for the 30 Day Happiness Challenge here: