The Happiness Connection  

Finding happiness in stressful times is possible

Happiness in stressful times

I’m sitting in front of my computer, shaking my head.

British Columbia must be setting some kind of record for the greatest number of bizarre, weather-related incidences in a calendar year. Just when I thought we’d seen everything, Dec. 1 arrived with record breaking warmth.

Normally, this would be interpreted as good news but not when you think of the effect it might bring with it. Melting snow is going to add to the already overwhelmed rivers and creeks, not to mention increasing the risk of avalanches.

Will the strangeness of 2021 end in a few weeks, or carry on through 2022? The answer is unknown. Humans have a need for both certainty and uncertainty. Too much or too little of either can detract from our feelings of happiness.

If you’re certain about what’s around every corner, life can become predictable and boring. If you’ve got no idea what to expect, you may feel insecure or unsafe. In a perfect world, everyone would have just the right balance between those two things. A sufficient amount of newness to keep things interesting, and routine to help you feel secure.

If you’re like me, your Christmas plans may include travel for yourself or family members. You may be feeling a little anxious. What if they can’t come? What if I can’t leave? Is this holiday going to be as bad as last year? If you’re caught up in this type of situation, your level of uncertainty maybe be spinning out of control, causing you to feel more emotional pain than usual.

Emotional suffering tends to be fuelled by thoughts of past regrets and anxiety about the future.

If you want to be happy, even though you have no idea whether your Christmas plans are going to come to fruition or not, pull yourself out of the past and back from the future.

Here are 10 tips to help you do that.

• Shift your attention—When you notice yourself getting caught up in regret or worry, consciously choose to ground yourself back into the present. Concentrate on your breathing. Notice details of your surroundings. Take a drink of your coffee, tea or water and notice the sensations on your lips, tongue, mouth and throat.

• Do something you can control—You can’t control the weather, the pandemic or choices that other people make. Stop wishing you could. Instead, do something you can control. Clean the bathrooms, write your Christmas cards or get some exercise. This will help boost your feelings of certainty and help balance you out.

• Don’t believe everything you think—Just because a thought goes through your head, doesn’t mean it’s accurate or even true. Your brain is a complex organ that’s designed to protect you. Sometimes it falls into ancient programming that doesn’t serve your modern environment.

• Challenge certainty/uncertainty—Just because it isn’t what you’d planned or happens unexpectedly, that doesn’t make it bad. Spend time looking for the silver lining in worse-case scenarios. Remind yourself of times when you were resilient in the face of challenge. My mom and I have been laughing at an imagined situation where both supply routes and traveling is cut off. We picture the two of us on Christmas Day with nothing but the 22-pound turkey I’ve ordered from a local supplier. Humour is rarely a bad thing.

• Manage stress and anxiety—Don’t let your healthy living practices fall by the wayside. Get plenty of sleep and exercise. Eat nourishing food. Find time to relax or meditate.

• Practice acceptance—Don’t bury your feelings or pretend none of this chaos is happening. Instead, meet your life where it is, not where you think it should be. Move forward from there.

• Find healthy ways to comfort yourself—Rather than reaching for the ice cream, an extra-large glass of wine or an entire evening on social media, go for a walk, connect with a friend or take a long soothing bubble bath.

• Step out of victim energy—The best person to rescue you from this situation is you. Don’t fall into the hole of thinking you’re at the mercy of the world around you. You may not be able to travel. Your family may not be able to join you. But you get to choose the perspective you want to use to view the ups and downs of life.

• Practice self-care—As I say regularly, self-care is not selfish. This refers to investing in yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. If you’re tired, get more rest. If you’re bored, find something new to do. If you’re lonely, connect with loved ones or strangers. Any type of connection can boost your sense of wellbeing.

• Find meaning in the chaos—Rather than just waiting for this whole mess to be over, make the most of your situation. Choose to see this time as different but not necessarily bad.

What lessons and opportunities are presenting themselves? Is there anything you can do to help others who may be struggling even more than you are?

Happy people don’t feel that way because their lives are perfect—they feel satisfaction from living the best life possible, given the situation they find themselves in.

It’s not what happens that makes you happy but how you react to it.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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