Mind Games

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One of the fundamental tools of achieving a joyful life is actually taking the decision to choose joy. In other words, managing our mindset. 

To do that we need to believe that we always have a choice in how we to respond to circumstances.

This is where it gets interesting. Our choices are often dictated by our beliefs and values – but what if our beliefs and values have been chosen for us by someone else?

Step 1 – Beliefs and Values
In fact, many of our B & Vs are actually remnants of what were told was true when we were children.
So, the first thing to do is work out what are actually your beliefs and values and which of them belong to your parents or other authority figures that have been important in our lives.
Then, question them. Do you actually believe them to be true? Or did you just take them on trust?
When I was young it was considered to be a ‘bad thing’ to marry outside your religion. It made some people very angry, and even broke families up. Most people now know that was a sign of the times and not a fundamental truth in itself, and we’ve changed our views and adapted our values accordingly. Now it’s more important to have a loving and supportive partner than insist they share the same beliefs.
It comes down to this; in order to live a more contented life with a good dose of joy, we need to have that joy as one of our highest values, and we need to believe that to be a good thing, an essential thing, a right thing and something that is of our highest priority.

Step 2 – Habits
How we habitually react and respond will change if our values change.

We all know of someone who is negative in their outlook. Nothing is good enough for them. Would it surprise you to know that they probably don’t actually know they’re doing that? Often, for whatever reason they have developed the habit of looking for the negative in life and that’s what they find and report, and call it realism.
In contrast, optimists have developed the habit of looking for the positives in life, and that is what they find and report. This is also realism.
The funny thing is that realism is subjective. One person’s reality is another’s fantasy. It’s actually simple neuroscience; you tell the brain to show you evidence for what you believe and it will do so. Neither the positive nor the negative outlook is any truer than the other, but one is definitely much more resourceful than the other.
Many of us will have grown up in families where it was considered bad form to express too much joy, or affection or even enthusiasm, and so we tempered our feelings to fit in with society.
The problem is, even as we grow into independent adults we may still temper those feelings unnecessarily, and even express disapproval of those around us who are in the habit of expressing happiness. I know that as a child I was often told to ‘calm down’ and that I would be seen as ‘soft’ or ‘simple’ if I expressed joy or enthusiasm.
Think of a time when something happened that made you feel very happy. Did you censor your physical and emotional reaction? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get to work in changing those habits.
If you’re a habitual grump and it’s not working for you, you can change. Rehearse how you would feel and how you will express it the next time something good happens. It needn’t be a leap in the air and a loud ‘Yeeha!’. It could just as easily be a smile and a word of praise, thanks or encouragement.

Step 3 – Be Kind to Yourself
When you choose to live a joyful life It’s the beginning of a long and winding road . 
Like any new skill we’re not going to get it right all of the time and that is just fine.
However, starting on this purposeful road will set you up with the ability to achieve and maintain a greater level of contentment, fulfilment, happiness and joy. In turn that will help safeguard your emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual health, and that is also something we could do with much more of.

Until next time, stay happy. It will intrigue some people, and totally infuriate others!
Maggie x

PS – if you would like a free daily dose of practical joy to kick off your day, follow me on Twitter @thejoyprotocol, or email me with ‘Daily Dose’ in the subject line . 

 

When Joy Can Save Your Life!

When Joy Can Save Your Life!

 Sasha* one of my Stand-Up comedy students had come along to the class under duress.

She could not see the point of it.

Fun?

Why bother when her job, her family and her life in general seemed to be just constantly dragging her down. She felt like she was made of lead and did not feel like trying to make either herself or others laugh.

During the class time, though, something started to shift. As everyone in turn delivered the work they’d been preparing the laughter in the room grew and grew.

When it was Sasha’s turn she just had an all-round gripe at an incident that day with her husband. She really put some feeling into it and her authentic grumpiness and way with words got the entire group laughing.

She felt different. She hadn’t changed anything, not her demeanour, her grumpy mood or her irritation. However the mood and the context of the class had allowed her to not take herself so seriously. Everyone else had taken a part of their life and made it a comedy bit, and now she’d done the same and some sort of alchemical exchange had happened, she was looking at the situation quite differently now and felt herself literally lighten up.

When the world seems to be falling down around you, or even those days when life just seems dull and pointless, the getting of joy can seem to be not only remote, but also not really worth the effort.

Even using the term ‘joy’ often doesn’t help. It seems to conjure an ephemeral, uncatchable smoke-like substance. Joy and happiness can seem to be more like birds that alight on your shoulder and then take off again, totally at whim, with you having no control at all.

The great news is, that is a total fallacy. You can change how you look at things by training your mind to see the world from a particular angle. People who are constantly negative are often people who have just got used to seeing the world in that way – it’s a habit.

When you change the perspective, the angle, then the effect of the world on you changes, and that’s when the magic happens – because when you change your behaviour towards the world it all of a sudden starts to respond differently to you.

It sounds woo woo, but it’s actually plain old neuroscience.

There are some really good reasons why you should cultivate the skills and habits that will bring joy into your life on a regular basis.

According to the Mayo Clinic in the USA a joyful, positive and humorous mindset:

1. Reduces blood pressure,
2. Increases coping skills – especially in times of hardship and stress
3. Heightens psychological and physical well-being
4. Lowers rates of depression and distress
5. Increases the effectiveness of our immune system
6. Reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (damn good reason to get happy!)

Now that we know this for sure, this changes things. Joy and positivity are no longer a nice ‘extra’ to life; they are now a necessity for our mental, physical and emotional health.

In the next few weeks I’ll send you a series of short articles where we’ll discover practical and actionable ways of bringing more joy and happiness into your life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and I’d love your feedback –  \n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ” target=”_blank”>email me.

In the meantime, remember, you are unique – just like everyone else!

Keep on shining
Maggie x

*name changed to protect the (previously) grumpy