In order to create lasting change in your relationship patterns so you can find the love you crave and create the relationship you deserve, you must TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the way you act and feel. What does that mean?
It is easy to blame others, society or even yourself for the way things are but what good does that do? Does that attitude help get you where you want to be? Chances are it doesn’t.
You are fully responsible for the way you respond to situations. Responsibility means to have the ability to choose your response to what happens rather than behaving automatically without thinking things through based on the conditioning you have received throughout your life. When you focus on yourself and your behaviors with gentle compassion you give yourself a chance to choose your reaction to challenging feelings or situations. In this way, you can work on things you can control without beating yourself up for what you previously did with less awareness. This is how you can get back in the driving seat.
QUESTION: In what ways are you not taking responsibility for your love life?
Even in the most difficult situation, you are half of the picture. What are you doing to allow things to go the way they have always gone ? What part are you playing in the game? If you want to change a situation you need to know what you can do differently rather than hoping others will magically change and make everything better without you doing anything at all.
EXERCISE: Make a mental picture of the person you’re dating exactly as they function today — warts and all — If they never changed, would you still want to be with them in five years?
Answer honestly. You need to stare reality in the face as uncomfortable as it may be.
If you have answered NO you need to ask yourself another question: is what you want to change in your partner a personality trait or is it a behavior?
Character traits (such as shyness for example) are almost impossible to change. If you cannot accept a particular trait in your partner you need to either leave them or accept that you are condemning yourself to a life of misery with them.
If on the other hand, it is a behavior that you want changing, there might be a chance your partner may change but that depends entirely on how much they want to change and how committed they are to making an effort in the right direction.
Basically, people cannot change their traits and can only change their behaviors if they really want to. And if you are spending your time trying to change someone who doesn’t want to because YOU cannot live with it, you are either falling into the category of “fixer” or you are ignoring the fact that you need to leave the relationship because it has become toxic.
Now, I normally don’t like maths but when it comes down to change here’s my winning formula :
(Insight + Behavior Change ) x Repetition = Identity Change = Different Outcome
Also: Intention (to change) + Attention (to old patterns of behavior) = a capacity to catch yourself when you are about to repeat old behaviors which leads to – Choice to do something different.
Here’s a breakdown:
To start this process I would ask you to get a pen and paper and write or respond to these questions speaking out loud. It’s not enough to just think about them. Thoughts have a way to get lost and keep meandering in our minds unless we pin them down either in writing or through spoken word.
First of all, you need to target the behaviors that hold you back and learn to replace them with new ones:
In order to change you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. You need to be willing to be uncomfortable for a while and ’embrace the suck’. Can you bring an attitude of curiosity to the investigation of what you are finding so challenging? You need to make a commitment to stop avoiding difficult stuff and just face it.
Finally, you need to have a good idea of where you are going and why. If you just keep on thinking about what you don’t want that’s what you’ll keep on getting.
Once you do the work you are on your way to better relationships. Remember that this is a process that requires constant practice and commitment. Like getting physically fit requires you to exercise every day at the gym you need to keep going to achieve and maintain your goals. There are no quick fixes in life but the reward is worth it! Focus on that and you will reap the fruits of your hard labor so you can find the love you deserve.
More about relationships:
Do you keep going out with the same kind of man / woman ? Do you feel stuck in a rut where you keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over again and end up broken-hearted ? Find out what type of “relationship repeater” you are.
In the next article I shall look at what causes these relationship patterns to come about and what to do to move away from them and discover the love you deserve.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.
Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a dark theatre. Then suddenly a spot light appears. The only thing you can see is whatever the spotlight shines its light upon. That is your reality. You may think that is all reality but the truth is it is only a fraction of it. You decide where to point the light and wherever you do that’s what you get ! The universe is a mirror of us. Our external reality is a reflection of our internal reality. The world reflects back to you whatever you believe about it and your place in it.
Imagine you are the captain of a ship sailing on the wide open ocean. The crew follows your orders to the letter. You just need to tell it where to go. But instead of telling it where you want to go you keep on telling it where you don’t. “I don’t want to go to Hell Island! it’s full of horrible people there and there is nothing to eat and the weather is terrible all year round! No, I don’t want to go to Hell Island! Please don’t take me there!”
Guess where you end up going ? The crew doesn’t know where else to take you, all they hear is “Hell Island! Hell Island”!
So stop asking for what you don’t want and focus on its opposite: What you do want.
Some people use this simple principle to try to attract to themselves what their ego wants in their life. More money, a better job, a mate, you name it. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, if the request comes from your ego you may end up in trouble when you do get what you asked for. This is because the ego tries to get you ‘stuff’ based on a dream, a fantasy of what getting that stuff will be like. Often we have no idea what that really would entail and it might just be the opposite of what would make us happy !
The other problem is that we often have no idea what we really want, and that’s because the ego has no idea what would satisfy our deeper needs. It hears ideas about money or fame or having children or achievement as the ultimate goals that will bring it happiness and believes the story. The problem is that’s just a story and what makes somebody else happy might not make you happy. The ego doesn’t know what would make you happy. Only your deeper self does. (More on this later, read on)
Many people think that if only they had more money then everything would be ok. There are many problems with this:
What to do instead ? The solution to this conundrum is to surrender to the higher self, the inner teacher, the part of us that is much bigger and wiser than our ego. This inner voice, the inner counsel always knows what is best for us in a way that might even frighten the ego. This is because the ego wants safety at all costs, while our higher self wants our ultimate growth, happiness and freedom to expand out of our comfort zone. You will be most aware of the difference between the ego and the higher self when you have a decision to make.
Your ‘head’ will always counsel you towards safety. Your ‘heart’ will always counsel you towards expansion. Your head tries to keep you small. Your heart wants you to grow. But growing can be scary, because you are entering unknown territory, so if you feel a little scared of what one of the inner voices is telling you to do you might just have tapped into the wisdom your heart.
So listening to your ‘heart’ (or your inner teacher, wise counsel, higher self, sometimes also experienced as God) is the way forward.
But what if you cannot hear the voice of the inner self ? It is hard to listen to the inner voice if you are surrounded by constant distraction and never spend a moment looking inside. Facebook, mobile phones, TVs are pulling our attention away from the inner voice on a regular basis.
If your analytical mind is interfering with the process by distracting you with judgements you need to relax more and pay no heed to its criticisms. It’s just the ego getting scared and trying to protect you from the unknown. You can reassure yourself you’ll listen to it later. But for now pay attention only to the exercise. Drop your judgements and connect to the deeper truth of the present moment.
Follow these steps and you’ll access the most valuable teacher and therapist you’ll ever have. The coach that knows you the best. Remember this is a PRACTICE. You don’t run a marathon by going to the gym once. You need to keep at it and commit until you get the results you want.
Remember, it is never the experiences we have that keep us stuck but the judgements about them. It is the resistance to feeling our feelings. Move into the feeling and trust it has something invaluable to teach you.
For more articles on related topics see
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to benefit from mindfulness. One of my passions is to de-mistify and secularize concepts that would otherwise be out of reach for anyone who may not belong to or be interested in understanding a specific religious affiliation.
It is now well known that certain Buddhist concepts can be very helpful in aiding us to be more happy, balanced, and in control of our emotional responses. One of these concepts is that of ‘equanimity’.
Equanimity is the capacity to see our own suffering and that of others with compassion without becoming either overwhelmed by it or indifferent to it. It is the capacity to look at all that surrounds us with the eye of a curious and compassionate observer. It is watching what goes on within us and outside of us with an open heart and without judgement, remembering that all that exists rises and passes away, all is impermanent, including joy, sorrow, pleasant and painful events, people, buildings, animals and nations; It is being able to let yourself rest amid everything that is impermanent while remaining balanced and peaceful; It is the capacity to extend loving kindness to all living beings without becoming enmeshed in their own drama, accepting the things that cannot be changed, having the courage to change those we can and cultivating the wisdom to know the difference.
Imagine being a judge at a court case: you are not indifferent to what you witness but you are not personally invested in it either. You are even and balanced. You are not disturbed by either chasing after pleasure or avoiding pain. You are simply present to what is without having to change it adjust it or control it in any way. Another word for this is ‘detachment’.
When we practice this capacity to lift up and “abstract’ ourselves from ourselves, it is as if we could look in on ourselves from the outside; in this way we stop identifying with our own emotions thoughts and feelings and we can choose how to respond consciously, rather than ‘react’ automatically to what we experience. This is the basis of emotional intelligence.
If we want to create change in our lives we must first accept where we are right now and take responsibility: we need to realize that we are creators. We can either be created by our unconscious thoughts words and behaviors or we can consciously choose to create what we want to experience more of. We are the inheritors of all the causes and conditions that have brought us here now. The thoughts and actions we have engaged in your life have created the outcomes we are now experiencing in our lives.
So what if we stopped wasting our energy blaming others or alternatively giving ourselves a hard time and putting yourself down ? What if instead we chose to be compassionate with ourselves , forgave ourselves and learned whatever we can from our experiences ?
Perhaps this way we could put our energy and focus to better use. We could be helping ourselves to become more aware of our automatic reactions, thoughts and emotions; we could then be practicing to focus our intention and attention towards conscious choice so we create the life we want.
As creators of our own ‘karma’, we need to learn how to care for others without becoming overwhelmed and developing empathy fatigue (and subsequently indifference). If we clearly look at the world, the struggles and suffering we see will make us sad. If instead of trying to avoid this we stay with the discomfort we will experience the wish to be of help to others.
If the need to be of benefit to others is rooted in love, we can learn to relax with the discomfort we experience and as a result we will be able to use the sadness to motivate us to help others whether through art, prayer, activism, charity or simply by being kind to those around us.
It is important to remember that no matter how much we may care we cannot live other people’s lives for them. So while taking the “three thousand year” view of things we must practice remaining with an open heart, practice loving kindness towards all living beings and remember that our responsibility in making the world a better place ends there.
We can wish fellow humans to learn to see the arising and passing of all things with equanimity and balance, while being as much as possible an example to them of such an attitude and perspective.
One of the practical ways to cultivate this quality of being ‘a witness’ to life is to practice being internally flexible, curious and learn how to focus and concentrate.
You can find some examples of these in the video on equanimity or you can get in touch to experience them first hand with me.
If you are interested in knowing more on the link between Mindfulness and psychotherapy you read this mindfulness buddhism and psychology article
In a previous article, I have explored how our negative core beliefs keep us stuck. If you are not familiar with this I suggest you read “How to get Unstuck” first.
Now before going ahead make yourself comfortable. Take a pen and paper and get ready to do some very valuable work that will make a real difference in your life. Take your time with this. The more you put into it the more you will get out of it.
Ok, let’s get down to work: start by writing down the first restrictive negative belief you want to change. Then proceed with the following steps:
1) On a scale of 1-10, how true does this belief subjectively feel?
2) On a scale of 1-1- how true is this belief in reality? (be as neutral and objective as possible)
3) When does this belief the most emotionally convincing?
4) When does it feel the least emotionally convincing? Take your time answering this question as this will reveal to you what conditions exasperate the issue and what makes it better.
5) What actual evidence do you have for this belief? what supports it? Be realistic and as neutral as possible
6) What actual evidence contradicts and challenges this belief? What evidence is there to show you it might not be necessarily true?
7) What possible advantages are making you want to hold on to it? In what way could this belief be serving you beneficially in some perverse way?
8) What disadvantages are there in holding on to it?
9) Now remind yourself of a circumstance in the past when you had doubts about a belief. Go back to that time and recall what it felt like to experience doubt. How did you know you were doubting your previously firm beliefs? what were you experiencing? what made you change your mind?
10) Recalling and staying with this doubting state start doubting your current belief. Ask yourself those questions again: does this belief really fit with what is truly important to me? In the past, when did this belief interfere with what I wanted to do? What would it be like to be free of this old belief?
11) After rolling these questions in your mind for a while focus again.
Is this negative belief an over-generalization? Is it the result of catastrophizing? Is it just a personal attack against your person or others? Does it label you or others into something fixed? Is it the result of demanding of yourself something unreasonable, such as ‘you SHOULD be or do such and such”?
12) After careful consideration how true does your old belief feel now on a scale of 1-10? Now comes the fun part: relax, take a few deep breathes and close your eyes. Imagine that there’s a furnace somewhere deep inside yourself.
If you really want to permanently destroy that old belief imagine throwing it into that fire and watch it burn away into ashes. Take pleasure in doing this.
13) Now ask yourself: what would be a more helpful and realistic alternative belief to have? State it positively (say what you want not what you don’t want!).
Make sure you are happy with it. Word it in the present tense, as if it was happening now. (i.e. I believe I am good enough as I am, or, I believe I deserve love just as I am)
14) On a scale of 1-10, how true does it feel right now?
15) As you did before ask yourself, when does the new belief feel the least and the most emotionally convincing.
16) Examine the evidence against this new belief? Is there any problem with it? Then find evidence that proves its correctness and usefulness. Write it down
17) Write down any disadvantages there may be for holding this new positive belief. Be as objective as possible
18) Write down all the advantages of holding this new positive belief now.
19) Now go inside yourself again. Recall a time in the past when you felt receptive and willing to learn. Remember what it was like to be open to change and new beliefs. How did it feel? Re-live that time in as much detail as possible. Where in your body did you feel those feelings? What were you telling yourself? Do all it is possible now to achieve that same state again now.
20) Staying with that memory of feeling receptive and open focus on your new belief. How would it feel to accept this new belief? How is it better than the previous one? How different would your life be if you held this new belief as your own? What would you be doing that you were doing before? What could you achieve and overcome that you weren’t able to before? Think about all this and engage with your new belief.
21) Now evaluate your new belief. Do you need to make any changes? Can you improve on it in any way? How good do you feel holding it? On a scale of 1-10, how true does it feel now?
Now decide to take some action. What can you do differently right now, today, as a result of having acquired this new belief? If you truly believed in it, what would you do differently? Set yourself a task based on this belief being true and decide what action you would take.
Start doing things differently right now so that your new belief gets empirical support and you experience it in your life. This way it gets verified, enhanced and supported and therefore embedded in your new behavior patterns.
Have fun with it, experiment and watch your life change and feel great as a result!
When we are blocked in an area of our lives it often is due to the fact that we feel safer that way. We may feel unhappy but that is easier to deal with than our fear of the unknown. We begin to change when the pain we experience in staying stuck is bigger than the anticipated pain of change.
A lot of fear comes down to our negative core beliefs : deeply held beliefs acquired some time in the past due to painful experiences. Becoming conscious and challenging these beliefs is the first step in the process of change.
For a moment, think about something you would really like to do or be right now but don’t feel able to. When you’ve got that, write it down. Do that now. Maybe you have always wanted to be an artist so write down “I am a capable and talented artist”.
Now, in all probability a voice in your head has just emerged to criticize this statement bringing up all sorts of reasons why this is either impossible or a bad idea. Positive affirmations can give us a sense of safety and hope if we let them but at first you will probably feel they sound fake, embarassing or not right. No surprise there. If you have spent all your life bludgeoning yourself with negative beliefs such as “I am worthless” or “I am not good enough” or “I must be perfect to deserve success” anything else will sound unfamiliar and syrupy or cheesy . So saying to yourself ” I am lovable just as I am” or “I am capable and confident” will surely sound untrue at first.
The problem with not accepting a belief because it doesn’ t sound right though is that feelings are a result of thoughts and if you want to change a feeling you have got to change the thought first. It’s a bit like the idea of “fake it til you make it”. You can’t wait to feel it to believe it, you gotta believe it to feel it! Luckily there are some ways to get around this obstacle, but all of these do involve a certain willingness to suspend judgement and take a leap of faith, as well as engage our rational mind doubting limiting old beliefs.
So what is that critical monster in your head saying when you tell it you already are what you want to be ?( After saying your affirmation: i.e. “I am ok just as I am” )
Listen to the objections that come your way. What s the cruel voice saying inside your head ? “so you’re ok as you are… ah ah sure you are!”, “who are you kidding?”, “You are ugly”, “You will never change”, “You can’t do anything right”, “No-one will ever love you unless you are perfect”, etc etc… You will be amazed at the rotten things you can come up with. Write them down. These are your personal negative core beliefs.
Once you have written them down you can start having a good look at where these beliefs come from: Mom and dad? Your school bully? The boy/girl you were in love with when you were ten? Teachers that pushed you too hard? Your little jealous sister ? Scan your blurts for possible sources. Time travel back into your life in five year increments and list by name who influenced you the most in each block of time.
Once you have identified these challenge their opinions. What self serving reason could they have had to have done or said what they did do or say? How did their own worldview influence them ? What did they believe about themselves ? What messages did they grow up with ? Remember this is not about blaming or condoning, just understanding and distinguishing their beliefs from what yours would be if you hadn’t accepted theirs as true. If there is still a lot of emotional energy involved in recalling these memories you might have to release it first so you can forgive them and yourself and move on.
Keep in mind that it is also possible your negative beliefs may come from subtle non direct messages received from your environment or from an experience of something that happened to you where others were not directly involved:
Maybe you felt different because of a situation you found yourself in; maybe you were abandoned by a significant other; maybe you fell ill and became isolated; maybe you were born with something that set you apart from others and you yourself came up with the negative conclusion that you were not Ok just as you were: the possibilities are endless and very personal.
Whatever your monster is, after it has been brought up to the light of day you can start working on challenging its critical voice and changing those negative beliefs that keep you stuck and unhappy. If you would like help with a practical cognitive behavioral approach to this, read this article about “how to get rid of negative core beliefs”.
We all complain about having problems. But what would it be like to wake up in the morning and have absolutely no problems to solve, nothing to worry about, no vexations whatsoever? Having no problems can be a very serious problem and lead to the creation and yearning for any old dumb problem that will shake us from our slumber and generate some excitement.
It seems to me that creating problems in a real human need. It seems we define ourselves by the dilemmas we attract and struggle to solve. Usually it ‘s those who are most creative that ask the biggest and hardest questions and then put together resources to answer them.
It is often said that there is no gain without pain, and nothing of value is gained without effort. While this is mostly true and anxiety can be a valuable spur for getting things done it is also true that putting ourselves under a lot pressure to solve mediocre problems is not going to be useful or make us smarter. If we get too used to allow unimportant problems to fill us with nagging vexations we won t gain much except for a headache.
The other fact to consider is that when we are preoccupied with silly boring or demeaning annoyances we might miss out on asking the bigger questions and getting well into wilder, more interesting problems. These may be of the variety that pushes you out of your comfort zone in the direction of your personal frontier well before life forces you to do so when you are least willing to deal with it.
When we focus on the problems that matter we feel excited about our ability to deal with them because ultimately they will open the door to a better existence rather than dragging us down into the same meandering tunnels of meaninglessness.
So invite the real crisis in : it will be a time of destiny, a turning point, an opportunity to rethink what really matters to you so you take action to bring about the changes necessary to create a better present for yourself.
In other words: stop distracting yourself with minor irritations and ask yourself the question you have been avoiding. Instead bring it on, delve in deep and get it over with : there is no time better than now !
This is what I happen to believe. Read through if you like, and compose your own list.
I believe in giving people a fair chance.
I believe in taking responsibility for my well-being.I believe in being honest and true to myself.
I believe that the most difficult, painful and challenging experiences life throws at us can end up being
the most enlightening rewarding and meaningful.
I believe that being different although not easy is something to celebrate as a blessing.I believe in the power of laughter to help us lift us from tragedy.
I believe that an enormous amount of wealth lies in reading and learning. I believe sometimes the best thing you can do is switch off and have a good night sleep. In the morning new solutions and insight may come.
I believe in learning to let go of the need to always having to “do something”.
I believe that most problems come from tension and not giving ourselves permission to relax.
I believe that believing in myself is the best investment I could ever make.
I believe that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. No success is ever possible without making mistakes. What’s important is to listen to the feedback.
I believe genius is not something we are born with but something we make with practice, dedication and determination.
I believe that not letting people get to me is sometimes hard but essential.
I believe in learning to let go of whatever is bothering me by first expressing my feelings and then examining my thoughts and gaining perspective.
I believe in not paying too much attention to those who do not have other people’s best interest at heart. To do so would impair my faith in humanity.
I believe in choosing to listen to the part of myself that encourages me and not to the part of me that wants to put me down.
I believe in expecting the best and accepting the rest.
I believe there is nothing wrong with people who do not like me. The fact they don’t tell me more about them than it does about me. They might have something to teach me, or they might have something to learn. You cannot please everyone all the time…
I believe in allowing myself to like what I like without shame. I believe in not denying myself the things I feel attracted to, no matter what others may think of me as a result.
I believe in making time for fresh air, social interaction and being creative.
I believe in self-reflection as a path to self-healing.
I believe that focusing on things we are grateful for is the key to happiness.
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It is all well and good when we know what we want but what if we don’t? What then? Are we to just accept a directionless life, hoping to find our way in the dark with no help whatsoever? The simple answer is no. There are ways to help you figure out what you want and if you put a bit of effort into it you shall be rewarded with probably surprising and exciting answers.
One way to approach this common problem is to ‘take time out’. Our inner, wiser voice is a subtle one and cannot be heard over the clamor of everyday life. An option would be to go on a four-day’ retreat’, somewhere you can be alone and away from all distractions or to simply take time off work and use this time to meditate alone.
If at this point you find yourself saying to yourself “well I couldn’t possibly do that! I’m too busy! then perhaps it is time to ask yourself how much you value your own happiness; after all, If you do not change anything, nothing will ever change.
Remember that timeout doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. You could just stay home or simply not go to work or stop doing the things you normally do just as if you were physically sick. Take a few mental health days off before you really need them. Even if you do not go anywhere you can still use this quiet time to meditate or go see a hypnotherapist who can help you with the process.
Let us then assume you have taken the time off. What now? First of all, make sure you avoid all media (yes, that includes your phone!) and be as silent and relaxed as possible.
On the first day of your retreat/ meditation/session with the hypnotherapist concentrate on the story of your entire life, from the first thing, you can remember to the present. Try to visualize this story as clearly as possible so you get a feel for it and remember to enjoy the process: this is not a time to judge yourself but rather to observe.
On the second day of your retreat/ meditation/hypnotherapy session tune in to the wiser part of yourself. This is the part of yourself that knows what is best for you. For some, this could be God / The Goddess / a guardian angel / your Higher self / Source Energy. Whatever you identify it with, this is the highest source of wisdom and love you can gain access to. Simply ask for its assistance. The following questions should be asked:
On the third day/ meditation/session write down a statement about what you want to achieve before you die and then write down 10 steps necessary to get there. For help with this, you could research people that have ‘made it’ and model their behavior and attitudes.
On the fourth day visualize being showered in a white light of love and creative energy. Imagine the life force and the entire universe conspiring to make your dream come true, helping you manifest what you need, giving you all the loving support necessary for you to accomplish your goal and while welcoming this energy be grateful for all its gifts.
Expect success and take your first step. Remember that every day you are getting closer to your goal! Get excited about it and imagine yourself already having achieved it. This will give you the emotional motivation to keep going in the face of adversity, should there be any. Remember, there is no failure until you quit!
If you rather do this with the help of a qualified professional who will support you all the way through please call me today. The process can be sped up with the help of hypnosis because while you are in a trance you are more likely to be relaxed and in touch with your inner self.
Call me today 075 44247800 or contact me via email for a no-obligation consultation.
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It seems that is the true quest of every human being on earth. Sometimes success is defined in terms of happiness. The American Declaration of Independence even states that happiness is man’s inalienable right.
But why is it so important to be ‘happy’?
Well, first of all, it goes without saying that life is already complicated enough without the added burden of moodiness and sadness. Also, it is scientifically proven that elation triggers hormones that are essential when it comes down to proper metabolic function and well-being. Also, when someone is happy their positive side is brought to the fore and problems become easier to solve.
On the other hand issues such as poverty, oppression and stress do exist. There are still many places where abuse is a commonplace occurrence and where people still die victims of hunger and violence. Are we advocating we just close our eyes to these and pretend they do not exist? Certainly not. On the other hand, dwelling on problems and becoming depressed by them has never helped anyone.
The American Psychological Association states that teenagers as young as fourteen begin experiencing depression at least once a year until they are thirty. Human beings have a tendency towards negativity because often negative events and feelings carry more weight than contentedness and joy. As a result, a lot of us experience sadness that continues to influence us long after the triggering episode has gone. This, in turn, increases our risk of developing illnesses such as chronic heart failure, cerebrovascular accidents, apnea, and migraine.
So perhaps we can all agree that it would be better to be happy than not. But then, a question springs to mind:
Happiness is sometimes defined as a state of mental well-being characterized by positive emotions which can vary between contentment and joy. Another way to understand happiness is in terms of a way of life, rather than an emotion. It is hard to pin the concept down because happiness means different things to different people. Sometimes we are happy because we are confronted with unexpected positive events. Other times we are happy because we feel accepted and loved by others.
Some psychologists have attempted to explain happiness: Seligman, for example, thought humans are most happy when they experience Pleasure (such as good food, warm baths etc) , Engagement (also called ‘flow’ which is feeling absorbed in an enjoyable yet challenging activity) , Relationships, Meaning ( a sense of belonging to or a quest for something bigger than themselves) and Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals)
Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology, understood happiness in terms of a hierarchy of needs shaped in the form of a pyramid.
At the bottom of the pyramid, we have our basic needs that must be fulfilled at all costs. When we fulfill them we attain a basic level of happiness.
After that we ascend to ‘higher’ needs and a higher, more fulfilling sense of happiness is found. We proceed this way until we reach the last level where ‘peak experiences’ of profound love and understanding are felt.
When we reach the self actualization level we feel more whole, more alive, self-sufficient and yet part of the bigger world around us. This is the highest state of ‘happiness’ that we can experience.
According to this model we can’t be happy all of the time and we shouldn’t expect to be. Happiness depends on needs being fulfilled, therefore until they are fulfilled we can expect an unhappiness. Surely, this model is useful to understand ourselves better and to aspire to have our needs met at different levels as we proceed in life.
However, there is something to be said about how a positive attitude of mind can help us fulfill our needs quicker because if we feel good about where we’re at in the present, we cope more effectively with the circumstances we find ourselves in while aspiring to better them.
If we see happiness as an attitude of mind we might find that our needs get fulfilled quicker and that we can feel reasonably happy despite all the negativity that surrounds us and despite not having attained just yet the highest levels of self actualization.
A good attitude is half talent half habit. Like some people are born with a talent for music so some people struggle with it. However, anyone can become a reasonably good musician if they put enough effort and practice into it. In the same way, a good attitude is the product of a positive habitual way of thinking, which might be partly inherited from good parents and partly learned and acquired.
So if your parents were negative and you were brought up, like most of us, in a society that thrives on fostering insecurity for economic reasons there is still hope for you. Luckily for all of us, our mind is extremely pliable and versatile and can learn new habits throughout our lives. It is never too late to change, unless of course you tell yourself it is.
I have found that the first step towards change is gratitude. We could spend all of our time focusing on what is missing but if we do that we will only attract more of the same. This is not because of magic. It simply is a psychological reality: whatever we tell ourselves we create in our minds. And whatever we think produces an effect in feelings and actions. These, in turn, are reflected back to us by others and create more of the same. The tricky thing is to think about what we want, not about what we don’t want, because our ‘irrational’ mind does not understand negatives. To illustrate: if I said to you “don’t think of pink elephants!” what are you thinking about?
When we focus on what we have and not on what we don’t have and we are grateful for it (we feel positive about it) we are more likely to attract more of it. This is because not only we subtly inform our subconscious of what we want more of, but also we project a positive attitude to others and the world is more likely to respond positively to people who are positive rather than to people who complain. This doesn’t mean that we should just accept our lot and be content with it. But if we accept where we are, trying to see the opportunity rather than the flaw, we are more likely to have the energy to progress beyond it.
So what if you want to get some support to learn how to change the way you think so your mind can be your best friend rather than your worst enemy?
The first step towards wholeness is the hardest and if you have read this far you are already well on the way to overcoming the tallest hurdle in your way. At the end of the day, the best help we can get is the one we give to ourselves. Even when we ask others to help us, we need to want to help ourselves first.
So with this attitude in mind, taking responsibility for our own well-being, we can read a whole array of books on the subject but If this proves not to be enough or we want some extra support we have a few options.
Holistic hypnotherapy, combined with NLP and Coaching could be the way for you to go. Or you could go on a self-development course or a self-hypnosis class. Alternatively, you may want to find a humanist psychotherapist or perhaps a CBT counselor. Or perhaps you could combine these to suit your needs. What is important is to listen to yourself, and to go with what feels right.
So begin your journey now by expressing gratitude to yourself for being the sort of person to even read this article! Give yourself a pat on the shoulders: well done for caring enough about yourself to be interested in self-development! You are already close to finding your way to live a happier more fulfilling life!
More on this: The Key to Happiness by Dr. Brené Brown –
Brene is a researcher professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, where she has spent the past ten years studying a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness, posing the questions: How do we engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to embrace our imperfections and to recognize that we are enough — that we are worthy of love, belonging and joy? Brené is the author of I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power (2007) and the forthcoming books, The Gifts of Imperfection (2010) and Wholehearted: Spiritual Adventures in Falling Apart, Growing Up, and Finding Joy ( 2011).