“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”Gandhi
What does happiness mean to you?
I think it’s about being true to ourselves. How do we know when we are being true to ourselves? For me, it’s a feeling. Sometimes it’s a gut feeling, the whisper of a re-affirming thought, a sense of knowing. It’s also about not kidding myself as well. Often I’ll distract myself, create excuses, justify my behaviour to myself or to other people or delude myself into thinking something that isn’t true just so I can feel better about myself. Any of this sound familiar?
So how can we become more honest with ourselves and understand who we are? The key is awareness of our beliefs and how they impact our thoughts, feelings and actions on ourselves and others. Starting to create awareness around who you are and setting clear intentions for how you want to live is not only important for your sense of self, it’s also integral to your sense of happiness.
Self-awareness is the key to creating meaningful change. Gandhi and Lao Tzu seem to be on the same page with this one,
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”Lao Tzu
All-day every day you think, you do and you act, hopefully in alignment with who you are. How much time do you spend with your thoughts, or thinking about your thinking? Taking time out for a deep breath to have a listen to your thoughts is a great place to start. Journaling and reflection are also beneficial for understanding on paper how your current beliefs and self-talk are directing your life. The right questions can help unravel what is going on behind your thoughts and can provide insights beyond the usual self-reflection, as often writing in itself can be a form of thinking. The your journal self-discovery series is a great place to start for questions ready to go.
Integrity takes honesty and courage. When was the first time you lied to yourself or let yourself down? I feel like every time I told myself I was going to do something and I let fear get in the way I eroded that fundamental trust in myself. Not only that, but it also chipped away at my sense of self and self-esteem as well. It gets to the point where it’s tempting just to give up on the idea of being myself! This is where it is important to practice self-compassion. Compassion is just being able to hold space for yourself to feel what you need to feel without judgement, shame or guilt and hopefully with some kindness and comfort instead. This is where self-care can be helpful. Taking a warm bath, going for a walk in nature or enjoying some restorative yoga can help create a safe place. It takes courage to be honest with yourself and accept where you are so that you can start to move forward.
Building trust with yourself and others makes it real. Sense of self and self-esteem are also tied in with what you say and do for others. Writing down all of the commitments you’ve made to yourself and anyone else can help you to tackle them when you feel ready, one by one. It’s important to reflect on each commitment and whether it’s in alignment with who you are now. If you don’t think it is or you know you can’t keep the commitment then you need to be honest with yourself. Acknowledge and accept that you are allowed to change your mind. You now have the choice to follow through, renegotiate the commitment or move on. Stay true to that willingness to follow through on what you decide to do now and keep open communication with yourself. You’ll be amazed at how much headspace and energy you free up from closing those loops.
Commitment keeps you honest. Writing down your commitment to yourself in your diary is not only a powerful reminder it also creates a greater sense of commitment. Personally, I have a maximum of 3 important commitments to myself and others that I focus on for the day. This could be anything from committing to physical activity or making time for housework. It could even be a commitment not to do something – even better as it will free up your schedule! I’ll allocate the time in my diary and if I’ve made the effort to complete the task I can tick it off. So the focus is on the practice, the action itself rather than achieving an outcome. Baby steps.
Make it achievable. When I’m building trust with someone else I always start with the little things. Doing what I say I’m going to do, making myself aware of what’s important to them and being present when I’m spending time with them. We build trust with ourselves the same way, by sticking with small achievable actions to build up our integrity muscle again. Even just spending 5min a day being active, writing or doing something just for you can give you a better foundation to work from than promising yourself to do an hour of exercise and then doing nothing at all.
Accountability gives you a fail-safe. If I wanted to change a core belief or behaviour that I had struggled with in the past, then I create more accountability. It adds more gravity to the commitment when you create a feedback loop that involves another person. It’s a lot more challenging to make excuses when you have someone else to keep you honest. Ensure you choose someone who you trust to share your commitment with and who is understanding and supportive of your desire to change. If you want to change an addictive or destructive behaviour there are always professionals out there passionate about helping you. Seek them out!
Happiness is all about loving and trusting yourself on a whole new level. How are you going to support your own happiness today?