It sounds almost too simple really doesn’t it. If you want to be happier, do more of what you love! But when you’re doing something that brings you joy, that you’re so passionate about doing, there’s just no room for anxiety or negative thoughts. Joy and fear just can’t occupy the same space.
There’s no getting away from the reality that anxiety is pretty crap. Yep that’s putting it mildly! It’s scary, frustrating and can affect your whole life. But I truly believe it’s possible to take charge of anxiety and not let it rule you. The more I find out about how the brain works, the more I realise that it can be re-trained if it’s fed the right things. And joyful thoughts and feelings are seriously nutritious food for the brain.
In fact, think for a moment about the physical feelings of anxiety – racing heart, shallow breathing, the feeling of adrenalin racing through your body. Now think about how passion and excitement feel – racing heart, shallow breathing, adrenalin coursing through your body. Same physical feelings, very different emotional feelings. You know how if you want to do something badly enough you can somehow find the courage to do it, even if it scares the hell out of you? That’s because passion can always triumph over fear if it burns bright enough.
Certain types of activity create an almost meditative quality, a quieter joy rather than a fierce burning joy. It’s called being in ‘flow’. It’s no less powerful. Your mind doesn’t wander off, you’re completely absorbed in what you’re doing. Obvious examples are things like yoga, Tai Chi or even running. I’ve been doing some painting recently and it’s the same feeling. I always use colours and images that bring me joy – so for me that’s lots of purples, pinks, turquoise, vibrant sunsets, birds, flowers. Now, if I’m not in a great mood, painting’s one of the things I turn to.
What are your passions? What do you love doing – things that sweep you up and get you so absorbed there’s no room to think about anything else?
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the day to day stuff that ‘needs’ to get done. But what’s really important in life? Yes, bills need paying, kids need taking to school, dinner needs to be made, but if you really want to do something you can – you have to – create a way. Because it won’t just happen. You can search for happiness as long as you like, reading books about how to be happy etc, but I’ve finally come to realise it’s way more simple than I thought. Create a life you love. Actually I do take that back, it’s not always simple when you have commitments, but there is always a way.
I can’t remember where I heard it, but I heard a story recently about a guy that had an accident and ended up paralysed from the neck down. He couldn’t do anything for himself and relied completely on his wife. She ended up sinking into depression. This wasn’t how she’d envisaged their life. So eventually the husband realised he had to do something – his wife needed him and she needed a life she loved. They ended up travelling the world.
You don’t have to be that drastic of course. But you can create a life where you do more of what you love. Don’t hold yourself back or wait until something drastic happens to give you that wake up call. Get up early and watch the sun rise. Start that hobby you’ve always wanted to do. Whatever it is that ignites that fire of passion in you.
Last weekend I was camping with the hubby, kids and another family – one of my wonderful crazy best mates from Uni days who I’m lucky enough to live just a few minutes from. I knew it’d be a big ask for my still-fragile CFS body but I was so excited and we had an absolute blast. I love waking up to the fresh crisp air, cooking outside around a fire, letting the kids run wild and getting filthy. There’s an absolute feeling of freedom that brings me huge joy. Since we got back (I’m writing this four days later) I’ve been physically and emotionally exhausted from doing so much more, even though I thought I was being careful, and I’ve been mostly back in bed, recuperating. And I’ve questioned whether perhaps I shouldn’t have gone as I’d been progressing so well and it feels like a smack in the face to be back feeling crappy again. The anxious thoughts creep back in – what if this time I don’t get better? But then I look back at the photos of us so happy, chilled out and laughing and I know that I wouldn’t take it back. We need those times of joy. They’re what life’s about. I’ll never forget that weekend, it’ll always make me laugh thinking about it. And the more we feed ourselves with those feelings, the more the brain chills out and gets used to that way of responding. It sends messages to our brain that everything is ok.
And my husband will roll his eyes when he reads this blog. It’s only something he’s been telling me for about five years. It took a while – and a huge wake up call – for the penny to drop for me.
I’ll stop blabbering on now and finish with a fab quote a friend shared recently that made me smile:
“The diem ain’t gonna carpé itself.”
What are you waiting for? Go and seize the day, in whatever shape or form you can.