By Jessica Chrisman, Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
Updated on March 7, 2023
Published on May 30, 2019
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How to be your most amazing self and enjoy life as you are meant to
While our environments, genetic factors, diets, hormone levels, relationships, and jobs can greatly affect our mood and life, the main driving force that swings the pendulum from hopefulness to sadness to happiness and back again is your mind. Perspective and having an organized thought process are two of the most important skills to obtain if you want to live life in a stable and enjoyable manner.
Physical health, love for self and others, and having a sense of purpose, are other top factors that influence our mental and emotional well being. In this article, we will go over some basic principles that have been studied, taught, spoke of, and lived out by many thought leaders.
Perspective and Thought Process
Our perspective (how we see the world) and thought processes (how we translate input from the world), which are reinforced by habit, have the biggest impact on who we are and how we react to life. This is because we live our lives predominately in our minds.
All the senses are connected to the nervous system and the brain is the organ that interprets reality. All that we see, we see in our minds. All that we smell and touch can only be experienced with the assistance of the mind. And all that we feel, all of our emotions from love to worry, comes from the way we process input in the mind.
This means that how we choose to see the world or a particular situation, be it good or bad, will shape our mood, actions, and health. As Einstein once said, “the most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
For example, when we are in love we often see our partner through rose colored glasses and they probably don’t need to do much for us to sing their praise. For those we don’t like, however, the person may do something as simple as look at us and we are calling our friends to complain that they gave us a “weird look.” In truth, our reaction to both of these individuals will likely be exaggerated due to our beliefs.
Many people forget this concept as they get older, but humans by nature are supposed to be happy and optimistic. If you look at children, the human form before being shaped by life, media, and society, they are imaginative, happy, and hopeful the majority of the time.
This is not because they don’t also face struggles; children may face fear, loss, pain, separation, or lack of power. Yet, despite these challenges, children are very quick to rebound and strive to return to their baseline emotions of happiness and hopefulness.
Our baseline emotion, which is based on how we view the world, sets the course for the type of person we’re going to be and how we’re going to react to situations in our lives. If our baseline is to be happy, we will look for things to be happy about and do all we can to stay that way. If our baseline is to be stressed out, we will constantly be looking for things to worry about and fret over. If we do not have a baseline, as in our core is completely at the whims of our environment, then we end up unstable and with intense mood swings.
Our baseline emotion is the physical manifestation of the thoughts we practice most frequently. Like any habit, the thoughts we think can be supportive like brushing our teeth or negative like smoking.
Comparison and Opinions
So what happens as we age that our set point often shifts from happy and hopeful to tired, jaded, or defeated? Two big issues are 1) we start caring too much about what others think and 2) we begin to compare ourselves to others. This is not productive or logical as all humans are unique and have their own goals and desires.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” -Jim Rohn
Caring too much what other people think and focusing on what they are doing gives them power over you and the ability to shape you. No one knows what will make you happy more than yourself and when you give others opinions too much air time, you are at risk of quieting in your own inner guidance. When this occurs you can lose sight of your dreams and start holding yourself back from taking chances. This is not to say that a dose of healthy advice is not needed at times, we all can benefit from some sage advice, pep talks, or “tough love” from friends, family, and mentors, but always let your inner voice and beliefs speak the loudest.
Also, caring too much what others think of you can stop you from becoming who you were meant to be. It is so important that the goals you have set for yourself will lead to a life that would make you happy, not just copying what others are doing or what would make them happy.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” Theodore Roosevelt
Psychologists and scientists claim that this generation suffers the most kickback from comparison due to social media and reality television. I spoke about this in more detail on the “Is Technology Bad?“and “Goal and Achievement” posts, but the take away is simple; avoid comparing yourself to others in a negative manner as no two people are alike and no two paths are the same. What makes someone else happy may not make you happy, so while having mentors to aspire to be like is great, try to avoid negative and lack based comparisons that can occur when you focus too much on their path to success versus your own.
“Life is a movie, make sure you like the script you are writing.” ~unknown
Also, by focusing too much on others or wanting to be more like them, you end up making others the star of your movie and inadvertently take on the role of the supporting character. Avoiding comparison will keep you the star of your movie and empower you to be the hero of your own life.
“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Proverb
Another common “adult mistake” is learning to worry. Many people as they age shift from living in a place of faith in themselves and life to a place of fear and doubt. When our fears trump the confidence in our ability to handle any situation, the world becomes a very scary place.
Being prepared and responsible is not the same as worry. Buying water and keeping it in your basement if you live in South Florida or practicing your presentation in front of the mirror to calm your nerves is being prepared. Worrying, on the other hand, is constantly fretting over things that are unlikely, worst case scenario, or out of your control.
Worry is also linked to fear based thinking. Most fear-based thoughts are the product of 1) focusing on lack or 2) wanting something “too much.” Both of these thought patterns will throw your perspective out of balance and lead to fear and worry. The best way to handle this is to 1) shift your focus from lack to being grateful for what you do have and 2) take the desperation out of your intense wanting with the mantra “this or something better is coming” or “that which is meant for me will not pass me.”
When we focus too much on the future or what we want, but don’t have yet, we lose sight of the good that is happening in our lives now. By being grateful for what you already have and focusing on what IS working, you will be able to reduce your worrying and enjoy the journey to your goal more. If being content with where you are now is too much of a stretch, then if you can at least be easier on yourself and more accepting of where you are, while still striving for more, you will gain a sense of freedom and peace.
The most successful people in this world are able to see failure as a lesson or chance to start anew. If you are not living bravely and with a clear perspective, then the more you experience defeat, rejection, or disappointment (we all do in life at times) the more likely you are to start to feel worn down and ready to give up.
After feeling intense loss or “failure,” some believe that getting their hopes up, just to have them crushed again is too scary and they would rather just expect things to fail. In this state they are again, operating in fear based and lackful mode. This is very damaging to our mood and the way we go about achieving goals. The moment we starting expecting things to fail is when we stop dreaming, become complacent, and set ourselves up for failure. Often, by making our expectations one of failure, we make failing our reality and begin to build a case on why we always fail. This can lead to a vicious cycle of expecting to fail, failing, and then expecting to fail again.
So how do we keep our childlike sense of “anything is possible” in the face of defeat? By shifting our set point and the way we think about failure and pain.
Winston Churchill says “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” -Samuel Beckett
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding” Khalil Gibran
The most effective way for adults to maintain positive expectations is to shift from hopefulness to knowing. This shift has a very powerful effect on the brain because it gives us a one-track path. When we are hoping something will happen that gives us room to think about the possibility of it not happening, which can lead to worrying about it not happening.
It’s easier for children to be hopeful as they have more blind faith that life will be good to them and less fear-based thinking due to fewer experiences of set back. For adults to overcome their experiences of defeat they must go forward with even more determination and be willing to learn from each set back.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” Henry Ford
“If you are failing, it is because you’re not done, keep going.” -Unknown
When you know something is going to happen, when you make the decision to just keep at it till it works, you take the pressure off and reduce the sense of urgency. From there, worry around how and when, along with feelings of fear due to lack of control will start to wade. In the face of failure, we must keep the belief that somehow, some way, we will always find a way.
It is also important to be happy in your now moment. Often people are waiting around for that “one thing,” be it a new job, relationship, or more money before they start living and feeling happy. They may say something like “once I have this new job then I can…” This does not work. You have to live your life and be happy in your now, if you spend all your time living for the future you can wake up one day and realize your whole life has passed by.
Love for Self
“Find out who you are and then do it on purpose” -Dolly Parton
Self-love radiates from those who process it and manifests in emotions of happiness, contentment, and confidence. Without true self-love, we fall into the trap of needing others approval and love to feel validated and whole.
Once this occurs you may find yourself with low self-esteem and at the whims of others, reliant on their approval. Then you might start saying yes to things you don’t want to or ignoring your own needs in attempt to be loved. Over time this can lead to feelings of resentment, fatigue, or even depression. Or, to a lesser degree, you just won’t have the confidence and laser focus to go after your dreams in the manner that someone with enough self-love would.
Self-worth is not narcissism or ego, but the gentle calm that comes with recognizing and exuding the highest version of yourself. It is knowing your worth no matter the current situation you are in and acting with grace, compassion, strength, fairness, and love. Knowing that you are special, worthy, and lovable just because you are you.
Those who truly own their worth don’t need to prove themselves to others and are the ones who go after their dreams with the most vigor. This is why many of the greatest artists, scientists, and leaders were also somewhat of outcasts; they did not care, they just followed their calling.
Self-love not only creates happiness, but also allows us to be brave and take risks in our work and life as well. When you chase your dreams, be it becoming an actress, athlete, lawyer, etc and are coming from a place of self-worth, you will spend less time worrying if you are good enough and more time tapping into your talents, pushing your limits, and having fun.
Techniques to try for more self-worth and confidence
“And God said “Love Your Enemy,” and so I obeyed him and loved myself.” Kahil Gibran
There are many things you can do to improve your self-love and confidence; eating right and exercising, practicing positive self-talk, taking time to do the things that make you feel alive, and choosing to be kind to ourselves, so often we are our own worst critics.
Positive Self Talk: The thoughts we think repetitively have power, they influence both our outlook and our actions. Constantly telling ourselves we aren’t good enough or “you will be good enough when…” is detrimental to our self-esteem. When you catch yourself talking badly about yourself try to stop those thoughts in their tracks and replace those thoughts with positive thoughts.
It can be more neutral comments like “we’re getting there” “we’re not doing so bad” or really positive like “you are a divine goddess” “you’re a swimming champion with the body of a god.” Say nice things about yourself and see not only how much better you feel, but how others start to notice your new found confidence.
Eating right and exercise: Taking care of our body is not only good for our physical and mental health, but is also a sign of self-love. It boosts your confidence when you look and feel strong.
Mirror Work: This one may seem silly, but is taught by one of the mothers of the positive psychology movement, Louise Hay, and is proven to be very effective. Stand in the mirror and look at yourself in the eyes, tell yourself “I love you,” then say 10 or more things you love about yourself, be it your body, face, or personality. It is hard to lie to ourselves so if you tell yourself something you don’t believe yet, like “I love my muffin top” you may feel uncomfortable, this just shows you an area you need to work on mentally.
Perhaps instead you could say, I love my body just as it is and it can only get better, thank your body for getting me to where I need to go, I will show you love by feeding you the right foods, working out, and noticing how you respond to my healthy choices. Just keep telling yourself what you love about yourself; be your biggest fan and you will begin to create the habit of self-love.
Journaling: Writing down our thoughts is another way of becoming aware of what we really think about ourselves. Journaling positive affirmations can further reinforce positive beliefs. Remember the key word for more self-love is – HABIT.
Power Stances: Tony Robbins is a big proponent of power stances and using the body to increase your mood and confidence. While it may sound far fetched that our posture can effect our mood, multiple studies back this claim. One study showed that men and women who stood in the superhero pose (wide stance, chest up, hands on the hips) for 5 min had a boost in the hormone testosterone.
Love for others
Close relationships of quality, a feeling of connection, and a loving marriage. These are the qualities that are most important to achieving happiness and staying healthy according to the infamous 75-year-old Grant and Glueck studies. Our friendships and partnerships can have a huge impact on the type of people we will become. Make sure you surround yourself with people who see the authentic you and help bring out the best in you.
Loving and doing for others, who likely can not do for you, is the definition of selfless love. Aside from love directed toward our friends, partners, and loved ones, love for others in the form of volunteering and random acts of kindness is the soul food that we all need in our lives.
Loving selflessly goes hand in hand with the saying “when you want more love, give love.” Whenever you feel like you do not have enough love in your life, when you feel lonely and low on affection, you can give love rather than waiting to receive. In this act, you shift from a state of waiting to a state of doing, and in doing so you are spreading and creating love. You are planting the seeds where more love can grow.
Sense of Purpose
Besides our relationships, our jobs and how we spend our time is critical for happiness. Having a goal or project that we are working on gives us something to wake up in the morning for. Humans need to be working towards something or they can grow bored and complacent, this is when negative habits can occur such as drug abuse or cheating on your spouse.
Time is the most valuable commodity, so make sure the goals you are setting are ones that set your heart on fire. Set your sights high and believe you can achieve it.
Life is supposed to be fun. To avoid becoming stagnant and maintain that child like sense of optimism and wonder, make sure your life is balanced and always seek out new ways to learn. The key is to be grateful for what we have and proud of how far we have come, while still striving for growth.