Do you remember that tingly feeling you would experience as a child when you were anticipating something fun coming – like Christmas, holidays or birthdays? The bubbly ripple of excitement that you could almost feel vibrating through your body whenever you thought about ‘that wonderful thing’? It puts me in mind of those images of newborn lambs bounding up and down as they explore the joy of their newly discovered legs!
I don’t know about you but for a long time I stopped getting that feeling and almost forgot that it existed. I think it started to wane once I got to high school but certainly by the time I became an adult the excited bubbles thing had become a bit of a fizzer. With the everyday busy-ness of making ends meet, of building a career, running a household and raising little people, those delicious anticipatory moments all but disappeared. They returned for the odd special times in my life but they stopped being something that I felt regularly..
..And they certainly weren’t moments that I felt I was able to create for myself…
I would look at the joyful exuberance of my children from time-to-time and remember that feeling, but I decided that maybe it was something you only experienced in childhood. After all, being an adult is a very serious business with lots of responsibility and, well…seriousness, right? It’s not that I didn’t experience pleasure, fun or joy during those times, it just wasn’t the visceral, excited buzz that I remembered having as a little kid. A couple of years ago I remember reflecting on how long it had been since I had that feeling and I started wondering whether I could get it back. Why should playfulness, enthusiasm, excitement and thrilling anticipation be just for children? Who made that rule? I didn’t realise it at the time, but somewhere deep in my being I set a new intention – an intention to start experiencing that lovely feeling again. And since then this asking has grown to wanting more of other things – more love, more joy, more fun, more spontaneity and more pleasure. Now, just recently I noticed that I had been feeling really good and I realised that I was experiencing that excited, anticipatory buzz a lot – like most days at one point or another! I get it when I’m on my way to work listening to a great audio book and absorbing new ideas and ways of thinking. I get it when I look into my garden and appreciate the birds that jostle for turns in our bird bath. I get it when I think ahead to my weekend and all the interesting things I plan to do. I get it when I am in session with a client and I just know that some deep shifts are occurring right in that moment. I get it when my children seek me out for a hug or just to rest their head on my shoulder for a while. I find magic moments on most days now – as if parts that were previously black and white have become technicolour. As you can imagine, I was very curious to understand what had changed. Life has always been pretty good but this was truly a new level. So I set to work to reverse engineer what I had been doing so that I could make sure I kept it up and so that I could become the most popular psychologist ‘slash’ life coach in the world! Now please don’t make the mistake of thinking that my life is perfect and that’s why I am having success with this. That just isn’t the case. I do have quite an optimistic personality but I certainly have not had a trouble free life. The things I am going to suggest below are not rocket science and they will improve life for anyone who applies them consistently, even if things are currently really lousy. So if you want to give this a try for yourself, here’s what I discovered:
- Shift your mindset – challenge the beliefs or assumptions you hold about seriousness and playfulness being mutually exclusive. And the one about only being able to experience happiness when ‘this’ or ‘that’ is done. We are often very confined by our beliefs and most of them come from the generations before us who had completely different life experiences. Entertain the idea that you can be, do or have something and you immediately open up avenues in your mind that go looking for it.
- Pay attention – find a method for increasing awareness of your thoughts, your feelings and your environment. Mindfulness practices are excellent for this – meditations, breathing exercises, tuning into your senses etc – just Google ‘mindfulness’ and you will find plenty of options or read this article. If you aren’t aware of what you are thinking in any given moment you can’t challenge a limiting belief or, more importantly, cultivate a new one.
- Limit the amount of time you spend lost in negative thoughts about things you can’t control in the past or potential future. If you find yourself in that realm come in to the present moment or turn your attention to what it is you want INSTEAD and daydream about that. Everything you pay attention to grows so bear this in mind when you allow yourself to be sloppy with your thoughts.
- Practice Gratitude – this is a KEY strategy. Notice and appreciate the good things that are already present in your life, daydream about the wonderful things you want to bring in to your future. When you find something you feel grateful for come in to the moment and really savour it – breath it in, engage your senses, say thank you under your breath and remind yourself frequently that ‘life is good’.
- Start your day with positive expectations – as soon as we wake up most of us start reaching around for the worries that were left over from the day before and all the crappy things we think we have to do in this new day.
Stop that and do this instead:
Find some things you can feel good about in the upcoming day – I don’t care if it is the biscuit you plan on having with your tea, the latest episode of reality TV you plan on watching in the evening or the fact that the sun is shining. Get your energy in a good space to start your day. Then, I want you to imagine that everything you do that day will go in the best way possible – the commute will be stress free, you’ll feel on top of your work, your kids will be angels and someone will say something really nice to you. Don’t get out of bed until you feel optimistic about your day. If you start the day in a vibe of appreciation you will be seeing things to be grateful for all day – especially if you have got good at paying attention (see point 2 above).
- Keep your inspiration tank full – find things that inspire you and watch, read, do or listen to them frequently, like several times a week – this might be music that moves you, singing or dancing, life-changing books/audio books, listening to inspirational speakers on podcasts or YouTube, affirmations, or prayers and meditations that help you to feel connected to something bigger than yourself.
Persistence is the name of the game here. Just like all of life, there is no quick fix for anything really worth having. You do get excellent bang for your buck though as these strategies will pay huge dividends and serve you for the rest of your life. Make a commitment to yourself that you care enough about your happiness to give these strategies a try and, the first time you notice that little buzz of excitement returning, do a little happy dance and give yourself an internal high five – you made that happen!
I so appreciate you taking the time to read my posts and I sincerely hope that you find them helpful. Please understand, however, that the information you find here is not a substitute for therapy. If you have serious concerns about your mental or emotional health please seek personal, professional help.