The Stress of Happiness. Determining What Makes You Happy.Jul 22, 2022
The past few years has been a roller coaster of feelings and emotions. Unrelenting change and uncertainty demanding increased proficiency and acceptance in being flexible and adaptable. The ups and downs have taken a toll. We have weathered several emotional storms and our happiness reserves are depleted. It’s time to refuel and engage in what makes us happy.
First, let’s review what and how our happiness reserves become depleted. Bio-evolutionary theory explains why we react as we do to stressors: adaptation and survival of the fittest. We have learned well from our ancestors. "Such is life."
Our experience backs up the theory. We instinctively know (but normalize) the reasons and triggers for stress: family issues, work issues, financial issues, health issues, social, political, and environmental issues. We know the what and the how, but we have developed an automatic response of normalizing in an attempt to justify rather than act to protect our reserves.
Ironically, even with our lifetime of experience (and wisdom), we continue to overlook that our thoughts around these issues are what add to the assault. We continue to focus and ruminate on the past, the future, certain events, and particular behaviours of particular people.
The Process of Stress is Predictable!
Our stress, the physiological response to stressors, follows a predictable process - one that often hijacks our emotions and well-being. 1
The process has three parts:
- Beginning: perception of threat
- Middle: response to threat (dealing with stressor)
- End: response to stress (managing physiological response)
While being mindful of each step of the process is important, the action we take in response to stress is critical to manage our emotional well-being. Our wisdom tells us that self-care alone is not enough. Nor is grit.2 Nor is “putting on a happy face”.
What is Happiness?
Happiness is the ability to feel satisfied with your life, to enjoy yourself and others, and to have fun.3
Happiness requires a balance of emotional intelligence skills in the areas of Self-Regard, Interpersonal Relationships, Optimism, and Self-Actualization. Self-compassion, empathy, connection, and flexibility play a role in our happiness. Happiness requires ease and is supercharged with grace, humility, and a sense of awe. Think about your response to the birth of a new child – a mix of emotions that surges happiness.
Often, what we think will make us happy is off base. I wrote about this in my last post. What brought us joy in our work and life and what gave us a sense of well-being prior to the pandemic might not have the same affect. We are looking at our world in a very different light at this point and we need to align our expectations and energy for what’s next - the opportunities. For a growing number of us, we see the pandemic years and the recovery as the impetus for exploring what’s possible. Women executives, in the droves, are leaving their corporate roles that no longer underpin or contribute to their happiness.
Future blogs on this topic will address easing into happiness, cultivating your internal and external environment for happiness, and creating a culture for happiness at home and at work.
Nothing adds to stress like forcing happiness. Nothing trivializes happiness like posting happy faces around your home or office. Nothing compounds stress like instructing people (including yourself) to “put on a happy face”.
To actually increase our happiness, we need to take action. Happy people are less likely to have psychological or social problems, are less likely to get ill, and are more likely to do well in facing obstacles.
How do you make way and show up for happiness and well-being?
References and Resources:
Emotional well-being, Wikipedia
Grit (personality trait), Wikipedia
- Happiness. The EQ Edge - Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, Steven J. Stein, PH.D. and Howard E. Book M.D.
Your Next Steps:
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- Follow connections and references to emotional intelligence by investing in your own copy of The EQ Edge - Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, Steven J. Stein, PH.D. and Howard E. Book M.D.
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