We all WANT to do certain things and be a certain way. We set goals, we tell ourselves that "blank" doesn't make us feel good, so we plan to avoid it; or "blank" feels great, so we plan to do that more often. We know exercising or mindful movement is good for us and does feel good, so we plan to add it in to our day, We know patience is a virtue, kindness is contagious, supporting/caring for others is great for everybody involved, and "going with the flow" is a desirable quality.
And most of all, we strive to be CONSISTENT.
Yet, despite our desire to act one way, something TRIGGERS us into a reactive state, and frustration and guilt soon follows.
If you do not change the ingredients, you cannot expect different results
Biologically, we are PROGRAMMED to behave in ways to further our survival. Because our ancestors survived for generations with the biology they had, we too have this hardware that is now an outdated system for the New Age we live in.
CORTISOL is classified as a "Steroid Hormone" meaning it has the ability to drastically change the way you think (memory, mood), the way you behave, and your physical attributes (growth, shape, metabolism). Cortisol flowed consistently in our ancestors to be on the lookout for constant threats and danger, as well as the ability to prepare for action of any kind - at a moments notice. When cortisol surges, it grabs your attention, tells you to "do something", and when it does not subside, or when you focus your attention on the constant "buzz" of cortisol in your system, you develop IRRATIONAL PESSIMISM (which is the precursor to a world of unhappiness). This suited our ancestors well, allowed them to thrive and create the society we now live in.
We have cortisol in our bodies at all times. As long as you are alive, you are in danger of meeting threats to your survival in every moment. Life is so beautiful because of the constant possibility that it could end at any moment.
You receive a surge of cortisol when you step outside of your familiar lifestyle, your "comfort zone", simply because your "old brain" perceives the unknown, the unfamiliar, the risks, as POTENTIALLY dangerous. This starts to get confusing, as your body is telling to you steer clear of "danger", but your passion is telling you to take chances and live a little.
Our "old-brain" (The Cerebellum, the Subconscious, our Reactions/Habits) strives to keep us in our "comfort zone", in the familiar, the habitual, because it learns by experience, is on the constant lookout for threats and is inclined to avoid any situations that remind us of past experiences that are remembered in a negative way. It is a natural defense mechanism.
These reactions, and deep rooted desires, can sometimes conflict. You know that feeling of wanting to try something new, intrigued and excited by the possibility, but also scared by the unknown factors that "should" be considered, unnerved by the possibility of failure (or death), and nagged by the past experience that didn't end "favorably". This, and any other two conflicting feelings, are different neural-pathways firing all at once, to help you choose a direction or make a decision of some kind.
In order to develop our minds, explore possible ways of living, and find a life of passion and purpose, your mind needs novelty, adventure, uncertainty, and expansion in order to thrive, grow, and reach your full potential. And that is what the cortex ("new-brain") has evolved to provide. It allows us to practice "free-won't." It brings choice into every moment. Despite our bodies ability to naturally react and send signals/electrical-impulses to behave one way, our mind (cortex) evolved to have the ability to connect with inner-values, passions, and purpose, and second-guess our first inclination in order to pursue a life of our own intentional creation.
It is hard because you already have set, habitual, neural pathways that promote certain ways of thinking and acting. To build new pathways, new habits, new ways of perceiving the world, it is like bush-whacking through dense forest, slowly building a dirt path through repetition, all the while there is a "super-highway" nearby that is calling out to you as the path of least resistance - no wonder people fall back into old habits, it's definitely way easier that way (at least in the moment).
The more we CHOOSE to act in accordance to our Values and Passions, leading ourselves in our own unique and vulnerable way, the quicker and stronger our new neural pathways become, and the better we are able to access our best-Self despite the circumstances at hand.
Your programming is the cause of your triggers. You react the way you know how. So change part of the cycle you struggle with. Change a cue to remind you of a different result worth striving for.
Learn/Develop new triggers for healthier habit's and new results:
- leave your running shoes by your bed: reminder that you want to go for a run
- fruit and vegetables kept on counters and junk food hidden in back of shelves: reminder to eat more healthy food
- walk by a nice park often: reminder to stop and practice handstands for 1 minute
- sticky notes on mirror with positive words/mantras that spark inspiration: reminder to stop and check your attitude
- set reminder on your phone for a certain time each day with a piece of mindful inspiration: reminder of your purpose, what you anchor to, what you are working for
- an elastic band on your wrist can be used to remind you occasionally of whatever significance you choose. It could signify a question to ask yourself, did you drink water? did you think about what you are grateful for? or it could be a reminder to get into action, like, do 10 squats, stop and be mindful and present. You choose your adventure.
Last piece of puzzle
***Identify the "slippery-slopes" in your life; the people, places, or activities that do not promote the influence you want on your radar. Choose to spend less time surrounded by anything that sucks the energy out of you.
Create a new list, what I like to call "the dope-web".....
-These are the people that inspire you, that lead a full and empathetic life. This list could be 1 person long, but it will grow as you mind-fully connect with people and find similar energies
-The places, areas of the city, certain pathways, mountains, trails, studios, community centers, gyms, etc. that either reconnects you with nature, with your Self, or has the environment that attracts people you share interests with.
-"flow" activities, your hobbies, your lose-yourself in the moment experiences, your favorite crafts, a great book on a certain subject that inspires or intrigues you, a passion, an activity that you partake in just for the love and joy it brings into your life.
A "Happy Person" is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes - a love for learning, a growth mindset, ability to let-go of baggage, and a consistent understanding of the importance of pushing outside the "comfort zone."
"The good life is best constructed as a matrix that includes happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, and psychological flexibility, as well as autonomy, mastery, and belonging" - Psychology Today by Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd B. Kashdan.
Being "Truly" Happy requires the embracing of unhappiness. It's about realizing that nothing is ever perfect, and the biggest potential for growth comes from "failure" and hardship. So, chin up, this too shall pass, and you are going to be tougher, wiser, and more resilient because of it. xoxo