For the great majority of us this year is likely to live long in our memories – unfortunately, not as a year of great joy, peace or happiness. 2020, with all its initial promise, has turned out to be so unpredictable and with that highly stressful and uncertain. It has really tested and called on our already fragile resilience.
Typically, when we are stretched in such fashion, we seek relief and reassurance by reaching out to others, to unburden and offload, and in doing so we are able to reappraise and regain some perspective, some objectivity and hope.
Yet, in this particular moment of time, that reassuring feedback loop is more likely fraught itself.
We are discovering that those trusted champions of comfort and support, are themselves stressed to the limits, and their voices of positivity and belief have faltered as well. Our relied upon outside world is in turmoil, and unable to offer any support at all. Consequently, we are left feeling alone, hanging by a thread and our reliance of the outside world – in tatters.
It’s crazy, but within this very state of powerlessness, this fear, there resides a golden opportunity.
An opportunity to access our remarkable inner strengths – strengths we can nurture and grow – such that we can become our own consistent and powerful base of resilience.
Nurturing and growing these opportunities begin in recognising the inner strengths we already have, taking an inventory of them, a health check if you like, and then considering how we might add muscle to each.
Inner strengths are an accumulation of built positive experiences, which we define through life’s encounters over time.
All our thinking and subsequent actions emerge from our created mental models, either positive or negative. So, if we embrace the positive and healthy – our thinking and actions will follow that positive inclination. If we are led through fear and negativity – that will be the outcome of our subsequent actions. We default to using mental models all the time, either consciously or unconsciously.
We all know those fortunate individuals, that despite their circumstance, regardless of what they are experiencing, remain positive and philosophical about the future, no matter what. These are individuals that are deeply connected to their inner strengths, and when in trouble, intuitively use them.
Inner strengths, by way of example are; a positive mindset, inner peace, common sense, self-compassion, secure attachments, integrity, self-esteem, self-regulation, learned optimism, relaxation response, distress tolerance and resilience. All are governed by our executive functions, regulated through our emotional intelligence, which is why developing and strengthening EI should be a top priority for us all, particularly now.
If we were to increase and strengthen our use of these positive traits by just 5% – our overall outlook of life would increase accordingly. That’s a huge shift in positive experience, leading to an overall increase in happiness and wellbeing.
Science confirms that our brains are good are learning form bad experiences, but bad at learning from good. It’s part of our ancestorial DNA, where we always had to be on the lookout for threat or danger. Historically we were constantly in a state of heightened risk, there was no time to linger on the joys and pleasures of the moment, we focused rather, on the next potential problem or challenge. Consequently, our brain wiring has us predisposed toward the negative and we tend to dismiss the good faster. We have a negativity bias.
So, to counter the daunting and stressful challenges of this frightening and currently unpredictable world, we have to work at least twice as hard at strengthening and harvesting the positive experiences. We need to acknowledge the science behind our engineering, be smarter with the tools at our disposal, and to take control of things we can change, starting with our mindset.
It begins by working harder at being more present with our minds. Learning to really savour and linger on the good moments that do occur. The simplest of joys, like a bright blue sky, a child laughing, a piece of music. We need to be more deliberate and pronounced on our positive experiences – allowing them to be more noticeable to our mind and become more obvious to our consciousness – which then strengthens and hardwires each positive experience in turn. We are then programming our mental models to favour the positive over the negative. Shifting the
negativity bias toward the positive.
This deliberate and conscious effort to take control of where our mind is going is a very doable thing – and when we do notice ourselves drifting back into doubt, fear and uncertainty – we can alter that direction quickly and completely. Pointing it back toward the positive conversations and uplifting affirmations we enjoyed earlier.
Our brains are also energy smart and hugely efficient. Once our brain notices we favour a particular interest, it will take us there intuitively. We can use that science to our benefit as well, by working at consistently placing those inner strengths higher on our interest – our consciousness.
Using a reflective journaling approach, you can look through that list of inner strengths mentioned above, and notice how through the course of a day you may have utilised one, or a few of those strengths. That ongoing positive recognition builds and grows your inner strengths, growing confidence, enhancing resilience and expanding happiness. And that cycle of noticing and reaffirming, keeps the trajectory upward bound. Each positive building another positive.
The Buddhists have a beautiful saying – “Wherever you go – there you are.”
It speaks directly to the mind. If you feel sad and indulge in self-pity – then it’s sadness and self-pity you will have. I believe we forget this beautiful simplicity all too easily.
That we are all much more powerful than we tend to see and believe. That our minds are indeed everything we are, and that through a little more daily discipline we can maximise that positive energy to our benefit, and consequently the benefit of all those around us. For when we are positive and happy – those closest to us are positive and happy as well.
Go out and spread the strengths of your inner world – and in turn, increase the happiness of the outside one. We will all benefit collectively.