As a bored teenager complaining miserably that I was fed up with nothing to do, I remember my mum saying, “You don’t just arrive at a place called ‘Happy’ – happiness can be stroking your dog, catching up with an old friend or witnessing something as simple as the first daffodil appear in Spring.”
She was right of course.
Although feeling happy can be spontaneous and fleeting, positive psychology shows us that happiness can also be cultivated in order to develop a healthier mindset and to feel brighter.
In pursuit of this notion and purely in the name of research, you understand, I thought I would see if sitting on a sun-drenched beach sipping Piña Colada’s might engender a ‘state’ of happiness. And, hey presto, it works!
I’m happy to say that in this state of happiness I happily created a mnemonic to help remind myself, and you, how to feel happier more of the time. It’s called GRAPE.
Fortunately I happen to be sharing my current state of Pina Colada bliss – and the beach – with Clinical Psychologist Dr Laura Franks, who reminded me that it is not possible to be happy all the time, and that without experiencing the opposite from time to time we might not have anything to gauge happiness by.
I’m not suggesting that adhering to my GRAPE rules will bring you permanent and everlasting happiness. These are just some steps to change your state from time to time, thereby giving you a choice in how you want to feel.
You can pick the whole GRAPE or just devour it one bit at a time.
G = Gratitude.
We looked at gratitude in my last post. Be sure to make a note on a daily basis of what’s good and right in your life. I can walk, I can breathe! Yep it can be as basic as that and when you consider that there are people on this planet who can’t walk and have to be assisted to breathe – it truly is something to be grateful for if we don’t have these limitations.
R = Reframe.
Choose one negative experience that the memory of hinders or restricts you and reframe it. Here’s how. Find a space (where you feel safe and won’t be disturbed). You can keep your eyes open or closed – whatever feels more comfortable for you. Breathe deeply and slowly until you feel nice and relaxed. Now begin to re-run the memory.
Stop at any point if your breathing changes, becoming more rapid for example or if you’re feeling uncomfortable. Maybe open your eyes at this point, begin to breathe deeply and when you’re feeling relaxed once more go back to the memory. Only this time your aim is to change any of the negative memories into positive outcomes.
Using your imagination change the visual and auditory representation of that memory. For example if you were a victim in that memory you now become the victor. To illustrate, you were given a telling off by your line manager in front of other people and felt embarrassed. You now replay the memory only this time the line manager is looking embarrassed as you are giving them a telling off.
You can also play around with the representations for example turning down the volume or switching it off, shrinking or changing the colour or the shape of some of the pictures that are running through your mind can help. If the image is a still, then add movement to it or if it’s moving, freeze-frame it, put it in a frame (if it’s without one) or push it further away. Even the tiniest change can have a positive impact on the way you think and feel.
A = Authenticity.
Be true to yourself, be real. You won’t ever be happy if you’re constantly dancing to someone else’s tune.
According to the great family therapist Virginia Satir, ‘ there are some people who have some parts like you, but no one adds up exactly like you, therefore everything that comes out of you is authentically yours, because you alone chose it.’ Or as Oscar Wilde so elegantly wrote Be Yourself Because Everyone Else Is Taken!
P = Present.
Being present really is a gift. ‘Now’ is the only bit that’s real. If you want to know more about the art of living in the here and now, read Eckharte Tolle’s The Power of Now or take up yoga or meditation.
To get you kickstarted download your free copy of the FIVE Minute Meditation Power Nap by signing up to my mailing list.
E = Examine and Explore.
Take an inventory of the things in life that are bringing you down. Make a list of the people and activities that you interact with that constantly bring about a feeling of dissatisfaction.
What one small thing could you do to change that dynamic?
For example, you’re continuing with a job that you’ve been miserable in for a long time, so you register with an agency to find out what else is out there. You could retrain, which is what I did years ago when I found myself in that situation.
Taking up a new career might mean an initial sacrifice to begin with. Everyone else seems to be out having fun while you’re studying but since you reap what you sew, it’s usually worth it in the end!
Naturally it depends how much time and energy you are prepared to put into creating the life you want to lead as to how long you choose to devote to this exercise.
You can expand on each one. Use my GRAPE formula to see how much more happiness you can bring into your life.
Enjoy! I’d like to hear your thoughts and progress and let me know if you’re happy for me to share them here as inspiration for others.