For those just tuning in or those that welcome a reminder, in my last few blog posts we explored the meaning of happiness. We discovered that happiness is an individual interpretation – an idea that if a certain something happens to us we will feel good and avoid feeling bad (eg. if we are in a relationship we feel love and avoid feeling alone).
We figured that the more we changed or controlled the things that happen to us, the more we can recreate feeling good (eg. stay in or pursue a relationship even though it may not ultimately serve us).
As a result, happiness becomes fleeting. Why? Because there are always things beyond our control that happens. And what happens outside of us actually has no correlation to what we can feel inside of us (eg. happiness is actually not dependent on being in a relationship. There are plenty of very happy and fulfilled single people out there).
After discovering this, we challenged ourselves to divert our attention from what’s going on outside of us and focus on what’s within us. If there really is no correlation between what happens to us and what we can feel within us, then that means that there’s another way to create happiness, and maybe just maybe it could lead to a deeper sense of joy that isn’t fleeting.
When I tried this on, I noticed that when I was both happy and unhappy and on nearly 100% of the occasions, I felt hungry. Normally I would reach for a treat or my next snack or meal, and more often than I want to admit… it wasn’t always the healthiest food. When I did this I’d feel guilty and heavy afterwards and then try to make myself feel better by rewarding myself with something I didn’t need – something from one of my favourite stores, or maybe an extra hour off from work. This would lead to less money to save, a larger pile of work, and even more unhealthy food to deal with the additional stress – an endless cycle of trying to make myself happy to avoid feeling unhappy! Does this sound familiar to you?
One day, mid-afternoon, I sat in my home office feeling unhappy. I had worked for more than a week straight and I hadn’t been getting enough sleep. My immediate thought was to indulge in my favourite treats. But this time I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole. I was committed to taking a moment to stop myself to just notice this reaction. And when I did I closed my eyes and asked myself what I was actually feeling physically. I worked my way down from the top of my head to my feet and just listed all of my sensations. A deep pulsation in my forehead, shoulders a little heavy, chest open, stomach a little dense, legs feeling normal, feet falling asleep…. And then it hit me. I’m not actually hungry. My stomach wasn’t growling. I didn’t feel thirsty or empty at all. I was just feeling a set of bodily sensations I misinterpreted as hungry. And there I was about to reach for food that wasn’t nourishing for me, food I didn’t even need!
“So what now?,” I asked myself. Well if I’m not hungry, what am I? I’m just experiencing these physical sensations. Nothing more or less. And I get the opportunity to chose how I want to respond. So how do I want to respond? Well, I can chose anything. What would I like to do?