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Happiness is an Inside Job

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

by WillowWood's Fred Howe

If you asked me if I were happy during this pandemic, I would have to say yes. It is not that I don’t acknowledge the things that make people anxious, the concerns about the spread of COVID-19, and the impact it is all having on everyone. It’s just that I believe I have trained my brain to be in a state of happiness that allows me to cope with the many issues – thus, aware, and action-oriented, but still happy.

Our brains are designed to protect us from the physical world around us. They tell us when something is going on, which then allows our bodies and minds to react. When it’s cold, they tell us to put on more clothes. They tell us to hug, wear or lie on something soft; and to avoid an impact with something hard, like that speeding car coming down the street at us. Our minds make good use of the information that the brain takes in and, as a result (for the most part), we go about our daily lives safely.

But what about the emotional triggers that the mind experiences from the data the brain receives? When our brain takes in data on the latest case counts, the number of deaths, or the new variants out there, it tells our mind, “Hey you should be worried about this. How about giving us a little anxiety, (or panic, or paranoia) to help us get through?” and in many cases, the brain obliges. Before we know it, our mind is hooked on these strategies, creating toxic pools of negative energy. As a result, we are destined to be sad.

Instead, if we create space in our brains for happiness, then this abyss of negative energy becomes a healing pool of positive resilience. Those difficult reactions of anxiety, panic, and paranoia become caution and reasonable action – we become resilient.

So how do we create space for happiness? I’m a big fan of Shawn Achor’s Happiness Advantage. In his book, Achor explains that certain daily practices allow the mind to build up resilience and happiness so that when a negative, scary, or anxiety-provoking set of data comes in through the brain, we have the resources to react practically and from a place of good energy.

So, what are these magical practices? They are not new to anyone and, for those of you that know me, you also know that I try to practice these daily:

  1. Exercise

  2. Meditation and Mindfulness

  3. Daily gratitude recording

  4. Investing in experiences

  5. Giving back (helping others)

  6. Pensive journaling and acknowledging/thanking those who have been important to us

  7. Creating a positive environment (surrounding yourself with pictures/items that bring you good feelings)

  8. Tapping into your talents

So, of course, I’m not “happy” about the pandemic. But am I happy during the pandemic? Yes. Applying these daily practices nourishes that “happiness space” in our brains which, in turn, enables resilience in the face of difficult times.

In normal times, I’m sure most of us are familiar with the benefits of these practices and employ some of them from time to time. But if the current barrage of pandemic-related news and fears has got you feeling anxious or helpless, I encourage you to consider these daily practices as a way to build up that “happiness space.” Give it a try!


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