Tools for Developing and Maintaining Happiness
Finding happiness during times of emotional distress or in the midst of the chaos of the world can be challenging. But there are some techniques and ways of thinking that help achieve that level of happiness more easily.
“Take time to start your day,” says Leslie Haatvedt, PhD, LMHC, owner of Child and Family Counseling Associates in Vero Beach, and a Unity Chaplain. “My motto is 6 to 9 is mine.”
Whether it’s spending three hours of prayer, meditation or reflection first thing in the morning, or simply taking a five-minute break to align the energy or do intentional breathing, it makes a difference to reset the body, mind and spirit before taking on (or continuing with) the potential stressors of the day.
Better understanding of our body is also important to achieve optimum wellness and happiness. The sympathetic state includes fight, flight or freeze. The parasympathetic state includes rest, digest, heal and feel.
“Imagine there is a room where your job is survival. That’s the sympathetic state. Down the hall is a room for digesting and resting,” says Haatvedt. “How do we get from one room to the other room? There are several ways. One is by doing intentional breathing. Another way is meditation. Another way is some form of exercise.”
Because the sympathetic state is essentially stress, it’s to our advantage to activate the parasympathetic and keep our body in a healing state. This can be done by waking up the vagus nerve.
“Everyone should know about the vagus nerve. It comes from the brain stem and attaches to every single organ we have, giving information from that organ back to the brain on how we’re doing,” says Haatvedt.
In fact, the vagus nerve is the longest in the autonomic nervous system and transports neurotransmitters along the brain-gut axis. Studies have shown that the vagus nerve regulates inflammation in the body. Further, disruption in the gut can affect mental health, the immune system and other bodily systems as the vagus nerve transmits information about the disruption to the brain.
Impacting those responses from the body to the brain is possible with some intentional effort. One way to do this is to be self-aware and dedicated to managing thoughts. In today’s world, it’s easy to get drawn into the negative chatter and difficult to center ourselves in a positive place.
“At this point, what I’m seeing from my clients, whatever was bothering them to begin with before all this pandemic hit, it’s worse now,” says Elizabeth Campbell, board-certified hypnotist and owner of TranceformU in Stuart. Part of the problem, she explains, is that many people have lost any way to escape. Where once they could go to the office to get away from stressors at home, or go home to shut out the office, now many are working from home. It’s all there, all the time.
The problems of the world are also front and center all the time. The news plays 24/7 and repeats the same stories over and over. “Your subconscious doesn’t understand the difference between real or imagined. Keeping the news channel on is a good example. You may hear the same story over and over, but your subconscious hears the same story each time as a new event,” says Campbell. “We have to mind what we’re allowing in our subconscious in order to not compound what is going on.”
On the same line of limiting the news, we must also limit our negative self-talk or negative talk from others. “We cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought. Every single word is important. Every word has a vibration, every word has power,” says Haatvedt. "When people say things like ‘This is killing me’ or ‘This is breaking my heart,’ I will say, ‘Please change that to this is challenging me or this is annoying me.’”
Avoiding bringing in or multiplying stress is crucial. But once it’s there, we can reset. “As a hypnotist, I can guide people into a trance state, which is the theta brain waves, the same as REM sleep. This is an effective method that only takes a few minutes,” says Campbell. “It’s just using the natural way the mind already works. Once there… your physical stress and tension melts away…you are guided into a state of possibility.” It calms the nervous system, resets, relaxes and refreshes. And 20 minutes of deep trance is equal to three hours of sleep.
Not being in a position to watch or listen to a trance recording doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution. “If you ask yourself a question, your subconscious will get to work finding an answer. If you are super stressed and you ask your subconscious, ‘How can I find peace in this situation today?’ or ‘How can I find joy in this situation today?’ It lets your subconscious know there’s a problem to work on today,” says Campbell.
Simply smiling can also fool the brain into happiness, thanks to muscle memory linking that position of the face to happiness. Taking time to notice and change shallow breathing presents the opportunity to take intentional breaths to reset and reactivate the sympathetic response, putting us back into a place of healing.
“I think we’re here to be happy and joyful,” says Haatvedt.
Watch our video podcast interviews and download a daily affirmation exercise and a short trance recording, both are quick tools that only take a few minutes to complete and can help to reset, center and calm your system.