Why do we do what we do?
Because we think it will make us feel a certain way.
We do things, say things, go to things, and buy things because we think that in doing so we will feel a certain way….usually to feel happy.
We think that if we move to that bigger house we’ll be happy. We think we’ll be happier when we weight less. We tell ourselves that if we change jobs we’ll be happy.
The good news is, we will be happier in that new house with that new job at our lower weight. But for how long? And why? Why will we be happier?
We will be happier because of our thoughts about that new house, new car, or lower weight. Part of being an adult is realizing that, it’s not the house, the car or the lower weight that make us feel happier. It’s our thoughts about the circumstances in our lives that create our feelings. The new car doesn’t. The new house doesn’t. The new job doesn’t. It’s our thoughts about the things happening in our life that create our feelings.
The problem with using external things to create our feeling state is that it makes us a passive participant in our life. We think that we can’t be happy without the new house. We think that it’s the new job thats making us happy. We’re giving things outside of us the power in our life. Is this what you want? It’s not what I want. I lived passively for years. I looked outside of myself for my happiness. And when I was unhappy, I blamed others and other things. I felt like a walking zombie. I didn’t know what I was doing but my inner warrior certainly did. She was unhappy and uncomfortable.
The good news? We are 100 percent, completely and totally in charge of our thoughts. We get to choose which ones we pay attention to and which ones to ignore. This is a crucial piece of becoming an emotional adult. When we realize that we are not our feeling but that our feelings are energy that we’re experiencing, we’re better equipped to manage our reactions and actions in life.
It is our responsibility as adults to learn about our brain. Humans are the only species that can think about what we’re thinking about: Homo Sapiens Sapiens. If you are running around thinking that things outside of you control how you feel, you probably feel like a bit of an ape. There’s a reason for that. You’re acting like one. You’re not using your human-ness to think about what you’re thinking about. To step back and understand that you are feeling the way you’re feeling because of the thoughts you’re choosing to think.
I have found that it’s not that we don’t want to “show up” for our life or that we want to live in this “ape-like state” but rather that we haven’t been taught how to live in a different way. We don’t know how our brain works and we haven’t been taught that we are in 100 percent in charge of our feelings. Today lets look at the first two tools in the course Adulting 101: Awesome Awareness + Feeling Magnifier.
1) Awesome Awareness: If you’ve worked with me, you’ve heard me say: “everything begins with awareness.” There are two pieces to this tool:
-> Awareness of how the brain works. Learn about your brain. I was not taught in school what the different parts of my brain do, what my brain wants, and how being stressed affects my brain. The first step in “Adult-ing 101” is to begin to understand your most important organ: your brain. Research the different parts of the brain + their functions online, work with me, or read my favorite brain book by Neuro-psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson.
-> Awareness of us and our thoughts. Pay attention to your thoughts. What are you telling yourself? How does thinking that thought make you feel? Slow down and become conscious of what is going on in your head. What excites us? What annoys us? What are the top three feelings we feel each week? This is work I do with clients but you can do it on your own too. Grab a journal and sit for 10 minutes. Ask yourself: What am I feeling? What am I thinking to feel that? Do I want to feel that? What is something different that I could think?
2) Feeling Magnifier: Once you are more aware of how your brain works and what you’re feeling, it’s time to get out your magnifying glass. There are two pieces to this tool also:
->Name that feeling. What are you feeling? Sadness? Disappointment? Excitement? Nervous? In labeling it, we get to understand that we are just experiencing the feeling but we are not actually that feeling. We might be feeling sad but we are not sadness. We might be experiencing anger but we are not that emotion. Why does that matter? Because it allows us to see that our reaction to what we are experiencing is in our hands. Just because we’re angry doesn’t mean we have to yell. Just because we’re sad, doesn’t mean we have to cry. We are not passive participants in our life. We get to choose our action.
->Describe it. Where do you feel it in your body? The more descriptive you can get the better. Describe the emotion like you’re describing it to an alien.When you’re angry do your fingers tingle? Does your chest feel tight? Does your face get hot? Describing our experience of the emotion further allows us to separate ourselves from the physical energy of the emotion that we are feeling. Yes, our face might be hot and our jaw clenched, but that doesn’t mean we have to yell. Rather, that tells our brain that we are angry. Period. We get to choose what we do with that information.
The crucial piece of this all is to understand that we are designed to feel all of our emotions: happy, sad, disappointed, lonely. Sure, some are more difficult to feel than others but when we understand that we can feel whatever comes our way, we gain confidence in ourselves and our ability to be human. We understand it’s not the car making us happy, but our thoughts about the car. It’s not our coworker making us sad but our thoughts about the coworker. It’s not our husband making us angry but our thoughts about our husband. Oooh, that’s kinda deep huh? It’s true and once we realize that we alone are responsible for exactly how we feel, we experience emotional freedom. There is nothing sweeter. Tune in to next week’s pre-Valentine’s Day blog where I discuss three tools for our relationships. I take the knowledge gained from this week and apply it so you can have connected, fulfilling relationships.
We are not our feelings. Our thoughts create our feelings. We choose the thoughts we focus on.
And hey, Valentine’s Day is coming up. Do you find these posts interesting? Gift yourself SMB’s popular #6weeks2 Conscious Living. Spend 6 weeks on yourself and your wellbeing. Learn more here, or, dive in and sign up now
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