So…I was walking home last night after a hectic day, admiring the above sun set and thinking about how I am going to answer some of the FAQs I have collected. After the great reaction to the first FAQ blog; I thought, yeah it’s an easy win and will be just as enjoyable to write.
Well, one of these questions got me thinking. I long time mate of mine asked me when I was back last, “so read your blog and saw where you live…how do you stay so upbeat after 26 days?” At the time I didn’t think much of it, besides texting it to myself (yep, still doing that) and then chatting about what’s doing.
Reading this again made me think about another interesting conversation I had with a close colleague on our way back to camp last week. Basically it was around why some of the greater team members are just whiners. Everything about the job is just the worst, literally everything…yet they choose to come back every time. Go figure.
We could have room service for lunch and work in climate controlled bubble suits but for these guys the lobster would still be a little rubbery and the air flow a little chilly on the back of their neck!! The conversation wasn’t quite that tone but I’m very weary of our PG rating.
Anyway, anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not always so upbeat. In fact, the last few weeks has culminated in me feeling extremely flat, despondent and disappointed in many aspects of my life. I’ve had my fair share of turmoil over the past few years, but you know what…so has just about everyone. So, I figure I’ll try to be generally an upbeat, positive and gracious person.
This got me thinking. Is there anything that away workers like me; actually people in general, can do to feel happier? Working away there’s always the usual suspects of socialising, eating right, exercise, staying in touch with those back home, setting / achieving goals and all that.
But what else? What else is a proven to make your mood better if done regularly? Well, I set myself a goal. 2 hours on-line to see if I could find some answers. Anything…and how it may apply to me.
Well, here is what a couple of hours of reading research on happiness has taught me.
4 of the things that the internet tells me are certain to make you feel happier…
1. Give your emotions a label / a name / a description
We’ve all heard the term “don’t bury your emotions”, “you can’t help what you feel”..or something along those terms. Well, it seems that trying to supress or outwardly hide your emotional state; can inwardly cause the emotion to intensify.
On the other hand, if you put some tangibility behind what you are feeling it does some brain activation stuff and works to reduce that emotion. Sound simple? Well by the looks of it, I think it actually is. Do you feel sad, lonely, disappointed, angry, anxious; or all of the above? Well if that’s the way you feel, then say it, write it down, record it on your phone.
“I am Mad!!”
“I feel sad…”
“That disappointed me.”
This has actually been proven to reduce the levels of this emotion, and the more you chat about it the lower it gets.
Has anyone out there found themselves talking in the car to no one about their day. I really hope I’m not the only one… I am not a big one for chatting about that kind of stuff, as aren’t most men according to the stats; but I do find writing things down very satisfying. It does make me feel a bit happier to be honest.
I was also in a situation this week where I’ve had a constant sense of un-ease. That full time achy belly; that semi nervous, kind of sick feeling?? Constantly thinking about it I couldn’t come to any definitive reason why.
But without really meaning to in a conversation a couple of nights ago, I actually talked out the reasoning and the feeling simply went away; well mostly.
I called it un-easiness.
I said “I just feel….un-easy”.
I guess this is why that simple but so effective question of “Are you OK” is such a powerful one. It engages discussion about feelings and in just a few simple words like “actually, I am sad” could start an upward spiral for which someone will be forever grateful.
Interesting Fact: Hostage negotiators use this tactic to talk suspects down from highly charged emotional situations. Kind of makes sense.
2. Decision making
Doesn’t everyone feel better once they’ve made a decision? I know I do. And I also feel better when someone else has made one that I cannot (or not allowed to).
What happens after they decide? They turn back into a “normal person”. Well, apparently this is more brain stuff, electrons firing, planets colliding which again releases happy chemicals so is no coincidence.
Making a decision, any decision, is your way of setting a course for yourself, solving a problem or changing your perception of your surroundings; no matter how small. All of which reduces stress and has a positive effect on your state of mind…who’d have thought right!!
Something else interesting on decision making that my “research” uncovered is the accuracy of the decision has an effect, in the opposite way you might think.
If you dwell on getting it perfect, it can have the opposite effect and increase stress and anxiety. Not only in the extended thought process to get there but at the contemplation that such a well-made decision could be wrong.
This all makes perfect sense as from experience and recent track record, I am quite good at making less than perfect decisions. Actually, I’ve been known to make some howlers. But they were made and seemed good at the time.
I found a great quote by a guy named Barry Schwartz who says “good enough is almost always…good enough”. When you think about it, that’s pretty good guidance.
Well this suits me fine as I love making decisions; the bigger the better. I know some will be the wrong ones but as I make more of them and learn from the mistakes of the past I find the wrong ones are becoming…well less wrong.
So there; being decisive can make you happier.
Interesting Fact: To “sleep on it” actually has a positive effect on our decision making process; it appears. Apparently it reduces fatigue related oversights and also allows your conscious mind to be distracted from the decision allowing new perspective.
3. Be grateful
I’m no rocket scientist but even I know that being grateful is not always easy; but is a wonderful emotion and part of a healthy outlook on life. I am a massive believer that those who are gracious are more optimistic, humble, less self-absorbed and generally happier. Oh and tend to show a lot more optimism.
This seems to be proven as being grateful, or thinking of things you are grateful for, stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin. This is what the drugs Wellbutrin and Prozac respectively, were made to synthetically replicate.
So here’s my piece of logical thought here. Not only does showing gratitude make your brain feel happier, it could also help strengthen relationships? What I mean is that if you are gracious toward others, especially those you are grateful for, they would intern derive some kind of satisfaction and happiness??
Of all the left hooks that life seemed to have dished me over the past few years, not a day goes by when I’m not grateful for the food I eat at work, the small bed I sleep in, the job I have, the place I work, the rotation I am on, the unpaid overtime I do, the late flights back home and the bad internet in camp.
So are you asking “why?” Well if you are then I don’t think there is any point in explaining, but given you are reading this blog I am sure you know what point I am making.
Something to ponder.
Interesting Fact: It’s believed to be impossible to be grateful and feel envious at the same time.
Everyone knows the saying “I just need a hug”, when they feel over whelmed or just a little sad. Well, it seems that this is an actually thing. A hug, actually any intentional physical contact makes you feel better.
Apparently, intentional contact with other humans releases small amounts of oxytocin which makes you feel good. Even a hand shake, pat on the back or an ‘atta boy rough-up-the-hair head shake can heighten the mood of both parties.
If fact the opposite is also true as intentional social exclusion or avoidance can cause feelings similar to physical pain.
When you work away, it is very hard to find this physical contact and I guess reading about it is something that is quite important.
Being out of reach of those whose touch can make all your problems seem to melt away in times of need, does magnify the feelings of isolation…no doubt about it. Looking back, maybe this is what our fierce lion cub was referring to in blog entry 4?
On the other hand though, this could explain my slightly concerning observation over the past year or so…the extended man-hug. This seems to be an increasing phenomenon but given what I’ve read, this could be a good thing if these guys get an oxytocin boost. Better to feel better than worse right!
But, it certainly doesn’t explain the other, way more concerning trend I have also noticed…the number of man top knots has increased to not only a concerning level but an alarming one. That’s a blog article all on its own.
So, there you have it. 2 hours of well spent time to come up with 4 proven ways that the internet has told me are scientifically proven to make you happier. It was by no means the stuff of an academic paper but was fun to search and write about it so I hope you enjoyed reading it.
When you really think about the above points; it’s all common sense and stuff we probably all knew. Maybe it was time for just a little reminder…as it was for me.
Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!!