Lately, I have been saying aloud, to myself, to my husband, to my cats and to anyone else who might be within earshot, this simple phrase. I am so happy. This statement pops into my head and out of my mouth, both randomly, and in response to something that has evoked feelings of happiness or joy.
I have had plenty of reasons to smile of late. The arrival of my favorite season, fall. Bright blue skies. Warm sunshine. Cool breezes. Open windows throughout our home. Leaves slowly starting to change colors. Curling up under a warm blanket on our couch. Spending more time with my family and friends. The upcoming wedding of my oldest step-daughter. Launching Elev8 Life Coaching. Living a life that I envisioned, but wondered if I would ever see it come to fruition.
After dealing with depression and anxiety for so long, feeling these emotions on a more regular basis is welcome. With every moment of bliss, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I have a profound appreciation for the all of the ordinary and extraordinary pieces of life that feel like a sweet treat.
There is also a flip side to these feelings. They are sometimes accompanied by an underlying sense of fear. Fear of the other shoe dropping. Fear that the joy and happiness will go away and, possibly, not return. Fear that what brings me joy will be taken away from me. Fear that I may not be deserving or worthy of this joy and happiness.
During the midst of all of this, at times, my brain started looking for reasons not to be happy. It feels a bit apologetic, like I don’t want to appear too happy, lest I be judged or no longer fit in. So, my brain reminded me of things that do not make me happy or bring me join. My recent flare up of ulcerative colitis. Hurricane Ian’s impact on our family and friends in Florida. The state of turmoil around the world, especially in Ukraine and Iran. Our country’s ongoing issues with social injustice, political divisiveness, and inflation.
As I held space for both the happiness and the fear, I got curious about what was going on in my mind. I recalled reading an interview with Dr. Brene Brown, in which she addressed this a number of years ago:
Calling joy “terrifying” may seem strange, but Dr. Brown explains that the fear stems from having our joy taken away. “How many of you have ever sat up and thought, ‘Wow, work’s going good, good relationship with my partner, parents seem to be doing okay. Holy crap. Something bad’s going to happen’?” she asks the audience. “You know what that is? [It’s] when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability. Joy becomes foreboding: ‘I’m scared it’s going to be taken away. The other shoe’s going to drop…’ What we do in moments of joyfulness is, we try to beat vulnerability to the punch.”
As I revisited her words, I found them not only spot on, but also reassuring. Dr. Brown reminded me that this way of thinking was not a defect within myself, but it’s just part of the way our brain attempts to keep us safe from physical and emotional harm. When I was able to recognize that, I was able to make a shift in my own thinking.
As I continue to experience joy and happiness, I focus on the present moment as fully as possible, taking in the feeling. When any thoughts or feelings attempt to hijack the moment, again, I get curious about what is happening and acknowledge them, but don’t allow them to take center stage. I acknowledge that yes, whatever the worst-case scenario my brain is serving up has the possibility of happening, but for now, it is not happening and that it may never happen. Even if it should occur, losing myself in fear and worry now will not prepare me for it down the road or ease the pain, it only will force me to experience it twice.
Mindset work is an ongoing practice, just like other healthy habits we incorporate into our daily lives. Some days, it is easier to engage in this practice than others, but the more we practice, the easier it becomes. There are more than enough things in the world that try to steal our joy or make us unhappy, so, don’t let yourself be one of them. We all deserve joy and happiness in our lives.
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