What it really means to “Do what makes you happy”

We have all heard that phrase at one time or the other, “Do what makes you happy” but what does it really mean and is it possible to live purposefully if we always do what makes us happy?

I have always struggled with these words, I am a classic overthinker and instead of just accepting words for what they are, I always tend to over study and overanalyse everything. This has its advantages and has served me well many times and has been useful in helping me grow as an individual. However, sometimes it leads me to decision paralysis as i spend too much time in the thinking zone and not enough in the doing zone.

When it comes to these words though, i am glad that I did spend time analysing and thinking about how this fits in with the notion of being the best version of ourselves. After all, if we always do what makes us happy, we could end up making bad choices or hurting people. E.g. being selfish and ignoring others needs, eating or drinking too much because it feels good at the time, not taking the time to exercise because it’s too hard and we would rather chill out and watch movies instead, having an extramarital affair etc., you get the gist.

The reality is we cannot always do what makes us happy because happiness in itself is a transient and fickle emotion. I have talked about this in many of my blogs and it is also the foundation of my first book “Screaming helps” which focuses on helping us find contentment as opposed to happiness because I see contentment as a more stable emotion.

What we need to understand is that doing what makes you happy so that you can become your better self does not mean being selfish, hurting others or being reckless. It means having the courage to step out and do something different because you would like the experience. It means being authentic and having the courage to be yourself.

It means not being shackled by societal norms to fit specific stereotypes of what is normal or what is expected. If you can safely say, doing what makes you happy will not hurt anyone and will not impact on your own long term happiness or sabotage your efforts at becoming better. So for example, overeating or bingeing might feel good at the point in time when you are doing it but with experience you realise that you usually end up with regret the next day and other negative emotions such as a sense of disappointment in yourself, guilt and perhaps shame. This shows you that even though overeating may have felt good for all of 30 mins when you were doing it, it does not make you happy in the long run. The short term thrill does not outweigh the negative emotions it brings.

So where does this leave you? you learn how to do many things that will enable you to exist in your authentic self such as;

Learning to say no and not feel guilty about it.

Learning to do more of the things that make you happy.

Learning to say no to toxic people, drama and any all round sh*t that doesn’t serve you.

This will bring you total freedom to be yourself and to truly be able to do more of what makes you happy.

Tayo xoxo

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Our emotions and feelings, the way we feel from one day to the other can be an emotional roller-coaster and really stop us from living a contented life and peaceful life. I discuss emotions and how they can affect your desire for happiness and contentment in my book “Screaming helps”. Our feelings or emotions are very complex and many of us fail to understand what sort of impact they can have on our day to day lives.

According to the book “Discovering Psychology” by Don Hockenbury and Sandra E. Hockenbury, an emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response. We know that there is a long list of emotions such as fear, shame, anger, love, happiness, satisfaction and many more. What this definition like many others of emotion highlights is that emotions have different components, firstly they are subjective which means they are based on what you perceive, so in a sense they exist in your mind therefore, we could say they are biased depending on what you are going through and your understanding of it, secondly they bring a physiological response which means that the emotion you feel at a specific time can lead your body to respond in a very specific way. For example, you may cry if you feel sad, your heartbeat becomes faster when you are scared etc. Finally emotions have a behaviour element or expression element and this manifests itself in how you respond. So for example you feel angry, you may respond rudely and angrily to someone who speaks to you because of your anger.

I have learnt that if we let our emotions control how we behave then life can become very challenging. Emotions are fleeting and unreliable and come and go quite easily. How many times have you woken up feeling sad for no reason at all?. If you allow that feeling to persist and the emotion of sadness to take root, that can dictate how your day will go. Alternatively if you take control of how you are feeling and assess and manage your emotion, perhaps by listening to some uplifting music or a motivational podcast or practising gratitude, then you can change the feeling of sadness to a feeeling of gratitude and just like that, set a better tone for the day ahead.

We should understand that we can resist and manage our emotions and that we actually need to learn how to do this to so that we can find balance and contentment. Our emotions will lead us awry if we allow them to. This process of learning how to manage emotions requires a bit of work just as most things in life which have an intrinsic value. It requires some commitment, persistence and discipline.

Discipline and commitmment are not always going to be readily available, we have to work diligently and persist even when we dont feel like it. It is similar to the process of trying to lose weight. You know you need to exercise several times a week for an hour each time perhaps, but there will be occasions when you will be motivated and ready to do it without any trouble and there will be days when its the last thing you feel like it. If every time you don’t feel like exercising you decided not to, it would take you a very long time to achieve your goal of losing weight. It is the same with working at this thing called life, there are days you don’t feel like meditating, working on practising gratitude, being kind or managing your emotions. You cant always obey that feeling. You need to learn to assess and challenge how you feel. Why do i feel like this? What can i do to feel differently or better? Is this an emotional reaction to something else? Do i need to respond to this feeling or can I ignore it? These are all very valid questions to ask yourself whenever feelings and emotions get in the way. An absence of emotional stability can wreak havoc with your mental and physical well being as well as leading to mood swings, depression and difficulties in dealing with life’s challenges. In the long run, training your mind to be stronger than your emotions will bring emotional stability which can be a catalyst for change making you mentally healthier, better able to deal with stress and more at peace with yourself and the world around you.

Just do it afraid.

Fear is a very emotional reaction to a situation or situations that can make us question what we do and how we do it. Fear at its very worst can disable and paralyse us into doing nothing. Fear can stop us from living a full life when we become so scared that we are unable to get past that fear. Many people when trying to deal with fear, work on the premise that they can get rid of or get over what they fear before they can move forward. This is not always the case. Fear is quite natural in many cases and even necessary for self – preservation in some instances. It can be induced by a perceived danger or threat for example a threat of being attacked or being in a dangerous situation. When we are scared it causes a number of physiological and psychological reactions in our bodies and these reactions while being unsettling can actually help to keep us safe.

These changes will usually result in a change in our reaction and behaviour, this phenomenon is called the fight or flight syndrome. It is triggered when something happens that you consider scary either mentally or physically. The response is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety. An example of how this works; you are walking down a dark alleyway and start to hear footsteps behind you which makes you think you are being followed, you become afraid and your body responds by releasing the hormones adrenalin and noradrenalin into your blood stream which causes a number of reactions. These reactions includes making your heart beat faster, blood being pumped quicker around your body, your blood pressure and rate of breathing also increases. These changes results in your pupils become dilated, your digestive system may slow down or even shut down, you get butterflies in your tummy and may even feel nauseous, you may start to tremble and shake, the purpose of these reactions is that the body prepares you to either flee from the perceived danger or to decide to stay and fight in which case it gives you more energy to do so.

This ability for the body to react in this way was very useful in ancient times when ancient man could suddenly be faced with having to fight an animal to stay alive and therefore needing to react quite decisively. However, in modern day times, the things we perceive as dangers are not necessarily life threatening or dangerous e.g. a fear of closed spaces. Unfortunately, even where there is no real danger but we believe that something is dangerous e.g in the case of an irrational fear (phobia), this can still trigger this physiological reaction in our bodies leaving us in a heightened state of alert and stress.

Irrational fears can cause the exact same response in the body as a real danger. The problem with this is that if our fear is triggered by an everyday action that is not really a danger to our physical wellbeing then we can end up being in a constant state of stress which in the long run can be very damaging to the body. In addition as I mentioned in my intro paragraph, fear can also stop us from living life fully when we become trapped in a vicious cycle of panic attacks linked to our phobias.

It is not enough for us to be told that we should face the fear or there is nothing to be afraid of as this will not help matters. We need to learn that in some instances in life, we may have to take brave steps forward even while we are afraid. In other words, face the fear head on.

There are so many people who live a life of anxiety and stress, constantly in fear of different things, such as fear of the dark, fear of crowds, fear of food, fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of people, fear of needles, animals such as insects and so on, the list is endless it seems. I have long suffered from a fear of flying. For a long time, I let it affect my choices, I would avoid holidays that meant flying or flying for long distances. Eventually, I realised that avoiding something is not a way of dealing with it and more so, I realised I was missing out on the opportunity to see other parts of the world, to have more adventure and to visit family and friends who lived abroad. I tried everything to talk myself out of the fear including some cognitive behaviour therapy but all that did is remind me of the logical reasons why I shouldn’t fear flying such as the safety numbers, that more people die in car accidents and flying is safer than any other form of travel etc. This is logical and of course, I knew that deep down. But get this, fear is usually illogical and trying to reason your way out of it doesn’t always work. So I made the decision, that I would not let this fear stop me from experiencing new things. That I would travel even though I was afraid.

So now I travel, yes I am still afraid but I remind myself of all the facts first of all and secondly, focus on the experience that I am going to have when I get to my destination. Usually I tend to forget the fear until a few days before the flight then I start to worry so I usually try to practice more meditation and prayer around that time and make it a time of looking forward to something instead of dreading.

So yes, I face my fear and I do it anyway, I do it afraid and I have to say it feels pretty good when I actually get through it and one thing I can tell you is the more you face your fear, the more you do it afraid, the easier it gets. So I would like to encourage you if you have a fear of something, don’t let it stop you living your life, be afraid and do whatever it is you are afraid of anyway.

Contentment is “everything”

There is so much conflict, anger and fear in our world right now. People are angry about so many things, Brexit, politicians, capitalism, climate change, Donald Trump, the possibility of WWIII and so on. How do we find peace and contentment when there is so much negativity around us? My book “Screaming helps” discusses 10 key attributes that you can work on to help you lead a more contented life.

Contentment helps you deal with everyday life, the good and the bad.  From a very young age, a collective of people, experiences and situations sell us the idea that life is meant to be fun, to end well, the good guys always come out on top and things are meant to work out in the end.  The media, movies we watch, books we read and stories that are told to us from a young age all seem to agree with this idea. It is no surprise, therefore, that a lot of people grow up expecting things to work out and that they will find their place in life. As we get older, we start to place importance on different aspects of life which we think will be our missing link, some of us think that marriage is the missing link or perhaps having our own children, others think attending university, or getting a great job will bring them contentment. 

Unfortunately, for most of us, we soon start to discover that life is far from a fairy tale and bad things that we did not plan can happen to us. Life is tough and we will all face trials at some point in our life. A lot of us don’t have the resilience and fortitude to deal with this realisation because we never expected it in the first place and we, therefore, start the cycle of searching for something to replace whatever we’ve lost or any emptiness we feel. Yet, the more we search the less we find.  Those that are not as successful in life probably spend a lot of time thinking that things would be so different only they had gone to University, or had a better career or married a particular person but this is just perpetuating that lie because even those that have managed to carve out successful careers or have a better standard of living and education still struggle to be content, the only difference is that worrying about money may not necessarily be on their list of challenges. So mediocrity is not what makes us unhappy although many of us cling on to this hoping that once we “become something” everything will fall into place.

Sadly, this is usually not the case and once we start to realise this, we must work out how to find peace and be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. Contentment allows us to absorb whatever comes our way.  First, we must accept that pain and suffering are part of life, once we accept this, the next step is to think about how to navigate life, good and bad successfully. I believe finding contentment is the key. Contentment is really a state of being thankful, no matter what’s going on in our lives, whether we have a little or a lot. Even when there are things happening to us that are out of our control, we can still be content because contentment is about training our minds to appreciate what we have and learning to master our emotions so we don’t let the external circumstances dictate how we feel and act. 

Screaming helps is available now on Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Screaming-helps-how-find-contentment/dp/1692947109/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=screaming+helps&qid=1578492459&sr=8-1