Hands down the most important muscle you can be working out this year? Your Happiness Muscle, that’s what. Neatly situated in the space between the heart and the brain, this critically important muscle can atrophy without regular use. Often this can happen as a result of trauma or accident.
Our Happiness Muscle can be severely damaged as a result of a brutal break-up or a devastating personal loss, a relentlessly unpleasant working environment or prolonged exposure to toxic relationships. Though we heal through the healthy and necessary process of grief and sadness, our Happiness Muscle can start to waste away through under-use. It can become weaker and weaker until it affects our quality of life for the worse.
For a happy life we need a strong Happiness Muscle. One that’s in outstanding shape, functioning well and often. A resilient muscle that doesn’t tire easily, and can be recruited in all sorts of situations. We should be able to rely on it kicking in just when we need it.
It’s the sort of muscle that, when it’s toned and fit, will be working all the time, without us consciously having to make effort, like say the little muscles round our eyes, or through the length of our gut. It’s that Happiness Muscle work that allows us to be glass half-full. It allows us to bring our best to tricky situations.
When fit it enables us to make the best of things, and naturally lift ourselves and those around us. If your Happiness Muscle has become a little weak, fear not, it can happen to the best of us, as we battle the tides of fortune.
There are a number of things you can do to consciously start developing your Happiness Muscle and get it back to full strength:
Look at what you feed it. The paleo diet of the Happiness Muscle is not grass-fed beef, but High Quality Thoughts. The more selective you are about the thoughts you feed your Happiness Muscle, the more quickly it will recover and gain in strength.
These sorts of thoughts mean moving away from thinking about the horror of the break-up and focusing on some great friendships you have in your life. On how great your health is. On your gorgeous child. Being detailed and listing all the good things you DO have and taking your stream of consciousness away from what has been lost. Your Happiness Muscle responds quickly to this deliberate change in fare.
Train it well. Your Happiness Muscle also responds nicely to being trained with a regime of Good Times. This can be hard to do when the muscle is weak and you have had a tough time, but even the weakest of muscles will respond to your favourite people, places or things.
Increase the weight as you go. To start with you may need to keep things small and manageable: unbridled joy might be way too heavy a weight to lift at the current time. But you can work up! If you can start to move from sadness, to neutral, to engaged, to content, to amused, to uplifted, then eventually you will be bench-pressing happy and joyful.
Take a graduated approach and go for lots of reps rather than a heavier weight. Multiple small moments of recognising beauty in the day, or appreciating something simple will start to build your Happiness Muscle.
Don’t walk straight up the heaviest weight of Ecstatic With New Partner if you are not ready for that. Build up with small moments of happiness. Repetition of low-grade happiness builds strength for high-level happiness to come in time.
Rest is important too. We are not built to be happy all the time, just as one muscle is not meant to be flexed 24/7; it needs rest in order to perform at its optimum. As human beings we are built to feel an elegant cascade of emotions, each of which has a purpose.
Happiness is just one of these. So honour your time to be sad. Grieve when you must. Be angry as hell if it’s called for. But then know that there is a time to be happy and get your Happiness Muscle working again. The more you work it, the stronger it gets — and a happier life awaits.
Through her online Happiness programme “Wellbeing Warriors”, life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Sign up at louisethompson.com and find more from Louise at bite.co.nz/wellbeing