Less Stress, Greater Joy: Acceptance and Action

June 10, 2014

June’s Theme is Less Stress, Greater Joy

How often have you tried to lessen the stress in your life, or experience greater joy? What if I could help you to live a life with a lot less stress and a lot more happiness? I can tell you that my clients and I are living proof that it is possible, so I know it can be for you too.

Over the last six years, I have had the privilege of working with numerous professional athletes who wanted to improve various skills and areas of performance. Can you imagine the overwhelming stress that might weigh on a person who is about to perform in a sport upon which he believes his whole life depends? It’s his career, his livelihood, his means of supporting family, and of course his ego is invested in what it means to perform well (or not so well).  Before I go any further, I must explain that it is not gender specific.  Women and men in all various professions, and sports go through the gauntlet of stress daily.  I have lots of experience helping athletes and professionals manage and overcome stress to the point of really knowing how to achieve peak performance in their sport, and increase their levels of joy in life.  It is truly wonderful to see.

How about you? Would you like to perform at your best, lower stress and increase joy in your life? Well you really can, but you have to know that you cannot suddenly become calmer, more relaxed and joyful in a few short hours. It doesn’t just happen on demand when you need to perform well or you want to feel happier. You must understand the techniques I will talk about here and apply them on a daily basis. It is through diligent effort and application that you will feel less stress and greater joy in whatever you do.

The conclusion I have reached regarding the amount of stress and joy in your life is summed up in one word: acceptance. Stress and joy are acquired and maintained based on your level of acceptance of whatever you perceive is causing you stress or joy at any given time. So what exactly does that mean and what can you do about it?

First, let me be clear. I am not encouraging or condoning unhealthy behaviors or abuse or anything like that, when I talk about your need to be accepting. But you can maintain a level of acceptance of yourself, your life and who you are at this given moment. You can accept how you live, the choices you make and what you are capable of versus what you are unable to do right now. You can accept where you are as a person in life right now and how your life is going. You can actually learn to accept more and more each day. The circumstances of your living environment, your family relationships, your free time, your work, career or schooling; you can learn to accept these things as they exist in this present moment. Doing so is what lessens your stress and increases joy.

Again, I am not saying you should condone unhealthy behaviors, being lazy or complacent, or not having goals or aspirations. I am just saying that in this given moment, you can have a greater level of acceptance in all of those areas of your life, while still having a drive or desire to make some positive or healthy changes. That is the balance I am going to teach you about as we move forward.

You can also learn to gain a level of acceptance of others. In my career, I have seen that accepting others is one of the greatest challenges people face. Are you truly accepting of that person who drives slower than you? How about the person taking too long in the check-out line, or the one being rude and disrespectful to the wait staff? Can you accept the way a husband may treat his wife or the wife treat her husband if you don’t agree with their behavior? These are all examples of the ways people show their personalities. You can gauge your stress or happiness level on your ability to accept these aspects of the people you come in contact with throughout the day.

I encourage you to look at your level of acceptance of yourself and others in your life. This is vital. Applying this kind of principle might sound simple but it takes effort, and does not bring about change overnight. But you can learn how to do it more and more all the time. You can become aware of your level of acceptance and take steps to improve your ability to be more accepting. So identifying your level of acceptance will be your first step – gaining a level of awareness. You need to be able to recognize that acceptance does not happen overnight, but it is a skill you can build. It is something you can work on every day, but you must first be aware that each and every one of us possess this skill.

To help address this topic, I chose a quote that challenges us to look at how people can impact stress and joy, and I will go over it with you. I found it in the book “Wisdom of the Years”, which contains loads of guidance for more joyful living. I like using quotes like this because they work, and they cut out so much time in trying to figure things out on our own.

The quote is: “When you share joy it multiplies, when you share pain it divides.”

Now you can look back at what I already discussed, as far as how non-acceptance can cause problems and stress in your life, and acceptance can create greater joy. So think about sharing joy. When you share joy, it multiplies. To emphasize that point, here is another great quote I saw recently while out shopping, and it went something like this: “With a flame, you can go ahead and light a hundred thousand other flames, but that original flame doesn’t ever lose its original strength. It has the ability to pass on and light other wicks and flames but yet still has its original strength.” I compare that to love and joy. You can pass it along and still maintain your same level along the way.

Have you ever heard that smiling at someone is contagious? There is a kind of inner desire within us where we always look to feel better, be happier, and yearn to have greater joy. A lot of times the problem is that we are looking in the wrong places and not addressing the underlying issues of why we don’t feel that way in the first place. Are you smiling on the inside? If you are, what is stopping you from taking that action outwardly?  If you are not smiling on the inside, what is stopping you?  Believe it or not, smiling can reduce stress.  Studies have shown that smiling during times of great stress can help reduce the brain’s response and the body’s action to the induction of stress.  Just like that flame, smiling is one of human nature’s most powerful and suggestive gestures.

So “when you share joy, it multiplies.” Just imagine that flame spreading and spreading and lighting other flames. You have that ability and can be a part of that, but you must find your own joy first. Even if it’s in the smallest degree, look for something within you that you can feel good about. Look at your progress in a particular area, decide to focus on that and encourage your thoughts around that. Continue to focus on the progress you have made until it puts a smile on your face. Eventually it will do that, because your face automatically reacts to what you are thinking. I have learned that through hypnosis, but also through studying the biology of our bodies.  When you smile, the muscles that contract in your face send positive feedback back to your brain.  That in, turn, reinforces the feelings of joy.  Smile more and it will help you feel better. That energy will multiply like that flame.

On the flip side, “when you share pain it divides.” Let’s look at that statement. How do you share pain? As a society, we have unfortunately been trained to complain and talk about our aches and pains, spouse, boss, pets, neighbors, children, what’s wrong in our lives, bodies, the world, planet, other countries, drivers on the street, bank tellers, cashiers at the grocery store, and on and on. It is a bad habit.  Instead of finding solutions to our aches, pains, problems and behaviors, we feed them like gasoline on a fire.  We even encourage each other to participate in this kind of conversation.  It is unhealthy to live and think this way.  And yet, it is so easy for us.  Are you aware of how much negativity you carry around?  If not, a simple exercise to do is to keep a memo pad with you and each time you have a negative thought, write a tally mark on the pad.  Chances are, the pad fills up rather quickly.  We are not wired this way, so these bad habits can be changed by our awareness.

Let’s say you join a circle of friends and one is complaining about a sore throat, another says she didn’t sleep very well last night, and another says she is starting to feel the same way herself. If you walked into that conversation smiling saying “I feel great, I haven’t been sick in months or years, I slept great last night, my body feels great , I’ve been exercising a lot and my back feels strong”, they would all probably look at you wide-eyed shocked. It has become kind of a sad reality for us that we have not been permitted, as a society, to speak in that kind of manner.  Why not?  Why is it so hard for people to find one thing to be joyful about?

What we then experience as the outcome is division, separation, and feelings of “I am right and they are wrong so now I’ll be upset with them”, or “that person shouldn’t be taking so long in line, this car shouldn’t be driving so slow, I don’t like how my boss handled that situation” and so on. So as you share pain, not only are you dividing yourself from all of those people in all of those situations (you are creating a kind of mental barrier), but you also encourage whoever you speak with to have the same kind of barrier or division. “My friend and I agree, that should not have happened, that person should not speak that way or your boss should not act like that”, etc. What happened? Pain creates division. It separates us and ends up strengthening our egos, strengthening our bad habits.

Can you see the problem in how that way of speaking and believing encourages separation or division? Does that reduce stress and increase joy? No. If you view your life and others in a negative way, there is no joy, no happiness. That is quite the opposite of how I started this blog on acceptance, right?

So you will have greater joy and happiness and less stress, if you start to recognize these old habits and negative ways of viewing yourself and others in life. Start to look at how you can encourage healthier conversations, share joy, step out of the box and feel strong enough to move beyond what has become the norm. Talk about how good you feel, and don’t be afraid to do it. Find friends that will talk with you that way. If you are persistent about it, a lot of your friends will start to get into the habit of talking like that, and they will join those conversations with you. The ones who remain upset with themselves or don’t accept themselves, their lives or others will probably move on.  The tongue can be a very powerful source of energy.  It can be positive or negative.  When you are talking, be conscious of your words.  Are they Truthful? Are they Helpful?  Are they Inspiring?  Are they Necessary?  Are they Kind?  THINK before you speak.  You can build a thousand fires with one flame, metaphorically speaking.

As you begin to accept yourself and others and participate more in healthier conversations, you will begin to experience greater joy and less stress, and be able to share that same experience with others. Like the quote says: “When you share joy it multiplies, when you share pain it divides.” So start today to gain awareness of your level of acceptance, and work on that area every day. I wish you much success as you apply this in your life. If you need any help with this, please contact me. I really enjoy sharing this kind of information with you, and look forward to helping you lower stress and increase joy in your life. Thanks for reading. InJoy your day!

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