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Happiness: The Thing We All Look For But Never Really Understand

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Happiness: The Thing We All Look For But Never Really Understand

As emotional beings, it can sometimes be difficult to accurately define a feeling. So much can get lost in translation and leaves something to be desired. Perhaps that’s a part of the reason that so many people have trouble achieving happiness. At times it just seems so elusive and complex. I mean, what is happiness really? Are you only truly happy if you only experience that emotion, and that one alone?

Definition of happiness by different philosophers share the same theory.

There are many ideologies with their own philosophies on how to achieve happiness. For example, the Buddhists believe that happiness can only be achieved when you have rejected all need for material goods, reaching what they call Nirvana.[1] Taoists attain happiness by living simple, uncomplicated lives; appreciating what is, and accepting what is not.[2]

What these two theories have in common is the rejection of longing. You can’t be truly happy when you focus on what you do not have.

But what we believe is true about happiness has been hindering us from pursuing true happiness.

Myth 1: Happiness is a constant state.

If you think that you need to be happy 24/7 to be a happy person, that just simply isn’t true. Everyone gets stressed, everyone gets angry. We are capable of an array of emotions for a reason, to feel them. To be a happy individual, you have to know how to reel yourself back and not allow the other emotions to consume you. Take the Taoist approach here: appreciate what is, and accept what is not.

Myth 2: Money can buy happiness.

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Before I get all preachy again, I’ll admit that I’m guilty of shop therapy. Getting something new and exciting, and fulfilling for the moment can be nearly euphoric. Especially when it’s something that you’ve been pining over, worked for, and are finally able to make that purchase and make it yours. But more likely than not, that new exciting object will become an old, forgotten thing of the past. Like a temporary high, it will cease to satisfy you. Here I am going to ask you to take the Buddhist approach: do not rely on material objects to bring you happiness.

Myth 3: Destination: Happiness.

“I’ll be happy when___”, “Things will get better when____”, does this sound like you? Happiness is not a destination. A new place, a new job, a new hobby will not completely alter your life, filling your soul with rainbows and sunshine. I mean, it certainly can help, and changing your circumstance is the first step towards achieving happiness. As it was once so eloquently stated by Jon Kabat-Zinn, writer and philosopher, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Happiness lies within yourself. Changing your circumstance isn’t enough, you must change yourself as well.

Success and happiness don’t need to be enemies.

To some, happiness is an idealistic fantasy; a hindering roadblock for a successful life. Well, hey now, what is success? When do you feel truly successful? Couldn’t success be defined as achieving your desired lifestyle and therefore achieving happiness? For some yes, for others it is a resounding no.

Many business tycoons have put happiness on the back-burner, sacrificing everything that gives their life meaning in order to grow their business, their empire, and most importantly, their bank account. The need to succeed monopolizes every other aspect of life with soul crushing force, leaving little room for luxuries like joy and bliss.

Although this isn’t the case for all workaholics. For them, working endlessly, building their dream, and growing their net worth is exactly what gives their life meaning. The key is finding a balance and learning how to prioritize the little things that make their heart sing, and including them into their daily routines.

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Start with your smallest lifestyle change, and prioritize happiness.

Yes, that’s all you need to do!

There is a new trend in the workforce where primarily millennials are finding ways to pursue their passions, and building their empires by nurturing their interests. Many baby boomers sneer at this lifestyle, mostly out of resentment for not having the same opportunities; or the courage to do so.

Some people, specifically myself, cannot trudge through life mindlessly doing what is expected to fulfill my obligations. What is expected? Accept your life for the monotonous conveyor of: heinous commute, work at a job you hate, pay for the house in the town you want to leave, fantasize about the life you wish you had, cry yourself to sleep, wake up, repeat. Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic but too many people have accepted this way of life, and I’ll tell you what, they are not happy.

They’re leaving out one very important ingredient, themselves. They let the light die out in their soul, they’ve forgotten their passions. They’ve let go of those important elements of life that make them think “THIS is the reason I’m alive!” When very simply, if they included one little ritual daily, or even weekly, setting aside time for what interests them, they can find that oasis of contentment and happiness that has been missing.

This is where things can get tricky. Because pursuing happiness can be exhausting when approached too forcefully.[3] People tend to overwhelm themselves by taking on a bunch of new hobbies, or launching a side project for the dream business they’ve always wanted. Usually they take all of these tasks on at once and ultimately burn themselves out. This leaves them defeated, feeling as if happiness is as they say, just not in the cards.

Integrating happiness, and ultimately prioritizing it is a bit like a diet. If you take on too much at once, you’re bound to crash and give up. The key is small lifestyle changes that eventually become a part of your daily routine.

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Now is the time to start prioritizing your happiness, and here’s how.

Create a list

Write down everything in your life that doesn’t satisfy you. Fold a sheet of paper down the middle and on one side label it: “What Needs to Change.” Perhaps it’s a bad habit that you can’t seem to kick, the fact that you feel bored, tired, sore, you don’t feel attractive, or you feel like your life doesn’t have any passion or meaning. Just write it all down and get it all out. Now on the other side of the paper, I want you to label it as, “Solutions.” List 3 solutions to each issue, even if they are a bit of a stretch. The idea here is that you’re searching for answers instead of ignoring the problem. If you can’t think of three solutions that’s more than okay. As long as you can come up with at least one you’re making progress.

For example: Let’s say that you wish you had more friends, or the courage to talk to people. Three possible solutions would be:

1. Say hello and start a conversation with a stranger 2 times a week.

2. Join a group or a class, surrounding yourself with like-minded people with similar interests.

3. Ask someone you think is cool on a friend date. Invite them to that class you just joined. Chances are they’ll take you up on the offer, and now you have a new acquaintance and possible friend to hang with.

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Designated “Me” Time

Set aside time for yourself at least 20 minutes a day, whether it’s before or after work, or maybe on the weekend. Take this time to take a bath, meditate, go for a hike, pick up a new hobby such as watercolor or knitting.

I know you’re busy, we all are. But busy people are the best at making time for their top priorities, and you should always be number one. Give yourself a chance to replenish and recharge. Otherwise you’re just pouring from an empty cup, and it’s going to run you dry.

Volunteer/Get involved

Reach deep down and think of an issue that concerns you. Women’s rights, food activism, animal activism, preserving nature, homelessness, etc. Whatever it is, there is a group fighting for the advancement of the cause and they need your help.

Contact them, see what you can do. It could be something as small as passing out flyers, or getting out there and giving fruit to the destitute.

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You will become full with a new sense of purpose, and the knowledge that you did something to help. You’re now a part of the solution, and you’re awesome!

Reference

More by this author

Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

How Traveling Can Drastically Improve Your Interpersonal Skills How We Are Confusing Self-Love with Narcissism In This Generation One Small Action Separates Success From Mediocrity. How Not To Turn Meaningful Discussions Into Arguments By Keeping This 1 Thing In Mind. How We Are Attracting Fake News and False Information to Our Lives

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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