A graphic entitled ‘6 habits of happiness worth cultivating‘ has been circulating through my Facebook peers recently. Six brightly colored circles with good advice for reducing stress, getting more out of life and generally being happier. Yesterday, I discovered a list of 12 Things Happy People Do.
As I was reading through them, a pattern emerged: a lot of them were about energy flow – emotional, mental and physical. For example, the benefits to following the ‘Drop Grudges’ advice on the 6 Habits list, are that we’ll “feel better about ourselves, experience more positive emotions, and feel closer to others.” All well and good, I don’t disagree, but I would add that when you hold grudges, you are allowing a situation, and the people involved, to suck energy from you. A grudge is like a heat sink for energy, an energy sink. These experiences tend to embed themselves into your psyche, into your emotional core, in an unhealthy way. Grudges and other conflicts are energy parasites. The energy that’s tied up in the negative activity of begrudging someone is energy you don’t have for other pursuits and people. And, given that one of my basic limitations lately has been around energy availability, this piece of advice deserves my attention.
I believe in karma to a certain degree. I understand that there are deeper religions underpinnings to karma, and I don’t pretend to understand or be adept to that degree. However, I have definitely experienced a positive flow of energy based on my positive actions, as opposed to a corresponding negative energy flow as a response to negative action. From the 6 Habits, “Give Thanks” and “Practice Kindness” are, to me, about creating and transferring positive energy. These concepts are also on the 12 Things list along with “Learn to Forgive”. How do I know that the expenditure of positive energy promotes a returning loop of positive energy? I know it through my own experience, and by sharing those experiences with others, I know I’m not alone. When I stop and hold a door for someone struggling with an armful of groceries, the smile and thanks I receive makes me happy, and I feel that pleasure on an emotional level as well as physically with a release of serotonin.
Physical activity is another route to happiness, as are cultivating healthy relationships and spirituality, developing healthy habits and being mindful and joyful and not being too caught up in social comparisons and external measures of success. The 12 Things list has ‘Increase Flow Experiences”, which means, getting into situations where you are ‘in the flow’. For me writing can be a flow experience, as can playing soccer, running, having sex, doing physical work, etc. These moments in the flow are definitely peek moments and I can get higher on those as I ever could on drugs. And without the nasty hangover.
I’m surprised that neither of these lists mentions sleep and relaxation, frankly, because sleep and downtime is definitely something I’m conscious that I don’t get nearly enough of.
Going back to energy flow and being mindful about where my energy sources and energy sinks, I know that on a regular basis, significant portions of my energy get knotted up in conflicts. A contentious thread on Facebook about gender or identity or something else I’m passionate about, might knot up my energy for a couple of days. An incidental comment that exposes someone’s ignorance about my gender identity – or non-binary gender identities in general – gets me torqued for a few hours at least. That’s not really where I want my energy to be pooling. I want my energy to be working for me, to be furthering my goals and making my life better.
It’s pretty clear to me that in the coming year I need to work on cultivating more skills in generating, directing and conserving energy. Any goals I set require energy, so I need to be more intentional about how that energy is flowing.
Onward and upward, friends, let’s get our flow on.
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