For the majority of my adult life, I have struggled with stress. I remember looking at all aspects of my life and identifying work to be the primary source of stress. And that was even before I joined the family business that became a major stress in my life and ultimately, amongst other things, led to me developing an auto-immune condition.
I have mulled on the question of how to overcome this stress for a long time. I grind my teeth at night and I tend to withdraw when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’ve enquired about things like hypnotherapy to cure the grinding but was advised that the anxiety will simply pop up somewhere else. So I kept wondering how to address this seemingly everlasting anxiety and stress in my life.
What had not occurred to me, until my diagnosis, was to entirely change my career path. I’m spending a year recovering and not working, so that I can fully restore my health. I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of happiness and have introduced many of the happiness-inducing strategies into my life this year. One of them was to introduce flow into my day as much as possible and to make sure that my future career is aligned around flow activities.
I believe that we are at our best in life when we are doing what we love. This blog documents the journey of changing my life and aligning my work to my passion which is writing. I strongly believe that doing things that I disliked at work for many years was a major contributing factor to my illness.
I’ve just finished reading Happiness by Matthieu Ricard. Although I have strong feelings about his generalisation that introverts are unhappy, the book has some merit. Ricard speaks about the correlation between meditation and particularly altruism, with happiness. He cites meditation as an important mechanism for becoming happier. He asserts that one doesn’t need to meditate for twelve hours a day in the mountains to benefit, but that we can all become happier by introducing meditation as a daily practice in our lives.
I know that I am recovering well in that I no longer require an afternoon nap. I used to meditate before my nap and as a result I have been skipping the meditation for a few weeks. I must say that I have noticed a change in that I don’t feel as calm and I attribute that entirely to the meditation practice. I have also become sufficiently in touch with my body to know that a buzzing in my ears tells me I have been overdoing it. Meditating completely calms the buzz and allows me to feel centred and able to weather the demands of small children at the end of the day.
When we are engaged in a flow activity, there is focussed attention and we lose track of time and of ourselves. Yet afterwards we emerge stronger. Perhaps being in flow and meditation are quite similar. I’d say that my primary way of living a happy life would be to make a living with my passion. I know that I have a better day and I tend to feel at ease on days where I have written, be it my blog or my book. I also know that I am much calmer on the days where I have meditated. Being calm helps me to be a better mother and to really be present with my family.
As Sonja Lyubomirsky has taught us, happiness cannot be found outside ourselves. Getting a new car or a new boyfriend only provides a temporary lift, after which we go back to our happiness set point. This is called hedonic adaptation. So we need to turn inwards in order to find happiness. It’s hard to find it with that pesky inner critic and all her noisy thoughts. Meditation is a way to quiet the mind and when things are quiet, we can connect with our true self.
So I think the answer to my initial question is two-fold. Firstly, I must not do work that I hate, but rather fill my days with things that bring me flow. Secondly, make meditation a daily practice in order to feel calm, grounded and able to be the person I’m meant to be.Follow me: