Are we happy?
The circumstances have never been better for a fulfilling and successful life. Medical progress enables us to become old and healthy. Labour law and social coverage offer extensive security. Due to our high level of education we are better qualified than ever before and can choose jobs and careers we want to pursue.
Despite these great developments, reality shows a different picture: we get more and more stressed, frustrated, exhausted or even sick as the enormous increase of depression or burnout-rate indicates.
Positive evaluations are key
Our life has become quite stressful. To cope with the dynamics and pressure times of our so called VUCA world, Self Leadership in terms of thought and emotion control is key for a balanced and hence resilient behaviour. As academic research shows, experiencing positive emotions lead to more calmness, focus and an optimistic state of mind and hence to more inner balance, self-efficiency and self-efficacy. Assets that are highly relevant to handle stress better and thus are prerequisites for an optimal Self Leadership.
Evolutionary, we focus more on negativity. This was a great achievement for the development of our species. But nowadays this genetic condition harms us more than it helps. In addition, we do many things unconscious and our impression (thoughts, beliefs, etc.) that we have built up in early age is not always helpful to experience positive emotions as these evaluations – sometimes negative or at least not constructive – significantly influence how we think, feel and act. Therefore, it is crucial for an effective self leadership to get aware of our thoughts and emotions and to change them if necessary.
Recommendations to systematically develop more mental strength
1. Mindfulness: Notice your Emotions and Thoughts!
Often, we are not in the present. But being in the present is the basis to recognize what we think and feel. With mindfulness, you practice your ability of being in the moment and as we know from neurosciences with consciousness we strengthen our prefrontal cortex in the brain that is responsible for self awarness and self-control.
One possibility to be mindful and get to know our emotions better is to start observing our body, as emotions are body sensations. Researchers from the Aalto University in Finland have mapped how and where emotions are experienced in the body. This map can be your starting point to better understand what your emotions are.
2. Self Reflection: Rethink your Beliefs and Thoughts!
Recognize your beliefs and question them. If they are not up-to-date or helpful, rethink them by asking yourself: “What should I think to have positive emotions? How should I feel to change my harmful reaction?”. This self reflection process needs time and endurance as this is classical mental training with autosuggestions aiming on overwriting your old thinking patterns in your brain with new, helpful ones.
3. Positive Thinking: Notice actively positive things!
“Think positive” is the easiest way to influence well-being and your state-of mind positively as many studies show. Hormone wise your stress level gets in balance as the stress hormone cortisol decreases and endorphins (“happiness hormone”) and oxytocin (“relationship hormone”) increase. Mental wise we become more optimistic, see the bigger picture, are more creative and mentally more flexible as Barbara Frederickson, Professor of Psychology at North Carolina University found out in a range of studies.
The measures for positive thinking are quite simple: e.g. start maintaining a happiness diary indicating what went good today or a “What-have-I-achieved-list”.
Or just smile for a minute in a stressful situation. Maybe you will feel uncomfortable at the beginning, but you will feel the difference afterwards!
4. Body & Soul Entity: Consciously use power postures!
Your body can influence your mental strength. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School found out that by applying so called “power postures” the stress hormone cortisol reduces in the body and the masculine hormone testosterone increases. The benefit: In situations where we are stressed, nervous or afraid we are much more present. Try this e.g. before a presentation, at your first date or before a salary negotiation with your boss. You will see how much more comfortable, authentic and passionate you will react.
5. Mental training at its best
Despite our efforts of being conscious and despite a strong will to optimize our beliefs, emotions and reactions, we often fall back into our automatisms and old behavior patterns. One recommendation is to work directly with the sub consciousness. I have studied intensively the sub consciousness and impressions and I am convinced that this is the best way of changing attitudes as well as hindering thinking patterns. Therefore, I train many of my clients in mental training and self-hypnoses techniques.
Source: Caroline Müllner