Two practical models to increase happiness.
I’ve been thinking about Daniel Kahneman’s model that says there are two types of happiness (one for each “self”).
That’s right. We have two selves: the experiencing self and the remembering self.
Think of going on a fun night out with a friend but at the end you get in an argument. Your experiencing self had a few hours of happiness and a few minutes of upset. But your remembering self remembers the night as a bad night.
Think of this as being happy in your life versus being happy with your life. They are different things.
In this article we’ll focus on experienced happiness — essentially emotional state.
Emotional states are of course triggered by external events, but they exist internally. As a favorite teacher of mine says, when it rains on your parade who is upset? You or the rain?
So it’s certainly worthwhile to pursue external experiences that elicit a favorable inner emotional state. However, we can also ask — how can I control this inner state?
Every emotional state depends upon three things — I use the acronym BAT.
Thoughts and Language
Think about it. If you’re feeling anxious - Do you feel it in your body? Does your posture change? Does your attention go towards what could go wrong? Do your thoughts speed up and sound a certain way?
Here’s the thing - yes emotional states influence our B A T - but our B A T influences our emotional states.
The HPA axis is sort of a crossroads processing center between the body and brain. Information flows in both directions.
It’s hard to snap your fingers and change your emotional state. But you can influence your B A T. Change your posture, motion, facial expression, breathing, focus, and internal dialogue and your state will change.
Here is research supporting this from the American Psychological Association (APA).
That takes us to our other model: Triple A.
How do you change your emotional state? Namely, how do you change from negative to positive emotion?
First awareness. You have to identify your B A T and recognize your inner state. Often just saying “hello anxiety” or “hello anger” is enough to dissolve the emotion.
If that doesn’t work you can go to application. Is this emotion useful? For instance righteous anger about being mistreated could lead to practical action. This doesn’t mean unleashing the emotion. Rather it is using it responsibly to provide you with energy and motivation to take action.
Finally, antidotes are an option. The mindbody system can’t in a single moment occupy two opposite emotional states. Using an antidote goes like this — what is the positive emotion opposite of the negative emotion you’re experiencing?
What would the B A T of a person experiencing that positive emotion be? Act it out. Change how you’re using your body: posture, breathing, movement, expression. Direct your focus (eg from problems to solutions or worries to blessings). Shift your thoughts and language (eg “have to” to “want to”, “can’t” to “could”).
If you can master your emotional states you essentially master experienced happiness. To master your emotional states understand that body, attention, and thoughts / language (BAT) are the basis for all emotional states and use awareness, application, and antidotes (AAA) to navigate those states effectively.
Try an experiment right now.
Answer: how do you feel?
Now take 5 deep, deep breathes, smile, focus on 3 things you accomplished this week, then say in your mind “I guess I’m pretty amazing”.
Answer: how do you feel?
Your happiness nerd,
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