Just a few months ago I’d wake up every morning and look at BGC next to me with the biggest grin and sense of happiness, I felt so lucky to have found my person and to have the privilege of waking up to this excellent man every morning.
This morning I woke up early, looked at BGC getting ready for work and thought, sweet I get to sleep in.
When I first used to bike along the Yarra river to yoga, my heart would soar as I looked around this beautiful new city that I love so much.
Now when I bike along the Yarra I listen to audiobooks and get annoyed at all the people in my way.
When I first started working from Bali last year I cried with happiness most days when I realised my life: location independant, scootering through rice fields to my epic co working space where I would talk to amazing people around the world about my favourite subject in the world: mindfulness.
By the end of my trip I was pissed at the bus traffic.
My brain – and your brain too, is a ninja master at taking the excitement we feel from new things, and backhanding it into oblivion so that it can return to its baseline state.
This is what is called hedonic adaptation.
The brain habituates to new circumstances and new emotional states quickly and brings us back to our baseline happiness level.
This is true too, if we experience negative emotions or experiences;
though these tend to linger for longer, after a period of time, we’ll find ourselves back at our baseline state.
I’ve had some tough life experiences in the past and people have said to me, “I don’t know how you handle all this crap, you seem fine”. But it wasn’t really me handling it, after being upset about the events for a while, my brain adapted and I went back to feeling “normal” despite my external world being a bit messy.
In the 70s they did a study where they followed up with people who had had an accident and become paraplegic and people who had won the lottery. You’d assume the people who won the lottery would be happier than those who’d become paraplegic, but the study showed that a year after the events, both parties were back to the same happiness level.
This study showed two things:
- Our brain is terrible at predicting how future events will impact our happiness.
- Our brain normalises and habituates to whatever happens to us.
So if we want to live a bloody good life we’d be best to:
Stop believing our mind when it tells us that next pay rise/ car/ hot dude/ promotion/ house/ child will make us infinitely fulfilled and happy. It won’t.
We have to actively TRAIN our brain to see the excitement in the things around us.
Number 1 is where mindfulness comes in.
The only way you can experience lasting fulfilment and happiness is to feel it along every step of the journey towards your goals. This involves actually noticing every moment you’re in, rather than steamrolling over things on the way to your goals. For most of us the ability to remain focussed in the present moment without our mind racing off into the future or the past requires training, it’s not a natural ability in most people, it requires effort.
Number 2 is where practicing gratitude comes in.
Every morning I notice my tendency to wave off BGC’s presence in my life as though it were no big deal, and every morning I pause, look at him and remember how happy he makes me and how different my life is with him in it.
Every evening we tell each other three (usually more) things we’re grateful for that have happened that day.
This is scientifically and experientially proven to rewire our brain’s ability to notice and remember positive occurrences, rather than only focussing on the negative, which the brain does by default.
Pretty nifty eh.
I also change small things in my life and routine very frequently, to trick my brain into a new way of perceiving things again. And then I revel in the newness.
Last week we moved my bedroom around, so we wake up facing a new direction.
Some mornings I’ll go for a bike ride, some mornings I do yoga and work from the park til ants take over my keyboard, some mornings I get up and head straight to a yoga class before starting my day. Some mornings I wander round aimlessly and do very little useful before starting work.
When going to yoga (since I no longer have a routine place of work to go to), I take many different routes to get there.
When meeting up with friends, I try to meet at new places or do new things we haven’t done before. Tinder dating used to be great – I got to go all over Melbourne to all sorts of new areas and bars and cafes!
I have two desks, one normal (with a new spinny chair that I love to spin on), and one standing, so that I can switch between them whenever I like.
Also because standing desks are bloody tiring when you’re getting used to them!