This world is full of chaos. In every direction you look there is something that can cause a person to question the future of humanity. This may sound like I’m speaking in hyperbole, however I have been in two very real conversations the past couple months where individuals expressed concerns about having children. The reason for their concern was that they questioned the logic behind bringing a child into the world in which we live. Issues included things such as the potential environmental chaos and political uncertainty associated with technologies capable of destroying our world. These conversations are depressing. I do not necessarily hold the same outlook, however when you have Elon Musk dedicating his life to getting humans to live on Mars, along with Stephen Hawking suggesting that humans need to find someplace to inhabit other than Earth… it does make me pause and contemplate, how much chaos is at our doorstep?
Let’s remove the future of Earth from the picture. There still remains a lot of chaos. In many conversations I have each day, I hear a different set of chaotic stories. I hear people share the instability of current and past relationships. The challenges that family members bring into their lives. The work stories that highlight interactions with employers and the consistent stress it causes. The financial narratives as someone works to maintain a positive bank account in our consumer and capitalist culture. The chaos that these individuals share is not significant on a broader scale, however they make each day difficult for that individual and those involved.
Finally, there is the chaos each of us have within our own minds. The challenge we have is to make sense of all these inputs. It is a uniquely human issue. To find meaning within the chaos. To quiet the mind enough that we can be productive and happy.
The largest challenge we face is: how can I find happiness in the chaos? In complete honesty, this is at the essence of the Happier and Healthier You program. One of the best answers that I have to offer is that it takes the development of a new lifestyle. The creation of new habits and behaviors that allow us to be more resilient. To have more energy and vitality to face our days. And to create these new lifestyles takes the ability to change our mindset, alter our self identity and a willingness to shed ourselves of the past.
While the following list is not comprehensive, nor is it a list of behaviors to implement in order, it is a set of strategies that have worked for me at different times.
1. Get some exercise daily.
When we move our bodies, we become acutely aware of our physical self. This awareness is valuable for everyone as our daily environments rarely force us to think about our physicality, unless it is in the context of illness and disease. This recommendation for ‘exercise’ does not have to be complicated or difficult. Go for a short walk, spend five minutes stretching or do a few sets of body squats.
2. Raise your heart rate.
There is value in progressing from the previous suggestion to get some exercise. Through consistent training, with some stress on your cardiovascular system, you will develop an ability to respond more effectively to acute stresses in your life. The adaptations that take place will allow you to be more resistant to the negative impact in those moments.
3. Be mindful.
I have tried to incorporate seated meditation into my regular routine, but it is one of those habits that comes and goes from my daily schedule. However, I have found that having a mindful practice is something I can sustain. This may look different for each individual, but for me it has been a daily walk to get coffee. The main characteristics that make up this walk are: an attitude to embrace happiness, an attempt to be aware of the beauty around me and an observation of how others I encounter are navigating this same time and space.
There are days when I get a half hour of high level awareness. Then there are days that I almost get hit by a car, which throws my mind into chaos with little chance of return.
4. Write it down.
I spend a decent amount of time writing, because I enjoy it. I realize that many others do not like to write, or do not have the time available to write pages of text. In those instances, my suggestion would be to simply have a few note cards or post-it notes available. When something is creating chaos in your life, simply give it a name and write that label on the note. Then I would recommend that you throw it away. Don’t hold on to it. Do not store it in a file. Do not create a digital list of these items. I believe there is value in physically throwing away the issue.
5. Talk it out.
I know that there is at least one friend I can go to when I need to talk about some cause of chaos in my life. When I am able to voice that, I always feel better. It took time for me to be able to get to this place, because my natural response is to keep these thoughts to myself. It also took time to understand that being vulnerable was not a sign of weakness.
If approaching a friend is not comfortable, then I’d recommend seeking a professional. The value in having a unbiased observer to your thoughts and concerns provides enormous value.
6. Remove yourself from the news cycle.
The world changes fast. The world is also highly connected. This does not mean that you will gain value from learning about every tragedy that takes place each hour of the day. I am not suggesting that you stick your head in the sand, the suggestion is to control how you expose yourself to those stories.
7. Don’t participate in gossip.
This is a challenging suggestion, depending on your work and social environment. However, finding ways to avoid conversations that revolve around gossip can significantly decrease the amount of chaos in your own life. My personal and completely non scientific observation is that people who enjoy gossiping the most, also invite the most chaos into my life. When I can’t remove myself from the conversation, I at least try to discourage it. However, it requires that you are aware that it is happening in the first place. I find this strategy to be one of the most challenging of them all.
I wish I could say that finding happiness in the middle of chaos was as simple as implementing the seven strategies above. However, it is never that simple. The strategies are just some of the things I’ve worked on to help give me a better chance at being a happy and healthy person. You may require other strategies. It will also require time, effort and consistency.
Being content and having meaning while standing in the middle of chaos, is not a natural state of being. When you find the capacity to achieve it, your life will become more fulfilling then it already is.