Happiness and Stress, it’s all in your head.

I’ve been blown away in the past couple of weeks – with some mind bending ah-ha moments about our role in our own happiness and our own ‘stressors’.

There are plenty of keys to optimal human health that are kept right there in your head. How you think, how you tend to interact psychologically with others, and how you perceive life experiences are integral to the health of your body and your happiness.

This makes the ‘eat less and more more’ message that we receive seem pretty shallow.

First of all, I’ve learned that I’m a questioner (OK, I knew that already – but hear me out). According to Gretchen Rubin, if we characterize our approach to life into one-ish of her four tendencies, we can better understand how we operate, and we can set ourselves up for some successful habit making.

Her four tendencies are:

  1. Upholder: someone who readily meets inner and outer expectations, someone who will do what others ask, and have a pretty easy time doing what they’ve decided they are going to do.
  2. Questioner: someone who will question everyone, and will only do something if it makes sense to them.
  3. Obliger: someone who will do what others suggest, but have trouble meeting their own inner expectations.
  4. Rebel: someone who resists all expectations.

This insight into how you work can help you figure out the best way to gain health. AND if you share it with others, they will better understand how to support you (says the health coach).

This is like Myers Briggs meets Human Health. ENTJ right here.

For example, a rebel operates with a pleasure principal of sorts. They do what they want to do, and if someone tells them to do something, they might just do the opposite. A rebel has to approach creating new habits as something exciting or pleasing to them. And if you coach a rebel by telling them what to do, those words will fall on deaf ears.

On the other hand, you can convince a questioner to create a habit if you illuminate the reasons why they should do that, and keep reminding them… over and over again. Because <raises hand> questioners will even question themselves. Why am I doing this again?

Holy crap can we get paralyzed by information.

An obliger is very likely to need a good amount of accountability to get a habit in motion. Because they are unlikely to let someone else down. I have some of this tendency in there… I enjoy accountability – which is frankly why I like to post my breakfast photos on Facebook.

And the upholders out there probably can’t figure out why this is so hard for everyone else, because they’ll more easily start and keep good habits.

AND THEN, I heard this podcast – wherein I learned that there are no stressors in life. WHAT?!?!

Yes, this spoke to me in big ways… let me explain.

The stress of a job, of a relationship, of finances… it’s all in our heads. OK, when I say it that way it doesn’t sound so crazy. But here’s my ah-ha moment. We create our own stress when our experience in life doesn’t match the experience that we think we should have. We imagine up some fantasy ideal and our real life experience isn’t measuring up to our ideal so we can bogged down in that alternate reality – and begin to spin our wheels.

The key to finding clarity and taking action to actually lessen our perceived stress is to gain insight into our own experience. Or, to step back into reality. That’s not always easy to do of course, but once you can admit to yourself that your relationship is crappy because you haven’t spent time listening, or that your work environment is tenuous because you haven’t shared your expectations with your co-workers… then you’ve got some clear action items to pursue to shift you away from the funk.

And this clarity will reap physical health benefits.

This insight into your brain is you taking personal responsibility for how you feel about your own experiences.

Internal locus of control is what I called this when I was in geoscience recruiting. We were coached to hire people who took responsibility for their own success and didn’t blame others for their failures.

I plan to pick up The Myth of Stress by Andrew Bernstein. He says that the opposite of stress isn’t relaxation, it’s insight. He makes a strong case I think.

SO, what will you do with this information? You could take the steps to better understand that brain of yours and leverage it for the purposes of being happier. Check out these resources and let me know what you think.


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