When Gal and I lived in Thailand and the humidity was extremely high, I never complained. I take a shower with such hot water that it is too hot for Gal. I have lived in Texas and loved it. I have lived in California (that was OK), Thailand and Singapore (loved it), and now I live in Brisbane, Australia, doing my best to forget the 3 miserable years in Melbourne, Australia, because I was so cold there.
There is a joke that says Melbourne has 4 seasons in one day, because the temperature changes dramatically every couple of hours. I found that to be true, but the only 4 temperatures I recognized were “cold”, “very cold”, “extremely cold” and “freezing cold”. Maybe I have different temperature receptors. I just love the warmth and the heat, and it boosts my health and wellbeing.
Our emotional state is very much like the weather. Everyone has different receptors and a different optimal temperature. It is important to understand that we have different ways of reaching our optimal temperature.
In the same way we adjust our water temperature and volume in the shower, Gal and I use different ways of coping with situations in our lives. Gal prefers to talk about the situation and analyzing reasons and options, while I prefer doing things that will make me happy and distract me, at least for a while, until I calm down and consider the situation from a distance and come up with solutions. It is very important to note that both of us, although we use different methods, are trying to reach happiness within.
Happiness is a vague concept for many people. It strikes me as a problematic idea when people ask me if we, at Be Happy in LIFE, are always happy.
Unfortunately, some people think that constant happiness exists. I call them the “one-weather people”. They are doomed to feel frustrated all their life, because having 100% of days with optimal temperatures is an unrealistic goal, like searching for a place that does not exist. Even our very sophisticated body does not have the same temperature constantly and needs mechanisms to monitor and bring the body back to the optimal temperature whenever we are sick, when it is hot or cold outside, when we are physically active, when we stand next to an oven, and the list goes on. Our body uses many functions to bring us to our optimal temperature.
We need to do the same emotionally.
Life is full of different kinds of “weather”. The things that happen to us in life throw us off our optimal emotional “temperature” and we need to find ways to bounce back to a clear, sunny, warm, happy state.
We often describe successful people as having the sun shining on them, leading them forward with its light and warmth. When I talk to my clients about successful people, they are convinced that successful people never experience emotional winters. I tell them that successful people do not go through more emotional summers than winters, but they know how to reserve some sunshine to keep them warm when winter comes.
Here is a partial list of examples of situations, circumstances, feelings and thoughts that can bring emotional winter to your life.
- Loss of a loved one
- Loss of a job
- Feeling of failure
- Conflict with partner
- Financial instability
- Conflict with family member
- Lack of income for basic needs
- Feeling ignored and unappreciated
- Physical pain
- Regrets or shame
- Being under threat (of losing your job, for example)
- Being bullied
- Having to justify or defend yourself
- Being bored
- Being so tired it is hard to think and stay calm
- Being criticized a lot
- Having a new baby
- Being around people who drain you from energy
- Thinking of yourself as inferior
- Not having enough time
Each of the items on the list above can bring winter to your life and, like any winter, it can be drizzles, light showers, storms with hale and even heavy snow and ice. For each of these, you will have to use different mechanisms to make sure you can stay warm. For some, using an umbrella is enough, and for others, you will need gloves, long woolen underwear and a beanie to cover your head and face.
Emotional winters cannot be totally prevented, as they are mostly caused by circumstances beyond our control. Once they appear, every person needs enough skills to make sure their winter does not last too long.
Life is not about what happens to us but what we do about it
– Ronit Baras
Depression is Everlasting Winter
Everyone experiences winters. This is why in the medical world, the diagnosis of depression has a clear distinction between temporary and chronic depression. A depressed person is a person who has had too many winters over a certain period.
You are probably asking yourself, “How long is too long?” Well, a person is depressed when the sum of all their emotional summers is lower than that of all their winters.
Although the aim to have summer 365 days a year is not realistic, we can consider ourselves happy if we have managed to scare the rain and storms and to give more time and space to sunshine and heat – when we do not have to dress up with extra layers to protect ourselves and add more layers every year.
How to have an emotional summer
- Go through self-assessment. Every day before going to bed, analyze your day and label it as a “summer day” or a “winter day”. This is highly important to do with children to help them interpret their emotional state, pay attention to winters and make sure they are kept short. Once you have rated a month, aim to have one more summer day the following month.
- Store rays of sunshine in the form of a success journal, talking about your successes, achievements, acts of kindness and everything good that has happened to you during the day. It is strange, but we tend to forget the good things. Whenever you see that winter is approaching, you can always look at your journal and scare it with some of the stored sunlight.
- Make an effort to surround yourself with sunny people. Some people carry winter on their shoulders. As soon as they appear, it starts raining. Find the winter people – negative, complainers, victims, critics, gossips, superiors or inferiors. Find them and limit the time you spend with them.
- Have a hobby. Hobbies bring lots of warmth into your life and every winter can be chased away by dedicating more time to your hobbies.
- Set powerful, realistic goals and work towards achieving them. Success in achieving goals brings lots of satisfaction and a strong belief in your abilities. Every goal achieved is an amazing summer day and the memories and conviction in you ability can be stored for a rainy day. Like the story of the ant and he cricket, we need to collect grains of food on summer days to have enough during the winter. Each grain you collect helps.
- Make sure you are in a physical contact with someone every day. Research on physical touch found out that people feel better when they have lots of physical touch, especially from those they love. Remember the rule: 12 hugs a day keeps the winter away”.
- At dinnertime, when you share your day with your family, count your blessings. Tell everyone how many good things happened to you today and what you appreciate in yourself and in others. Going to bed 3-4 hours later, you are more likely to mark the day as a “summer day”.
- Practice pride therapy. Remember, being proud is not boasting. You do not have to make anyone feel bad when you are proud of your achievements. If you have kids, that is easy – you can always tell them how much you are proud of them. Every pride has some self-pride in it, which adds to your feeling of summer.
- Be kind to others. This is a great way to bring the sun. Research on kindness and volunteering discovered that giving is a wonderful way to receive and that people who help others are happier and more content than those who do not. Aim to be kind to someone once a day. Do not mix what you have to do with what you can choose to do from the kindness of your heart. Making dinner for your children or your partner is not a form of kindness, but making a special dinner with their favorite food is, especially when they really need it.
- Make a list of 100 things that make you happy and use your list every day. Share your list with loved ones and they will help you. I call this list a bucket of sunshine. If you work this list every day, you can scare away even long, hard winters. No two lists ever look the same. Your list is a way for you to get to your optimal temperature your way.
Everyone has emotional winters. We differ by the methods we use to overcome them with the sunshine of our summers.
Life coaches are traders in sunshine. If you need help in bringing summer to your life, you can contact us at Be Happy in LIFE.
Until next time, I wish you many summers!