Provence. It’s beautiful. The morning markets, the fresh local food, the rolling lavender fields, and all those fun windy roads. Not to mention the views of the cliffside villages like Gordes are spectacular. Joy pervades it.
Or is that true?
I love going to Provence. And, I remember a time I went during a tough personal situation. While I saw some of its beauty, I was overwhelmed with work and upset about a relationship. It felt like I crawled up inside myself. All I could focus on was this bad feeling and I sadly missed out on the joy I normally felt there.
There could only be one reason for this dramatic change in experience – my mindset. Provence never changed. My mind did. It lost its sense of appreciation because I let an overwhelmed mind run wild.
Positive and negative minds can’t co-exist.
So, it’s impossible to feel joy even in an amazingly, gorgeous place. I kind of knew back then that my mind was the source. Yet, I couldn’t exactly understand it and definitely had no reliable tools to get myself out of it. So a tug-of-war pursued in my mind between these positive and negative minds.
Switch over to a normal, obvious place you feel overwhelmed like at work. Here this habit can be strong and harder to snap out of then in a place like Provence where it seems crazy.
You don’t have all those wonderful conditions surrounding you where beauty is leaping out into your face. When overwhelm hits, the negative thought habit kicks in. You start imagining the worst and can see how things will play out. And, this vicious cycle feeds on itself. The more you think about it, the worse you feel.
You’re not alone.
We’re all doing this. It’s only a matter of recognizing it and training your mind to think differently. You practice a new thought habit where you appreciate both good and bad outer conditions which is truly the secret to experiencing joy.
3 Crucial Steps to More Joy and Less Overwhelm
1. Accept Uncomfortable External Conditions
Resistance is your enemy. What you resist becomes stronger. So, do the opposite. Bravely sit in the uncomfortable situation. Don’t try to “what if” yourself out of it. No amount of reasoning in your head will make the circumstances change. They are what they are. Get factual about it. Even, get curious. (If that’s hard for you to do alone, talk things through with a trusted friend, advisor, mentor, coach).
2. Transform Challenges into an Opportunities
You’re powerful. With a single choice in how you think, you can make the worst situation ever the most profound one of your life. When you do this, you make your mind work for you not against you. When something arises, start calling it an opportunity. Encourage yourself.
You can practice now. Pick any situation you’re facing where you feel overwhelmed. In fact, do a compare and contrast so you get a better sense of how the feelings change inside. First, say how bad it is. Imagine the worst. Say it’s tough. Check how that makes you feel. Then, say this is an opportunity. You can learn something from this. Imagine the positive intention behind it. And, again, check how you feel.
3. List Out What’s Great About it
Yes. I really said this. Write down what is great about this experience. What is it giving to you that’s positive. The other alternative is tell yourself terrible things about it. What happens is the latter doesn’t work and will lead nowhere helpful. When you can find good in anything, you’ve unlocked the secret to joy.
This secret to more joy and less overwhelm is simple in reality. However, thought habits can be really strong and whip you back into patterns that are no fun. So, start with this simple process. Go little by little. The awareness of what’s going on is a huge step. And, if you need, ask for help because others can help you build this new thought habit.
I encourage you to think of one recent example where this would’ve come in handy. Imagine for a few minutes in your mind applying the steps of accepting and transforming the experience. Then write a list of what’s great about it.
Please share in the comments what helped you the most.
And, if someone else you know would love a little more joy in their life, pass this along to them.
p.s. If you want to go a step further, the even bigger secret is that you can amp up the joy even more if you take that good feeling and imagine it touching others.