"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Finding the Balance: How to Avoid Living in Extremes



Bridge through high grasses. Do you find your mood swings between happy and sad with nothing in between?

Do you have to be walking on sunshine to feel you had a good day?

Or did the world fall out from under your feet if it didn’t go so well?

We are currently in a time of ‘urgent living’. Everyone seems to be in a rush, and everything has to happen today! Now! This minute!

Within that rush is an expectation, one of seeing our dreams materialising and all our hard work paying off, or getting what we believe we want/deserve. But if it doesn’t happen – if that moment doesn’t bring a rush of joy or success, we fall back in despair, sometimes so deep we struggle to recover.

We are either really happy or inconsolably sad. I call this living in extremes.

“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go, and knowing when to do which of the two.” - Rumi

Some people believe that if they are not happy all the time there is something wrong with them – or in their relationship, friendships, job; that if things aren’t working out as they had expected they are doing something wrong, or failing in some way. They don’t believe it is okay to have an ‘off’ day and find life a struggle. They have to talk about being happy ALL the time and only say and do positive things – nothing negative will be tolerated.

This can lead to feelings of anxiety and deep sadness – one they daren’t speak about, otherwise it risks falling into a depressed way of thinking.

It is an ‘all or nothing’ perspective – ‘I’m either happy or I’m sad’.

But the trick to riding the pendulum of life is not to let it swing too far in either direction. You have to find the balance.

“Balance is the key to everything. What we do, think, say, eat, feel, they all require awareness, and through this awareness we can grow.” – Koi Fresco

You have to accept that some days you might not wake up feeling full of energy, or looking forward to the day. And during those times it’s okay to feel sad or overwhelmed and disappointed with life. The trick is to not hold onto it and believe that it will be like that forever.

I was raised by a mother who wallowed in a negative mindset. If things didn’t go her way then there was something wrong and someone to blame. She was never satisfied with what she had in any given moment. She was always looking for something else, something better, and she had high expectations.

I unwittingly took on this mindset, creating drama whenever my life felt dull, usually of a self-destructive, negative kind: pushing people away, running away, starting over and again and again, each time believing I would find the happiness I so desperately believed was out there. It took me a long time to realise that it was only through stable living and finding a calm within that it would appear – and that it already resided within me.

“True happiness resides within you. Happiness is something that you are, and it comes from the way that you think.” - Wayne Dyer

A friend of mine asked me recently why it was that everyone around her seemed so happy all the time when she wasn’t. She expressed how hard it was to keep up the pretence that she was happy too, just to fit in. But I reminded her that it was an illusion and that it was unlikely they were happy all the time. It was an assumption she was making that reflected her own feelings of anxiety about not feeling happy all the time. She believed she ‘should’ be happy all the time, and that there was nothing to complain about, yet inside she didn’t feel it.

Many of us do this. I have often looked at others and their lives and felt envy, wondering how they were so content and happy. Asking myself, how have they achieved that; what am I doing wrong?  But in reality I was projecting the thought that others were happier than me to sustain the cycle of misery and feelings of failure I was experiencing. When I spoke to those people I found their lives were not as perfect as I had thought – and some of those people felt the same way I did.

“Comparison is the thief of Joy.” – Teddy Roosevelt

These feelings can keep us disconnected from each other, causing us to stand back and keep our distance, even withdraw from social interaction. But separation causes pain; it is only through connection we can feel love and a sense of belonging and contentment.

To find balance we need to connect to those around us, which in turn will enable us to gauge what is real. If we speak our feelings out loud and be honest about them, and share them, we can stop seeking unattainable highs through self-imagined ideals of other people’s lives.

By reducing expectations – both from ourselves as from others – we can start living in the moment, whilst allowing ourselves the ‘bad days’ and not pushing ourselves to some unrealistic, insincere emotion.

If we wake up one morning not feeling either happy or sad, we don’t have to push ourselves to feel any particular way. We can let the day unfold, accept who we are on that day and in that moment, without any demands, and be gentle with ourselves if things don’t go our way.

Once we take the pressure off we allow ourselves to live more balanced lives, and avoid dwelling in the extremes.