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What Makes Us Do the Things We Do and How Can We Do Better?

Updated on April 27, 2017

Is the Past Our Greatest Motivator?

We all have that feeling that we could be more, do more and be better. Most of us have "baggage" that we try and deal with as a hurdle to becoming better, healthier individuals. The impact of a broken home, grief as a child losing a parent or loved ones, moving home, changing schools, suffering through a particular nasty divorce, these things have shaped how we view the world, how we engage with others and how we respond in a crisis or form bonds.

For the longest time our focus as a society has been on our ills and how to cure them. How to weed out the nastiness and administer a cure to bring us back to a space of neutrality and openness or forgiveness.

We seek all manner of therapies to cleanse our anger and our pain in the hope that our newer, brighter, shinier selves will live a better version of our lives and achieve all our seemingly far off goals.

What if there's more to it than that though? What if its not just our past that is fuelling our subconscious minds and our behaviour patterns or belief systems?

Hector and the Search for Happiness

A New Science and an Ancient Truth

As a therapist I know how critical restoring the human mind and body to harmony is and how powerful that shift is and I by no means want to disparage that fact.

When we look at our pasts and resolve our old conflicts, we find new resilience and perspective on patterns that we play out daily in our lives. If you can forgive an angry and abusive parent and accept that they were hurting and broken in their own way, you can view them with empathy and suddenly you no longer expect every relationship to be one of tension and angst. You understand that hurt people hurt people, a simple yet profound truth that allows you to reconcile your past and seek out relationships that nurture you and build you up rather than break you down.

The human mind and emotion is a complex and beautiful thing though and with a recent shift away from scrutinizing pathology, illness and brokenness to an awareness of joy and positivity, new answers are being found.

Our subconscious mind is like a beautiful sponge, a tape recorder recording all that you perceive, feel and experience every moment. It has no moral compass and no judgement, you attach those later. However, your behaviour is dictated by a response to what you are perceiving and experiencing.

So why is that when several people are placed in the same situation, war for example, they respond so differently? One person may immediately try and run away, one may join the "cause" and fight and yet another may immediately start seeking the wounded and aim to lessen the suffering of others.

The situation is objective, but the participants processing of the event is subjective and so is their response in turn.

If you were raised in a home where compassion and kindness were tantamount, or you have been exposed to others being altruistic and compassionate, you will almost certainly seek to ease the pain and suffering of others, as the recent science of studying kindness and altruism now proves.

There is a saying " Energy flows where your attention goes" and it seems this ancient wisdom is pervasive. When our children see us being kind to ourselves and others, they follow suit. When they watch television shows where people shoot each other in broad daylight and spit on the corpse, they too lose respect for human life and its beautiful vulnerability.

Focusing on our positivity and kindness improves our immune system and oxytocin levels which in turn makes us more compassionate and creates a greater sense of belonging.

Recent studies show watching another person be kind makes us want to be kinder and activates our sense of belonging to humanity. When we witness altruism, we too want to get involved and help others and this in turn boosts our long term happiness and contentment with our lives.

It's fairly obvious what observing the opposite does to our mind, emotions and behaviour.

Kindness Is Contagious, Go Get Some!

A New Way to Live Happy

No matter what happened to you yesterday, or as a child, or in your last relationship, you can choose to be happier and healthier from today.

Seeking therapy and cleansing your old emotions and active triggers is a great idea, boost your happiness and wellbeing today though by changing what you look at and who you spend your time with.

Give it a try. For 30 days try and stay away from programmes of violence or emotional angst, watch nature programmes or movies based on happiness and helping instead.

Make time to help someone else, perhaps your neighbour needs their lawn mowed or you notice a homeless person needs a warm blanket and a cup of hot soup. You may have a local organisation seeking volunteers desperately.

Perhaps you could swap out crime thrillers for books with a more positive subject matter or choose to phone up a friend who is going through a rough time and just remind them of who they are when they are happy, laugh over a shared memory or create a new giggle.

We have so much to be grateful for and when we stop to share what we have, it magically seems to double.

Who we are today is a result of what we saw, heard and chose yesterday, today is an opportunity to create who you will be and how you will feel tomorrow.

Kindness as a Mission

Do you regularly volunteer or offer kindness to others?

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In a Nutshell

  • What we see, hear and do we perpetuate to others around us which then becomes the environment we live in.
  • Creating a space of happiness and forgiveness boosts our own health and sense of wellbeing
  • Kindness is contagious
  • Violence and meanness is contagious too
  • Helping others and being altruistic is scientifically proven to have the longest-lasting boost on our own happiness

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