Holding the Line: Your Choice is in the Feeling, Every Time
How do we choose to feel? How often do we even consider we have the choice in how we feel? Do feelings not happen to us? As we evolve as human beings, awareness in how our mental health unfolds, shows us how we are in charge of how we feel. Gone are the days we can blame everyone around us, and what they are doing for how we feel. Don’t get me wrong, we still try to play that game (or at least I do on occasion), however those who have taken any relationship training, mental health training, or who are seeing a mental health professional, will quickly share how we feel is our responsibility every time.
This is good news and bad news. The good news is we are responsible for how we feel, and the bad news is we are responsible for how we feel. If we are feeling love, elation, joy and excitement, we may be proud that we contrived those feelings. For those of us who struggle with feelings of sadness, fear, anger and despair, we may struggle to own this choice.
Understanding the roots of where feelings come from and how they come about is key. The brain is comprised of various systems. One being the limbic system, which is responsible for behavioural and emotional experiences. The two most important parts of the limbic system are the amygdala and the hypothalamus, which responds and releases hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.
Low levels are often related to sadness and higher levels support happiness. With this very basic, and surface level description of where emotions and feelings are created within the body, beliefs, memories, and thoughts are important to consider. Thoughts are like raindrops (Byron Katie) and whether we choose to believe (beliefs), which may be influenced by memories that may elicit certain feelings.
How are we most likely to choose happiness? There are various lists of suggestions on how the choice of happiness is most likely to occur.
1. Being around positive people is one of them. In policing, we are often exposed to situations with people who are not experiencing positivity. Those we choose to engage with between calls, and outside of the job, may have the greatest influence on choosing happiness.
2. Being around positive people can be contagious, supporting the secretion of those happy hormones.
3. Another suggestion is being the best you. When we know and more importantly believe we have given our all, something that is especially important to notice in the job of policing, where judgment and criticism are rampant, happiness is prevalent. When you find aspects where we are being our best self, these happy hormones are often present. If we must compare (comparison has us losing every time), compare to our former selves.
4. Focus on what we have, want, or what makes us feel amazing. We get what we focus on whether we like it or not, so make it positive. In combination with the focus aspect be a solution-focuser rather than a problem-solver. Again, our focus is similar to a radio wave frequency. If you want to find solutions, it is best to be on the frequency, and focus of solutions rather than problems.
5. A positive outlook or attitude is another great way to experience happiness and produce happy hormones. I like to call it our outlook, our perceptual lens, and we always have the choice in how we experience every situation or what lens we see the world through. In policing, we can choose to see our calls for service as “we supported people today in making their difficult day just a little bit better” no matter what the incident.
6. Choose to smile. Smiling makes us happy period.
7. Let go and get excited about the next chapter in our world. This is one of the most powerful lessons I have and continue to be reminded of that brings the feeling happiness and peacefulness.
8. Being generous with our kindness and time is a larger component to the release of our love hormone dopamine. Every interaction we have in policing provides us with the opportunity of being kind and generous with our time to those in our community we are serving and those we are working with.
9. Be honest. It just feels good all the way around.
10. Caring for ourselves in every capacity, mentally, physically is a great way to elicit the feeling of happiness. Say yes, every time you can. It just feels good.
With the holiday season fast approaching in our ever-changing climate let’s choose our feelings wisely. The happiness choice is ready for you.