I was asked recently: ‘how do you stay buoyant when life gets ‘difficult’?’
How indeed? The question within the question in our modern stressful times is how to stay positive, how to avoid anxiety and overload, how to stay buoyant and float like a cork, not sink like a stone.
I find two approaches work well, one is insight, and the other is practice. The key to both is to give up resistance, accept that life is as it is, and change what you can. This way you stay on top of life, you float, not sink.
Many years ago, a lovely (and insightful!) friend observed that, given the slightest chance, things generally work out for the best. She is a good-natured soul, she always has adventures and laughs about them. She is a fine embodiment of this approach, constantly radiates fun, and finds the best in situations.
Not everyone is like this. However, her insight did get me pondering. I consciously and deliberately started exploring hypothetically: what if everything IS working out for the best? What if every experience carries its own resolution and its own answer within it? What if the purpose of the disappointment and even depression is not to hurt us but to strengthen us? What if the purpose of suffering isn’t to make us suffer, but to liberate our consciousness, and make us more compassionate, tolerant and happier?
Commentators from the Dalai Lama, to Victor Frankl, to daily social media users all observe that sometimes life’s difficult times produce beautiful and unexpectedly wonderful consequences. The wise course is to be open to this possibility as soon as possible – not to beat ourselves up when plans go awry but to treat the experience simply as information and use it to build a better future.
How do we do this?
A fine psychological practice is ‘benefit finding’, looking for the benefit in the experience. This practice trains us actively to look for positives. As with all practices, the more we use it, the better it works. We can all practice beating anxiety and stress and focusing instead on promoting our own peaceful happiness.
Squirreled away in the heart of this practice is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a stress-buster, a remedy for depression and is at the heart of empowerment. When we are mindful we experience the ‘now’ and we move from a place of resistance to one of acceptance. We move from a story of ‘I wish this hadn’t happened’ to ‘Here I am, life is what it is, what can I do now?’ We take control of our life again.
A complementary and experiential practice that fits well with ‘benefit finding’ is the key nls: natural laughter skills and laughter yoga practice of breathing and smiling. The practice is to breathe deeply & slowly and smile gently. It is a core exercise in ‘Awakening the Laughing Buddha within’ because it is a simple and natural stress-buster. It works because it automatically induces calmness and peaceful happiness. It allows us to stop and take stock, to re-centre ourselves and find our buoyancy.
It helps us float like a cork, not sink like a stone.
Let’s start by breathing deeply and smiling gently?