The title of this article is a quote that I posted on social media a few days ago. Of course, a lot of people who’ve had migraines and hangovers related to it instantly. But also, people who’ve gone through some kind of pain. Physical or mental pain. Or even people who’ve gone through some sort of difficult period in their lives resonated with the idea.
There’s something about pain and discomfort and illness and all sorts of ailments that makes you have a bad time but also makes you really sensitive to noticing and appreciating the relief when you start feeling better. We all feel horrible when we’re having a hangover but feel relieved when our head is clear after that. We feel sick when we’re down with a fever but feel a sense of comfort and strength when our body’s getting back to normal after that. This unfortunately is short lived and once our bodies are back in form, we start taking it for granted. By that, I don’t necessarily mean misusing it or abusing it, though a lot of people are also great at doing that. I mean the strange attitude that what’s readily available or what’s always there loses its novelty and becomes unimpressive. It’s importance and value fades into the backdrops of our lives.
Now, it’s all fine and dandy to say, you have to be in a constant state of gratitude, count your blessings, appreciate what you have, what you focus on expands, etc. Though every one of these clichés is a lot harder to practice and bring into life. But here’s something simple, something brief and yet practical. Spend five minutes every day to notice and appreciate what’s going well in your body and mind. Set an alarm for a specific time every day when you’re likely to be free for just five minutes. Here’s what you might want to do when that alarm goes off. Just become aware of where you are. Then, gently scan your head. By that I mean, just check how it feels. If it feels clear and nice, take a few seconds to keep noticing it and appreciate that good feeling. If you like, tell yourself something to the effect of, “wow! that feels good” or “It’s just awesome that my head feels clear and fresh” or “I’m glad my head’s feeling nice right now”, and really feel it. You can then do this with your stomach, your back, your shoulders, legs, arms and the rest of your body. Now it is likely that one day when that alarm goes off, you happen to be having a stiff neck. That’s alright. Just spend five minutes noticing the rest of your body that’s doing fine. In fact, you could even walk around and experience how
good various other parts of your body feel. You can think about your close friends and family and about how they’re doing. If they’re all doing fine, then there’s real reason to celebrate. Think about how you slept last night. If there was nothing really bothering you and you slept well last night then you should be grateful for that. Try this. Rate your current level of happiness on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being low and 10 being high. If you’re feeling anything that’s a 5 or more, you should be celebrating. Because people who have some serious problems probably feel like they’re at a -5 or a -10. All these are just ideas. There are no specific rules. The goal is just to spend at least five minutes becoming aware of and appreciating the good parts of your body, you mind and your life in general.
Finally, in case you didn’t realize. This is a direct application of positive psychology. This is gratitude and how gratitude looks like in practice or in action. Over time, you can extend this to 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or keep doing it for as long as you like.
Imagine a day when you wake up, have to get to work or even to a family event but you don’t really feel like. What would you do? If you’re like most people, you might make up a reason for not being able to make it. Call in sick. Tell your boss that you have a family event that you forgot about or tell your relatives that you have some urgent work in office. Or sometimes, drag yourself to work or get to the family do and go through it. It surprises me how some people might even be comfortable making up a story and lying instead of just saying; “Hey! I didn’t feel like coming”. “I don’t feel like getting to work today”. “I don’t feel like going to the gym”. Or whatever. Here are a couple of my own musings about the idea of “not feeling like”.
First, it’s alright to tell someone that you don’t feel like doing something. It doesn’t call for justification. People often feel pressurized to ask, “Why?”, “What happened?”, “What’s wrong?”, “Is everything alright?”, etc. It’s alright to say, “Nothing. I just don’t feel like”. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for that.
Second, people or sometimes you yourself are justified in asking, “Why you don’t feel like”. Which is typically what happens. Think about it. If you work for a company in a certain role and if you repeatedly don’t feel like going to work, then it’s important to ask yourself why that’s happening. If every evening you’re feeling down or gloomy maybe there’s something more to it. Our feelings are great thermometers to something more that might be lurking below. Maybe you’re in the wrong job. Maybe something’s not going well in your life and you’re refusing to look at it. Maybe you need to do more physical activity and not just sit at home every evening after work.
Third, keep your larger goal in mind while you still respect your feelings. If you want to complete a college degree to get a better job and that’s a true mark of accomplishment for you, then pay attention to your day to day feelings while focusing on that bigger goal. If there is an occasional day when you don’t feel like going to college, maybe you’re just tired. Let that pass. If there are more than a couple of days that you don’t feel like going to college, maybe there is a big assignment that you’ve been trying to dodge. If you’re never excited to go to college, maybe someone just forced you into an education and that’s not your actual goal. Or maybe you want to get a college degree but you aren’t doing the exact course that you should be doing. A working professional whose goal is to grow his company, sell out and retire young might just feel like working day and night. He doesn’t just feel like but is in fact thrilled to get to work every Monday morning. Now that’s also worth examining. Maybe he’s just meant to be an entrepreneur. So feeling like is as important as not feeling like. They both have useful stories to tell and it’s worth respecting that. Start getting comfortable with your feelings. Particularly with respect to looking at your own feelings and exploring them rather than brushing them under the carpet or running away from them. Dive into your feelings a bit. “I feel really awesome today, I wonder what’s up”. “I feel really heavy and dull every time I eat so much, maybe I should start eating lighter”.
Lastly, extend the same courtesy to others. Just like I mentioned earlier that it’s alright to tell others that you are actually feeling what you’re feeling. Practice respecting someone else’s feelings when they share it with you. If you are the boss or the relative whose event it is and the other person is saying, “I don’t feel like getting to work today”. “I feel like spending time alone today. Not going to a family event”. “No, I’m not sick and I’m not planning to quit, I just don’t feel like getting to work today”. Practice saying something to the effect of, “Oh, alright. See you soon”. This allows the other person to sort out what they are going through without the pressure of denial or justification.
Remember that your feelings are your dashboard of what’s happening inside you and your life situation. Respecting that is a cornerstone of living a good life.
The musk deer is a solitary and shy member of the deer family and is found in many mountainous regions of the world including the Himalayas. Musk is the name of the substance that is obtained from a gland of the male musk deer which is used as a base to make several kinds of high-end perfumes across the world. Now that’s obviously not the point of this article. There is a striking similarity between a possibly apocryphal story that I heard about the musk deer and the behavior of certain kinds of people I meet in my training and coaching sessions.
The story goes that a must deer once starts getting this wonderful fragrance from time to time and is wondering where it’s coming from. So, he decides to follow the fragrance and goes long distances trying to track it down. By now, since the fragrance is constant, the deer keeps at it and even scales high mountains and treads through dense forests to find its source. Eventually he gives up and lies down to rest in the middle of a large open field. In the midst of this relaxing moment he realizes that the fragrance is coming from his own musk gland. He confirms this by sniffing himself and the fragrance gets stronger. This showers the deer with an immense sense of peace and joy. The long search was over and what he was looking for all along was right where he was and in fact was within him. This is what I call the “Musk Deer Effect”. As a coach and positive psychologist, I meet a lot of people through my work who are on this constant search for something outside that will give them a solution for their problems. Now this search is a good thing and might be a great starting point to get what you want in life. But finally, nothing will ever work if you don’t work on yourself or apply what you find or learn on yourself.
For example, people who love to read end up reading several books on areas that they like. This is great, but eventually if you want to get better, you need to apply what you learnt into your life. You need to look inward. Buying a book on Zen or a book on Happiness is not an assurance that you are going be Zen like or become Happy. Nor is merely reading those books an assurance of that. You will experience Zen or Happiness only when you apply what you learn into your own life. Just like what the musk deer does in the end. He looks inward.
There’s another category of people who love watching motivational videos, attending motivational talks and seminars or even reading and sharing motivational quotes on social media. None of this goes anywhere if you don’t apply at least some of it into your own life. Listening to a motivational speaker might motivate you for a few minutes or an entire evening but if you don’t look into yourself and don’t find ways in which you can develop greater levels of motivation every day, then you’re not going to be motivated. Just like the musk deer, it’s important to realize that the source is within you.
For instance, I’ve met people in my training programs who tell me that they’ve had interpersonal relationship problems in almost all their jobs throughout life. Even so, like the musk deer, they always thought it wasn’t them but something outside, like a bad boss, the wrong company culture, horrible coworkers, etc. It never occurred to them to step outside the chains of the musk deer effect and say, “maybe the problem is with my behavior. I need to be a more comfortable person to be around with and work with”.
Likewise, in all walks of life, whether it’s getting fit, becoming happy, growing spiritually or even feeling a sense of accomplishment, try looking within yourself. Don’t be trapped by the musk deer effect and spend months and years chasing something which is right within you. The moment you realize this and make positive changes, you’ll realize that the wonderful fragrance is all yours.