It’s a fact: the self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Americans purchase books, audio books, programs and sessions with personal coaches to help them eliminate the stress of their daily grind, heal the hurts of their past, and find peace in a world that seems to be continually moving faster. It’s the reason that some of us become addicted to work to quiet the roar of self-doubt, use alcohol or drugs to hold off painful emotions, spend our last dollars on the newest fads in fashion, diet, exercise and yes, even self-help to “fix” what feels so broken. With so many people searching for something that seems so difficult to find and keep, we wondered if there was something that could be universally true for all. Helping guests at Gulf Breeze Recovery, our non-12 step drug rehab, we have noticed a trend in what makes a lasting impression on guests during their journey to recover their mental and physical health to be free from their addictions and live a healthy drug free life. Below are six truths we have found that seem to stick with us, as well as our guests.
1. Happiness is always within.
We tend to search outside ourselves in the form of retail therapy, vacations, and even other people in order to find happiness. External things can lift our mood temporarily and give us a mental break from the problems we think we must deal with in our daily life, but those issues are always waiting for us when we return. True contentment is always within, like a well with an unlimited supply of fresh, clean water that has simply been hidden beneath boulders of our real (and imagined) stressors. Understanding that we can access that well of peace and contentment at any time gives some people the freedom to move through their life without having to chase happiness on the outside.
2. Become like little children.
Jesus himself was quoted as saying it as a reminder to access heaven, and we agree. If life is feeling decidedly un-heavenly, take a moment to watch the masters of shaking it off: children! Healthy kids move through emotions like water and rarely hang on to their feelings about the things life hands to them. Watch a small child become angry about a toy that has been taken away and notice that in mere minutes he has moved on to something else with no thoughts about what he’s missing. Children bicker and fight with forceful energy, and then just as quickly make up and become best buddies again. This doesn’t mean that children’s arguments are less important than our own, it just means that children seem to intuitively understand that emotions come and go, and they aren’t weighed down by the emotions they had five minutes ago. It’s quite difficult to firmly take hold of the present if your hands are full of the past.
3. Tread lightly when emotionally charged.
Emotions are useful indicators of the quality of our thinking at any given moment, the only issue is that they make us both more biased and more forceful at the same time. When you begin to feel the rush of emotions that come with stress, anger, grief, or even happiness, your thinking is now filtered through the cloud of that emotion, which can easily take away all objectivity and make things seem better or worse than they actually are. We’ve all looked back on certain experiences and realized that, with hindsight, they weren’t as big as we made them out to be. Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” Being able to recognize quickly that your emotions are ramping up your thoughts about whatever you are going through is often enough to help you move through it rationally and keep your sanity.
4. Your thinking isn’t always the authority on what is real.
As strange as that sounds, your thoughts about any given situation you are in are often misguided or completely wrong. Not only are they subject to your emotional state at the time, your observations are also passing through your years of conditioned beliefs, upbringing, and even your gender, which can play a huge role in how you perceive situations in the same way it would be hard to read these words through glasses covered in scratches. Take a look at any major football game—you will no doubt see die-hard fans from each side, both convinced their team is the best and should therefore win. You’ll also see people who were dragged along by friends who have little care for who wins, children who just want to buy popcorn and foam fingers, and others who are just there for the cheerleaders or the half-time show. Every person has a slightly different experience of the same game, created by their own thoughts, feelings and even physical health at the time. Your perception is never not skewed in some way, and knowing this with certainty doesn’t mean you have to give up on experiencing life—but it does help you take it less seriously when what you are experiencing is somewhat less than “perfect”.
5. Life is only experienced through this moment.
One moment in time, one step at a time, one day at a time…so many songs are devoted to this, you’d think we would all remember it: Life is only this moment, and your only point of contact with life itself is in the present. That means that your only challenge is dealing with the moment you are in, and it’s not necessary to solve all of the problems of your past or your future. Learning this takes a huge weight off your shoulders because you are no longer stuck trying to take care of things that aren’t even happening right now. Both the past and the future can only exist in your own thoughts about them, right now in the present, and you can always find the strength or courage to deal with what is right now.
6. And finally, life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.
This one sort of falls in line with the others, but it bears repeating because it’s that important. I’m not going to go all “Matrix” on you and try to convince you there is no spoon; life can definitely have some potholes and no amount of convincing yourself they aren’t there is going to help you when you step right into them. But when those unavoidable potholes do pop up, understanding your own inner health and resilience gives you a behind-the-scenes map, allowing you to be stuck less often, and for shorter stays.
It’s quite difficult to firmly take hold of the present if your hands are full of the past.
Gulf Breeze Recovery is a non 12 step holistic drug treatment facility on the water overlooking Pensacola Beach in Florida. We focus on helping our guests identify exactly how their addictions began and how to break free from these addictions to lead a successful life without the need for weekly meetings or sponsors.