Adopting Your (Positive) Way of Being

Video presentation of this page

Often, improving a situation by just 10% can take it from unmanageable to manageable. Adopting your chosen “way of being” is a place to get started to improve all aspects of your life.

What is a “way of being”? Your way of being can be defined as your manner, your behavior, and your demeanor, all of which are observable by another person. But it also includes how you view yourself and your experiences and the thoughts that go through your head in general.

Why adopt a way of being? The term “way of being” was coined by renowned psychologist Carl Rogers and is included in the title of his 1980 book, A Way of Being. In this profound and deeply personal collection of essays, Rogers advances many concepts that are now widely accepted. He urges his readers to seek a balanced life that includes the body and spirit instead of being constrained by only the intellectual -- because constraining oneself to a single realm in life results in internal frustrations and resentments. If additionally your way of being includes living with meaning, purpose, and doing good works, you will likely have significantly better health and a longer life (see the Meaning and Purpose pages for substantiation). And more immediately, you will likely experience mood elevation. That is, a sense of fulfillment and joy.

This page focuses on that last point, “mood elevation,” and in particular the intellectual and body realms, as the spiritual realm varies so much from person to person. However, an ideal way of being typically will coincide with one's spiritual beliefs, whatever they may be. Isn't that reason enough to proceed?

What would be an ideal way of being?

Here are some highlights:

A)  A high level of acceptance and forgiveness with regard to who you are and what you have done

B)  A willingness to be extremely helpful AND very expressive with the love you have for your mate, family, and friends

C)  A preference for a healthy diet, exercise, and adequate sleep

D)  An optimistic attitude

E)  A clear understanding of your life's meaning and purpose

F)  An understanding of the enormous, but perhaps obfuscated, love inside you

G)  A low level of emotional reactivity (to negative situations)

H)  A healthy, constructive connection with the pain in your past

Wow! That's a tall order.

Where would one start?

That is the crux of this article. For most people, starting with A, B, C, and D will work the best because:

  • You can start on them immediately
  • You will see the results very quickly
  • A 10 percent improvement in your sense of well-being can move your coping perception from unmanageable to manageable

Beginning with highlight A, if you want to have the energy to have a good life, you need to be kind and accepting of yourself (see Healing).

Highlight B, doing good works, especially as it relates to those around you, makes you feel good for two reasons: The first is that it feels good to be a good person, and if you do good things people will reflect that back to you -- and you will feel ... good! The second is just as compelling, and that is brain chemistry. Contributing to those outside yourself will activate a dopamine release, but this type of altruistic behavior also activates the release of another neurotransmitter named oxytocin (see Brain Chemistry), and that will lift your sense of well-being.

For highlight C, let’s start with exercise. Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, and boost self-esteem. It also can improve sleep, strengthen your heart, increase energy levels, lower blood pressure, improve muscle tone and strength, strengthen and build bones, reduce body fat, and make you look fit and healthy. Do you need evidence? Just search the web for the benefits of exercise. You will find countless studies in refereed journals. As for a healthy diet, you only have to go as far as the Kaiser Permanente website (here) to find that eating a healthy diet can go a long way toward supporting a positive mood. It might mean a little extra effort, especially with today’s busy lifestyles. But it’s worth it to eat well and wisely — so you can feel your best, in body, mind, and spirit. And we don’t need to substantiate the fact that we all feel better with a good night’s sleep.

Highlight D is optimism. In this study, Optimism is Associated with Mood, Coping, and Immune Change in Response to Stress, optimism was associated with better mood, higher numbers of helper T cells, and higher natural killer cell cytotoxicity. And in another study, on the Harvard website, Optimism and Your Health we see that,

Optimism helps people cope with disease and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.

Where does that leave us?

By simply deciding to:

  • Start being more helpful and more expressive with your love and affection
  • Choose a healthy lifestyle
  • Think positively

you can elevate your mood noticeably. These are things you can do right away without a coach or therapist. You just decide, “I want to do these things because I want to feel better!”

That last sentence is really important. You aren’t adopting a new way of being because someone is goading you into it. That would only feel depleting and is likely to fail. YOU are adopting a new way of being because YOU want to be the best person you can be. YOU want to enjoy a life with happy people around you. YOU like being admired and respected for being a good person and setting an excellent example. It is okay to start out with a YOU-centered approach because you are the one that wants to improve. This is an optimistic approach and one that is likely to succeed.

That’s the starting point. The people around you will feel better and you will feel more love for them. At first, it may disrupt your relationships and you might even get some negative feedback. But keep it up! If necessary, just explain that you are trying to become a happier person.

What if I feel like an imposter, taking a self-centered approach by being so nice to everyone?

Don’t worry about it. As time goes on, you will see and feel the enormous value of being extra loving and helpful. Here’s a great video, the gist of which is, “Don’t just fake it until you make it, fake it until you become it!”

Fake It Till You Make It - Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy

And if you want more reasons to push through feelings of inauthenticity, take a look at the next video where you’ll find we all feel like we are imposters on occasion. Don’t let it slow you down – you can use the fear to drive you forward.

How You Can Use Impostor Syndrome to Your Benefit - Ted Talk by Mike Cannon-Brookes

Closing Comments

There are no two ways about it: Change can be difficult. But it can be made a little easier by rallying your neurohormones. Instead of buying a new car or drinking more coffee, try offering more help and compassion, especially to those closest to you. It will enhance your relationships, including the one you have with yourself (see the video on self-compassion below.)

When you are feeling great about being a good helper and about doing good works, turn your attention to the longer-term aspects of your new way of being. Remember the highlights above labeled D, E, F, and G? Here they are again with the reasons you might include them in your way of being:

  • A clear understanding of your meaning and purpose. Meaning and Purpose are covered on their own pages on this website. The benefits of understanding these aspects are described there. But, moreover, the idea is to organize the thoughts in your head. Would you like to cook a Thanksgiving dinner in an already super-messy kitchen?
  • An understanding of the enormous, but perhaps obfuscated, love inside you. We all have more love inside us than we see day to day. This is true whether you are a secular individual or believe in God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teach that God has an unlimited amount of love. He can shower unlimited amounts of love on each of us. That “infinite” love gives us power, not only to care for those around us, but to care for and show compassion to ourselves.
  • A low level of emotional reactivity (to negative situations). That “infinite” love is also a power that protects us from the pain sent our way. It is a buffer, allowing us to be more contemplative. When faced with an unjust accusation, instead of thinking, “This is not fair, I do not deserve these unjust words!” we can think, “Why is he/she saying this to me? What is he/she feeling?”
  • A healthy, constructive connection with the pain in your past. It is well known that traumatic events often result in the creation of unhealthy mental defenses. That is why we end up with the undesirable behaviors nearly all of us exhibit. But connecting with and then processing painful experiences can be extremely challenging. For example, the majority of combat PTSD victims show little improvement with mainstream therapy modalities. You may think you understand the depth of pain associated with a traumatic experience, but your brain expertly keeps you from accessing it. If you can deeply connect with a painful memory, you may be able to shed some of the resulting defenses. Is the pain then gone? It might not be gone, but it may be largely defused so you can connect with it and use its energy to build compassion for others. You can use its energy to better understand the concept of “common humanity,” whereby we realize we are all suffering and the way out is to help other people. And that takes us back to highlight A!

You can find more on connecting with your feelings here: Connecting With Your Deeper Feelings