Today, we are going to learn about the one habit that makes you happy. Now, let’s begin.
Many people perceive happiness as a haven at the end of a long journey. But standing between you and your haven are a myriad of challenges. There may be enemies blocking your path. There may be dangerous obstacles you need to overcome or burdens weighing you down.
In life, we call these challenges, “stressors.” We see them as foes, obstacles, and burdens, but what if stress isn’t your enemy? What if stress is the key to a happier life? No matter who you are, your life will be full of challenges. On your journey, you’ll run into difficult situations and unforeseen pitfalls, but your happiness depends on how you respond to those obstacles.
Because most people, when they reach a roadblock, turn tail and run. You avoid the stressors in your life. You curse the obstacles in your way. You wish everything could be simple and straightforward. But that’s the reason most people don’t find happiness. Instead of facing stressors head-on, they avoid the challenges that make their journey meaningful.
Of course, that’s easier than it sounds. You want to feel capable of tackling whatever life throws at you. You want to cultivate a positive and courageous mindset. But where does that mindset come from? And what steps can you take to change your relationship with the stressors in your life? It all starts with a small shift in your understanding. Think about what stress means to you. Stress weighs you down. Stress interferes with your success. Stress decreases your focus and motivation.
Our society teaches us that life is supposed to be stressful. We grow up believing every new challenge is an enemy, an obstacle, or a burden. Every goal, every habit, every relationship — we view these things as negative experiences. But here’s the worst part… You don’t just panic about your stressors. You become stressed about your stress.
Maybe you feel like you’re not doing enough. Maybe you see other successful people and think, “I should be doing more.” You’re stressed, not because there’s a stressor in your life, but because you’re unsure how much stress you want or need.
For these reasons, stress has taken on a new meaning. Everyday stress has become synonymous with another word: distress. When you hear the word distress, what do you think about? Anxiety. Fear. Unhappiness.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
These days, stress and distress have become one and the same. But stress doesn’t have to be a negative experience. It shouldn’t be a terrible burden weighing on your shoulders or an enemy standing in your way. Stress can be a positive influence on your life. But first you need to change your perspective. Instead of distress, let’s talk about another word: eustress.
You may be hearing this word for the first time. Unlike distress, it’s not a regular member of our emotional vocabularies; but it should be. Eustress is a healthy kind of stress that stimulates more positive emotions, like happiness and well-being. This term was coined by an endocrinologist named Hans Selye. He discovered that stress triggers a positive chemical reaction in your brain. The right kinds of stress can also create uplifting emotions, like motivation, inspiration, and self-confidence. It can even affect your physical health, resulting in a more positive relationship between you and your body.
But how do you access healthier, more positive kinds of stress? Here’s the tricky part.
Eustress and distress are two sides of the same coin. They’re opposite reactions to the same exterior stressors. Imagine stress like an emotional spectrum, eustress is sitting far to the left while distress is far to the right. Every stressor falls somewhere on the spectrum, but that location is different for every single person. In other words, anyone can experience eustress or distress in response to any challenge. If that’s true, why are people experiencing distress almost all the time?
The answer is actually built into your brain. Your sympathetic nervous system, one of many nervous systems in your brain, is designed to rescue you from stressful situations by triggering something called a fight or flight response. When you feel threatened, your brain triggers that fight or flight response, causing you to do one of two things.
Either you run away 🏃♂️… or you fight 👊 back.
If you’re in real danger, your fight or flight response may save your life. But your sympathetic nervous system can’t distinguish between real danger and daily stressors. If you perceive daily stressors as threats to your well-being, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear, creating fear, anxiety, and other forms of distress. But what if we perceived daily stressors, not as threats, but as opportunities? This is a technique used by many of the happiest people in the world.
When they encounter a source of stress, they welcome that stress into their life, and they use that stress to learn and grow. For example, let’s say you’re parting ways with a previous employer. Most people would experience this event as a negative stressor. You may panic about finding a new job. You may worry that you’ve made a huge mistake. You may lose your confidence and motivation. But a change in your career doesn’t have to be a negative moment in your life. Isn’t it also an opportunity for change?
Couldn’t you use this opportunity to pursue a more meaningful career? Could this be a chance for you to try something you’ve always wanted to try? Of course, you can’t change your viewpoint on stress overnight. And no one expects you to. Even after reading this article, you might feel equally negative about your daily stressors. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change. There will always be steps you can take to shine a more positive light on your stressors. At work, for example, try welcoming more stress into your life.
Volunteer for new projects. Create more concrete goals. Set your sights on a promotion you never thought you’d get. To be clear, you don’t have to accomplish these things tomorrow, next week, or even this year. But it’s important to recognize the opportunities available to you.
You can achieve more. You can rise to the occasion. And over time, you may change your mindset. You may realize that stress unlocks a happier, more confident version of yourself. Once you’ve found that success in the workplace, you can carry those lessons into your personal life.
Create opportunities to grow. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Learn something new every day. For example, many people want to travel, but they never actualize their dreams. Maybe you’re intimidated traveling somewhere you’ve never been. Maybe you’re afraid to change your lifestyle. Traveling can be a huge source of stress in your life, but it also broadens your horizons, inspires your creativity, and opens your mind to a new world of possibilities. As your relationship with stress changes, there are obstacles you should keep in mind.
You may get excited, try everything, and then lose your motivation. This is called emotional burnout, and it affects many people who accept more stressors than they can handle. Ultimately, eustress requires careful balance. You want to welcome stressors into your life, but you don’t want to put pressure on yourself to accomplish everything at once.
Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. That’s how you end up stressing about your stress instead of enjoying the opportunities you’ve chosen. For example, when you’re feeling exhausted, take a break. Cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to take days off and go on vacations. It’s okay to move at a slower pace than other people. Because it’s your life to live, and you can live it however you want. As a rule of thumb, listen to your brain. If something doesn’t feel good, step back. Reassess. Change your approach.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for your needs and take care of yourself. Because that’s what happiness looks like. You’re pushing yourself forward and enjoying every step of the way. As you progress on your journey, here’s another helpful trick to keep you motivated and grounded.
Keep track of your accomplishments on a list or table — something you can reference whenever you’re feeling down. On this list, monitor your progress toward personal, professional, or creative goals. This isn’t just a helpful organization tool; it can also be a source of happiness in your life. Whenever you look back at what you’ve accomplished, you can see how much you’ve grown. You can see how stress has improved your life, and that gives you the confidence to take on new challenges.
Of course, those are just goals. There’s a lot more to happiness than personal and professional accomplishments. Yes, changing your relationship with stress can make you a more fulfilled person, but how else does eustress affect your life? Eustress also changes the way you think. It turns negative experiences into positive experiences, gradually cultivating more confident decisions and a more unique lifestyle. Over time, happiness and self-confidence creates a mental and emotional rhythm called a “flow state.”
Someone in a flow state feels capable and empowered to do what they genuinely want to do. They may not have all the answers, but they know what they want from one moment to the next. And that is a powerful feeling Finding your flow is like finding your sense of self. After years of struggling, you can see the path in front of you. There may be obstacles in your way.
There may be mysteries beyond the horizon, but you know one thing for certain: every challenge, every source of stress, will make you a stronger individual.