Life is amazing. Being alive a gift. And one of the many things which make us 'alive' is the full range of emotions we can experience.
Yet, it seems at the moment, that we're becoming afraid of emotions. That the good ones are ok but the bad ones are to be avoided. But there is no heirarchy of emotions, no emotions that are ultimately good or bad – to be fully alive, and to navigate our way through the rollercoaster ride of life we need to go through them all and fully feel them all. And we can still retain a core of happiness through them all – if we want to.
I talk a lot about choosing to be happy – because I do ultimately believe it is a choice – but that doesn't mean you then only feel happiness 24 hours a day, no other emotions allowed. People often question how you can 'choose to be happy', and I have pondered for a long time to try and work out a way to describe it – and I have harked back to my childhood to help me explain...
Does anyone remember the paddle bat and ball game, where the ball is fixed to the bat on a length of elastic? The idea of the game is to keep batting the ball for as long as you can, as the ball bounces in all directions, returning back to the bat every time – well for this particular post, that simple game is my analogy for the emotional game of life.
The ball represents your emotions – every direction a different one. And the bat represents your core emotion, the one you return back to. And the best bit is, you get to choose your bat.
It would be easy to keep the ball on the bat at all times. But there would be no challenge, no risk, no fun. The purpose of the game is for the ball to bounce – just as the purpose of our lives is to move into all these different emotional states. Sometimes we'll be sad, sometimes bored, occasionally really down and possibly often anxious. And these emotions are all a normal and acceptable part of the 'game' – we shouldn't hide from them or try and bury them. We need to feel them and welcome them knowing we will soon return to our bat.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to a lot of normal, everyday life – if we avoided it we would never try anything new, travel somewhere different or challenge ourselves into new adventures. And feeling sad or down, sometimes not even knowing why, is also a perfectly normal state to be in for a while. To live life is to bounce into all these areas at times – confident that we will come back to our constant and stable bat. We need to no longer fear them, but welcome them as evidence that we are living life – that we are experiencing the full range of emotions that life throws at us, not just the few we want to pick and choose.
But what we want to make sure of is that the ball returns to a good bat – and this is why you can choose to be happy, you can make your bat a happy one. So even though you welcome and go through all other emotions (fully, deeply and often still with a struggle) you can remind yourself you will get through them and return to a positive core emotion. Even at the really difficult times, your bat can still be in sight, to remind you to stay grateful for the small things and to keep you going when the going gets tough. You know you can bounce back.
But you can choose the wrong bat – and you may not even be aware of it. Your bat might be one of negative thinking, of taking things for granted or even one of stress and anxiety. You may not realise that your core emotion - the one you return to when things are 'normal' and 'mundane' – is one that could be harming your mental health. The things we feed ourselves everyday – our self talk, things we follow on social media, things we read about – all feed into this core emotion. Our 'bat' is made up of everything that helps shape our mindset – so start being aware of everything you feed your mind with. Changing your 'diet' can help you change your bat!
Make your paddle bat a happy one!
* IMPORTANT: Problems arise when the ball doesn't return. It is when we don't return from these emotions and they start to envelop us that mental health strays into mental illness. Or when our bat, our constant normal state becomes one of anxiety or sadness, rather than these emotions being ones we bounce into and out off. If this is you, if your ball doesn't bounce back, or you need to change your bat but you don't know how, then please talk to someone. Talk to a friend, see your GP or seek help from one of the many mental health organisations – it is ok not to be ok. Take the first steps towards swapping your bat today *