Lately, I have received multiple requests to try to connect a focus of mindsets to happiness. In one request, the requester said something along the lines of, “If you can connect mindsets to happiness, people will focus more on mindsets because everyone is interested in improving their happiness.”
I want to make this connection, but I will not make this connection in the way I believe it is being asked.
This is because research has found that the more people focus on being “happy,” the less happy they are.
So, instead of “happiness,” I want to focus on a concept that if we seek out, will lead to arriving at a place of peace, contentment, connection, and positive well-being (perhaps summarized as “happiness”).
This concept and place is called restorative embodied self-awareness.
Let me explain what that is and how one gets there.
Three Types of Embodied Self-Awareness
There are three forms of embodied self-awareness. These forms represent our present-moment ability to experience and be in tune with the sensations that are arising from within our bodies, including our emotions.
You can think about these forms as different degrees to which we possess this ability to be present and in tune with our body sensations.
Dysregulated Embodied Self-Awareness
At the lowest level is dysregulated embodied self-awareness. When we are in this state of being, we are disconnected from the sensations rising from within our bodies, and we will often seek to suppress or ignore such sensations, often as a protection mechanism to cut off pain. While such a state of being may protect us from pain, it also prevents us from positive feelings (e.g., joy, connection, relief).
When someone is in a dysregulated state, their felt experiences generally include at least one of the following: pain, self-focus, addictive urges, panic, feeling stuck, lost, numb, rage, desperation, hopelessness.
Have you ever, or have you ever seen someone who, erupted in rage? Reflecting upon that moment, don’t you think the rage was a cover for a deeper feeling of hurt?
Trauma (big “T” or little “t”) is a common cause of dysregulation, or this disconnection from one’s bodily sensations.
Restorative Embodied Self-Awareness
At the highest level is restorative embodied self-awareness. When we are in this state of being, we are fully connected to the sensations arising from within our bodies, and we seek to connect with and feel such sensations, whether positive or negative.
When someone is in a restorative state, they possess the ability to be at peace; experience deep connection, relief, and presence; and accept what is. This is a place, where we are really rationally thinking, instead we are just being.
Being in this state, to me, seems like a prerequisite for happiness.
But, to get here, we have got to develop the capability of connecting with our bodily sensations and emotions, even if they are negative.
So, a question becomes, how do we get here?
Modulated Embodied Self-Awareness
That is where modulated embodied self-awareness comes in. Modulated embodied self-awareness is the middle level of embodied self-awareness, and is a state of being where we are rationally focusing on exploring our bodily sensations and emotions and trying to understand them, make sense of them, and experience them.
It is critical to note that one cannot go directly from a dysregulated state to a restorative state. In order for us to go from a dysregulated state to a restorative state, one must go through a modulated state.
Also, part of being in a modulated state is acknowledging and owning the fact that we have been in a dysregulated state.
When individuals learn about mindsets, including the following:
- Mindsets are foundational to our thinking, learning, and behavior
- Mindsets generally are influencing our thinking, learning, and behavior at a nonconscious level
- Mindsets are long-range neural connections, that if healthy, integrate our mind’s three major brain regions
They are implicitly invited to deepen their self-awareness and explore any dysregulation.
Now, there are certain people that will resist doing this. Generally, this is a self-protection mechanism and evidence of their dysregulation.
But, for those who become willing to explore their current mindsets, it facilitates a shift to modulated embodied self-awareness, which as mentioned previously, is a necessary step to entering a restorative state.
In fact, when we focus on shifting our mindsets, we are taking action and developing habits that sustain a restorative state.
To state this more simply, doing mindset work allows for us to do some deep shifts that involve connecting more fully with our bodily sensations and emotions (i.e., getting out of dysregulation), and as we enhance our capacity to do this, we allow ourselves to enter into a restorative state, which is where peace, contentment, deep connection, relief, presence, and positive well-being resides (aka, happiness).
If you want to learn about a great example who has done this deep work for herself and now helps people do this deep work, let me recommend reading Edith Eger’s books:
Edith is a concentration camp survivor, who authentically writes about her trauma, struggles, and healing. These two books are among the most powerful books I have ever read and I couldn’t recommend them more highly.