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Just Be Happy?!

Stop being so negative.

You should smile.

Don’t cry.

Don’t worry.

Just be happy!

As well-intentioned as these demands can seem, they’re usually saying—“I love you but I’m uncomfortable by your display of distress. So appear happy so I can be comfortable, even if that invalidates your feelings and causes you dis-ease internally.”

While there is plenty of scientific evidence that purposefully smiling, intentionally laughing, and thinking about what we’re grateful for all lead to higher releases of “the feel-good chemicals” in our brains— when someone else commands us to do it, that backfires and we add shame to the list of “negative” feelings spiraling in our heads.

Allowing ourselves and others to express what’s being felt takes strength and patience. Be curious about the feeling rather than dismissive. Why did it arrive? What message is it bringing? What is lacking or present that needs to change in order for this emotion to get us in motion to a more centered space?

Instead of commanding our loved ones or ourselves to cheer up, we could say: “You seem to be feeling ______. Is there anything you want to do or say? I'd love to support you in any way you need.” Often we don’t know what we need in moments of distress. So just breathing together and holding space might be the best option. Or maybe we need to move it out of us through exercise or dance. Or maybe we need to talk about it, journal it, play it or draw it out.

The problems aren’t the feelings. It’s the way we channel our emotions that makes all the difference. When we help ourselves and each other express them in a way that doesn’t harm ourselves or those around us—we all win. Feelings are like the wind, they come through and as long as we don’t block them, they might rustle us up but then they'll move on through us.

Wishing you and yours space to just be real and feel all the feelings and welcome them as the messengers they are.

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