I used to think that celebrating was only for birthdays, weddings, engagements, births and so on. Until I discovered that celebrating the little things everyday was important, I didn’t just start feeling more positive emotions, I started to get more done, and started enjoying doing things I used to hate!!! It was incredible, like a secret weapon to productivity.
The feeling of celebrating is an emotion that many people save for certain times in their life. Like I mentioned before, we celebrate things like a 21st birthday, graduations, getting a new job and so on. The problem with reserving celebrating for just the big occasions is it means that we don’t feel that emotion very often. And anything we don’t do so often we don’t get to practice and get good at. What if, by celebrating more often, even the little things, it would increase the depth and quality of celebrating the big things? What if it meant they became even better?
Some people feel more negative emotions than positive emotions on a day to day basis. I used to be like that for a long long time. I used to get up and go to work each day and cruise through life. I wasn’t particularly happy. I knew wanted more out of life, but didn’t know how to get it. I sometimes thought I was happy, but really, I was just making do with what I had and telling myself that I was satisfied.
Who else used to associate food to pleasure?
For a long time I’d associate food to pleasure and used food to help me change my emotions from sad, to happy. I’d eat chocolate when I was sad and feel a brief moment of happiness when I tasted the sweet chocolate, but the moment was fleeting and I would have another piece to try and get that moment to last. Years of doing this meant that I became overweight. I was unhappy at work, my relationship wasn’t working because I was counting on my partner to make me happy, because I didn’t know how to do it myself. For a long time I thought all of this was ‘normal’ because everyone around me was doing the same. I realised that I had to do something different.
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It was when I was watching my 1 year old nephew playing a new game that I realised learning used to be fun, and fast! When you see a 1 year old learning something new, or learning to walk, what happens? They crawl and then they start testing the weight on their legs, and in a wobbly way, start trying to stand up. Often there is a parent or adult around cheering them on. Saying things like ‘that’s it!’ ‘keep going’ ‘you’ve got it’ or ‘yay!!’. The child concentrates and smiles with the encouragement, and keeps going. When they lose their balance and fall to the ground they get up and try again, the adults smile, clap and encourage again. The child gets more and more confident over time, the more they do it, until over time, they don’t even need to think about walking anymore. They just do it!
Adults learn very differently
How do adults learn? Using the child learning to walk example – they take one step, fall over and turn around saying ‘That didn’t work, I’m never doing it again ’ or maybe they feel bad about themselves, like a failure.
When we experience a positive emotion we create a memory about that experience. For example, some people loved school, some people hated school. Some people had many positive memories about school and some people had many negative memories about school. Whichever you had more of, the more likely you’ll remember school in that light.
Another example is food. Think of a food you love, maybe a food from your childhood that you love – my nan’s honey biscuits are the best. Whenever I see honey biscuits, I think of her. When I used to want to feel happy, I would make nan’s honey biscuits and they would make me happy. I have many positive memories of nan’s honey biscuits!
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You’ll know that you have a positive association to a past memory when you start feeling positive emotions when you think of it. You may even start smiling, or sitting or standing in a different way. The same happens for negative associations.
Think of a food you hate. I hate anchovies. I know some people love them, but for me, the smell, the texture, the taste. I don’t like any of it. I once ordered a ceasar salad without the anchovies, and they had cut the eggs with the same knife as they’d cut the anchovies. The taste on the egg was so strong I couldn’t eat the salad. I remember that experience because I attached a negative memory to it. I screw up my face when I think about it.
How can we use this knowledge to get productive?
With this knowledge, we can start to learn how to enjoy some things that we used to hate. Perhaps you don’t want to enjoy anchovies, or whichever food you don’t like, but how about being able to enjoy something like exercise? I used to hate exercise. When I was at school I would do whatever I could to get out of sports day, especially running.
What people are saying about Emotion Academy:
"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
Every now and then as I grew up I tried to get fit, to lose weight, to change my feelings about exercise or even just to push my feelings to one side to try to keep going. Nothing worked! One day I met a professional athlete, Steve, and I said to him ‘I wish I could get excited about running’. He said ‘It’s easy’ and to meet him the next day for a lesson. I was so excited and a little scared but I knew getting fit was something I had wanted to do for years. I had to do something about my health as I had been overweight for too long.
The next day I got up and he met me at my place. I was wearing all the gear – the hat, matching running shorts and t-shirt, new trainers I was ready! Steve said, ok, start running. I took off, running at a pretty good pace I thought. I looked back and my new friend was calling out to me ‘slow down’. I slowed down and he caught up to me and again said ‘slow down’. I did. He said it again ‘slow down’, and keep slowing down until I let you know you’re going at the right speed. I got slower and slower until he said I was there. People were walking by faster than me! I was barely running, it was more like a bouncy walk! I felt so embarrassed but I kept going.
I told Steve that I could walk faster than I was currently running, he smiled and said ‘just keep going at this pace’. I kept going, and after 5 minutes, Steve said to turn around and head back home. I wondered why we were finishing so soon, we had only been out for 5 minutes on what had to be the warm up. Steve asked how long I could run like this for? I said ‘Quite a while, it’s a bouncy walk’. He said ‘Good’ and as we got closer to home he said, ‘Now, this is the most important bit. When you finish your run, I want to you finish like your crossing the line to your first marathon, and celebrate like crazy!’ I looked at him like he had to be kidding, but he was serious. So I did it. As I got to home I put my arms up, punching the air, jumping around smiling and cheering.
Celebrating the small steps is the key!
We high fived and he said ‘Now do that every day for 6 months’. He said if I wanted to learn to enjoy running, that I need to run for 5 minutes a day, exactly the same speed for 6 months before I could increase the distance or speed. I was shocked. I was never going to get fit running 5 minutes a day. Steve said to do it and trust him. He was the professional, so I did it. Everyday whether it was raining, hot, cloudy, whether I was tired or enthusiastic. I did it exactly the same way, celebrating at the end of each run. What I noticed was there were hardly any days on which I didn’t want to run, but when they did come around, I’d still go because it was so easy, and celebrating at the end felt good, not just good, it felt great! Everyday, I was creating a positive memory around running!
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
After 6 months I went to back to Steve and asked what to do next. He said that I could increase the time I ran by 10 minutes but still had to run the same speed. He wasn’t surprised when I said how much I had been enjoying running. It didn’t take long until I was running (bouncy walking) for half and hour. And before I knew it, I got to the stage of running 10km a day and loving it. Because I had associated fun and excitement to running. The reward wasn’t food, or a chocolate bar. The reward for running was the pleasure of celebrating and I got it every time.
My new secret weapon
Now, I celebrate anything I do. When I learn something new, I celebrate! I have a song I play and dance around the room celebrating. As a result I love learning! Work out how you celebrate. To celebrate, I find it’s important to move your body. I suggest putting your arms in the air, smiling, cheering, jumping or dancing. The more intensely you feel the positive emotion of celebrating, the easier it will be to do again and again and you start to be pulled in the direction of experiencing more positive emotions.
Find a song you love and listen to when you’re celebrating! When I didn’t like eating many vegetables, I started celebrating eating vegetables. I started celebrate getting up in the morning, celebrate drinking water, celebrate going on a date or any behaviour you want to do more of. Celebrate the little things, and celebrate often, enjoy celebrating everyday and notice the changes! This is one of my secret weapons to productivity.
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