Acting Instead Of Reacting: The Key To Happiness

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By Kirsten Cowart

There have been so many times in my life where I have felt completely powerless to change my situation. I feel that the waves of life – both good and bad – catch me off guard and make me feel like I am riding a roller coaster. When things are good, they are great and when they are bad, they are awful.

This past year, I have been searching for the answer to my problem. How can I find true happiness and experience peace without all the sorrow and misery? I set out on my new path, seeking peace and happiness, which led me to a lifestyle of eating more healthy, cutting back on intoxicants and striving for balance.

Once I started focusing in on my new journey, it didn’t take me long to realize that my extreme highs were resulting in extreme lows in my life. It blew my mind to realize that what goes up truly must come down. I also came to realize that numbing myself and shutting everything out wasn’t the answer either since all this does is cause more pain and hurt the people around me.

So with that knowledge, I stopped seeking out the extremes and instead sought after a life of balance in the middle of the two. That is when I started practicing meditation hard core with the goal of finding the inner peace everyone talked about; I started to take action.

Reacting To Situations In My Own Life

As I started to better observe my own patterns and behaviors, I noticed that oftentimes when I had a present situation that was pleasant or unpleasant, I would react to it automatically. Patterns I had my whole life had put me in a state of autopilot and resulted in blind reactions to stimuli.  

For instance, when something was good, I reacted with craving and clinging whether it was a person, event or great tasting food that I found myself wanting more and more. When a present moment was unpleasant, I began reacting with aversion, impatience, denial, anger and even sadness.

This knowledge hit me like a ton of bricks as I realized that my perception of both “good” and “bad” resulted in the same issues that the masters of old warned us about: Attachment.

Instead of being present in these moments, I would work to distract myself in an effort to either avoid what was happening or crave something I would rather have happen. Either way I was out of balance and was actually living a lie.  

How You Perceive Stressful Events Is More Important Than How Often They Happen

According to a new study done by the researchers from Columbia University and Penn State, how you tend to perceive and react to any stressful event is, believe it or not, more important to your overall health than how frequently you encounter stress.

Nancy L. Sin, a postdoctoral fellow from the Center for Healthy Aging and also from the department of biobehavioral health at Penn State, said that,

“Higher heart rate variability is better for health as it reflects the capacity to respond to challenges. People with lower heart rate variability have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.”

Major stress and depressional events have been known to be extremely harmful for your health, though unfortunately less attention is being paid to the related health consequences of hassles and frustrations in our everyday lives. Prior to the brand new research, there were and still are very few studies that come close to looking at the relationship between daily stressful events and heart rate variability.

Through the results of this type of research though, we are able to hold a better grasp on the non-traditional issues that we come into contact with as we go throughout our days. Major stress can physically make you sick, I know from experience. This research helps to empower us to roll up our sleeves and really work hard on our perceptions of our lives and overall reality.

Choosing To ACT

When I started to see how my reactions were affecting my mental and physical health, I realized that I needed to get into a more balanced and peaceful state where I could observe what was happening inside of me and around me without enacting a blind response.  

In order to learn this tool, I went to the meditation experts where I learned Vipassana Meditation, which shows you how to overcome the three things that cause all suffering inside of ourselves: craving, aversion and ignorance.

Once I learned this tool, I realized that I still felt pain, but no longer hurt from it. I also still felt pleasure, but didn’t crave it later. This balance brought lasting peace into my life that I don’t feel I could have gotten anywhere else.

What YOU Can Do, Starting Now

If you don’t have the time or the space to go through an official training course, I challenge you to observe yourself from a non-biased space. When a stimulus arises, be it inside or outside of your body, try to pause, take a breath and observe it. Once you do that, then you can choose how you will act instead of continuing the old patterns of reaction.

Each time you practice, you will rewrite the patterns of your mind and it will be easier and easier to take back your power and use it to keep your life balanced and truly help others.

What experiences have you had with the ups and downs of life? How do you find inner peace and balance? Please share with us in the comments below, we love to hear from you!

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Kirsten Campbell
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Kirsten Campbell

Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
Kirsten Campbell
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