Have you ever had a period when your happiness dipped despite no change in your environment?
This recently happened to me. For 2 weeks I just felt disengaged with my work and the people around me. I was doing the same things which had excited me before. But I wasn’t as happy as I used to be.
One evening I was studying alone in the living room when one of my roommates, I will call him Phil, came to join me. At first I felt annoyed. I had enjoyed my alone time and I didn’t want anyone to disrupt it. But then I thought “How can I appreciate Phil being here?”
For some strange reason, I imagined Phil as an adorable 5-year old whom I was responsible for providing for. As if he was my much younger brother. Suddenly, my annoyance with Phil melted away completely and was replaced by warm compassion. I felt a responsibility to be my best self and show him how much I cared about him. We ended up having an amazing conversation and I felt such an appreciation for Phil that I spontaneously gave him a goodnight hug. I was feeling alive once again!
I had accidentally stumbled upon a solution to my disengagement.
What if I imagined whatever frustrated me as if it was a cute 5-year old whom I was responsible for?
This practice sounds incredibly silly. And it is. It also worked wonders for me. I began approaching every person as someone I cared about. Every individual became someone I wanted to show appreciation towards. And this shift in mindset influenced my actions. I began saying “Hi!” and stopped to chat with people I usually didn’t talk with. I listened with excitement more than I spoke. I found something to compliment in every person. And all of this made me feel happier with myself.
I even applied this practice to material things as well. When I got caught in a downpour and became frustrated with the rain, I imagined the rain as a playful puppy. At once, my annoyance vanished and I said “Haha! Ok, rain. You felt that we needed a shower. Then keep pouring on. This is fun!”. I ended up more energized once I got back inside than when I went out.
Childish as this practice is, there are two reasons why it is so powerful:
- You start acting as a role model
Imagine the source of your frustration as an innocent child, and you begin acting as your very best self. When I saw Phil as a 5-year old whose care I had been entrusted with, I would have felt like a complete jackass if I just left the room when he came to seek my company. I instead switched my thinking to: “How can I show Phil that I care about him?”. This inspired me to start a conversation about a topic I knew he was interested in. You set a much higher standard for yourself when you believe that others are relying on you.
- You begin caring more for the other person
View someone as an adorable child who is the joy of your life, and any frustration melts away and is replaced by a desire to see them better off. You actually start caring more about the other person, and you will want to give your time, attention, and effort to help them.
If you would like to try this practice in your own life, simply follow these steps:
- Catch yourself whenever you feel annoyed, frustrated, or disengaged.
- Imagine the source of your emotion as an adorable child whose care you have been entrusted with.
- Take the action you know is right.
Of course, you are not going to treat an adult as if they are a child. The purpose of this practice is only to get you into the right mood, and then let your mood guide your actions.
Which person will you be a compassionate role model for today?