5 words for more happiness
Increased happiness can be yours
Credit: Tim Robberts/Getty
Co-authored with Joel Klepac, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist
Would you like more happiness, clarity and connection to yourself? A simple strategy can help. Now check how you feel. See if you can notice a specific emotion. Maybe you feel frustrated. Or maybe sad or lonely. Then add these five words as a prefix to the sentiment: “A part of me feels frustrated” or “A part of me feels sad.” Now give yourself a minute to check it out and see what you notice.
These five words can start a useful change. It is a process of emotional separation, as discovered by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., and others in the field of Internal Family Systems (IFS). And this brings many benefits.
On a recent solo beach vacation, I noticed a heaviness in my body and a yearning for connection — that sticky feeling known as loneliness. When I realized that part of me was lonely – not all of me – a surge of relief and energy surged. It spread out in waves as I pedaled along the beach, an interior space echoing the vastness of the ocean and the softness of the sky. It’s a moment I never want to forget.
The shift from “everything I feel” to “a part of myself feels” brings many gifts, including a broader perspective. For me, it gave me access to new ideas to connect with others and with my environment. Adding these five words to the emotion you are feeling can bring inner space and access to a deeper self that is calm, energetic and curious.
Find and focus on parts
The language of “parts”, as in “A part of me feels _____” is priceless. Seeing that it is a part of you that feels a certain way naturally makes room for other parts and other perspectives. Not merging with that specific feeling, while bringing curiosity and compassion to it, opens up a world of possibilities.
Maybe part of you thinks it’s too good to be true. Maybe part of it feels skeptical – great. Be curious about this part. What is he trying to do? Protect you? Avoid wasting time and energy and going down an unnecessary rabbit hole?
We all have protective pieces, and that’s a good thing, they help keep us safe. When you see a specific part of you, like a skeptical part, can you appreciate it for its intent? How do you feel now about this part? Maybe a bit more open and spacious inside? Maybe a little quieter? Perhaps even more curious?
Befriend your parties
Concentrating on one part brings a sweet curiosity. This can include asking that part what they think would happen if they didn’t do what they are doing. Maybe my lonely part at the beach feared that I would feel like this forever, missing the company and the joy of sharing good times with others.
Another helpful question when noticing and working with pieces is to ask yourself, “What’s happening now while I’m with this piece?” Is there a feeling of softening and expansion, or is it more of a withdrawal and contraction? Adjusting to the emotional tone can guide you to a place of expansion and self-care.
This question also clarifies how much openness and compassion are present to engage in this part. If you feel critical about this part or have a strong desire to get rid of it, it is helpful to take a step back and see if this critical part can relax so that you can understand the part about which you want to focus on.
If there is a base level of curiosity and openness, then you can take it a step further and ask the part, “What are you trying to do for me?” Or maybe even ask what he’s afraid would happen if he didn’t present himself that way? Pretty soon, you may notice a much clearer appreciation for the protective role this part is trying to play in your life.
Working with a perfectionist piece
Co-writer Joel Klepac recalls a situation at work that sparked a perfectionist game. Noticing a feeling of discomfort, a feeling of tightness in the chest and almost a feeling of cold, he became curious. Instead of rushing ahead, he took a moment, asking, “Why is this feeling manifesting this way?” He observed: “Part of me feels anxious that I’m not perfect.”
This alone brought some relief and a decrease in the feeling of anxiety. He recalled, “I’m not just anxious; I live an anxious part. It brought a little more space, allowing him to see him as an anxious part, not all he is.
Then he quietly wondered, “What is it about?” This question brought a realization that as a teenager he had gained approval for his good grades and accomplishments, and he still believed in college that this was why people cared about him.
With this awareness now conscious, he could focus on this part and update it on the rich friendships he now has and how they have demonstrated that they care about him, regardless of his imperfections. . It brought feelings of warmth, peace and ease.
These five words,A part of me feels _____” is one way to feed yourself. Adding them can bring an inner space where there is more room to breathe, experiment and try new approaches. It’s a way to meet with kindness and attention.
Know that you can work with an IFS-trained therapist for a deeper understanding. Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of this therapeutic approach. When you make room for all of your parts, gently and carefully, you naturally make room for the parts of others as well.