I’ve been meditating daily using a guided meditation app Headspace. In the Appreciation series the guide, Andy, discussed how it’s important to become familiar with the feeling of gratitude, because it helps you start feeling that way more often in real life. He didn’t elaborate on why that is, but I have my own understanding.
Our underlying feelings form a lens through which we view our world. Just as stuck emotions make us see the glass as half empty, the opposite can also be true. For example, when you are familiar and used to feeling grateful, then when you observe the world you also see through the glass of gratitude, and see more events as reasons to feel that way. The more often you feel grateful, the more you view your life with grateful eyes, which in turn creates more grateful experiences.
But the hard part is to first become familiar, to generate or experience the feelings which you desire, when you don’t view your life/world that way and no events help you feel it. If you have a habit of seeing the glass as half empty and feeling resentful or concerned, it’s hard to see it any other way.
That’s where you may need to assert your intention and create routines or rituals that help you experience what you want. Meditation, visualization, or any activities that stimulate your imagination such as drawing, journaling and writing stories can all help. But if your mind is quite entrenched in discontent, you can also turn to art. You can look at some pictures, drawing or painting, listen to music or watch a movie scene that make you feel the way you want to feel.
I use the term “emotional muscle” to describe this concept. Just like the real muscles, our emotional muscles need to be trained to be able to feel a certain way. The stronger the muscle the easier it becomes to feel it, and the easier it becomes the more often you feel it. That’s because pervading feelings make you interpret life events to reinforce that feeling.
So no voodoo magic, supernatural or religious phenomenon is at work here (that’s not to say that those things are untrue). When you understand how our mind works, you can approach life in a way to make it work for you, so that it’s filled with desirable experiences.