“When something triggers your unhappiness, visit it.”
This from Mo Gawdat, the chief business officer at Alphabet’s moonshot lab, X, and the author of “Solve for Happy.”
Gawdat was speaking at a free “Solve for Happy” workshop in New York City, where about 25 people (including me) had showed up to hear him apply his engineer’s mentality to the problem of unhappiness.
“Visiting” your unhappiness might sound more like the advice of a therapist than an engineer — it might even sound too fluffy to have any practical utility. But Gawdat is nothing if not practical when talking about happiness, and he likened the feeling of unhappiness to a sudden stomach ache.
“When you get a stomach ache,” Gawdat told the workshop attendees, the first thing you ask yourself is most likely, “What did I eat?”
Take your emotional upsets just as seriously, he said. “Visiting” your unhappiness is, simply put, trying to figure out what’s throwing you off.
That sounds sensible enough. But the problem that Gawdat’s observed is twofold. First, many of us don’t take unhappiness seriously, meaning we recognise that we’re feeling a negative emotion, brush it off, and move on.
Second, many of us don’t even realise when we’re feeling a negative emotion. Sometimes it’s easier to recognise stomach pain than it is to recognise unhappiness for what it is.
I spoke with Gawdat a few weeks after the workshop and he told me, “We don’t even give ourselves the time, space, awareness to recognise” that we’re feeling unhappy.
It’s really about learning to check in with yourself every so often. “Would you be able to pause frequently enough to recognise how you feel inside?” Gawdat said. “Even if you don’t know how to fix it yet, recognise that, ‘I’m not feeling OK.'”
It’s not about forcing your negative emotions to go away — it’s ok to feel unhappy.
As Harvard psychologist Susan David previously told Business Insider, the important thing is to “show up” to your emotions — recognise them, accept them, and see what they’re trying to tell you. From there, you can work on resolving the problem that’s triggering the negativity.
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