Use these 4 Steps to Break the Cycle of Unhappiness, Wellness Expert Says
Categories: Happiness Mental Health 
Published: March 12, 2024
Author: Renee Onque
CNBC
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Use These 4 Steps To Break The Cycle Of Unhappiness, Wellness Expert Says

We’re all looking for ways to be happier, but it’s just not that easy. It’s not impossible either if you know the steps to take to get there.

“The biggest misconception is that happiness is natural, and there really couldn’t be anything further from the truth,” Floyd “Ski” Chilton, director of the Center for Precision, Nutrition and Wellness at the University of Arizona, tells CNBC Make It.

Chilton is also an evolutionary biochemist and geneticist, as well as the author of “There is Another Way to Happiness: The Four Step CAST Process that Will Transform Your Life.”

Our unconscious minds are “built for protection” and “survival” from an evolutionary standpoint, according to Chilton. But we’re no longer hunters and gatherers, protecting our loved ones from the whims of the wild in a literal sense; still our thoughts naturally drift to fear and anxiety as they did when that was the case.

“Almost every sad and difficult emotion that we feel, our anxiety that we feel, our stress that we feel, can be traced back to this evolutionarily primitive, unconscious mind,” he adds. “In many cases, we’re living in the midst of a nightmare, a nightmare that our unconscious minds create.”

To combat these instincts, you must make conscious efforts to rewire your brain, Chilton says. Here are four steps you can take to break the cycle of unhappiness.

Use these 4 steps to break the cycle of unhappiness

Chilton created a framework of four steps, which is referred to as CAST, that people can use to shift from unhappiness to a perspective rooted in positivity.

The four steps are:

Consciousness

Awareness

Surrender

Trust

1. Awaken to consciousness

“Essentially, what that means is that you’re awakening to the fact that” you have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind, Chilton says.

Your unconscious mind triggers your knee-jerk reactions to situations like sadness and loneliness, he notes. While with your conscious mind, “the thought is much, much slower, from a ‘making sense of everything coming our way’ perspective.”

Simply being aware that you have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind “makes a huge difference” because it gives you the power to decide which one you’ll choose to listen to, Chilton adds.

2. Deepen awareness

“Deepening awareness is an awareness of our shadow shelves,” Chilton says.

For instance, if you notice yourself constantly shifting to a negative thought about something like your ability to perform well at your job, try to identify the first experience in your life that made you feel as if you weren’t capable.

For Chilton, it was being diagnosed with severe dyslexia and feeling defined by his diagnosis to the point that he felt a constant need to prove to others that he was a talented writer.

“On one hand, I was able to be the most successful person I know. On the other hand, I couldn’t have been more unhappy,” he says. “Now I can say, ‘Wow, I’m saying I’m not enough, again. I know exactly where that comes from.’ I can put that in perspective. I don’t have to live there, but I gain awareness out of the background of the reason.”

3. Surrender

When certain emotions arise, “there’s not a whole lot that we can do about it,” Chilton says. But meditation is one way that you can become more conscious of where those feelings are stemming from to let them pass, he adds.

“By becoming conscious, we know what’s coming up. We know that there’s a train coming, it’s the unconscious train that’s saying, ’You’re not enough,” Chilton says. “And I can either step onto the train, and be there for weeks, months, years, or I can say not today. I’m not stepping on this train today.”

Chilton sees letting go of those unconscious thoughts using mindfulness as an “art of surrendering.”

“It doesn’t have to be in meditation, but in quiet periods, slowing down, we can understand what’s coming, we can feel and we can make the conscious choice to live in the present moment,” he says.

4. Trust in the journey

The last step involves believing that you are where you are for a reason and trusting that things will happen the way they are supposed to, Chilton says.

Don’t resist the flow of things as much as possible, just stay the course.

“If you do that, then the river flows beautifully for you,” Chilton says.

“You will make some decisions but [also] things will happen for you.”

“And I know that doesn’t sound like a scientist, but it is the spiritual part of the CAST process.”


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