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Wed, 2017-03-15 11:46

Daniel Stewart's Tip of the Month: Happy in Your Happy Place

Authored By: Coach Daniel Stewart
USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

You might think you ride at a stables, barn or equestrian center - but you’d only be half right - because in fact, you ride at your happy place.

You have to agree that when you arrive at the barn you arrive at a place that's more than just fences, paddocks and arenas... it really is your happy place. The place that you go to when you need a little positive distraction from the craziness of your crazy world. Unlike other sport venues, however, your happy place isn't defined by the venue itself; but by the relationship with your trainers, peers, and horses found there.

So what happens when your happy place becomes a little less happy? What happens when your thoughts turn from friends, fillies and fun - to fears, falling and freaking out? What happens when your happy place turns into your crappy place!

Teaching yourself to find the happy in your happy place - from a sport psychology standpoint - it’s actually consider a near-necessity because studies have shown that you’re up to 34% better at everything you do when your happy (as compared to everything you do when you’re feeling tense, frustrated, nervous or intimidated). This means that you’re 34% better at schooling and showing, teaching and learning, at school and at work, as a brother, sister, mom or dad... 34% better at everything you do when you’re happy.

The reason that you’re better when you’re happy is because emotions like cheerfulness, humor and enthusiasm trigger the release of special hormones (called endorphins) that increase your confidence, courage, focus and optimism. They also decrease feelings of anxiety, stress and frustration which in-turn switches off the threat-sensors in your brain (when you’re in a good mood your brain assumes you’re not facing any threats so it allows you to feel confident and optimistic). The more you enjoy the process of riding (including the mistakes and challenges) the greater chance you have riding well. Simply put, you’ll be a better and more successful rider when you’re happy.

Stress has been linked to the majority of all illnesses because it attacks your immune system, wears down your defenses and can ultimately lead to things like heart disease. But humor and happiness can protect you from the effects of stress because they’re the strongest of all stress coping-mechanisms. Sure, show jitters may make you a bit nervous - but with a little practice - humor can help you cope with it. What’s more, a recent study actually found that people who laughed the most had an average lifespan of seven years longer than those who laughed the least!

Here are a few tips to be happy in your happy place:

(1) Fake it until you make it. Even if you're unhappy, smile and fake a laugh (called a strategic smile). You mind can't tell the difference between real and fake happiness so it'll release the hormones that create optimism.

(2) Surround yourself with happy people. Emotions are contagious so hang out with happy people and catch a little of what they've got.

(3) Create a pre-performance routine like listening to feel-good music (i.e. HAPPY by Pharrell) or watching a funny movie the night before a big event.

When it comes to riding your best and being happy in your happy place, always remember…

IF YOU’RE TOO BUSY TO LAUGH, YOU’RE TOO BUSY!

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