In this blog we hand over the reins to fellow equestrian and ‘Happyologist®’ a.k.a happiness life coach and keynote speaker, Susanna Halonen for her awesome tips and advice for enjoying the journey in the pursuit of happiness with your horse and riding. We met Susanna at a recent event and to say she was inspirational is an understatement! We hope you enjoy reading this guest blog as much as we did!
” When people ask what is the best and biggest test of resilience for me, I often respond with, “My horse”. My riding might be something I “just” do in my free time, but I do it with purpose, with passion, and with intention. I bet you do too.
That’s why the challenges, setbacks, and things not going to plan can really get to you. You invest so much of yourself into your horses and the love for them that it’s difficult not to take it personally. Yet you have to learn to.
It took me years to get this right and to truly start enjoying and savouring every step of my journey with my horse. In fact, it took a whole mindset shift, a change in careers, and a Master degree to do it. When I realised I wasn’t where I wanted to be, both with my riding and with my career, I did what I had to in order to get to where I wanted to go.
I left an unfulfilling corporate job behind, completed a life coaching accreditation, and did a Master of Science in Applied Positive Psychology. Basically, I became the Happyologist®. In that journey, I not only learned how to help others to live up to their potential and feel more fulfilled, I also learned to do that myself. Every tip, tool, or practice I teach my one-on-one coaching clients, I have tested and tried myself.
I went from being a natural pessimist into a trained optimist. I went from beating myself up after every competition (even if I was victorious) to enjoying every ride I had. I made the perspective shift I needed in order to not only enjoy my riding but to live a more fulfilling life. Now, my full-time job as The Happyologist is to help others to do the same. That includes me helping you.
I want you to enjoy your riding as much as you can. I want you to build meaningful bonds with your horse – and even with humans! I want you to live your most fulfilling life and live up to your potential.
To start your journey, there are two happiness myths we need to debunk:
Myth: Happiness is the absence of negative emotions.
Truth: Happiness is your ability to deal with negative emotions.
This is one of the biggest, most frustrating happiness myths that actually holds your happiness back. You are human. You are meant to experience the full range of the human emotions, including the negative ones. Often, it’s the negative emotions that tell us when we’re on the wrong path or remind us how much we actually care about something. They play a critical role in your happiness so don’t try to deny them or suppress them. Simply acknowledge them, try to understand why they are there, and then make a plan to bounce back to a better place.
Myth: Happiness is a destination. Truth: Happiness is a daily choice.
We often think along the lines of, “I’ll be happy when I get that promotion”, or “I’ll be happy when I get married”. As riders, we might be thinking “I’ll be happy when I go up a level”, or “I’ll be happy when I can ride in the sunshine”. Sure, reaching goals will give you a sense of achievement and pride – and rightfully so! Relationships will make you feel love and riding in the sun will up your mood. However, these feelings don’t last.
As humans, we naturally adapt to whatever situation we are faced with and hence something new and exciting quickly becomes something ordinary and mundane. That’s why you need to make a conscious effort to enjoy the journey to whatever goal you set and find something positive in every ride and every day. This is especially important as research has suggested that only 10% of your happiness is predicted by your external circumstances. That means 90% is all about you, your mindset, and how you choose to perceive things.
With all that said, I want to leave you with three specific things you can do right now to start making that positive mindset shift:
1. Practice an attitude of gratitude.
After every ride, or every visit to the stables, write down three specific things you are most grateful for. Make them specific to that day and use pen and paper to jot them down. For example, after today’s ride, I was grateful for the one clean canter change we got as I am in the process of teaching them to my horse. I’m also grateful for how loose he felt at the start as it was a real pleasure to ride him and play with his suppleness from the minute I got on. Last but not least, I’m also grateful for having had the time to actually ride him as I had a busy day at work and I wasn’t even sure I was going to get there in time.
Equally, you can do the gratitude practice on a broader scale focusing on your whole life and appreciating anything specific in your day. Do this for at least a couple of weeks so that you start to turn it into a habit. Before you know it, you’ll be looking for things to be grateful for and you’ll actually start to experience everything in your life in a more positive light.
2. When faced with a setback, ask yourself: What did I learn from this?
I know setbacks, mistakes, and things not going to plan can feel like the worst thing in the world. But they don’t have to. Reframe them as learning opportunities and realise that they are what make you grown – both on and off the horse. If everything was smooth sailing and you had no challenges ahead of you, you would struggle to progress. Mistakes are our best teachers so remember to take the time to learn from them – both in riding and in life.
3. Remind yourself why you do it.
Your riding, your horse, your job, and whatever else might frustrate you at times. That’s completely normal. But don’t let it bring you down. Instead, remind yourself why you got into it in the first place and why it’s so meaningful to you. Connect with the sense of purpose and fulfilment that you feel when you engage with your horses or when you’re riding them. Just reminding yourself of that will help you to feel more empowered as well as enjoy every bit of it.”