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  • Writer's pictureBrad Thiessen

Co-Activation Post 1: Are You Happy or Sad? Yes.

Updated: May 20


Yesterday morning I was on my last dog walk of our two week house sit in Oxford, England. We were on a network of trails that runs through many acres of woods. One can imagine in summer it being lush and overwhelmingly green. But we missed the last turning of the leaves by a couple of weeks so now the only green is moss and ivy, which add their own particular beauty.


I thought of the question, "Are you happy or sad?"


And was reminded of co-activation, a concept I  came across a week or so ago.


Sometimes I think the answer to this question of "Are you happy or sad" is indeed a yes or no. More often, I, like most of us, place it somewhere along a continuum - a kind of 1 to 5 scale with 1 being very sad and 5 being very happy.


Co-activation says that actually, the answer, is typically - maybe always - yes AND no. Happiness and sadness are not opposites - they're companions.


So I suppose you might say there are 2 separate one to five scales: one scale for whether you're more or less happy and the other for whether you're more or less sad. And they're stacked one on top of the other.


Then I walked a little farther, and I looked at the little dog on the leash in front of me, with her unending curiosity and unconditional affection, and I felt joy.


On my way back home, I reflected wistfully that I'd missed out, and if it was summer, I'd be forest bathing in a cocoon of greenery (forest bathing is a real, research-proven life-giving activity, by the way), and I realized that co-activation would embrace the hibernating trees and their future greenery and say both can exist side-by-side. 


Right about then I passed under a cancer day treatment facility that reaches into the forest on stilts.


Cancer is sadness embodied.


I know it's cheesy, but I started to sing Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds:" Don't worry about a thing / every little thing's gonna be alright."

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