By Patricia: Being happy. Everyone wants to be happy. So why are so many of us not happy? Strange as it may seem, happiness is a choice. Every moment of every day, we choose how we feel. How do we do that? What we feel depends on what we think.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it? It’s true. When you wake up in the morning, what is your first thought? This first thought sets your mood for the day. If your first thought goes something like, “Oh, lord. I have to go to work today, and my boss is going to be on me for the report she needs and the report isn’t done yet.” A thought like that pretty much guarantees we will be cranky and unhappy from the moment our feet hit the floor. “So what?” you say. “My thoughts are my thoughts and there is nothing I can do about them.”
The good news is there is something you can do about your thoughts. We can replace that initial thought with a different thought, one that will help us move into a better mood. You truly can retrain your brain to think differently. When you think differently, you will feel differently, because our feelings come directly out of what we think. For example, when you wake up in the morning, and you start to think about all the problems you have to deal with, pull yourself up and deliberately replace that morning grumble with a different thought. Maybe even have a different thought written down where you can easily reach it in the morning. (For me, I write really big so I can read it before I put my glasses on.) It can be any positive thought that will work to help cheer you up. I use things like, “I have a lot to do today, and I am looking forward to the challenge”. You will need to come up with your own set of thoughts. My ideas work great for me, but might not work so well for you.
The replacement thought I used above helps me to change my point of view from being overwhelmed by too much that needs to be done to seeing all those jobs as a challenge instead of as a chore. This change in perspective makes it much more likely I will get up cheerful and energetic instead of grumpy and overwhelmed, even though nothing about what I have to do has changed. The only change is in what I think, which changed what I feel. Because I now feel more energetic and cheerful, I can start taking on the chores of the day with a better attitude, which makes it more likely I will succeed in getting more things done. Getting more things done will help keep my mood happy and energetic. Who doesn’t like to look back on the day and feel like they accomplished something?
So, changing one thought in the morning helped change my feelings and attitude. Changing my feelings and attitude helped change what I did and how I felt about it. Feeling good about what I did with my changed attitude helped me continue to maintain that changed attitude. Today, I am happier than I might have been before I changed that first thought in the morning. With a little work and dedication, this can become a self-perpetuating pattern in your life, so that you can be happier more of the time with less attention.
Is this easy? Yes and no. It’s really easy to do, once, even twice. But in order for this trick to help you long term, you need to practice changing your thoughts all the time. That takes paying attention to what you are thinking, catching those negative thoughts that put you in a bad mood and working to come up with new positive thoughts that will help you stay in a good mood. That takes work and dedication to making yourself happy. If you work at it, you will eventually develop the habit of “listening” to yourself think and changing those thoughts almost automatically.
Does this mean you will live happily ever after? Of course not. Sometimes being unhappy is the right and proper place to be – when going through grief and loss for example. However, it does mean you will be better able to deal with those difficult emotions, as you will be in the habit of thinking more positively than negatively. This will make it easier to keep yourself remembering the good times with someone you have lost instead of dwelling on the grief of the loss.
The bottom line is that happiness is a choice. So are unhappiness, anger, joy, etc. You will feel these emotions no matter how much you work on your thinking, but you will be happier more of the time. As you are happier, you will find that happy people are drawn to you, which will help you stay happy. It also means that those who like to sit around and complain won’t want to be around you, because you will be less likely to join in the complaining with them. (Nothing is more irritating to a cranky person than putting out a perfectly valid complaint, only to have someone say, “But look at the bright side!” Being around negative people less and positive people more will help you maintain those positive thoughts. This will result in your being happier more of the time, which is a goal most of us would like to achieve. With the upward happy-thoughts spiral I talked about before plus being around positive people more, happiness can become your new normal, which is a goal very worth achieving.
Love and Light,