If you ask people what they want most in life, most will say “just to be happy”. Most of us then spend the bulk of our lives in pursuit of it, only to find it ever-elusive. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, we’ve been hunting without when the key was within and we’ve had it all along.
The key to a happy little life is in your own head.
It is! To truly grasp that concept is life-changing. I wish I’d realized it sooner. First I had to develop an awareness of the fact I am in control over what my thoughts. That sounds so simple and obvious yet I spent most of my life not ever becoming aware of it. Sadly, there are a lot of people in the same boat. They have never thought about how they think.
The fact is though; we are in complete control. All sorts of thoughts flit through our minds each day. We pick which ones we ruminate on. How we choose determines which path our brain finds easier to navigate.
Think of your mind as a thick forest. The trails you travel will be well-worn and it will be easy to run down those paths. But the paths you don’t take so often? They grow over and it is slow, hard work to blaze a trail down them.
That’s how the neural pathways in your brain work. If you want your thoughts to be good, empowering, and positive, you must decide to walk it. You must wear out that positive path, while letting the path of negative thoughts grow over. Your mind will take the path of least resistance. It is our job to be sure the right path is clear.
Exactly how do we do that? I am glad you asked! It’s a simple two-step process anyone can do. All you need to do is install it and do it again, and again, and again. You can train your brain to be happy. Now, let’s learn how….
The first step to training your brain.
Training it to be happy is developing an awareness of your thoughts and deny the lies. You need to start thinking about if they belong in your head. If they don’t, you need to pitch them, and nurture the ones that do belong. To make that determination, ask yourself three questions:
- Is it true?
- Is it a lesson?
- Does it serve me?
Let’s look at that first question, “Is it true?” This step takes brutal honesty with yourself. If you can’t muster that up, ask a trusted friend for honest feedback. Then ask yourself if that yucky thought is the truth.
For example, if the thought goes through my mind “you’re so stupid.”….I need to ask if I am stupid or not. I’m aware, intellectually, I am not, so I will run that thought out of my head. Every time it tries to come back, I’ll kick it out again.
Now, onto the second question. Why do we need a second one? Because sometimes the yucky thought IS true. In that case, there is likely a lesson worth learning, if we will look for it.
To illustrate, imagine your mind keeps telling you that you are being lazy. You know, deep down, your issue is that you need to get up off your butt, ditch excuses, and do things. Now, since you are honest in the first step, you’ll own up to that, right?
The goal is to find the lesson and apply it.
Get to the root of that lazy streak; It could be fear of failure or something a little deeper than laziness. Once you’ve found the root you can start taking the ax to it. You found a lesson and you are working it. So, now the next time the thought comes saying you are lazy, you can tell it to take a hike, with proof you aren’t. Woohoo!
Also ask yourself, when a negative thought comes flitting through your brain, if it serves you. If it is a thought that moves you to be better, for a reason, then embrace it because it is serving you.
But imagine a thought comes that says “you are worthless; you don’t matter.” Does it serve you? Is it true? Does it contain a lesson? No, no, no. So you throw it out and enforce the boundary when it tries to come back.
That is how you retrain your brain. Forcing it to take the positive path and start wearing it smooth so it is your mind’s preferred route. The less you let it take the negative path, the more it will grow over. You are retraining your brain to take the road less traveled. Teaching it to think thoughts that make you happy.
The second step in retraining your brain for happiness.
You need to correct the misinformation that was running through your mind. To do so, you make a proper substitution and work it in good. What does that look like?
You change the voices in your head and make them build you up instead. The best way to do that is to create your own custom positive affirmations, then use them.
You want to customize them to fit your situation. For example, I don’t need an affirmation saying” I am me, all me, all the time” because I have that one down pat. If the thought comes saying “oh you are such a fake”, I can fight that with no problem. An affirmation I do need says, “I have within me all I need to do all that I desire. I am smart enough and tough enough to make my dreams come true.”.
You need to create affirmations that target your sensitive spots.
Then work them in every chance you get. Read them, write them, sing them, post them around the house…and when contrary thoughts try to slip in, kick them out. Speak it, own it, and you will see them come to be in your life.
Developing positive thought patterns is more than just your own self esteem. It is reprogramming your basic outlook on life. You are consistently choosing to think positively.
Here is an example: It is a hot, sunny day. All you can think of is the heat, the sweat, the gnats, the zero chance of relief in the forecast…. UGH. You are miserable. But, realize, you’re choosing to focus on that. You could, instead, focus on the beauty of the sun, the billowy clouds, the songs of birds in the background. Feel grateful for the slight breeze. Or be glad you are outside piddling in your yard. There are others who would love to have the chance but are unable.
So, what to do? While aware and present, run the negative thoughts out. Replace them with positive ones. The more you do it, the easier it is for your mind to think more positive thoughts than negative ones. Over time, you become a natural positive thinker.
If you have worked at the first two steps, you now have a well-worn positive thought path. Avoiding the negative ones with more ease. You have retrained your brain to think positively. Congratulations! Happily ever after can now be all yours. All you need to do is keep wearing that positive path smooth and it will be your mind’s favorite route. Now, just how exciting is that?!?!Do you know what is even more exciting? Sharing that joy with others, and help show them how to be happy too! You can be a catalyst for the positivity taking over in your friends’ lives. As you think, act, and expect more positive things to come into your life, they will come. Others will notice. Some will even ask for your secret. Please be willing to share it.
So many of our woes as humans are due to how we are thinking about them. It is preventable. Misery does have a cure… and you hold a key. If you care at all for your fellow man, you will shine your lovely little light and help show them the way.
The beauty of shining is this: In doing so, you not only help somebody else to be happier, but you get it back. You really can’t out give the universe either. The more joy you share, the more it comes rushing back to you. It is a wondrous cycle with no end.
Won’t you be a part of it?
You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Think about how you think.
If you are ready to retrain your brain for happiness, we’d love to hear about it. If you have questions, comments, or even critique, feel free to comment.
Let’s create happy little lives (or big ones!) and show the world how they can too!
OH! If case you missed it, you can find part one of the happiness hack series here -> Happiness Hack: Just Be You, All You, All The Time
Or check out these other great posts!