The Life's Learning Centre Blog

Mind Gym: Happiness is only a Thought Away

Posted on: September 1, 2009

Everyone wants happiness in their lives but for some, it is a challenge to find it.  According to an E-Zine article, Happiness is only a Thought Away!

When you make a mistake – do you beat up on yourself? Do you call yourself names like “stupid”, “failure” or “idiot”. Do you “should” all over yourself, “I should be doing this” or “I shouldn’t be doing that”. When we were born, we did not have these negative critics in our head. As we grew, we adopted them into ourselves from our parents, teachers and other kids.

Most of us learnt the art of criticism really well – after all we didn’t want to get above ourselves did we? In fact many of us learnt the lessons so well, that we outdid the originators of the criticism. Whatever they said, we thought it twice as strong and twice as fast. Sort of like if mum was going to send us to our room for 5 minutes time out for something we had done, however we had already sent ourselves to our rooms and decided to lock ourselves in for a whole year, not eat for a week and remove the TV for good.

So what can you do about it? Martin Seligman in his groundbreaking book “Learned Optimism” gives some simple tools to turn around your thoughts.

1. Listen to your self-talk.When do you do it most? What do you say to yourself? Would you speak to your small children the same way that you talk to yourself? Are your “shoulds” realistic measures of you or are they setting unrealistic benchmarks for your behaviour?
2. Think about some times when your behaviour contradicted the self talk(eg: if you think you are a bad mum, then find some examples of when you were a good mum).
3. Find some different explanations for the situation or event.This is not about justification, it is about finding different possibilities. (eg: It could be that the person that yelled at you for something you did was having a bad day and their anger really had nothing to do with you)
4. Distract yourself from going over and over the bad thoughts. Tie your worries onto a worry tree or a into a worry basket and come back to them later if you really have to. Find other “lighter” thoughts to think about. Listen to music, do some exercise – anything to interrupt the flow of negative thoughts.
5. Question your underlying beliefs (eg: I must be liked by everyone I meet, I must be completely competant and make no mistakes ever if I am worthwhile, it is easier to put off something unpleasant than deal with it). Underlying beliefs can be hard to shift, but they are not impossible.

So if you really want to be happy in your life, listen to your self talk and take some action.

In the words of Groucho Marx:

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself:
‘I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be.
Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

Julius “Groucho” Marx, 1890-1977

Article Source: Ingrid Cliff is a Brisbane freelance

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