Our feelings are a result of our thoughts. Oftentimes, people think they feel a certain way, because of something that happened. However, it’s how we respond in our thinking that dictates how we feel. It’s possible to be calm in the eye of a storm by guiding our thoughts, instead of being a servant to our thoughts. The tail doesn’t have to wag the dog, so to speak.
Today I talked about how to direct our minds toward positivity to feel happier and more peaceful on Fox 2 News in St. Louis.
Old Habits. We have habits of thinking. We typically learn these habits from our parents, friends and culture. I grew up with parents who were often anxious or depressed. I picked up mental habits from them; and I suffered from life-threatening depression and anxiety for decades. I was very strong and yet my mind was running the show and running me ragged. The mind can be like a poorly behaved child. My thinking caused great suffering and major breakdowns.
New Habits. I began to feel a lot happier and more peaceful when I started getting a handle on my thoughts. I started making my mind my servant, rather than the other way around. I had to be very vigilant in observing my thinking and my feelings so I could see where I was going off the tracks and make adjustments. I began to train my mind. So how do you retrain your brain to feel lighter and happier?
Observe. Be mindful of your mind. Watch your thoughts and how you feel. Your feelings are a great barometer of where your thinking is. If you think one thought and feel awful, there’s room for adjustment. It’s like that joke about the man who goes to the doctor and says, “My arm hurts when I do this.” And the doctor says, “So stop doing that.”
You are only one thought away from a good feeling. – Sheila Krystal
Shift Your Response. Remember how you can look at a glass as half full or half empty. Describe a glass as “half full” and notice how you feel. Describe it as “half empty” and notice how you feel. The glass didn’t change. You shifted your thoughts. And you can do this with anything. If you find yourself thinking about something one way and feeling awful, ask yourself, “How can I think about this in a way that feels better?” or “How could this be working to my advantage or to the world’s advantage?”
Examples. Here is an example of two ways to look at winter:
- You could look at winter as a time that’s gray, cold and dismal.
- You could look at winter as an opportunity to slow down and snuggle up in warm blankets with a good book or a pet or loved one.
See how differently you feel depending on the viewpoint?
Here’s an example of two ways to look at a relationship ending:
- You could look at a relationship ending as a horrible event, that you’re terrible at relationships and will probably die alone.
- You could look at a relationship ending as a space opening up so you can spend more time doing what you want (something perhaps your former partner criticized you for) and/or as creating a space to meet someone better suited for the new you who learned a lot of things in the previous relationship.
Same event. Different ways of thinking lead to different emotions.
How can I think about this in a way that feels better?
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Keep doing this each day to create new mental habits that will help you feel better. You’ll see a difference each time you shift your mind. It’s likely that your mind will want to stick with its old habits at first so you’ll need to continue to be mindful over and over. However, like with any new habit, it will start to become part of your new routine the more you do it so keep at it.
Feed Your Mind – Tools for Positivity. It also helps to surround yourself with things that help you shift your thinking to feel happy. For example, if you feel sad after spending time on social media or watching dark TV shows or movies, then spend less time doing that and see how you feel.
Feed your mind good stuff that supports a glass half full perspective. Below are the video of my interview on Fox 2 News and more details on the tools that can do just that that I shared.
The Positivity Kit by Lisa Currie. This fun book helps us focus on what is going well in our lives and what we have to be grateful for. You can even color in it, which is calming and reduces stress levels, because it focuses you on the present moment and out of mind chatter about the past and future ($15, available at amazon.com and from Paper Source). Prompts include:
- Draw your dream home
- Make a grateful list
- Compile the perfect playlist
- Draw yourself a tattoo (on paper!)
- List 30 great ways to spend a free hour
- Write a thank you note to a stranger
Thoughtfulls Pop-Open Cards. These positive, uplifting cards brighten our spirits with inspiring messages that help us look on the bright side of life and with optimism. Each box includes 30 cards, each with a different inspiring quotation ($6.95/box, available at compendium.com and at Artmart and Paper Source in St. Louis).
Examples of some quotes in these awesome cards:
- “Celebrate your humanness, celebrate your craziness… celebrate you.” – Leo Buscaglia
- “… let your heart soar as high as it will.” – A.W. Tozer
- “If you insist on measuring yourself, put the tape around your heart rather than your head.” – Carol Trabelle
Happy Is… Notecards. Send these bright, cheerful cards to add some joy to the people in your life (e.g., let someone know how they brighten your day). The great thing about brightening someone’s day is that joy is reflected back to us so we typically feel happier when we support others.
Do Tell. What helps you shift your perspective to help you feel happier and more peaceful? Do tell.