The hidden-in-plain-sight-secret to a happy life
How is your life going so far? Are you happy? Content? Satisfied? Or do you score yourself lower and did you end up living a life that you didn’t quite dream of when you were a kid?
We’re at the beginning of the new year, so this is typically a time to reflect a little bit and set our focus to the future. So let me help you with some practical ways to do that to make the most out of it.
There are a couple of things you might want to adopt in your perspective towards life (if you haven’t already), that will help you get things in perspective.
We run on autopilot most of the time
We call them habits, and those are actions we take in such a repetitive way, that our body is starting to think for us. Your morning routine, the route you take to work, even the way you feel or think about things. They just exist and take care of your day-to-day routine.
We think however we think consciously all day long, but most thoughts are being triggered by automated feelings. The moment your boss comes in and asks “Do you have a minute for me in my office?” can trigger a chain of reactions. Physical and mental. And we all know that feeling when your partner says: “We’ve got to talk”. Right?
We’ve conditioned ourselves that way for the most part. So it’s something that over the years just started to appear. What I mean to say is: don’t be too hard on yourself for that. It’s not your fault, it’s just how things happened.
Now you know this, you can start to rethink things. You can become aware of thoughts and feelings and start questioning them: “Are they still helping me in this situation?”
And if not, why not start thinking different things?
Your thoughts create your feelings and your feelings feed your thoughts.
If you remember something from the past, you know you can recall that exact same feeling from back then, right? So you know from experience, that thoughts can create feelings.
But it goes the other way around too. If you feel anxious and worried, the thoughts you’re thinking are keeping you in that state of fear, right? So it’s a closed-loop.
The thing is, we can’t change our feelings without our thoughts. They have to be triggered by the things we think. But feelings do a very good job as the triggering mechanism. So when you discover you’re feeling something you don’t want to feel, that’s the trigger to think different thoughts. Think for example about what you are most grateful for in your life. And really focus on that thought. If needed, look for a quiet space where no one disturbs you — even if it has to be on the toilet in the office.
Just take a couple of minutes to keep the thought of gratitude in your mind, until you start feeling that gratitude too. And since we can’t feel 2 opposite things at the same time, the anxiety has to make place for gratitude.
Practice this and get better at it every day
The feeling of happiness or content is therefore something you can actively decide. Think it so vividly that the feeling has to follow.
This can be hard because when you’re feeling down you’re literally not in the mood for better thoughts. That’s the whole point. But it is a way to break the pattern (I wrote about that in an article about habits and how to break them).
If you can train this, and you’ll do it every day, day after day, let’s say for a week-long, you’re going to have a pretty good week. Connect the weeks together and you’ll have a good month. Connect the months and you’ll have a good year. Do this for years, and you’ll have a good life.
If we narrow it down, having a good life is living every day with awareness of a good life. And a major tool that can help you with that, is the way you think. The mindset. Because that’s how we perceive reality isn’t it?
Make every day a good day, and you’ll have a good life. It’s that simple (although not always easy).
So the next big question is how?
Controlling the way you think has many tools available. Practicing mindfulness like meditation or yoga, tai chi, or other practices that lets you relax and connect mind and body, is one way.
Another great practice you can look into is stoicism. They seem not to be hurt or don’t attach themselves to events they can’t control. It’s as simple as this:
If you can’t change it: don’t worry.
If you can change it: don’t worry.
So, don’t worry. Instead of worrying (presenting future negative thoughts) do some regular daydreaming (presenting future positive thoughts). I’ll guarantee you that’s far more fun.
Unfortunately, we’ve unlearned daydreaming. Because we need to face reality, right? We’re not kids anymore. So we see something happen and we start to worry instead.
But how is that helping you?
“We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein
I’d rather stick with daydreaming. Also when reality asks for action. At least I’ll take action not from anxiety but from positive thoughts. Often that action leads to better results.
Most of all, make it a daily practice so your body can take over and make it into a habit. Since then our body-mind takes over.
Wouldn’t it be great to have the habit of feeling good 99% of your time?
I’d go for it. 100%.