If you want to be happy, think happy. Do this until your default mode is ‘happy’. Here’s how to find happiness not just for a day, but for a lifetime.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
– Unknown author
‘Default happy’ mode
I used to be in ‘default angry’ mode. Once I was walking through a carpark when I suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere and growled to myself “I’m so angry!”
That was my wake-up call. There was no trigger for my anger. I was just so full of it that it welled up with a life of its own. It took years to change this. Now the words that spontaneously rise from inside me are “I’m so happy!”
In hindsight, I realise the change happened one thought at a time. I had learned to think differently in subtle but important ways.
How to find happiness: 5 ways
1. Use positive words
“A vocabulary of truth and simplicity will be of service throughout your life.” – Winston Churchill
Made a decision to eliminate the following words as far as you can.
“But”: What follows this word is seldom positive, so don’t use it at all if possible. Substitute it with “and”. For example, if you’re thinking about trying something new, say “And I will need to learn how to…” instead of “But I don’t know how to…”
“Never”: This either closes doors on the future (“I’ll never be as successful as her”) or opens the way for an accusation (“You never help with the chores”).
“Always” : This is often used the same way as ‘never’ (“I always mess up” or “You always think of yourself first”) and to be avoided for the same reasons.
“Should”: This is perhaps the most dangerous word for your happiness. The moment this word is in use, expectations are usually at play. And to be truly happy we have to let go of our expectations.
2. Focus on facts, not your interpretation
“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” – Mark Twain
Our interpretations can keep us trapped in our own minds. By focusing on facts, we free ourselves of emotional biases so that we can think more clearly.
Example 1: If someone didn’t say hello to you, your interpretation might be “She’s mad at me” or “I’m not important”. The fact is simply this: she didn’t say hello. There could be many reasons for this and our first assumption has only a small chance of being the right one.
Example 2: We often tell ourselves “I’m not rich enough to eat at this fancy restaurant.” Such thoughts result in low self-esteem. The facts could be: (1) a fancy meal costs $100, (2) If I put aside $10 a week, I can eat at fancy restaurant every 10 weeks, (3) So I can eat at fancy restaurants 5 times a year. This is a more empowering thought process.
3. Mention an unhappy event only once
“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”
– Denis Waitley
We should speak up when we feel we have been hurt or wronged, but once is enough. Harping on the past is the result of feeling that we haven’t been heard or more likely because we haven’t gotten the redress we feel we deserve.
1) If you mentioned something and the other person didn’t think it important enough to act on, then understand that repetition won’t change that fact.
2) It is not the other person’s responsibility to do something about my unhappiness; that responsibility belongs to me.
3) Speak once, then act; or speak once, then let go. Just don’t speak once, then speak again, and again, and again…
4. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t
“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.” – Brian Tracy
I used to tell myself “Stop eating cheesecake”. The only word my mind could visualise in that phrase was, of course, ‘cheesecake’. This draws the mind towards, guess what, cheesecake! I finally gave up my cheesecake habit when I started thinking “I’ll eat salad today”.
In the same way, you can focus on what you really want, instead of dwelling on the problems you wish you didn’t have.
5. Guard what goes into your mind
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. Therefore, guard accordingly.” – Marcus Aurelius
Just as we protect our computers with anti-virus software, we need to protect our minds from negative intrusions. Otherwise the best computer can crash, and the happiest person can stumble. Some people and situations destabilise your happiness more easily than you’d like. Avoid them.
How to find happiness that lasts: be an ocean of joy
A drop of red ink in a pail of water will colour the entire pail red. The same drop in the ocean makes no difference at all to the ocean. The difference is not in the ink, it’s in the amount of clear water it’s dropped into.
This is the secret of how to find happiness that lasts: your mind should be an ocean of clear and joyful thoughts. Then your default mode will truly be happy.
“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have, it depends solely upon what you think.” – Dale Carnegie