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
45 replies on “How To Find Happiness That Lasts”
Thank you very much! Till the end of this post. I realise why happiness is never close to me! Is all in my mind!
I had reformat my brain after reading.
And I am going to share this with many many friends out there, who are not in happy mode. So that I create a happy environment with happy friends and a happy world for myself and for everyone.
Once again, thank you for your wisdom.
You sure deserve a GREAT HUG!!!
[…] How to Find Happiness That Lasts, from Joyful […]
This is just what I needed to read today!
Welcome! Thanks for your comment and I’m glad this post helped.
I appreciate honest comments more than you know, so thank you. You are right that if just empty ourselves, happiness flows in. It’s the basic human condition to love life as long as we don’t get in our own way!
Perhaps happiness is a little like food and money. When you have it, it’s not a big deal; when you don’t, it’s the only thing you look for!
For me, I find that when I load up on guidelines for being happy, I tend to not notice the flowers. Over the years, I’ve learned that with an empty mind and openness, we are naturally happy. We like connecting with others. Things flow. Adding things on – even with a positive direction – doesn’t usually work for me. Does have its appeal, though!
Welcome, and thanks for your comment. I think that someday the law of attraction will take the same place in science as the law of gravity, which people once didn’t believe too. I read somewhere that whether you believe in the law of gravity or not, if you jump off a building you will still fall! So whether you believe it or not, you attract into your life what you think about.
so, another type of law of attraction post.
I wish it is true
Go easy on your ego 🙂 I too am guilty of endless repetition until I feel like I’ve been heard – which usually means until the other person ‘makes up for it’ in my book! I’ve just finished reading your book and I know you are already on default happy. You’re an amazing, gutsy person!
Mention an unhappy event once. I needed this reminder today. My big fat ego forgets sometimes. I also need to default on happy. Love it!
Your is excellent advice. It’s true that we experience only our perceptions and not the objective reality which may be experienced differently by someone else. I’ll remember your point to rephrase as “I’m experiencing…” or “I’m feeling…” We ‘know’ this yet often don’t practise it. Thanks for this great perspective!
Hi Daphne — thanks for this post. I’d add to #2 that I think it’s helpful to remind yourself that everything you think and feel is part of your own experience, not objective reality. So if you found yourself thinking “my friend is annoying,” for example, it’s helpful to rephrase that as “I’m experiencing my friend as annoying” or “I’m feeling annoyed at my friend,” which reminds you that you’re ultimately in control of your experience from moment to moment.
I would never dream that you were trying to be mean! I know where you were coming from, and I hope my reply didn’t sound defensive. I truly appreciate an honest comment because it’s authentic and we are after real people just trying to live well. Please continue to share your honest thoughts. I value that more than you know.
Hi Daphne, thanks for the response. Please don’t take it the wrong way, I was just looking for a bit more perspective, not trying to be mean. 🙂
Welcome, and thank you for your wonderful comment! I’m glad you liked the article. Feeding our mind is something we often forget, though we never forget to feed our bodies 🙂 Your site focuses on thinking as well, right? I think that is absolutely the right thing to do!
Your comment made me think about how effective paying attention to words was. Funnily enough, this is the strategy I personally find most easy to implement. I catch my thoughts most easily by listening to my words. Not using “but”, “never”, “always” and “should” have save me lots of angst in relationships, including the one I have with myself. Thanks for your thoughtful comment though. I guess it boils down to different strokes for different folks!
Seeing you here always makes me feel happy. One of your strong points is the ability to ‘get’ what the writer (not just me but all the other blogs I’ve seen you comment on) is saying and fully empathise and encourage. You’re a gem, Lance!
Spot on that acknowledging our feelings is the first step in being able to deal with them. As you say, just admitting I’m angry already does wonders in soothing the emotion. Glad you found the series fun. Thanks!
I learned that once I acknowledged how I felt, for example, “I am angry!” that was enough to keep me moving forward. Acknowledgment is critical, as is not getting stuck in that negative emotion. Say it once (twice if you have to!) and then take steps in a more positive direction.
Fun series, thank you!
“Default happy mode” – I love that thought! Along with all the ways you’ve listed to find happinesss, and the pitfalls to watch out for. I find that sometimes my language turns negative (buts, shoulds, etc) and then I get negative also. Being happy just feels so much better! Thanks much Daphne, this is great!
Hi Daphne, I really enjoyed this post. Numbers 2 onwards were golden. Number 1 has never worked for me, though. I’ve always found it to be a slight form of repression, at worst, or just covering things up with a pretty (prettier?) layer. What do you think?
I really, really like this article! In my own blog I have discussed these same principles. You really did a great job bringing light to these concepts. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. “Feeding your mind happy images” was one of my favorite statements! Again, very good article. I hope many read it and really sink their teeth into the things you’ve discussed.
I really enjoyed this quote:
“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” -Mark Twain
From your post, one of the overlying themes I observed is that good thoughts in = good thoughts out.
I think my default mode was not necessarily a angry or unhappy state, but it was a mode of giving my then girlfriend a hard time and not treating her like the special person I believe her to be.
Another post to print out and hang on the fridge for the whole family to see, learn by heart and live by!
this is a great post, and I can attest that everything you’ve outlined really does work! I used to be a default pessimist and worrier, and now I’m in “default happy mode” (love that expression by the way!) most of the time.
Using all of the techniques you’ve outlined I’ve shifted my outlook on life. Like you, I do sometimes still let things get in on me (the key word there being “let” – we don’t have to allow things to get us down), but because I’m now more aware of my thoughts, words and deeds I can shift back into a positive way of being much more quickly.
And I love to be reminded of the value of all of these tecniques, so thank you : )
I’m glad to know that you are in default happy mode now. I’m sure that it must feel miserable being in default angry mode.
It takes awareness to know if external events are getting to you. It’s great that you are able to recognize what has been happening and to experience a breakthrough. I’d also call it timely that you are doing a happiness series. We often call forward what we need to learn at the most opportune time.
We often build a lot of interpretations due to our filters. As you’ve correctly pointed out, when we focus on facts, we free ourselves; so that we can think more clearly. Great post! Stumbled!
This is a fabulous post! If we truly IMPLEMENT your suggestions we would feel happier. Implementation is the challenging part of the process. Stumbled!
Hi Daphne, I like your last article about happiness. You did a great job to make them a series.
I could not agree more. Happiness is solely what we think, not of our circumstances.
Thank you, Daphne.
Lovely article Daphne! I love your cheescake to leaf chomping paragraph – and the quote at the start was great, too.
Glad you liked the cheesecake and leaf chomping story! It’s amazing how easy it was to quit cheesecake when I stopped focusing on quitting cheesecake!
Happiness is indeed mostly in our heads, and once we’re happy we actually change our circumstances to be happy! Glad you liked the series – thank you for your support Arswino.
Implementation is always the key isn’t it? So many of us the right thing to do yet don’t take action. I can see you’re taking action on creating balance in your life and that’s inspiring. Thanks for the Stumble!
You made a point that got me thinking quite hard, that we call forth what we need to learn at the most opportune time. Hmm… that is interesting and would explain why that post would have been easier to write and post any time since I started the blog, except at the very time I was trying to post it. I guess it made me re-learn the lessons I’d learnt earlier. I love your insight and wisdom, Evelyn. Thanks so much for the Stumble!
You are more like my mother than me then – she was a worrier too and I think as she grew older she found a way to relax more and I’ve learnt so much just by watching her over the years. Glad you find that those techniques work – it makes me feel better in recommending them to so many people! You are also very correct about ‘let’ – it’s all within our control.
Gosh, I am so honoured that you find the post worthy of printing out for the family to read. Your comment really made my day and I’m so proud to be on your fridge door! Oh, and long live cheesecake! 🙂
I love the Mark Twain quote too – he says in one sentence what I would take an entire post to say! And what you said is so true – I too tend to give my boyfriends a hard time when I’m unhappy, poor darlings; yet when I’m happy myself then it spills over to them and they are happier too, so we truly do have a responsibility to the people around to be happy! Thanks for sharing.
I like the idea of a default happy mode and I like your thinking tweaks.
One of my biggest learnings last year was that happiness is a decision.
Thank you so much for your Stumble and your wonderful praise. Reading your first comment on the post makes me so glad I did it, because it was truly one of the most emotionally difficult posts I’ve ever written. You won’t believe how much you made my day with your comment.
@ Optometry Practice Management Software,
Welcome to Joyful Days, and thank you for your lovely comment. I’m glad you found it worthwhile to read every word. (Sorry if your comment didn’t appear straightaway, it was in the spam queue and I just fished it out.)
Oh I’m still angry at times, believe me! In fact on the day I posted this I struggled a lot with that. I’m just glad it’s a rare occurrence now and I’m back to being happy quite quickly. And you won’t believe how much I’ve grown, HAD to grow, in the last 5 years! I admire younger people like you who got your act together at a much earlier age 🙂
Focusing on facts has helped me countless times, and even then I sometimes still act too much on my interpretation. I suppose it will be a lifelong effort to perfect these habits but in the meantime even a little change helps. Meditation is something I’m working on, if I could just get myself to sit still long enough! Good to hear you unhappy thoughts are slowly disappearing.
@ Positive Thinker,
Welcome! And thank you for your comment here. You are so right that the quality of our thoughts determines almost everything about our future. And we really have to guard our thoughts and weed out the negative thoughts that will pull us under if we’re not careful. And yes, these only work if we “do it”.
Spring cleaning is one of the best things we can do for our homes, minds and souls! I’m glad you like the analogy. You made a good point that it’s easier to stop a negative thought from entering our mind than to get it out once it’s in. That’s a mistake I made around the time of this post – I allowed negative thoughts in and boy did it take a lot of heartache and tears to get them out! Yours is a wise comment indeed.
Thank you for your kind words. It was an emotionally trying time and I didn’t feel I had the moral authority to write or post this given my emotional state, but you’re right that it makes it more real. And certainly I feel happier now after remembering to take a dose of my own medicine!
Thanks for your wonderful comment! I appreciate it.
I jest not. In fact, I was angry just yesterday… hopping mad to the point of tears actually. But I’m no longer an angry person who is happy some of the time; I’m now a happy person who is angry some of the time. And that makes a HUGE difference. And your encouraging comment has made me even happier. I am grateful for your kind words.
I’m glad you like the ‘default’ concept. I was thinking that claiming to be happy all the time would be untrue and it would be irresponsible to give people such hope. However, being happy ‘most of the time’ is very achievable, and I’m glad you are already in that mode!
@ Nadia-Happy Lotus,
Just seeing your nickname makes me happy! I love the visual image of a Happy Lotus. You’re right that our attitude gets mirrored back to us, and so do the attitudes of those around us which is why we have to choose our friends so carefully. I agree that many people think happiness is ‘out there’ or in things, and the truth is that it’s all in our minds. You are wise to have a strategy to deal with tough days. Listening to music is certainly do-able and a very quick way of affecting our moods for the better. I shall remember to do this more often. Thanks for your lovely lovely comment. I am very well indeed, and hope you are too!
@ David Cain,
Welcome! And thank you for your insightful comment. It is true that it’s hard to monitor our thoughts, and much easier to monitor our words so we can use our words as clues to our thoughts. ‘Should’ is insiduous because it sounds so ‘right’ and yet makes people so ‘wrong’. I like the way you put it – ‘should’ is a dead giveaway for prejudice. So true!
You made a keen observation that anger is a mask for fear. I suppose when we’re angry it’s because we’re trying to protect ourselves from something, probably hurt, and so it arises from some unidentified fear. I’ll have to think about this, because there’s a deep kernel of truth here and once I can identify that fear, I can deal with it. Thanks for sharing about your mother’s rage and your anger. It’s very kind of you to assure me that I’m not alone in this. You’re the best!
Ah, a fellow happiness warrior returning in triumph! Glad to hear that you pulled through the tough time and are back in default happy mode. It’s always good to be back there. I’m glad the suggestions on vocabulary were useful. They are so simple yet have helped me tremendously over the years. Thanks for shining your light over here today!
Thanks for specifying what you liked about the post – that always helps. Happiness is a decision indeed, one we make every day of our lives!
A powerful post.After a bit tough battle me too have managed to get myself back to ‘default happy mode’ lately:).And to tell about that simplifying vocabulary I’ve never thought of that and now I’m working on that.Your site really improves me.
You know what? That Carnegie’s quote is one of my favorites.Thanks for lighting a lamp.
Hi Daphne. Ah, don’t beat up on yourself for getting angry. It just happens. I know it all too well. I’ve had to learn to not judge anger itself because I grew up with a mother who was a rageaholic. I get angry more than I’d like to. As you say, with practice we get better at handling these emotions. Anger is actually a mask for fear.
One thing I’ve noticed recently is that the times when I do get angry, I’ve been in a hurry or felt pressured, so it’s easier to react rather than respond. I wonder how less angry people would get if they just slowed down and breathed?
Whoops. Forgot to finish that sentence there.
“Words can be red flags for destructive thinking habits.”
Number One is so powerful. Words can be red flags for
Should really is the worst of all. It doesn’t even mean anything. Should, according to whom? Should is a dead giveaway for thoughts born of conditioning and prejudice.
Great post. There have been two studies that have proven that happiness is contagious. So the more time spent with happy people, means that a person will become happier.
I have come to realize that the best way to remain happy is to have happy thoughts and just remind myself of all the good things I have in my life. It truly is a matter of attitude.
You have a negative attitude, then that is mirrored back to you. Have a happy attitude and then that is mirrored back to you too.
I think a lot of people do not realize that happiness is a state of mind. It is that simple but even happy people have tough days! When I have those kind of days, I just listen to happy music, watch something that makes me laugh or just look at all the blessings in my life. Once I do that, I feel so much better!
Thanks for such a great post and I hope all is well with you! 🙂
I like the “Default Happy” mode ingeniousness. That is actually a conscious choice we CAN and should make. Good post my friend, I’m already in my default mode. Happy 🙂
Daphne, surely you jest. You could not have been an angry persons; no way! If true, what a beautiful turn-around and many congratulations AND many thanks for teaching what you know. This post is by far my favorite of the series. Every line is so beneficial. I hope many people see this!
I love this!
I treasure that you are open about your feelings around the time of writing this post. It makes it all the more real and achievable.
You have made an enjoyable connection between “Spring cleaning” and the changing of the words one uses.
A lot of these points are not brought up often at all. Guarding what goes into your mind is a huge one. Once something negative is in your mind, you now have to use lots of energy and time for it to get cleared out. Avoiding certain people, media outlets, locations, and occurrences is placed in the category of preventative health measures.
Lots of good thoughts in this article. I agree that you should not dwell on your mistakes and flaws for too long. Instead always focus on your qualities and strengths. We all have to spend more time to solve the “problem” than crying over the “problem”.
And really the quality of your thoughts will determine where you are going from this moment on. The happier your thoughts are the more productive you will become. Positive thinking will help you to go through the difficult times in your life, but action will create solution. So, do it.
I particularly like point 2, focus on facts. It’s so easy to color any event with our inaccurate interpretations.
I use meditation to help keep my mind calm. I’m not always happy, but the number of unhappy thoughts has decreased.
Hey Daphne! 🙂 What great tips! I find it hard to believe that you used to be an angry person, because you seem so jovial and happy! It just shows how much growth you must have undergone 🙂 I especially agree with Tip # 2, regarding focusing on facts. A lot of unhappiness comes from superfluous interpretations rather than anything else. Great post! 🙂
There are hardly some articles which I sit for so long and read them. Yours is one of them. I just enjoyed every word of your article. I am sure I will be able to be Happy now for the rest of the life.
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You did a fantastic job on this post. As I was reading it so many time I think to myself, this is the best part. Then I kept reading and I think no no this is the best part. This keep happening. I guess what I am try to say is, Well done. I really enjoyed this. Stumbled again:-)