I’ve been thinking about the nature of happiness today. Partly because my friend Catherine sent me this article: New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy.
Briefly, the four rituals involve
1. Gratitude–even thinking about what you are grateful for helps increase happiness, even if you can’t come up with a thing.
2. Labeling negative emotions–the mere fact of naming your emotions changes what happens in your brain.
3. Make a decision–don’t try to make the perfect decision, merely a good enough one. Again, this changes what parts of the brain are firing.
4. Touch people–hugs, holding hands, patting shoulders, even getting a massage helps increase happiness.
I learned long ago that I was responsible for my own happiness. No one can “make me happy”. Not my parents, my spouse, my children, my friends, or colleagues. Being happy was my sole responsibility. What’s more, I can choose to be happy, no matter what is happening around me. It all depends on what I tell myself about what is happening to me.
I came across a poster on the internet today totally by accident that illustrates what I mean. It led me to happinessinyourlife.com and Doe Zantamata who is writing a series of inspirational books. She named this poster We Believe What We Tell Ourselves.
I truly believe this as well.
It is better to say, “everything will work out” than “this is the end of the world.” Better to believe “I’ll get through this” than “I’m going to fall apart” or “I’ll never succeed.” Better to remind ourselves “This will pass. How I feel is temporary” than to think “I’ll never get over this” or “I’ll never be happy again.”
I believe a person can turn any negative thought or experience into something positive simply by defining it differently. If we make a mistake, we don’t have to call ourselves stupid or a failure or any sort of terrible person. We can say, “I’m sorry for that. I’ve learned that lesson and I’ll never make that mistake again.” We can say to ourselves “I’m going to try my best to do that” instead of “I’ll never be able to do that.”
It’s hard to keep up this positive thinking, happiness thing, because those negative voices in our heads are so persistent. When we were young and vulnerable, those voices might have come from others, but now we need to understand that, as an adult, we define ourselves. No one else can tell us who we are.
It might take practice, though, to think about ourselves and our experiences in positive terms. It helps to deliberately practice. It’ll feel funny at first, but soon it will become more automatic.
So…go out and have a happy day. You can do it!!