Believe it or not, I’ve read 27 personal development books specifically on the topic of happiness over the last few years. (Yeah, I suppose that makes me a bit of a happiness junkie.) Throughout my reading, one of the sub-topics that kept catching my attention is how our thoughts directly influence our satisfaction and effectiveness in life.
Today I want to honor and discuss seven ways I’ve changed my thinking, based on the principles I’ve read about, that has undoubtedly made me a happier person.
1. Feeling privileged and satisfied to be alive.
If you’re reading this, congratulations, you’re ALIVE! And if you can’t find a reason to smile about that, you’ll have an awfully tough time finding a better reason to do so.
Time spent living is time worth appreciating. You are able to see the sunrise and the sunset. You are able to hear birds sing and waves crash. You can walk outside and feel the breeze through your hair and the sun’s warmth on your skin. When you make the most out of what you have it turns out being a lot more than you ever imagined.
A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset. When you wake up, take a second to think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive and healthy. Breathe onto the bathroom mirror, just to see how amazing your breath looks. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing, I assure you it will start to feel like one. (Read Zen and the Art of Happiness.)
2. Believing in the possibility of a better tomorrow.
What you believe determines who you become. If the thoughts running through your mind are pure, positive and empowering, you will create positive and empowering beliefs about yourself and about life. In turn, your actions, habits and daily routines will be a reflection of these thoughts and beliefs.
Sometimes you may catch yourself and wonder why you haven’t dropped all your positive ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to achieve. Yet you must keep them, because deep down, in spite of everything, you believe that people are still good at heart and that life still contains a touch of magic.
You have to believe that hope is stronger than fear. That imagination is more influential than public opinion. That dreams are more powerful than today’s reality. That determination always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the best cure for grief. And above all, you have to believe that love is stronger than any negative force in the world.
3. Knowing deep down that every step is worth it.
Through every life experience, especially those that force you to look fear and adversity in the face, you will gain strength, courage and confidence. Stop when you must, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I am living through this and I am still OK. I can take the next thing that comes my way.”
Make a pact with yourself and do the thing you once thought you couldn’t do. Take another step, even when you feel too worn out or tired. Find a reason to laugh, even when you’re trying not to cry. Trust yourself, even when your mind second-guesses your heart. Dance, even when others refuse to hear the music. Dream, even if you’re afraid of what they might bring. Open the door of opportunity in front of you, even when you have no idea what’s behind it.
Every step and experience is what makes you the person you are now. Without this experience, you are an empty page, a blank journal, an unsung lyric. What makes you ALIVE is your willingness to live through today’s challenges and then hold your head up high tomorrow with hope and tenacity.
4. Appreciating the beauty in all the small things.
Subtract the obvious so you can see the meaningful.
Rediscover the sensitivity of your childhood eyes. The eyes that saw life as it is – a beautiful compilation of tiny lives, each lived one at a time like snapshots in a family photo album. That saw beauty in flowers and rainbows and wild animals. That marveled at fireflies and sunsets and starry nights. That let you dream every instant with your eyes wide open.
See yourself sitting right where you are, breathing, moving your limbs, and appreciating this chance to experience this moment. If a child of two can see the beauty in it, why can’t you? (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)
5. Feeling good enough.
Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble and reasonable confidence in your own abilities you cannot be effective or happy. Know that you are good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, and strong enough. Do not derive your sense of self-worth from what you own, who you know, where you live or what you look like. Your self-worth is a reflection of who YOU are and how YOU choose to live.
Above all, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. If you somehow feel ‘better’ than someone you’re comparing yourself to, it gives you an unhealthy sense of superiority. If, on the other hand, you feel ‘worse’ than someone you’re comparing yourself to, you usually discredit all of the important progress you’ve made. The bottom line is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place.
If you feel called to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
6. Consciously detaching and living in the present.
The greatest step towards a life of positivity is objectivity – experiencing something fully and then learning to let go and move onward. The key is to accept that everything is changing. Each moment of your life is unlike any other. To live each one to the fullest, you must learn to be in the moment, fully, and then step out of it. This is detachment.
Take any emotional feeling – love for a significant other, or grief over a lost family member, or fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on your emotions and you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them, you can never get to the point of being detached from them. In other words, if you spend all your energy being afraid of feeling your true emotions – the vulnerability that love, sincerity and acceptance entails – you will be forever stuck.
But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to fully embrace them to the point where you’re effectively in over your head, you leave no emotion abandoned or question lingering in your mind. You know what love is. You know what grief is. You know what fear is. And only when you know these things can you say, “I’m OK. I have experienced this. I know what this emotion feels like, and now I need to detach from this emotion and move on with my life.” (Angel and I cover this in detail in the Adversity and Happiness chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
7. Embracing change.
As Oscar Wilde so profoundly said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Living a positive life hinges on your ability to accept the fact that everything is constantly moving forward, away from everything that previously existed. Not only do you have to emotionally detach from the past, but you also have to willingly thrust yourself forward into the unknown. You have to open yourself to trying new things, especially those that you may previously never have thought of doing, or had been too hesitant to attempt. This is how you open doors of opportunity for positive growth.
So many people live within the confines of unhappy situations and yet refuse to take the initiative to change their circumstances. They are conditioned to believe that the only choice is the current choice because it’s the life they know. Their comfort zone blinds them from the truth – that nothing is more damaging to the human spirit than a mind that resists progress and change.
All of your personal growth and much of your joy in life will come from your encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater commitment than to embrace an endlessly changing horizon.
The floor is yours…
What would you add to the list? What is your number one tip for being happy?
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