Tuesday, April 20, 2010

3 Steps to Happiness!

I am amazed how many people still believe, money, along with finding the perfect partner, will make them happy. If this were true, there would be a lot more happiness in this world.

Money is everywhere. There are potential soul mates everywhere. But still, happiness seems to elude millions of people…


It is pretty well accepted in cognitive psychology that our thoughts and beliefs are what determine how we feel. In other words, it’s not what happens to us, but how we view what happens to us that creates our experience. The Greek philosopher’ ‘Epictetus’ sums it up like this…

“People are not disturbed by things, but by their rigid and extreme views of things.”

Now, some may think, that it’s outside events that influence the way we feel. This is understandable, because if there was a big fire in a hotel and everyone narrowly escaped death, most would be affected to some degree. Some would indeed be traumatised, but others would be only mildly affected, and a few might may even think ‘Phew, lucky escape’ and leave it at that. This is because everyone views their experiences in a different way.

Happiness to a large extend is within in our own control. Nothing, or no-one, can truly make us happy. To some degree, it is our lack of awareness of our thoughts that make us search outside ourselves for answers. Stress affects our thinking. When we become stressed, our thinking becomes distorted, and as a result we tend to focus on the negative side of things.

3 steps to more happiness…
  1. Learn to relax…when we are relaxed, we feel happier, and are more aware of our thinking process…
  2. Notice your thoughts. Remember, irrational thoughts create unhappiness.
  3. Re-frame your irrational thinking into rational thinking.
Let’s take a look at how we do this:

1. Learn to relax…you could learn progressive relaxation: This is the technique of relaxing every muscle in your body…You may take up meditation…mindfulness meditation is best, because it helps you to focus on your thoughts. Or you might discover the wonderful techniques of self-hypnosis…a personal favourite of mine.

2. Notice your irrational thinking: which is usually made up of statements, like… “I must”, or “I should”. Must and should statements create anxiety. They place unrealistic demands upon us. “I must do well at my interview” “I should be more successful in life”…etc.

3. The last step is to re-frame these irrational thoughts: Instead of telling yourself that “I should do well at my interview” you might say to yourself, “I want to do well at my interview, and I am going to do my best, but if I don’t succeed, it’s not the end of my world.” Or instead of saying “I should be more successful in life” try saying to yourself “I want to be successful in life, and I do the best I can to make it happen, but if I don’t do well I can still have a happy, interesting, and healthy life.”

When we feel overwhelmed or distressed, it is usually helpful to rationalise the situation, or event. The steps above need to become a life habit if you want to get results, not just something you try once or twice. Like shaking hands, eventually, you just find yourself doing it naturally. Of course, there is much more you can do to change your thinking, but these three steps are a good place to start.

Until next time