Are you happy? Do you want to be happier than you are now?
Here’s the good news: Happiness is the direct and unavoidable result of the correct application of those principles that produce it. By discovering the principles upon which happiness is predicated, we will predictably experience more of it.
The principles of happiness can roughly be divided into one of the following 4 categories. This post covers the first one.
Following are 10 ways of habitually thinking that are guaranteed to add joy to your life. The key to greater happiness, however, is to move these ten ways of thinking from the level of technique to the level of what you might call a habit of thought.
This will require a driving hunger to improve your life, the persistence to see the habituation of new ways of thinking, and a lot of work. But it is achievable. And the results will be well worth the sustained effort.
1. Think Positively
It seems that positive thinking has come under fire a bit from some quarters lately. But much of the criticism has positive thinking mostly wrong. It is not so much the recitation of affirmations that fly in the face of reality, as much as a rigorous retraining of the mind and attitude to learn to see things in brighter hues.
Positive thinking, in a word, is a learned trait. We can improve how positively we see the world by choosing what aspects of it to focus our attention on. The rewards of such an effort are life-changing.
2. Think Optimistically
Optimism is the belief that things will work out, that there is a bright tomorrow lurking around the gloomy corner. It is faith and hope in action. It is proactively doing in the face of obstacles because of the faith you have that you will be able to overcome those obstacles. Practical optimists believe in a brighter future. They have confidence that things will work out … in part because they then take steps to create that future and work things out.
Note: Optimism and positive thinking are often used interchangeably. But there is a difference. Where positive thinkers see the blue sky around the cloud, an optimist sets up a picnic expecting the cloud to blow away. A practical optimist sets up the picnic beneath a awning … just in case!
3. Think Creatively
Learn. Expand your mind. Read broadly. Travel, if you can. Expose yourself to other cultures and ideas. Challenge your thinking. Don’t get intellectually lazy. An active, engaged mind is a happy mind … and a more creative one. Fostering creative thinking is difficult to do in a vacuum.
And, frankly, positive thinking requires some creativity. I can complain about the rain for ruining my plans, or I can use my imagination to come up with something even better.
Creative thinking can lead to creative ways to overcome problems and to create a life that impassions and excites you.
4. Think Perspective
There are different ways of changing your perspective in ways that positively affects your happiness. One way is to see the trials of life through the lens of other people’s difficulties.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t advocate comparing yourself to others. And in truth, I’m not really doing that here either. Rather, it’s more a broadening of your perspective, seeing your life and your problems within a larger contextual picture. Come check out the video clip linked here (introduced to me by my new friend, Marianne Irvine) to see what I mean. This is a MUST see!!! (but be sure to come back and finish reading this article … and leave a comment … and subscribe … and share on your favorite social media … and send me money … and, well, never mind)
5. Think Purposively
Choose your thoughts; don’t let them choose you! Think with purpose and direction, with a plan in hand and a destination in mind. The more thought you put into the things in your life that matter most, the more effective you will likely be at creating the life you would love to live. Lazy, wandering daydreaming leads to nothing but less time to do what can lead to amazing opportunities. A mind left to wander on its own often gets filled with thoughts that pool at the lowest points of the moral landscape. Instead, learn to choose what you will think about. Fill your amazing mind with amazing ideas. And then think creatively about them.
6. Think Elevated Thoughts
We are dual-natured. We can think small, angry, self-serving thoughts that are cynical, lustful, prideful, fearful, boastful, resentful, condemning, judging, greedy, shrinking thoughts. Or we can think with and about thoughts of nobility and honor and love and graciousness and humility and forgiveness and gratitude and faith and trust and benevolence. I’ll leave it to you to decide which list of thoughts will produce a happier life.
Thinking kind thoughts about people, for example, simply feels so much better than thinking hateful or critical thoughts about them. And yet we spend so much time judging others, talking about them behind their backs, speaking foul things in foul ways about aspects of their lives we know little about. It serves us nothing, but to damage our relationships and the sense that our existence makes the world a better place.
So stop the gossip. Stop the backbiting. And learn to see the best in others, to wish the best for others, to think the best about others. You do, after all, hope others will do as much for you!
7. Think Funny
Developing a good sense of humor is essential to happiness. Laughter is truly the best medicine to a melancholy life, especially when life throws you a curve ball or two. So go and find your funny bone! Especially important is being able to find the humor in life’s challenges and missteps and not taking yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself and at your own idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. You will feel the happier for it!
8. Think Solutions
Things of the mind tend to grow larger with focus and attention – and our problems are just all too willing to accommodate that fact. So starve your problems and feed the growth of solutions to them instead.
Rather than worrying about your difficulties (which does nothing to improve circumstances, but lots to expand the size of the problem in our minds — and the stress associated with that expansion), spend your time and energy thinking of possible solutions to the difficulty you are having instead — or of ways to prevent the potential problem from ever developing in the first place!
Happy people are solution-oriented. Unhappy people are problem-oriented. Change that orientation and more happiness will be yours for the picking!
9. Think Long-term
Cheating on your spouse with the secretary is more immediately pleasurable than the necessary work of renewing a neglected marriage. The party tonight is more enjoyable than the hours needed to prepare adequately for the exam tomorrow. Eating the box of donuts now is more rewarding this moment than reeducating your palate and eating the quality food that will prolong a healthier, more rewarding life of energy, stamina and mental acuity.
But all such short-term thinking, under the pressure and the pull of immediate gratification, comes at a great cost to future happiness. Instead, learn to delay short-term satisfaction for the much bigger long-term rewards.
10. Think Possibility and Opportunity
Limited and limiting thinking produces limited and limiting results. Some people wait for life to happen to them. They check their daily lucky numbers and review their horoscopes to determine their course of action that day. Others decide what they want out of life and create opportunities that provide it. Some think fear and caution. Others think possibility. Some ask “Why?” Others ask “Why not? And why not now? And why not me?” Some wonder why things just never quite work out for them. And others wonder what they can do next to step that much closer to the vision they have of a life they are willing to create.
How you think and what you think about, over time, largely creates the circumstances of your life … including the degree to which happiness and joy and love and excitement and passion and purpose and meaning will play a major role in it.
It takes a tough person to learn to think differently. We develop patterns of thought, habitual ways of thinking, over the course of a lifetime. To change course midstream requires a tremendous effort of will in many cases.
But we can learn to think differently and to view the world with new eyes.
I repeat here as I started: While these ways of thinking can be used as techniques to massage a few more tremors of happiness from your mind, the real key to a life brimming with joy is to truly change the way you think, to develop habitually positive, optimistic, creative, humorous, solution-oriented thinking. This is because once your thoughts have changed, life will begin the process of reshaping itself to fit that new reality.
So go and think yourself to a new level of happiness and joy.
I dare you!
What Do You Think?
- What habits of thought have I left off?
- How have you been helped by changing how you think?
- Which of the 10 do you think are most important?
- Which do you think are not all that helpful?
- Have you had to struggle to acquire new ways of thinking?
- Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
- It would mean a lot to me and my readers.