Learn How To Be Happy

Learn How To Be Happy

You might think that if you work through your unresolved issues, you will find yourself getting off the therapy train at exit: happy place. But, what many people don’t realize is that they have to learn how to be happy as part of their therapeutic work.

IMG_0022Unhappy people have negative automatic thoughts from repeated use, which are now deeply engrained in their brains. As a result, they can easily see faults with themselves, others, and their experiences. Acknowledging their personal strengths, being kind to themselves, and seeing the positive aspects of their experiences may not even occur to them.

If this sounds familiar, you may be thinking this is just how you are. However, seeing things this way is learned, and can be unlearned. You were not born a negative baby destined for misery. This is not about changing who you are. Viewing the world positively will simply quiet the noise that keeps you from being your best self.

Practicing the following tips will help you change your brain and lead you to a more fulfilling and happier existence:

1. Check out both sides of the painting. Look at a painting or picture. In detail, list what you like about it, and then what you dislike about it. If your first reaction is that you like it, you may find that it is hard to list what you don’t like, and vice versa. Apply this practice to your life. Notice your automatic reactions to your experiences. Did you walk away from something thinking about what you didn’t like, what went wrong, or the mistakes  you made? Take a moment and identify what you did like, and what went well. Try to focus on those things, rather than staying in a negative mindset. Eventually, you will learn to be with the positives, and chalk the negatives up to being good information for the future, but the sole definition of yourself or your experiences.

2. Be a person inside yourself that you want to be around. You want to be a pleasant person inside yourself, so that you can enjoy being with yourself. After all, you are with yourself all the time. Turn your focus to your inner-dialogue. Do you criticize yourself and others? Do you beat
yourself up for your mistakes? Are you easily angered? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who is negative, angry, critical, and sees the worst in everything. When you notice that you are feeling down and filled with negativity, ask yourself what a positive person would see. What would a kind, supportive person tell you about yourself? Then, think those thoughts as if they are your own until they actually are. When you tell yourself something enough, you believe it. Practice, practice, practice!

3. Let go of anger. No one wants to hold on to anger, but if you have been deeply wounded, it’s hard to let it go. It’s hard to know how to let it go. Anger is self- protective, and you may IMG_0024subconsciously be afraid to let it go. However, if your anger is hurting you, it’s time to start the process. To do this, start by recognizing that the past is no longer still happening; the only thing still present is your anger. You are re-experiencing past events in the present, and doing this is hurting yourself. Actively choose to think about the good things that are actually happening right now. Are there people in your life who treat you with kindness? Are some things going well? As you recognize the great things you currently have in your life, try to embrace the positive feelings that come with that. Repeatedly bring your focus back to the things you appreciate in the present. Over time, this will get easier, and the  positive feelings will fill the void that anger has left within you.

To change your negative automatic thoughts, you have to start thinking differently, both consciously and purposely, and then practicing those new ways of viewing yourself and the world. It may not feel comfortable at first, but doing it creates new pathways in your brain. Eventually, happy, positive thoughts will replace your negative automatic thoughts, and will feel authentic.

If you want to be happy, you will have to do the work to get there. It won’t happen overnight, but with consistent effort, you will slowly see your life and yourself changing.

Copyright © Caitlin Cantor 2014

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