Positive states of joy, love, and enthusiasm can overcome and neutralize negative states of anger, hatred, or apathy. Strong determination, action, and effort can develop these positive habits and make them predominant. Setting an intention to be happy and living and acting from your intention can dramatically increase your level of happiness.
About 20 years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a series of lectures on happiness given by the Dalai Lama. According to the Dalai Lama, happiness is not only our right but it is our responsibility because by being happy, we elevate those around us with our contagious happiness. The Dalai Lama said that happiness is a mental attitude, a state of mind, and not primarily dependent on external conditions. We can actively choose to be happy and we can discipline our mind to choose happiness by confronting our negative states of mind and transforming them into more positive ones.
I have found that one thing that stood in my way of my happiness was my desire to be right. I’m now much more aware that “right” is only relative. Each of us has our own preferences and values that we have developed through our life experiences and what we have been taught. The more that I can acknowledge that each of us has our own mental model of the world and the less I can release my ego’s attachment to being right, the happier I can be. And, no doubt, the people around me would say that they’re happier, too!
Another method to move into happiness is to ask yourself, when stressed, if feeling badly is going to make your situation better. It may be that you need to process some feelings to feel better and if this is true, you should process those feelings. But you may realize that feeling badly in response to a situation creates a cycle leading only to anxiety, stress, depression, despair, and resistance to change. Ask yourself in that moment what thought you can have that would make you feel better. Your thought could be anything – the thought of a loved one, the memory of a sunset, music you love – whatever resonates as a good feeling for you. This newly activated thought may only make you feel better for a few moments. If you return to feeling badly, lovingly repeat the process.
Set your intention to be happy. Monitor your internal dialogue and watch when it tries when it tries to lead you toward more negativity. Cultivate happiness by actively working on and changing your mental outlook.
Do you have a habit on dwelling on the same negative thoughts? Do the same discouraging thoughts constantly play over and over again in your mind? There are strategies you can use to break this cycle and restore your peace of mind and happiness.
Before looking at ways of tackling incessant negative thinking, let’s acknowledge that it isn’t necessary, or probably even desirable, to monitor every thought you have and to eliminate every negative thought. A more balanced approach, in fact, would be to let emotions, thoughts, and sensations rise and pass, regardless of their content. However, if you are plagued by incessant negative thinking, there are techniques to turn down the volume on them.
Here are some action strategies to reduce your repetitive negative thoughts:
Do something else!
It can be easier to change your actions than your thoughts. For a quick fix to break a cycle of negative thinking, do something else. Distract yourself from what is worrying you by doing something completely different. The mind cannot entertain two thoughts at the same time. Give yourself an easy task, watch something funny, go for a walk, or do some simple exercises – anything that will engage your mind in a different way.
Recognize that you can change your thoughts!
Your thinking contributes to your feelings more than any other factor. People generate negative thoughts so automatically they are unaware that it is happening and that it is actually a choice they are making. While negative thinking is a very strong thought habit, it is very possible to control the quality of your thinking.
Identify your pattern of negative thinking and substitute more positive thoughts.
What is your pattern of negative thinking and what triggers it? Do you focus more on problems than solutions? Do you constantly berate yourself for your shortcomings? Do you focus on the worst possible outcomes?
Once you identify your patterns, the next step is to replace your negative thoughts with more positive ones. For example, instead of thinking “This is a disaster” change it to “I wish this hadn’t happened but what are my options now?” and instead of “I’m an idiot” change it to “Good for you for trying!”
As you create more positive thoughts, avoid over-the-top, unrealistic proclamations. It may make you feel worse if you replace “I’m an idiot!” with “I’m the best!” because really, you don’t believe it. Keep your new, more positive thoughts consistent with what you think is possible or real.
Use these strategies to reduce the volume of your negative thoughts. Remember, your goal is to reduce incessant negative thoughts rather than trying to banish every negative thought you have. For even more peace of mind and happiness, begin to detach from categorizing your thoughts as negative or positive and adopt an attitude of non-judgment.