“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Emperor Marcus Aurelius
When I first moved to China, 10 years ago, I was astonished by how many sad, worried, afraid and depressed faces I saw. Life in China is very focused on competition and lack of resources and it has been generally accepted by most people that life is bitter (in fact one of the words for life is literally “bitter sea”). Wrinkles are scarred deep into many faces here, contours which stand in clear testament to lifetimes of worry, fear and exhaustion. Of course, this is not unique to China, however, I have never encountered this situation to such a degree anywhere else. Being bombarded on a daily basis by so many sad-looking faces, I am often moved by compassion. I wish I could help. I often wondered how someone could change their negative thinking habits and break the cycle of feeling bad. So, I set out to find a way.
The Source of Happiness
One thing I have realized is that looking for happiness outside of ourselves is the main reason why so many people are unhappy. Thinking that a new house, new car, new job or new relationship will finally bring us long-lasting happiness clearly does not work. If you study people’s behaviors, you see time and again, that this only leads to a never-ending, unfulfilling life of running from one thing/person/job to another. It is the age-old tale of the wanderer.
After all, happiness is a feeling and feelings exist within us; they arise with us. Our feelings are the result of our thoughts. Positive thoughts lead to good feelings and negative thoughts lead to bad feelings.
It stands to reason then, that the more we think uplifting, happy and positive thoughts, the happier we will feel.
Happiness (and sadness, excitement, fear, etc.) is simply the result of how we think about something. Happiness comes from our attitude, not from an endless pursuit of external objects.
So, I asked myself, “Why not just set myself up to win? Why go to so much trouble to be happy, when all I really need to do is think more positive thoughts?”
Now, we all know that mental habits can be difficult to control, but it is possible. And even if it is difficult, I figured it was worth making the change.
So, in the end, the final question is, “What can I do to think better, happier thoughts?”
And then it struck me. It was so incredibly simple! I was overcomplicating things.
All I had to do was talk to myself. I just needed to direct my mind to positive, happy thoughts. I just needed to point out and recall positive things and experiences. It really is that simple.
Allow me to demonstrate. Let’s try something together.
Take a deep breath and relax. Read these instructions first and then close your eyes and do this exercise.
Think of a moment or experience in your life when you felt really happy. Maybe it was something exciting or romantic or adventurous. Perhaps you were with someone who helped to make the moment special. Really bring yourself back to that moment and feel how you felt that day. See what you saw then and feel what you felt then. Dwell on this experience for a while, making it as real as you can in your mind, and watch it play out over and over in your head. After a few minutes, open your eyes.
Now continue reading below the photo.
How did that feel? If you really went for it, you most likely feel great right now. You probably feel happy. You have just manufactured a bit of happiness. You created happiness from within.
Let’s try another one, because practice does make perfect. Again, read the instructions first, then close your eyes and do the exercise.
Place your hand on your heart and physically feel it beating. Feel a sense of gratitude for your heart, grateful that it never stops working for your benefit. Feel thankful for how your heart has guided you in life. Think about the fact that you didn’t have to do anything for your heart, it was a free gift and, as long as it beats you’re alive and you get to experience all of this. Feel it pump life-giving blood through your body and sit in awe of your heart. Say thank you to that unknown source which keeps your heart beating.
When you finish, continue reading below.
Again, notice how you feel. All you did was direct your mind to think about something good, positive, uplifting and happy.
It really is as simple as that. Happiness is not something you have, it is something you feel. And, while we won’t feel it all the time, you have within you a very powerful Happiness Switch which you can flip on instantly and get the good thoughts and good feelings flowing at any time.
So, the next time you find yourself worried, afraid, angry or just thinking negatively, don’t try to fight the negative thoughts and don’t try to get rid of them. Simply, direct your mind to something that makes you feel good. The way to eliminate darkness is with light. You fight cold with heat. Thought follows the same laws: positive thoughts banish the negative.
Simple Exercises for Flipping on Your Happiness Switch
1. Here are some powerful questions you can use to help re-direct your mind at any time.
- “What am I really grateful for in my life? How does that make me feel?”
- “What am I really excited about in my life? How does that make me feel?”
- “What are 5 things that I absolutely love?”
- “What is a magical or wonderful experience I’ve had? What was most amazing about it?”
- “What is something or who is someone that I am really proud of? What is it that makes me feel so proud?”
2. Another simple thing you can do to flip on your Happiness Swtich is to play the “I love” game. It goes like this:
- As much as possible, again and again, look for and point out what you love. Say each thing out loud. For example: “I love the weather today”, “I love the smell of that flower”, “I love her smile”, “I love that I have eyes to see”, “I love that I can get fresh, drinking water so easily”, “I love how kind he is, “I love how this feels”, “I love the way that looks on you”, “I love how this tastes”, and so on. Do this over and over until you are over-flowing with happiness.
These may seem simple, but therein lies its power. These exercises do work and they will bring about more happiness and joy.
Use these simple practices and teach your brain how to turn on happiness in an instant. And, more importantly, the more you do this, the more it will become an automatic subconscious habit. Train your brain to be happy.
Feeling happy isn’t the only thing that matters in life, but it is something we all deeply long for. And when we feel happy, we are better able to enrich all other areas of our life and help those we love to be happy as well.
You have within you a mighty power: a happiness switch. Why not flip it on as much as possible?