Often we think that our circumstances need to change for us to be happy. However, there are three simple strategies that can help us to be happier right now.
Our feelings are usually caused by our thinking. When we think something is negative, we feel upsetting emotions. Often, our thinking is not in the present moment. So much of the time our thinking is stuck in the past or projected into the future. These two ways of thinking can make us very unhappy. When we think about negative events from the past, there is nothing we can do to change them. We may worry about the future, but much of it is out of our control.
When we think about the past it often leads to negative emotions. We may feel guilty, regretful or negative about it in some way. Alternatively, we may look back with longing to happier or simpler times.
When we think about the future we are often worrying about things that may go wrong. As Mark Twain put it:
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
If negative thoughts lead us to unhappy feelings, we must choose to let go of these thoughts wherever possible. then So to be happy, we must avoid dwelling on the past or projecting ourselves into the future, which means we must live in the present moment. But how do we do this? There are three simple techniques that can help us to get out of negative thinking and feel happier in the present moment.
Change our thinking
When we realise that our feelings are created by our thoughts we become more aware of this happening. Being aware of our thoughts gives us more control over them. While we may not always have control over outside circumstances we always have a choice as to which thoughts to dwell on. Often we get into a cycle of negative thinking. Breaking this cycle is the quickest way to return to being happy. Our thoughts are not facts. We do not have to listen to them as if they were. We can question our thoughts and hopefully dismiss those that are not helpful. Thinking rarely solves a problem. If you have a real issue that is of concern then talking it over with someone you trust or taking action to solve it will give you much more relief than dwelling on it and letting the negative cycle in your head continue.
We do not have to be a prisoner of the negative voice in our head. We can choose to let negative thoughts go.
Focus on abundance
Another way to get out of the cycle of negative thinking is to switch the focus of our attention to the abundance in our lives. Write down fifty things you are grateful for. My list right now would start something like this:
A cup of tea, the warm friendly smile my neighbour gave me this morning, snowdrops in the garden; a glimpse of sunshine; the soup I just ate for lunch; a new book that arrived in the post; my friends; my family; money in the bank; buds on the tree in the garden; all the things that are right with my health, such as my eyesight, hearing, emotional wellbeing, and ability to walk and talk; a well stocked freezer; a fresh loaf of bread; tulips in a vase on my desk; a scented candle; the dogs wagging their tails; birds singing; children playing in the school playground; being warm inside after being out in the cold…
Fifty things should be easy enough – try for a hundred – and switch your mindset from noticing what’s wrong in life to focusing on what’s good.
Get out of your head
My final suggestion for reducing negative thoughts is to get out of your head and into your body.
Dance; sing; run; clap your hands; make something; a cake, a quilt, a love poem, a spice rack; hug someone; stroke a pet; vacuum the living room.
It is also okay to just be with your thoughts for a while, grief and loss, anger and hurt are natural parts of life experience. We are meant to grieve for loved ones, losses and disappointments, but take care not to dwell on grief and disappointment for too long, or you risk missing out on the present moment, the only moment we ever really have to be happy.