What we all want more than anything is to have a happy life. In fact, it’s for that very reason that we pull ourselves out of our warm comfortable beds each morning, put our best foot forward, and prepare to take on the world. But what is happiness? Happiness is when what you think, say and do are in harmony. We all know that having a positive attitude feels better than having a negative one. We tend to focus on and even exaggerate the bad and ignore or fail to acknowledge the good. Why is it that humans are naturally drawn toward the negative?
A friend of mine always says to her vocal students, “No negative down. No negative across.” Spreading negativity down refers to negative self-talk, while negative across refers to involving others in negative feelings toward someone or something, instead of directly addressing the cause of your unhappiness. Neither of these are productive or healthy. How do we establish and maintain a positive attitude?
Here are a few steps that are important in creating a habit of positive thinking and thereby living a happier life.
Step 1: Truly Believe Happiness is a Choice
I believe that happiness is choice. You have the choice to experience happiness just as you have the choice to be unhappy.
Some of our choices are good and others not. Regardless of the nature and outcomes of our choices, all are based on our deep and compelling desire to be happy. That’s the beauty of freedom of choice. It’s our decision and we get to decide how our story will unfold.
Just like any other habit, believing that we have to make a conscious decision daily to be happy will not be easy, but I promise that when you do, it will be the one of the best decisions you have ever made. The discipline and determination required are admirable and will not go unnoticed. Learning you are in control of your happiness, which no one can take from you, and realizing that it’s up to you to choose how to react or feel about it is a good place to start.
Step 2: Remove Toxic Relationships from Your Life
Toxic relationships often come hand in hand with negativity. If you want to live a joyful, tranquil and happy life you cannot afford to be surrounded by negative people who are discouraging your happiness. Here are a few ideas to help cultivate heathier, happier relationships.
- Minimize the time you spend with toxic individuals. Limiting time spent with those you deem toxic is the ideal solution, if you are unable to completely remove them from your life.
- Set clear boundaries. Know when to speak up and let them know that although you love them, their negativity is not welcome.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Fill your life with positive, high-energy people, and you will find you have less room for those who are negative. Think about your life. Is there someone who makes you feel special? Someone who makes you feel confident or even empowered? That is the type of person who will bring positive energy to your life. Seek those individuals out. Find someone you admire and assimilate their actions and enthusiasm for life.
Step 3: Stop all Self-Negativity
Many of us let fear and anxiety impair our ability to move forward and achieve the things that make us happy. Think positively. According to New Thought philosophy, the law of attraction describes the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their lives. You may have heard the saying, “positive thoughts beget positive results.” As we think negatively, we increase the chance of negative things happening. However, the more positive we are and the more we believe in ourselves, more positive things will come our way.
One tactic is to focus on the things you want to do and imagine yourself doing them. This will you to overcome the fear and anxiety you feel. Imagine the feelings of happiness and fulfillment you will receive from doing the things that you choose and want to do.
Feed your spirit. Give yourself sufficient alone time to contemplate the meaning of your life. Take this time to write in your journal, read uplifting text, organize your day, listen to classical or rejuvenating music, go for a nature walk or a run. Do anything you can think of that will center yourself. Meditation is a great way to clear your mind, push out the fear and anxiety, ridding your thoughts of negative and refocusing on the positive. Doing these things in the morning is a great way to set the tone for the rest of your day.
Step 4: Engage and Thrive in Your Environment
You need to love where you live. The neighborhood you live in has a huge impact on the outlook you have on life. Moving is a life–altering decision, but it may be the best option for you. It’s never too late to make a change.
Get involved in your community. As Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The more time you focus on others the less time you have to be self-centered and damaged by negative self-talk. Getting involved in philanthropic programs makes a positive impact on the world around you, ultimately, making you feel positive about yourself and about life.
Love what you do. We may not always have the luxury of choosing our employer, but when we work with negative individuals it can be severely draining. If the morale of the company is extremely low, your work environment can have a tremendously negative impact on you and your overall outlook on life. If this is the case, it is in your best interest to look for a new employment opportunity. Learn from your past experiences and seek prospective employers who have a reputation for providing a healthy, positive culture.
Step 5: Look for the Positive
If you really look you can find positive aspects in everything and everyone. Each person or situation has good aspects or characteristics. In order to choose happiness, we can’t simply sit idly by and allow things to happen by default.
People fool themselves into believing that positivity coincides with happiness. This is simply not so. Everything, the good and the bad, provides a learning experience. You can take away a positive from even the darkest of experiences, if you try. Maybe you learn from a mistake or remind yourself of the good that lies in people; whatever it is, seek it out and nurture it.
Step 6: Reinforce Positivity in Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions
In 1905, behavioral psychologist BF Skinner introduced a new term into the Law of Effect: Reinforcement. He said that behavior which is reinforced tends to be repeated (strengthened); behavior which is not reinforced tends to die out-or be extinguished (weakened).
As with any kind of training, practice makes perfect. The most effective way to create a positive attitude is to think positively about yourself. Tell yourself daily that you love and completely accept who you are.
But be honest with yourself. It is all right to not like everything about yourself, but don’t spend precious time or energy dwelling on the negative. Do make a concerted and consistent effort to look for the good. Nothing good comes from belittling yourself about your self-perceived faults. We all have positive attributes; focus on those and remind yourself of them every day.
Step 7: Spread the Happiness
The best way to put your new positive attitude into action is by not only being positive about yourself but also to those around you. Nelson Mandela once said, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Share your happiness and positive energy with everyone you meet. How do you start? Be nice. Pay compliments. Let your loved ones know that you value them. When you see someone in need of comfort, cheer them up. Write someone an anonymous note, send them flowers, or maybe more simply, just be their friend. Don’t gossip. Hold your tongue. Think before you speak, and choose your words carefully. Show respect and kindness to all living things. Go above and beyond the golden rule and treat others better than you would like to be treated. Encourage, support, and influence those in your circle. Pay it forward, meaning when something uplifting happens to you, pass it on. Do all these basic things and watch the impact they make on your confidence and happiness—but more importantly on the lives of those around you. It may not be easy at first, but I promise it is worth the effort.
The Take Away
Life is too short to be unhappy or to waste on negative thoughts and feelings. Believe in yourself, choose to be happy, and remember, a positive outlook on life is a constant conscious choice you are privileged to make for yourself every moment of every day. All living things appreciate positivity. The more you share it with others, the more you reinforce that habit in your own life.