Life can beat us up and suck the happiness out of our days.

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Relationships, work, loss and physical illness can pile on and make our hearts hurt. But all of us know someone who seems happy even when they’re experiencing difficulty in some part of their life.

Their secret?

They’ve learned to control their thought lives.

If you’re wondering how to find happiness even when life is hard, you might need brain surgery. Not One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest brain surgery, but sometimes a few tweaks in how you you think can make a huge difference in your happiness.

If you’re stuck in the doldrums and want to feel better, give yourself a brain transplant.

Here are five ways to change your mind.

1. Diagnose your thought patterns.

Take a quick biopsy of your reactions to situations and people that make you angry or unhappy, and diagnose the thought patterns you’ve formed around them. If your head is full of negative stuff- “Nobody likes me,” or “I’ll never succeed in this job,” etc., then there’s no room for anything good.

Understanding that your thoughts are negative before you allow yourself to react to them emotionally gives you a chance to decide to replace it with a happier one.

The result: More happiness.

2. Identify attitude problems and get rid of them.

Truth is, a lot of how other people (spouses, bosses, etc.) react to us is largely determined by the things we say and the attitudes we project.

If you change your thinking from “I hate this job,” to “I’m going to try my best today to make work a better place,” you’ll be amazed at how things feel different.

Giving first, serving others and smiling when you don’t feel like it will change how others perceive and react to you, and will make everything seem better to you.

Having a lousy attitude hurts you more than anyone else.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

–Zig Ziglar

3. Stop thinking about the past.

If you’re sad or unhappy about stuff that happened yesterday, guess what?

You’re spending today on something you can’t control or change. Neuroscientists have proven that focusing on regrets from the past harms your brain chemistry and keeps you stuck in unhappiness.

Deciding instead to making sure you do things differently in the future will improve your outlook and you’ll feel something new in place of regret – hope.

4. Cut out harmful connections.

The truth is, there are some people and some situations that are toxic to us.

If you frequently associate with people whose negativity, abuse, or behavior consistently produces pain and drains your joy, then sometimes the only solution is distance.

If you can’t make it better, then save yourself by getting the toxicity out of your life. Your brain will thank you, and your happiness will rise.

5. Doubt your doubts.

If you’re stuck in a miserable place because you’re simply too afraid to try something new, have a little faith!

Believe in yourself that if you take a step towards life change things will improve, and your doubts will start to drain, making room for the possibility of a better life.

Even if you try something new and it doesn’t work out, your heart will beat stronger with the knowledge that you really tried. You’ll regroup and next time get a little closer to the change you really want.

If you want to feel happier, you have to tune up your thinking.

Change your thinking, and you’ll change your life.

Featured photo credit: Jessica H. Tam via flickr.com

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