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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

How to Have Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy

Does your brain produce unhappy or happy thoughts?

Sometimes we think it’s our genes that make us the kind of person we are. However, that’s not the whole story. Often we are so preoccupied with the status quo that we forget we have the power to become the person we want to be.

If happiness is what you’re after, know that by training your brain you can program your mind to make you happy. And let’s face it, who is not looking to be happy?

Here’s how you can start instilling happy thoughts in your brain:

1. You choose how happy you are.

How? By the type of thoughts you make. Positive thoughts make you happy, while negative thoughts make you unhappy.

“I’m so fat.” – That’s a negative thought that makes you feel helpless.

“I will never achieve this.” – Another negative thought.

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“I like spending time with my spouse.” – A positive thought that brings you good feelings.

“Let’s go on vacation, babe!” – Now that’s excitement! Happiness is here!

So far so good.  But how can you produce more positive thoughts so that you’re happier?

2. You CAN train your brain to think happy thoughts.

By training your brain to think more positively than negatively, you’ll become happier. Here’s an example:

Have you noticed how some people feel bad about themselves when someone criticizes them, while others never seem to care?

What most people don’t know is that how you react to criticism is a habit – a thinking habit.

Some people habitually take it personally and feel unhappy, while others are habitually indifferent and keep being happy.

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That isn’t true just about criticism. It’s true about everything: how you react to compliments; how you react to bad drivers; how you react when you feel threatened or taken advantage of.

By actively choosing different thoughts, you can reinforce the habit of thinking positively and decrease the habit of thinking negatively.

But what about occasions that are indeed negative? Does this mean you should deny the truth and wear rose-colored glasses? No.

3. You can think positive and still be realistic.

Some people equate “thinking positively” as wearing rose-colored glasses. That’s not what I am suggesting.

“I’m so unfit” – a negative thought that brings in bad feelings.

“I’m so unfit but I am now exercising and I’m getting fitter every day!” – started out as a negative thought, but got twisted into a positive thought. The result? One step closer to happiness!

You see, the word “but” is magical: it keeps your thoughts realistic, but they no longer make you unhappy!

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4. Add a “but” to turn your unhappiness into happiness.

If you could just add a harmless “but” to every negative thought you produced, you could transform all negative thoughts into positive ones.

The result? You could transform all your unhappiness into happiness! A few examples:

  • “I feel like will never lose weight” becomes “I feel like I will never lose weight, but I know there are other people who used to be exactly like me and made it happen!”
  • “I will never find love” becomes “I will never find love if I keep staying at home just like I am right now. But if I start going out more, my luck might change.”
  • “I will never pay off this debt” becomes “I will never pay off this debt, but I could pay some of it if I start saving $100 more every month.”

See how powerful the word “but” is? It’s like having a happiness magic wand!

5. The more you get used to adding a “but,” the better happiness results you get.

At first you’ll need practice. Adding a “but” to your negative thoughts does not come naturally when you’re just starting out.

However, the more you do it, the more your brain creates neural pathways that build the habit of thinking “but” automatically every time you think negatively.

This “but” technique will literally change the structure of your brain and elevate your happiness level dramatically. Being happy can be that easy.

6. Stop making meaningless affirmations.

Many people try to jump to the happy thought directly from the unhappy thought. So instead of thinking “I’m so unfit, but I am now exercising and I’m getting fitter every day,” they’ll think “I’m fit”. They jumped from “I’m so unfit” to “I’m fit”.

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The problem is that usually those affirmations and “happy thoughts” are not really happy thoughts. They instead make you unhappy. Why? Because you don’t believe them.

If you believe you’re unfit, you cannot fool yourself into believing you are fit. However, you can believe that you can get fit.

And that’s why the “but” technique works so marvelously. Just like the “what if” technique, it accepts where you are, but shows you the road ahead.

Identify your negative thought that you can turn into a positive one with the simple use of a “but” now. Today is the day you can start training your brain to be happy!

More About Positive Thinking

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Maria Brilaki

Maria helps people create habits that stick not just for a month or two but for years and decades.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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