If I could offer you just one life-changing concept, it would be this . . .
Your thoughts determine your reality.
Now maybe this idea seems overly simple and self-evident.
But to really embrace this concept, for it to grow roots in your consciousness, and for you to use it as a manifesto for your life — now that's a gift.
It has taken me years, maybe my entire life, to see how powerful this truth is and to put it into action on a daily basis.
It's not easy. It requires that you take full responsibility for the quality of your life. It also requires a daily, even hourly, wrestling match with your own mind.
Our natural tendency is to think negatively. You may have heard that we have around 60,000 thoughts a day, and that 80 percent of those thoughts are negative.
Unfortunately, based on something called the “negativity bias,” we react more intensely to negative stimuli that positive. We feel a negative thought more profoundly that we do an equally powerful positive thought.
This negativity bias is an evolutionary adaptation that helped us survive the real and constant threats to life and limb, like a tiger chasing us. We no longer have the same life-or-death threats, but the fear-based thinking still persists.
Before you start thinking negatively about this negativity bias, let me offer you ray of hope. You can stand up to your negative thoughts, learn new thinking habits, and change the quality of your life.
Research continues to prove that practicing positive thinking and optimism not only makes you a happier person, but it also improves your health and longevity.
Even if you feel sad or depressed, changing your thinking habits can change your brain chemistry, helping you feel relief from the powerful, painful emotions you experience during these times.
So what's involved in transforming your thinking habits so that you have more happy thoughts and less negative thoughts? It involves these steps:
1. Be aware. You need to be vigilantly aware of your negative thoughts, and when you notice them, you stop them.
2. Reframe. Most negative thoughts aren't based in complete truth or reality. Look for a more positive perspective on the situation, and articulate that new viewpoint in your mind.
3. Replace. Replace the negative thought with a happy, positive thought. You may not feel happy in the moment, but focus on the positive thought and allow it to seep into your consciousness.
4. Persist. This isn't a one-and-done solution. It takes a lot of practice to alter your negative thinking habits. You may need to put reminders around your house, in your car, or wherever you spend the most time. But keep at it. You will find that thinking happy thoughts becomes your new way of thinking over time.
If you need some motivation, here are 21 happy thoughts to help you get out of a negative thinking slump:
1. In this moment, all is well.
The only true reality we have is the present moment. The past is dead. The future is just a dream.
Right now, in this moment, everything is ok. Even if things are difficult, you can survive this moment and know that other “right nows” will be better.
2. There is always a choice.
Sometimes negative thinking arises from the belief that we are trapped, stuck in our circumstances with no power to affect change.
But we always have the freedom of choice, even if that choice is simply deciding to accept your circumstances rather than resist them.
More often than not, we do have the power to improve our situation even when things seem impossible. Change begins with changing your thoughts about a situation.
3. I am loved.
There is someone in this world, or many someones, who love you. There are people who think about you, care about you, and want the best for you.
Allow yourself to savor how powerful and breathtaking that is.
Visualize those feelings of love like rays of white light entering your body and filling you with a sense of warmth, peace, and happiness.
4. Things always get better.
If you've lived long enough, you know that life is always shifting and changing. Ups and downs are as certain as death and taxes.
When life is difficult and you're experiencing a challenges, remind yourself that “This too shall pass.” Something better is always around the corner.
Maintain an attitude of positive expectation as you await that something better.
5. People are good and kind at heart.
In spite of our flaws, selfish behaviors, and occasional pettiness, most of us are good people at heart. We strive to be kind, honest, and considerate.
Certainly there are exceptions to this, but unless someone consistently proves to be toxic, give them the benefit of the doubt.
Choose to see the best in others, and forgive them for their human foibles — just as you'd like to be forgiven for your own.
Believe in the basic goodness of humanity rather than dwelling on the negatives.
6. I am intelligent and capable.
You were born with the ability to think, to problem-solve, to create, to analyze, and to achieve. You have plenty of natural and learned talents and skills.
You have the brains and capacity to make things happen and to accomplish many successes in your life.
Rather than focusing on what you can't do, shift your thoughts to all that you can achieve with the gifts you possess.
7. I have so many blessings.
At the very least you have food to eat, a roof over your head, and a warm bed to sleep in. But you have so many more blessings than these.
Focus with a deep sense of gratitude on all of the small and large blessings in your life. Think about how your life would be without these things.
We tend to view our lives through the “lens of lack” — what we don't have or can't accomplish. Throw away that lens and shift your attention to the abundance in your life.
8. I am a glorious work in progress.
On days when you feel “lesser than” or believe you haven't accomplished enough, remember that the key to happiness in life is savoring each moment without judgment.
Trying to achieve perfection in any area of your life will only distract you from the pleasure of the process. You will be so focused on the outcome that you'll miss the journey.
Think of yourself as “a work in progress” — someone who is always growing, learning, and aspiring.
9. The world is filled with opportunity.
Now more than ever, opportunities abound for learning, personal growth, skill-building, and all kinds of self-improvement.
With the power of the internet, you can find whatever you need to improve yourself and your circumstances.
There are more opportunities available to you than you have lifetimes to enjoy.
10. I have the power to change my circumstances.
We often feel powerless to change our circumstances due to a lack of motivation, skills, or knowledge.
The first step in changing your circumstances doesn't require any of these things. All it requires is one action, followed by another, and another.
You don't need confidence or motivation to take action. Just take the first step regardless of your negative emotions, and you'll find that momentum will carry you forward.
11. I live on a beautiful planet.
Our world is filled with spectacular beauty. From the smallest new bud on a tree to the majesty of the ocean, the natural world is awe-inspiring and magnificent.
You are blessed to live on this wondrous planet where you can enjoy it's beauty any time you wish.
If you can't see natural beauty from your window or front door, close your eyes and think about the beauty in nature you've experienced in the past.
Allow yourself to absorb the joy and peace that being in the majesty of nature inspires.
12. There are good things to learn from bad situations.
You will have challenges and setbacks in your life — they are inevitable. But challenges help you grow and learn.
You can choose to see a bad situation as a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad event. Or you can look for the gem of opportunity within the situation.
Rather than languishing in pain and self-doubt, open your mind to what you can gain from a bad experience and use it as fuel for remaining hopeful and optimistic.
13. I believe things will work out for the best.
Choose to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.
Assume that the outcome will be good rather than bad.
Trust your own judgment and instincts, knowing that things generally turn out ok.
This isn't magical thinking. It is an optimistic belief in your own abilities and choices.
Learn to visualize the outcome you desire, and have faith in yourself that you'll figure out a way to make it happen.
14. I have many great qualities, including . . .
Rather than focusing on what you aren't, spend time thinking about what you are.
You have dozens of positive qualities that make you the unique and valuable person you are.
Sit down with pen and paper, and write down all of your positive attributes. You know what they are, even if you feel they aren't important or noticed by others.
Read through your list, and acknowledge how valuable these qualities are.
15. Every day is a new chance to begin again.
You have endless opportunities for a do-over. As Scarlett O'Hara famously said in Gone With The Wind, “After all tomorrow is another day.”
Every day is a blank slate on which you can paint a new story for your life. The past doesn't have to dictate your future.
16. Life is a grand adventure.
Yes we have struggles and obstacles in life, but what if you embraced the struggles as well as the successes? What if it was all part of one glorious adventure?
Helen Keller, who had many reasons to view life as a complete struggle, declared her positive worldview when she proclaimed, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Choose to view your life as one amazing road trip.
You may have bumps in the road and experience a flat tire or two — but pay more attention to the scenery, the people you meet, and the wonderful experiences you have along the way.
17. I am stronger than I think.
When times are difficult and challenging, you may want to give up. You may feel like you have nothing left to offer and little emotional bandwidth left to cope with the situation.
But you always do. You always find a way to move forward, to survive, to take the next step.
Don't underestimate yourself or your inner strength. Remind yourself that you are stronger than you might feel in a bad moment.
18. I choose to like myself, flaws and all.
So much of our negative thinking relates to the unkind way we view ourselves.
“I'm too fat.” “I'm such a failure.” “I have no discipline.”
Every person on this planet has flaws, has failed, and hasn't lived up to their own expectations. Being less than perfect is part of being human.
Rather than resisting this reality, embrace it and decide to like yourself anyway. You don't have to wait to like yourself until you're perfect. That will never happen.
Like yourself now, and that will give you the confidence and motivation to continue to evolve into a better version of yourself.
19. There is joy and pleasure in the most simple things in life.
Are you waiting to make a million dollars before you can be happy? Are you waiting for the perfect relationship, a trip to Europe, or the right career?
You may find happiness in these things, but you don't have to wait for them to be happy.
More joy and pleasure is derived from the simple things in life. Time with your family. A beautiful sunset. A good book.
Don't delay happiness, waiting for the “big thing” on your bucket list. Opportunities for happiness are all around you.
20. I trust myself and know my inner wisdom is my best guide.
When we are confused, indecisive, and filled with self-doubt, our minds are filled with fearful thoughts.
We worry and fret about various negative outcomes. We feel paralyzed and unable to take action. Then we add a second layer of negative thinking by harshly judging our inability to act.
In spite of self-doubt, train yourself to trust your own judgment, intelligence, and wisdom. You have the inner and outer resources to help guide you.
21. I am worthy of great things in life.
When your self-esteem is low and you feel unworthy of happiness and success, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy, ensuring that you'll remain unhappy.
You may have trained yourself to believe you are undeserving in some way. But you can unlearn this habit and adopt new ways to look at yourself. As you mentally acknowledge your worthiness, your feelings will eventually follow.
Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend, someone you love and care about. Show kindness and compassion to yourself, and be quick to forgive your flaws and failures.
Every human being is deserving of love, kindness, happiness, and respect. The more you offer these things to yourself, the more confidence and self-esteem you'll have to achieve success.
Challenge yourself to change your automatic negative thinking habits. Several times throughout the day, pay attention to the thoughts you've been thinking.
Reframe the negative thoughts and come up with a happy thought statement to use instead. Practice these new, positive thoughts with as much feeling and belief as you can muster in the moment.
Over time, you'll notice that you quickly catch yourself in negative thinking and automatically reframe your thoughts to something more positive.
You will spend less time ruminating and more time in an optimistic frame of mind, which will ultimately make you a happier person in general.