Of course, you can’t monitor every thought and emotion you experience. I once read that we have an average of over sixty thousand thoughts a day, which would be impossible to consistently monitor. What you can do, however, is to develop better mental habits that guide you on a sunnier path instead of allowing yourself to fall into storms. Here are three simple steps you can take to start the process of guiding your thoughts and emotions on a path that chooses happiness rather than frustration or despair. One thing they all have in common is that across the board, from pastors to licensed therapists to people with good, old fashioned common sense, they all agree that the key to happiness is to:
1. Mind your own business. We take on so much stress that isn’t ours to begin with, which is an absolute waste. Do the best you can with what you have control over, and let it go. Stop worrying about things beyond your control if you’ve done your part to plan and prepare, and definitely stop worrying about what other people are thinking, saying, doing, or worrying about. The biggest key to being happy is to narrow the parameters of your concern to what is relevant to the well being of your home and family, and getting through day to day life.
2. Reign in negative emotions as soon as they start. Emotional reactions are a habit response based on prior experiences, so the key to this is to take immediate notice of when your frustration levels rise or your mood dips, take steps to identify why the shift in your mood occurred, and take different steps to deal with it in a more positive manner. The key is to focus on where you want to be; not where you are, because fighting your emotions only perpetuates what’s happening right now. For example, I was struggling with running late one morning. When I spilled my water, I stopped, said out loud “we aren’t going to do this frustration thing today!” and took stock of what needed to happen to get me out of the door. Sure enough, when I proclaimed that I wasn’t going to let the harried pace continue, it stopped, and my mood improved. I was less than 5 minutes late arriving at work but nobody noticed because others were running late. And I wasn’t late for anything else that day, because I refused to accept my day as being bad or a hopeless case right from the start of the problems.
Here’s a good key to live by: this too shall pass. Remember that nothing is permanent in life, and over time all things change, whether it’s the work day, getting away from a difficult person (they’ll move on, or you will), or a difficult season in life. Mountains may move slowly, but in the end, they do because nothing last forever. Focus on the blessings where you’re at right now, and you’ll find that they multiply.
3. Schedule some “down time” every day. A therapist once told me that every human being needs at least twenty minutes a day where they do nothing but what they want to do. Whether you engage in a hobby, recreational pursuit, or just stare at the wall, it’s important to break free of the confines of schedules and expectations for at least twenty minutes every day. As humans, we tend to swing to extremes: we either don’t take our downtime seriously and keep pushing until we crash, or we take it too much to heart and procrastinate until lack of activity and/or indecision force us down paths that are chosen for us by circumstance or other people. This is an area where you can’t afford to get out of balance, because rest is the key to keeping the rest of life in the proper balance and perspective. Take a time out every day for “mental health.” It doesn’t even have to be the same thing every day: I may write, read, watch TV, catch up on social media, blog, cross stitch, or do other small crafting projects in my “down time.” The important thing is to “turn off” and to take a “time out” each day so you’ll feel better for tackling all of your other responsibilities and business in your day.
Happiness is a choice, and it’s one that you have to make every day until it becomes a habit. It is possible, though, and the peace of mind you experience with a sunnier outlook on life is well worth the effort.
That’s all today. In my next entry, I’ll wrap up my “Indie Author Summer” with a review of Hugh Howey’s “Wool.” Take care, and have a great week.