If happiness is available to us at any moment through the power of our minds, why does it sometimes seem so hard to do? When our thoughts run amok, how do we choose better ones?
We’ve all had those experiences (moments, hours, even days!) when finding a happier thought seemed nearly impossible. When endless loops of worry, frustration, overwhelm, etc. not only challenged our ability to find our happy place, they caused us to forget we even had the choice.
Searching for an answer to this dilemma, I have encountered many clever approaches. Interestingly enough, many of them begin with “Change the subject.”
Aha! That makes sense! If our thoughts determine how we are feeling, why wouldn’t we want to change the subject to one that feels better? Instead of wrestling with negativity, we’re invited to consciously choose a completely different focus. I like this concept of switching gears or hitting the reset button, and at the same time, I’m painfully aware that my monkey mind doesn’t always cooperate on demand.
So, how do we coax our minds into changing the subject so we can feel happier?
We have plenty of resources on hand for other unpleasant life circumstances. We call AAA for a flat tire, grab an ice pack for sore muscles, or ask Siri how to remove coffee stains from a white shirt. Likewise, we need quick and easy strategies to shift our thoughts and consequently our mood, sort of a mental reset button. The next time we can’t seem to quiet the unruly noise in our heads, having a reset button on hand might be just what we need.
Here are a few of my favorite methods. Try them out or let them inspire others that fit your personal style!
1. Create a “Bliss Book” of images that make you smile.
People, nature, art, silly things, happy things, beautiful things, dreamy things. This can be a journal, a photo album on your phone / iPad / computer, or even a Pinterest board… whatever is most readily available to you. It’s quick and easy to do given the wealth of free images available online. (Unsplash and Pexels are two sites that offer free downloads of thousands of incredible pictures.)
Go ahead, create your own smile-inducing art gallery and soak up the good vibes there! You’ll be able to let go of whatever was bothering you for at least a few moments, which is probably long enough to take a deep breath and feel a little bit better.
2. Build a playlist (or two)
- Music: include tunes that fit the mood you’re looking for: upbeat, relaxed, high energy, sing-a-long, etc. Many music apps (Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music) have playlists already compiled. All you have to do is choose the mood and let music work its magic. Singing along will move your mind out of its endless loop even more quickly!
- Podcasts: Giving the mind new ideas to ponder or stories to follow can also be effective in quieting whatever loop your mind is playing. Just be sure they’re uplifting ones!
- Videos: Cute puppies, Ted talks, or your favorite standup comedians. Bookmark your favorites for easy belly laughs or simple smiles. This, too, will be just enough to lift your mood and start the momentum towards feeling better!
3. Re-read your gratitude journal
It’s bound to be chock full of happy things to think about. What? You don’t have a gratitude journal? Then this is the best time to start one so you will have a ready resource. Simply jot down a thing or two each day that you truly appreciate in your life. Items can be big or small: blue skies, clean clothes, a career you truly love… Fill up a page or a whole journal. You’ll be amazed how this list will provide a better feeling thought just when you need it most.
4. Go outside and REALLY look around you.
The beauty and tranquility of nature are genuine remedies for the soul. Take time to notice the sights, sounds, and smells. It’s all about shifting focus and looking for something that simply feels better. When you breathe in the fresh air, feel the sun on your skin, or marvel at the abundance of petals on a rose… whatever was creating your funk will begin to loosen its hold on you. It truly is a wonderful world. Soak it in! Doesn’t that feel better?
Creating your strategies should be playful and fun. Keep reminders where you’ll easily see them. The next time the conversation in your head doesn’t feel good, call a time out. Demand a better feeling thought. Reach for something from the list above that invites laughter, gratitude, daydreaming, relief, awe and wonder, or even simple contentment.
When we find a better feeling thought, our minds relax. When we are relaxed, we are more able to creatively solve problems, and we are open to the inspiration the universe is consistently sending our way!
It’s always a good idea to feel better. With a little practice, you’ll find it natural and easy to make your way there!
About the Author
Mary Madill, MA combines her training in Holistic Health with a passion for helping people to live healthier, happier, more meaningful lives. She is the co-author of a blog “Wonder and Possibility, A Field Guide for the Curious who Seek to Thrive” at www.wonderandpossibility.com. She also offers classes and workshops on topics related to self-care, end-of-life issues, and the creative arts.