As you read this right now, how are you feeling?
And what are you saying to yourself? Or what thoughts are going through your mind?
When it comes to happiness and wellbeing, to positive mental health, these are some of the most important questions we can ask ourselves.
And yet very few of us even think to reflect on our thinking, or our emotions. We’re not taught to do this at school, or anywhere for that matter (unless you’ve been to therapy). Yet in my humble opinion, it’s very possibly THE MOST important life lesson we can ever learn.
You see the way we think about things affects how we feel, and how we act. The way we think about things, therefore, affects pretty much every aspect of our life! Thinking style has been shown to be highly correlated with mental and physical health, to the quality of our relationships, to performance at work and … well, again, to pretty much everything you can imagine.
And this correlation can either be a good one or … not so good. That is, certain thinking styles are associated with more positive outcomes, such as health and happiness, than others which are more likely to lead to illness and other problems.
The good news is that although some people are natural born optimists, those who aren’t can learn to think more optimistically; those who’re not naturally happy and full of zest, can learn to be better at it.
To do so, assuming you want to enjoy life more, you need to begin by being more aware of your thoughts and feelings; and once you’re more aware, you can then move on to learning how to live a better life, whatever than means for you.
Think about it like this … imagine you’re listening to the radio, or to a playlist on a streaming service. You won’t like all the songs; and that’s OK. You might not even notice all the songs, if they’re playing in the background, and that’s OK. Except when it’s not OK. Because as we all know, some songs will motivate us and boost our mood, whereas other songs can actually bring us down and make us feel irritated or even sad.
What might you do in this situation?
Well, presumably, once you’re aware of what’s going on you might turn up the volume when you hear those songs that are adding positivity or value to your life, and turn down the volume on those songs you don’t, for whatever reason, like. You might even change the channel, start a new playlist or possibly even turn the whole thing off.
What if I were to say that things are very similar when it comes to your thoughts?
Your thoughts, too, can either add to your moods in a positive way or … not. You might not always be aware of them, just like the music playing in the background, but they can still have an effect anyway. In fact, they can have a very significant effect.
So, step one in fixing this situation is to become more aware of what’s going on. Stop and reflect from time to time, on what you’re feeling and thinking. Learn, then, to ask yourself if your thoughts and feelings are helping; that is, are they making your life better or worse, easier or harder? If they’re what we might call “helpful thoughts” then turn up the volume, savour them and practice them more often. If not, then “change the channel” or find a way to think alternative thoughts, ones that might be more helpful.
There’s no doubt this is easier said than done but there’s also no doubt that (1) you CAN learn this important skill, (2) it’s very much worth trying to learn this important skill because if you do, you’ll enjoy more happiness and success in life.
If you can control your thoughts, you’ll have more control over your life. I know from personal and professional experience that you CAN gain greater control over your thoughts so get to work on this and reap the rewards of having better music playing in your head.