How do you choose happiness? What do people mean when they say to just be happy? How are you supposed to be happy in unhappy circumstances? It’s not always easy, especially when you’ve been unhappy for a long time, or you’re surrounded by unhappy people. The beautiful thing is, you can change and you can be happy. You can be happy in the most horrific circumstances if you know how. The problem is most people don’t know how. When I was at the lowest point in my life, when I thought my marriage was over, I learned to be happy. These are the steps I took to be happy:
- Control your thoughts. When people say choose happiness what they are saying is change your thoughts. You may not be able to control what thoughts pop into your head but you can decide which thoughts you will entertain. This will probably take a lot of practice at first. What I suggest for the first few days is to just pay attention to your thoughts. Notice if they are positive or negative. Don’t try to change them yet, just notice them. Once you can readily notice a negative thought, it’s easier to change it. After you have spent a few days noticing your thoughts, you can now work on changing them. When you have a negative thought, choose not to entertain it and instead replace it with a happier thought. For example, you may be upset that your husband just stayed out till 1am again and didn’t call. You can choose to think negative thoughts about how horrible he is, how unfair it is that he just runs around with no concern for you, that he may be cheating, or you can redirect your thoughts. You can choose to think “I may not like that he stayed out late, but I have no control over him” “I am blessed that our family is healthy, we live in a nice house, etc. etc. “ This is not easy because it’s not what you are used to. It may feel like you are lying to yourself for a little while and your mind will tell you to stop. Just keep it up. Your mind is use to thinking a certain way and it takes practice to change it. Whether you get angry and have negative thoughts or remain calm and have happy thoughts, the situation is the same. Your husband stayed out late again and didn’t call. Your negative thoughts do not change the situation. Your happy thoughts have the ability to keep you happy and in control of your emotions. This will take some serious practice so start small. When you notice a little negative thought, immediately change it. When the big things come up it will be much easier. You can change your thoughts. God gave you that ability.
- Set aside time every morning to meditate and pray. I find it’s much easier to control my thoughts and my day when I start out right. The bible says to renew your mind every day. I trust that God knows what we need and if He says to renew our minds every day, it must be necessary. I have a spot right beside my bed that I sit every day and I suggest you pick a spot you can go to every day too. Your body and mind will start to automatically relax when you go there. If you are new to meditation you can read my post “Train your brain to meditate” for tips on how to get started. I also use this time to pray and ask God to help me with whatever I am facing that day. I usually pray before I meditate and I almost always receive insight during my meditation.
- Memorize a mantra. Sometimes it feel like your mind just starts spiraling into negativity and you can’t stop it. You can’t think of anything positive when your mind starts its negative spiral. When this happens to me, I repeat in my mind over and over “I am whole, perfect, powerful, strong, loving, harmonious and happy.” It’s a mantra I read in a book and it has an amazing way of changing my thinking. Sometimes I repeat it continuously all day if it’s a bad day. You can use mine, make one up yourself, or use a bible passage. Just make sure you have something to go to when you need it.
- Pray constantly. This is a great way to control your thoughts and your mouth. I started praying during arguments with my husband. I found it kept my mouth shut and my heart open. Instead of thinking about what I was going to say next. I would just pray “God please help me see what I need to see in this situation. If I need to change my thinking or actions please help me to see that. If my husband needs a heart change, please change his heart.” I would stop arguing and just give it to God. It was amazing how many of our arguments would end quickly and one of us would have a change of heart.
- Quit complaining. Your words have power. Whatever you say, you bring about. If you are constantly complaining, there is no room for good. Take this challenge: Don’t complain about anything (including the weather) for 30 days. If you mess up you have to start at day 1. I think this alone can change your life.
- Distance yourself from negative people. If you are surrounded by people who constantly complain and are negative about life, it’s time to find new friends. Unfortunately we attract who we are, not who we want to be. If you are surrounded by negative people, chances are you are negative too. You will find once you start changing your attitude, those negative people won’t want to be around you. Fortunately, that leaves room for the positive people who you will now attract with your positive attitude.
- Quit watching negative news or reading negative news. What you allow in your mind affects your mind. Don’t watch the news unless you have some way of changing it. Don’t read the news. Don’t watch Jerry Springer type shows. Only allow positive images and news into your mind if possible. You don’t have to stop watching the news forever but for the first 3 months on your road to happiness what would it hurt to give it up? You are trying to retrain your brain to be happy. You can’t be happy if you are flooding your brain with misery. Control what you can. You will have enough uncontrollable negativity around you. So choose to get rid of what negativity you can.
- Focus on what’s good. No matter what situation you are in focus on something good. Practice this when you are out. No matter where you are, look around and find something good. Maybe a flower, another smiling person, the beautiful blue sky, anything. Just practice focusing on good. You should do this with your spouse also. Find one thing that is good and keep your attention on that. What you focus on, you expand.
- Do things that make you happy. Listen to music, dance around your house, go for a walk or jog, read, watch comedies, play with your kids, do what brings you joy. Find time every day to do something that makes you happy. Sometimes when we’re upset we gravitate towards things that make us more upset like watching sad movies. You will need to do things intentionally just to lift your spirits. Just make sure whatever you are doing is honoring God and your marriage.
- Flood your mind with good books. You want positive thoughts going into your mind every day. Some of the books I read and I would encourage you to read are: If Not for the Grace of God: Learning to Live Independently from Struggles and Frustrations, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, The Secret and There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem. Any book by these authors would be good. If you have any favorite books that have helped change your life, please share them with me. I am always looking for positive books to help fuel my mind.
If you want to be happy, you have to choose to be happy by doing intentional things to get yourself there. These are specific steps I took in my life to be happy. I haven’t mastered all of them, but I keep trying every single day. Sometimes I get off track and find myself slipping back into unhappiness. Sometimes situations come up that throw me off. But I come back to the same steps every time and it works every time. If it worked for me it will work for you. If you have any tips on happiness, I’d love to hear them.