There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”     -William Shakespeare

The quote above encapsulates today’s happiness tip. Billy Shakespeare knew it and now today – YOU will too. It is not the reality of life, but our own perception of life that influences whether or not we feel happy or distraught.

Think about the mental state you are existing in today. Are you anxious? Are you sad? Are you angry? What types of thoughts are you having that are shaping your perception of your current reality? How could those thoughts change the way you feel right now?

As children, we all just floated from one life event to the next. We had no preconceived notions, no schemas, no bad experiences that caused us to be cautious in future similar situations. When we met another kid, we didn’t think “I wonder what ol’ Timmy’s angle is? What’s he getting at here?” We simply accepted Timmy without judgment, and had fun. After we left, we didn’t think about how we were received, or what Timmy thought of us, we just moved on to the monkey bars.

As we get older, like a piece of old gum- we start to accumulate all the junk that life brings. We start to develop ideas about ourselves and others. We start to build connections between actions and intentions (i.e- this guy is being a bit too nice, what does he want from me?)

It’s no wonder that we do this as humans. Our brains are designed to guess possible scenarios based on previous experiences. Otherwise, everytime a lion came over the plains thousands of years ago our ancestors would have simply stared in awe instead of making a run for it in the opposite direction.

Yet, it is through emotional intelligence that we must make a conscious effort to put the brakes on this type of thinking when it is counter-productive. The first A in my BALANCE model stands for Awareness, which encompasses this aspect of emotional intelligence, first coined by Daniel Goleman.

If one is to make a blanket assumption such as “all people have an angle and no one has any interest in anything I have to say unless it benefits them.” How do you think that affects the way they behave in society? How do you think that affects the way they feel on a daily basis? It certainly does not provide for a sense of connection and peace.

Happiness is a verb, and as such we must make a conscious effort each day to change our way of thinking. Instead of relying on what I call lazy thinking, just allowing the mind to float on in auto-pilot, learn to identify and then challenge your thoughts today.

To put this principle into light, I will use the example of a man with three daughters in McDonald’s. His daughters are crawling all over the booth, being loud, and generally annoying most people in the restaurant. A woman sitting next to the man begins to roll her eyes and become increasingly angry at this man’s selfishness for taking his daughters in the restaurant, not being able to control them, and interrupting everyone’s meal.

The man turns to the woman and says “I apologize. My wife just died six months ago and I am still trying to get a handle on the whole Mr. Mom thing.” How quickly does that change your perception? Instead of feeling anger and resentment, it begins to soften to compassion and empathy.

When we can project a sense of love and compassion towards others, we are ultimately reaping the greatest reward- our own feelings of contentment and peace. So try it today. What situation or thoughts could you reshape so that you could approach the event from a place of compassion and empathy vs. resentment and anger?

Dr. Colleen Long is the author of “Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E,” and practices in the Los Angeles area. Dr. Long works mainly from a positive psychology framework as it applies to addiction, depression, relationships,  body image and weight loss. Her website can be found at www.DrColleenLong.com. All public speaking/media event requests handled through FreudTV (info@FreudTV.com).

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