We’re all guilty of being pessimistic sometimes, but negative thought patterns are not only detrimental to our health and wellbeing, they can be destructive and even turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It doesn’t have to be this way though, by shifting our mood to think differently we can get back in charge of our brain.
Life coach Phil Parker, author of Get The Life You Love NOW, has made it his mission to help everyone realise their full potential for happiness, developing effective and practical tools that enable you to get the most out of what life has to offer.
Phil has shared with us 5 simple steps that you can start today, which will add a big injection of ‘Vitamin H’ – happiness - to your day. So what are you waiting for – get the life you love now and start enjoying life to the fullest!
1. Be aware of your thinking and moods
Becoming aware of the kinds of things that have kept you stuck is the first step towards change.
Phil says: “Thinking sad thoughts exercises sad brain pathways and increases your sense of sadness; thinking happy thoughts does exactly the opposite.”
“Unfortunately through years of practice, we are unaware that we are paddling in the murky waters of gloom, disappointment, frustration and tension, as it just feels so normal to us.”
Negative emotions (for example stress, guilt and unhappiness) are things that we do rather than who we are, so the next time you feel yourself thinking unconstructive thoughts, make a concerted effort to change your perspective.
The more you do this, the better you get at seeing things from a positive point of view and your happiness will increase exponentially.
2. Stop what you’re doing and start smiling
We all know that smiling automatically releases endorphins and decreases stress and anxiety, but it’s hard to break into a big grin when you’re running late, you’ve got a ladder in your tights and a coffee stain on your new white shirt.
However, just taking a moment to interrupt your negative thought pattern by thinking of something positive, even laughing about how ridiculous your day has been so far, will switch your brain to happy in an instant.
“Notice what happens when you do this simple exercise: Put a pencil across your mouth and grip it with your teeth. Now try thinking of something upsetting - it’s quite hard to get upset when you do this,” Phil says.
“This is because activating the muscles of smiling switches on the happy parts of the brain and stops the unhappy parts from working. Interestingly people who’ve had Botox injections, and therefore can't frown very well, find it less easy to get cross!”
So whenever you’re in a stressful situation or are feeling down, stop for a moment and break out a big smile – showing off those pearly whites is guaranteed to help clear those dark clouds.
3. Look for the good in things
Instinctively we look to surround ourselves with people who will give us a boost rather than bring us down.
This is something that you should apply to yourself – we all have the inbuilt ability to be happy, fulfilled and feel great about life, but in order to do that we must look for the good in things.
Phil explains: “One important piece of brain function is the ability to select which pieces of information we focus on, as there is simply too much going on around us all the time for us to pay attention to everything.”
“But this selecting process has its downsides: if we focus on looking for unhappiness and problems then that is pretty much all we can see, and we completely miss out on the great things going on in our lives.”
“Making sure you focus up on all the great things, even if you have to take a little time to find them, is an essential part of the recipe for happiness.”
Bear in mind that the more you use any pathway in your brain – whether it’s positive or negative – the more easily it’s triggered and the faster and stronger it becomes. Flex your happiness pathway and soon it will become a reflex or a spontaneous response to stimuli.
4. Love who you are
We’ve all suffered from low self-esteem and lack of confidence at some point in our lives, but these are damaging mindsets that make us vulnerable and more prone to negative feelings.
Having acceptance of ourselves – and most importantly loving who we are – is absolutely crucial to having a happy and fulfilling life.
Phil says: “Notice whenever you start to be unkind to yourself - cut that conversation off and start to think about what you’d say to a friend if you ever caught them being that hard on themselves. Treat this exercise like learning a new routine at the gym, or a new yoga pose, although strange at first, it becomes easy with enough practice.”
“But don't confuse being nice to yourself with being 'full of yourself' or 'arrogant', these are not the same things, instead it's about recognising how fundamentally great you are, just for being you.”
Even if sometimes you don’t get things right, counter any negative thoughts you might have by reminding yourself that you tried your best and at the very least it was a learning experience.
5. Be present in the moment
Even when the world really seems to be working against us and everything appears to be going wrong, remember that this is just a phase, a part of the journey you are on.
“One of the key ways to avoid happiness is to try to change things that you cannot change, like other people, and to forget to change the things that you really can influence… and top of that list is yourself and your response to things,” Phil says.
“Instead work on becoming great at recognising when you have power to change things, and when it’s time to peacefully accept the way things are.”
“This will allow you to be 'present', to immerse yourself in the moment and to see all the good in it.”
Don’t allow yourself to get worked up by irrelevant things that will be forgotten in a week – for example road rage or facing long queues when you’re already late.
Try to live each moment as fully as possible - time passes by so quickly that it’s a waste not to enjoy yourself.
Do you think having a positive attitude is the key to having a happy life? Tweet us @SofeminineUK!