Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Greater Steps Towards Happiness Step 6: Change Your Tune

A lot of people act as if happiness is a state of mind that happens ‘to them’ or is out of their control, rather like falling in love. The belief that being happy is dependent on certain external circumstances or people also makes happiness often feel out of reach and something we have to strive for.

Viktor Frankl, a survivor from Auschwitz has the view that, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”  He realised that despite being in such an awful situation, he still had the choice to find meaning and peace of mind and wouldn’t allow this final right to be denied.

We so often cheat ourselves of the right to choose our state in any given time and run the same inner dialogue about ‘ill be happy when..’  or ‘I don’t deserve...’ rather than being present with our experience. We may also blame or project what we see as our lack of happiness onto others or circumstances, rather than taking responsibility for how we feel.  Gain awareness of what patterns of your limiting thoughts by keeping a diary for a week or two; then notice how they are influencing your state and challenge their validity- are they really true? 

Holding onto unhelpful thoughts may help justify to ourselves or others why we don’t feel happy just yet or why we are so stuck.  Ask yourself: ‘what’s stopping me from letting this negative thought go?’  It is rather like staying tuned into a Radio station that is feeding you depressing songs over and over again- you want to change the station though somehow, you are so used to it so you keep listening.  Realising it is a choice how we feel and moving our thoughts in a different direction allows a more positive state change.

Practice switching your thoughts onto what is positive in your life and reframing what your experience is: For example, ‘It was great that most of my friends remembered my birthday’, rather than, ‘I’m so upset that so and so didn’t remember, she always does.’  Trying something a bit radical that changes your state like juggling or Laughter Yoga might also help you get in touch with your playful side- don't be afraid to experiment!