(And What They Do Instead.)
We all want to be happy.
Some of us do a really good job at keeping our emotional set point pretty high, while some of us struggle to find joy in anything. And then there are those of us feeling like we’re at the mercy of external circumstances making “happy” a wild rollercoaster ride.
So what are truly happy people not doing (and more importantly – not thinking) that distinguish themselves from the rest of us? After lots of conversations, research, and reflection it seems to come down to these 5 simple things.
As a conditioned left brained thinker this was a hard one for me to get. I’ve understood emotion as a function of thinking, not simply a natural component of the human condition. That’s since changed for me and I now get that emotion is energy in motion that is natural, necessary, not necessarily logical. Emotion originates from more than just intellectual thought and can’t always be explained by cause-and-effect rationale. Emotions are meant to arise and dissipate. In the same way clouds form and vanish, emotions make their way into our experience daily – it’s simply energy that needs to move. The problem is, most of us have been conditioned to push it down, ignore it, or explain it away. In doing so, we don’t allow ourselves to receive all the wisdom these felt-sensations have to offer.
I read My Stroke of Insight not long ago and it completely enlightened and revitalized me. The author, a neuroanatomist with a first hand account of a debilitating stroke, describes the experience of emotion in the most elegant and insightful way. Apparently, we only need 90 seconds to fully experience it (whether it be anger, sadness, rage, disappointment or frustration) without an overlay of thought to let the energy pass. At that point, you are free to move forward with clarity and power. But only if you choose to do so. Which leads me to this next point. Happy people do not…
Feed obsessive thought loops.
Happiness is not mental heaviness. I don’t care if your thought loop is about winning the lottery and seeing your dreams come true or about how much you screwed up your last job interview. A thought loop is a thought loop and it consumes valuable capacity. Happiness is felt in the present moment. It’s the spacious and appreciative experience of being with what is right now. Joyful living is not possible in a thought loop because the preoccupation keeps you from the right-here-right-now moment where life is happening. Thought loops feed off stagnant emotional energy. After 90 seconds of allowing emotion to move and integrate, we can then stop obsessive thought loops by simply saying NO and refuse to…
Make up stupid stories.
Here’s what’s up: life is a seemingly continuous flow of “stuff” happening. We perceive the stuff through our senses. Our brain picks up on the stuff and then in order to make sense of it, weaves in all these interpretations so that our experience is cohesive, coherent, and congruent with underlying beliefs we hold about reality. Sadly, these interpretations are skewed to the negative because our brains are hardwired to survive. Better chance of survival if we think about all the negative things that could happen and avoid them than to think optimistically. Well, fortunately we’re not cave men and women worrying about whether we’ll have enough to eat through the winter. So it’s our job to recognize when we’re telling crappy stories about the stuff we encounter. Happy people are good at doing this. Happy people have an incredible ability to distinguish the objective what-is from a stupid interpretation about what-is that doesn’t feel good. Happy people deal with facts and overlay descriptions and meanings that tend toward the positive. It’s easy to do because happy people don’t…
Think poorly of themselves.
The truth is, we ALL have a few false ideas about ourselves that we’ve come to believe through the years. “I’m not good enough,” “I’m selfish,” “I’m lazy,” “I’m a fake…” But a truly happy person recognizes this and is good at not letting these beliefs run the show. To see the good in day-to-day life requires a foundation of knowing one’s ultimate goodness. You can’t see good if you don’t know good. The only thing we can truly know with certainty is our own existence. If we don’t see our own being as ultimately good, worthy, and enough then we can’t look out in the world and see it there. Happy people rest on the foundation of knowing their ultimate completeness and wholeness. And then from this foundation it’s hard to…
Focus on anything that doesn’t make them feel good.
Focus is everything. Whatever we focus on is the content of our thoughts. Our thoughts ultimately create our reality. Happy people ensure that they focus on things that feel good – they surround themselves with other happy people, they consume uplifting things and avoid news or drama that bring them down. They’re good at saying no to anything or anyone that doesn’t ultimately make them a better person.
Happiness isn’t an effect, it’s a life practice. It takes intention, dedication, and a knowing of our ultimate worthiness. And yeah, a little bit of chocolate helps too. 🙂
Amy Eliza Wong is a life coach, writer, and speaker in the Sacramento, CA area committed to helping people figure out what makes them tick so they can finally live with joy and real purpose. Learn more about working with her.