Choosing to be Happy Doesn’t Happen Overnight – How to Change Your Thoughts
I know you’re in this space because you want to be better. Not a better mother. Or a better business owner. But a better you.
Your favourite version of you.
The one that brings a smile to your face when you think about her. But when you look in the mirror you see a different version of yourself, someone you barely recognize.
You miss that you. The happy one. The carefree and easy version of yourself that you can feel inside but can’t quite get here out.
Some parts of the spiritual community and toxic positivity committee may tell you, “just choose to be happy”. Like it’s easy. And while I absolutely believe you get to change the frequency of your thoughts and that that will transform your entire life in front of your eyes, I also know that it’s not easy.
When you stare into your own eyes and do not see even a flicker of light, you cannot just be happy.
When the weight of the world is pulling you down, anxiety crushing your shoulders, crippling under the weight of depression, you cannot see the positive side of things.
So here is where you start, choose a better feeling thought.
You cannot go from depressed to happy in 15 seconds. But you can find a thought that feels a little better than the one you’re feeling right now. Healing is not a giant leap from one platform to the other. It is tiny, tiny steps, one foot in front of the other from where you are now, to where that favourite version of you is.
Because she exists, and she’s waiting for you. Her arms are outstretched and her soul is on fire again. But right now, you just need to look down and put one foot in front of the other.
This exercise will broaden your mind, create new pathways of thought in your brain and begin to develop deep empathy for yourself and for others.
How to choose a better feeling thought.
Identify your emotion.
The first step is always to bring awareness to what you are feeling. Name it. Is it anxiety? Is it overwhelm? Maybe you’re feeling useless, unloveable, or lost. Bring a name to the emotion as close as you can. Begin to identify the difference between feeling sad, numb, anxious, overwhelmed. Ask yourself, why are you feeling this way? (This will help with later steps, but it’s also okay to sometimes not know.) Maybe you can notice where this feeling is sitting in your body.
Pay close attention to your choice of words.
As a society, we have a tendency to become our emotions. “I am sad”, “I am happy”, “I am depressed”. The words that come after “I am” are some of the most powerful words you will say. Your life is always responding to your thoughts, if you are referring to yourself as useless, forgetful, fat, depressed, broke, you will continue to experience the same realities. Replace “I am” with: I am feeling, I am experiencing, I am going through… This is a moment in your lifetime, it is not who you are.
What might you say to a friend?
I know you are a heart-centered human being but we often find it harder to extend such love and support to ourselves. Try removing yourself from the situation and see what comes up. Usually we are quick to spot the strength, the kindness and the silver lining for others. Do not give any energy to words that shut down the emotion you are feeling. This is something the collective do to each other on a daily basis. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t healing. It’s merely an avoidance strategy. For not wanting to feel the discomfort of another’s pain. Because acknowledging emotional discomfort in another you bring awareness to your own discomfort and that is NOT what the collective at large is yet willing to do.
Choose your better feeling thought.
Of the words you might say to a friend, which feels better to you. The trick here is to choose a thought you truly believe. You need to be able to believe what you are saying, if it cannot resonate within your body it only increases the low frequency you are experiencing. If that feels too far-fetched try using the phrases, “I’m choosing to believe…” or “I would rather believe..”
The next step…
What is the next thing you can do to bolster the energy of your new better feeling thoughts? This may be a simple task such as showering or sending a text. It could be creating an affirmation for when this thought resurfaces (because it will). It could be creating a vision board, a content brainstorm or journaling a day in your dream life! Anything that allows the new frequency to resonate a little longer in your experience.
I know this all seems a little abstract, so let me give you some real life examples from my life and from those of my client. This process can be done in your head, out loud or in writing. If you have time, writing down your responses allows your thoughts to slow and be more present in the situation.
The more you practice this technique the quicker and easier it will become and you will no longer need to write it down, but will be able to immediately identify a better feeling thought.
- Moment – Laying on the bed, tears in your eyes, reflecting on all the times your life didn’t go to plan.
- Emotional Thoughts: I am a failure. I’ve never completed anything. My marriage failed. My business failed. I failed my mum. I’m never going to be successful at anything.
- Reframe: I am a failure → I have experienced a lot of failure. This already feels like an easier thought to carry.
- Words to a Friend: I might tell her that I’m proud of her for leaving an unhappy and unhealthy marriage. I might tell her that businesses fail sometimes and that it’s hard but that at least she tried. I might tell her that we will always feel like we could have done more for a loved one but that we did what we thought was best at the time. I might say that it’s okay to feel like you’ve messed everything up but that you’re still here so you have the opportunity to try again. I might tell her that so many people just stay in “failed” situations because they’re too scared to break away, and that she has so much courage for doing that.
- A Better Feeling Thought: I’m choosing to believe that it took courage to leave my marriage and start businesses. I’m choosing to believe that I can take that courage and allow it to move me forward. I’m choosing to believe that I failed because I tried. And that I can keep trying.
- Next Step: What one thing am I going to try today not to succeed but to live in the energy of trying?
- Moment: Sitting on the sofa, weighed down with depression, frozen with anxiety.
- Emotional Thoughts: I’m so depressed. I’m not sure I can keep going. If only I could get up and get on. Why am I like this? But I should be happy. I have a house and a partner. I pay my bills. Why can’t I just be happy?!
- Reframe: I’m so depressed → I’m currently experiencing a depressive episode.
- Words to a Friend: I might tell a friend that having all the “shoulds” doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to experience the whole spectrum of emotions. I might tell them that depression is a chemical imbalance and not a character flaw. I might say that it’s okay to take time to heal, that they have woken up today and that that means they can do it again tomorrow. I might remind them to focus on the small things.
- A Better Feeling Thought: I am allowed to feel like things are too much. I woke up today and I can wake up tomorrow and try again. Staying alive takes so much courage right now. I deserve to try again tomorrow. I am choosing to believe I can be kind to myself today.
- Next Step: What one task can I do next? After this task, if I feel too heavy I will rest, if I feel okay I will move onto the next task.
- Task ideas: shower, eat lunch, tidy your bedroom, put on mascara.
- Moment: Realizing that life is not what you want it to be that you have big dreams but you’re terrified.
- Emotional Thoughts: This isn’t how I want my life to look. I really want to start a business/change my relationships but I’m terrified. People will think I’m stupid and it won’t work out anyway. But I’m miserable here.
- Reframe: I’m feeling scared about the future. People will think I have made a stupid decision. I am feeling so miserable right now.
- Words to a Friend: I might tell a friend that they deserve to give it a shot. That they deserve to look at life and see what makes them feel good. I might tell them that other people make stupid decisions all the time but you don’t worry about them. I might tell them that there is so much to learn in the pursuit of a happy life and that the goal isn’t the end point but the journey. I might tell them to seek the tiny changes that point towards what they do want.
- A Better Feeling Thought: It’s okay that life looks this way right now, but I deserve to give my dreams a shot. Tiny habits make big changes. What people think about me is their business. I get to do this for me.
- Next Step: What tiny habit would feel good today? Or what affirmation can I say to myself when I begin to worry what others will think?
Give yourself grace as you move through this process.
It is not easy. It may be impossible to start with! And that’s completely okay. Begin by merely creating space between the moment and your reaction. Even if your reaction/action remains the same, creating space by seconds at a time will allow this process to develop in your experience.
And it will change your life.
- Rachael Ami