Happiness is not our default state of mind. Our brains are hard-wired to ensure our survival, and so they are on constant alert for threats. Even though we live in the most advanced technological society in the history of mankind, at the deepest level, our primal survival instinct is still intact from our caveman ancestors. We are not conscious of it, but our brains are constantly scanning for things that might eat us, harm us or take things from us. Our modern emotions translate this into negativity, producing cortisol, a hormone that can cause damage over the long term.
Why can't I just be happy?
The bottom line is we are more influenced by negativity than by positivity. We spend way too much time marinating in the adverse and pessimistic aspects of the world in general and our own problems in particular. This makes for a generally gloomy outlook, sometimes punctuated by short bursts of hopefulness, joy, or love that make us temporarily upbeat. But the happiness seems to wear off quickly and we revert to "default negativity" again.
Honesty does not equal negativity
One of the tricks to positive thinking is to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings. View these merely as areas in which to improve. Run late to work a lot? Try setting your alarm for an earlier bedtime/waking time to make things easier for yourself, or perhaps getting a few small tasks done the night before to eliminate potential stressors in the morning. The point in being honest in your shortcomings and seeking ways to improve is to keep you moving forward, rather than staying stuck and/or depressed and/or anxious about yourself, your relationships to others, and life in general.
Practice, practice, practice
According to Loretta Bruening, author of The Science of Positivity and Habits of a Happy Brain, the secret to happiness is practice, practice, practice. Her strategy is to train your brain to focus on the positive to overcome the negative. She advises to find one minute, three times a day to establish a "positivity circuit" and filling that minute intentionally with positive things. It sounds easy, but that minute can seem like a long time when you are trying to find good things to fill it with. Breuning cautions that this is not a miracle cure for a chronic bad mood, "Most human achievements came from efforts that did not bring immediate visible rewards," she says. But practice is the key.
Keep talkin' happy talk
Those words from the song in South Pacific will hold you in good stead. It's like a prescription, take one minute, three times a day, fill it with thoughts of things that make you happy: dreams, wonderful memories, funny things, sweet things, images of what you want to see in your future, the list is endless. Do this for forty-five days and you will find that it gets easier the more you do it. Be faithful about your new habit and it will complete and solidify your "positivity circuit" for a happier, more positive life.
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