To Be Happy
Fill Your Head with Good Stuff
If you want to be happy then steadily, continuously keep filling your head with what’s good in your life. Fill it to overflowing.
This steady effort is needed because our minds evolved to promote survival, not happiness. It saves the happy chemicals for brief spurts which are quickly metabolized. Therefore we need to keep taking steps that stimulate our happy chemicals.
So, be aware, be real but don’t dwell on negatives. This skill is something you can work on any time any place even when feeling poorly. Just do the best you can, no matter how small the improvement, and this purposeful mind control practice will eventually wash away the mental poisons that make you unhappy. It’s a bit like taking care of yourself when you are really sick.
Below are some of the best ideas we’ve found for filling your head with good stuff. Every person is different, so pick & choose test & modify these ideas to find which particular ones work best for you.
AIM (Attention, Interpretation, Memory)
In their book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth top scientists in the field Ed Diener & Robert Biswas-Diener describe how to AIM for happiness. Here’s what they say.
Attention. “Stuff will never get into your head if you don’t look at it.” For example, don’t fill your head with bad news which has been spun to attract you for the ultimate purpose of making the media money. Negative people are another source of bad vibes. Instead keep your mind open to the good things you can be looking at instead which can make you happy. Remember, GIGO … garbage in garbage out.
Personally, I actively avoid reading the deluge of negative news which tends to overwhelm the mind by its very volume. Science has shown we are all affected by our environment more than we assume. With a little thinking about the news, medicine commercials and other such junk it is not that hard to recognize its poisonous nature. Once that’s realized then completely avoiding such inputs is not that difficult to do.
Interpretation. The way we interpret facts determines whether we feel happy or not. Looking at a glass as half full rather than half empty is the classic example. Another one is realizing that losing a lousy job or relationship can sometimes be the best thing that ever happened.
Controlling interpretations is often just a matter of trying to find a good interpretation rather than allowing one’s self to blindly getting stuck with an initial reaction. If I just stop and try to come up with another interpretation it is often much easier than expected. Try it.
Memory. Relive and savor the positive moments. This is something you can control much more easily than controlling the future. Stop and mentally smell the roses in life, past as well as present. This is another good way to fill your head.
This is an excellent, very practical exercise for immediately improving your immediate attitude. It’s an “upper” that often works for me.
Basically you Stop what you are doing, break into a big Smile (see Just Smile – the #1 Tip to Feel Better), then look around and start mentally noting what you like in your immediate present. See more details here. It’s a refreshing break, a bit similar to stopping and smelling the roses, which you can take any time.
Be Here Now
This particular moment is the only one that truly exists. “Yesterday is but a memory and tomorrow is only a vision” as my favorite poem says.
Learning how to be here now is a highly valuable skill to help you let go of sad memories or future fears. Meditation is one of the best ways to learn how.
Another highly recommended practice is joyful gratitude. By learning how to first see and then focus on what is good about life you learn to fill your mind with gratitude rather than bitterness.
In my experience the best way feel joyful gratitude is to just keep trying until it starts happening. The Stop Smile Be Look Like exercise mentioned above is one that helps me; it’s fairly easy to spot something I “like.” Another exercise is to think of three things you are grateful for while in bed right before going asleep. The idea is to make feeling joyful gratitude a habit that will eventually start coming naturally.
Other Related Thoughts
- “What You Think About Comes About” – The overall subject of this website which you are now reading!
- “First Within Then Without” – A classic mantra implying that what you think, feel and create within eventually appears without.
- GIGO – “Good In, Good Out” a nice twist on “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Fill your mind with good thoughts if you want a good happy life.
- The Slight Edge principle of making the slightest move towards one’s goal is very useful for filling your mind with good stuff when you are down. I.e., keep working on making even the slightest progress … it eventually accumulates.
- “Act enthusiastic to be enthusiastic.” Science has proven that physical actions cause feelings as well as the reverse. It’s a feedback loop.
- Get a happy pet. Many studies have shown that pets can help people live longer and become happier. We agree; the companionship and joie de vivre of happy pets adds much to our happiness. Our two dogs know how to enjoy the good life. Just watching them can teach a lot about being here now and about joyful gratitude.
Hopefully some of the ideas discussed above give you a start at filling your head with good stuff … and, at making you happier.
- The book The Astonishing Power of Emotions: Let Your Feelings Be Your Guide by Esther & Jerry Hicks recommends that one of the best things to do to improve your life is to closely watch your feelings and then to do whatever it takes that very moment to make yourself feel a little bit better than you would have otherwise. We agree.
- How To Find Happiness: 6 Proven Secrets From Research – Good article on how to use AIM (acronym for Attention, Interpretation & Memory) to increase happiness.
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