Strengthen your ability to be happy with a happiness workout that will change your life.
Once upon a time, when we were little children, we let happiness, wonder and newness of the world permeate us. Dropping sticks, throwing balls, drawing, the taste of strawberries, the color of oranges and the feel of our softest stuffed animal; everything was fresh and filled with love.
Our brains, striving for efficiency, noted and categorized each experience, sought patterns and carved pathways which became short-cuts, and over time habits. Without thinking, we 'know' dropped balls fall, ice cream is cold and pillows are soft.
Habits are superhighways in our plastic and every changing brains. Habits are neither good nor bad to the brain, they are simply useful and efficient. Many habits are 'unintentional', especially habits of thought, perceived and incorporated through the family, schools and culture in which we are immersed. Others we practice, like brushing our teeth before bed and saying 'Please' and 'Thank You.'
What about habits that hurt?
Whenever I looked at my thighs, I felt shame and thought, 'Ugly.'
Whenever I disagreed with a boy, I kept my thoughts to myself and thought, 'I'm probably wrong.'
Whenever I felt lonely and my friends didn't pick up the phone when I called, I thought, "They don't really like me."
These were powerful habits, efficient in quickly draining me of joy and energy. 'This is just the way it is, these are truths,' was how I felt and behaved.
These are habits that hinder and hurt. Thankfully, they are not 'the truth' and they are changeable with intention and practice.
Happiness Habits: From Default to Delight in 4 Steps
1. Commit to Change
The first step is to make a decision, a choice, a personal commitment to change one habit that is robbing you of joy and energy.
If you’re not sure where to begin, pay attention to your emotions. When you catch yourself feeling down suddenly, take a moment to retrace your thoughts to what you were just thinking.
You are a detective, searching out that super efficient thought pathway.
"I was just asked out on a date by a guy I’ve been flirting with, and at first I was excited, and then I thought, 'Oh no, it’s been hot out and I look terrible in summer clothes.'"
When you identify the thought, write it down and make a commitment to change it.
But It’s True!
Your mind may argue that it’s presenting The Truth. I find it helpful to remind myself and those I coach that The Truth according to my brain is that which I and my world have told it. And I have the power to change it.
If you’re really stuck on the thought being 'reality,' create a list of examples where the opposite was true. Ask yourself, "Can I think of at least one time when I looked good in summer clothes?" One piece of evidence is all you need to pry open the doorway to shifting your belief and habit.
With my clients, I like to use the analogy that the mind is like a Google Search, it’s going to retrieve data about the question you ask, so ask a question pointing in the direction you want to move.
Don’t ask, "How many times did I look terrible?" because your mind is going to work very hard to answer that question for you! Replace your questions with those that will gather evidence of how amazing, wonderful, unique and beautiful you are.
2. Choose Your New Thought Habit
Write down the new thought that you want to turn into habit.
"I am a gorgeous gal who any guy would be lucky to date."
You’re probably going to experience some resistance and that’s OK. We’re working on building something new and that requires effort. This is the foundation for your happiness workout—just like lifting weights and going for a run, there’s some discomfort. Expect the same here.
If you’re still struggling with choosing an empowering new thought, try the 'what if' or question tactic:
'What if I knew I was a gorgeous gal who any guy would be lucky to date?'
'Won’t it be great when I know that I’m a gorgeous gal who any guy would be lucky to date?'
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Whether you realize it or remember how, the old thought became a habit through repetition over time. Now it’s time to practice the new thought.
Say your new 'truth' in the morning. Say it before bed.
For the quickest results, find a partner to whom you can say your new 'truth' at least once a day—a friend, roommate or supportive family member. Saying it out loud to another human who holds that space for you will speed up your ability to carve the new neural pathway.
Also, practice when you catch yourself automatically thinking the old thought. You’ll think it, then say, "Oh wait, that’s my old habit. My new thought is..."
Again, you may feel uncomfortable, silly, like a fraud. This is a place to "fake it until you make it." Like any workout, you’ve got to stick with it to see and feel results.
4. Celebrate Successes
Celebrate everyday that you say your new truth.
Yes, you get a pat on the back for practicing.
Stop and acknowledge that you’re making change. You’re celebrating that you’re doing it, whether or not you feel different yet. Why is this important? Because research has repeatedly proven that we reach our goals fastest when we feel happy right now.
Celebrate the times you do feel different, when you notice your voice has changed when you say that new truth. Celebrate when it starts rolling off your tongue and warming your heart. Celebrate when it becomes a habit and you’re ready to work on a different 'truth.'
Go from 'default' to delighted by practicing these 4 steps and making them into your own happiness habit.
Cara Cordoni supports high-achieving women in reconnecting to their bodies, reaching their unique and meaningful goals and creating lives they’re thrilled to be living. For a limited time, Cara is offering complimentary Body Breakthrough sessions. Schedule yours by emailing Cara at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about Cara's personal journey at www.flashlightcoaching.com/meet-cara.