If You Really Want To Be Happy, Stop Telling Yourself (& Believing) These 5 Lies

Challenge your automatic thoughts more often.

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Everyone wants happiness and joy in their lives but stress, negative thinking, and limiting beliefs can sometimes get in the way of finding that. 

True joy — that deep, heartfelt feeling that comes from a connection to purpose, people, or the world around us — is the ultimate stress antidote. 

Yet, so many stories in our culture and between our ears make it harder to find and hold joy. Many of our standard practices are not joy, health, or brain-friendly! In fact, they make us even more stressed out!


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How do happy people do it? Easy. They learn how to deal with stress by not letting those negative stories rule their path to a happy life.

There were so many negative stories in my head that could have kept me from seeing this glorious light above: "I need to skip this trip, this ride, and my writing exercises. I need to pedal faster or be a better _____ (just fill in the blank!)."

But, a few moments of joy have inspired me to be more efficient, grounded, and real.

There is one stress management technique that is effective in helping you figure out how to be happy despite all the stressors going on in your life: stop buying into these lies! Instead, what you need to do is to challenge your automatic (and negative) thoughts more often. 


Here are the 5 lies we believe in moments of stress that take away our joy and happiness.

1. We don’t deserve it

Huh? Would you tell your best friend that? Your child? Why do we tell ourselves that we don’t deserve something — sometimes not directly, but in our subtle self-talk? 

Of course, you can think and behave in ways that will create more joy and in ways that make joy more elusive. It’s likely you are not an agent of evil or a mass murderer, so quit killing your joy with unrealistic expectations or negative self-judgment disguised as self-motivation. 

2. We shouldn’t indulge in it — it won’t last

Yes, the other shoe may well drop. But, that is all the more reason to notice, savor, and treasure every moment of joy. You have to teach your brain to pay attention to the feeling; it came pre-wired to scan for negative. 

Focusing on joy will actually make you stronger and will help you withstand the many challenges inherent in real life, which is much more effective than constantly surveying your world for dropping shoes.


Gratitude is an excellent way to start.

3. We can’t have joy until…

Again, with the expectations! We can get very black and white or rule-driven about emotions. Delayed gratification is a well-worn badge of high-achievers (next to the "Totally stressed out" badge). But in reality, emotions are complex, can co-exist (grief/joy), and interplay with our thinking and our physiology. 

They have helped us survive (danger, fear-move!) and exist in the community. They can wreak havoc on our health and happiness when given too much reign. 

Sometimes, the better way out of a challenge is to focus on finding the joy and the light. You will feed your creativity, make powerful connections, and broaden your perspective — all good challenge-slaying skills. 


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4. Our joy depends on someone/something else

Of course, seeing the joy on the face of someone you love is contagious. It is love in action. And empathy for the pain of others should motivate us to take action to make the world a better place, to not settle.

Service to others can be a powerful source of joy, and we are healthier when we have multiple ways to create joy. 

When we limit our joy and make it contingent on the state of someone else or a particular circumstance, we are missing so many other opportunities for the emotional-chemical bath that makes our hearts and brains stronger.


Besides, we all know trying to control situations, or the behaviors of others is a shortcut to frustration. Don’t let anyone steal your joy! 

5. We can’t focus on joy if we are serious about our competitive edge

Au contraire! You can be seriously committed to achievement, productivity, effectiveness, growth, and leadership — and be focused on creating more joy in the process.

Success and growth can contribute to your joy…if you train yourself to notice and savor. This practice will actually reinforce the brain circuitry, making you resilient and moving you forward. 


Yes, you have been rewarded for always jumping to the next goal/gap, but that is good training for burnout, not a healthy success. Great leaders have learned to do this for themselves and to mentor it for others. 

Finding and creating joy is a stress mastery skill, so for the next few weeks, ask yourself (and maybe your family members): 

  • "Where did I find joy today?"
  • "What am I grateful for right now?"
  • "What did I do or think that made that joy more accessible?"

So, once you learn how to manage stress, you can start exercising your brain’s joy circuitry and build your resilience muscles!

RELATED: 6 Subtle Signs You Need To Take A Personal 'Time Out'


Cynthia Ackrill leads stress and leadership workshops in many settings from coaching and leadership programs to women's conferences. Visit her courses and resources on her website.