Happiness in a change of mind!
As a life coach, my job is to help and motivate people to make positive changes to their lives. I truly believe that mind-set is the key to happiness. So I believe that the biggest and most crucial key to making a positive change in your life is to change your thinking about the perceived “problem”.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”- Henry Ford
It’s very hard to change a situation if you are stuck in a negative mind-set. Let’s use the situation of being single as an example. If you hold the belief that “there are no decent men / women out there” or “no one will want me with three kids and a post- baby body”, then chances are your wish will come true. You’ll be unconsciously projecting an attitude and vibes which back up your thoughts and beliefs.
So how to switch? Here are some ways to switch your thinking which can have immediate benefits to your life without actually having to “do” much at all!
Flip your belief on its head
The first thing you can do it simply to flip your belief. Many limiting beliefs are completely unfounded so think carefully about whether your beliefs are positive or negative. To challenge negative beliefs write them down on paper in the opposite form e.g. “there are plenty of decent men / women out there” and “many, many women with three kids and a body with a few extra curves are in very happy relationships!” To strengthen these new beliefs, re-write them out daily. Before long, you will open your mind to new possibilities!
Focus on the positives in your life
We usually begin a coaching relationship with an exercise called the “Wheel of Life” which is like an instant life audit. A circle (wheel) is divided in to eight segments, the broad areas of life: Health, Career, Family / Friends, Finances, Personal growth, Romance, Environment and Leisure.
The client rates their level of contentment in each area on a scale of 0-10 (10 being amazing and it couldn’t’ be better and 0 being the worst it could possibly be). I ask the client to tell me about the things that are going well before focusing on what it would take to improve that area and get closer to or reach 10/10.
Often, people are surprised by what is actually going well! It’s so easy when you feel “stuck” in one area of your life to allow this to take over your thoughts and sap your energy. At times like these, it can be very helpful to take stock of what is going well and put things back in perspective.
OK you may be single but you may have a fantastic family and friends for support, be in good health and live in a lovely home with children and /or pets who surround you with love and a job which pays the bills! Being single is also an opportunity to re-discover yourself, take up new activities and make choices and decisions without having to consult another person.
Keeping things in perspective by focusing on the positives can make a real difference to improving overall happiness and contentment.
“Is that really true?”
Countering this powerful little question is an exercise which has had more impact on my decisions than any other and I challenge you to use it now. Pick something you have considered doing or want achieve in your life, but it seems out of reach. It could be anything, big or small, from taking a very round-the-world trip to becoming a beekeeper, writing a book, changing your name by deed poll, taking up highland dancing… whatever it is write it down.
It’s easy to procrastinate and think of objections but you will soon realise that the objections can nearly always be overcome and are mainly fear based barriers rather than real. Think of your objections and then ask “Is that really true?” Common objections include: I’m too old (there is seldom an age limit except in the mind), I don’t have the money (maybe not yet - money will flow once you commit to something), I don’t have time (we always find the time for things which are really important to us), I have too many responsibilities (learn to delegate), my mother / spouse / kids would never forgive me (that’s his / her / their issue, be empathetic to the concerns of others but firm in your decision), it’s too dangerous (most accidents happen in the home!).
Be happy in the moment
I lot is being splashed on social media and in magazines about “mindfulness” (being present or aware in the moment). For the purposes of finding happiness, quieting your mind to the present can be a huge relief. The past cannot be changed and the future cannot be fully predicted, yet we spend so much time and energy going over what has happened or might happen.
Human nature is to want more. Some of us postpone happiness until certain criteria are met – ‘I’ll be truly happy when I get the perfect (job / relationship / car / house / flat stomach etc.)’. Actually, we could simply chose to focus on the good things we may already have – people (friends, family, children, partners), health, pets, clothes, jobs, even what most of us deem essentials such as clean running water and food on the table. We already have so many good things in our lives our lives and by changing focus we can get more happiness if we choose to gratitude and take pleasure from that.
Also, it’s easy to get into a constant state of anticipation – you’re thinking about what’s for dinner while you’re in a business meeting and when you’re cooking dinner, you’re looking forward to the kids being in bed so that you can crash on the sofa. When “relaxing” on the sofa you are thinking about the 50 things you have to get done at the weekend!
Mindfulness is about focusing fully on each activity during your day and really living and making the most out of each moment. It may seem obvious but you really will have more productive meetings, feel more relaxed and happy and will form better relationships with your children or those close to you if you are present rather than distracted.
Slowing down and focusing on the present moment this can actually alleviate a lot of stress. Worry is simply picturing things in our heads which may or may not actually happen and more often than not is completely unfounded. There is certainly a need for planning ahead but not if it prevents you from enjoying the only thing that any of us truly has – the present moment.
It is said that we have over 50,000 thoughts per day. Most people just take these thoughts for granted and allow then to dominate the quality of their lives, the feelings that pop up, to control of the actions we take or to stop us from taking action ( aka "fear"). In fact, we are totally in control of which thoughts we choose to fill our minds with, which thoughts we choose to entertain and which to discard. We are therefore in charge of the quality of our lives.
Turn your mind for a moment to a happy memory. It might be a birthday celebration or a holiday spent on a beautiful beach. Close your eyes and really see, smell and taste the warm sun, the great company or the delicious food which helped make this day so happy. Now return to current reality. For the time that you imagined the happy memory, admit it, you forgot those bills you had to pay, the weight you had to lose, the worry about the relationship, the pile of work you had to do today..
Negative thoughts about bills, for example, can be useful in the short term as they alert us to pay now to avoid fines, but dwelling on them permanently does nothing to make the bills go away and only causes us stress. It seems simple, but we truly have choice over which thoughts we fill our heads with in the present moment. It make sense therefore, that if we choose positive thoughts over negative thoughts then the quality of our lives will be better. Three strategies for eliminating negative thoughts:
1. As soon as you catch yourself thinking negatively, immediately dismiss the thought, mentally, throw it out and refuse to entertain it.
2. If it is possible to do so, take one small step towards addressing the problem which has caused the negative thought, e.g. if the problem is that you don't like your job, take a look on the internet at a job site or an up-skilling course. You will feel better for doing something proactive, however small. Praise yourself for taking a step. Then move on.
3. Reverse the negative thought by replacing it with a positive. "I hate my job" becomes "It's great that I have a job, and if it no longer suits me then I have the ability to look for something more full-filling for the future".
For a great article on how our thoughts create our reality, I recommend this article - click the button below.
Fear is a natural instinct which can be good when confronted by a lion in the jungle, but can hold us back in modern 21st century life!
Consider this: All the great performers, presidents, pioneers and change makers, (think Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson, even Madonna!) feel / felt fear before during and after making decisions and taking action. What is the difference between them and you?
The difference is that that accepted fear as part of life, didn't let it detract from their visions, and found a way to move through it.
If you want to learn how to "Feel the Fear and do it Anyway", then read this excellent and, possibly, life changing book by the late Susan Jeffers. Click here for the link.
CONFIDENCE TIP No. 1
If it's something you have never done before, go on a date with yourself, by yourself. Yes, a date with you! Go to dinner, a movie, ice skating, a concert, theatre, tenpin bowling... choose something you know you will enjoy but have never done alone.
Write the date in your diary and keep to it, commit to it, but go alone.
If this idea fills you with fear or dread, do it anyway. What is the worst that could happen? What's the best that could happen?
Try to be detached and curious about your feelings before, during and after the date. Write down these feelings. After the date, was it as difficult as you thought it was going to be? Would you do it again? What were the good things that came out of the experience? Have you learnt anything about yourself?