In my many years as a surgeon and physician, I have often found myself discussing the topic of “happiness” with my patients. I have found that a large majority of the population are confused about what will really lead to their happiness, often thinking that external beauty or social acceptance is the key to a happy life. They could not be more wrong. One must create happiness from the inside before it can show on the outside in the form of a vibrant social life or even a physical attractiveness.
How does one create happiness in his/her life? The answer to this question has been discussed for centuries among psychologists, philosophers, and friends. Although there are hundreds of potential theories on how one can attain happiness, at the core of all of them is one concept: wherever we focus our attention on a routine basis sets our mood and attitude for the day. Shifting this focus to positivity creates the mental space for happiness. When your brain becomes wired for positivity, it can potentially unwire all the short circuits that create anxiety, depression, attention problems, and a host of other psychological disturbances.
I knew the answer could not be
as obvious as simply telling yourself
“I’m a positive person”…
(click title to read more)
Over the past few years I’ve been researching what is it that creates a positive person. I knew the answer could not be as obvious as simply telling yourself “I’m a positive person” as many self-help books would have you believe. Our minds are in a constant loop of negative self-talk, self-doubt, and negativity mixed in with all the positive, beautiful, esteem building experiences of daily life. Trying to convince ourselves that negative thoughts do not exist by just denying their existence is a failed strategy … our brains are simply not wired that way. What does work, however, is slowly, over time, training our brains to apply more attention and focus to developing a more positive frame of mind. This “brain training” cannot be a one-time event. Just like any exercise program for the body, the gains stack up over time and you see the benefits with consistency and practice.
There are four generally accepted, widely discussed practices that nudge the mind toward adopting the most positive framework it is capable of. Each done alone, is powerful, if performed as part of a daily routine. Of course, you can choose one of these four methods to practice. In combination, however, I have found them to be exponentially effective.
I use the word “practice” intentionally. In the “practice of medicine” you realize two things: 1) you are always learning 2) you get better every day you do it in succession. The key is to just get started! Don’t worry about getting it right, just start and do it every day. You WILL get it right, and then reap enormous benefits. Here is where most people fail- not just in controlling their own mind- but in life. Maintaining a daily routine creates massive, exponential gains. Without it, you start at square one every time you take time off from the routine.
Here are the four elements of positivity that I practice consistently, daily, as part of my morning routine…and it only takes me 5-10 minutes a day!
Gratitude has been the subject of intense scientific research for years. There is no question that people that practice gratitude every day sleep better, have better immune systems, have less stress, and, of course, are more positive people. Most researchers recommend a utilizing gratitude journal and writing, on a daily basis, what you are thankful for. Forcing your brain to focus on something that made you say, or think, the words “thank you” creates the basis for a positive frame of mind. Finding beauty in the world and our daily experience refocuses our attention on all the positive aspects of life, versus our natural inclination to ruminate on the problems. Gratitude, in my opinion, is at the core of happiness.
Visualization is simply the process of thinking about what it would feel like to achieve a goal or state you want. Whether or not you believe in “The Secret” or Quantum theory causing your thought vibrations to change the universe, visualization has the power to create a positive mindset. I visualize every day what my life will be like in 5 years. I try to image the people around me, where I live, what I am doing, in great detail. The more I do this, the more real it seems, and the better I feel about where I am currently and the path I am creating to get there. This works so well for me, I try to do it multiple times a day. Our brains are wired to see the world from one perspective- our own. The more we can consciously change where our focus is throughout the day, the more we can shift our perspective. With daily practice, this practice can become very powerful.
Reflection is the conscious act of looking back on your day and remembering the best things that happened on that day. The shift in focus from what sucks in life to what is great in your life is immensely powerful. Unfortunately, most of brains are wired to focus our attention to the things we have to fix, what we did wrong, what caused us embarrassment throughout the day. We tend to have endless self-talk in our minds about all the things we need to change, which sends our conscious and subconscious minds down the rabbit hole of “how do I fix myself and my life”. Reflecting on the positive moments empties this brain clutter, because what is good is simply there to be enjoyed and there is no problem solving required! Having room in the brain and quieting the mind through reflection on the positive moments in life gives you the mental space to be happy.
Affirmation is the daily practice of creating what you want in your life. You can create a day that is the best day you can have, before the day even starts. By telling yourself “This is what I want from today”, you will literally set the stage to “seize the day”. Most of us start our day knowing that we have an agenda already in our smart phone calendars, but that is not what I am referring to. What do you really want from today? What massive actions do you want to take? What direction do you want your life to move into today? Setting the answers to these questions in your psychology daily will point your attention in a specific direction from the very start, so you will subconsciously head in that direction all day long. Writing them on paper, drives them further into your subconscious.
Another option for affirmations is to tell your subconscious that you “are” a certain persona that you want to be. Examples would be “I am confident. I am a rain maker. I am productive.” Whether your higher brain believes yourself to truly possess these qualities or not, your subconscious will point your personality in this direction all day long.
Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? I promise you, it really isn’t! After a week or two of practice, you will be able to master these mental “tricks” and feel your happiness improve. And, there is already a guide book out there to make it happen!
Having a great job, close friends,
happy family and abundance will follow
if you set the stage to attract it all to you.
For the last few years I’ve been journaling routinely using the Five-Minute Journal. This pre-made, simple journal written by Alex Ikonn and UJ Ram is something I accidentally happened upon while searching the term “journal” on Amazon. This journal, in a beautiful compact mini book that you can take everywhere with you, encompasses all the aspects of positivity I talked about, consolidating them into one page per day that takes less that 10 minutes to complete. As thousands of people have discovered, it’s a great way to start off the daily habit of practicing positivity! I love this book, and so do all my patients and friends that I’ve recommended it to.
A few tips:
I truly believe that positivity is the fundamental core habit that leads to a happy, peaceful, fulfilled life. Having a great job, close friends, happy family and abundance will follow if you set the stage to attract it all to you. It’s the one prescription that I can give all my patients where the effects are dramatic, and side effects are even better!