Happiness is an inside job. But how can that be? This is a question I hear a lot. It does seem like a strange statement but hear me out. Happiness is an inside job because it is what you make of what happens to you rather than what actually happens to you that makes all the difference.
“Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere”.
Of course, we live in a tough world with a lot of hardship. Ill health, bereavement, death, taxes, failure, rejection, overcrowding, poverty, pollution…depressed yet? What you focus on and think about largely determines your subsequent mood. I can’t promise that reading this post will make you instantly happy or that you will have the magic key to live happily ever after, but if you read this post with an open mind and practice the strategies laid out, you may find that over time your overall mood is lighter and you feel more at peace.
Happiness is an inside job because we have the power and control over what we wish to focus on and what we want to think about it. Believe it or not, we are not just passive receptacles of constant intrusive thoughts. We can get better at managing our thoughts and being more aware of our focus.
What do you focus on?
Are you aware of where your attention goes most of the time? The more aware you are, the better able you will be to redirect this focus when it goes awry. Sure, we can focus on injustice, inequality and all the other negatives but what good would that do?
Take action if you are able – for example, give to a charity. Or stand up for what you believe in and start a campaign. If you want to, that is. But whatever you do, don’t JUST ruminate. Thinking (or worrying) for the sake of worrying, where thoughts just go round and round with no productive problem solving don’t help anyone. It’s true when they say – when you are in your mind you are in enemy territory.
So – when an intrusive thought comes into that your head that goes round and round, ask yourself:
Is this something I can or can’t control?
If there is something you can action, do it. If not, redirect your focus elsewhere. Engage in mental shelving – where you actively ‘park’ the worry and focus elsewhere.
There is nothing more mentally wasteful that worrying. If you find you are a chronic worrier, try assigning yourself ‘worry time’. Allow yourself half an hour a day and schedule this time in for you to worry. Then for the rest of the time, be strict and try not to worry unnecessarily. During worry time, brain storm and try to come up with solutions rather than worrying just for the sake of it.
Many people have false beliefs about worry. They believe it keeps them safe and helps them be prepared but when clients have really looked into this, they realise that even when they have worried, they have not been able to foresee every problem. It is a myth that worry keeps you safe.
I have Cystic Fibrosis and I could spend a lot of time worrying about my health and focusing on how I am deteriorating, what isn’t good, every ache and pain etc. I know though, that this would do me no good. Instead, I focus on what I can control (managing my health as well as I can in the present moment) and I do my best to let go of the uncertain future ahead of me.
Happiness is an inside job because I watch what I focus on and I also catch negative thinking and try to reframe it into something more rational/reasonable.
Sure, I get sad and mad with the outside world but I try to limit the damage by managing my focus and thinking. It takes a lot of practice and I am still a work in progress but I can confirm that I am a much happier, calmer person now than I used to be.
When it comes to the outside world, you can either try to change it accept it or let it go. Along with those three options – watch your inner focus, your inner dialogue and thoughts and work on making your ‘inner world’ a comfy cozy place to be. A place free from self criticism (it’s okay to want to improve and have goals but it’s not okay to berate yourself constantly and remind yourself why you are a bad person, unworthy etc)…how is that helpful??
Let the haters hate and the misers be miserable. You cannot change other people, but the good news is that you are in charge of what you wish to pay attention to, believe and ‘buy’ into it.