Master your mindset, master your happiness
Mindset–the way we think about ourselves, our circumstances, and our relationships have a direct impact on whether we choose to live happily or exist miserably. Notice the emphasis placed on the two words in the previous sentence, think and choose.
If we have a tendency to fabricate negative, unrealistic barriers in our thinking patterns, typically narrated as, ‘I cannot…,’ ‘I have not…,’ or ‘I am not…,’ we will naturally place ourselves in a self-defeating headspace that often results in sadness, anger, anxiety, bitterness, self-doubt, self-denigration…you get the idea.
On the other hand, if we think about things that are positive, affirming, realistic, inspirational and truthful, we are choosing to believe that there is hope, opportunity, and joy along the unexpected detours of life’s journey. To experience a sense of purpose, power, and freedom we must first believe that they are accessible. Only then, may we take purposeful steps toward reaching the healthy image or idea that we strive to achieve.
In today’s world, there is so much information flying around that it can be difficult to differentiate between things that are a priority and things that are not. Our attempts to identify priorities sometimes become empty pursuits of “happiness” that instead result in undue stress, unhealthy competition, and self-depreciation.
Simplify your life to discover happiness
So how can we learn to simplify and not overcomplicate things in order to actually enjoy our lives? I’m so glad you asked! Here are some helpful tips that have worked for me, my loved ones, and my clients:
1. Understand that your experience of happiness is your responsibility, so take ownership of it.
Perhaps this is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp because it requires you to take responsibility for the way you choose to respond to both past and present experiences. This is especially challenging when you think about the people who have wronged you in the past and the situations or circumstances that have left you feeling fearful and broken. Your natural tendency may be to place blame, seek vengeance, and/or assume a victim role.
Ironically, however, these behaviors rarely give you the results you expect and you are still left with the harsh consequences and unresolved feelings of such experiences. By placing responsibility on others to make you happy, you are putting yourself in a position to be controlled by them, and your mood will always be contingent upon what they do or don’t do.
On the contrary, by placing responsibility on yourself to discover more about who you are, what you need, and how to meet those needs outside of people’s actions or life circumstances, you begin to feel more empowered and in control of your life.
2. Recognize that your experience of happiness is relative to your perceived sense of control.
As a counselor, a theoretical concept that largely impacts the way I think and practice is Julian B. Rotter’s, locus of control ¹. Basically, a locus of control is the degree to which you believe that you have control over the outcome of events in your life versus the external forces beyond your control. Ways that you can distort your sense of control are called control fallacies ².
The fallacy of internal control is believing you are responsible for the hurt or happiness of those around you and feel drained and guilty when your efforts don’t succeed. The fallacy of external control is believing you are a victim controlled by external circumstances and everyone around you, leaving you to feel helpless and powerless.
Take a minute to think about these concepts and ask yourself: Am I unhappy because I am trying to control someone or something that is outside of my control? Am I unhappy because I am allowing someone or something to control me? Do I think I have control of my life based on my choices?
3. You can experience happiness now by focusing on what you already have & giving thanks for it.
During the times when you feel your lowest, it can be a struggle trying to identify positive qualities about yourself or see the good things that are happening in your life. When your mindset is in a negative space it is easier to focus on what you are lacking rather than what you already possess. To quickly shift this mentality, choose to give gratitude for the things you have already been given in life.
Focus your mindset on the fact that you have: Life; health; unique gifts, talents or skills; family and friends; the ability to work; a place to live; food to eat; and on and on.
For example, if you are naturally artistic and creative, build on your gifted ability to heighten people’s senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch (appropriately, of course) to create enjoyable, memorable experiences. If you are more of a strategic and analytical thinker, build on your gifted ability to solve problems and create solutions.
By choosing to become aware of the gifts that you have, both internally and externally, you will begin to believe that you have access to abundant living and can experience happiness right now!
4. Set realistic, achievable goals and take baby steps toward accomplishing them.
One of the most self-defeating things you can do is to set the bar so high that it is beyond your reach at the present time. It is important to emphasize that having dreams, as wild as they may come, is encouraged to even begin goal setting. However, if you jump to an end result without planning the smaller steps needed to achieve that goal, you are ultimately setting yourself up to feel like a failure if you miss the mark thus, delaying your ability to achieve.
A mindset change from magical, unrealistic thinking to more realistic, practical thinking allows you to break down your goals into more easily achievable objectives. Start by making a checklist of steps toward a goal that will allow you to see your progress each time you complete a task and literally check it off the list. For me, checking things off a list is a real self-esteem booster because it gives me a sense of accomplishment way before my main goal is reached. A small praise like this can lead to big results.
Remember this: When you think you are moving forward, you begin to move forward.
5. Simplify your life, practice coping skills, and don’t feel guilty about it!
Today’s culture tends to positively correlate busyness with success in ways that can create false demands and leave us feeling immensely overwhelmed. As a result, we may experience undue stress—a primary killer of our physical, mental, and emotional health. However, since it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves along our happiness journey, we must identify what we need and find ways to meet those needs with intention and diligence in order to be our best, most present and engaged selves.
Start by recognizing what you do not need in your life that only creates more aimless busyness to appease others or uphold a façade. Next, observe your current routine and identify whether it includes any of the following: A healthy diet, frequent exercise, restful sleep, enjoyable activities or hobbies, positive social interaction, spiritual devotion, etc. If you are not practicing any of these things, you may be feeling defeated, depleted, and unmotivated.
By making a small change, adding just one new coping skill to your daily routine, you can replenish yourself with an enjoyable practice on a daily basis. Proceed to add one skill at a time until you have developed a new routine. Before you know it, with some self-discipline and consistency, you will have developed a new way of living that provides you with a sense of stability, peace, and self-control.
By following these tips, you can renew your mindset and begin to feel more joyful, empowered and resilient in your daily life. As you learn and practice new ways of thinking and choosing, be patient with yourself along the way. Life is difficult and we are all figuring it out as we go.
Remember that unexpected life challenges will inevitably arise, but they can be temporary barriers to experiencing happiness only as much as our thoughts and choices allow them to be. With your renewed mindset, please pass the good news along to others so they too may have an opportunity to experience happiness.
- Locus of Control. (2018, March 6). In Wikipedia. Retrieved on March 23, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control
- Cognitive distortions including control fallacies derive from the work of several authors, including Albert Ellis, Aaron Beck, and David Burns, among others.
Brittny C. Lyle, LMFT, LPC, CPCS is the owner and CEO of BCL Clinical Solutions LLC, a counseling and consulting practice that applies a person-centered, systemic and solution-focused perspective to the growth and development of individuals, professionals, and organizations. Her mission is to share information, encouragement, and expertise through authenticity, creativity, and practicality to educate and empower others, enhance personal and professional relationships, and redefine the term ‘holistic care’ in mental health services.
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