Thoughts precede emotions. In other words, thoughts shape how you feel.
Positive psychology has found: happiness, anger, anxiety, and sadness ALWAYS follow thoughts connected to each particular emotion.
So, that makes your thoughts very powerful things. And that means your thoughts affect your happiness.
What this looks like for me
I have found in my own life that the things I think, the things I allow myself to meditate on, are hugely important. Hugely important for my marriage and work. Hugely important for all areas of life.
That what I think does indeed determine whether I am bitter, angry, and miserable in any moment. OR happy, content, and joyful.
This is true of every situation I face—even those that are challenging.
Thoughts paving the way to happiness
Raj Raghunathan Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today:
Happiness comes more easily to those who have adopted a certain way of looking at things.
That is profound and has big implications for our current and future happiness. Don’t you think?
I don’t want to say that we can always choose happiness. I feel that sentiment may be misleading.
Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders etc. can make choosing happiness extremely difficult, if not impossible, until they are addressed. Death and disease are often appropriately sobering.
Yet, as Raghunathan points out, our thoughts can play a big role and can make happiness more attainable. (Especially if paired with some of the other things I address in my free e-book).
And because our thoughts can pave the way to happiness, oftentimes happiness IS a choice. And that choice is to change our thought patterns.
Oftentimes what is standing between you and happiness is your thoughts.
Turning negative thoughts around
I have found the anecdote to my own negative thoughts is…
You guys, this really does work!!! It has transformed how I think–about myself and the world.
I am writing a little blog sharing things I would have never breathed in public a decade ago. Fear and negative thoughts would have kept me from this back then.
But not anymore!
The next time you begin to have a negative thought, counteract it with gratitude. Look for something, anything really, to be thankful for.
It could be connected to the negative thought, or something completely unrelated.
What this looks like
For example, if you begin to think negative thoughts about your appearance, you can express gratitude for healthy eyes and ears to see and hear the beauty that surrounds you. For a warm, cozy home to go to at night. For friends and opportunities to bless other people in your life.
If you are caught in traffic or your wait in the grocery line or at the doctor’s office is taking longer than you expected, practice gratitude there too.
Look for something about the situation to be thankful for. Maybe the traffic gives you more time to listen to music you like or if you are a Christian, like me, you can spend that time in prayer.
Long grocery lines could be opportunities to express gratitude for the abundance we have been given. And a long wait in the doctor’s office may give you an opportunity to read or relax—something to be thankful for if you are a busy mom like me.
And when it comes to those big, important things like your marriage and family and work, gratitude can absolutely transform your life. It can bring happiness to even challenging situations and relationships. And it can boost even those that are already happy.
What you have to gain
Within reason, there is always, always something to be grateful for. Your thoughts affect your happiness. And the amazing thing is that, when you replace negative thoughts with gratitude, happiness is likely your prize.