#GutsyFeels – Improving Happiness by Understanding Our Thoughts, Moods, & Feelings

The second topic of #GutsyFeels focuses on happiness. In this post we will focus on happiness and how we should be looking to our thoughts in order to improve our overall sense of joy. This post will include some findings from a recent book I read called “You Can Be Happy No Matter What” by Richard Carlson. This book breaks down the concept of happiness into 5 principles and it looks at happiness in a more scientific sense.

Chronic illness can often be accompanied with Depression and Anxiety. This can make happiness appear to be an unreachable goal. However, it is important to realize that although it may feel like this, our happiness does not have to depend on our health or any circumstances for that matter. We have heard it all a million times, “if you do _____ you will be happy”, if only it was that simple, right? Well, I am here to tell you that it really is simple once you understand the way our brain and thoughts work. 

In this post I will explain ideas vaguely that Richard Carlson explains in his book, I will also have another journal prompt at the end in order to set your next goal in this series. This goal will be based around happiness and improving our habits to become happier overall. 

Accepting Our Thought System

Every negative or positive reaction we have ever experienced was based on a thought. We are in charge of our brain and thus we are in charge of our thoughts. Thoughts are a function of consciousness, when we think something it comes into our head and we have the choice to focus on it or let it pass through our mind.

Every single person has there own unique thought system which is filled with all our memories and information that we have collected throughout our life. Every single persons thought system is different, and thus it is impossible for us to realize that we can’t see something exactly as somebody else does. Our thought system is used during every moment of the day, and is what helps us make reactions to certain events. Therefore, our past memories and experiences allow us to interpret every single circumstance in a particular way. Thus, our thought system can trigger a positive or negative reaction towards a situation, which can hinder or enhance our happiness. 

Once we understand the idea of the thought system, it will make it a lot easier for us to understand why we react to certain circumstances. For example: say somebody has a different political opinion than you, you could react in one of two ways. You could get mad and upset, which would place yourself in a low mood. Or, you could accept the idea that we all have our own thought systems that shape our opinions, beliefs, and ideas. Once, you except this it will be much easier to simply listen to the persons opinion and let it go. There is no way you can change their mind as their thoughts are based on their OWN thought system. Moreover, understanding how our thoughts work can help us to realize that happiness is not based around our circumstances, but rather on how our mind interprets those circumstances. 

Using Our Natural State of Mind  

Our moods are always changing, which means that every circumstance will look different based on what mood we are in. Therefore, it is important for us to remember that when we are in a low mood we should not take our thoughts too seriously. This is because when we are in a low mood our thoughts will be altered to only see a situation in a certain way. So which thoughts can we trust as accurate? None, our thoughts represent our own version of reality, however this version of reality is not necessarily accurate. Meaning that we must always take our version of reality with a grain of salt, and understand that everyone else will also see the world through their own ideas, beliefs, and thoughts.

We think in one of two ways. The first way is through our thought system. This is a dysfunctional state of mind because we are drawing our conclusions by using all of our info from our memories, and past experiences. The second way we think is through our natural state of mind. This is used when we are thinking of little to nothing. But, how do we know which way we are thinking? Through our feelings. Our feelings act as warning signs to tell us when we are thinking in a dysfunctional state of mind using our thought system. When we experience sadness, anger, frustration, or any other unpleasant mood we are experiencing such due to our thought system and overthinking. However, when we are experiencing contentment, joy, and fulfillment we are experiencing such due to our natural state of mind and from little to no thinking at all. 

Everyone in the world will experience low moods, however when we are in low moods it is best to simply let it pass. Try not to problem solve until you are out of a low mood. If you do try to problem solve you will not be able to see things in a clear and accurate state. You will not be able to come up with new solutions to problems because you will be mentally blocked by the low mood. When you are in a low mood the best possible thing to do is to think of little or nothing at all if possible. You will soon realize that you have returned to a high/happy state. This is because our body naturally wants to be in a high mood, so it will naturally return back to it when it is not focusing on anything else. Therefore, happiness is already within you, so there is no need to search for it. 

Therefore, try your best to solve your problems in a high mood as often as possible. And when you are stuck in a low mood remember that your low mood cannot be trusted because it is simply an inaccurate state of reality. Moreover, your moods are always changing and thus are changing the way you see and respond to the world, do not trust them for 100% accuracy.  

Focusing on the Present Moment

It is easy for people to often be looking to the past and towards the future. The need to always be prepared and always be 10 steps ahead can be tiring and can pull you out of the present moment. When your attention is placed on the past or future and not the present it is clear that your quality of life will be lower. Richard Carlson uses an amazing example within his book to explain this concept. Think of a boat cruising in the ocean. What is the wake? The trail of water behind the boat. What powers the boat? The present moment energy from the motor. Can the wake power the boat? No, the wake is powerless because it has no power in the PRESENT moment. This example is a great way of showing that just as the wake cannot power the boat, the past cannot power your present life. 

Your thoughts have the ability of recreating events in your mind. Thoughts can help you to relive the past and also to presume the future. However, now that we know that our thoughts are created by us, we do not have to feel victimized by them. We have the power to create thought, and we also have the power to STOP thought. Since we know that our thoughts power our moods and feelings, we now know that we are also in CONTROL of our moods and feelings. So, this gives us the power to live in the moment. 

When you focus your energy in the present moment you will increase productivity, creativity and happiness. This is because when your thoughts are not focused towards reliving the past or presuming the future it leaves room for new, creative thoughts to come in. Therefore understanding the way our thoughts, moods and feelings are interconnected allows us to understand that our thoughts, moods, and feelings should not be completely trusted.

A great way to solve your problems is by allowing yourself to live in the present moment by using your “Back Burner”. The “Back Burner” of your brain is a quiet place in the back of your mind where solutions to problems come alive. To use your “Back Burner” you must tell yourself that you need an answer by a certain time. Once you have done this, you no longer have to sit there racking your brain for the solution. Instead you need to stop focusing on the problem and work on something else. Hours will pass and the answer will seemingly pop into your head. I’m sure these types of epiphanies have happened to you before. You may have thought that it was because of all the brain storming and thinking you did, but really it was in the moment where you were thinking of nothing that you came up with a solution.

Understanding the Purpose of Stress

Stress originates from our minds. Stress has nothing to do with our circumstances, but rather stress is created based on our reaction to a circumstance. Our thought system uses all of its past experiences and memories to create a response towards every situation in our life. Therefore, stress, just like sadness or anger, can be created by our thoughts as a response to a situation. Thus, stress is under our control, because it is created by our thoughts.

Just like anything else in life, the more we think of something the worse it will seem. So the more we try to find solutions to stress, the more we will be thinking about it and the more we will become stressed. For example, if you assume that a busy schedule means that you will be stressed, than the only way for you to fix your stress is by clearing your schedule. However, by doing so you are only validating stress as something out of your control, not fixing the problem.

When a thought pops into your mind you have the ability to respond in one of two ways. You can let the thought pass through your mind, or you can focus on the thought and let it snowball. The more you add details to what you are thinking about the more something comes alive. Obviously, we can all see that letting the thought pass is much better for our happiness and sanity. But, this is not always possible.

Stress is a warning sign to our mind that we are in some kind of psychological danger. Psychological stress serves an identical purpose to physical stress. When you sprain your ankle, you body hurts and so you take it easy. So, the most logical response to psychological stress is to also slow down, take it easy, and stop thinking. However, when we are in psychological stress a lot of people just push it off and continue to work harder.

The solution, therefore, is to lower your stress tolerance. People who have extremely high tolerance to stress are more susceptible to diseases and heart attacks. So, in order to combat stress we have to pay attention to the signs of stress earlier rather than later. Therefore, the sooner you nip it in the bud the sooner you can return to a more natural, happy state of mind.

Goal Setting

Now that you have this knowledge on how our brain and thoughts work. You can now focus on setting a new goal when it comes to happiness. This could be focused on managing stress better, focusing on the present moment, controlling your temper when you are in a disagreement, or something else that you took away from this post. Whatever it may be you can use the journal prompt to brainstorm and explore your new goal and how you want to work towards achieving it.

I hope you enjoyed this post and make good use of the journal prompts to explore how you can improve your happiness. There will be one more post in this series that will be up on Sunday, August 26, and this will be focused on self care and ways to improve it. If you enjoyed this post, check out my Instagram for more day to day updates from me. I would also love if you subscribed to my blog, that way you will get email updates every time I post. If you do like this series let me know on Instagram by using the hashtag #Gutsyfeels and by tagging me in your post (@GutsyFeels).

Have a wonderful day,

Your Trusty Gutsy Gal xx

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Nathalie is a Canadian entrepreneur, blogger, architectural designer, and Crohn’s warrior. Nathalie graduated from her final university degree in Spring 2020 with a Master’s of Architecture. Nathalie decided to start this blog to share her journey and experiences. She shares daily advice on all things health, lifestyle, self love, motivation and environmentalism on the blog and over on Facebook and Instagram.

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