August just happens to be “Happiness Happens” month, challenging us to think of the everyday happiness that fills our lives. This challenge could not come at a more perfect time of year. It is relatively easy to see the happiness in life during those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer; however, as we roll through the last weeks of August, we also enter into those final days of summer. Summer vacations have been taken, children are going back to school, and various holiday themed items and sweet treats have started to pop up in store (I think we can all agree that festively shaped candy is vastly superior to the ordinary variety).
As sunny summer days slowly take on the chilly edge of fall, we get closer to the three month long holiday season and time commitments start piling up. Our personal calendars look like great works of literature. Though we may enjoy many of these commitments, it can be hard to forgive the intrusion on our personal time especially when reminiscing about those wonderful schedule free summer days. So before fall is upon us, let us all take the opportunity to try to master the art of happiness.
For inspiration let us turn to the first, first lady of our country, Martha Washington,
“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go”.
Washington wrote this piece of advice in a letter to one of her dear friends and revolutionary political writer, Mercy Otis Warren. It still speaks true today as it spoke back then. In us, we have the power to change our life for the better. We have the choice of whether to think positively or negatively about the world around us, which can greatly affect how we go about living our lives. Science has also backed this advice up.
Dr. Andrew Newberg and Dr. Mark Robert Waldmen have written extensively about positive thinking and language’s effect on the brain. They state that when we speak positively about something our brain’s frontal lobe gets a workout. By working our frontal lobe, we are assuring that the lobe’s functionality is improved. In this case, you are increasing its ability to judge right from wrong and how to act accordingly. Positive thinking and speaking also puts the parietal lobe of the brain to work. This lobe heavily effects not only how we view ourselves, but also how we view others. More positive thinkers tend to have a stronger positive outlook of themselves and those around them; whereas, those who are more negative in their frame of mind tend to be more doubtful or their own self-worth and the worth of others. So with this is mind, here are some tips to guide your beginning steps on the road to mastering positive thinking. You might find it helpful to keep a “Happiness Journal” to record your thoughts and efforts towards mastery.
- Be mindful of your internal and external language. Try to be aware of how you think and speak about yourself and others. Are you more positive or negative? What words seem to keep being used?
- Keep a list of your favorite positive words. They could describe anything a person, a feeling, etc. Try to work these words into your everyday thoughts and conversations so you get in the habit of using positive words.
- At the end of the day, reflect on what has happened and pick one thing that made you happy. It could be the cup of coffee your co-worker brought you or that you got to have a nice chat with a friend.
- Make a short term goal for the better. It could be just a day to a week-long goal. Try to find the good in that one person who rubs you the wrong way three days in a row or choose to do an activity that makes you happy every day for a week.
- Take time to appreciate the small changes you have made. At the end of the week, take some time to think about what you have done to change your outlook. Make a list of what you have done and what you would still like to do.
So, what is YOUR tip to master the art of happiness?