At the beginning of 2014 I made a pact with myself to become a happiness guru. I already consider myself an expert on being happy so the guru just means I can share my happiness secrets with anyone else who wants a more joyful life.
Whether we want a new home, the perfect partner, a baby, or a new job, what we really want is the happiness that we think these things will bring to us.
If we reverse it and look at the causes of unhappiness some common answers might be tension at work, being late, not having enough money, or even the death of a loved one. The common theme in all the examples of unhappy stories I hear is the loss (or perceived loss) of power. If I am divorced I might choose to be unhappy when my children spend time with the other parent. I might feel powerless when my access to my own children is ordered by a judge and I cannot easily change it. In a separate example, if I develop arthritis I may feel powerless- as though my body has betrayed me.
So after I learned that feeling powerless was a choice I had to learn when the answer to happiness was changing my thoughts and when the answer was changing the choices I was making. Confusing? You bet. So let's continue with the example of a divorce. I can choose to fight to change the custody OR I can get comfortable with the current arrangement.
This is where I got stuck for many years. Input is processed by humans in a stimulus-belief-response manner. Two people can encounter the same stimulus, for example, a car accident. The first one is angry at the other driver. The second is thankful for the seatbelt and not sustaining injury. Which response is right? Both! It is our belief that we were lucky or unlucky that triggers our response. So if we can learn to choose the 2nd response. We will have a happier life.
So how do we start retraining our brain to think in this pattern?