I think happy thoughts


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Happiness

Why does happiness seem so difficult to obtain for some people and easier for others? The simple answer is that it’s a state of mind and if you think you are happy then you will be. The people who seem to be happy may just have more practice at focusing on the positive. Why then is is so hard for some people to think positively. Some people say that there are specific characteristics that positive thinkers have in varying degrees.

For the sake of narrowing down some personality characteristics and to make a more precise list, I chose one author’s list of 10.  Scott Ventrella The Power of Positive Thinking in Business: 10 traits for maximum results. The  10 characteristics of a positive thinker are listed by Ventrella as: optimism, enthusiasm, belief, integrity, courage, confidence, determination, patience, calmness, and focus.

The first step to becoming a more positive thinker and leading a more happy life would be to look at each of these traits and determine how strongly they are present in your own life. Finding where you have strength and areas you need to grow in are helpful in creating a plan for yourself.

Once you know the characteristics that you want to work on in your own life, set some goals for yourself on how to do that. Make sure that your goals are realistic. You are on your way to being much happier once you have a plan in place.

Don’t forget to recognize when you are happy. Many people breeze past this and don’t linger on their happy thoughts. We spend so much time thinking about the negative but very little time remembering all the things that did go well and the times we enjoyed. Spend some time each day just thinking about something that you enjoyed about your day or a happy memory.

The best part about wanting to become a more positive thinker is that this is an achievable goal! Just because you don’t feel like a positive thinker or a happy person does not mean that you can’t become one.  Believing in your own power for positive change is a great step in the direction of happiness.

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Mindfulness and How it Works

Mindfulness is something that sounds easy at first but then takes a lot of practice once you truly understand what it is. It’s the purposeful observation and noticing of the environment without passing judgment. The reason this is so hard is because we as humans are trained to make judgments all the time. It is often helpful to us in making decisions. The problem is that sometimes our judgments can lead us to negative thinking instead of just taking in the information.

An example of this would be sitting in a chair. Your fist thought might be “this chair is uncomfortable.” That is a judgment and an example of mindfulness would be “this chair has a hard seat and a straight back.” Just noticing the qualities of the chair without determining if it’s good or bad. The same would go for taking a walk outside. “It’s a nasty day out” is a judgment and “It’s raining and the sky is a gray color” is using mindfulness. When you talk about the qualities of what you see you start to notice that making a judgment can lead your thinking to be either positive or negative.

By taking a step back and noticing the environment you allow yourself to be more present in it and take it in without it being good or bad. Allowing yourself this extra time to notice the environment helps you to gain control of your thoughts. It also helps to ground you. Sometimes thoughts take on a life of their own and seem to spiral out of control. In reality you do have the ability to control your thoughts. This is a great power and very helpful when you want more positivity in your life.

The challenge in gaining control over your thoughts is to catch yourself in the process of making a judgment and stop yourself. Then take a step back and think of how you could describe the situation in factual terms. Practicing this just a few minutes each day helps to provide more grounding in your life and a sense of control over the environment you live in.

The easiest way to practice is to start by the chair you are sitting in. Take a few minutes to describe everything about the chair and the room you are in. You will be surprised at how many judgments you try to make. Being able to notice this and practice moments without judgment (Mindfulness) puts you in a more powerful situation. The practice takes time but does become easier the more you do it. Working out your mind is the same as physical exercise the more you practice the better you become at it and the easier it is.

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Parent’s Time Out

You might say, “What how can this be? It’s already hard to get a time-out to work for my kids and now you want parents to take a time out!” Yes, that’s exactly what I am suggesting. How many times have you over reacted because your anger got in the way? Often parents punish while they are not thinking clearly because of their emotions.   One way to stop this from happening and set a good example for your child is to take a time-out. This is a break for you so you can calm down, gather your thoughts, and then come up with a reasonable solution. Stating to a child that you are going to take a break to calm down does not mean they get out of being punished. You can even state that you will deal with him/her when you get back. Then remove yourself from the situation. Go in your room, bathroom, somewhere calm. Take a few breaths and think about how you want to handle the situation.

Often our own beliefs get in the way of reacting rationally at first. For example your child might refuse to eat something at dinnertime and this angers you. Your beliefs about it might be that they are privileged to have something to eat and refusing to eat is spoiled behavior or that your child will not get the nutrients s/he needs to grow. Your beliefs are what influence your thoughts/expectations and then lead to your emotions (i.e. anger). Overreacting often intensifies the situation and causes more problems instead of achieving your original goal of having your child eat dinner. Instead, if you take a time-out it helps you to calmly come back to the table and deal with the situation. This also serves as a role model for your child who then sees that you were angry but you handled it well and were able to calm yourself down. Making a statement that you are now feeling calm and able to deal with their behavior lets them know that you are in control and also can be angry without overreacting. Sometimes you might even decide that the behavior does not need a punishment but just a new outlook.

In the future you can ask your child to use the same method of calming down before their behavior gets out of control. The key is before they are out of control. It doesn’t work if you wait too long. When you see your child start to get worked up, offer a quite space so s/he can color, relax, play quietly, etc. until they are noticeably calmer.   Then tell them you are glad they were able to calm down. Once everyone in the family is able to use this method it will lead to a much more positive outcome and help you get what you wanted out of the situation in the first place.

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Positive Thinking

Why is thinking happy thoughts important? Well it may seem that it doesn’t matter what your thoughts are it’s your actions that count. But I have found that the more negative my thoughts are the worse my day is and the worse my outlook on life is. If I “look at the silver lining” or “think of the bright side” or any other cute way of saying think positively I find that my day is much better. Well we all know that this is not an easy thing to do and especially when you feel you have a legitimate reason for being upset. The problem is that your brain gets stuck on those negative thoughts and then it’s so much harder to get away from them. It takes a lot of practice to think positively. It’s not easy to find something that can change your outlook on a situation. However doing so will increase the likelihood that you move past the upsetting event quicker and are able to find more positive thoughts in the future. When I first started trying this it was hard and often times I laughed at some of the phrases I heard like “fake it until you make it.” I could not figure out why someone would want to pretend to be happy (fake it). Well I tried it because I couldn’t ask others to do it if I wasn’t willing to try it. After a lot of practice, I finally understood why this concept works for some people.  I also tried out various positive thoughts or sayings that resonated with me. This is a lot of the work that I do with people in counseling sessions. It’s awesome when someone finds that they no longer need therapy because they can “think on the bright side” or find their own solutions and no longer need a therapist!
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