I have been very hesitant about publishing this blog post. I started writing it couple weeks ago, only to stop after getting my main points down because I felt that this will put me in the same “faceless” group of hundreds or thousands of personal development bloggers out there. Not that there’s anything wrong with writing about personal development, but I felt that I needed to approach these things from my own quirky semi-scientific point of view that I’ve been building.
What finally made me finish this article was, that the things I discuss here have had a positive impact on my own life. And by sharing this there is always a chance to influence others and help them achieve positive results as well.
It’s all in your head
This is a big one. By simply realizing and accepting that emotions exist entirely within you, can have a life-changing effect. Let me repeat that; what you feel is entirely a creation of your own mind. Whatever happens in your life outside your own body and mind is not the source of your feelings. If you can’t grasp this, then read it again until you can. Or watch the Habits of Happiness talk by Matthieu Ricard who explains the concept in more detail.
So what if you crash your car? Surely there will be all kinds of feelings of anger, anxiety and regret stemming from that accident. But can you show me which aspects of a car crash cause the negative feelings? Can you show me, that when a car crash occurs these specific feelings get created, and start to inhabit the bodies of those involved? I doubt you can, because those feelings are entirely subjective experiences of the people involved, and they are entirely their own creation. Simply put; the car crash itself does not create those feelings.
A feeling is simply a creation of your brain as it reacts to external or internal events, such as car crashes or remembering the first time you held your first-born baby in your arms. This is important. You might even want to write it down. Whatever events take place, they are not directly making you feel anything. You feel something because your mind makes you feel it.
The reason I rant about this is, that realizing it has been a hugely liberating experience. It explains why money and new toys don’t bring lasting happiness; far too many people try to change internal processes by focusing on external conditions. It also gives you a degree of control over what you feel. When you know that your feeling exists only within you, independent of external events, your whole perception of that feeling changes. You may start to wonder why your mind is making you feel something, what could be causing the feeling, and what is the feeling trying to tell you? This will help you tremendously to understand yourself better.
My own understanding and control of feelings was put to a test earlier this year, when purely out of my own fault I was caught speeding, received a huge fine, and lost my driver’s licence for over two months. I had learned and accepted, that the external event of being stopped by the police was not responsible for what I feel, but that I am creating those feelings inside my own mind. The feelings I have are my responsibility. Even though this whole ordeal was a huge setback for me in multiple ways, I managed to stay positive during and after the whole event.
Now imagine how much easier it is to make yourself feel positive about small annoyances that you might let bother you, such as cleaning the bathroom or washing dishes.
Talk to yourself
This is something we all do every single day. We look ourselves in the mirror after waking up and say “Dude, you’re awesome! Another great day ahead!” Or at least that’s what I do :) And that is one of the reasons I’m feeling good. We have this internal dialogue going on and on all the time, and it has a huge effect on how we feel.
Have you ever paid attention to how you are talking to yourself? We have a tendency to be extremely cruel to ourselves! The way most people talk inside their heads is so negative that they would never in their right mind use that kind of language when talking to other people. This internal dialogue actually has an effect on your subconscious mind, making you feel the way you talk.
To improve this, first start paying attention to these internal dialogues and the kind of language you use. Then start shaping the dialogue consciously. How would you like to feel? I’m sure everyone wants to be happy, confident and enthusiastic most of the time. Since you will feel good or bad based on how you talk to yourself, be mindful of the words you use and make a conscious effort to have only positive self-talk going in your head. Or as Tim from Real Social Dynamics puts is; talk to yourself like you’re the pimp of the world.
You can even write down or memorize a commercial for yourself, as in the below example:
Tom Staley meet Tom Staley – an important, a really important person. Tom, you’re big thinker, so think big. Think Big about Everything. You’ve got plenty of ability to do a first-class job so do a first-class job.
Tom, you believe in Happiness, Progress and Prosperity. So: talk only Happiness, talk only Progress, talk only Prosperity.
You have lots of drive, Tom, lots of drive. So put that drive to work. Nothing can stop you Tom, nothing.
Tom, you’re enthusiastic. Let your enthusiasm show through.
You look good, Tom, and you feel good. Stay that way.
Tom Staley, you were a great fellow yesterday and you’re going to be an even greater fellow today. Now go to it, Tom. Go forward.
– From The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
How do you think the above person feels about himself, compared to someone whose internal dialogue consists of complaining how her dress looks too big on her, the shoes are wrong color, and that she should have done a much better job on that presentation for the marketing class?
It is not only how we talk to ourselves, but how we talk to others that shapes our reality. If you tell someone that you’re feeling a bit down, do you think that telling it will make you feel better? You’re just simply giving yourself a permission to be stuck in that miserable feeling. On the other hand, even if you’re feeling moody but you respond to someones “How are you?” that you feel awesome, you’re actually taking a step towards feeling that way!
This is another example of how the subconscious mind is affected by the words we use. When you say – with proper tonality and enthusiasm, even if you’re faking it – that you feel great, your mind starts to create that feeling. So if you want to feel more happy and content in your life, use words and phrases that carry a positive meaning.
One noteworthy thing to mention here is, that apparently our subconscious minds cannot make a difference between positive and negative phrases. So if you keep repeating in your head that “Don’t feel bad, don’t feel bad” your subconscious is actually registering “Feel bad, feel bad”. Try to find alternative ways to say what you want without the use of negations.
I was telling a friend of mine that I have simply no talent at singing, and she actually scolded me for saying that. Our thoughts and the language we use shape our reality, so by saying that I have no talent at singing I’m actually creating a reality where I have an excuse, and I don’t even need to consider ever becoming good at it. Instead, I should have said that I have a challenge in singing. Challenges can be overcome, and they can also be sources of strength.
My advice is; be mindful of the words and phrases you use, and think what kind of effect they might have on your subconscious mind. After all, you are the one creating those positive and negative feelings. No one else. So take responsibility.
A cynic might call me delusional for thinking in ways that I described, using these kinds of “tricks” and “techniques” to feel positive and happy, but guess which one of us is enjoying life more and having better time on this planet? :)