Happiness doesn’t just happen. Some of us are blessed with the optimism gene, while others are stuck with hereditary gloominess. All of us can blame evolution for our human tendency to focus on the negative or dangerous. Evolution has been useful in teaching us to react faster to bad situations and avoid them in the future. But we are not trapped by heredity or evolution into a lifetime of pessimism. All of us have the power to get on course for a happier life. We can make small changes in our behavior and our relationships that turn into big steps toward a happier life. You’ll have to work a little to conquer your negative thinking. Train your brain to conquer negative thoughts. Use your body to trick your brain into happiness.
Scientists recognize that optimism is part genetic, but you can learn optimism even if your family background predisposes you to gloominess. Optimism can be infections, so choose to surround yourself with positive people instead of Negative Nellies.
Reap the benefits of controlled breathing.
Controlled breathing isn’t just for the yoga studio. Scientists are finding that the ancient practice can help reduce anxiety, depression, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit disorder. Breath control can improve concentration and vitality.
Don’t try to stop negative thoughts.
When you are in a negative cycle, acknowledge it. “I’m worrying about money.” “I’m fretting about my performance review at work.” Owning your negative thoughts diminishes their impact on your happiness. Telling yourself to stop thinking them only makes you think them more.
Challenge your negative thoughts.
Studies show that taking on negative thoughts and debunking them helps alleviate the symptoms of depression. Get out of a negative mindset by challenging your irrational thinking. Make the move from thinking, “I’m a miserable failure and they’re all going to find out” to a positive outlook thinking “I’ve had a setback, and I can learn from it and move forward.”
Put your negative thoughts on paper. Then ask yourself for proof that backs up your thinking. Is your thought based on feelings or facts? How would you see the situation if it happened to someone else?
Take advice you’d give a friend.
What advice would you give to a friend who is facing a difficult situation? Would you tell her not to be down on herself? Would you offer words of encouragement and compassion? Would you express confidence in her? Take a look at your sympathetic advice, and apply it to yourself. Write yourself a letter expressing compassion. Forgive yourself.
Get a move on.
Does moving make you happy or do happy people move more? Studies are finding that people who have moved in the past 15 minutes report they are happier than if they had been lying down or sitting. Most of the time all the exercise that was needed to put people in a happier place was just gentle walking.
Read More: How to Be Happy