Wondering how to be happy?
It’s surprisingly simple, but you may not have seen it laid out this way.
What I’m going to talk about today is how to generate positive emotions in your life, based on Brooke Castillo’s life coaching principles and how she teaches on happiness. This is the heart of the coaching work that I now do with my clients, who typically just want to feel better regardless of what the problem is in their life. But they are frustrated that they can’t get there, so what they need is to understand where happiness comes from, which I will explain.
I’m writing this because after many years studying psychology, self-help, spirituality and other ways to manage the mind and emotions, I came across Brooke’s work and everything started to make sense. I personally have applied Brooke’s coaching and self-coaching principles and it’s changed my life out of all recognition in terms of my enjoyment. Now my clients are seeing the same results. I really love this stuff, and I hope you will too.
If you can use these ideas to take back your power and enjoy your life more, my mission is successful.
How come we don’t know how to be happy?
Guess what? You won’t really hear these ideas out in the world. How to be happy is not commonly taught at school or in church. Our families aren’t likely to tell us. Consumerism, advertising and the media only work because they make you believe that something external – things, money, status, social acceptance – will make you happy. They position you as unsuccessful or inadequate so you will consume their product. But this doesn’t work – giving in to this desire just creates more desire, as you know.
By the way, the ideas I will present here are universal truth – they reflect the psychology of how the human mind really works – so all other successful teachers of happiness use the same concepts. I stand on the shoulders of many, but personally I’ve never heard it expressed in the way Brooke Castillo does. In any case, if you are already happy, read no more.
But if you’re irritable, anxious, stressed, dissatisfied, burnt out, lonely or depressed, read on. If you’ve hit a wall in your life where you think you can’t be happy, this is for you.
People want to feel better
You want to feel better – let’s take that as a given. But here’s the thing, you don’t know how to get there from here, right? You’re trained to seek happiness in all the wrong places. I will show you how to practice happiness, but in order to open to your positive emotions, you also need to open to your negative ones. You can’t pick and choose.
If you want to be happy, you need to be able to accept all your emotions. Humans have 50% positive and 50% negative emotions. You wouldn’t know happiness if you had no negative emotion to contrast it with. In fact, you need your negative emotions – you wouldn’t want to be happy about rape, child abuse, murder would you? Everything you avoid in life is because you’re afraid of how it will make you feel, so if you are willing to feel all your emotions, you will really reduce fear in your life.
Feelings are just vibrations in your body – nothing to be scared of. If you’re having a feeling, you can detect it by paying attention to the sensations in your body. The heat, vibration, density, colour, location. Each emotion will feel different to you and you can get to know each one by studying it.
You don’t suffer because you have negative emotions. You SUFFER because you:
- resist your negative emotions, causing them paradoxically to intensify and last longer
- judge yourself when you have a negative emotion – you feel bad about feeling bad
- tell yourself a story about why you are unhappy e.g. about your bad relationships, unhappy childhood, awful job or lack of money
- believe you need something external – achievement, status, love, respect, money, food, possessions – to be happy
Happiness is within your control – it’s created by your mind
The really great thing about happiness is that you can create it for yourself, if you know how.
If you are currently thinking “I will be happy when __________” ask yourself this question: “How will I feel when I have that thing?” You will have some positive emotion, like being happy. So then ask yourself “Would I rather have the thing or be happy?”
For example, let’s say you will be happy when you can afford a new car.
What will be different when you have the car? What will remain the same?
The secret to feeling happy
Ask yourself “What would I be thinking if I was happy?”
If you believe the thought you come up with, it will create an emotion.
For example, if someone tells you that you can have a new car for free, how do you feel?
You don’t have the car yet, but you already feel happy, right?
So you feel better without anything external having changed.
That is the secret to feeling happy. That’s how to feel amazing in your life.
You have to think thoughts that are amazing and that you truly believe
You can still choose a negative emotion when you need to, for example if someone dies, but notice you don’t feel grief when someone dies – you don’t feel it until you find out they died and have a thought about it. And your emotion on this person’s death will not be the same as other people’s emotions – because they will have their own thoughts.
When you are willing to feel all your emotions, you get to choose thoughts that will create your emotions.
What emotion do you want to create? What thoughts could you think that will create that emotion?
How did we get to be so stressed?
Let’s take a look at where our negativity – our fear, stress and resistance in particular – comes from historically. When we look back at caveman times, our brains were conditioned for survival. We sought pleasure, avoided pain and expended minimal energy. That was our motivational triad. We sought pleasure to make sure we ate, found mates, had children. We avoided pain to make sure we weren’t sick or injured. And we reduced energy expenditure in case we couldn’t get enough to eat.
Unfortunately our brains have not evolved from the motivational triad. In modern life where we have medicine, supermarkets, heated homes, social media and abundantly available food and drugs, the motivational triad no longer serves us well. The pleasures we have are over-concentrated and the dangers less mortal. The motivational triad pushes us to over-consume pleasure, be lazy and worst of all constantly stress about dangers that are no longer life-threatening.
Our brains are designed not to have new thoughts – new thoughts are risky – the old thought kept us safe, why do we need a new one? New thoughts are expensive in energy consumption. Thinking a new thought requires more juice than re-thinking an old one.
So what we do is take our thought response to each new situation we encounter, store it away and just bring it out each time we later encounter a similar situation. For example if we were beaten at school for being loud, we might decide to be quiet all the time. Every time we’re in a situation later in life that looks like being at school – such as at work – we might hold our tongue. Thoughts formed in childhood often don’t serve us so well as adults and may prevent us being happy and relaxed.
So essentially your brain just wants to keep you safe – it wants to keep you in the cave. Your brain is innocently working against you. Modern life has abundant stress triggers and pre-disposes us to chronic stress. Your brain is wired to resist change and growth and keeps you stuck in the stress cycle.
The three secrets to happiness
If we distil these ideas down, we can see that there are 3 secrets to building happiness in our lives:
- Other people don’t hurt your feelings or make you feel bad
Only you are responsible for your feelings, no matter what is happening outside of you
- Your brain is innocently working against you
Your brain is stuck in over-consumption, fear and resistance to change, trying to protect you, because human evolution hasn’t caught up with modern life
- You don’t have to change your life to feel better
You just need to think and believe better thoughts