Our minds are wired to think negatively—to anticipate problems and prepare solutions. That’s how humans have survived through the ages. Most of us don’t even realize how often negative thoughts creep in. I certainly didn’t. I thought it was my life that was the problem, not my thoughts. Meanwhile, I worried about house cleaning as if it were a life-or-death situation. I told myself I was a failure as a mother. And I second-guessed the way other people felt about me. It wasn’t that I was a super negative person. It was just that I wasn’t as happy as I should have been. Gradually, I began to see that most of my problems were in my head—my negative thoughts were making life harder than it should have been.
That led me to one of the most challenging goals I’ve ever set for myself: to get rid of negative thoughts. Since I’ve been working on this goal for several years now, I can tell you it’s impossible to get rid of negative thoughts. A better strategy is to fill your mind with positive thoughts, so there’s less room for worries and complaints. I’ve learned that my mind is like a garden. One way to get rid of weeds is to sow a lot of good seeds. When the good seeds grow, they crowd out the weeds. Here are some ways I’ve filled my mind with positive thoughts:
Happiness File: The first thing I did to help myself think more positively was to start a happiness file. This is an idea that originally came from Pam Young and Peggy Jones, but I picked it up from a motivational speaker. Some people have digital happiness files; mine is an accordion folder I keep in my desk. Inside, I keep notes people have written me, gratitude lists, pictures, comic strips, and other things that make me happy. When I’m having a bad day, I open up my happiness file and read through it.
Revamp My Media Choices: The second thing I did to crowd out negative thoughts was to be very selective about my entertainment. I stopped watching the news. Instead, I choose comedies or other shows that make me happy. I also make time to read scriptures and other uplifting literature.
Exercise and Sunshine: For me, there’s a direct correlation between exercise and my mood. Scientists say it has to do with the fact that exercise releases dopamine and endorphins into your bloodstream. I get a similar effect from being outside in the sunshine, which helps me to absorb more vitamin D.
Music: I’m always happier when I’m listening to good music. Singing along to songs in the car always gives me a boost. I also love to dance to music with my kids.
Express Gratitude: Sometimes when I’m feeling down, it helps to write someone a thank you note. It always makes the receiver happier, which in turn, makes me happier. I’ve also noticed that sometimes the person who’s received one of my notes will write a note to someone else. Thank you notes are little gifts that keep on giving.
There are a lot of different ways to plant happy thoughts, and I’m sure everyone has different ways to do this. What is something you do to cheer yourself up?