The way to eliminate negative thoughts is to change them to positive thoughts. Sure, but how do we?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the inspirational best-seller-of-all-time, The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale. It was first published in 1953.
Besides the colossal success of Peale’s book, successful Happiness Courses are being taught at Harvard, Yale and other institutions. There have been many other books written about happiness, even Happiness songs. And achieving happiness has been the subject of many movies.
So why aren’t more Americans getting any happier? Only one in three Americans say they’re very happy, according to a recent Harris Poll.
I think this is why. I contend that our thoughts determine our feelings, and most of those thoughts are fearful, worrisome, or they’re scary.
Hardly conducive to a sunny disposition.
These negative feelings play havoc with our ability to see options. They impede feeling happy. They cloud our mind so we don’t perform in the most focused way.
The thoughts seem to come out of nowhere. They can come from an incident in the past. Sometimes they come after we begin something new, doubting our capabilities of succeeding. Or we may have a habitual thought come up repeatedly in the present.
All the feelings born of negative thoughts, if not questioned, become buried again until something else triggers them. Questioning the thought is the first step in preventing unwanted thoughts to crop up.
All the suffering that goes on inside our minds is not reality, says Byron Katie. It’s just a story we torture ourselves with.
To question a thought, you can use Byron Katie’s technique. Ask yourself;
Is it true?
If it still seems likely, ask yourself, “Can you absolutely know it’s true?”
How do I react – what happens – when I believe that thought?
Who would I be without the thought?
There’s a lot more you can learn about the questioning. Check out her website for more information: http://thework.com
The common denominator of most thoughts that pop up is that they’re negative thoughts.
When we don’t question whether the thought is true, we may end up anxious, overwhelmed with doubt and uncertainty. We feel stressed.
Sometimes we feel like a victim, unable to see any other option but live with what we wish wasn’t happening.
Our thoughts and feelings have a huge impact on our body. This is because of the mind-body connection. Most of the time we act because of habit, without thinking, and let our negative emotions rule us. This can cause distress.
It’s hard to remain happy when we’re not feeling the higher vibrations of love, joy, and gratitude, and hope.
The way to remain happy is by developing the skill of having these positive emotions most of the time. Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind. Thinking about remaining positive each time you feel negative emotions like sadness, fear, doubt, and guilt helps build new skills and resources that provide value in many areas of your life.
How can we build positive thinking in our lives?
In my last post, I described how to get over negative feelings. Anything that sparks feelings of joy, contentment, and love will work. Taking a walk, calling someone I love or cooking a favorite food to eat do the trick for me.
There are the three ways James Clear at JamesClear.com has found to increase positive thinking:
- Meditation – Recent research by Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, revealed that people who meditate daily display more positive emotions than those who do not. Some positive aspects I have experienced are stronger self-confidence, reduced stress, tension, and states of deep relaxation. I have a general feeling of wellbeing. It has lowered my blood pressure readings, and I’m able to concentrate and focus better than before.
I know some of you may be thinking, “No, not meditation again.” I used to feel that way. But with all wonderful new ways to meditate now, and with a little research, I’m confident you’ll find one you love and can’t wait to start your day.
2. Writing – James Clear, in his blog, The Science of Positive Thinking: How Positive Thoughts Build Your Skills, Boost Your Health, and Improve Your Work, tells about a study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality that the students who wrote about positive experiences had better mood levels, fewer visits to the health center, and experienced fewer illnesses than the group who wrote about a control topic.
I’ve been writing in a journal for eight years and writing posts on my blog for three years. I loved my journal from the start because writing my thoughts helped me discover ways to solve problems. The more positive outcomes I experienced, the more I became addicted to feeling positive. I began to look forward to each new positive experience I could write about.
Another way to feel more positive is to use your journal every day to write what you’re grateful for. Gratitude provides a cumulative effect of positivity.
3. Play is another way to feel positive. Schedule time each day or at least weekly to do something that makes you feel happy. You might hike up a mountain or pursue some adventure. Maybe it’s spending time with a certain person or finding a hobby you love.
“When we are ready to make positive changes in our lives, we attract whatever we need to help us.” Louise Hay
Facing a new challenge can feel daunting at first but if you persevere, you’ll find it getting easier. Each time a new experience affirms you’ve progressed, trust me, you will be happier.
Bonus; Esther Hicks, inspired by Abraham, generously provides videos of her answers to questions from people in her many workshops in over 50 cities in the United States. The videos are uplifting and filled with positive vibes. I used to watch these as I was learning to think positively. I still do from time to time.
Check out the videos at:
Or go to her main website for more information at:
For more on how your thoughts affect you, go to:
I wish I’d known why choosing the best “why” for a goal made such a difference. I could have saved years of chasing an improbable intention.
Not knowing, I quit my job. Why did I do that? In a fit of frenzy, I knew it was time to paint again, and I wanted to paint full time.
So why was I having such a hard time painting? It’s not as if the paintings I was doing were bad. They were good, but they don’t have a heart.
This was not how I had always painted. Twenty years earlier, when I decided, “I am an artist”, I loved the challenge of expressing what I was feeling. I was excited to see what would emerge from a fertile mind. And through an open heart, I touched many people’s hearts.
I was having fun. Work felt like play.
I didn’t have to worry about making money from my art. I was in a flow of creating better and better pieces and getting acknowledgment I was a very talented artist.
Money flowed into my already abundant life. Everything I dreamed for my life as an artist came to fruition. I won first place prizes in prestigious art competitions. I took part in group shows all over the country, and the coup de grâce (drum roll, please), I had a one-woman art show in a gallery in New York.
This time was different. I needed to make money from my art but it seemed as if everything I tried was conspiring to fail. Why couldn’t I replicate the success I had before? What was I doing wrong?
This was my quandary several years ago. Perplexed how to solve this dilemma, I finally stumbled upon the answer. The problem I was having had everything to do with “why” I was doing what I wanted to do.
Before, when I became a successful artist, I was painting because that’s what I loved to do. Now I was painting to make money. I thought I had to create something a majority of people would want.
My “why” was to make a living off the sales of my paintings.
It wasn’t until many years later, after experiencing meager sales of my paintings, when I was finally free to do whatever I wanted, I let go of worry and finally asked myself, “Why do I really want to paint?”
My answer hinged on a memory of how much I loved the challenge when I first painted. I wanted to experience growth. “Why do I want to grow?”, I asked myself, “I want to feel immersed in new insights”, I answered.
I continued this line of questioning until I got to the seventh question. By then I had tapped into my spiritual needs. I discovered that the pull to paint was because, sometimes, while I painted, I felt Source Energy leading me. I felt expanded. Limitless. More than I could have imagined I could be.
I also remembered how good it felt to share what I had learned with other people, how grateful I was to be doing something that could help people to believe in themselves.
This “why” inspired me to paint more boldly, to follow my intuition more and resulted in some of the best work I have done.
You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching. William W. Purkey
According to Sebastian Klein, co-founder of Blinklist, a Berlin-based startup that feeds curious minds key insights from non-fiction books, “Find your mission, or ‘why’ and allow the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to flow from there.”
In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink references an experiment in which psychologists asked university students about their aims in life. Some named extrinsic profit targets, like wealth, while others specified more intrinsic goals, such as personal development or helping others. Years later, the students with profit goals were no closer to contentment, but those with intrinsic goals were happier.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Steve Jobs
I’ve found that to be true. Since following a goal of something more meaningful, I’ve been happier and more productive.
In a 2003 study from the University of Rochester, researchers asked 147 recent college grads to report their aspirations in life and their happiness or unhappiness. The intrinsic aspirations included close relationships, community involvement, personal growth.
Extrinsic aspirations included money, fame, and having an appealing image.
The results: The folks who realized their intrinsic goals had high levels of happiness, but the people who attained their extrinsic goals didn’t have an improvement in their subjective well-being. The authors theorize that they might feel momentarily satisfied after reaching such a goal, but it doesn’t last.
As Nils Salzgeber says in “Are You Pursuing the WRONG Goals? (Intrinsic VS. Extrinsic Goals)” on the blog, NJlifehacks, “Intrinsic goals will actually lead to MORE money, fame, power, validation, and approval than extrinsic goals. It’s true. People who pursue intrinsic goals–people who just do stuff because they enjoy it and because it fulfills them–become more extrinsically successful than the people who are actually trying to become extrinsically successful”.
Some of the most “successful” people in the world were motivated intrinsically, Think Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. They all did what they did because they loved doing it.
If the only reward for an intrinsic goal turns out to be happiness, I would opt for that. That’s because if succeeding and being rich doesn’t bring happiness for any length of time, why go after that?
“Happiness is where we find it, but very rarely where we seek it.” J. Petit Senn
Let’s suppose you want to change your life. You might want to change your job, your routine, or some bothersome habits, but you don’t know where to start. So you ask yourself, “Who am I?” “Who would I prefer to be?” “What do I really want to do?”
Change is frightening and the temptation to resist it is powerful. However, the rewards of change – the opportunity to learn new things, to rethink tired processes, and to improve the way we see ourselves – is worth the effort.
Change is a process. It takes effort on your part. And the fear of losing what you have depended on for your identity or the fear of failing can feel very intense.
Things do not change; we change.
Henry David Thoreau
We can only change our circumstances from the inside out. As Wayne Dyer says,
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
I was watching the movie, “Starry Night”, on Amazon recently. Although the movie is a fantasy of Vincent Van Gogh coming back to vindicate the wrongs done him in his life, toward the end of the movie, there are several true excerpts from letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo.
One of them shines a brilliant light on Van Gogh’s beliefs about himself and his art. He says,
“What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then—even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”
When Van Gogh was alive, his work wasn’t appreciated. But that doesn’t mean his work didn’t have tremendous value.
To live mindfully, according to Thích Nhất Hạnh in his book, The Art of Power, ”the most important thing is to have confidence in your work, to make sure that your work embodies your best in terms of understanding and compassion.”
Van Gogh’s art contains insight, understanding, and compassion, all the attributes of a masterpiece. Van Gogh tells Theo in the letter he sent to him that he wants to make sure that his work embodies all the beauty that he is not personally thought to be.
So, what does this story have anything to do with why your sense of self is important?
Despite the suffering of his soul, unable to attain success through his work, Van Gogh was able to let go while painting to find a deep well of satisfaction and a sense of merit. He couldn’t have painted the beauty in his work without having let go of his sense of self. When he painted he was able to let go and “get in the flow” of painting.
Then why was only one of his paintings sold during his lifetime?
John Kehoe, pioneer in the field of Mind Power, says your subconscious mind is a second, hidden mind that exists within you. It’s a reflection of what you believe you deserve. The subconscious acts upon the predominating thoughts that reside within your conscious mind.
You know more about your conscious mind. It’s the mind that exists to take care of and protect us. It’s our thinking mind. But the thoughts flitting through our mind can be, and often are, full of fear.
Fear generates judgments, blame and, ultimately, beliefs based on fears we’ve harbored for many years. Experts say these fears are mostly generated from birth to age seven. Perhaps these beliefs served us well when we were younger, but they have now become the negativity that is preventing us from all we want in our lives.
The subconscious attracts circumstances and situations that match the images in your mind. When we pay attention to the concepts conjured by our past negative thoughts the way Van Gogh did with his evaluation of his worthiness, the subconscious delivers what it believes to be the truth, but not what we really want.
By believing himself to be the “lowest of the low”, Van Gogh was telling his subconscious that he wasn’t worthy. Since the subconscious delivers us a match to our predominating thoughts, attracting success would have been hard for him, if not impossible.
When we’re closing ourselves off from the Universe’s abundance and unlimitedness, we can only receive that which we believe we deserve.
Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.
This brings us back to the beginning of this blog. When we know that we’re the reason we’re not receiving what we want, that it isn’t fate or anything else outside of us, we can begin the process of discovering the thoughts, fears, and beliefs that prevent us from receiving what we want.
You may be able to do this for yourself. Many have. But if you’re like me, you’ll need motivation. Here are some inspirational quotes you might need to get over even your hardest obstacles.
- “Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same.” — Unknown
- “Don’t make a change too complicated, just begin.” — Unknown
- “Small changes eventually add up to huge results.” — Unknown
- “Action is the key to all success.” — Pablo Picasso
- “Don’t expect to see a change if you don’t make one.” — Unknown
- “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
I’m in the process of changing who I am for the umpteenth time. It doesn’t get easier-there seem to be new blocks every time I strive to have more for my life – but it does get more rewarding each time I change. That’s because I’ve found that digging deeper and admitting the truth goes a long way to manifest all that I want to be and have.
For more on “Who Am I?”, go to this link, https://dorettab.com/answering-big-questions-life/
Why has the subject of self-compassion become so trendy over the last few years? Why are psychotherapists, mindfulness teachers and life coaches touting its benefits today?
Self-compassion, a Buddhist belief, became a mainstream and popular idea when psychologist Kristen D. Neff of the University of Texas became interested in the subject. After reading Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg’s book, Lovingkindness in 2003, Neff wrote a paper on the subject and it was that paper instigated a snowball of interest,
Neff tells us that self-compassion is based on the premise that showing kindness to oneself is essential for showing love towards others.
Three indispensable elements of self-compassion she found from her reading were:
- Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment
- Common humanity vs. Isolation
- Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification
Since Ness’ paper, research has found that self-compassion has many positive rewards. You are less prone to anxiety and depression. Self-compassion bolsters confidence. Being kind to yourself can make it safe to fail, which encourages you to try again. You are more than likely to sustain stronger relationships with others. And psychologists have found that there are links between self-compassion and health-promoting behaviors related to eating, exercise, sleep and stress management.
My first encounter with the concept of self-compassion took place around 1980, way before all the hoop-la. I was driving back home from shopping with my daughter, who had just graduated college. Upset with myself over a mistake I’d made at a store with the money in my wallet, I was overcome with shame and guilt,
“I’m so stupid!” I told my daughter. “I can’t believe I did that! It was so careless. If I had just paid attention instead of talking so much, I wouldn’t have been so negligent with my money. I can’t imagine how I managed to pull a hundred-dollar bill out and lose it.”
“Mom, why are you being so hard on yourself,” my daughter asked? “You never speak to other people like that.”
That moment was an Aha! moment. Where had that negative self-talk come from? What my daughter told me was true. I had never scolded my children or criticized others like I just had done to myself.
A simple conversation, my daughter’s response ended up changing my life. I became aware I didn’t know my mind. There had to be a great deal more going on inside my head if I had been ignorant of what triggered my scolding myself.
Unfortunately, at that time, in the 80’s, no one was sharing advice with how to deal with self-judgment, much less self-compassion. It took a long time, and experiencing many clues, to finally learn how to deal with my negativity. But I never gave up wanting to know more.
All the self-help books I read didn’t approach the subject. It seemed like almost everyone around me was also judging themselves in one way or another. Most everyone believed our thoughts of judging and negative beliefs were true, part of being human.
Finally the first clue came from a book about forgiveness around 2009. Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping was written to help overcome anger and blame, however forgiving others also helped me to perceive gifts that I would never have received without those difficult encounters. Forgiveness served to give me a sense of peace.
Besides opening myself to a sense of compassion for the person I was angry with, I found myself able to forgive myself for my part in those broken relationships.
I also realized, through forgiving others, a stronger sense of commonality with all those I had judged and felt anger toward. But even though I felt compassion for others the voices in my mind persisted. They became more annoying now that I had felt that sense of peace.
Then I picked up Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. I finally had a way to put an end to frustrating, habitual thoughts plaguing me. Singer suggests that, instead of fighting with them, by allowing them, not judging them, and by backing away from any connection with them, seeing them as the lies they were, they didn’t bother me anymore. I could even laugh at them.
I really thought that I had become enlightened, but that cocky attitude crumbled as anxiety and stress crept in again. I quit procrastinating, and began to meditate again. This time, instead of feeling more anxiety while I meditated, I enjoyed a deep peace.
Now I know what self-compassion is and what it’s done for me:
By doing all I could do to stop judging myself, I learned how important being kind to myself was. I laughed more, felt lighter, and loved myself more.
With forgiveness, I healed relationships. My anger had caused me to feel isolated from that person, and now a sense of our common humanity existed in its place.
With meditation, I became more mindful. Writing and painting are easier now that I can focus.
So, why bother doing all you need to do to become self-compassionate?
You’ll be kinder to yourself, you’ll enjoy being with yourself more, and you’ll feel more peace, love, and compassion.
You’ll be surprised with how much easier and better you have become at what you do. You’ll have more fun and work will feel like play. And a whole lot more!
It took me a long time to finally feel compassion for myself, but now with support all over the internet, such as Kristen Neff’s website, with everything you need to know about self-compassion, you can get the help to feel so much better about yourself.
The bigger questions of life, such as, “Who am I“, come up when we’re dissatisfied with our lives, unhappy with the choices we’ve made, or maybe overwhelmed with working and not getting ahead. We thought that what we wanted would make us happy, but it isn’t. We’re bored with our lives, or we’re tired of pretending to be something we aren’t.
“Man, Know Thyself.
You probably have seen this quote. I had read this many times, but earlier in my life, I judged it. I thought only a self-indulgent, narcissistic and pompous, a pedantic person would contemplate questioning, “Who am I”. I mean, we’ve lived with ourselves and already know all our idiosyncrasies, our faults, and our strengths.
Then I found myself being asked the question. I was feeling depressed in my thirties and not sure what was wrong with me. I had been sure of myself before that, having success as an artist, and I was loving my life. Now I was feeling worthless and unlovable. Nothing about my life was fulfilling anymore.
My husband and I joined a group led by a psychologist. The group was an extension of a Parent Effectiveness Training class we had taken.
I find it ironic that after learning how to deal with our children more effectively, we ended up having to deal with ourselves.
Here we were, in a group playing like children in the class. We played games which our reactions-I realized later-would possibly trigger negative experiences.
In one of the games we played, a group of eight of us sat in a circle. Our psychologist instructed us to tell everyone else ten things we were when it was our turn.
I thought this would be easy. “I know what I am. I am a mother, a wife, an artist, a good cook, a contributing member of our community, a woman, a teacher, a docent, a traveler, a fair skier, and a better tennis player.”
But, when my turn came to answer, “I’m nothing” was all I heard as I rattled off the list of things I had mentally prepared to say.
My reaction to the question “Who are you?” startled me, upset me even more than my inability to feel happy had before. Now it had become official. There was definitely something devastatingly wrong with me.
I can laugh at myself now that know better. I don’t see that reaction I had in the group as tragic today. If I were to face a similar encounter now, I would respond differently. I would celebrate.
I would see it as a chance to start with a new, clean slate, a blank canvas on which I could create the woman I wanted to be. But at that time I wasn’t aware of what I know now.
The realization that I believed we are what we achieve, convinced me that so I had become the woman I was because I was seeking approval and respect. I did it out of fear of being rejected.
The sad part to me now was not that I realized what I’d become was nothing, it was that I didn’t know who I really was.
Through counseling, I discovered that I didn’t really know what I liked. I had been so eager to please others that I didn’t have a clue what I’d prefer eating, which movie I’d rather watch, or what songs were my favorite.
I didn’t know that my thoughts were the reason I had become so unhappy; that and the belief that I was the victim of life’s circumstances. I hadn’t been able to see I had choices.
I have this quote on my refrigerator:
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
I did end up having to find myself (aka: Know thyself) before I was able to create myself as I preferred to be. This is also what creatives need to do. An artist has to develop the skills to paint what they wanted to share, and a writer needs to write a lot before they can be aware and adept enough to know what they really wanted to express.
We have to do the same in our lives. We have to have the skills and know-how to be able to discover what is in the way of our being happy.
I bought the quote for my refrigerator as inspiration while I created a new me, and through the process, I realized I didn’t want to create myself as anyone who needs to impress for approval and respect anymore. I had come farther than that. What I wanted now is my self-respect, sense of worth, and the confidence I was lacking.
What I’ve found since then is that creating ourselves isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a never-ending journey.
Because of circumstances and events that are thrust in our lives, the changes we face force us to change, too. The woman I was is not the woman I am now. And future versions of myself will evolve from one moment to another depending on the realizations I’ve made.
Sometimes we make awarenesses that will enhance who we’re being.
Now I’m certain I don’t have to remain stagnant. I can change any time I want to be happy.
Who am I? I’m nothing like I’m going to be.
For more on Self-Awareness go to https://wp.me/p9td7w-w3
This morning, writing in my journal, I began to list what I intended to achieve during the day. Would I query some new agents with the book I’ve written, or should I begin painting again today? I’ve put my art on hold while I wrote my book, and then after that a book proposal. Several other options to stay busy poured out on the page, and I began to feel discombobulated.
When I made a decision to write the book, I had a singular purpose. There were no other options than write, write, write some more.
Because I focused on my art for so long, I questioned if I could handle adding another separate activity to my life. But the pull to write the book was so strong, I was willing to quit painting for the duration of producing a book.
Now that the book is completed, I don’t have any single purpose driving me to accomplish something. Now I’m waiting to hear from agents who are in the process of reading my manuscript, and I’m feeling antsy.
How do I make a choice when there’s no purpose?
The painting above was painted about fourteen years ago. A friend had written a poem about a mother twirling with her baby in a field of poppies. I immediately wanted to capture the intense feeling of pleasure that filled my heart when I read the poem.
I was feeling the exuberance of being in an open field, the sun shining down on us. I was soaking up the beauty around me. Full of love for the baby in my arms, I appreciated the moment, the two of us together, twirling in the expansive surroundings.
I had an epiphany. Why can’t I let go and enjoy this moment, like I did with my imagination about the painting? Why do I always have to have a purpose for anything?
What difference does it make if I let my heart choose instead of having something concrete to show for that moment? Why can’t I have the same passion for whatever is happening in the moment as I do for all that I’m able to achieve?
That’s when I realized that real knowing comes from the heart. It doesn’t measure success by what you’ve created. It’s the other way around. You have to let go and open your heart to create.
That’s when you’re in the flow. That’s when you’re the happiest. That’s what I should be striving for now. To be happy. Not to depend on some external circumstance to bring me joy.
So I did let go and allowed myself the experience of letting each moment dictate the next action I took. No matter if it was feeling good about getting the dishes washed or doing one other thing on my list, I approached each moment seeing and feeling it through the lens of happiness.
I know from experience that the best ideas come to me when I’ve been in a state of repose, away from constant concentration on one thing. I may get an idea in the shower or while walking. Since that’s true, I know that having faith and trusting always brings me all that I need. I don’t have to wrack my brain to make a choice.
Since nothing I do now will make a difference in whether the agents reading my manuscripts offer to represent me or not, I’m free to live my life without worry. Besides I also know that nothing comes to me when I’m not connected to feeling happy and loving, so chill out, Doretta