There has been a lot of talk in the media and in popular areas of discussion recentlyÂ about the importance of happiness. Happiness is that elusive goal that you don’t really know how to define it, but you certainly can appreciate it when you have it. Many people have tried to define happiness in suchÂ a way as being measure by external circumstances. Money, Car, Friends, Relationships. Most people don’t realizeÂ that the path to happiness is an inside game. Of course, I’m sure you’re also aware that a solid inside game automatically leads to a fantastic outside reality. The mistake most people make, is that when they see an outside reality in somebody else’s life, they try to reproduce the outer effects, without realizing that you need to pay attention to the inside first, and the outside will naturally follow. One way to do this is to change your happiness set point.
One of the best way to increase your happiness set point is to change the thoughts that you habitually think. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. It is actually fairly easy once you incorporate some easy habits into your daily life. Long term success is all about what you set up to do today, onÂ a regular basis, so that your future will automatically come pre delivered the way you want it.
The first step in changing your habitual thoughts is to become aware of them. Most people amble through life, day after day, thinking the same thoughts over and over without reallyÂ being aware of it. Because the brain is not only incredibly fast, but also incredibly efficient, there are thousands of thoughts that happen below the threshold of conscious awareness.
For example, when I was a kid, I was out riding my bike. I saw a big scary dog, that growled at me and showed me his big white sharp teeth, dripping with saliva he was no doubt hoping to use to digest my bones after he ate me. The standoff lasted for only a few seconds, but in my childhood mind, it seemed like an eternity. Now when I see a dog, my brain immediately notices that there is a dog in front of me. It then sorts through all my memories of dogs to determine the appropriate emotional response. When it finds that memory I described above, it comes back with the emotion of scary, danger, run away. This all happens so quickly that when I seeÂ a dog today, I seemingly immediately only notice a feeling of anxiety. I’m not aware that my brain is doing all that searching and deciding.
It’s only when I unpack that memory, and do some basic memory operation procedures to detachÂ the unpleasantnessÂ from thatÂ memory of the dog from my current experience, that I can see a dog and feel a sense of happiness and safety, rather than anxiety and fear.
One way to look at your happiness set point is the sum total of your automatic responses to the environment that you encounter on a regular basis. If you are deathly afraid of snakes, and your next door neighbor has a pet boa constrictor that he takes outÂ for aÂ walk the same time as you every morning, you are not going to have a particularly high happiness set point.
What can be helpful, is to go back in time, in your mind, and change whatever memory is there that your brain uses as a reference to tell you to be afraid of snakes.
It sounds really bizarre, but it is pretty simple, and kind of fun when you can learn to do it fairly quickly. Here’s how I did it with my dog memory.
First thing I did was to go back and find the first memory of the dog. Because this can take some time, it may be the most cumbersome step. More practice will yield more memory dexterity, so don’t worry.
Next you tweak the heck out of the memory, so it doesn’t bother you any more. One way to do this, is to relive it, but change certain aspects of it. Like you can view it dissociated. That means that instead of being “in” the memory, I am actually watching myself have a showdown with the dog. And every time I relive that memory, I can change it. Like I can make the dog really small, with clown shoes on. Or I can make the dog dripping grape kool aid instead of child digesting saliva. Or I can have a flea circus performing on the dog’s back, complete with trapeze and the tiny clown fleas getting out of the even tinier clown flea VW bug.
And on top of all the above tricks, you can play the memory backwards, forwards, stuttered, black and white. You can even make the dog a person dressed in a dog costume. And the whole time I am doing this, I can imagine my adult self standing behind my child self, with my steady adult hand on my child shoulder, telling him how funny that dog looks.
I only had to do this a few times, before that memory lost it’s bite. (sorry.) And when you begin to go through your daily life, and systematically dig up and changeÂ memories that are giving you trouble, you can really start toÂ raise up your happiness set point. Imagine what life will be like when ordinary objects that you see every day can give you feelings of hope and happiness instead of fear and anxiety.
After all, they are your thoughts. You can think them any way you want to.