Hello! Katie Wheeler here, coming to you live with part two of my five week video series on keys to happiness. Thank you for tuning in today to key number two, choices. if you missed last week’s video, you can find it on my Facebook page under videos.
This week’s post is about choices and how tuning in and choosing your thoughts can affect your happiness. Something happens, and we feel a certain way about whatever happened. Feelings happen so automatically that we don’t often realize the internal choice we made that caused our feelings. We assume whatever happened caused our feelings. Someone said or did something, a news story set us off, etc.
The truth is something takes place in our minds between what happened and our feelings that most of us don’t pay attention to. This is why two people experiencing the same thing have completely different feelings about it. One person may feel indifference and the other person severe anxiety.
Before I continue, let me clarify that bad feelings are important. They are our instincts telling us to pay attention. We need them to trigger a change. The goal here isn’t to get rid of bad feelings, but rather, to know what to do with them so they don’t take over and steal our joy.
Here’s a couple of examples.
You’re meeting a friend, and your friend is late. The longer you wait, the more mad you get. By the time your friend arrives, your time is ruined because you’re so angry. You assume you’re angry because your friend was late, but it was actually your thoughts about them being late that made you angry.
Maybe you thought something like, He’s so inconsiderate. He doesn’t care about me or my time. How dare he be so disrespectful of me. If he cared about me, he’d be on time.
We often mistake our thoughts for reality, but when we remember that our thoughts are only our thoughts, it’s incredibly freeing. The reality can sometimes be the opposite. Some people just run late for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with you or how they feel about you.
Here’s another example. You’re having a bad day, and someone says something like, “What’s wrong with you?”
You feel annoyed, frustrated, or defensive. “Nothing. I’m fine,” you snap.
“Sheesh. Who pooped in your coffee?” they say.
At this point, the other person either storms off, or the situation escalates with more angry words thrown back and forth.
Let’s focus on what happened between their initial question and your feelings. Your thoughts happened. It’s not what they said that caused your feelings, it was your thoughts about what they said.
You maybe thought something like, wrong with me? Jeez, didn’t know there was something wrong with me. Do I need fixing? They don’t love and appreciate me for who I am! How can they be so insensitive! A bit of an exaggeration, but I think you get my point.
We interpret a lot of what people say and we assume that’s the reality. Our thoughts happen so quickly that we usually don’t even realize we had them. That is why our feelings are an important tool to queue us into what we’re thinking.
When you pay attention to your thoughts you have the power to debunk them. After all, you’re not in the other person’s head, so you have no way of knowing what they think. The most important thing is to pause, and give the other person a chance to clarify. When you feel your blood begin to boil about something they said, instead of huffing up and getting your defenses going, try a simple phrase like this, “What do you mean?” Or, “Tell me more.”
Give them the benefit of the doubt before getting angry. After all, not everyone is a good communicator, so allow them the opportunity to clarify. When you do this, you are no longer powerless over your feelings. You get to take back the control.
The basic premise for this post came from a book I read about ten years ago, A Guide to Personal Happiness by Dr. Albert Ellis and Dr. Irving Becker. A psychiatrist recommended it to me for anxiety, and it was a total game changer. If you want to know more about this topic, pick up a copy from your local library. It’s a short, easy read.
That’s all for this week. I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a thought about this week’s key to happiness, choices, in the comments section of this post. Tune in next week for part three, on the magic of less.
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