Have You Checked In To See If You Are Happy?

Have You Checked In To See If You Are Happy?
small beautiful child reading a book

That sounds like an odd question, no?  I mean, you know if you’re happy or not. Why would you need to check to see if you were?

small beautiful child reading a book
See if you’re happy

Do you ever have those times when your emotions just seem to slump, and you sort of look up and go, what happened?  What’s making me unhappy?  And then can’t find anything around you (except life’s usual headaches) that’s causing you to feel blue?

One of the beautiful things about being conscious and aware, is that you find (fairly quickly) that your emotions follow your thoughts.  And oddly, life tends to give you back what you put forth.

While this sounds like new-age mumbo jumbo, science has been backing it up for decades.  Eminent psychiatrist, David D. Burns, M.D, in his book Feeling Good,  outlines these scientifically proven techniques that immediately lift your spirts and help you to develop a positive outline on life.

His research shows that all moods are created by your thoughts.  This includes your perceptions, mental attitudes, beliefs, and how you interpret events.

And check this out: These can be changed.

The part of the brain that gives us the ability to think (the prefrontal cortex), is what makes the human brain such a specialized instrument.  And when we use our thoughts to refine and guide our emotions, we maximize human potential.

The main premise of cognitive therapy is that all of those thoughts and messages you’re giving yourself all day influence how you feel.  So, if your thoughts are negative, you’re going to feel crummy.  The converse is also true—if you think positively, optimistically, then you’re going to feel good.

Can you even imagine a better prescription for how to take care of you!

As Dr. Burns says, “Every time you feel depressed about something, try to identify a corresponding negative thought you had just prior to and during the depression. Because these thoughts have actually created your bad mood, by learning to restructure them, you can change your mood.”

One of my biggest demons is this recurring thought: I have no time for me.

Which is ironic, actually, as I’m a writer, an editor, and I work from home.  When I remind myself that no one sets my schedule but me, I end up with that blush of embarrassment 🙂

Yep, I have a lot to do. And I get a ton done.  But if I do it at the expense of me—where I don’t tend to all of my needs, including emotional and spiritual, well, I know I’ll pay the price.

Because nothing halts production quicker than a depressive mood.

You know how that is—you can work a 12-hour day when in a bad mood and get done less than half of what you would had you worked a 6-hour day while in great spirits.

When those times occur for me, I always say, STOP.  I know I’m chasing my tail.  Being counter-productive. Which is just anathema to me!

And my next step is to take that time for me.  To breathe.  To stop, get my priorities back in order, and step off on a new road.  One that includes some personal time, and some personal freedom.

Of course, spiritual teachers have been expounding upon this topic for millennia.  It always tweaks me when scientific studies prove spiritual truths 🙂 

I’ve been reading (again) the teachings of Abraham Hicks or late, and just ran across this piece of wisdom from Ask and It Is Given

“When you think a thought that rings true with who you really are, you feel harmony coursing through your physical body: Joy, love, and a sense of freedom are examples of that alignment.  And when you think thoughts that do not ring true with who you really are, you feel the disharmony of your physical body.  Depression, fear, and feelings of bondage are examples of that misalignment. . . . you will use your emotions to feel your way to well-being.”  

Sounds a lot like what Dr. Burns said.

Doesn’t that just stop you in your tracks?

So now, anytime I’m feeling the blues, I take a mental inventory first.  What thought led to this?  How do I change it? To what better thought do I change it?

And the oddest thing happens—as soon as I change the thought, I begin to feel better immediately.

Maybe all those sages over all those millennia were onto something. And now that cognitive therapy is proving the same thing, I’d be an idiot not to listen, no?

How do you change your thoughts?

This Post Has 42 Comments

  1. I think saying STOP is so critical indeed. Each day I force myself to stop no matter my mindset. I stop work at a reasonable time even though I could do more. I stop and force myself to take walks, even if for 10 minutes. As a matter of fact I have a goal of 5,000 steps a day and that goal is for my sanity. It is as important as any work task on my list.

    1. What a great plan, Renee! Taking care of you is the most important thing in the world, and you’re doing it!

  2. Susan,
    This rings so true.

    Whenever I feel sad or depleted, I simply listen to my gut instincts (always right) and act accordingly. This clears me out. Also, what I’ve noticed that makes people depressed is trying too hard to make others happy. To live according to others rules. I’ve been guilty of this, but have learned to live within my boundaries I’ve set for others. Is this selfish? No, not if this keeps me content and happy.

    Great article,

    1. Perfect prescription, Randy! And taking care of yourself might appear selfish to others, but it’s truly self-love–which is the highest way we can honor ourselves, and paradoxically, others. Unless we’re filled, we can’t do anything for anyone else anyway!

  3. I always happy. Seriously. ALWAYS. This might sound “sickening” but I see life through the big picture and honestly, what’s the point of getting angry and stressed. Everything works out in the end and life is just too short to always be depressed and pissed! I always look at the positive aspects of my life! I am so friggin’ lucky!

    1. You always come across as bouncing happy, Gigi! And funny. I love your attitude!

  4. I like to step back and see the big picture in all situations. What can I learn from this? I would ask myself. To do this, taking a walk in nature or my backyard helps a great deal. Thanks for sharing this inspiring post.

    1. I love that question as well, Sabrina. When faced with a negative event, I now sit back and say, what’s the lesson? And, where’s the blessing here? Because those always exist!

  5. For me changing my thoughts involves stopping to pray. To put my life in God’s hands always calms me down and helps me focus on my priorities. I always focus on achieving joy and not happiness. The contendness that life is good is better than a fleeting happy feeling.

    1. Mine too, Karen! Stopping to get silent, to pray, to refocus on the truly important things in life–that’s the key!

  6. A topic very close to my heart too. I am far from perfect and yet I know the warning signs. I just don’t feel good. One of my long time feel good sources is Abraham Hicks, as you mentioned, and just watched a couple of their youtube videos today for a pick me up! You are awesome Susan!

    1. I was just listening to Abraham while driving last night, Teresa. Isn’t it cool when the science backs up our spiritual teachers! And yep–the warning sign: I don’t feel good. How fabulous to have tools to deal with that!

  7. This is an interesting post Susan and it is great when the spiritual and the physical plane come together. In my studies, I have learned that our “memories’ actually live in our etheric body, not in our brains or thoughts. For example, if I have an old experience that settled in my gut, often without even “thinking” a thought, something can trigger a gut reaction before I even have time to think about it, as it is an emotional memory and reaction. When I do think about it, I can possibly identify it. Make sense?

    Another key component of my mood is definitely the amount of sun. Now that spring is here in Toronto, sun and warmer temps, I see very clearly that I am happier (for no reason) and also am re-energized and positive. We do have a lot of control over our thoughts, that is a truth. And we can stop ourselves from spinning the hamster wheel in our brain too. Love that you say “STOP” to catch yourself and to flip the switch. Will try that when I find myself wallowing…in whatever. 🙂

    1. That is just incredibly cool, Beverley! And it makes perfect sense. We have “muscle memory” from every physical exercise we’ve taken, so it just follows as well that our emotional memories live in our bodies as well. Now, I’m tweaked! I’d love to see you write more about this!
      Laughing about the sun. I know SAD is a real disorder, but here in Texas, we don’t see that as often!

  8. The problem is we so often think without really thinking about it. This results in allowing those negative thoughts in and not even noticing. I love your idea of a mental inventory when you start to feel low. Take stock, identify those negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. I have always been a believer that thoughts are things and have a huge influence.

    1. So true, Tamurai! That oft-quoted number of 60,000 thoughts a day gives me pause. Because I know from my own hamster brain that the negative can get repeated over and over without my even noticing. What an eye opener to pay attention to that. Great points!

  9. I guess I change my thoughts in different ways. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting outside in my garden and out in the sunshine. Other times it’s turning on uplifting music, or calling a friend who gets me. I need an entire arsenal of methods, because I’m bombarded by so many thoughts every day.

    1. Perfect prescription, Melanie. Ah, to get out in the sunshine, dig your fingers in the dirt. How meditative! And a cleansing of sorts, no? We all need those ways to get from under our thoughts.

  10. Are you in my head… this is something I have been struggling with for many years.. and with something that has nothing to do with work. lol (btw, love the cover photo too.. adorable) So, still working on finding something that I enjoy that I will do and not work that gives me the same euphoria that success in my business does.

    1. I think we get SO caught up in work and real life that we forget to seek joy elsewhere. I found it in a hobby (which some of my friends question as it’s a lot of work too!), which brings me such joy. But you know, if you find euphoria in your biz, you may just want to stay there more 🙂

  11. I don’t do this nearly as much as I used to, Susan, but it’s so true that your thoughts turn into your mood. And a positive attitude will actually make you feel happier while you are speaking joy into existence. Sometimes I’ve had to go to a quiet place and just stop all the noise in order to get back on track. But I’ve learned it’s within my power to do this and not be held hostage by my emotions.

    1. I love that, Meghan: Speaking joy into existence. Beautiful! And getting quiet is the best way I know to get back on track. Even if only for a few minutes. Perfect!

  12. Hi Susan,

    I, too, have read Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. We all should be aware of ways to manage our mind and moods. Thanks to Dr. Burns’ ground-breaking work, many people now use cognitive therapy with really great results.

    1. It’s very interesting, isn’t it, Rachel. We are responsible for our moods. Kinda kicked me in the butt 🙂

  13. I love, love, love this! Yes, our emotions follow our thoughts and our brains can be absolute bears. One of the things I’ve found useful lately is “aversion therapy.” I put a rubber band around my wrist and when I find my thoughts circling the bowl, I snap the band (ouch!) and redirect my thoughts in a more positive direction. It’s more effective when the replacement thought is related to the original, as in if I’m worried about scarcity, I change the thought to abundance. I am happy to report that during my last aversion-therapy session, I only had to do it for a few hours before I got my head — and my emotions — in order.

    1. I love that, Jackie! I’m going to try the rubber-band method! What a great way to remember to focus and not let those insipid negative thoughts spin on and on. Cool tool!

  14. I have never looked at it this way. Yes, we are in control and doing things to chase our tail instead of stepping away seems stupid when you look at it. Instead we (or at least I) tend to operate off of a sense of obligation. Dumb and dumber.

    1. That’s such an interesting point, Christy–operating off a sense of obligation. Women, especially, feel such a sense of duty. As I get older (laughing), I’m coming more and more to realize how counter-productive that is. Yes, we are obligated to do some things. But most of that “duty” list (at least for me), were things I signed up for and felt resentful of. Now, that’s true counter-productivity! Now I make sure that I sign up for those things that feed me, so that I can feed others from it.

  15. This is soooo true:Because nothing halts production quicker than a depressive mood. when I get in a funk, productivity spirals to a halt. I’ve got to take an inventory, see how the heck I got there and talk myself out of that world of funk. Yes, we do have the power!

    1. Yes, ma’am, Deb! We do have that power. And taking an inventory is the best way to turn ourselves around!

  16. Hi, thanks for sharing a very positive approach to life. Our thoughts are very powerful indeed, we should learn to handle it well to allow us to see all the good things life has to offer. Great read.

    1. Aren’t our thoughts so very powerful. What a life-changer it was for me when I realized that!

  17. One method that works for me is to ask myself is this worth my and energy. Staying in the negative and in depression takes a lot of time and energy with no benefits. Asking this quickly redirects me into a more positive state of mind.

    1. What a great question to ask, Joyce! I love crystallizing things in that way. Thanks for that tool!

  18. I remember being shocked when I learned years ago that our thoughts determine our mood & not reverse. I argued for days & sadly you can find supporting articles. But I started to pay attention to myself & saw that I had power & I said how my day & my life would go. A most profound breakthrough that has been my life.

    1. Isn’t that just the biggest life-changer, Roz! I argued it as well. And then finally thought, could all the sages be wrong? And, what if I tried this for a set time? Boy, did my life ever change!

  19. Hi Susan,

    Really enjoyed your post, thank you! It is very true that our thoughts dictate how we feel, wow! I am always working on mine daily 😉 You have given me some “food for thought” and I will be utilizing these wonderful suggestions you have shared 🙂

    Great share!

    1. Isn’t it so freeing when we realize how our thoughts dictate our moods, Joan! That truly changed my life!

  20. Susan – great insights! I can’t remember all the details, but several years ago, a young girl wrote to several celebrities and politicians and world leaders asking them for one piece of advice. She received a surprising # of responses, and compiled them in a book. I only remember one response, and it was from Lily Tomlin and it was to remember that it was impossible to have a negative thought and a positive thought at the same time. Your article reminded me of her very good theory.

    1. Don’t you just love Lily Tomlin! And that is SO true. Which also reminds me of Marianne Williamson’s quote: You can’t be in love and fear at the same time. Kinda the same thing, don’t you think?

  21. Susan, every time I read a post of yours, it always puts a smile on my face! Your points are always spot on!

    As a spiritual teacher, I don’t focus on positive or negative views in life. Yes it is true that our words and thoughts are powerful enough to create our reality but when there are specific patterns in someone’s life, they need to be taken into consideration.

    What I mean by that? Let me give you an example: There is a person with depression who keeps having issues because of their family environment. No matter how much positive energy and thoughts they try to add in their life, they still feel stuck.This is because they cannot feel happy unless they solve what bugs them.

    Happiness is not a life goal but more of an appreciation and gratitude of the accomplishments we have come so far. Happiness doesn’t mean to push away negativity but understand that it is a part of life. The same way night sky offers its darkness for the stars to shine!


    1. Beautifully put, Zaria! Yep, negative situations in our lives do have to be dealt with. So often we’re not aware of the patterns within us, which keep propagating negative situations. By digging those out and changing them, we change the future we walk into. and I love the how the night sky offers its darkness for the stars to shine!

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