Thrive Top Tips for Happiness
1. Process the positive experiences in your life
This might sound rather obvious, but some people just don’t notice that they have lots of little positive experiences each day. Others diminish positive events and think about them in a powerless way (normally because they have many limiting beliefs about themselves). This effectively means that they receive little or no psychological benefit from the experience at all; it might as well have never happened!
Putting effort into thinking about your positive experiences over the last few days or weeks (no matter how small!) for just five or ten minutes every day can really help psychological wellbeing. If your positive experience was something that you achieved, such as cooking a delicious dinner or going for a run, you can also remind that you brought about the experience, helping yourself to feel empowered and capable.
2. Build up the belief that you are in control of your life
Research has demonstrated that feeling powerful and in control of your life is one of the most important factors in psychological wellbeing.
People who feel powerless believe that their difficulties in life (such as phobias, fears, anxieties, depression, or lack of success) just happen to them! They think that other people, bad luck, or external forces cause these problems, or they don’t believe that they have the personal power to deal with any challenges. They, therefore, do not put much effort into overcoming their difficulties or making positive changes because they don’t believe that they can make a difference. They then become stuck with their problems, even when there is a lot they could do to change their situation.
People who believe that they are in control of their lives realise that many of our experiences in life come about because of their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They feel empowered to make positive changes in their lives and they put in the effort needed to do so. Of course, there are some events in life that are not controllable but these people believe that they can still overcome these experiences.
When you think in a powerless way, you want to start challenging it! For example, if you think something like ‘I could never run a marathon’ change it to ‘I could run a marathon if I put in the effort to train hard.’
3. Mind your language!
Our language is a window, through which we can easily recognise our thoughts and beliefs. The language that we speak (both out loud and in our heads!) is an expression of what we think and believe. Not only this, but the words we use also then impact upon our thoughts, beliefs and emotions. If you speak and think negative, passive words, you will lower your mood, anticipate negative outcomes, make yourself stressed and feel powerless. If you use positive, powerful language, you will feel happier, anticipate positive outcomes, create less stress and feel empowered.
Pay attention to the words you use – either in your head or out loud – and change any unhelpful words for more helpful ones. For example, ‘‘it’s terrifying at the dentist, I’ll be a wreck’ could become ‘it’s a bit unpleasant at the dentist, but I can cope with it’.
4. Visualise what you want to happen in your life, rather than what you fear
When we picture or imagine a scenario happening in our minds, it is very similar to what happens with our language but the message is often much clearer. Many people who are unhappy or anxious project their worries, fears and limiting beliefs into visualisations or ‘fantasies’ in their minds. They often replay feared scenarios in their minds. This unhelpful rehearsal means that the person creates a great deal of anxiety, which then tends to make the feared situation far worse than it otherwise would be!
For example, if you have been visualising that an upcoming plane journey is going to be terrifying and that you are going to feel awful, you probably will! If you have been imagining the plane crashing you will be in a heightened state of awareness and when the plane jolts slightly on take-off you will immediately think, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die!’ You will have built up a huge amount of anticipation that something will go wrong, and so normal flying experiences are instinctively interpreted as being frightening and threatening and you will have an unpleasant flight!
You want to be training your imagination so that you are always imagining and rehearsing what you WANT to happen, and NOT what you fear will happen. This works really well for social events and performance-related situations (going for an interview, giving a speech, overcoming a sexual inhibition, asking someone on a date etc.) but also for fears and anxiety-causing situations (flying, darkness, being alone, spiders, knives, snakes, lifts, tunnels, hospitals, needles etc.). Choose a couple of events or scenarios that you have been worrying and thinking negatively about. Find a quiet place (e.g. just as you go to bed, or when you are on a train to work, or when you are in the bath) and spend five or ten minutes on each scenario really visualising what you want to happen. The more you practise visualising, the easier it becomes.
5. Challenge yourself!
One of the best ways to feel more powerful, build self-esteem and gain a sense of wellbeing is to overcome challenges. So… set yourself a personal challenge that you are going to achieve over the next week or so. You want this challenge to be something that will be a little bit difficult for you to achieve BUT is something that you can do – if you put in some effort.
To ensure that you succeed, you want to think about what steps you are going to take to achieve your challenge. You want to have a ‘plan of action’ rather than just a vague thought that you want to achieve something.
As you work towards your goal, you want to keep encouraging yourself and praising yourself for the effort you are putting in. You want to realise that this effort will enable you to succeed and that you can do the same with other areas of your life. Once you have completed your challenge you want to recognise your achievement and say ‘well done’ to yourself for your hard work.
Creator of The Thrive Programme