A nice feeling is just one thought away

By any assessment of my childhood, I grew up happy.
The days were fun-filled and friendly. We laughed and talked. We ate spaghetti suppers with our neighbours and went to Grandma’s every Sunday.
We looked forward to occasional all-day excursions to scenic spots.
We played hard and we worked hard. And when the day’s work was done, we went to bed happy. We weren’t rich and we weren’t famous but no one could question our happiness.
With that kind of a beginning, I’ve always had an “attitude” toward happiness. An attitude that finding happiness simply has to be one of the most important things in life. And the second most important thing is sharing that happiness with other people.
That’s why I’ve always been a pushover for a book with the word happy or happiness in the title. And Dr. Richard Carlson’s “You Can Be Happy No Matter What” was no exception.
Dr. Carlson is better known for his more recent best-sellers, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” and “Don’t Worry, Make Money.” But “You Can Be Happy No Matter What,” written in 1992, clearly laid the groundwork for his later writing and can be an excellent tool in our search for happiness.
A psychologist, Dr. Carlson believes happiness has little to do with our circumstances and everything to do with how we respond to those circumstances.
Most important of all, he says, is not giving in to negative thinking. Why should we analyze and reanalyze the negative and difficult things that happened last month and last year when, in reality, they’re over and no longer exist?
And the same goes for the future. Why should we visualize and anticipate all the terrible things that might happen?
What we need to do, instead, is get in touch with our feelings. Respect our low moods but know that things are never as dark as they seem on those black days. And take advantage of our high moods for effective problem-solving.
We should see our feelings as a barometer that will tell us when it’s time to take a break from negative thinking about the past and future, and live in the present.
Dr. Carlson notes that every spiritual teacher throughout history has focused on the importance of living in the moment. Yet trite as the idea seems, very few people ever master this principle.
And it’s when we get “out of the moment” that we become overwhelmed with worry, grief, anxiety, regret and guilt. For, says Dr. Carlson, “our thought will bring whatever it is we are thinking about to life as if it were happening right now.”
The same principles apply to stress. For stress is not something that “happens to us.” Rather, it is something that originates in our minds. We think negative thoughts about circumstances, blowing them up out of all proportion, and happiness flies out the window.
Because happiness is a feeling–a feeling that is destroyed by negative thinking.
On the other hand, says Dr. Carlson, “once you’ve experienced how nice it is to live in a positive state of mind, hanging on to negative thoughts becomes less and less attractive.”
So how about you? Have you claimed the happiness that’s your birthright? If not, why not start today by letting go of negative thinking?
Because, as Dr. Carlson says, you’re always “just one thought away from a nice feeling.”

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