What if I told you that simply by asking yourself 3 questions each day, you’d be a happier person – would you want to know what those 3 questions were?
You don’t just have to take my word for it either. ACTUAL SCIENTISTS are now studying the science of happiness! In 1998 the field of Positive Psychology was born out of the realization that while we were spending lots of time researching how to fix our brains (understanding how to treat things like anxiety and depression to get us back to a baseline of normal) no one was researching how to enhance our brains – to improve from our baseline!
Here’s what they found – HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE.
Just 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetic makeup. 10% of our happiness is determined by our life circumstances – how we look, our economic status, past personal experiences, health etc.
This leaves 40% of our happiness that’s determined by our daily thoughts and actions. By working with this 40% you can change your life, and today I’m going to help you get started.
I’m going to tell you a story about a time I used the first question. I’d been vacationing in Breckenridge for 4 days with my husband, mom, and 1-year-old daughter. We’re driving home on Sunday and there’s about a foot and a half of snow on the road, which hadn’t been plowed yet. It’s already taking us longer than I’d hoped to get home when the jeep starts making a ker-thunk ker-thunk noise. We pull over at the top of Wilkerson Pass and my husband quickly determines that we’re not going anywhere.
My first reaction is for every cell in my body to scream “Noooo! I’ve gotta unpack! I have laundry to do! I have work in the morning! What am I going to do with a baby in the car for the next 4 hours while we wait for a tow truck to get here and take us home?“
But then I asked myself this question:
How is my reaction helping this situation?
There’s always actions we can take – call a tow truck, make sure everyone is safe, and warm. But get home faster? No amount of whining and complaining was going to make that happen. Not only would choosing that course make me miserable, it would make everyone else around me miserable. Instead I chose to become present in the moment and enjoy it for what it was.
I was near a bathroom (yay!). I was with my family (and I’m supposed to enjoy spending time with these people, right?) I spent the time connecting with them, chatting, and watching my daughter play peekaboo by hiding behind the car seat.
When we waste our energy resisting things we cannot change, we make ourselves miserable. By asking ourselves this first question we can remember to let go of what we can’t control and enjoy what we have.
To illustrate the second question I’m going to give you a few scenarios. How many of you women have ever had a husband or boyfriend fail to get you flowers on an occasion you were expecting them? And what did you tell yourself? “He doesn’t love me! He doesn’t listen, I’ve told him a million times I want flowers!”
Or do any of you have a friend who is always late? Each time you meet for drinks or some other activity and they’re late, again, and you’re sitting there thinking “My friend doesn’t respect me! This is so rude!”
The next time this happens to you I want you to remember the second question:
What story am I telling myself, and what else might be true?
Maybe your husband didn’t have the example in his family of giving flowers, or maybe he used to give an ex-girlfriend the wrong flowers and it always turned into an argument! Your friend is probably late with everyone, or perhaps they have a situation at home with their children that makes them late that they don’t want to talk about with you yet. The truth is it’s not about us.
We are in our brains, having our own experience, and we want to tell ourselves stories in order to explain the world around us. Unfortunately, oftentimes, the stories we tell ourselves make us unhappy whether they are true or not!
Just by recognizing the possibility that there is another story, that something else could be true, you can develop your empathy, forgiveness, and release yourself from victim-hood, which is a guaranteed road to unhappiness.
I know I said it’s not all about you, but this question is all about you. It’s my favorite question because you don’t need a challenging situation or a conflict with another person to use it. That question is:
What am I thankful for?
Gratitude combats a range of toxic emotions. Researchers have shown that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. You’ve probably heard the tip to write down what you’re thankful for each day, and for those of you who like to write everyday, knock yourselves out! That’s not me, but there’s a multitude of ways to work with gratitude. Upon waking each morning you can think of one thing you’re thankful for and start your day off on the right foot. At the dinner table each person can share one thing they’re thankful for that day, or share this as a type of prayer before bed.
Now this is a daily practice so I don’t want you trying this tonight, saying what you’re thankful for, and tomorrow when you’re having a bad day thinking I didn’t know what I was talking about!
This goes for all the questions. They must be repeated because what you are doing is retraining your brain to focus on the positive rather than the negative, which will make you happier.
In any situation there is a space between the stimulus and response where you can choose your reaction and I invite you to choose happiness.
Download your free printable of these 3 questions here.
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