Cultivating Your Garden of Happiness
Have you ever thought about how complex and detailed your brain is? Or how many processes your brain go through on a given day, or hour, or millisecond? It’s infinite. The brain is much like a computer that never sleeps. It seems simple on the outside, but inside it makes up our bodies largest organ consisting of some 100 billion nerve cells that control every aspect of our conscious and unconscious body processes. But, if you think all of this happens without any conscious help on your side, you’re mistaken.
Think of your brain like a garden. It needs to be tended to. It takes work, commitment and maintenance. If you want it to flourish, you need to water it, to feed it some sunshine, some fresh wonderful air, and even some healthy nutrients too. Not to mention, you need to get rid of those weeds! And not just on the surface; rip those weeds up from the root! Or what? They’ll grow back and they’ll spread (damn you weeds). Yes, your mind is a bit more complicated than just a garden, but it still needs the same kind of tender love and care.
Have you ever wondered why some people always seem happy? They always seem okay with whatever life throws at them? These people are often this way for a number of reasons, none of which include neglecting their mind. These people have mastered the skills needed to help their brain flourish in a healthy and happy way. They surely practice changing their perceptions, being kind to themselves, and have more positive thoughts than negative, -whether consciously or not.
Some of these people were perhaps nurtured throughout life to simply see their circumstances as more positive than negative. They were taught to believe wholeheartedly that life is primarily good with some less than favorable circumstances from time-to-time. What’s important is that these unfortunate circumstances are never enough to change their basic views of the world; that it is primarily good, that people are primarily good and life is primarily full of happiness. Therefore, it’s easier for them in general to go through life smiling, taking it in, and believing that everything will be okay.
Your thoughts are like endless construction sights taking place in the brain. Think of your thoughts as blueprints and you (your thoughts and beliefs) are the architect. What you think and believe becomes engrained in your brain like a road that leads to the life of beauty, happiness, awesome experiences, wonderful people, etc.; Or, in contrast, the road to your own personal hell.
Scientifically, when you ruminate about something over and over again, (e.g. my life is so terrible, I have nothing, I’m stupid, I’m fat, no one cares about me, etc., etc.,) your brain creates a neural pathway cementing that thought into your brain. The more you think it (architect) the stronger the pathway (construction making progress) and the harder it is to break (construction complete)! Once it’s complete, altering these negative thoughts is difficult because you now believe them to be true. This is why some mental health issues, such as chronic depression are often incredibly difficult to overcome because the brain literally changes and forms new cognitively maladaptive pathways. In contrast, this is also, why those seemingly “always happy people” typically are always happy. Remember my post, You Are What You Think. Think Happy to BE Happy! What you think, you believe, and what you believe, you become. It’s a cycle. If your thoughts are continuously negative and maladaptive, they will become your reality. And the longer you construct maladaptive, pessimistic neural pathways, the more it takes for you to deconstruct these sights in the brain and rebuild them. But don’t fret! It CAN be done! The brain is a powerful tool. Just like a garden, with commitment and the right nutrients, your mind can flourish into a life of happiness.
Cultivate a Happy Thought Garden
- Make a list of things that bring your joy and happiness (and review them every day)
- Don’t judge yourself for your shortcomings. No one is perfect. Learn from it, and use it as a tool to grow.
- Practice affirmations daily. Keep them around the house.
- See the positive in everything. This can be hard, but if you can shift your perspective, you will shift your mental state.
- Take time out of every day to do something for YOU.
- Meditate on happy thoughts and actions.
- If there are people or things in your life that bring you down, reevaluate their purpose. Do you need them, or is it time to let them go?
- Remind yourself of your strengths.
- Follow your dreams and your passion. Live a life of purpose.
- Lower your expectations and focus on people’s intentions instead.
- Recognize that there will always be hardship, but it is a choice to let it take over your life.
- Get to the route of your negative thoughts so you can change them (journal, seek therapy, talk to a pastor, whatever works for you).
- Practice compassion for yourself and others.
- Open your heart to each experience life brings your way.
When you’re truly, honestly, feeling happy, it takes a lot to break that for more than a short period of time. You might ask, “These happy people aren’t actually happy all the time,are they”? Life can certainly be difficult at times, and I promise, even these people have their moments when they’re saying, “The hell with this S$*T!” But that’s just it; they’re MOMENTS, maybe hours or even a few days. These are noisy thunderstorms: heavy hail, maybe some broken tree branches, a tornado, or a flood. They’re not enough to significantly alter the pathways in the brain. Not enough to break the inner spirit or the beliefs of that individual. It’s inevitable to face these storms from time to time, but after every storm, there is a rainbow. The sun does return again. It does. It always does. Sometimes you just need to open your eyes a little bit, maybe move some of those clouds out of the way, and look; look with your eyes, your heart and your mind.
What do your thoughts look like?
Are they negative? Positive?
What do you do to keep your mind happy?
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