Think back to a time when you were experiencing a particular emotion. Letâ€™s pick a simple one to begin with. Happiness is something that many of us strive for. So go ahead, pick a time, any time when you were at a point where you were so happy you couldnâ€™t stop smiling! What was the reason for your happiness?
Was it caused by something? Did particular event trigger you to feel happy? Or did you just choose to feel happy? The last question, is one that seems to cause a bit of confusion when I ask people. They say to me â€œhow can you choose to be happy?â€
It seems that weâ€™ve built up this notion that happiness is something that â€œhappensâ€ to us. Why? Why does it have to be that way? This is the case with any emotion apparently. Anger, hate, joy, sadness, love, any emotion that you can think of, people truly believe that it can only occur through external influences.
Now let me introduce you to a new concept: Choose to be happy this very instant! I hear you ask; â€œbut how can I feel happy if I have nothing to feel happy about?â€ You can I assure you.
Choosing an emotion is as simple as riding a bike. I use that particular metaphor because it does take practise but once you’ve learnt it, it will be second nature. In any given moment when I want to feel differently, I ask myself something I call an opposing question.
When confronted with an event, letâ€™s say, I just woken up and I have hundreds of responsibilities and chores to do. I pose myself the question; â€œI can choose to be happy today or choose to be sad, I choose to be happy!â€
Asking yourself this kind of opposing question may at first seem a little sterile and robotic, but itâ€™s the beginning of making a change to the way you think. We are taught to think that our emotions are out of our control but that is not true at all!
Yes, sometimes due to an event we will feel a certain way, like the death of a loved one will cause us grief and sadness, but that can also be turned around. You can think; â€œItâ€™s sad that theyâ€™ve passed but I wish them the best on their new journey that lies ahead of them. I am happy that they led a fulfilled and purposeful life”.
A few thoughts can completely change the way one feels. What also helps is to show other people that a chain of thought will lead to certain emotions being produced, so what can you do?
Choose to change that pattern of thought. Consciously decide to look on the more positive side of events. It doesnâ€™t make you emotionally sterile, it will make you better at dealing with your emotions overall and then passing that feeling onto others.
The example above will elicit a happier emotional state through the new chain of thought. Pass that on, when people are feeling sad, verbalise the thought youâ€™ve had and watch their face change completely.