The way you think about the world influences the way you act in this world. The way you think about others influences the way you treat others. The way you think about yourself influences your reality every second of every day.

Being happy is – to a certain extent – a mindset. It is a lens that you use that determines your quality of life. Your mindset determines your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. It is therefore very important to become aware of your mindset and to train your brain to improve your mood and level of happiness.

Most people fall into a trap. They define happiness as something outside of them that they need to chase. For example, when you define happiness as a destination or a reward, you make it very difficult to experience happiness in your everyday life. ‘I will be happy when I lose 10 kilograms’, ‘I will feel happy when my mother accepts me and when I feel loved by her’, or ‘I will feel happy when I have that car, house, position or achievement’. Do these thoughts sound familiar to you?

Happiness is not the absence of problems, it is the ability to deal with them effectively and not let them define you – Derika de Villiers

So how do you change your mindset? The first step is to clearly identify what it is about your mindset that you want to change. For example: ‘I want to be happier’. The more specific you are, the easier this process is. Secondly, you will have to change the meaning you have given ‘happiness’. Because the meaning you attach to ‘being happy’ will drive you to act in a specific way and that will lead you to a specific outcome. For example, if being happy will only occur when you lose 10 kg, you will not be happy until you reach this goal. In the meantime, you will criticise yourself, feel unhappy, limit your own potential and capacity to feel happy in moments your everyday life can offer you despite your weight. Changing the meaning you give to ‘being happier’ will change your mindset about being happy.

Thirdly, try to see emotions as an information source you can use to help you. Emotions help guide you with your choices in life. Your emotions can also harm you. It is normal to experience uncomfortable emotions, we all do. Most people are scared of uncomfortable emotions and try to resist these emotions like anger, disappointment, anxiety, feeling inferior, etc. Ignoring or resisting these difficult emotions will not make them go away, they will only linger and build up. What you resist, will persist. When you feel negative, your behaviour often tends to reflect that. This cycle provides resistance. Changing your mindset will become extremely difficult. Rather use that uncomfortable emotion to get you what you want. For example, if you are dissatisfied with your life, rather use that dissatisfaction to motivate you to create a life that you want, instead of being caught in the cycle of negative thoughts producing negative behaviour.

This is a simple formula you can use whenever you feel like your mindset is standing in the way of your own happiness. Mindset, however, is not everything, but it goes a very long way… Happiness is not all about mindset. You also need to look after your mind. The food you consume, your quality of sleep, your environment, social connectedness, and even exercise impact the functioning of your mind.

Your mindset matters.

You matter!

So get started in changing your mindset to become a happier version of yourself.

written by Derika de Villiers, Clinical Psychologist.