Our mind can be the biggest roadblock to happiness. Learning how to cultivate happy thoughts, identify, manage, challenge, and reframe your inner dialogue can do wonders for your mood and your outlook on life.

Here’s a challenge for you: See if you can notice when your thoughts spiral into a string of negative thoughts. It might take some practice at first. The more mindful you become, the easier it becomes to notice your negative thoughts once they arrive. Once you’ve noticed it, challenge yourself to reframe those thoughts! Why? Because it can be the most effective tool you can use to see the same event or circumstances in a new light and block the slippery slope of negative thinking impacting your mood.

The more intentional and purposeful you are cultivating happy thoughts, the bigger impact this tool will have on your mood.

Our brains have millions of neural pathways (imagine them as little roads in our brains) and our thoughts have a great influence on these pathways in our brains. If you constantly choose to think about the negative effects, outcomes or impact of something, you are forming certain pathways in your brain. The more you make use of a certain pathway, the more you will use this pathway. It becomes known and familiar, despite this pathway not having a positive affect. These pathways have a direct impact on our mental and physical health and can have an influence on your immune system and decision making skills, for example.

Research indicates that choosing to think about any situation in a positive light first, allows feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and other endorphins to be released. These hormones can help to combat symptoms of depression.

Here’s how you can cultivate happy thoughts:

  • When faced with a challenge, notice what you choose to think about it. If negative thoughts pop up, catch them and notice them.
  • Don’t judge yourself for thinking these negative thoughts, rather just notice that they have popped up in your mind.
  • Now that you’ve noticed them, see if you could exchange them with something else, for example, the Original thought: “I just got my paycheck and it really is not enough to cover all my expenses.” Happier thought: “I just got my paycheck. Although I would like to receive a bigger paycheck, I am grateful to have a job and an income.”

Important note: The intention is not to disregard and ignore challenging experiences by covering them up with positive thoughts. That is called toxic positivity. There is always room to acknowledge when something is challenging, but there is also room for evaluating the way we think about it and whether this thinking is helpful or not.

Hey Happy wants to encourage and challenge you to start cultivating a habit of positive thinking?

Use this article to create a framework for yourself and get ready to see what an amazing impact it can have on your physical and mental health!

written by Megan Stapelberg, Counselling Psychologist