How To Cultivate A Happy Life Through Your Beliefs

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How To Cultivate A Happy Life Through Your Beliefs

Posted 24 Feb 2018


Pernille Kloeverpris

How To Cultivate A Happy Life Through Your Beliefs

For decades we’ve been told how to create a healthy body and why it's so important. I think it's time to reframe the meaning of 'Health', to broaden out the perspective and start focusing on the mind (the brain) which is the often-forgotten element in the overall health equation. 

In this blog – the first in a series about mind and language – we will explore the power of language and show how language affects our thoughts, emotional life, and happiness levels as well. And I’ll share an exercise where words are the key to a positive result.

Mind and words

Let me ask you something first: How do you handle bad things that happen to you and more importantly, how do you explain those things to yourself?

Let me give you some examples:

If you decide to go on a diet and you fail once because you’ve been dining out, what would you think? Do you tell yourself that diets never work, or would you be more specific and say, diets don't work when you eat out?

Or imagine you are at work and you end up having a contentious discussion with your boss, how would that affect you? Would you say that your boss is a tyrant, or be more specific thinking that your boss was in a bad mood that day?

I could ask a similar question about a good event, how would you normally explain it? By being specific and think “it's my lucky day” or would it be something like “I'm always lucky”.

As you can see from the examples I'm talking about different ways of explaining failure or success. One is very specific, the other more general. Do you explain causes of misfortunes as a permanent condition and explain them by saying “it's me, it's always like that, it's going to last forever” or do you explain these causes as circumstances and see them as temporary?

Optimistic or Pessimistic

Our so-called 'Explanatory Style', which refers to how we explain things to ourselves is rooted in our inner mental state, and the words we use to explain bad events are more than just words, it's actually a habit of thought learned in childhood or adolescence. So, without even thinking about it, our way of explaining things to ourselves is a habit. Whether you see yourself as valuable and deserving or otherwise is directly connected to your view of your place in the world, and how we think and talk about ourselves has a huge impact on our emotional life, our actions, and our well-being.

People who give up very easily tend to believe that the causes of bad events that happen to them are permanent and un-changeable, and they have developed a pessimistic, explanatory style while people who think in transient conditions are much more optimistic.

And it’s interesting that people who believe that good events have permanent causes try even harder after they succeed, while people who see temporary reasons give up even though they succeed.

The good news is, that we can actually challenge the thoughts we have and the way we explain things to ourselves and by conscious work create a more optimistic and happier mind set, and right now I want to start by challenging the way you perceive yourself.

Self-compassion as a Happiness Booster

Many things in life are beyond our control – our eye colour, race, or gender, and the clouds on a rainy day. But there is a vast, territory of actions over which we can take control or even cede it to others or to fate, and this is the area we can start cultivating. So rather than beating yourself up I will encourage you to start cultivating more understanding and acceptance towards yourself. Through a happiness exercise we can actually help ourself to bounce back and improve in the future by changing our mind-set and words consciously.

We often judge ourselves more harshly than we judge others, beating ourselves up over our faults, flaws, and shortcomings. This makes us feel isolated and unhappy.

Self-compassion reduces the painful feelings of shame and self-criticism that can compromise mental health and well-being and stand in the way of happiness, and by changing words, you can achieve greater happiness. It takes time and practice, but it will become easier the more you practice and you will remember to treat yourself kindly when you’re are feeling down about yourself.

Self-Compassionate Letter (15-30 minutes)

How to do it:

1. Everybody has something about themselves that they don’t like; something that makes them feel shame, feel insecure, or not “good enough.” It’s the human condition to be imperfect, and feelings of failure and inadequacy are all part of experiencing human life. Try writing about an issue that tends to make you feel inadequate or bad about yourself (physical appearance, work, relationship or maybe parental issues…) What emotions arise when you think about this aspect of yourself? Try to just feel your emotions exactly as they are – no more, no less – and then write about them.

2. Now think about an imaginary friend who is unconditionally loving, accepting, kind and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your strengths and weaknesses, including the aspect of yourself you have just been writing about. Reflect upon what this friend feels towards you, and how you are loved and accepted exactly as you are, with all your very human imperfections. Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend – focusing on your perceived inadequacy. What would this friend say to you about your “flaw” from the perspective of unlimited compassion? How would this friend convey the deep compassion he/she feels for you, especially for the pain you feel when you judge yourself so harshly? What would this friend write to remind you that you are only human, that all people have both strengths and weaknesses? And if you think this friend would suggest possible changes you should make, how would these suggestions embody feelings of unconditional understanding and compassion? As you write to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend, try to infuse your letter with a strong sense of his/her acceptance, kindness, caring, and desire for your health and happiness.

3. After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back and read it again, really letting the words sink in. Feel the compassion as it pours into you, soothing and comforting you like a cool breeze on a hot day. Love, connection and acceptance are your birth-right. To claim them you need only look within yourself.

Enjoy the exercise, it's really worth spending time on. Let me know how it goes and drop me a note in the comment field.

Stay tuned for my next blog post about language and how to cultivate more positivity into your life.

In Happiness


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Michael says:

2 days 7 hours ago
Interesting points on the happiness that most of us falsely think that celebrities have in their life. Thank you for reminding us that they are just people like you and I - and therefore prone to the same emotions and challenges in life that all humans face. Cheers, Mike

Pernille says:

23 hours 55 min ago
Hi Mike, You are most welcome - I'm glad you like the comment. Pep :)

Gordon says:

2 weeks 4 days ago
Do you think people such as Will Smith and Jamie Foxx are really happy on the inside? of course they always look happy, but they must keep up that image which is an important part of their job. But, do such people suffer from some of the areas you highlight above, the same as the rest of the people on the planet?

Pernille says:

2 weeks 23 hours ago
Dear Gordon, Thank you for an interesting and highly relevant question. Hollywood celebrities such as Will Smith and Jamie Foxx are extremely professional in front of a camera, but behind the scenes they are ordinary people just like you and I. Of course they don't have to worry about money and how to pay next month's bills, but making money matters less than most people think. Of course there is a positive correlation between money and happiness but only up to a certain point, and the positive effects of having money – and even a lot of them - are not important enough to justify money as a central contributor to our life satisfaction and well-being in general. I remember reading an interview with Will Smith where he labels his marriage “grueling and excruciating”, and I have seen a lot of other articles with famous artists and actors, and they too go through difficult times - no one on this planet is spared! How we manage challenges in our lives on a mental level depends partly on our explanatory style. Furthermore, happiness and well-being is partly inherited – 50 % is determined by your genes; 10% is determined by the circumstances in which you live your life, and the other 40% is determined by your actions, our attitude and the way we handle situations. So the answer to you question is: Yes, also celebrities face difficult times and like the rest of us they suffer from areas that are highlighted in my post. How they cope with - and how fast they recover from “negative” feelings like sadness, anxiety, hate, and jealousy it highly depends on their personal level of happiness plus the way they explain things to ourselves, just like the rest of us. All the best Pep

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