How do you define happiness?
Happiness is generally defined as a positive emotional state or feeling characterised by joy, contentment, life satisfaction, fulfillment and peace. It’s a great definition. Is it useful? No.
Feelings are fleeting. If you define happiness as a feeling, it also becomes fleeting. Happiness should be a constant. The way we make it a constant is by viewing happiness not as a feeling, but as something that we DO.
What if instead of trying to feel happy, we do happy? #DoHappy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) explains the connection between what we FEEL, what we THINK and what we DO (See Fig 1).
The model states
1) What we feel, affects what we think.
2) What we feel, affects what we do.
Here’s the cool bit.
3) What we think, affects what we feel.
4) What we think, affects what we do.
Here’s the extra cool bit.
5) What we do, affects what we feel.
6) What we do, affects what we think.
In other words, what we FEEL, what we THINK and what we DO are all linked and each of them affect each other.
When someone is feeling depressed, they are likely thinking depression and doing depression as well.
Feel = Depressed
Think = “This is never going to get better”
Do = Scroll on social media to escape the unpleasant emotions
When someone is feeling anxious, they are likely thinking anxiety and doing anxiety as well.
Feel = Anxious
Think = “I am worried I will embarrass myself”
Do = Avoid asking for a promotion
When someone is feeling happy, they are likely thinking happy and doing happy as well.
Feel = Happy
Think = “I am so grateful for my family and friends”
Do = Send a thank you note to a loved one
Although our feelings, thoughts and actions are all linked, they are not created equally. The distinguishing factor is control.
Can you control what you FEEL?
No. Tell a sad person to feel happy. What happens? If we could control our feelings, there wouldn’t be a mental health epidemic.
Can you control what you THINK?
Yes, to some extent. If I tell you to think of a fluorescent green elephant wearing high heels, can you? I bet you are picturing that glorious specimen right now! The ability to change your thinking is considered psychological action.
Can you control what you DO?
Yes! Assuming capacity, if I tell you to stand on one leg and clap your hands, you can do it. This is considered physical action.
If you can’t control how you feel, why focus on them?
It is infinitely more powerful to focus on your thinking and doing (See Fig 2) and make that the aim. The feelings will take care of themselves. The difference between a happy person and an unhappy person is not just about how they are feeling. It has a lot more to do with what they are thinking and what they are doing.
Happiness is a lot like spear fishing. You may see the fish in the water but, it’s not as simple as aiming and throwing your spear. You have to the adjust for the refraction of light. If you want to feel happy, you must make the adjustment and “aim the spear” on what you think and do.
Regardless of how you are feeling, remember to adjust your spear at the right target. My spear is aimed at meditation, exercise, gratitude journaling and hugging my family to the point of uncomfortable excess. This is my #DoHappy formula. I do this daily. I focus on what I am doing, not what I am feeling. The irony is that I usually end up feeling great.
What’s does your #DoHappy formula look like?
You may not always feel happy but you can always DO happy.
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Much love to you and of course, myself.
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