How Your Thoughts Create Your Life - 10 Happiness Exercises
Table of Contents
Your thoughts create your life.
Being aware of how much your thoughts determine your life quality is of fundamental importance—more so than many may realize.
How you think and the thoughts you allow inside your head determine your own heaven or hell on earth.
While this podcast episode delves more deeply into precisely how negative thoughts create much of all our sufferings, it will show how, by applying positive psychology, we can shift them toward positive and empowering thoughts to move us forward.
Here in the show notes, you will find various happiness exercises to practice the skill of happiness.
“Practice the skill of happiness?”
Yes, that is correct.
Because happiness is not something some have been gifted with while others have not.
Happiness is a skill. As with any skill, you get better at it by practicing on a consistent basis through exercises.
If you have ever wondered what the biggest secret of happiness is, that right there is it.
Be aware though, that, like anything else, it takes practice every day to see and feel a difference.
You can’t expect to be a master at the piano, a specific language, football, singing, drawing, etc. if you never practice any of those skills.
Likewise, with happiness.
While the following happiness exercises only take a few minutes to do – and are even possible to do anywhere – what’s important is actually doing them.
Be conscious that you do not fall into this trap of cognitively understanding something but never actually applying it. Do it. Take action.
As with so many things, the reason why some people never attain what they desire is because they never follow through on the information they have gathered.
Don’t fall into and get stuck in this cycle. Download one of these apps to help remind you to practice and apply the following happiness exercises regularly.
1. The Five Human Senses
How aware are you of the five senses you have been gifted with? Touch. Sight. Hearing. Smell. Taste.
Many of us are barely aware of them.
We are visual creators. Our most potent and most used sense is sight – our eyes.
Sadly, as our sense of sight so mainly dominates us, many forget about the other four senses and tend to focus less, or sometimes not at all, on them.
We have been given a spectrum, a palette with many different sensations and feelings, but many never reach out to fully experience the full range of them.
It is a massive shame, as each one of our senses holds immeasurable ability to experience life on different levels and in a multitude of ways.
An easy exercise I do every day is to go on conscious walks throughout the day while focusing on each one of my senses for a couple of minutes at a time. This teaches me to become more aware of these gifts.
It’s an easy happiness exercise that can teach you to be more in touch with the gifts you have been given – your five human senses – on every walk you go on.
If I asked you when was the last time you said “I love you” to yourself, I think many may have trouble thinking of a specific day.
Multiple studies have shown that self-love is the key to mental health, well-being, and keeping depression and anxiety at bay.
But besides the whole science and research part of why practicing self-love is of value, ask yourself this question:
How does this one person—who has been there with you from the beginning and who will be there with you until the very end—not deserve to hear the words ‘I love you’ more often?
How does this person indeed not deserve these words that hold at their core other sentiments:
I accept you. I see you. I acknowledge you. I am here for you.
The words ‘I love you’ mean all those things—and more.
Be kind to yourself. There is no reason not to be.
Practice self-love regularly merely by looking at yourself in the mirror and acknowledging the unique creation that is standing in front of you.
In the morning when you wake up, or in the evening when you check off, or better yet, whenever you get the chance to greet yourself in the mirror, look yourself in the eyes, give yourself a little wink, and say the words everyone in this world is craving to hear: “I love you.”
3. Do Random Acts of Generosity and Kindness – Volunteer More
Anyone who has ever given purely for the reason of giving will remember how it makes the heart smile.
Instead of going on an ordinary vacation, why not go and volunteer somewhere? It’s just as fun, while you also get to experience unique opportunities such as working with animals, children, marine life, etc. And often, it isn’t that much more expensive than a typical vacation.
Not only will you walk away with an experience you’ll likely never forget, you will also be a part of a community and be surrounded by other people who care about positive change in the world.
Furthermore, research has shown that volunteering counteracts the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety.
I volunteer regularly, and I would encourage anyone to try it.
Of course, you don’t need to volunteer and travel halfway across the world to do random acts of generosity and kindness.
You can do this anywhere and everywhere.
Even in your daily life.
When you see someone drop something near you, reach out to help. When someone’s bicycle chain pops off, walk up to the person and offer your help.
There are millions of opportunities every day to do random acts of generosity and kindness.
Even just simply smiling at someone, or genially asking about someone’s day and listening with the intent to listen are acts of generosity and kindness that people close to you and around you appreciate as much as anyone else does.
Make your heart and the hearts of others smile more often by doing this most excellent happiness exercise.
If you are attuned to opportunities to do random acts of generosity and kindness, you’ll come to see them everywhere.
While I’m sure you’ve heard of practicing gratitude before, have you ever honestly tried it?
Research has shown that gratitude combats stress and reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. It also increases your self-esteem, helps you sleep better, and improves mental strength.
It has even been shown that gratitude can play a significant role in overcoming trauma.
How does the exercise of gratitude work? It’s easy and only takes a minute.
In the morning or evening or anytime throughout the day, sit down somewhere or go for a walk and think about three things you are grateful for.
It could be something that happened during your day, something you currently feel or see, or something about your life in general.
Here is an example of something I am currently experiencing:
I am grateful for…
- – The gorgeous ocean in front of me.
- – The delicious coffee I am enjoying.
- – You, reading this article. Thank you.
I would recommend you keep it simple. What were the first things that you saw, felt, or thought about? Focus on that moment and feel gratitude flowing through your heart.
Additionally—and this might sound cheesy at first but—laying your hand over your heart while doing this exercise multiplies the connections between seeing and thinking of something you are grateful for; it intensifies the feeling.
What you ultimately do is visualize a connection directly to your heart. Science and research have shown multiple times the power of visualization and how it can lead us to our objectives – in this case, happiness.
Give it a try. It doesn’t hurt, and I promise you won’t come to regret it.
5. Write Down Something Funny That Happened
This exercise is a fun one!
Have a notebook or make a note on your phone dedicated to writing down anything funny that happens throughout the day. Or make this the last thing you do in the evening, when you’re lying in bed.
Writing down something funny teaches you a few things.
First, it lets you sit still and acknowledge a moment that happened in your day. The result is that it will make your day feel more like the individual gift it is. Every day, some other unique, funny thing will happen.
Second, writing down something funny is directly linked to positivity: it will lift your spirit immediately—in the moment, and after the moment, when you reflect and think back to it.
And third, like gratitude, it teaches you to focus on the small things that have accrued in your life. It may not be all the time that a massive comedy show appears in front of you, but at least something silly, ridiculous, or weird can happen every day.
What this exercise ultimately teaches you is to be more attentive to the funny side of life.
If you set this as a daily exercise, your brain will automatically start looking and be more attuned to those funny, ridiculous, silly, and weird moments.
Once your brain is more set on this, you may come to realize that life itself can be a grand comedy show after all.
But, like the gratitude exercises, don’t overthink this. What was something that made you smile during the day? Or what at least made you giggle a tiny bit inside? Write that down!
6. Change Your State – Put Yourself in a Peak State
7. Get a Perspective – Acknowledge What You Have
Are you aware that your eyes are made from two million working components that allow you to see the world around you, and of course, read this fantastic article?
And are you aware that you are browsing the world’s most significant source of information—the internet, where anything can be found—while more than half of the world’s population does not have access to it yet?
At the same time, you have a roof over your head, food on the table, and most likely, you do not live in a war zone.
No, I am not saying life might be going smoothly for you. But keeping things in perspective is an excellent happiness exercise for you not to forget and acknowledge what you do have.
You are still alive. You are still breathing. You can see. You aren’t in a coma.
There is power running through your veins to do something with your life, to take action.
You can still do that.
But there are others out there who can’t—who are in a coma, who are paralyzed and unable to move any part of their body, or who have died at an early age.
That is not you.
Please recognize this.
Take time every day to put things in perspective, especially in those moments when you feel that life seems too much or treats you unfairly.
Become mindful of the situation to give yourself the chance to put things back in perspective.
Accept things you cannot control and realize that whatever is currently happening, there could have been a far worse picture of it.
Doing this happiness exercise helps to alleviate anxiety and stress and gives you a chance to think more clearly and tackle the current moment with a sense of clarity.
I must be honest with you. I am bad at standing still, reflecting, and taking my time to feel proud of something I finished or accomplished.
When I have completed a podcast interview, an article, a new course I made, a new feature or milestone on The IPS Project —anything, even climbing a mountain—I move on directly to the next thing. Never standing still, never taking the time to feel proud of the challenges and obstacles I had conquered along the way.
I forget to do it.
It is reasonable enough to say, I think this also happens to many people.
What can happen, however, when you never stand still and celebrate those victories, whether small or significant?
You can start to feel unfulfilled.
Because you never take the time to reflect and appreciate what you have accomplished.
After attending Tony Robbins’ UPW event this year, where participants celebrated continually, I realized the importance of doing this more in my own life and in my career.
So now, whenever I complete something, no matter how big or small, I take time to celebrate.
Here are examples of how I do this:
— When I go for a run and finish the X amount of km I had planned to run, I give myself a high five and take a moment to reflect and feel proud of.
— After a hard day of working and finishing every task, I throw my arms in the air and say to myself, “Nice work!” Then I take some time to look at each -completed task and to feel satisfied by what I have done.
— When I complete an article, I jump out of my chair, shake off some dance moves, and feel contentment at the dedication I had put into finishing it.
Bring some playfulness back to this already too-serious world we live in. There are constant opportunities to celebrate throughout the day.
Again, as with many of the happiness exercises, do not focus only on your big achievements or moments, but also on the small ones.
Crossed the street safely? Hell yeah! Give yourself a high five. Got yourself a date? Give yourself a fist pump in the mirror! Finished a hard day’s work? Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate the fact that it is now time to relax.
Train yourself to celebrate more by doing this exercise. Not only will it be fun, but it also makes you feel good – it makes you feel happy.
9. Watch More Comedy
Laughing is not just fun, it is also good for the brain, body, mental health, and the soul.
Various research have shown the countless benefits that laughing gives us. It boosts our immune system; it relaxes the body; it protects the heart; it dissolves distressing emotions, reduces stress, and increases energy—and many more benefits.
Laughter is one of the best medicines for us—medication that we all could use some more of.
But how? What or who should you laugh about?
Comedians are people who are professionally trained to make you laugh, and there are hundreds and thousands of them out there. There is the right kind of humor—a proper dose of the correct medication—out there for everyone.
Here are a few YouTube channel suggestions to help get you started:
To find out more about the benefits of laughter and suggestions about comedians, check out the following article here on The IPS Project: A True Cure for When You Are Feeling Unhappy, which delves deeper into the topic.
10. Watch a Sunrise or a Sunset
One last happiness exercise: Watch a sunrise or a sunset more often.
The majestic beauty of this world can only be seen if you pay attention to it.
Sunrises and sunsets can be seen almost every day, and each time is a truly astonishing revelation of the magic this world holds.
Watching a sunrise or a sunset is like watching one of the most skilled painters this world will ever have, who comes out nearly every day to show you a one-time unique work of wonder—for free.
If you are a morning person, watch the sunrise!
See the world come alive in all its glory.
If you are an evening person, go outside and enjoy the beauty of the last lights of the day painting the sky.
Watching sunrises or sunsets is one of my favorite things to do because it shows that beautiful beginnings and beautiful endings do exist in life.
I know, I’m now going to repeat myself. But I care too much about you to not mention this one last time. I want you to walk away from this article understanding the truth.
I know that many who are reading this will fail to find happiness.
Not because it hasn’t been given to them to find, but because they don’t apply any of the given information.
Don’t be that person. Not anymore.
Use something to tell yourself to do some of these happiness exercises throughout the day, be it a note on your fridge, a wallpaper on your computer or phone, or one of the many reminder applications that will send a notification directly to your phone or smart watch.
Whatever works for you.
I urge you to let this article make a difference for you, and to try for a month to practice some of these exercises.
I can guarantee that, if you do, if you’ll practice the skill of happiness every day, the one thing every one of us seeks in life but can’t seem to find will find its way to you.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to have a listen to the podcast episode which delves deeper into how your thoughts create your life and the power of positive psychology to turn negative thoughts into empowering ones.
It intertwines with this article but deserves to have its own space, its own focus.
You can have a listen to it here on the website, or of course, on your favorite podcast app.
EP 014 – How Your Thoughts Create Your Life - The Power of Positive Psychology
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- EP 007 – Let’s Talk About Loneliness: a Conversation with Julia Bainbridge, Host of The Lonely Hour
- EP 010 – Martin Inderbitzin: A Survival Story of Pancreatic Cancer – The Lessons, The Hardships and Becoming a Triathlete
- EP 011 – Richard Ayling on How to Become Superhuman, Influence the Autonomic Nervous System
Question about this episode: What are your thoughts on the podcast episode: How Your Thoughts Create Your Life? Which of the happiness exercises is your favorite?
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