I tried everything that I could find. Although I tried a lot of things and those things may have helped somewhat, the new habits I created that worked quickly for me are listed below:
- Keep a simple journal.
- As a discipline, I began by listing 5-10 things to be grateful for every single day.
- Spend 5- 20 minutes per day meditating.
- I used guided meditations on YouTube to get started.
- Read books and listen to inspiring podcasts or stories.
- I did this every time I found myself idle, unable to sleep, or spiraling on negative thoughts.
- Become aware of what I am thinking about all day long.
- Every time I had a certain type of thought, I took notice of it. Then I would alter my focus to something else that felt better to think about. It does not have to be a perfect thought, just slightly better feeling than the negative one that is giving you trouble.
- Smile and greet with appreciation every person I meet.
- Commit to keeping daily practices that lead to wellness.
- Excercising lightly, eating good food, allocating 8 hours for rest at night, sitting in the sunshine, doing something I enjoy or used to enjoy every day, and seeking out cheerful, caring people to spend moments with.
- Keep a simple journal.
Thoughts, feelings, and the world around us
You do not need to understand how electricity works to turn a light on, and you don’t have to understand why these habits help you to get the benefits of doing them—just flip the switch and enjoy the light. You can even skip this section if you want. But if you must know more about why these habits work, here is my best understanding of it today.
I am sure you have had an experience when talking to someone and you felt uncomfortable, or like your energy was drained even though the person was talking and acting in a totally normal way. Or perhaps you recall the opposite experience of being very at ease with someone without knowing exactly why, even if they asked questions that were personal or unusual. Others will feel comfortable or not in our presence because of our thoughts, and the way we interact with others will change drastically if we improve our thoughts and remove our judgments.
Our thoughts and feelings determine how we present ourselves to the world around us and how others respond to us.
Specifics about some of the habits and why each work might include:
- Meditation might help by slowing down our (mostly negative) thoughts to a mostly neutral point.
- Looking for things to be grateful for trains your mind to acknowledge what is good around you, and to look for more of those good things.
- Smiling at people and writing in a journal require action from our bodies which seems to make those thoughts and feelings real and physical. Our bodies can help us affirm or accept a new thought as a belief.
Whether you accept these explanations or not, do not let this stop you—just practice the habits and see the results. After you are feeling better, you can try to figure out why if you still care to.
Just a couple weeks in
I started feeling a little better just a couple weeks after starting these habits. It felt strange at first, especially smiling at everyone. I forced myself to smile and greet people until it became a habit. It is really easy to do...just pause and hold the door for a person and smile at them. I never had an unwelcome response to this, so it is likely that only a couple of people out of many dozens thought I was creepy or weird! Most people smiled back or I could tell appreciated being acknowledged. It was a really good ratio. The main thing to remember is to truly wish the person well in your mind and heart as you do this...feel appreciation for them. I would not call it a miracle, magic, or drastic, but just a couple weeks into this, I wasn’t feeling awful all the time anymore. Not much had outwardly changed in my life over the first few weeks, but I did not feel frantic or downtrodden, which was a nice relief. Feeling good for its own sake was enough reason to continue with my experiment.
Full disclosure, “The Dip”
I experienced “The Dip” after three to five weeks of starting these things. While I had moments where I popped up to a positive mindset, other times I became really frustrated and down because I was not progressing to a state of stable awesomeness as fast as I wanted to. Negative thoughts were still running over me sometimes. As my awareness of my own thoughts and feelings increased, I realized how off track I had been for so long. This realization led me to beat up on myself for a little while. Here is the thing about awareness:
Once you expand it, you cannot go back to your previous level of awareness
The only way out of this particular problem was through it. I continued the experiment, building and refining my new habits which were clearly working for me.
At a certain point, I just started accepting how noisy and negative some of my default thoughts were. When they came, I sort of noticed them and appreciated how cool the mind is. Your mind can associate so many things and create meaning from a bunch of events that may or may not be related. I noticed this change really accelerate at about 8 weeks in, and this shift continued for a number of weeks after. The few minutes of meditation every day over that time really helped me observe what I was thinking instead of assuming that the thought was “Me” and that it was true. Most of the time now, I simply let those thoughts come and go.
The main difference is that I do not attach extra importance to thoughts, I just let them be, without judging them or making them part of me.
By now, I was generally feeling a lot better every day which was a great outcome of the experiment. In addition to the basic well-being I was experiencing, some magic just started happening, and these extra results of my experiment really surprised me!
Below are some results I have observed in my life over the past year since I started the experiment. I am not bragging about these, as I did not really “do” anything to make them happen.
- Lost over 20 pounds during a 10 week period and kept it off for over 19 months (so far)
- Increased my income by almost 20% (not overworking)
- Greatly improved relationships
- Improved friendships
- Met new friends
- Happy coincidences seem to happen regularly
- Significantly improved levels of optimism, faith, self-confidence, and openness to new experiences
- More fun
These outward changes convinced me that our thoughts determine what we experience emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
The surprise was due to the fact that I did not do anything to get those results. I became something, and those results just happened. I would never tell someone what to do, but based on this experiment, I would suggest that instead of using our finite amount of willpower to try to force some outward change to happen, take steps to create an internal change in your mindset.
Changes to your thoughts and letting go of judging will make outward changes both effortless and lasting.