I’ll begin this article with a simple question:
Do you respect yourself enough to walk away from those people that limit you?
Sure you do. But what about what really limits you, your thoughts? These are what truly blocks your growth and lead to unhealthy negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, unhealthy anger, shame, hurt, jealousy, and unhealthy envy. Do you respect yourself enough to walk away from these unhealthy thoughts? About 450 million people around the world, or 1 out of 4, will experience a mental illness in their lifetime that would benefit from diagnosis and treatment, and carry with them unhealthy negative emotions.
It’s important to distinguish these unhealthy negative feelings from healthy negative feelings of sadness, worry, healthy anger, regret, disappointment, concern about relationships and healthy envy. That’s right, healthy negative emotions: we all experience these and they are “normal”.
How to find genuine happiness
So just how do you liberate yourself from unhealthy negative emotions and find genuine happiness? You’ve tried letting go of the past, separating yourself from those people who are a drag and weigh you down, you’re open for change but you’re stuck.
It’s time to break the link in what you think. It’s time to learn how to detoxify your irrational, negative thinking and effectively dispute those thoughts that cause unhappiness, stress, anxiety, depression, and hold you back from achieving your life’s purpose. In the words of Albert Ellis (Ph.D):
“You are mainly what you think.”
There are 3 ways of disputing thoughts that comprise the Rx prescription for optimal happiness:
- Ask yourself, “What’s the evidence – the universal law – that my thoughts are true”? This is called “empirical disputing”
- Ask yourself, “Have my thoughts helped me find solutions to my problems”? This is called “pragmatic disputing”
- Ask yourself, “Is it sensible for me to turn my desires into demands”? This is called “logical disputing”
These types of questions will open your mindset to observe within yourself, within your thinking, several thinking “errors” that result in emotions you just don’t enjoy feeling. Here are some thoughts as originally described by Albert Ellis, Ph.D., that’ll surely create unhappiness in your life.
- It is a dire necessity for you to be loved by significant others for almost everything you do, instead of concentrating on your own self-respect. Holding onto demands for love and approval leads to feelings of worthlessness.
- It is horrible when things are not the way you like them to be, instead of thinking that it is too bad, that it would be better for you to try to change or control bad conditions so that they become more satisfactory, and, if that is not possible, it’d be better for you to temporarily accept their existence. Holding onto catastrophizing about the possible outcome of events leads to increase in crippling fear, stagnation and anxiety.
- Human misery is invariably externally caused and is forced on you by outside people and events instead of thinking that your unhappiness is caused by the view that you take of unfortunate conditions. Holding onto the belief that events and other people “make” you feel unhappy leads to feeling like a victim – forever.
- If something is or may be dangerous, you should be terribly upset instead of thinking that it would be better to face it honestly, see it for what it is, do what you can to reduce the danger, and ultimately accept the inevitable. Holding onto the idea that it’s better to avoid than to face events will lead you to cower in a corner of life with no chance of moving forward towards your life’s goals.
- You should be thoroughly competent, intelligent, and achieving in all possible respects, instead of the idea that you would better do what you can rather than demand that you do perfectly well, and accept yourself as an imperfect human creature with normal human limitations and fallibilities. Holding onto perfectionistic thoughts leads to a sense of failure.
The Happiness Formula
There formula to happiness is quite simple: A+B=C. But what do these letters stand for?
A stands for the negative action (or event)
B stands for the belief, which can be rational or irrational
C stands for the negative consequence (or emotion), which can be healthy or unhealthy
The A+B=C Rx prescription for optimal happiness can be summed up as follows:
- If you adopt rational beliefs, then you will experience healthy negative consequences or emotions.
- If you embrace irrational beliefs, then you will suffer unhealthy negative consequences or emotions.
How to identify irrational thinking
Do you engage in black or white thinking (“If I’m not perfect, I’m a failure”), or magnify the what’s negative in your life or minimize your positives, or “should” on yourself using critical words like “should, ought, must, have to”, label yourself (“I’m a loser and completely useless”) when comparing yourself to others (“compare and despair”), or personalize and blame (“It’s all and always my fault,” or “It’s your fault” for something that was your responsibility)? When you adopt these types of thinking styles, there is no doubt you’ll be suffering, feel deeply unhappy and derail yourself in life.
Spend time unwinding, breathing, slowing it all down so you can see these irrational beliefs and replace them with more rational thinking. You’ll be on the road to no longer comparing yourself to others, dwelling on the past, feeling sorry for yourself, trying to please everyone but yourself, demanding perfection and viewing a failure as the end of the world for you. In other words, you’ll have taken the right dose of the Rx prescription for optimal happiness.