"Think happy thoughts and you can fly." -- Peter Pan

As the title of the book by John S. J. Powell says, "Happiness Is an Inside Job" [ISBN 0883473240]. You can be happy, regardless of what's going on around you. All you have to do is change the thoughts you are currently having.

Yes, I know, easier said than done. I spent the majority of my life being miserable. Everything sucked. I would put on a happy face for the world, but it would never last. I was dying on the inside, and no matter how much I tried to put on the persona of a happy person, I would eventually do something to destroy my life, retreat to alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, depression, whatever would kill the pain.

I never knew that I had the power to change, and that I'd had it all along. The "pain" was self inflicted, and being caused by the thoughts I was choosing to think.

I can honestly say I've been happy (on the inside) for quite some time now. No, not 100% of the time, but much more than I'd been in the past. The purpose of this article is to share what I did, and still do, with you. If you can use any of it, that's awesome! But even if none of the techniques presented here help you, please believe one thing:

You deserve happiness.

Until I could accept that basic truth, joy was always out of my reach. I used to rebel against this thought: "I don't deserve nothin'! Look at all of the horrible, stupid, lame-brained things I've done in my life, and I deserve to be happy??? Give me a break."

I am not talking about deserving something because you've earned it. I'm talking about deserving something because it is your right as a human being. Since you have the right to choose whatever thoughts you want to have, and it's only your own thinking that makes you happy or not, you have the right to change those thoughts and be happy.

The next thing you'll need to do is become willing to change your thoughts from unhappy ones to happy ones. If you are, then say to yourself, out loud, "I am willing to change my thoughts to make myself happy." Don't say it if you don't mean it. Just as you have every right in the world to be happy, you also have every right in the world to be miserable, and every right in the world to vacillate between the two. I do know that, for me, I feel better and my life flows better when I'm happy.

Did you say it? If you did, awesome! If not, feel free to continue reading, but until you become willing to change, you aren't going to change.

So we've accepted that we deserve happiness. We are now willing to change those thoughts which make us unhappy.

So how do we do it?

There are literally hundreds of techniques out there for changing one's thoughts. I'm going to present those that have worked best for me. I'd suggest that you give them an honest shot. If they work for you, great! If not, actively seek out other ways.

My favorite is to give myself a spot check throughout the day. Pause and ask yourself "What am I thinking now? Is it making me happy?" If it isn't, either change what you are thinking about whatever you are thinking about, or just stop thinking about it altogether. Think about something that does make you happy. When I need to completely change what I'm thinking, I'll focus on an affirmation, usually something as simple as "I love and accept myself." (Thanks to Louise L. Hay for that one!) If I have to focus on the thought that is making me unhappy, I'll usually start searching out what's good about the situation I'm in, and seek the "seed of equivalent or greater benefit", as Napoleon Hill said. There is always something good about any situation, even if it's just the fact that I'm going to get through it and be stronger and wiser as a result. Although I've been using this technique for awhile now, I think it's best codified in the book "The Enlightened Smoker's Guide to Quitting" by B. Jack Gebhardt [ISBN 1862041849].

Gratitude is one of the most powerful attitudes that one can adopt. If you can create gratitude in any situation, I guarantee that you will be happy. Even if it's just gratitude that you are still breathing, focus on that. If you need to, think about all the things that you are grateful are not happening. Some pretty horrible things happen on this earth of ours... is what's going on right now really the worst it could possibly be?

You may want to consider a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist, or equivalent to assist you in this journey. There is such a thing as clinical depression, and there are numerous medications and therapies designed to assist people with this illness. Make sure you talk to someone about this if you think it's necessary! You can always do an internet search on "clinical depression". As of this writing, the National Mental Health Association has an excellent page on it, located at http://www.nmha.org/ccd/index.cfm.

Finally, be patient with yourself. It's hard to change the way we think. But every time we do it, we begin to form a new habit, a habit of happiness! It gets easier and easier, until it becomes (almost) automatic. As I've already said, I'm not happy 100% of the time, but I've gotten to the point of not wallowing in unhappiness. When a thought that threatens my joy comes, I accept that it's there and then work to change it. I know by now that when I apply the above principles in my life, I can change my emotional state at any time to one which is more productive, more satisfying, and much more joyful.

Now go make it a happy day!

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This article is (c) 2004, Lyman Reed, www.affirm-your-good.com

Author's Bio: 

Lyman Reed is a freelance writer and web developer. As of this writing, his current projects include affirm-your-good.com, a website dedicated to helping people find their inner greatness, and the Unlimited Success! Weblog [http://www.affirm-your-good.com/unlimited-success/], a daily account of his journey from "poverty to prosperity, from failure to success, from death to life." He can be reached at lyman@pobox.com.