Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.
…So much negativity. It surrounds us. It is thrown in our face when we turn on the television, and it speeds around us on the highway. It bombards us from the news sites, and it seeps into our inbox. It can change our mood in an instant.
I recall sitting on the off-ramp of a highway some years back, waiting for the light to change. The bumper sticker on the car in front of me read “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention!” Wow. I could tell that the driver was agitated that the light had not turned green yet. The bumper sticker didn’t mention what we should be “outraged” about, but it didn’t really matter. I suspect the man traveled through life being constantly insulted by his surroundings. He had surrendered his mind to darkness.
It is no fun going through life annoyed, angry, sad, or depressed. If we have developed the habit of letting external forces dictate our mood (and don’t worry, most of us have), getting back into a “happy state” can feel like a monumental task. But it can be done, and the more we practice this task the easier it becomes.
The first step is to understand that we control our current state of mind. External factors only have the power we give them. You would be amazed at how many people simply do not accept this fact. God did not put us here to go through life figuratively blowing in the wind; we have the power of thought, reason, and purpose-driven action.
To help develop your natural ability to change emotional states, try this exercise. The next time an external event comes along which threatens to put you in a negative state of mind (don’t worry, you probably won’t have to wait very long), detach yourself emotionally from it and examine it as an outsider. Identify its source, and consider why you would let this event—which may be a news story, an email, or an angry driver—affect your mood. Does the source of this event (perhaps a journalist, for example) wish to affect your mood? Do you want to give the source of this event any level of control over your life?
Try changing your physiology. Instead of getting angry about the event, put a smile on your face. Remind yourself that you are in full command of how you respond to external actions and events. Think about what state of mind (anger, rage, fear) you are tempted to move into, and visualize the state of mind (serenity, joy, decisiveness) in which you prefer to remain.
The more you practice this exercise, the more you will develop control over self. And the more control you have over self, the more you invite true happiness into your life. So, don’t dread external events which threaten to change your mood; welcome them as wonderful opportunities to sharpen your skills!