People search for happiness their entire lives, but the secret might come down to where and when you focus your attention on the good and bad. By learning to train your attention in a practical way, you can gradually become a happier person.
Photo by Brinks Alo
In his book, The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness, Dr. Amit Sood explains everything he’s learned from studying tens of thousands of patients over several decades, and suggests a practical research-backed approach to becoming happier. The key is to start by learning to train your attention and focus. But you’re not just focusing on the positive head-in-the-cloud thoughts. Your learning to put your attention on the right things at the right times. Dr Sood explains to CBS New York:
So for example, if you’ve had a difficult day, when you get back home, for the first three minutes, forget about it, park it, and meet your family as if they’re long lost friends.
Essentially, you compartmentalise the unhappy things so they don’t bleed into every aspect of your life. Dr Sood emphasises in his book, however, that you still return to address your issues later on because suppressing unhappy thoughts and problems can be equally as harmful as keeping your attention on them:
…suppressing thoughts is like tightening a spring: the tighter it gets, the stronger it recoils. Research shows that thought suppression leads to more thoughts about the same issue. Your extraordinary imagination, which can think of and catastrophize about all kinds of possibilities, doesn’t help. Your brain experiences everything you imagine as if it has already happened.
So the more you try to only focus on the positive things, the more you’ll likely end up dwelling on the negative things. If you find yourself unhappy at times you feel you shouldn’t, don’t ignore the source, just put it aside in your mind with a mental note that you’ll address it later. If you practice this type of thought process and make good on your promises to come back to the things that are bothering you, you’ll probably find yourself feeling a lot happier — and a little more resilient — over time. Check out the link below to learn more about the book.