The 5-step happiness hack.
Here’s something you’ll be familiar with: you’re at home, just minding your own business when all of a sudden a negative thought pops into your head.
Maybe you’ll be at your sink, washing up after a nice meal. The hot water is running, and the smell of soap is in the air. You’re rinsing a plate after a particularly vigorous scrub, when all of a sudden, you notice that it has a small chip on its side.
Then your thoughts run out of control:
“This is a disaster! I have to get all new plates now!”
“But I can’t afford it!”
“If only I got that promotion that they gave to stupid Andrew.”
“What’s wrong with me?!”
“I’m such an idiot.”
“My life is going nowhere!”
Yip. A tiny chip in an old plate can spark off an avalanche of negative thoughts — growing ever more destructive until they take on a life of their own and crush your happiness in their wake.
It’s a terrible way to live, yet it is the norm for many of us. We don’t realise that this way of living is a conscious choice that we make. And even fewer of us know that we have the power to control our negative thoughts.
Lucky, the brain’s emotional circuits are connected to it’s thinking circuits, which we access whenever we use our conscious mind. That means that you can’t become happier by sheer force of will, so the trick is to change your emotions and behaviours by first changing your thoughts.
The Cognitive Behavioral Specialists at Captain Calm have developed a technique that will train you to do just that —
it’s called THINK.
The technique is simple; we teach the same things to kids. Even the name, THINK, is an acronym to help you remember the steps.
As simple as it is to learn, putting it into practice takes hard work and dedication. However, like anything challenging, it is worthwhile. We’ve seen firsthand how the implementation of this technique has changed people’s lives and helped them to become a far more positive, rational, happier version of themselves.
So, if the Avalanche is the villain of your mind, then the most effective way to fight him off is by developing a super power.
That’s exactly what THINK is — a mental superpower. One that will give you extraordinary control over your mind so that you can break free from the oppression of negative thoughts and unleash your full potential.
Here’s the first step.
Take a step back
Negative thoughts tumble down from the mysterious mountain that is your subconscious. There’s no stopping them, and you definitely can’t control the thoughts that your subconscious mind presents to you. However, you can learn to become more aware when negative thoughts enter your conscious mind and notice when you’re on the brink of a negative thought avalanche.
Here’s the important part when you’ve realised that — that you take a step back and make the choice that you will not be swept up in your thoughts.
Instead of being outside, battered by the crushing ice and snow, rather be inside your house, where you are safe, warm and merely observing the avalanche through your window — aware of your thoughts but removed from them.
This is a practice called meta-cognition, which is just a snazzy term for ‘thinking about your thoughts.’ It’s important for you to build up your meta-consciousness muscles so that you can learn to be aware of your negative thoughts and not allow them to go unchecked, take over and make you miserable.
How do you do that? It’s quite simple really: take a step back — respond, don’t react. Assess your thoughts rationally and know that you have the power to control them.
Now that you’ve removed yourself from the heat of the moment (or the cold, to continue the metaphor), you need to centre yourself and calm down with the next step — a huge breath.
Breathing plays a vital role in balancing your body and mind. It helps you to calm down and think clearly.
When you’re having negative thoughts that cause fear or anger, your heart races and adrenaline starts to surge through your body. Adrenaline is very useful when there’s an actual threat, but when there’s only a perceived threat, like the one a negative thought causes, it becomes a problem. The symptoms of panic start to set in — symptoms that impair cognitive function and add to your feelings of stress.
You need to get your adrenaline levels under control, and the best way to do that is by balancing your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Oxygen fuels adrenaline. That’s why humans hyperventilate in stressful situations and why people who are having panic attacks breathe into a paper bag — so that they inhale more carbon dioxide to counterbalance the surge of oxygen-fueled adrenaline.
So take a deep breath. Go on, give it a try now. If you can breathe in, hold your breath and exhale for seven seconds each, then you’re doing great.
Identify your thoughts
To change your negative thoughts, you first need to identify exactly what it is that you are thinking — bringing to light what it is that is holding you down.
When you identify your thoughts, you regain control over them and take their destructive power away. You might find that you’re jumping to irrational conclusions. You may even find that what is making you feel down is not necessarily the thought on the surface, but something deeper.
This step allows you to address your thoughts and pay attention to them because negative thoughts exist for a reason — they are trying to tell you something. You need to make sure that you respond to them positively and appropriately. Don’t just ignore them or push them aside or you will be neglecting important information that will help you adapt and better your life.
A word of caution — It’s important not to dwell on this step for too long. If you do, you will be allowing yourself to slip back into the path of the avalanche and get caught up in its negativity again. Identify and move onto the next step which is to…
Notice how you feel
Take a moment to notice how your negative thoughts are making you feel, both emotionally and physically, and know that you can cope with those feelings.
Often a negative thought will manifest in your body. The most common are clenched fists and jaws, a knot in your stomach, rapid breathing, sweaty palms or a tension headache just behind your eyes.
Notice what you are feeling and what emotion accompanies it — sadness, greed, anger, fear, loneliness, low self-esteem, etc.
By doing this step, you’ll notice that it is your negative thoughts that are making you feel this way, not the situation. You’ll know that you have the ability to change your thoughts to more productive ones. Which is why the next step is to…
Keep replacing with positive thoughts
This is the key step — the one that allows you to change your thoughts and bring about a more rational and positive perspective on your situation.
Most of the time we are excessively mean and hard on ourselves. It’s interesting why we’re never as kind to ourselves as we would be to other people.
Think about it: if your best friend tells you about a problem she is having, would you ever say the terrible things to her that you say to yourself? Definitely Not!
Don’t get us wrong. It’s good to be self-motivated and look for ways to improve, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by motivating yourself incorrectly. Give yourself a break. Lighten up. You’re probably taking it way too seriously and blowing it out of proportion.
Don’t treat yourself like the enemy. Rather think what you would say to motivate, support, encourage and reassure a friend.
Now say the same things to yourself, and make sure to keep replacing your negative thoughts over and over, whenever they rear their ugly heads.
When you have a negative thought, remember to T.H.I.N.K.
T — Take a step back
H — Huge breath
I — Identify your thoughts
N — Notice how you feel
K — Keep replacing with positive thoughts
That’s it. Five steps you can do in under a minute.
And the beauty is that the more that you practice the THINK meta-cognition technique, the more you’ll be rewiring your brain so that thinking positively, rationally and productively will become your automatic response to any situation.
Always remember — you control your thoughts, not the other way around.
You can either THINK, or be ruled by your thoughts.
Now you have the power to choose.