Ch-5: Create a Positive World by Adopting a Positive World View
Part 5: Modify Your Stream of Thoughts to Change Your EmotionsTom G. Stevens PhD
Psychologist/Professor Emeritus, California State University, Long Beach
Send Feedback/Questions to: Tom.Stevens@csulb.edu
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Chapter 4, Part 5, from
You Can Choose To Be Happy, Tom G. Stevens PhD
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How can I develop more positive thinking and feel happier each day?
Have you made a conscious choice that you want to spend as much of your time feeling happy as possible? How many minutes of the day did you feel happy yesterday? Today? How can you spend as many minutes of your life feeling happy as possible?
One way you can feel happier is to develop a more positive world view. Making
happiness your ultimate concern and developing a positive world view can help
you feel better on a moment-to-moment basis.
There are 3,600 seconds in an hour and 57,600 seconds in a normal 16-hour waking day. If we have one thought per second (much less than the brain's capacity), then we have about 60,000 thoughts in one day. What percentage of your 60,000 thoughts lead to positive emotions and what percentage to negative ones?
One day I decided to try an experiment--to let my inner observer watch my thousands of thoughts for a day. I wanted to see if I could let my Higher Self intervene so that I could have a higher percentage of positive thoughts and feelings. First, I noticed that having breakfast outdoors on our sunny patio triggered lots of positive thoughts. As I read the morning paper, a headline on gang violence ignited a stream of negative thoughts and emotions. In the past, articles like this had set off negative thoughts causing depressed or angry feelings. In the past, the negative thoughts were not countered by positive thoughts to help me deal with those specific negative thoughts.
This day, I decided to try to think of a new perspective for viewing gangs and gang violence. One of my worst fears was that gangs would spread uncontrollably and that gang members were "lost souls" who would cause immeasurable harm. I turned to my Higher Self for an answer. Were there positive forces in the universe that might help counteract this trend? I realized that one of my beliefs is that there are positive forces working for harmony and happiness within all life forms--even in the worst gang members.
Well, the day was going pretty well so far. Later, as I was walking across the university campus, I noticed that I started thinking about the university "budget crisis." Everyone on campus was talking about it, and most people felt as though there were a dark cloud over the school. I noticed that I was thinking of the university as a depressing place right now--another stream of negative thoughts.
So I decided to put this "budget crisis" into perspective and asked myself what the university was all about. It was not primarily about being a place of depression and crisis. I focused on my beliefs about the positive mission of the university. I also applied the idea of zero expectations to the reduced funding problem. I realized that despite all the financial problems, the university still supported a great deal of teaching, research, and creative thought. The university gives these creative thoughts to thousands of students who flow into the community and help it become a better place for us all. I created a mental image of our university as a giant fountain overflowing with knowledge into the community. That wonderful image made my day.
During that day, I also noticed that occasionally I didn't have any thoughts pressing to enter my mind, and I would feel bored. During those periods, it was easy to let negative thoughts enter the vacuum. I started searching my mind for sources of positive thoughts. My positive interests and the loves of my life were good sources of positive thoughts. So I would start thinking about something that interested me. Or, I might focus more on the present and pay more detailed attention to my environment. I could appreciate the beauty in the trees, in the birds' singing, or in the people I saw.
PRACTICE: Get control of your daily stream of thoughts--think and feel more positively. These were real examples from that one day in my life. Try observing yourself for one day. Keep a log of them. (Use the self-exploration process described in chapter 2 to help you with this exercise.)
(1) Observe emotions and thoughts. What thoughts are associated with positive and negative emotions? Observe positive and negative emotions in a neutral, almost scientific manner. What types of thoughts precede positive versus negative emotions?
(2) How are you viewing external events? What external events preceded the positive and negative thoughts? What assumptions intervene between the external event and the negative thoughts? How can you question these assumptions or see them from a new or higher point of view?
(3) List recurring positive and negative themes. What themes are present in many thoughts associated with positive emotions? With negative emotions? List them. (Examples: achievement, failure, rejection, fear of being alone, worry about money, desire for respect, embarrassment, injustice, pressure from others, or worry about someone you care for.)
(4) List inner sources of positive and negative thoughts. What parts of yourself (or belief systems) are producing these positive or negative thoughts? What additional parts of yourself can you use as sources of positive points of view and thoughts? Your Higher Self, positive interests, and positive belief systems are key sources. Themes supporting higher values such as truth, beauty, creativity, love, romance, art, growth, family, self-sufficiency, internal control, play, and kindness are powerful sources of positive thoughts. List them.
(5) Plan to control your thought-stream (therefore emotions). List what you can do to decrease negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic thoughts. (Examples: Get in touch with positive themes; question and confront negative themes with new higher points of view; avoid unnecessary negative inputs from people, media, or situations.)
Are some negative themes, belief systems, or parts of yourself generating such persistent sources of negative thoughts that you need to find better ways of coping with them? For example, do you need to weed out deficit thinking and replace with abundance thinking? Do you need to work on building a positive world view, overcoming fears of poverty, being alone, or failure? Do you need to build up positive sources (such as your Higher Self) by exposure to positive sources, study, therapy, or deep thinking? Other chapters deal with many of these issues.
Our internal world models color
everything we perceive, think, and do.
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