Are you happy? I mean really happy? What thoughts or situations stand in the way of you being happy more often? About a year or so ago, I came across an article about a Tibetan Buddhist monk named Matthieu Ricard. After taking part in a 12 year brain study that focused on meditation and compassion, Mr. Ricard has been referred to as the world’s happiest man. You can read more here.
Mr. Ricard’s primary advice is to stop thinking only about yourself. He says the key to happiness is altruism. The reason he gives is that “thinking about yourself and how to make things better for yourself all the time is exhausting and stressful, and it ultimately leads to unhappiness.” It makes sense to me!
Basically, your goal is to not be selfish. As human individuals, it is in our nature to be selfish. We see the world around us from our own unique, limited perspective and unless we make a conscious effort to try to see things from another person’s point of view and try to put the needs of others first, we will continue to be selfish.
Scripture talks a great deal about being more like Christ, and about how to have a healthy relationship with God. Scripture says that God is love (1 John 4:8), and it also says that love, among many other qualities, is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). If we are striving to be more Christlike, we need to be focusing on not being so self-involved. It was when I realized that sin is basically being selfish (putting selfish wants before God’s desire) that I had a more clear picture of a healthy relationship with God and what sin actually means. In fact, the first book I wrote was on this very topic… How love isn’t selfish, and what we can learn about God’s love through human relationships.
Going back to the advice from Mr. Ricard, He suggests to train your mind as if you were training for running a marathon. As a therapist, I completely agree. I frequently reference Philippians 4:8 because it backs up the premise of so much of what I discuss in therapy sessions. Where we choose to focus our thinking determines our emotions and behavior as well. We’ve talked in previous posts about changing the channel from stinking thinking and choosing to focus on truth and what is more helpful and healthy. That takes much practice, as would training for a marathon. Mr. Ricard does this through meditation. One specific thing he says to do is to spend 15 continuous minutes each day thinking happy thoughts.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Make positive thinking – specifically, thinking about helping others and being compassionate – a habit.
To create thinking habits, take the same approach you would take to change other habits too. Increase awareness of the habit, make efforts to stop and replace the habit as soon as you catch it (even if it is after the fact), and keep practicing. For more ideas on changing your thinking habits, revisit the post, 6 Barriers to Wellness (and how to overcome them).
Be sure to visit our Every Day Incredible Ladies Facebook group to share your ideas on making altruistic thinking a habit!