“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”- Groucho Marx
Everyone gets sad but it’s how we deal with our experiences that makes or breaks us. Happiness is a choice and that’s why we have to work so hard at it. A great way to get yourself out of a rut is to replace a negative thought with a positive one.
To get out of a rut you need to re-wire your brain. When you’re sad it’s easy to get in stuck in the habit of being upset. And that’s what it is– a habit. After doing the same routine your body becomes familiar with it. If you constantly tell yourself negative things you will train your brain to be sad.
The book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg explains this by giving an example of rats in a maze with a treat. When they first put the rat in the cage it didn’t know how to find the treat, it would wander around lost until it found it. The book explains that while it looked like the rat was not thinking at all, the probes of its brain painted another picture.
“Each time a rat sniffed the air or scratched a wall, it’s brain exploded with activity,as if analyzing each new scent, sight, and sound. The rat was processing information the entire time it meandered.” [Duhigg, p.15]
As the experiment was repeated, changes occurred within the animals brain, “As each rat learned how to navigate the maze, its mental activity decreased.As the route became more and more automatic, each rat started thinking less and less. It was as if the first few times a rat explored the maze, its brain had to work full power to make sense of all the new information. [But after repetition] It didn’t need to choose which direction to run, and so the decision-making centers went quiet. All it had to do was recall the quickest path to the chocolate.” [Duhigg, p.15]
The book explains the rat developed a habit. The rat automatically went the same direction even when they moved the chocolate to a different place. The habit had internalized.
This process is also seen in humans. Think about your routine when you wake up in the morning. You wash your face and brush your teeth in some sort of order which you cannot probably recall because it’s second nature. Or how about every time you go in an elevator? You click the 4th floor automatically because that’s the floor you work or live on even even when you’re supposed to go to the 2nd floor.
The same habits are formed with our thought patterns. If you are in a rut your brain gets used to it then you will continue to be that way. Therefore, it’s important to wake yourself up with a positive jolt, just like the rats when they were put into the cage or the treat was moved somewhere else, their brain had to start working again. Just like that you have to get yours working again.
And there’s good news, just how a negative pattern could be internalized within you, a positive one can too. And the way to get yourself into a better mindset is getting up and physically doing something positive.
Here are 25 things you should do instead of being sad:
- Do something nice for someone else
- Read a positive blog or book
- Watch a feel-good movie
- Hang out with positive friends or family
- Make a bucket list and do something on it
- Go for a walk
- Clean your house
- Write down all the things you want to change on a piece of paper then burn it in a fire pit
- Call someone you love and tell them how much you love them
- Write down all the things you are grateful to have
- Make a list of positive affirmations
- Write a letter to yourself and tell you what you love about you
- Look at yourself in the mirror and compliment yourself
- Do something you’ve always wanted to do
- Go for a hike
- Make a happiness jar and write down the best part of the day, even if it was a bad day
- Plan a vacation (It’s always good to have something to look forward to!)
- Get dressed up and go out
Kick start your mind to get out of the habit of negative thoughts and get into the habit of being a positive better person.
Got any tips of things you do when you get sad? Leave in the comments below!