Your mindset is the way you see the world. It's your belief in your capacity to learn and grow and it's your ability to see possibilities and opportunities for yourself. Having a growth mindset means that we're actually able to change the way we think, feel and act in certain situations and use our malleable brains (referred to as neuroplasticity) to re-write our stories and transform daily habits, thought patterns and feeling associated with depression and anxiety.
Having the right mindset is essential to cultivating feelings of happiness because it allows us to constantly adapt, respond and evolve to the constant changes we face. We don't always get to choose the external events or experiences we face, and things aren't always part of our plan. Whilst a fixed mindset assumes that our characters and abilities are static and already shaped, a growth mindset assumes the opposite; that we can see failures and challenges as learning tools and a chance to develop and strengthen our existing capabilities.
Below are eight ways you can change your mindset and increase levels of optimism and happiness, so that you start trusting in your journey and accepting where you are along your path right now.
1. Know that the brain can be re-wired.
Every time that you learn or experience something new, you are creating new connections between your neurons (the cells that make up your brain). This means that with your thoughts alone, you can actually rewire your brain to adapt to changing circumstances and you can also grow new cells as you learn new things, proving that your current situation or capability isn't fixed.
2. Chase fulfilment, not total happiness.
The idea that happiness is a destination and one that you should strive to achieve, is a little bit impossible. The goal posts in life are constantly moving which might leave you feeling like you never really reach that 'happy' destination. Similarly, things don't always go to plan in life and you can find yourself faced with a number of life changes, conditions or experienced traumas that can become a huge barrier to that idea of total happiness.
Instead of striving for happiness in its entirety, start valuing the milestones you've achieved and the different challenges you've been able to overcome, because of your strength. Happiness itself isn't about reaching the end goal or destination, it's about focusing on the journey and enjoying the lessons you learn along the way.
Read also: Happy Habits - What's Going Right?
3. Stop resisting and seek the lessons.
There's a lesson to be learnt in everything that we do, even if the experience feels beyond your control. Nothing in life is permanent, everything changes and certain situations will test your character in a way that will most likely transform the way you think and do things. Whilst there are many events that we cannot control, acceptance is something we can, and as difficult and painful as it can be, you can choose to accept what is happening. Look for the positives and decide to adopt a positive state of mind, as opposed to resisting the change and struggling against it.
Rather than judging your situation and feeling stuck in despair, start believing that life happens for you and not to you. Everything happens for a reason and better days are on the way. Something good is always about to happen.
4. Stop seeking approval.
Especially in today's society, it can sometimes feel like your happiness depends on what other people think of you. But this notion is impossible as you're never going to know what others are thinking, nor is it any of your business. The need to people please usually stems from the doubts, insecurities and uncertainty that we hold deep within us, leading us to seek approval and confirmation from others in those areas. But seeking that validation will just set you up for disappointment and a life full of things that others expect of you, rather that what you truly desire. You may avoid doing things that are important to you, or stepping outside of your comfort zone, through fear of what others will think of you.
Instead of making decision based on what others will approve of, start by focusing on building the strength within and determining what behaviours make you feel good about yourself.
5. Avoid comparing your journey to others.
Tune into when you find yourself comparing your journey to others and instantly remind yourself of all the things you have and can do. Count your blessings and focus your attention on all the incredible things you have around you - your possessions, your mind, the people that love you. Remember that life is also a journey, not a competition, and we're all just trying to learn, create and become something. By seeing it this way you can start to value your path and see that it really is the only one you need to worry about.
6. Cultivate purpose.
Having a purpose in life is critical to know that you're heading in the right direction and encouraged to achieve big things in life. When life deals us unexpected cards or presents unforeseen events, having a sense of purpose allows you to put those events into perspective, move forwards and refocus your attention on things that are meaningful to you so that you can still find genuine moments of enjoyment amongst the chaos.
Donating your time to help others, surrounding yourself with positive people, striking up conversations with new people and exploring your interests are all methods you can use to discover more of your purpose. Finding your purpose isn't usually something can be discovered in weeks or months, it's sometimes a lifelong journey that is achieved one step at a time, but one that will ensure you can withstand pain and challenge and find meaning in the events that happen to you.
Read also: 10 Ways to Build Resilience
7. Choose an empowering vocabulary.
Whilst it can be so easy to default to negative self-talk in a crisis, the way we speak to ourselves is so powerful in curating the world view we have and discovering our abilities to grow through challenges. The words you use hold immense power and can really influence your success and adaptability when it comes to a major life change or unfamiliar event. Your language not only affects any internal feelings of fear and anxiety, but it also impacts the way others perceive you. Tune into your daily vocab and make a conscious effort to replace any words that are passive and pessimistic with ones that are empowering, positive and shift your energy.
8. Celebrate small wins.
Recognise how far you've come and how much you've achieved so far in your journey. It's so easy sometimes to do something on autopilot and without really thinking about it, forgetting that not that long ago it took a lot of will, effort and dedication and was something you didn't imagine ever becoming second nature to you. Always take a moment to celebrate those achievements before moving onto the next goal as doing so is what's going to encourage you to keep going when life gets tough.