Cultivate a Happy State of Mind

Fixed Distractions Keep You Focused

I purposely cultivate a happy state of mind. Moment to moment, happy or sad; my choice. I choose happy because sad is heavier; it’s a burden. And it’s hard to shake a bad mood. It takes practice and mental conditioning to stay happy.

Even when I have happy conditions for life (good health, relationships, and cash flow), some not-so-important thing can distract me… take my attention for a few minutes or all day if I let it. Bad thoughts are the seeds of bad times, so I weed them out before they get a chance to grow.

mental conditioning to set the mood

Mental Conditioning

Of course, it’s all about conditioning – bringing something to the desired state of use. The mind may seem like an independent entity capable of filtering right thoughts on its own, but a quick glance across the social landscape will clearly illustrate the fact that people entertain every kind of thought imaginable.

The mind is a well that bubbles incessantly from a source too deep to comprehend. We call the bubbles ‘thoughts’, but not all thoughts are sentences like verbal conversations in the brain. Most are simply bubbles of energy and information that instruct, order, and organize all the functions of the body, as well as the body’s relationship to the world. They activate subconsciously without our help; millions of human functions are organized and triggered by those impulses of energy and information. We don’t have to filter them.

Some expand as they rise to become conscious thoughts and these are the ones we sort when they bubble through the mind. When we’re young, we learn to accept or reject certain thoughts through social conditioning; the way our parents teach us and later our schools, sometimes we’re influenced by religion. From the very beginning, we learn to accept some thoughts and reject others, and we build a framework for behavior.

A powerful personal experience was provided by the Marine Corps. I thought they would teach me to fight. First, they conditioned us to obey.

Instant Willing Obedience

At bedtime each night, the Drill Instructor would instruct us to mount which meant lay at attention in bed, eyes straight ahead, thumbs on trouser seams, and feet at a 45 degree angle. It took only seconds for the entire platoon to execute our superior’s orders. Then he would bark

“Discipline is…”

As one, we answered

“Instant willing obedience to orders, sir.”

Once we were conditioned to the first task, the rest of our training was rote. Whether ordered to fight, clean dishes, or polish boots, a mentally disciplined Marine responded with instant willing obedience. His conditioning dictated his behavior.

I Prefer Happy Pat

Because happiness is important to me, I experiment with ways to condition a happy state of mind and practice the ones that actually work. For me, intentional distractions work best. I don’t wait for something to create a good mood; I do it myself.

cultivating happiness in the Bighorn Crags

I don’t mean drink or drugs. A large percentage of my friends are veterans and some struggled with life when they returned from service. Like others looking to escape their sadness, they turned to short-term solutions like drink or drugs. The solutions distract but do not lead to sustainable positive change. I want my distractions to do double-duty; they should improve my mood AND they should lead to something better.

Adventure is the best distraction. It’s probably a strange word to use, but its comprehensive, inclusive; I can group almost anything under the heading of Adventure.

  • Bicycle ride through the village? Adventure.
  • Road trip with the book club? Adventure.
  • Vacation in another state or country? Definitely adventure.

Having a hobby, monetizing your hobby, starting a business… the list of exciting destinations or goals is endless; I can use my imagination to ‘adventure-ize’ just about anything. It’s not an activity; it’s an attitude.

Personalize Adventure

Use your imagination to create adventures that motivate you. Think of cool things to do with your life and do them. Day-to-day, thinking about and planning those adventures will cultivate a happy frame of mind.

Bad things still happen but your resistance is higher. Your adventure plans supersede depression. Even before your adventure takes place, it brings joy and happiness into your life.

a happy state of mind is calm

As you plan and experience the adventure, new interests and opportunities make themselves known. Problems? Of course, but not the same dreary problems that beat you down. Call them obstacles because that implies you’ll overcome them.

Living should be about extending yourself… about overcoming obstacles and growing. There is nothing static about the natural world; a thing is either growing or dying. That applies to being human. Whether or not I reach my potential, I enjoy the satisfaction and happiness I glean from trying.

One adventure leads to another which means a happy state of mind is sustainable. Naturally sustainable, in fact. It’s the predictable result of participating in the things that make me happy. It’s a self-perpetuating sequence of events; I am happy planning an adventure, having it, scaling it up or side-stepping into new adventure. All of these things string together to cultivate a happy state of mind and maintain it.

Adventure is scalable so you won’t get bored; you can start with something simple and take it as far as your imagination will go. Remember the bike ride through the village? If you liked it, scale it up. Go bike-packing or take a cycling vacation. An adventure interest can be useful for years.

personalize adventure and scale it

If it takes more money than I have at the time, then I save for it or earn extra money. And I don’t mind the work because it pays for pleasure. Sure, I always need more money for adventure but fitting it into my budget is part of puzzle, part of the positive distraction.

No Time

When I was a businessman, I had little time for adventure. The business itself was my adventure at the time. But I liked to stay balanced in my activities and I had children, so we made plans for little adventures. Daytime hikes that scaled up to overnight camping when the time was right. And I can tell you with certainty that a hike planned for Saturday motivated my kids all week long. Years later, a monthly campout was double cool because (a) they had evolved as adventurers which gave them pride and joy, and (b) it provided a positive distraction all month.

Of course, they had the same problems as other kids. And they had to deal with those problems. But they could return to happiness as soon as they took care of business and, knowing that, it was easier to deal with the problems and get back to a happy life. The bad days passed quicker and easier when there was adventure in the future.

It’s simple but not easy. Most of us have not trained our minds to be happy. We want it; everyone hopes for it and prays for it and waits for happiness to happen. For some, it’s how they were conditioned… to think of happiness as a privilege. In fact, we have every right to be happy, but we have to make it happen for ourselves.

Explore your world and discover opportunities to be happy. Seed, feed, and cultivate a happy state of mind. Remove any weeds that could choke it out, and water it with fresh ideas and energy. Pay attention to your happiness and it will grow.

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  1. I like your way of searching and discovering happiness.Only a happy person can give happiness to others. Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.You have achieved this harmony. Bravo!!!

  2. […] Yes, I was planning an adventure… to Poland to begin a new life. And that should be enough to satisfy anyone. As the weeks turned into months of waiting, however, I needed some positive energy. I needed something to do while waiting for the borders to open. (See how this fits with last Friday’s article?) […]

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