5 Habits of Truly Happy People

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1. Don't Believe Everything You Think

According to medical experts, we have an average of 60,000 thoughts a day -- about one thought per second during every waking hour. And of those 60,000 thoughts, 95 percent are the same thoughts we had yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. What's worse is that for the average person, the vast majority of those habitual thoughts are negative.

Not surprisingly, when your mind is swarming with these automatic negative thoughts, it has a profound physiological effect. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health, among others, have found that having negative thoughts can stimulate the areas of the brain involved in depression and anxiety.

But here's an important fact: Our thoughts aren't always true.

I can remember the time many years ago I first made this discovery. I was well into giving a presentation to 450 people packed into a hotel ballroom, and I was bombing big-time. How was I so sure? Because the man in the third row was letting me know in no uncertain terms. He sat rigidly, arms crossed. My stomach churned. He hated me!

After my talk the man made a beeline for the stage. I braced myself for his scathing critique. Instead, he thrust out his hand. "That talk changed my life," he said.

I almost fell over -- he hadn't hated me at all! It was my own negative thoughts that had been freaking me out. Moreover, I had managed to tune out the 449 people who'd been laughing, smiling, and nodding so I could focus exclusively on the one guy I thought -- wrongly -- didn't like what I was saying.

Psychologists call this our "negativity bias." For adaptive reasons, we humans have an inborn tendency to register negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences more deeply than positive ones. Our caveman ancestors were the Nervous Nellies and Fearful Franks of the tribe -- and consequently the ones who avoided the saber-toothed tigers long enough to pass on their genes.

We're hardwired for negativity: If you get 10 compliments and one criticism, what do you remember? But we can tinker with the wiring. The happy 100 are skeptical of their negative thoughts and have learned not to let false alarms hijack their happiness.

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