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Accentuate the Positive - Positive Thinking and Happiness

Week Two of the How To Be Happy Program


Updated April 09, 2014

Positive Sign

Positive Sign

Lauren Nicole / Getty Images
This is Week Two of the How To Be Happy program. Give the skill outlined below a try for one week. Consider it a one-week experiment. Commit to follow these simple steps every day of the week.


What You’ll Do: You can boost your happiness by focusing on positive things and reducing your negative thinking. You’ll practice doing that this week by following a negative thought with a positive one. This practice will help to retrain your habitual thought patterns to bring more positive thoughts to your life.

How It Works: The ratio of positive to negative thoughts is a major factor in overall happiness. Your brain is constantly monitoring the emotional tone of your thoughts – too many negative thoughts and your brain responds by creating stress and sadness in your body. When you add more positive thoughts, your brain will create relaxation and happiness. By training yourself to follow (or negate) negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll improve your positive/negative thought ratio and be happier.

Get Motivated: After you’re aware of your negative thoughts and feelings and work to counteract them for a few days, they will gradually begin to lessen. You’ll be able to concentrate more on what you want to do without experiencing distracting emotions and stress. This will make you more productive and energetic. Best of all, it will make you happier.

Note: Keep practicing the smiling technique from last week. It will help reinforce and strengthen the effects of this skill.

The Steps

  1. List Happy Thoughts:
Take 30 minutes and list all the happy thoughts you can think of. Just use a piece of paper and make a long list, give it a good 30 minutes. List people and places that make you happy – good friends, favorite vacation spots, childhood memories and more. List things that make you happy – puppies, babies, the smell of a new car, a lobster dinner, a day off relaxing by a pool. List anything and everything you can think of that makes you happy.
  • Be Aware of Negative Thoughts and Feelings:
  • For the entire week, pay attention to your thoughts. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about or feeling anything negative, sad or stressful, label that thought “unhappy.” Don’t worry if you have a lot of unhappy thoughts and feelings throughout the day, that is perfectly normal. Just pay attention and label them.
  • Follow With a Happy Item:
  • After you label an unhappy thought or feeling, follow it immediately with a happy item from your Happy List. You might pick one item to use all day long, or choose different ones each time you need them. Just bring that the happy thing to mind for a second or two. Commitment: This week I will label my negative or stressful thoughts and feelings and follow them with a happy thought.


    • Don’t judge yourself. Everyone has lots of unhappy and negative thoughts throughout the day. As you become more aware of them you might feel embarrassed or ashamed about how many you have. Don’t worry, it is perfectly normal to have all sorts of strange thoughts – we usually don’t pay so much attention to them.
    • Combine this task with smiling. Force a smile on your face as you bring your happy thought to your mind. This will help erase the effects of the negative thoughts.
    • After a few days, the number of negative thoughts and feelings often decreases. It’s almost as if the brain gets bored being negative, because you replace the thoughts so quickly with positive ones.
    • Be sure to remind yourself to do this task throughout the day. Don’t let a day go by without engaging with your negative thoughts and substituting positive ones.


    Don’t just wait for negative thoughts to come along to think something positive. Add to this skill by making a conscious and planned effort to think positive thoughts throughout the day. Decide that you will think only positive thoughts for your entire lunch hour or during one of your breaks. Decide that you will only think positive thoughts while driving in your car. Create times in your day when you will be “positive only.” This will give you even more practice at being positive and happy.

    Here is the whole program. Give each one a solid one-week try, and then come back and do the next one. If you want a reminder, sign up for the How To Be Happy E-Course. It is free, and you’ll get short e-mail reminders each day to help keep you on track.

    The How To Be Happy Program

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