Your thoughts have the power to shape your reality. Your thoughts have the power to engender happiness and make the movie of your life magic.  As we discovered in part 1 of this series, you can synthesize your own happiness from within, with a simple thought experiment that takes just a few seconds. Through the power of thought, you can create neurotransmitters such as serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, and GABA that engenders profound peace and joy through the relaxation response. What are simple practical steps we can take to create our own reality? A reality filled with gratitude, happiness and peace.

When you first get out of bed in the morning, perform this gratitude exercise. Think of three things for which you are grateful. As an example, these three things could be as simple as feeling grateful you have eyes to see the world, a job that helps pay the bills, and a companion by your side. Indeed, the possibilities of things to feel grateful for are endless. Furthermore, the health benefits of practicing the attitude of gratitude are numerous.

When we practice gratitude we are consciously rewiring our brains to see the good in our life and in the world. This is a choice. In every moment of our lives we have the ability to choose our attitudes. As Einstein famously said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  When we practice gratitude we are choosing to see the miracle of life and this helps engender health. Another famous affirmation that comes from the Course In Miracles that highlights this concept is the following, “Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle, I choose the miracle”. How did you wake up this morning and live your day? Did you see everything as a grievance and spent the entire day complaining? Or did you see everything as a miracle? The best example of this concept is manifest in a small child who expresses wonder, joy and is awe inspired with everything they encounter in this beautiful world. This childlike wonder that engenders a plethora of health benefits is fostered through the practice of mindfulness. Furthermore, one can practice Loving-Kindness Meditation as discussed in detail in my last blog, Meditation as Medication.

We have modern research showing the benefits of mindfulness and choosing a healthy attitude. We also have ancient stories that highlights how our thinking colors our reality. Once upon a time, an enlightened farmer was working in the field. He lived in a very peaceful serene village and he wanted to keep it that way. He reflected on his life and realized that he had shaped his reality through his attitude and positive thinking. At that moment, a traveler from a nearby village came walking down the long dirt path. The traveler had intentions to move to the farmer’s village. Once he got close enough he asked the farmer, “How are the people in this village?”

The farmer replied, “How were the people from where you lived before?”

The traveler said, “Oh, they were generous, grateful, kind, loving people. I will miss them dearly.”

The farmer said, “That is exactly how the people are here. You are welcome here anytime.”

Shortly thereafter, another traveler came down the dirt path who was from the same village as the previous traveler, and asked the farmer, “How are the people in this village?”

The farmer replied, “How were the people from where you lived before?”

The second traveler said, “Oh, they were mean, rude, disrespectful, stingy, and so ungrateful. I am happy to leave them.”

The farmer said, “That is exactly how the people are in this village. You will not like it here.”

The two travelers were given different answers to the same question. Their individual subjective experiences colored their opinions. This story illustrates the power of our minds to create reality. Indeed, we can transform our lives if we cultivate positive thoughts and feelings of gratitude. Even the simple things in life can generate joy and happiness, as scientific research has shown. Modern psychology has proven that happiness that comes from within is profound and enduring. Happiness that comes from outside ourselves is fleeting. A classic example is the study in 1978 from Northwestern University and University of Massachusetts on happiness of lottery winners versus paraplegics one year later. We know both lottery winners and paraplegics have the same baseline level of happiness one year later. After winning the lottery, the novelty rapidly wore off. The new things that the winners accumulated brought a transient happiness. After a short period, the thrill of extra money wore off, and they became accustomed to their new life. This effect is known as hedonic adaptation. In fact, the researchers discovered that the paraplegics had more pleasure from everyday activities such as talking with friends, watching TV, eating, and laughing at a joke. There is another classic study that shows the power of positive psychology. For The Nun Study, psychologists analyzed the biographical essays of 180 Nuns from when they first entered the convent at the average age of 22. They also analyzed journal entries from throughout the 67 nuns’ lives and found that the nuns that were more optimistic and happier lived up to 10 years longer. The cheerful sisters had a significantly higher likelihood to live into their 80s and 90s then the less cheerful sisters.

We know from the memoirs of Louis Zamperini and Dr. Viktor Frankl that positive thinking enhances your chances of survival under extreme stress as a prisoner of war. Manufacturing happiness from within also brings health, longevity, and pleasure from mundane everyday activities. Modern day research is giving us evidence through long term studies what ancient sages have known for millennia. Any situation, no matter how extreme, can be transformed with the power of thinking.

It is through the power of positive thinking one can transform reality. Positive affirmations are a proven way to rewire your brain and release healing hormones in your body. When we state a positive affirmation silently or out loud we create a special energy that helps break destructive stagnant patterns. Here are examples of positive affirmations from Unity Worldwide:

“I hold the keys to my own prosperity.”

“My mind and body are whole, well and strong.”

One can practice gratitude and positive affirmations to help engender health. But the most powerful practice is that of continual mindfulness of the present moment. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, mindfulness is defined as, “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”. Scientist have discovered that the default mode of the human brain is that of mind wandering. When the mind is wandering, it leads to unrest and unhappiness. Harvard researchers have discovered that one of the most important predictors of happiness is present moment awareness. For example, if your doing a mundane task such as washing the dishes and are fully mindful, you will experience greater happiness.This is also known as informal meditation practice.

Informal meditation practice is living every moment of one’s life with awareness of the present moment. This differs from the formal practice of “sit down” meditation. This practice is done while walking, talking, eating, or doing any of the myriad of things in daily life. It involves being aware of the present moment and accepting it in a nonjudgmental way. One of the best ways to practice being present in the “now” is by doing breathing meditation. The practitioner knows of his or her thoughts, emotions, situations as they arise in one’s daily life, and the practitioner anchors themselves in the present moment with deep mindful breathing. Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment in a nonjudgmental way and giving 100% of your attention to the “now” through the practice of conscious deep breathing. A way to get deeper into the mindfulness practice is by adding words of power to your conscious breathing. Continue with breath awareness. As you breathe in repeat, “I have arrived,” in your mind, and as you breathe out repeat, “I am home,” in your mind. This will naturally bring you back to the present moment. As you breathe in, stay mindful of your breath and know, “I have arrived,” and breathe out and know “I am home.” The full mantra is breathing in (I have arrived), breathing out (I am home), breathing in (in the here), breathing out (in the now). I learned this beautiful mantra from the Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh.  It immediately brings the mind back to the body and engenders present moment awareness. This meditation brings you back to your true home address, which is always the Here and the Now.

In conclusion today, let us focus our attention on the present moment. Practice continual mindfulness on a moment-to-moment basis. Create a daily practice of gratitude. This practice will spontaneously engender a feeling a well-being and a greater sense of happiness. With this practice we get off the hedonic treadmill which is associated with dissatisfaction, unrest, and unhappiness. As Seneca said, “It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.” Indeed, the individual with the restless monkey mind is poor. The individual practicing daily mindfulness and gratitude has inner riches and is manifesting his or her own reality through the power of thought! In the next installment we shall explore the fifth principle: Stardust In Everyone. There are Five Ancient Universal Principles that children live every day and allow every day to be filled with peace, joy, and contentment. I have created a mnemonic device that will help you remember the 5 Principles for inner and outer transformation: L.O.V.E.S. The Answer. These principles have been around for thousands of years and can be practiced with any religion.