woman thinking happy thoughts

The Power of Happy Thoughts – How to Positively Influence Your Life

“Think happy thoughts.” 

Easier said than done though, right? Especially when that sneaky, negative voice decides to take over. There you are, minding your own business, reciting your positive affirmations

Until your brain pipes up with its two-pence worth, and you slide back into those unhelpful thinking habits. Bam. Happy thoughts, be gone. 

Fortunately, understanding exactly how your thoughts work to create your reality can put you firmly back in control. 

In this article, we’ll look at the importance of happy thoughts and how changing what you think can positively impact your perspective. 

We’ll also look at strategies you can use to create positive change, such as challenging and reframing those negative thoughts. 

What are Happy Thoughts? 

Simply put, happy thoughts make you feel good. They’re the ones that make your lips curve upwards in a smile; the ones that make your heart swell. They evoke joyous, positive emotions, giving you a real boost of happiness. 

They can positively impact how you view life, your accomplishments, and your overall opinion of yourself.

Happy thoughts can be the difference between a good day and a bad day. They create positive vibrations, and good vibrations make our days flow better. 

Understanding Negative Thinking Patterns

In contrast, negative thinking patterns can keep us stuck. It’s easy to believe the things we tell ourselves, because they’re often so deeply entrenched in our psyche. From childhood and all the things in between, we’ve been conditioned to believe something based on opinion and external influences, rather than fact. 

For example, if your parents always told you that you were useless, it’s entirely possible that you still tell yourself this any time you’re having a bad day. 

External factors can contribute to your ‘bad day’ (such as the rain, being late, losing your keys), and everything seems to be going wrong. Before you know it, you’re telling yourself that it’s all your fault because you got out of bed on the wrong side. 

This negative thought bias can be the difference between your day getting better, or worse. When you’re stuck in a pattern of unhelpful thinking, your perception becomes distorted and it’s so easy to imagine things that aren’t true. 

You step out the front door, smile at a passer-by, and assume that because they looked right through you that there’s something wrong with you. On a good day, you’d probably think they were the ones who had got out of bed on the wrong side. 

The problem with negative thinking patterns is that they can have a detrimental effect on your mental health and overall wellbeing. Therefore, it’s important to become aware of it happening so you can stop it in its tracks.

How Happy Thoughts Positively Impact Mental Health

Woman dressed in blue with matching hairband thinking happy thoughts. To support Audrey Hepburn's quote "I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls"
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

The good news: Thinking happy thoughts comes with a wealth of benefits, and can greatly improve your mental health. 

For example, through regular practice, you may notice a reduction in stress along with the ability to cope better with day to day stuff. 

It can also help to regulate your emotions, particularly if you are feeling angry, sad, or frustrated. By choosing a happy thought that counters the negative thought, you may be able to flip your perspective on a situation.  

Also, as Audrey Hepburn said, happy thoughts are projected outwardly, so you can feel good and look good at the same time! 

“I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong, I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles.” – Audrey Hepburn

Strategies for Choosing Happy Thoughts 

How you treat yourself has a big impact on the thoughts that pass through your mind on any given day. In addition to learning to love yourself, here are some practical strategies to improve your mood and therefore, adopt a more positive mindset.

Practising mindfulness is simply a case of becoming aware of what you are doing at any given moment. It involves slowing down and living in the moment. 

For example, making yourself something healthy to eat and then sitting down and savouring each bite. Paying attention to texture, flavour, and the health benefits of your meal. 

Another example might be going for a walk and really noticing everything around you, such as the trees, the wildlife, and hearing an array of different sounds such as traffic, dogs barking, or the breeze whispering through the trees. 

Meditation is a calming exercise that can lower your heart rate, reduce stress, and increase awareness. You don’t need any special tools for meditation, although there are many apps available that you can use as a guide if you’ve never done it before. All you need to do is be present. 

Meditation is also a form of mindfulness, as you can do it sitting down, walking, running, or while enjoying something creative. 

Being grateful for what you already have can really change your perspective. When you focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have, you begin to appreciate how rich your life truly is. This can help you feel happier and encourage happy thinking patterns.

Challenging negative thoughts comes with practice, because you have to be aware of them first. However, once you become aware of these thoughts, you can begin to challenge them by asking: Is this true? 

This requires you to look for solid evidence to prove the thought. i.e, is it just someone else’s opinion, or is it a fact? For example, if you believe that no-one likes you, where is the proof? There will always be someone who appreciates you, whether that be a parent, a grandparent, a child, or a friend. 

By challenging that thought and asking if it’s true, you now have the opportunity to reframe it. Taking the example of believing that no-one likes you, look at the list of people in your life who you know for a fact enjoy spending time with you. 

Instead of allowing your mind to tell you that your friend is only in your life because they feel obligated, consider the times that they’ve reached out to you, invited you places, and called or messaged to see how you are. This is the kind of evidence that you’re looking for. 

The choices you make with regards to your health can also have an impact on how you think. For example, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and poor diet can all contribute to a negative thought bias. 

But ample sleep (where you get all the good stuff like restorative deep sleep and REM to process the motions of life), good diet, and exercise, all contribute to healthy brain function. 

The people you surround yourself with can also impact your perception. If you spend time with people who gossip and are always moaning, it’s going to drag you down. So spend time with people who are naturally positive, upbeat, and don’t get dragged down into complaining.

Sometimes, no matter how much we try to help ourselves, we need the guidance of others such as a counsellor, therapist, or self-esteem coach

If you’ve tried the above strategies and are still struggling, it may be that you need a little support to work through what keeps reinforcing those unhelpful thinking patterns. 

Once you’ve identified what the problem is, it’s a lot easier to unpick it and work on those happy thoughts. 

10 Happy Thoughts to Take Away Now

  1. I am enough
  2. I am beautifully unique
  3. I allow myself to be happy
  4. Everything is happening for me, not to me
  5. Today is a good day
  6. I choose happiness
  7. I am strong
  8. I am in control of my life
  9. I trust the process of life
  10. I am surrounded by love

Obstacles to Thinking Happy Thoughts 

We know that thinking happy thoughts is easier said than done. Here are some obstacles that might be preventing you from embracing positive thinking habits.  

As we’ve touched on above, self-limiting beliefs can make thinking happy thoughts almost impossible, particularly when you’re not in a great place. 

It’s easier when things in life are going your way, but you wouldn’t be here if they were. The fact that you’re reading this article means you need help in changing your thoughts. 

Something that may help is this Unhelpful Thinking Habits download, which can help to challenge them. 

As we’ve mentioned above, another person’s perspective on the world can greatly impact our own perception, mood, and thinking patterns. For example, you’re going about your day, feeling pretty good about life. You love yourself and your life, and all your hard work is starting to pay off. 

But then along comes negative Nelly, and with it – her less-than happy thoughts. You can feel the dissatisfaction coming off her in waves. Her face reflects her mood; dark like the heavy clouds outside. She has nothing good to say, and you start to feel quite uncomfortable. Before it begins to impact your day, here’s how you can stay positive: 

Stay in control. 

Don’t give away your power. No-one else has the ability to control your emotions – except you.

Put a positive spin on it. 

For every negative comment, there’s always something to counter it. Is your neighbour moaning about the state of the economy? Talk about how lucky we are to live in a free country. Does your spouse complain about never having any money? Highlight how lucky you are to have a nice house with heating and hot water. 

It’s amazing how people will soon stop complaining when they realise you’re not going to join in. 

It’s not about you.

If there’s someone in your life who is constantly negative and critical, staying upbeat can be quite tricky. In this situation, it can be helpful to remember that it’s not about you – they’ll be like it with everyone. 

It’s nothing you’ve done or not done – it’s just their current default setting. And remember – you’re not responsible for someone else’s emotions.

Step away

Sometimes it’s easier to just stay away from negative people. If that’s easier said than done, you don’t have to avoid them altogether. Instead, distance yourself from them emotionally and remain pleasant but impartial when you do see them. 

Even with the best intentions to avoid negative influences, falling back into the trap of negative thinking can and does happen. In this case, it’s important to recognise that it’s happening and to take steps to get back on track. 

woman lying in autumn leaves thinking
Experiencing setbacks with happy thoughts. Image credit: Dana Tentis – Pixabay

How to Remain Positive in Difficult Situations

It’s true; life can be challenging. Things happen, and thinking positively isn’t always going to be enough. It takes commitment, and it takes work. But with practice, it becomes easier to choose positivity as your default setting. 

Here are some things you can do to remain positive on even the most challenging days:

We’ve talked about using affirmations in the post 7 Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem, where we look at turning a negative thought into a positive mantra. 

Instead of thinking ‘I’m rubbish at everything, try ‘I’m skilled and talented in…’ [whatever you’re good at in relation to what you’re trying to achieve]. 

This is a great way to counter any negative thought spirals, particularly if you’re stuck in a pattern of thinking you’re not good enough. 

Make a list of everything you’ve achieved in your life to highlight all the things you’re good at. By doing so, you’ll remember that you’re capable of anything you set your mind to, and you can do it again.  

We’ve mentioned this above, but it’s worth repeating. Being grateful for all you have in your life is a great way to train your brain to look for the positive in any situation. Try keeping a daily gratitude list – even if it’s just 3 things a day. 

By committing to it on a regular basis, you’ll be making it a habit and increasing your chance of choosing positive thoughts over negative ones. 


The more you practise positive thinking, the sooner you are likely to see the benefits. As with any behaviour change, it involves breaking old habits and creating new ones. According to cognitive neuroscientist Caroline Leaf, Ph.D., it takes 21 days to break down thought patterns and to begin building new ones. She claims that for the work to really take effect, it takes around 63 days. 

While this article focuses on the importance of thinking happy thoughts, it’s essential to acknowledge all emotions. Pushing negative thoughts to the back of your mind won’t get rid of them, and can cause a build up of stress as they’re still there in the background. 

This can then have a knock-on effect on your physical well-being, as negative emotions can manifest in the form of muscle tension, digestive discomfort, and more. 

It’s important to recognise when you’re feeling angry, or sad, or anxious, and work through these emotions. 

As we mentioned above, your past can have a big impact on your beliefs, which affects how you think. If certain beliefs are deeply ingrained in your psyche, it can limit your long-term ability to think positively. 

Your ‘happy thoughts’ will only be working at surface level, so you’ll need to uncover any limiting beliefs you have that are keeping you stuck. You can do this with the help of any qualified counsellor, therapist, or coach. 

Final (Happy) Thoughts

Yes, thinking positively takes work. But when you know how to flip your thinking and change your perspective, you feel happier. Your days flow easier. Your self-esteem grows, and you begin to understand that when you put your mind to it, that anything is possible. 

For help with changing your thoughts to improve your low self-esteem, you could try talking therapies. Bear in mind though that there is often a waiting list. 

If you need to chat to someone sooner and think that coaching may benefit you, here are some ways I can help: 

  1. Download the free Unhelpful Thinking Habits workbook
  2. 1-2-1 Self-Esteem Coaching – book a free introductory call
  3. Join the Be You Membership for less than £1 a day – a place filled with support to help you be happy in yourself
  4. Join the free Facebook community – a safe space for women who are struggling with low self-esteem, body image, and self-worth. 

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