Asking yourself thought-provoking questions can be a great way of dealing with internal conflict and finding happiness.
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In our modern world, it’s hard to find time to think about how we’re feeling. All our idle time is filled with consumption and busyness. For instance, when we’re commuting or simply sitting on the toilet, our time is filled by checking our phones or listening to a podcast or audiobook. I’m definitely guilty of this and am trying harder to be alone with my thoughts on a regular basis.
Whether you simply sit and think, write down your thoughts in a journal or go for a walk, it’s worth having some kind of practice that helps you to step back and examine your thoughts and emotions.
Detailed below are three questions I try and ask myself on a semi-regular basis that I find help me to unload any stress I’m feeling and focus on the things that make me happy.
Sometimes I simply think about these questions during a ring moment of quiet. For example when I’m walking or driving to work (and not listening to a podcast). Other times I try to go a bit deeper with my answers and write down my thoughts in a note on my computer (which is how I journal).
I’ve tried various journal methods in the past, like the 5-minute journal or simply free writing. I like these three questions as they’re relatively quick and simple to answer.3 Questions to ask yourself to be happier: 1) What's on my mind? 2) What am I grateful for? 3) What am I worrying about that I can't control?Click To Tweet
1. What’s on my mind?
I like to start with this question as it forces you to brain dump everything you’re thinking about. I like starting with an open-ended question with no limits. You can celebrate the good stuff and offload the bad.
Similar to how I brain dump tasks and things I need to do into Asana, doing a brain dump of your thoughts into a note or onto paper helps you to make sense of everything that’s going on.
We often mull over things that are negative or stuff we’re worried about. By getting these thoughts out of your head and writing them down, it’s almost as if you’re removing the very thought from your head so you don't have to worry about it any more. It’s like you’re giving yourself permission to let the thought go.
Without even asking this question, this is how I’ve been journaling for a while now; simply writing down the things I’m thinking about.
2. What am I grateful for?
The first question is about getting all the good and bad thoughts out of your head. This next question is about taking a deeper dive on the good stuff to help you focus on things that make you happy. It’s been shown that feelings of gratitude help us to feel happier which is why I like to frame the question this way.
And it makes sense, right?
When you think about all the things you’re grateful for; people, experiences, relationships or possessions, you realise how much better life is with these things in it.
We often forget how lucky we are and practising gratitude reminds us to appreciate the things we’ve taken for granted.
3. What am I currently worrying about that I can’t control?
The third and final question is designed to help you let go of the negative thoughts, which naturally frees up mental space for more positive emotions.
As you can see, this question has a condition on it. You have to specify something you’re worrying about that’s outside of your control (which tends to be most of the things we worry about). This is something I’ve learned from my reading into Stoic philosophy.
When you remind yourself that you can’t control this thing, you’re able to remind yourself how pointless it is to worry about it in the first place. For example, you’re worrying about an upcoming deadline at work or school. You can’t change the deadline. You simply have to do the best with the time you have. If anything, worrying about the deadline is probably hurting your progress. So move past this fact and put your thoughts to positive action and progress.
When you identify these negative thoughts through this lens of control, you give yourself permission to move on and let go of all the associated stress. “It is what it is” is an expression that my wife, Hayley, and I use a lot when faced with a tricky situation or decision. In other words, there’s nothing we can do to change what’s happened but we can decide how we get to act from here.
What do you do to find these moments of peace in your day? Do you have certain questions that you ask or a practice that you follow? I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts in the comments below!