Choosing Happy Thoughts

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Creative Commons License photo credit: feliciano_naredo

I had the oppor­tu­nity to speak most hon­estly with a pre­cious 8 year old while trav­el­ing the metro sys­tem in a large city recently. She told me her name was Gabby, and said she’d been given the per­fect name for her because she liked to talk so much! She was trav­el­ing with her dad and he warned me that “once Gabby gets started talk­ing she doesn’t stop.” That was ok with me. We had a twenty-five minute com­mute and I was all ears.

I men­tioned some­thing about how lucky she was to have such a good life and she quickly dis­sented, say­ing, “not really.” I was a lit­tle shocked at her quick rebut­tal, and asked her, “so your life is not a good one?” to which she shook her head w/ a look of sad­ness and said, “No, because I am ADHD.” — As if that explained everything.

So I asked, “is that a bad thing — to be ADHD?” Gabby nod­ded. I said, “Why? What about being ADHD is bad?” She then explained, “because it means I can’t focus and it means that I lose my tem­per easy and that I can’t con­trol myself.”

I stated, matter-of-factly, “Oh those are just some of the down­sides of being ADHD … what about the good things that come from being ADHD?

Gabby looked totally suprised, prompt­ing me to ask, “Did you not know that there are some really great gifts that come with being ADHD?!”

She shook her head dra­mat­i­cally and asked, “what good things?”

I pre­ceded to click off the fol­low­ing ben­e­fits: “ADHD means you are very smart and that your brain works really fast. That’s why it is so easy for you to get bored — because you have so many ideas com­ing into your mind so fast that you can’t even remem­ber them all at the same time!” Gabby nod­ded her head in com­plete assent, and I continued:

Being ADHD also means that you have a lot of energy and are always ready to go and do.” It means that you are very cre­ative, and that you prob­a­bly come up with new ideas all the time. It means you have nat­ural abil­i­ties as a leader and that you don’t mind try­ing new and dif­fer­ent things. These are the good things about being ADHD — are they true about you?”

Gabby nod­ded her head thought­fully. Clearly she was inter­ested, but not totally con­vinced. Obvi­ously there had been min­i­mal empha­sis on the gifts of hav­ing ADHD — as a mat­ter of fact, it did not appear that any­one had even men­tioned to her that there could be any­thing good about being ADHD at all! As a result Gabby appeared to be car­ry­ing a largely neg­a­tive impres­sion (or story) of her­self as being defec­tive as a result of hav­ing Atten­tion Deficit/Hyperactive Dis­or­der. As she sees and describes her­self, she is sim­ply a problem.

Her plain­tive response was this: “But I can’t con­trol myself when I get mad.”

I paused a moment to con­sider her plainly spo­ken, self-fulfilling and life-limiting prophecy. My heart reached out to this beau­ti­ful child whose path mine had no doubt pur­pose­fully crossed. I knew that I had been given a pre­cious few moments to intro­duce her to another option or pos­si­bil­ity of see­ing herself.

And so I said; Oh I know what you mean, I, too, have had trou­ble at times con­trol­ling my own tem­per. That is until I dis­cov­ered the secret. Do you want to know what that secret is?”

Gabby nod­ded hard, her shiny brown hair bounc­ing up & down, her dark eyes, big as saucers. “It’s sim­ply know­ing this: anger is caused by what we are think­ing. Did you know that?” She shook her head no.

Well, it’s true. I noticed that when­ever I was mad, I was always think­ing unhappy thoughts and that the thing that could make the anger go away faster than any­thing, was choos­ing to think hap­pier thoughts.”

Gabby said, “You mean like think­ing about the things I like, and places I like to go and my friends and stuff like that?”

Yes, thoughts just like that and remem­ber­ing to think about the things you are thank­ful for!”

I found out that it’s hard to stay mad when you are think­ing happy thoughts! Do you think you can do that the next time you start feel­ing mad? All you have to do it just notice the unhappy thoughts that are mak­ing you mad … and choose hap­pier ones instead.”

We parted com­pany about then … the last thing I heard Gabby say as she & her dad hur­ried off at their stop, was “I can choose to think happy thoughts…”

Of course, we do not know for sure that Gabby will remem­ber to apply her new­found wis­dom for peace — but you can choose to apply this seem­ingly sim­ple and totally rev­o­lu­tion­ary idea of choos­ing to be happy no mat­ter what your chal­lenges may be. Look for the gifts inher­ent in your life chal­lenges and focus on those instead of see­ing only the negatives.

Bless­ings to all who, like Gabby, are dis­cov­er­ing ways to affirm life chal­lenges. May you too expe­ri­ence the peace that comes from the prac­tice of choos­ing hap­pier thoughts!



  1. Asha says

    Thanks for this article…it really put life into perspective…yours thoughts are what cause you to be think happy thoughts…:)

  2. elizabeth says

    I am so glad Gabby got to sit by you, and was informed of the lit­tle secret (but, of course, no coin­ci­dences). I can def­i­nitely relate to her dilemma. I have been notic­ing my thoughts around anger more and more. Lately, how­ever, when I expe­ri­ence anger I have been ask­ing myself if it is true that I am even angry. What a quick route to not being angry! I so often find that I am not actu­ally angry… anger has just become a knee jerk reac­tion, and then I attach to it and it turns into a jug­ger­naut. I have got­ten in the habit of gen­er­at­ing anger when things are not as I think I would wish them to be, and most often I am not even really angry about a sit­u­a­tion. Some­times I find that I actu­ally am angry, so I then fol­low it to thoughts that are mak­ing me angry, ques­tion them, and either let them go or address the sit­u­a­tion in a ratio­nal matter…and ulti­mately find peace.

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