Last week I wrote a blog based on the key messages from this book because I felt it was a valuable insight in to how to avoid thinking too much. This week my associate Georgina, has written a critique of the book covering the main points and what she recommends we put in to practice. Richard Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff has written this called “Stop Thinking and Start Living” and he talks about common sense strategies for unlocking the power of positivity and discovering life-long happiness.

The book was based around the three principles of The Psychology of the Mind.  Carlson is amongst many other professionals who believe that the more ‘conventional’ therapeutic approaches used today to treat unhappiness, whereby treatment involves exploring issues in great depth, actually make matters worse rather than better.  The three principles are now being used by many therapists, consultants and educators with fantastic results.

Centred around the single concept that you feel the way you do mentally because of your thoughts, Carlson suggests his book can show you how to rid yourself of negative feelings that can take over your life and instead access a place within yourself where ‘feeling good’ already exists. He also talks about how to detect the mental processes that take you away from this place.  The book is written very simply and does make a lot of sense although it can be terribly repetitive, but perhaps that is Carlson’s way of re-iterating just how simple he believes his solutions actually are!

Personally, I feel that Carlson’s conclusions make a lot of sense; simply he is saying that positive thinking and replacing negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours, will result in a more positive life approach and a happier outcome. Sometimes though, it is incredibly difficult to change your mindset, and just change the way you think; when you are very low. Often the worst thing people can say to you is “try to think positively,” or “look on the bright side” etc.. if you are really struggling it can be extremely hard to just dismiss your negative thoughts because you are actually ‘stuck’ in them and unable to push them to one side.  I think for the very strong-minded this book is a great ‘reminder’ of how positive thinking and a positive attitude can help you overcome problems encountered or at least help you to deal better with them, but, for those who are not as adept at dealing with their negative thoughts and feelings, this book offers great advise and examples. It perhaps lacks actual learning tools for someone to use in order to put ‘mind over matter’ into practise.

Below I have summarised some of Carlson’s conclusions:

Possibilities

  • At any time, a shift in consciousness can occur in any area of life to do with how we’re feeling e.g. relationships, feeling anxious or down
  • The shift is generally experienced due to looking at the same set of facts in a different way
  • Be open to the possibility that a shift in understanding and thinking can have a profound effect on your life for the better

Your thoughts and the way you feel

  • Thinking results in feelings, the way you feel now is a result of your thoughts now
  • Unhappiness is the feeling that accompanies negative thinking, it cannot exist in the absence of negative thinking
  • Your thinking, not the events themselves, cause your emotional responses
  • Your thoughts aren’t real, they are just thoughts and can’t actually hurt you, but they can upset you.  You are the one thinking these thoughts and causing yourself to be miserable
  • Understanding that you are causing the problem by the way you are thinking and therefore changing the way you think or dismissing the thoughts, will not allow them to depress you
  • See your thoughts as just thoughts, like dreams, they are not a reality.  Dismiss them and put distance between them and you, free yourself from their effects
  • Positive thoughts are still just thoughts and you need more than that.  Positive thoughts are just the start to getting to a point where you can just dismiss negative thoughts and trains of thinking and simply not entertain a negative way of thinking
  • Over-analysing your life will lead to negative thoughts and unhappiness, stop analysing and feel happier – allow your negative thoughts to leave and float away
  • The way you feel is determined by your thoughts, the more attention you put on these negative thoughts the worse you’ll feel, stop fuelling the fire

 

Healthy Psychological Functioning

  • This is not learnt it is inherent, it is where your wisdom lies
  • No one is born with negative thoughts and thinking, you learn ‘unhealthy functioning’
  • Trust your ‘healthy functioning’ exists and then have the desire to access it and call on it as a resource when you need it
  • Healthy functioning makes happiness possible but only you are the creator of those happy thoughts
  • Learn to recognise your healthy functioning when it is present in your life and help it to grow and develop – it comes from within you, not external sources

 

Dismissing thoughts

  • Is a natural process, without it we would all suffer from breakdowns, confusion, anxiety and would fall apart.
  • You can dismiss any thoughts you believe you can dismiss
  • It is our faulty judgement of what is necessary/unnecessary that gets us into trouble
  • As soon as you dismiss negative thoughts and go on to something else you are free of the negative effects of those thoughts

 

Wisdom

  • Wisdom is a sense of knowing, an intuitive feeling that exists in every aspect of life
  • Your wisdom will tell you that your thoughts are not your reality – whenever you’re feeling positive your wisdom is at work
  • Wisdom cannot exist when your mind is filled with negative thoughts, it is your healthy functioning in action

 

Thoughts grow with attention

  • The more attention you put on anything negative the worse you will feel
  • Despite the idea that talking about and working through negative emotions is a good idea, very few are much better off than when they started by using this technique
  • The spiral of negative thoughts will end when you decide enough is enough and stop focusing your attention on these negative thoughts
  • Don’t allow thoughts of the past to contaminate the present
  • You can do almost nothing about the past as it has gone,so to over-analyse your mistakes or errors only compounds the depth of your unhappiness making you visit and revisit these. You cannot rectify them unless you need to apologise – do so and move on.

 

Although at times the book can be a little repetitive, Carlson believes the key is awareness in the present moment and execution of what you are thinking.  If there is one line that sums things up in this book it is, “the secret, is to live your life in the present moment and give gratitude that you have this moment.”  Carlson demonstrates how we can change everything in our lives – earn more money, meet new people, get a new job – yet still feel dissatisfied. Happiness, he says, “is not ‘out there,’ but within – a state of mind that is independent circumstance. If you begin to see that your thoughts are not the real thing – they’re just thoughts and as thoughts they can’t hurt you – your entire life will begin to change today.”

Suggesting how to dismiss negative thoughts and discover inner contentment, overcoming lifelong pessimism, and start really living, is in a nutshell what Carlson recommends. He believes you should not dig around in your problems, trying to analyse and solve them, instead, you should learn to let negative thoughts go and get distance between you and them.

Although the book is easy to read, actually putting it into practise may not be as easy.  For anyone that really struggles with negative thoughts and feelings and experiences unhappiness and depression on a daily basis the book may not provide the total answers to negative thinking. Carlson does however specify that the book should not be used in lieu of professional treatment if the reader suffers from serious depression or other serious mental illness.

In short, an excellent book for those of us who need reminding that life is about how we view it as much as what we go through. You can find this book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stop-Thinking-Start-Living-Happiness/dp/0722535473/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522756647&sr=8-1&keywords=richard+carlson+stop+thinking+start+living

By Georgina Yates.