(Taken from Day 1 of Week 1 of Happy School Advanced, a free 12-week study of the book, Happy School; Where Women Learn the Secrets to Overcome Discouragement and Worry).

Recently I met with a medical doctor who told me his wife has had severe depression for years. The couple has been through many therapies trying to find answers. I said to him, “Emotions are from thoughts. Thoughts always proceed emotions. If you change your thoughts, you can change your emotions.” This genius guy was shocked! He was convinced his wife was the victim of her emotions. He had no idea she was the producer of them. This is life-altering information to those of us who have struggled with negative emotions for years.

In Lesson 1 in Happy School, the Genie explains the four foundational puzzle pieces of overcoming discouragement and worry. The first foundational puzzle piece is that thoughts, not reality, determine one’s emotions. (If you think you are in danger—whether you actually are or not—your body will react with fear to your thoughts. Thoughts always cause emotions.) When you realize you are the producer of your emotions, your life changes. You master your moods by mastering your thoughts.

The second foundational puzzle piece of Happy School is that God made our brains so we can only think one thought at a time. Women especially seem to be the proverbial “multi-taskers,” doing many things at one time. Cooking, getting clothes out of the dryer, getting toddlers dressed, listening to her husband talk about his new co-worker, and simultaneously checking her email about a delayed order is second nature to many women. Yes, these clever women are actually multi-tasking (doing several things at once), but their brains are actually only thinking about one thing at a time and they are merely switching back and forth between topics quickly. It is important you understand that you can’t think two thoughts at the same time.

The third foundational puzzle piece of Happy School is that you can listen in on your own self-talk and analyze it. You can think about your thinking. You can ask yourself, “What was I just thinking that has produced this emotion?” You can uncover your previous thought if you try. Thinking about your thinking is something only humans can do. No monkey has a brain with this kind of consciousness. This gift of metacognition is extravagantly powerful.

The fourth foundational puzzle piece is maybe the most surprising and helpful of all. The puzzle piece is this: you can interrupt your thinking (Hot Potatoes) and Move into Another Room in Your Brain (think about something else). You can choose to Change Rooms. This is an astronomical, humongous, colossal truth! Until a few years ago, I had no idea I could choose to consciously stop thinking one thought by intentionally thinking about another one.

Knowing these 4 basic principles can alter your emotional life. There’s so much else to learn in Happy School, but these are the four foundational principles that will allow you to gain freedom from being ransacked by negative emotions.

Happy School Advanced is sent directly to your inbox each Monday. The next lesson, Lesson 3, comes out Monday, September 21. Catch up on Lessons 1 & 2 at my website, JulieNGordon.com under the tab, Happy School Advanced.

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