An educational program offered by the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce in November echoes themes in Amherst Label’s Painted Picture Strategic Plan. Three members of the A-team attended the class and here’s what we learned.

happiness talkL

“When we are happier, we make fewer mistakes.”

I bet that got your attention.

On a Thursday evening in early November in the creative studio at Board and Brush in Amherst’s Salzburg Square, author and neurosurgeon Mahmoud Rashidi made the claim that in his experience and research, happier people make fewer mistakes.

His presentation and his book “Mind Medicine: Use Your Thoughts to Heal” offer simple solutions to misery. “Happiness depends solely on your thoughts,” Dr. Rashidi asserts. “If you want to feel happier, you need to have happier thoughts.”

He led the group through a visioning exercise, asking us to close our eyes and imagine a very happy time. The break was refreshing. But was it more? According to Dr. Rashidi, dopamine levels can be raised with our thoughts. Not that you wouldn’t recognize and experience sadness but that you could practice and learn to return to your happy set point more quickly.

“You cannot afford to not be happy,” he emphasizes. “You can heal faster and live longer…. Happiness is a preventive medicine.”

Five steps Dr. Rashidi recommends taking right away:

1) If you are in an unhappy state, tell yourself “Things will turn around. Things will improve.”
2) “Think about what you want. Focus on it. Don’t think about what you don’t want.”
3) In the last five minutes of every day, just before you fall asleep, reflect on the day. “Forgive yourself and others” for anything that wasn’t ideal. “Do not carry hurting thoughts to sleep or into the next day.” Do make sure your are feeling good during the last moments of each day by doing something that feels good. Dr. Rashidi suggests music or prayer.
4) In the morning BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE, think about things for which you are grateful. Start the day with an “attitude of gratitude.” Dr. Rashidi explains, “When you are grateful, you are happy. Decide to be happy. Choose to be happy.”
5) During the day, “Refresh yourself. Do some things you enjoy, whether it’s having a cup of tea, going for a walk or getting exercise. These actions activate the feelings of happiness. When we feel happier, we think more rationally and we make fewer mistakes.”

On the flip side, Dr. Rashidi cautions, the more adversity you are facing, “the more you need your happiness to help you.” Your “shining countenance,” your “faith” and your “glad heart” are more important than ever in times of trouble.

Dr. Rashidi summarizes his findings in his presentation’s conclusion: “The sum of your thoughts makes your life. You become what you think. You have the choice to be happy. Now.”