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I spent a whole week trying to be a "positive person".

Have you heard of The Happiness Detox? Guess what, you haven’t, because I invented it!

This past week, I set myself the task of becoming a happier, more positive person. For seven days, I would think happy thoughts, I would say happy words, I would even take “happy snaps”. I was hoping to emerge from this like a grinning, delightful phoenix, rather than a charred old bird sitting in the ashes mumbling, “I HATE Sydney Trains!”

Why do The Happiness Detox?

No-one believes me when I say this, but I am a huge grump and misanthrope. I’m the sort of person who dislikes parties, and would rather sit at home reading a novel in which everyone dies.

Not many people know how introverted and grumpy I am, because I have “resting smiling-and-laughing-insanely face”.

My grumpiness was starting to have a negative impact on my life. Rather than thinking the best of a situation or person, I would instead feel annoyed, angered and offended. I was becoming judgemental and even a bit nasty, and it was making me feel angry and sad. It was time for a brain makeover.

How did I do it?

I knew that becoming a positive, happy person was more than just smiling all the time, so I did a bit of research. I found three different things that I could do, which could make a positive change to my mindset: thinking and acting in a positive manner, documenting my happy moments, and keeping a gratitude journal. I dedicated myself to these techniques, and took them seriously.

I also spoke to Dr. Suzy Green, clinical and coaching psychologist, and the founder of The Positivity Institute, for her expert opinion.

Technique 1: Think and act in a positive manner.

I looked to people around me, who seemed to be content and joyous in their lives. I noticed that they all seemed to think and say positive things, so I decided to copy them.

On the night before my challenge, I put a Post-It note beside my bed which said, “POSITIVE THOUGHTS”. Honestly, I am such a grumble-bum that I had to remind myself to be positive.

When I woke the next day, I was more conscious of my negative thoughts. There were so many of them. I actively tried to replace them with more positive thoughts.

My first negative thought was, “It’s a horrible day,” because it was raining and grey outside. I quickly thought instead, “The weather is bad, but I could still have a happy day today, because I’m spending it with my daughter.” I felt better already.

As I got dressed, I thought, “I’m so fat.” In my own head, I screamed at myself, “I LOVE MY BODY!” I laughed to myself at my new, extreme body positivity.

It was helpful to be more aware of my thoughts. I was shocked at how I seemed to have a running, negative commentary about my life, inside my own head. The main thing I noticed was that I was undermining my own confidence with negative ideas and thoughts. I resolved to think better of myself.

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Dr. Green calls the negative thoughts “ANTs” – that is, Automatic Negative Thoughts. She says, “We all have them. That Happiness Detox week would be an opportunity to really watch how many negative, irrational thoughts you may be having.”

Technique 2: Document the happy moments

Last year, I noticed that a lot of my friends were hashtagging their social media photos with #100happydays. With a bit of research, I learned that 100 Happy Days is a viral, photo-based challenge that anyone can do. All you have to do is take a photo of one small thing that makes you happy, for 100 days.

This practice is intended to help you to “appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, [which] is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness”. It was all started by Dmitry Golubnichy, in an effort to cheer himself up when he was unemployed and feeling unhappy.

I did my own little version of this project on Instagram, to which I gave the creative name, #7happydays. Each day, I was on the lookout for a happy moment, and strangely enough, this made me feel happier. Either I was noticing and appreciating happy moments – like jumping in puddles with my toddler daughter – or I was creating them. (Post continues after gallery.)

As I’m a visual person, the photo of my happy moments stuck in my memory, and it cheered me up. It was as if one, small happy moment could multiply into several happy moments and memories. It was working!

Being conscious and appreciative – or “mindful” – of happy moments is a step towards increased wellbeing, says Dr. Green. “The two biggest and simplest – but still challenging things that you can do are to increase your gratitude and increase your mindfulness,” she says.

Technique 3: Keeping a gratitude journal.

Someone who oozes happiness and contentment is Oprah Winfrey, and she popularised the idea of a gratitude journal. I’d kept gratitude journals in the past, and they really made a difference in my mood.

Honestly, I used to just write “hot cookie” every day in my old gratitude journals, because I love eating cookies that were fresh out of the oven. I still do! Just writing “hot cookie” would make me laugh, because it sounded so silly. It was my motto, for a little while.

Oprah says of her gratitude journals, “I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.”

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I knew that if I wrote down my gratitude points in a paper journal, I wouldn’t keep doing it, because it would be boring. So, again, I took to Instagram to upload colourful, pretty squares with my gratitude points written on them, and used the hashtag #7daysofgratitude. (Post continues after gallery.)

Each night of my Happiness Detox, I would sit in bed and upload my happy photo and my gratitude points. It became a ritual. The next day, when I would check my Instagram, I would see and remember the good things that happened. If I hadn’t recorded those moments, I think I would have forgotten about them.

My gratitude journal also had a positive effect on others, as they “liked” it on Instagram and left comments for me. “I love your gratitude series,” my sister told me.

“People who score high on gratitude tend to have high levels of wellbeing and happiness,” says Dr. Green. “A gratitude journal shifts your mind to what you do have, and helps you have perspective. Gratitude prevents us from taking things for granted.”

The result.

I wanted my Happiness Detox to work, but what I wanted even more was a funny story, in which I could mock my attempts at positive thinking. I wanted to find out that positive thinking was annoying and stupid, because that’s what I believed, anyway.

To my surprise, I found my life and mind completely changed. Believe it or not, I feel happier, more energised, and content. I’m no longer a grump. Although things still annoy me, I find myself more focused on the happier, delightful things in my life instead.

The first day of my Happiness Detox was the hardest, because I had to make a big effort to think and act differently. But once I had made those first, initial changes, everything else seemed to fall into place. The following week was just working on developing those efforts into a habit.

Doing a Happiness Detox didn’t mean that I stopped complaining, or that I became an insufferable person who shouted, “Smile!” at people on the street. I just complained a little bit less, and for shorter amounts of time. I would also try to see the redeeming factors in that person or situation. I didn’t let myself fall into that spiral of getting angrier and angrier.

If you’re feeling grumpy or noticing that unhappy thoughts are becoming a norm, then I can highly recommend that you devise your own Happiness Detox. It could change your life. It’s certainly changed mine.

This post originally appeared on The Glow.

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