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Stop Thinking Start Living

Russ writes on relationships, people management, music, and poetry. He is originally from South Africa and now lives in the UK.


I have come to understand that one of the secrets of living a productive and happy life is to live in the present moment. I find this is so much easier said than done and after reading many, many books relating to this subject, I came across this gem by Richard Carlson which finally helped me to make sense of it.

Here are some excerpts from his book which I have adapted to read as positive affirmations. I have also added some simple, practical techniques which have helped me to put a few of the principles into action. These excerpts are personalised and out of context so I encourage you to read the book to get the true value.

Why not be a bit crazy and actually try some of the techniques listed here? It’s very quick, easy, fun, and you’ll experience a positive shift in your life within days. No, this is not one of those magical email messages that promise you joy and prosperity as long as you’re stupid enough to flood the mail inbox of all your friends. This is something that you can easily put into practice for yourself.


Happiness is a feeling, nothing more, and nothing less. Life is not responsible for my happiness or unhappiness, my thoughts are. Happiness is the result of my decision to be happy. There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. In other words, happiness is a feeling I tap into, not an outcome of events. I can be happy without changing anything in my life except my relationship to my own thinking. I decide to be happy and commit myself to making happiness my state of mind, rather than relying on a set of circumstances to do it for me.


Living in the Present Moment

The wisest piece of advice for living a happier life is for me to live in the present moment. If I feel the need to follow every train of thought that enters my mind, I will be too busy elsewhere, in the past or the future, to remain in the present moment. If I believe what I think when I am in a low mood, I could be too frightened to remain in the present moment. When I’m feeling down, I could feel a great sense of urgency to do something to get away from how I am feeling. Life is meant to be lived, one moment at a time.

One of the secrets of living a happy life is to eliminate the sense of hurry. Hurry is nothing more than a bad habit; it’s not a scheduling problem, it’s a state-of-mind problem. The degree to which I feel hurried in my life is dependent entirely on my ability to keep my attention in the present moment. A hurried mind cannot be a happy one because a hurried mind is consumed not with involvement and joy, but with future activities that are yet to be experienced.


Thoughts and Feelings: My Thoughts Determine the Way I Feel

My thinking will always come back to me as a feeling. My thinking, not the events themselves, cause my emotional responses. I know that my thoughts are not the real thing, they’re just thoughts, and can’t hurt me. I am the one doing the thinking, and if it’s upsetting me; I am doing it to myself.

Happy people are so immersed in the process of life, and absorbed in what they are doing at the moment, that they rarely stop to analyse how they are doing. True happiness occurs when I give my analytical mind a rest, because thoughts grow with attention. The more attention I give to what I am thinking, the bigger that thought becomes and the more important it will seem. The way I feel is determined by my thoughts and therefore the more attention I put on anything that is negative, the worse I will feel. The more attention I put on something that is positive, the better I will feel, and the more I credit my emotional strength bank balance.


Healthy Psychological Functioning

Healthy psychological functioning is not learned, it’s inherent, and it’s always present when you are not engaged in your thinking mind or ‘personality’. It’s your most natural state of mind , where your wisdom lies, your peace of mind, your satisfaction, your feeling of wholeness.

It’s easy to become aware of my Healthy Functioning which allows me to live my life from moment to moment, always doing the best I can. It is not concerned with what happens in my life, but rather with how I relate to what happens in my life.

I regularly search for and acknowledge, my healthy functioning and appreciate it when it is present. I stay with the feeling when it arrives and let it grow. I don’t just look for it when I feel upset, but I pay lots of attention to it when I am feeling good. In this way it grows and credits my good-feeling account. As more of my energy and attention is directed towards this powerful, positive part of myself, I find myself experiencing it far more often.


Processes: Put it Into Action!

You can learn to tap into your healthy functioning by being conscious of, and acknowledging each time you feel good in a present moment. That good feeling when your body is comfortably at ease, when you feel an appreciation for a sunset, a child’s smile, the sound of the ocean, a bright summer’s day, etc. That’s all you do, easy isn’t it? Just acknowledge the feeling, the moment, be grateful for it and enjoy it. As you become aware of these moments they will extend and become self-reinforcing and build a healthy balance within you to provide a realistic strength within. Try it!


List of Pleasures

Make a list of as many things as possible, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, that you enjoy or that give you pleasure. List the places you like to visit; the people you like to spend time with; the small things you enjoy; the big things; what you love eating; anything at all that makes you smile. Make a list for yourself and don’t let anyone see it - this will keep it honest and real. If you have a partner, make a separate list together and follow the same process. Once you have filled a few pages (or as much as you can), schedule in at least four activities for the month in your diary. Write in down and do it! You deserve it.


Three-Minute Gratitude Process

Dedicate a few minutes every day to consciously acknowledge what you are grateful for, what you did well that day, and what you appreciate about your life. Come on, do it right now and see how it feels. What three things have you already done well today? Say them out loud.






Now list ten things, also out loud, that you are grateful for. I’ll wait for you below (please do it).











How do you feel? If you can get yourself to focus on all the good things that you usually take for granted, you will build up a positive appreciation of healthy psychological functioning which will give you an inner-belief of strength and realistic balance, especially useful when times get tough.

I’ve got into the habit of listing everything I’m grateful for as soon I get into my car every morning. And on the way back home in the evening, no matter how tough the day has been, I’ll acknowledge all the things I did well that day. Try it as you wake up, or just before going to bed, it only takes a few minutes!

My challenge to you is this: invest a few minutes every day for a week acknowledging what you are grateful for and what you did well and I bet you’ll make it an ongoing practice. I keep a journal in which every day, I quickly jot down the things I have done well or am grateful for.


Dismissing Thoughts

This is a significant part of the overall process. Dismissing thoughts is a natural, effortless process that keeps me from confusion, anxiety, over-stimulation, and getting too caught up in my own thinking. I choose a different kind of relationship to my thinking which allows me to have thoughts of any kind without taking any of them too seriously.

Thoughts come and go like a river carrying leaves. I already dismiss thoughts at times when I want to focus on something else and the simple truth is that I can dismiss any thoughts I want to. Thoughts, in and of themselves, have no power to hurt me. They are nothing more than images in my mind, that I can drop whenever I choose to do so. I visualise a river carrying them away like leaves.


Choice Points

Life is a continuous series of Choice Points (defining moments). A Choice Point is an isolated moment in time when I have an opportunity to choose between my healthy functioning and the path of thinking it through. The path of healthy functioning is nothing more than not taking the path of thought. The only thing I have to do to discover my healthy functioning, is to drop the thinking that is getting in the way.

I was really inspired by a quote from the movie Tin Cup with Kevin Costner. This is between his caddy (Romeo Posar) and Costner (Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy):

Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy: You know why I still hit that shot?
Romeo Posar: Yeah, because it's the only way you could beat Dave Simms.
Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy: No.
Romeo Posar: 'Cause it was that look in your face...
Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy: I hit it again because that shot was a defining moment, and when a defining moment comes along, you define the moment... or the moment defines you.

I Let Go of Negative Thoughts

My thoughts determine the way I feel. My attitude is made up of my thoughts. When I change my thoughts, my whole world changes. My thought is my ability to create images in my mind—the images themselves are not real so I learn to accept thoughts for what they are. There is no need to turn them into more than they really are or to take them too seriously. It’s impossible for me to feel angry without first having angry thoughts. It’s impossible for me to feel worried without first having worried thoughts. It’s impossible for me to feel depressed without first having depressed thoughts. When negative thoughts fill my head, I let them go. I don’t focus on them. I say to myself, ”It’s not worth it.” I make the commitment to catch myself in the act of thinking and expressing negative thoughts and the rest falls into place. As my mind quietens down, the panic and the hurry fades away.



Moods are like the tides of the sea, they are constantly changing and shifting. One of the problems with low moods is that they seem as though they will last forever. It’s like being in a dark cave and not being able to see any light - it’s frightening. However, if I have been in the cave before, I know the light is there, and I also know that it’s just a matter of time before I find it. The process of waiting out a low mood is no different. No matter how many times I’ve been there before, it seems that this is the worst ever and that I am justified in being upset. It always seems as if this one will last forever. But it won’t, there’s nothing to fear. The light is just around the corner as long as I don’t panic and as long as I walk in the right direction.

When I don’t interfere with the natural rhythm of my moods, they go up and down all by themselves. The fact is, I don’t have to do anything. The less I do, the better off I will be. When I am depressed, the worst thing I can do to myself is to continue thinking, especially if I am attempting to use my thinking to pull myself out of depression. My mood will begin to lift as soon as I stop paying attention to it and I ignore the thoughts and feelings I am having.

Aphorisms and Affirmations

An affirmation is a positive, believable thought that you choose to immerse in your consciousness to produce the desired result.

  • I live as much of my life as I can right now! I find my greatest pleasure right here, in the moment, so whatever I am doing, I do as well as I can.
  • I become what I think about all day long. The more attention I put on something that is positive, the better I will feel. When I find myself trapped in my analytical mind, I drop my thoughts, clear my mind, and relax. I accept thoughts for what they are. There is no need to turn them into more than they really are or to take them too seriously
  • My past is a figment of my imagination and so is my future. The only moment that is real is right now.
  • I commit myself to noticing when I rush. I can’t smell the roses if I am running past them. As soon as I notice myself rushing, I bring myself back to the present moment.
  • I look for the positive in every situation.
  • I embrace and experience life rather than constantly analysing it.
  • I am happy with what is, rather than obsessing with what could be better.
  • I strive to be fully with the person I am with.
  • I don’t postpone all of my gratification, I live as much of my life as I can, right now!
  • I distrust and dismiss my thoughts when I am low. I wait until my mood lifts which will happen quickly when I don’t focus on negative thoughts.
  • I notice my negative thoughts and let them go.
  • It’s impossible to feel gratitude for something when I am too busy trying to improve it.
  • The solution to depression is to bring my attention back to the present moment where depression can’t exist.
  • I regularly search for, and acknowledge, my healthy functioning and appreciate it when it is present. In this way I let it grow.
  • Even in the midst of negativity, happy people know there is something better, more powerful, and more important than what they are thinking about.
  • The passage of time has no real relevance in helping us to get over something other than encouraging us to think about other things besides whatever is bothering us.
  • When I forgive someone, including myself, I am saying to myself, “The past is over”. No-one, even myself, can undo what is done.
  • I find my happiness by living in the moment rather than demanding that situations, conditions, places, or people make me happy.
  • I take responsibility for my own happiness, right now and choose to concentrate on what I have instead of what I lack.
  • My healthy functioning is not concerned with what happens in my life, but rather with how I relate to what happens in my life.
  • I don’t find light by studying the dark.
  • The past is no longer here. It’s over. It exists only in my own thinking. It was real then, but now it’s only a part of my imagination.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Nudely on August 19, 2016:

The real surprise for me was by how many of these points that I practice but simply never quantified. You might be able to guess from my screen name that I tend to be a pretty happy guy. I have the typical health/ financial/ marital/ familial/ worries... as many as the next guy I suppose, and depression does inevitably set in, at times, but I've found happiness in living free, living unclothed, eating right (and yet having treats too!), drinking moderately and then only on special occasions, playing games-but not to the exclusion of more important matters, learning history/ religion/ philosophy/ etc., and articulating my vision for a new reality. Life is good when it doesn't suck.

vishwajeet on November 10, 2011:

thanks a lot

Russ Baleson (author) from Sandhurst, United Kingdom on August 03, 2011:

Hi Temirah, thank you, I'm so pleased it inspired you to get the book. I'm fascinated at where you got it!! Do you mean Sandhurst UK? If so, I live less than a mile from that shop. Regards,


Temirah on July 19, 2011:

This is really useful, practical hub; great pics and easy to read too. I've recently found a copy of the Richard Carlson book (oddly enough at the Sue Ryder shop in Sandhurst)! You've inspired me to get into reading it!

Russ Baleson (author) from Sandhurst, United Kingdom on July 18, 2011:


Thanks for your comments. Yes, this book is an amazing insight and has helped me tremendously. I have read countless books on this subject over the years but this is the one I always come back to and always recommend. Go well. Russ

LJH on July 17, 2011:

Nice Post. After 4 hard years of battling mood swings, anxiety and not knowing why i was feeling the way i was feeling, I found a great doctor who recommended "Stop Thinking Start Living" I look forward to reading and understanding more about me but more importantly how to make positive change for me and my understanding wife and children. thank you.

Russ Baleson (author) from Sandhurst, United Kingdom on January 30, 2011:

Hi Mazzastick, thanks for your comments. I guess one bit of wisdom is realising that the low moods will pass.

mazzastick on January 30, 2011:

I agree with living life as opposed to just thinking about doing it. I also don't like when low moods tend to linger on for too long. I have to distract myself until they pass.

Russ Baleson (author) from Sandhurst, United Kingdom on December 27, 2010:

Hi Truman, I think I get where you are coming from. Being happy in the moment certainly doesn't mean giving up on goals, desires or striving. Being in the present also doesn't mean that you don't consider the long-term when making decisions. Being happy is what we are striving for and I don't know many people who were totally satisfied that they had reached it. Try looking around you and acknowledging what is good in your life and what is working for you. SOmetimes it is as simple as that. Russ

Truman on December 27, 2010:

You can't be happy with the way things are or you won't strive and work towards your goals.

staying in the present makes you choose good decisions that are bad in the long run.

Russ Baleson (author) from Sandhurst, United Kingdom on December 26, 2010:

Hi Ann, thank you for reading and leaving comments. Most people fall into the trap of considering the negative things. I think it's an instinctive survival mechanism. Unfortunately, we tend to forget how many good things are going on at the same time and our perspective of life is biased. Go well. Russ x

PDGreenwell from Kentucky on December 26, 2010:

Thank you for this hub. I especially appreciate the affirmations. Sometimes, bad habit can lead me towards only considering the negative view of things. These affirmations will help me right my course. Ann

Russ Baleson (author) from Sandhurst, United Kingdom on September 19, 2010:

Hi Lou, thank you so much. One of the reasons I put this hub together was to remind myself to do just that and also to share some simple magic. Russ

LouMacabasco from Philippines on September 19, 2010:

This is a really nice hub. Too bad, too few people take time to reflect on this simple truth about life, that's why alot of complains how bad life is. Keep the hubs coming! :)

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