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How you can break free of despair: It is becoming more apparent that people on every level of maturity can be forced by unfortunate circumstances into unpleasant emotional states. It is equally obvious that you can move to more positive states if you know what thoughts to think and what physical actions to take. Taking those positive routes will get you into a better emotional state where you can more easily see and explore your options.

The goal is to get into a frame of mind where you can think clearly, and that is easily recognized because when in that positive state you feel happy and flexible. Most of the time people are thinking about their problems, even when not despairing about them. When meeting people while walking down a street, you can see those who are lost in their gloomy thoughts because they don’t recognize your humanity, and they don’t say hello. Gloom shows in their face and posture too. In that avoidant state of mind, they are unlikely to be exploring options but instead are wandering over negative aspects of their problems, and that is rarely a thoughtful exploring of options.

A person who is exploring options may have a thoughtful, smiling, quizzical look, and they too may not be particularly attentive to their external world, but they don’t look sad or depressed, nor do they look anxious or angry. People who are exploring their positive options look like they are having fun, and they are having fun too because they are mentally choosing between things they want to do. Even though they may be mulling over a difficult problem, their expressions will be similar to those of a person choosing what flavor of ice cream to have for dessert.

It is easy to shift your attention from one of these to another, and it is easy to shift your attention from some gloomy problem to ice cream when the choices are right in front of you. But the more important problem is where to put your attention when you have raised your emotional state to a higher level. Probably there are better things for you to consider for your personal well-being than ice cream. You might be able to shift your attention for only a minute before your stress drags you back to gloom, but in that minute you can choose a more mature goal and set about pursuing it.

If you have some energy for personal growth, try to choose goals that are of the next higher level of maturity above where you are at the moment. If you are in an adolescent “me” frame of mind, consider how you might do something to help your family, or perhaps make your garden grow better, or maybe spend some time finding a new job where you really believe the product will make the world a better place. Each of these types of actions is adult in their world view, and if you can put your attention upon them you will automatically raise your emotional state. The longer you can maintain the more mature form of thought and habit the more you will grow, and the happier you will become.

You grow happier by discovering and practicing your more mature options.