If you want to have more fun and less stress, then you need to run a constant inventory of your thoughts. It’s not easy and some (see Eckhart Tolle) regard this as the act of “thinking of thinking.” It sounds complicated and it is, but it’s necessary because stress exists because we invent it.

Negative thoughts control us, they cloud our judgement, and can even make us do or say outrageous things we don’t mean. Many of us don’t acknowledge the fact that thoughts are “things.” If you’re in your head and stressing over something, it’s causing a physiological response – and it’s not good. Your body tenses up, adrenaline pumps through your veins. If you start thinking negatively, then your body reacts as though it’s in danger.

So how do you stop it? Or rather, how do you lessen it?

Many doctors and psychologists agree that activities like yoga and meditation are a good place to start. These activities are relaxing, but relaxation doesn’t mean “less stress.” The reason these have a tendency to deplete stress is, you’re forced to take personal inventory? Have you ever tried to do yoga while worrying about chores later? Probably not. Yoga burns, but it also causes you to focus on the stretches, on the turns, on feeling the mat. In some ways, it’s an escape from negative thinking because you’re so focused on the activity.

Meditation works similarly, but requires a bit more discipline since there are no movements or stretches to distract you. Meditation isn’t about crossing your legs, lighting some candles and chanting “Ohmmmmm…” it’s about taking personal inventory of your thoughts. If you sit there and think, “This is stupid and a waste of my time,” then evaluate why you feel that way and if you want to continue to feel that way.

In Psychology Today, Dr. Ryan Martin once published an article titled, Why We Get Mad. In it, he talks about a trigger event that he and his friend endured. The event caused him to laugh, but his friend was upset. He realized that the difference is how the two of them appraised the situation.

Of course, I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at some point – whether first-hand or by proxy. If you’re having a bad day, then even if something small happens like you drop a piece of toast on the floor, it becomes magnified… but it’s almost like we were looking for a problem.

Sure enough, this mode of thinking has been around for centuries. Just look at Shakespeare’s famous line from Hamlet, “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Our appraisal is what determines the good or bad of the situation.

More recently, scientific researchers have found that we are – at least – 40% in control of our happiness. And when you consider that most people are not having a 100% bad day, chances are that 40% can turn your day around.

Change your thoughts and you’ll alleviate the stress in your life.