Positive people have more friends (duh), “tend to be more successful, live longer, have better connections with family and friends, miss less work and donate more.” (Live Happy, April 2014 pg. 9) Many of us think that something or someone “makes us happy”. Not true. We choose to make happiness a priority. We need to work on it; schedule it in to our daily lives. We choose to be happy regardless of our circumstances. Picture a couple of people that you absolutely love to be around. Though I’m not psychic, I’m pretty sure you didn’t pick someone who is always in a bad mood, whining about some crisis in their life, speaking disparagingly about a family member, or gossping about another person. People who are happy are like magnets to others because they’re fun. They lift us up. Are their lives perfect? No. Someone once said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you handle it.” Don’t get me wrong. We all have trials and plain ol’ yucky days and it sure helps to unload on a trusted confidant. But you know the one I’m talking about – you see them calling and you don’t answer because you know you’re in for a marathon downer conversation 100% of the time. Dragsville!
Perhaps we need to redefine what happiness is to us. Many people love chocolate, an ooey gooey chick flick and 12 straight hours of “Downton Abby” whereas any of those would put me in a straight jacket. Happiness to me is 24/7 Fox News while sitting at my sewing machine with black licorice and a Diet Coke, working on a quilt or reading political non-fiction. Think I’m nuts? Perhaps we’re confusing pleasure with happiness or lasting joy. “Happiness happens not where life is most pleasureable, but where life is most meaningful.” (LH April, 2014 pg. 33) That would certainly explain why many Hollywood types end up overdosing or shortening their own lives because they’re truly miserable. What? Didn’t they have all the stuff life could offer? Therein lies the key – “stuff” is not meaningful. Money certainly serves a purpose, but it does not bring happiness. Money can bring instant pleasure; I am an expert on this subject. However, it is very short-lived. The new dress is only new until I wear it. The new car only smells new until it doesn’t anymore… etc. Is there a more lasting reward with true happiness?
For instance, I get on a stairmaster three days a week for an hour, or do an hour cycle class at 6:15 a.m. Both can be painful and tedious. Then why do I do it? Because the long term reward, or “striving for my potential”, brings me more happiness than the results of being sedentary. Can you say, “post-workout donut payment?” Or consider this. My fourth daughter’s first baby was due last Saturday and she’s now going stir crazy; can’t sleep, can hardly walk, and is just done. The pain of child-bearing certainly is not pleasureable, but the joy and meaningful happiness of childbirth is unparalelled. (side note… She does get to park in the “Expectant Mother” parking space at Target which is both pleasureable and joyful!) Raising children is not always pleasureable, but the joy of rearing well-rounded and contributing members of a healthy society is beyond description. Joy and happiness personified! So even though I don’t like chocolate or Downton Abby, and you don’t like black licorice and Fox News, I think we can agree that nurturing relationships and being genuinely good to each other is what brings true happiness and joy. I heard someone express it this way, “We live among the weeds, but must take personal responsibility to rise above them emerging as the flower.”You might be thinking that this isn’t easy, and you would be right. So how can we experience more lasting happiness? Again, we need to practice. Start with those daily irritants that really bug: the person driving in front of you in slo-mo, ANY 5 minutes at the post office where, despite 6-8 stations, there’s never more than two clerks working! The checkout line with possibly the world’s slowest cashier, or you’re uncomfortably listening to a customer berate a poor little fast food employee because he forgot to put extra tomato on her burger. It’s embarrassing, right? These are the things you have control over, to simply… Favorite Frozen quote “Let it Go!” Try it for a week. You may just heal your own high blood pressure.
Next time try this. You imagine and empathsize with what that slow driver could be experiencing. Or this could be that cashier’s first real day on the job. She’s petrified! Just like you were on your first day! Or you finally get to the window at the post office, and instead of making the most obvious comment about how understaffed and slow they are, blah, blah, blah, (like he doesn’t know that already!) Instead, thank the guy for his service, or you give that fast food kid a $5 tip just for putting up with that last jerk. Can you imagine the happiness ripple that would erupt if we all did that even just once a day?? Refuse to let yourself get uptight. Take a deep breath and do the Pharell Williams “Happy” dance in your head. Above all, remember that you’re not perfect either. And don’t you expect people to give you a break when you do dumb things? Ok….true confessions. Just yesterday, I had a physical therapist come to my house to work on my sore back. Then she worked on my husband’s shoulder which he shattered in a ski accident right before Christmas. While she was working on him, I ran to the grocery store to get a couple of things for dinner. Got in my car, opened the garage, put the car in reverse, BAM! Hit her car! Why was she right behind me? Why didn’t she park on the street? Why didn’t she say, “hey! I parked right behind you”? But most of all why the heck didn’t I glance in the rearview mirror for a split second?? But here’s the upside. My insurance rates will not go up, I have no prior record, my husband is the sweetest guy ever and didn’t scream and lecture like he could have, (funny how 35 years of marriage tends to diminish useless lectures that won’t change a darn thing!) and nobody died. Stupid move? Uh huh. But life happens. Deal with it and move on.
So remember the International Day of Happiness on March 20, 2014. Choose to be happy regardless of what happens. Make a list of random acts you can do to lighten the load of everyone around you. The great thing is….you’ll take pleasure in participating and feel lasting joy and happiness beyond your wildest dreams. You’ll benefit more than anyone you help. Cool, huh? So put on your dancing shoes, America! And join me because I’m happy!