Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Happiness Puzzle

We have all encountered one of those people at some point that is nothing but a giant, energy sucking black hole of negativity.  Nothing you can say or do will ever cheer them up.  They can find something dreary in every beautiful thing life has to offer.  I knew a girl like that in college, she was in my literature class.  This girl had taken angst to an art form.

One afternoon our professor was discussing the works of Poe.  Poe is of course a master, but lets face it, he wasn't exactly a big bucket of rainbows either.  All of a sudden the professor stopped talking, stared out at us silently for a few moments, then snapped his book closed.  He turned to the board and wrote out Abraham Lincoln's famous quote;   "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."  He told us to write an essay on how people can choose to be happy.

All of a sudden from the back of the lecture hall the angsty girl stood up, and announced in a louder voice than any of us had ever heard her use before that this was the "stupidest assignment ever" and that people couldn't just "choose to be happy when they aren't feeling it."  She then stomped from the room and slammed the door behind her. 

I remember thinking how ironic that was considering it was obvious to everyone that she had chosen to wallow in a self imposed quagmire of undefined misery.  Shortly after that she dropped the class. She was so opposed to the idea of happiness that she cheated herself out of a wonderful course where she could have learned many things.

I have talked a bit lately about taking risks this year.  I think to be able to open yourself up to taking risks and having them work to your favor, you have to be happy, both with yourself and the world at large.  But for some people, being happy is taking a risk.

So how does one choose to be happy?  It's not easy.  It's not something you can sustain all the time.  Happiness is an emotion that ebbs and flows like the tide based on what ever circumstances we are in at any given moment.  People often confuse happiness and joy.  They aren't the same thing.  Joyfulness is something that lives inside of us whether we are happy or not in any given moment.  But for now I just want to focus on being happy.

So how can we decide to be happy when we aren't feeling it?  It's a puzzle isn't it?   I would love to be able to give you a defined road map of how to get there, but I can't.  I don't have one.  The Zen book I told you about a while back says that one key step is to remember that whatever situation we are in at any given moment is the best situation for us even if we can't see it at the time.  Still though, that's a tough concept when we are in the middle of a situation that is bad.  And we all go through bad situations.

I can't tell you how to be happy all the time.  However, I do know how to trick yourself into starting to feel happy when you're "not feeling it."  Did you know that if you force yourself to hold a smile for 16 seconds that the receptors in your brain will register what your facial muscles are doing and release the serotonin to make that feeling real?  I did not make that number up either.  You don't have to take my word for it, if you don't believe me, try it.  It's not easy though, forcing a smile for 16 seconds is a longer time than you might imagine.  If you can't hold the smile for the entire time you will have to start over.  But by the end of the 16 seconds your smile will be genuine.  You will be feeling it.

If you think about taking risks, and it makes you nervous...paste that smile on your face.  Hold onto it.  You can choose to take the first step to being happy.  The next thing you know, you will be feeling happy and ready to take that little risk!

Have a wonderful weekend!  Hugs, K. <3


Kathy said...

Kelly, what wonderful words to read. You have summed it up nicely. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, xo.
btw, I choose HAPPY! I am trying...

Amanda said...

I'm loving your thoughtful posts. As the song says don't worry be happy. Great stuff.

melanie said...

Kelly, I love this concept so much, learning to be happy is the easiest thing of all,I learned this last year and reading the part about smiling made me smile.

Katy Cameron said...

Okay, I'm laughing now, great exercise at the end :oD

Kays Kids said...

The happiest people are those who don't want what they can't get.
I love your thought provoking post.

Kays Kids said...

The happiest people are those who don't want what they can't get.
I love your thought provoking post.

Cheryl @ Bingle Bears said...

What a lovely post! I forwarded it on to my two teenage daughters because, although I have told this to them before, you just summed it up so beautifully that I thought they should read it.


Soggibottom said...

I always smile when I blog :-) :-) Hence the smile icons :-) x x x and lots of love too :-) xxx They go together :-) X X X
Have a very Happy New Year X

Laura S Reading said...

It also helps to limit time spent with those negative people.
Hard to do when they are family but sometimes we have to dig deep and find a happy memory to cling to.

I also like to use music to change my mood.

Thank you for a smile today.

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