Wanna Be Happy? Practice!
By Dr Noelle Nelson on June 28, 2013
If ever there was a miserable day, this is it: your six year old threw a tantrum because her favorite socks have a hole in them, your SO forgot about an early meeting, so you had to take the kids to school rushing all the way, hair still damp from your shower because who had time to dry it, much less style it . . . you got a ticket for speeding, so now you’re late to work.
The boss is upset with you--you brought the wrong documents to the team meeting, you have a late meeting you must attend, the babysitter called to say she can’t stay later than planned, you’re scrounging to find another babysitter, the traffic is murder on the way home, the pizza you ordered is cold, your kids are fighting, your significant other is fighting on the phone with his brother over who-knows-what, and you shut yourself in the bathroom to silently (you hope) scream “I just want to be happy!!!”
Which seems to be utterly impossible at the moment.
It would be, if happiness were something that happened to you. But actually, happiness is, to a large degree, a choice of perspective. Happiness isn’t something that happens to you, at least not on a regular basis. Happiness is a state of being, something you cultivate. Happiness is something you practice, with intention and persistence, until happiness becomes your default, not your “sometimes if I’m really lucky.”
Say what?! How in the heck could anyone be happy given your day?
Change your perspective. Switch your focus. Look for the upside in every experience.
Your child is throwing a tantrum over her favorite socks? How wonderful that your six year old has an opinion, knows what she likes and doesn’t! Your significant other forgot his/her meeting? Not your favorite circumstance, but great that he/she has work to go to, and thank Heavens there are two of you so one of you can always pick up the slack.
You had to rush to get the kids to school, and yes, you got that ticket, but you also fulfilled your parental duty and got the kids there. OK, you don’t like getting a ticket, but it’s a good reminder to slow down--you could have hurt someone inadvertently. You brought the wrong documents, not very swift, that, but you’re usually attentive and it’s a reminder to be more so. Wonderful that you didn’t lose your job over this, and great that you have a job. The pizza was cold? It can get heated up, or else you can pretend you’re back in your teens when cold pizza was a delectable treat. And on and on.
If you are bound and determined to be happy, you will be ruthless in changing your point of view every time you find yourself dumping into an unhappy conclusion. Life happens, but happiness is a choice. There are few truly dramatic grievous events where you can’t reach a happier conclusion or assessment of the situation.
People say “Don’t be a Pollyanna,” but they’re missing the point. Pollyanna wasn’t ignoring reality, she approached reality with optimism. What the Pollyanna story reveals is that despite all odds, because of her attitude, Pollyanna thrived! So do be a Pollyanna--choose to be happy as often and as much as humanly possible, and you will thrive.
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