Why am I not happy?
More terror attacks, murders, rapes, embezzlement, lower wages, higher taxes…and that’s just at your workplace! :)
Is it any wonder that we find happiness elusive when we are lambasted thousands of times a day by vile, disturbing images, some very graphic in mainstream and social media. No matter your age, this is what we perceive as normal. Feel-good stories don’t increase viewership (is that even a word?) or readership. It’s hard to find your happiness mojo with all of that bad stuff assaulting our brains.. Still, if we try, we can get there from here.
To be clear, happiness isn’t sunshine, lollipops and unicorns. It is not pretending that all’s well when all is not well. No one at Lift Leadership will tell you that if you just think happy, positive thoughts, all of your woes will disappear. No, happiness is hard work. That’s the bad news. The great news is that we are fully capable of changing our thought patterns to become happier, more positive, feel less stress and become more productive at work, and build better relationships.
Happiness isn’t thinking that we don’t have to change,rather it is the knowledge that we can.
I promised some tools in the last blog, and while I am not going to unleash all the happiness in the world on you at one time, let’s start with a simple one (remember, simple doesn’t necessarily equal easy).
Before we get there though, please let me tell you a quick story.
We had one participant in one of our positive psychology Mastermind courses , In Pursuit of Happier, who was not a happy camper. He is a successful business owner, husband, father, and a respected volunteer, involved in a number of rewarding activities. He also possesses a killer, if somewhat cynical sense of humour. In short, he has a lot going for himself.
He took a one week vacation to a hot climate, in the middle of the course. One of the exercises I like to do is to have participants tell me something good from the last week, at the outset of the class. Anything. Heck, if your life is a shambles, I’d even accept mediocre, if it was an improvement. When his turn came, I was really excited, because of the possibilities, I expected a grocery list of good things…hot sand, crystal blue water, cold beer, an interesting, friendly culture. What I got was…nothing. How could that even be possible? You just spent a week in paradise, how could ‘nothing’ be a true response?
After his response, and some reflection on my part, I could see how that could happen, for many of the reasons listed above. There had even been murders committed close to where he was staying just prior to his trip. He was so programmed to look for the negative that he wasn’t ready when some good stuff smacked him upside the head. So we set about to change that.
The first step (and I challenge you to do this, it really works) was to ask the class to write for 30 days straight, three things you are grateful for. Try for new ones each day. They don’t have to be big things, just things you appreciate in your life. You don’t need an expensive journal. I paid the princely sum of $1.29 for a scribbler.
Try to make the gratitudes specific to you, and current if possible. If your day has been a rock, not a diamond, then feel free to make it more general. When those days pop up, and they will, how about appreciating where you live? Freedom of speech and religion? Democracy, where you have some control, running hot water, 3 squares a day, a roof over your head protecting you from the elements, and on and on.
This is a big step, simple but not necessarily easy. It will help you on a daily basis to get you to focus on the positive in your life.
By the end of the course, the change in our formerly grumpy participant was dramatic. It starts with programming your brain to see the positive, not the negative.
We will address more techniques in the months to come. This is a good one though.
Oh, and you might want to cut back on your exposure, or at least be more discerning, around all of the negativity abounding in the news. Just sayin’.