By: Ann Nelson
The issue of happiness is often on the nightly news or in the newspaper. Studies show a steady decline in happiness in the United States since 2000. Certainly, we have all been bombarded with unusual and/or negative information – crime, inflation, disease, extreme weather…
How can we absorb all the negative information we get and remain positive or even happy?
Well, I think there are ways to do just that.
First, understand that there is no way we can have all the information about every situation; there just isn’t enough time to gather it all. We often will take the information we have and weave it into a scenario that is negative or hurtful or sad instead of looking for a positive meaning that also might exist. For example, if someone is rude to us or to those around us, instead of focusing on the fact that they are a jerk, we could recognize that they are insecure or hurting in some way. Show compassion, not anger.
It is easy to imagine that those two coworkers having a private conversation are talking negatively about you. Instead, be happy that they can get support from each other for whatever is going on in their lives.
Can you see the difference you can make by simply changing the way to look at things? Do not allow yourself to interpret things negatively when the reality is that it probably has nothing to do with you!
You can choose happiness! That’s right; happiness is a choice. The reality is that some days this is a lot easier than others, but if you continue to think that your circumstances need to change before you can be happy, you’ll never get there!
Put your focus on the good things in your life right now. I asked an acquaintance one morning how she was. Her reply was, “I’m good – I got a wake up call this morning!” What a great way to look at things! If you got up this morning, it’s a good day. Happiness is about your perspective – if you’re looking for reasons to be happy, you’ll probably find them. Happy people focus on the positive.
When you read about happiness, a couple of things come up every time – gratitude and generosity. These are both disciplines to practice now. If you wait for everything to be perfect to be grateful, you never will. Likewise, if you wait for more money to be generous, you will never achieve it. Be generous with your time or your talents or simply your attention. I used to keep a journal and everyday tried to write down three good things about the day. They were usually small things, like a new flower in the garden. They were sometimes bigger, personal triumphs. However, some days, the best thing about the day was that it was finally over! Even now, though I no longer write in a journal, I try to think of a few good things about the day. It is easy if you try.
If your focus is on your possessions, you will never be happy. You will always see something that is bigger, better or newer that what you have. And there will always be those people who have more. Recognize that more possessions most often mean more problems. This is not to say that wanting a better car or a job that pays you more is bad. Aspirations are good and can be healthy … just don’t place them in a position where you are sacrificing your happiness while waiting for them.
Do the things that help you stay healthy. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, go outside, get enough sleep. You all know that these things will lead to a more balanced, happy existence.
The new year looks to be a challenging time for our world, our nation and for us. Let’s pledge to keep a positive attitude, work for not only our own improvement but for the people and world around us. I contend that when we shift our focus from ourselves to help others without concern over what we might receive, we begin to experience true selfless love – and happiness.
Happy New Year!