Depending when you ask me that question on any given day, I might give you a contrary answer. If it’s been one of those days where demands have been constant, few things have gone right and my frustration level is rising, then I will likely say that happiness is an emotion and one that I am NOT feeling at that moment.
However, I can recall on more than one occasion when I have found a few minutes to ponder about the kind of day I have described above. If I acknowledge the things that went right or find gratitude in realizing that even though things didn’t go as I planned – they still could have been a lot worse, then I inevitably find my bad mood lessening and my usual optimistic perspective returning.
Is it odd that I improve my mood by imaging how things could be worse? Let’s say I had spent the last 35 minutes typing up a brilliant and illuminating article which suddenly my computer wipes it from existence. After throwing a pity party for a few minutes, I would take comfort that at least I haven’t lost my entire hard drive or some similar silver lining.
If my car gets a flat tire and I must go through the annoyance of putting on a spare and the expense of a fix or new tires, at least I still have A car and I am not compelled to suddenly rely completely on public transit or my own two feet for hauling groceries home.
Survey Says…You’re Happiest in Your 30′s
I was reading a recent survey that found the age at which people said they were happiest was age 33. I realize I am divulging my own age when I tell you that I am currently at the happiness apex of my life. The article doesn’t state this, but I can conclude that every year after this one, life will become less fun and thus my happiness will slowly dwindle and eventually I will die at age 98, a bitter, dried-up husk of a woman.
I hope at this point you understand that I am using a little tongue in cheek humor to prove a point. I don’t actually believe that my happiness will diminish, but in fact I hope that the pathway I have chosen for myself continually brings me joy for the rest of my life (despite the unforeseen speed bumps along the way that happen to us all). But I find myself wondering why do we do these things to ourselves? Why try and pinpoint an age at which we were happiest so as to cast a shadow on the time we are currently living?
I had a friend just this week say jokingly: “the older I get, the better things were”. I don’t think she’s too far off the mark. We like to compare our current life complete with fresh knowledge of our difficulties against a rose-colored memory when the trials of that age have been dimmed with time. That’s hardly fair, nor is it prudent. We’re pretty much dooming the happiness in our present state to be less than it potentially could be.
Happy By Choice
So how can we be happy now if the emotion is failing to smack us in the face each morning as we open our eyes to a new day? I suggest by choosing to be happy.
Here are a few tips from a blog post I found by Eric Barker. His article is much more extensive on the subject than my own if you want more inspiration.
- Every night before you go to bed write down three good things that happened to you that day. Do not train your brain to see the negative, teach it to see the positive.
- Show gratitude for the good things you have
- Spend as much time as possible with people you like.
- Be generous with your compliments. Researchers found we love compliments more than money or sex.
- Keep your mind and your body busy with productive and challenging activities
- Get your sleep. Being tired makes it harder to be happy.
- Stop thinking about big events that might make you thrilled — it’s the little things of everyday life that make lasting improvements to our happiness.
- Stop worrying. You anticipate regret will be much more painful than it actually is. Studies show we consistently overestimate how regret affects us.
In conclusion, I’m going to share the last paragraph of Eric’s article which highlights a point I was making earlier in mine.
As with anything related to happiness, perspective is most of the battle. Stop comparing your situation to a lofty, perfect one and compare it to something far worse that you could have opted for. In studies this is consistently associated with lower regret intensity.
I welcome your comments on this topic! Do you have a method for keeping your spirits up amid your daily challenges?