Are you happy? Your answer to that question might vary depending on how you’re feeling right now. But what I’m asking is, “Are you truly happy?” I think many of us view happiness as the emotion, but oftentimes that kind of happiness is fleeting. Say your friends are all gathered at your birthday party, and it’s time for you to open presents. In that moment you probably feel quite happy, but later that day all your friends have to leave to go home. The glee you experienced at your party may linger once you return home yourself, but what about the next day? None of us can predict how we might feel tomorrow. Even if we’re anticipating something exciting to happen, the actual experience could turn out to be the opposite. Some people dub this type of phenomenon as “Murphy’s Law”—when the opposite of the expected outcome occurs. One woman whom I talked with about this was adamant in her opinion that Murphy’s Law is just a myth with no real grounding in reality. She argued that everything instead depends on your outlook and attitude, that only we ourselves have control over how we feel about something, not the world around us or what some people might consider to be fate. To me that concept sounded lovely, but I told her the same thing I tell everyone: that kind of thing is much easier said than done.
Say you had been planning on going hiking with one of your best friends for weeks now. When the day arrives, however, it starts pouring rain. Most people would be disappointed, and the degree to which they felt that might vary depending on the person. However, some people would be able to simply brush it off. They might experience a brief flicker of disappointment, but instead of wallowing in it, they would immediately come up with something positive such as how the rain is actually fascinating to watch and hear. We like to call these kinds of people optimists—people who can make the best out of any situation others might find terrible. I’m sure all of us have met at least one person in our lives who is just perpetually happy. I’m not talking about someone who can make themselves appear to be happy all the time, although some people are masters of this art. I’m talking about those few people who you can tell are always genuinely happy. Many of us, I dare to say, envy those people. So how can we strive to be like them?
The only viable answer I can think of is to strive hard every day to think in a more positive way. Like I always say, that kind of thing is easier said than done. Researchers have said that it takes 30 days to completely change any given type of behavior. That means you have to actively work on whatever you want to change every day for a month without any exceptions. This type of method is often associated with attempting to overcome an addiction to alcohol, smoking, etc. However, constant pessimism can be just as destructive to one’s life as substance addiction. It can come to the point where you’re almost never happy. I can’t help but think of Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh.” Just imagine if he started saying things like, “Oh, those butterflies sure are pretty!” These observations would be few and far between initially, but hopefully they would become more and more frequent over time until it was rare for him to say something negative. Wouldn’t that be great if all of us could do that?The conundrum of defining happiness may be overwhelming, but you can at least start out small. Start by asking yourself, “What am I thankful for?” every single day. Soon, hopefully, you’ll begin to be thankful for things you might otherwise take for granted. It’s the small things in life, after all, that can generate the greatest contentment. And every time you find yourself brooding about one thing or another, try to turn that thought upside-down by asking yourself what is good about it. I’m a firm believer than nothing in life is completely black or white, so the more you’re able to make out the white mixed in with the black, so to speak, the lighter the shades of gray you see will start to become.