I used to think that being happy or sad was something that happens to you, and you had no control over it.
I thought sadness came and went and the person affected just had to wait for the feeling to pass. But then I started seeing people in my life have a bad situation happen in their life and recover from it, yet people with seemingly better circumstances were miserable. It caused me to think long and hard about the source of happiness and what exactly causes it.
Now before I start getting hundreds of emails about how depression is a disease that some people cannot control, let me clarify that I am not talking about those with a mental illness. I have family members on anti-depressants and I have experienced first hand how depression can affect someone. However, in this instance I am addressing those without a history of depression, those that are just going about their daily lives without observing their thoughts and mindset.
One conversation I had with my friend MyraJoy a few months ago on this topic stuck with me. We were driving to a SeneGence training that was 4 hours away and started at 10AM. The night before, we decided to leave at 5AM and stop for breakfast on the way. This meant setting our alarm clocks for 4AM--not exactly fun!
“At least we’ll be able to watch the sunrise on the way!” I told her happily before crawling into bed.
The next morning, we got on the road just as the first rays of sunlight appeared. However, I realized as we began driving that since we were headed west, the sunrise would be behind us and we would not be able to watch it.
“You know, it’s actually kind of nice we can’t see the sunrise,” I said to MyraJoy, “This way the sun won’t be in our eyes!”
“Do you know you always do that?” she asked.
“You always see the positive in everything. Last night you made light of getting up so early because we would watch the sunrise, but then today when you realized we wouldn’t see it, you looked on the bright side of that too and said it will be better for us to not be driving straight into the sun. Where did you get that from?”
It was such an interesting question to me, and very fascinating that my friend had picked up on something so minuscule that I had never given a thought to. I really did always look at the bright side, but it surely wasn't conscious. I realized soon after that I had adapted this mindset from my mom.
While I was growing up and we were stuck in traffic, my mother took the opportunity to catch up on current events and listened to the radio. If she accidentally did more work than she had to, she looked at it as a positive and was happy to be ahead in her job.
Rather than complaining about our circumstances, my mom always looked at the “glass half full” and chose to see the good in every situation. So in turn, I do too.
Science says that happiness has nothing to do with genetics, circumstances, health, or wealth. It has everything to do with mindset.
For example, two friends go to a restaurant and order the same meal. When the food arrives at the table, there is something wrong with each person’s dinner. One friend had asked for mayonnaise on the sandwich, but it came on the side. And the other friend asked for a side of fries, but was given fruit instead.
In this situation, the friend who received the mayonnaise on the side complained to the waiter that he ordered the condiment on the sandwich, and he was given a new sandwich right away. Then he told the waiter that his friend had ordered fries instead of fruit, although to his surprise his friend said, “That’s okay, I should probably eat healthier anyway, I don’t need the fries!” and happily reached for a strawberry.
Which friend are you?
Do you tend to look on the bright side in situations? Do you choose to be happy with what you were given, even if it might seem easier to complain?
If you are like my mom and I, good for you! Happy people tend to live longer, show less signs of aging, and be in an overall better mood.
If you are a “glass half empty” kind of person, it does not mean you are a bad person! You are most likely a realist, a pragmatist, and not necessarily a pessimist. However, it would be good for you to begin engaging with your life in a more positive manner.
Start with simple things and consciously smile at people more, try to find the good in every situation, and give others the benefit of the doubt. Tony Robbins recommends going on what he calls "gratitude walks" every day to keep ourselves grounded and grateful.
Our lives are just a bunch of small day-to-day interactions and how you react to them will completely affect your overall mood. Change lanes when a nasty driver cuts you off, be thankful when your boyfriend orders pizza after you charred the steaks, and laugh at yourself when you spill something on your shirt. If you vow to choose to be happy when your first instinct is anger, I promise you will drastically see how your life changes.
I want nothing more for you than to look through these rose-colored glasses with me, to not sweat the small stuff, and choose happiness every day. Don't you think the world would be a much better place?