To be or not to be

Published 5:37 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Start the year out with a choice to be happy. Would you believe true happiness usually doesn’t just fall in your lap? Even if you win the lottery! Not even a truck load of money can do it! It may bring a thrilling rush of excitement but it usually leads people back to their normal state of being. Why? Because research shows that not only does our ancestors determine our cholesterol levels but our happy level as well. Your genes determine how happy you are. Mine do cause when I can’t fit into my “genes” I am not Happy!

This is concerning if you look at your grandparents and they are all very grumpy.

I am not Dr. Phil but I do want to give everyone something to consider so when I see you at the Wal-mart you smile rather than growl. I also feel obligated to give Britney Spears a clue if she accidentally reads this.

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According to Psychology professor David T. Lykken an author of Happiness: Its Nature and Nurture, “trying to be happier is like trying to be taller. We each have a happiness set point.”

So what do we do, don’t worry be Unhappy? Give up our attempts for joy?

Of course not. Just like ugly, you and a plastic surgeon can work with what you got. It means you don’t just wake up like Cinderella singing and dancing with little animals dressing you every day of your life, but instead, you consciously have to choose to be happy and work towards it.

Besides learning how to be happy by watching Oprah or in this case reading her online articles, you can follow some suggested steps by supposed experts who have studied the subject.

Step One: Choose to be happy.

It is a phrase in your inner conversation with yourself; I am going to be happy. Choose your attitude direction for the day. With good self management skills you can change the direction of the day by doing this.

As a mother, you can growl and holler at your kids or be sweet and push gently by making the choice. Of course, kids are there to train wreck your attitude. But if you are pre-determined with your attitude, they will be frightened by your strange behavior and either feed off it themselves and be happier children or think this is some parent trick and they had better behave.

Sometimes people or environments bring you down, so try to avoid those situations. I know at every office there is always one Eeyore that sucks the life out of any joy in the workplace. They moan and complain and share their “life sucks” attitude until you are ready to jump off your own bridge. You can either run from them or bombard them with over exuberant joyful attitude. Like garlic, it might drive them away.

Step Two: Count your blessings and be grateful.

Mentally keep the list of good things in your life. Be grateful for what you do have. I will preach this till I die.

Step three: Forgive.

Holding grudges or believing others have done you wrong will bring you down emotionally and physically. Staying angry eats your joy alive and leads you to a dark side of the force like Darth Vader. Get over it and focus on your own life. Do not give power to the wrongdoing. If you want to take it a step further; do something extra nice for the wrongdoer so you are empowered.

Step four: Replace negative with positive.

Recognize negative emotions when they arise like resentment, anger, self-pity and pessimistic tendencies. Immediately infuse your mind with good thoughts, practice empathy, serenity and prayer. Listen to uplifting music and remember a time when someone did something really nice for you or a re-live a great memory. I have wedding days, birth of children, get a ways that are highlights of my life. We all have them tucked away.

Step five: Avoid materialistic wants.

We are bombarded with advertisements that encourage us to want more and more stuff: car ads, electronics, clothes, and ways of lives that most of us can not afford. We fixate on a want that will only make us happy for the moment and then we go to the next item to bring us that moment, and so on and so on. Money can not buy happiness. Don’t give in to the greedy give me’s.

Step six: Accumulate friends.

More studies show that you will live longer when you have a network of friends. Isolation is a killjoy and leads to loneliness which can bring on more unhappy feelings. Get out, get involved, find friends.

Step seven: Do something meaningful.

Raising children is a powerful task in life and very meaningful, so as a mother, do not feel like the four hundredth mess of the day you have cleaned up is not relative to peace on earth.

What is your leisure activity? If it’s just watching television, the studies state it brings the lowest levels of happiness. You are not being challenged and you are not using your abilities. Sitting on a couch can be mastered in a day.

If your life is more about you and your wants then maybe you will not be a happy person. Focus on doing something good for others. If all your resources, time and money are devoted to only yourself, then the happiness you experience will be shallow at best. Giving out to others gives a satisfaction that deepens your quality of life and the rush of contentment is better than buying yourself a new car. Really!

It is our duty to work on being happy. It won’t happen on its own.

Things can not make you happy, children can not make you happy (they make you crazy and as a prime example, look at Ms Spears, pop princess one day, two children later she is in the mental hospital) marriage can not make you happy, medicines can not make you happy (although they do aid some folks and should be used properly) and most of all life can not make you happy. It is all about what is on the inside.

The only person who can make you happy is you. So work on that please.