“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be”
For years my skeptical response to honest Abe was, “Bullshit, you obviously don’t know how my life sucks. Let me count the ways.” Life happened to me, and I interpreted the facts my way and reacted. Life was a string of events I viewed with my ego and a dirty pair of glasses. I was boxing with an opponent that was stronger and faster than I was. The best I could do was worry and cry, or rage and act out. I was not happy, and didn’t understand how my mind and thoughts could change how I felt. Didn’t I have to feel my feelings and let my emotions guide me? Remember Primal Scream Therapy?
I didn’t just wake up one day and suddenly understand what Mr. Lincoln was talking about, but today I believe he is right about happiness being a choice. How I perceive external events determines my “reality”. I have an egocentric and negative bias, and often react as if it’s all about ME. If I pause to question my perception, I usually reach the conclusion that I am not the center of the universe. Now I know what I tell myself is not always the “truth”. Just because I think something does not make it true. For example, when a friend is curt to me, and before I travel down the road of “Nobody loves me.”or “What a bitch!”, I consider other possibilities. Maybe she had a rough day at work, or is very tired, and I am not part of the equation. I check it out and ask for clarification so I can respond appropriately. Assumptions often make an ass out of me!
When I catch myself using the words “always” or “never” I know I have put up roadblocks to my happiness. I am not always rejected, nor is it true that I never succeed. When she needs to confront her negative interpretations (or mine), my best friend Susan asks, “Would it hold up in a court of law?” No lawyer would accept my case! Life is not black or white, and there are much more than fifty shades of gray.
The single attitude that fundamentally changes how I view my life, and my level of happiness, is gratitude. For years, when gratitude was the topic at my Al-Anon meetings, I groaned and grumbled. I had no Attitude of Gratitude, that’s for sure. So what has changed? I determined that I would list five things that I am grateful for everyday, and my sister Lisa started a life changing blog “Habitual Gratitude” . It is as simple as what you focus on grows and gets stronger. With practice, your mind gets better at recognizing what is good and beautiful. Gratitude is a proven path to happiness. Go ahead and take the road less travelled, but travel with gratitude.
Make a Happy New Year! Choose a Happy New Year!