Happiness and positive thinking

Happiness: (via: wordweb)

  1. State of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
  2. Emotions experienced when in a state of well-being

It has taken me nearly all of what could be classed as my ‘adult’ life, so from 18-27 (9 years… apparently I am a little slow on the uptake) to come to the following conclusions, that for a long time I understood academically, but it is only in the last year or so that I have really come to understand the concept.

1. You are the only person in your life responsible for your own happiness and self-satisfaction etc.

“Happiness depends upon ourselves”

– Aristotle (384-322 BC)

2. No-one can change your life for you; it’s entirely up to you. You can ask for help, but people can only give as much as they are able to or you ask for. Yes there are outside influences that you cannot alter and for many this attitude is much harder than for others, due to a multitude of reasons; situation, belief’s, environment etc.

Certainly the people around you can be a part of what makes you happy, but they are not responsible for your happiness and therefore shouldn’t be blamed or held accountable by you if they fail to live up to the expectations you have forced upon them.

3. Positive thinking is about changing your attitude not that of those around you. You can choose to think and act positively.

4. Happiness is relative to each individual, what makes us happy and what it means to us is different and is also constantly in flux. What makes me happy today may not be what does it for me tomorrow, or next week, or next year etc. There is no one thing that causes happiness within everybody, it can be something teeny tiny or something gargantuan or sometimes something completely benign and everyday. Sometimes it is incredibly complicated, such as; relationships and at others so utterly simple like; crumpets and jam.

It can sometimes be ridiculously hard to do all of the above, especially if you are often surrounded by negativity, either others or your own. You cannot change other people, so it’s up to you to change your environment or develop coping methods and learn not to let it unduly affect you.

To me and my way of thinking, happiness is an integral part of living my life, something to strive for, and achieve.

A colleague was recently surprised when I told her that I have terrible depression (which I do, on occasion, mostly during the winter months, SAD-ish), she said I always struck her as very energetic and upbeat, positive… I think if she had had it in her to do so, she would have used the distasteful word ‘perky’. My response was that in recent years (literally the last year or so) I have tried very hard to be optimistic and upbeat, especially when I am at work. I work with a few people who sometimes seem to have absolutely nothing positive to say. So, now I try to be that positive person, to uplift my working environment. Mostly so I don’t succumb to my depression as often, but also because I dislike being around negative people, so it’s only right that I should not become one either, because maybe they don’t like being around negative people either. Also, it’s just plain tiring being that down trodden all the time. Life is way too short.

So, in my working environment, and in my general dealings with reality and the folk within it, I always try to remain positive in my approach. This does not mean that I am like this all the time, far from it, but the more I do it the more natural it seems to become.

“I resent that, I’m as broody and romantically self-destructive as the next girl!”

Thank you Barbara Gordon[1] for that most apt quote, well perhaps not the ‘romantically’ bit in this particular instance, but still…

I am now one of the converted, not that I fell righteous or any better than anybody else, my positive thinking hasn’t led to an extended bout of narcissistic egotism by any stretch of the imagination, but it has given me a clearer insight into the matter of happiness… I think simply because I have given it such extended thought.

All of which leads me to ask the following questions, or at least muse upon them.

Are people happy generally? Or are we too accepting of things, that we think we cannot alter for example, is it normal to not like your job, to complain about it, is it a wholly British thing to ‘totter on’ regardless of whether or not we take any pleasure in doing so?  Do some people assume/accept that life isn’t malleable and that they therefore have no control over their own life? Now I understand that for some this may very well be the case, I’m not giving people an out but I am certainly admitting that the world and it’s actions and attitudes are not always what they seem and that they certainly aren’t always black and white and that simple, that some people in the world have an incredibly hard life and that my mutterings must seem rather insulting and very simplified. I am talking in generalisations about changing your life and being in charge of your own happiness.

I complain about my job, I get frustrated about it as much as the next person, but I know that I have to alter my attitude when I am at work to curb my frustration to a bearable minimum, for myself and others. This is more of a recent decision, to complain less about work, what are the positive things I can say about my day instead, and if I come away with nothing whatsoever that is positive, whose fault is that exactly? It’s not the students or other members of staff is it; the onus is on me so why not start the way I mean to go on?

Your personal happiness is entirely what you make of it; positive thinking, and a starting desire to want to be happy and then work out what it is that will help you achieve that, to some seemingly impossible endeavour.

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”

– Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

I have also come to the conclusion that happiness is something that should not be taken advantage of or taken for granted or assume that it will always be there… depending perhaps on the definition of ‘happiness’ you are applying. I mean is ‘happiness’ a satisfaction thing, something that makes you smile so hard your face hurts, laugh out loud, leave you with a general feeling of well-being… etc. Again, I think the definition of ‘happiness’ is an individual thing.

I do not envy other peoples happiness, nor have I ever really done, at least to the best of my knowledge I cannot recall ever feeling that way, but I do feel immense sadness and compassion for those who don’t have it, many through no fault of their own… such as children who are abused, the victims of Haiti etc, but I also feel sad for those who simply cannot bring themselves to be happy, it must be incredibly had and tiring being that unhappy all the time, the amount of energy it must take. Now, I am not saying the two scenarios are even remotely comparable, just that I empathise on both sides regardless. Additionally I feel that Envy is one of the scarier cardinal sins there is (possibly followed or maybe even surpassed by Wrath… but that is simply my opinion)

I am immensely grateful for that which I do have, even when I am ‘blue’ I can still appreciate that I am far better off than some and that really my own woes are pretty trivial in comparison to some. I am well off physically, mentally and familial… in fact my family is probably the one thing I am richest with, not in a boastful way, but we are close knit and supportive who could ask for anything more really?

Are people always capable of identifying when they are happy or when they aren’t for that matter, and can they then identify the cause of that happiness? Not that you need to be able to, some things you should just take at face value after all. If they are not happy, is this then something that should be pointed out or can only the individual in question come to that level of self-realisation? Certainly they are the only ones who can do something about it unless they ask.

With all my talk of being in charge of your own happiness I am by no means abandoning the plight of those who cannot ask for help, for whom it is not physically or mentally possible such as those mentioned three paragraphs up this little treatise. I am not talking about leaving people in poverty or neglect I am talking about the folk you maybe work with who are negative thinkers etc.

On the other hand, I know a person who despite all that they say seems, on some level, whether consciously or not, to be determined to be a martyr, to wallow in their own self-pity and continue to be the misunderstood victim, they just cannot see it within them self to be happy… they either don’t want to be or simply aren’t capable. Now, I may be doing them a disservice by suggesting that this is the case, but in all that I know about them, unless they are omitting something huge and horrific then there is nothing to stop them, they are holding themselves back for whatever reason that may be, tied around an event when they were a teenager, they seem determined not to let go and release that event, but rather to make everything around them as bad as they feel it ought to be.

I see this about them, but they don’t, I choose not to get overly involved, barring being there for them if necessary, because I don’t want to be a method for them perpetuating this cycle and thus become culpable for their blame so the responsibility is once more removed from them, I do not want to encourage this as I think they are damaging them self, but until they come to that conclusion themselves my opinion is worthless for it will make little to no difference unless they get there on their own. They need to be in charge of their own happiness.

I did however set them a task, mostly out of curiosity on my part, and partly out of sheer exasperation that after four years of knowing them they have not moved on even slightly. I set myself a task recently, the result of which was a recent post, 101 things that make me happy. I had come to the conclusion that everybody can think of a plethora of things that hack them off, but to think of 101 positive things, things that you liked, loved, enjoyed made you giddy or whatever was, I felt, a much harder prospect, though thoroughly interesting nonetheless. So I asked them what made them happy, I told them about my little self-appointed task and then set it for them (now half my work place has jumped on the bandwagon, a most curious thing) to do. A month later they are up to about 23 things… which I consider to be great progress as initially they groused that nothing made them happy, a suggestion, I have to admit I was less than sympathetic about[2].

To that end, having done it once, I have now decided to follow through and do it at least twice more, once in the middle of my 101/1001 project and once near the end, basically to see what stays the same and what changes with the coming 2.7 years. A prospect I am oddly relishing and not especially in the pickley way.

So, basically; Happiness is what you make it and it’s up to you to make it for yourself.

I think that about covers it, and if I had said that right at the beginning, I would have saved you 4 pages (2,062 words) of reading. Think on that one if you will, but most of all; Be Happy!

[1] Birds Of Prey television series (2002). Barbara Gordon was played by Dina Meyer… incidentally an excellent piece of casting having read the comic version of Barabara Gordon for years, I couldn’t think of a more perfect person to play her, but that is entirely by the by to this topic… just putting it out there.

[2] Sorry about the lack of pronoun, privacy and all that, it’s not about me and therefore it’s not fair to name and shame as it were and I’m equally sorry if in avoiding that issue I have become grammatically inept


About Nerdsbian

I am a nerd for ALL seasons. Ravenclaw...natch. I am a genderqueer Librarian who unsurprisingly likes reading...a lot. But I also love being outside too...sometimes even reading at the same time. Also animals, any and all of them. Never yet met one that didn't get on with me and vice versa. I do a couple of different voluntary jobs (animal charity related), I am a Brownie Leader and have recently completed my MA.
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