“Most folks are only as happy as they make up their mind to be.”
— attributed to Abraham Lincoln
There is some debate about whether or not that was actually said by the former president, but it certainly does seem to be the truth.
We’ve all met those people who have a problem for every solution. These are the sorts who would rather grouch about a problem then actually do anything practical about it. Efforts to help them arrive at a solution will be rebuffed, sometimes with some gusto. They don’t want help. They want to be grumpy. I guess they like the attention.
In fact, if people spent half the energy working toward solutions as they spent complaining about the problem, there’d be a lot more progress on the issues that concern us. We’d be happier as a result.
Resolving to Be Happy
We all have bad days, the sorts of days where Murphy is paying too much attention to us and everything goes wrong. Here are some ideas you can use to restore your happiness.
Go Ahead and Grouch
Get it out of your system. Find someone you can trust and talk it out. If you’re not sure who to trust, write it out. Holler at a pillow or an empty chair. Commiserate with someone else involved.
Just don’t live there, and do be careful who you talk to. Not everyone who smiles at you is your friend.
After you’ve had your chance to spew parts about what’s going on, do something constructive.
If it’s a problem that can be fixed, start working on the fix. Sometimes that’s a matter of figuring out what to do or securing the help you need. Sometimes it’s a matter of just doing the thing that fixes the problem, even if it’s not fun. Start doing the practical thing that will make the problem go away. When my apartment flooded a year ago, a terrific mess was left behind. We started dealing with the practical issues as soon as the water was gone.
If it can’t be fixed but requires action, do the thing. My car got squished in a major head-on collision. There was no fixing it. I got help from the nearest relatives and we started the process of chasing down insurance information to get the mess dealt with.
When there is no practical action you can take, do what you need to so you can get past the problem. When I had a bad day at work because of a twerpy colleague, there was no fix for that. After I finished grouching about the situation, I did something goofy to get my brain off it. In that case, I looked up a bunch of hokey jokes and shared them with my social media outlets. Other times, I’ve played goofy games for a while, watched a movie, or worked on crafty or writing-related projects.
Some problems are too big to ignore and too big for you to solve. For example, all the political shenanigans going on lately. Some folks are “dealing” with that by destroying property and hurting people. Instead of that, wouldn’t it be better to put practical effort into helping others? Don’t like how the government is treating a certain group of people? Do something useful. Donate your time, effort, or resources to some organization that helps those people, or go forth and help those people directly. The problem may not go away, but more good is accomplished by that than by beating up someone who disagrees.
Fake It Until You Make It
While you are doing the constructive thing, practice a little self-awareness. You may find that your brain will keep trying to dwell on what disturbed your happiness in the first place.
Be aware of what you’re thinking. Take every thought captive. Extinguish negative self-talk and actively focus on what you’re doing to fix the problem.
When I was teaching, I read a study about emotions mirroring physical actions. In this study, the researchers had people who were miffed about something smile even though they didn’t feel like it. The smiles were really fake at first, but then as the time continued, the subjects genuinely felt happier.
I’m not advising anyone to stuff emotions. That’s not exactly safe, either. I am suggesting, though, that instead of dwelling on the problems, people should consider dealing with the emotional part of the problem, doing something practical about it, then resolving to be happy, or at least happier.
Probably a lot easier said than done, but worth the effort, I think.