“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
My favorite definition of happiness is Dr. John A. Schindler’s, “A state of mind in which our thinking is pleasant a good share of the time”.
“Happiness is purely internal,” says psychologist Dr. Matthew N. Chappell. “It is produced, not by objects, but by ideas, thoughts and attitudes which can be developed and constructed by the individual’s own activities, irrespective of the environment.”
Believe it or not, happiness is a habit. Unhappiness is just as much a habit as happiness. It is also just as easy to be happy as unhappy. We react to petty annoyances and frustrations purely out of habit with grumpiness, dissatisfaction, resentment, self-pity and irritability. For example, our bosses talk to us rudely and have us do some task that may seem pointless. Moreover, someone does not come through for us when we think they should. We also go to play X box, but our girlfriends have already planned our day off.
Thus, a lot of habitual reactionary unhappiness has occurred as a result of some events that we interpreted as a blow to our self-esteem. The way we deal with these things is what we have practiced reacting in certain ways so much that it has become habitual. Imagine it as you being an audience member at a TV show. Someone waves signs that indicate laughter or applause and the audience do as instructed. We are reacting when circumstances signal to us to be angry, get upset, resent this person, or feel unhappy now.
Forming The Habit of Happiness
Habits are reactions and responses, which we have learned to do without thinking about it. Here is a little exercise you can do. Every morning, before you get out of bed, say to yourself:
- I will ignore completely and close my mind to all those pessimistic and negative facts that I can do nothing to change.
- I will not let my own opinion color facts in a pessimistic or negative way.
- I am going to be a little less critical and a little more tolerant of other people, their faults, failings, and mistakes. I will place the best possible interpretation on their actions.
- Regardless of what happens, I will react as calmly and intelligently as possible.
Write these four statements down and keep them next to your bed. Also, take them with you and remind yourself of them throughout the day, especially when those petty annoyances occur. Do it for 30 days and see if you don’t feel more at ease, confident, less worried, guilty and hostile. It is the repetition, the conscious responding until it is no longer conscious that makes a habit. There are more exercises, techniques, ideas and humorous anecdotes at the University Of Happiness.
Regardless of your age, regardless of your calling, regardless of your training, experience or education, one thing common to every human being is the desire to be happy.