Anyone else Doctor Who fans? I love this great quote from an episode from season 5 of the new series:
The Doctor: "The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and a pile of bad things... The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant."
I love that quote. I love everything about it. In the episode, he is referring to the tragic suicide of Vincent Van Gogh. For those unfamiliar with the show, The Doctor can time travel, and he and his companion, Amy, meet Vincent. While visiting, they all team up to defeat an adversary and, afterwards, show Vincent his future as a great, respected artist. When this does not change the artist's decision to end his life, Amy is devastated, thinking their visit had no impact on Vincent's life. That is when the The Doctor responds with the quote above. And he's right.
Sometimes we cross over these piles of good things and bad things, and we muddle them up together. And because negativity has such a profound effect on our perception of life, it can occlude and cover up the many good things that exist. Even though the negative parts of the world do not diminish what is good and positive, it can be difficult to see because negativity calls our attention so profoundly. The key, the secret then, to having a good, happy life, despite everything bad that may happen, is to find a way to sift out the good and bring it to focus.
Ultimately, being happy is a choice. It might be an easier choice for some (and I will not pretend everyone is equally advantaged/disadvantaged in this regard), but it is a choice and it is one you get to make for yourself. It can be frustrating--while some people seem to not even need to try to be happy, others chase it their whole lives and never find it. I have been angry, depressed, sad, frustrated, bitter, melancholy, and all of the above, and I must conclude that it is infinitely better to be happy. Is it easy? No. But it is better. And I want to try and remind both my self and others of ways to be so.
In the previous post I mentioned my use of positive statements about my life to keep my wandering mind focused on what I have 'going for me'. This is just one of many methods/techniques I use and am fond of for keeping positive and happy despite the unfortunate things that have happened to me. This isn't so much a method for long-term, enduring happiness, as it is just ways to stay positive. But being positive does make being happy easier. In the spirit of this, I have put together a list and I hope each of you may find at least one thing you wish to try to improve your positivity and happiness too.
1. Positive Statements
a. Say, out loud, the good things you have going on. When you vocalize something, you devote focus and motivation behind it that you cannot muster when simply thinking about it. You use multiple parts of your brain and give more substance and weight to an idea. So point out, to yourself, the good things in your life. Say them out loud. And do not say 'well, I have nothing'. There is always something. Avoid negative statements for the same reasons--you give an idea fuel when you pronounce it.
2. Gratuity Journal
a. This does not need to be an actual journal. It can be a slip of scrap paper, a file on your computer, anything. The key aspect of this method is to simply write down the things you are grateful for. A lot of times we create these filters that minimize the significance of rather immense blessings/good things. When we become ungrateful, we become unappreciative of how wonderful some things are and in turn, become less fulfilled and happy from these aspects of our lives. So write it down. At least once a week. And when you are feeling particularly frustrated/unhappy, go back to your list to remind yourself of these things.
3. Help Others
a. Along with the gratuity journal, this is to help increase your appreciation for the good things in life and to also increase how fulfilled you feel from them. When you give out good things to others (such as your time, sympathy, or finances) it increases the value of these things to your own self. Not to mention it just feels good. And do not fret if your condition or mood keeps you from hitting the streets to help others. There are many volunteer opportunities on the net and also people looking for a friendly pen pal to brighten their day. Look around for opportunities, and help others feel happy in the process.
a. Sometimes there simply is not enough blood in the brain for us to look at things objectively. When the brain suffers physically, it suffers mentally as well. For example, depression is characterized by reduced size and activity in certain parts of the brain. One of the best ways to nourish the brain and encourage healthy growth/function is exercise. So whether it be yoga, swimming, a run, a walk in the park, get off your rear and exercise at least 20 minutes a day to be as happy as possible.
a. Stress has a way of working itself into every aspect of life and gunking it up with its toxic effects. While stress can be beneficial in small, managed quantities, it becomes a real problem when it starts interfering with our mental and emotional functioning. Bypassing stress to feel happy is not easy, and most times it is not so simple as erasing the source of the stress. Taking control of life’s stressors is often a lengthy process, and there must be a way of dealing with the stress while going through the motions to mitigate it. Which is why relaxation is so important. A break from stressors in order to feel positive emotions without the interference of worry. So take a hot bath with candles. Or chop a lot of wood. Bike in the outdoors. Or paint a picture. Whatever you personally find relaxing, do it, eschew your anxiety, and enjoy the peaceful time.
a. Smiling alone releases endorphins, improving your ability to feel happy. Laughing is a powerful reflex for happiness, even when physically driven. So laugh, be goofy, silly, whatever, and try to make yourself laugh for several times a day. There are many hilarious blogs/comics that can make you smile and you can exaggerate that into a laugh. At first it may feel silly, but eventually it becomes reflex and you will find yourself feeling laughter more intensely and happily as time goes by. If you’re having an especially bad day, just start giggling. Feels weird, but that odd, awkward feeling in itself will eventually drive you to laughter. Just try it. Practice it. Make it a habit. Laugh out loud!
I hope you find at least one of these items worth giving a try, and if you wish to add to the list, please feel free to comment or email me at Bedriddenhead@gmail.com. I hope you can find a little positivity from this and wish you luck on your continuing search for happiness. Thank you for reading!
Note: I want to clarify that depression, chemical depression, is a heavy filter that can make the perception of happiness very difficult. These things can be therapeutic and help, but it is still important to seek professional help in regards to that serious condition. Having been depressed myself at times, I do not want anyone to feel I am making light of that condition in this post. Being said, I did overcome it and am very happy nowadays! You can do it too!
EDIT: One last thing to add--always remember that being happy is for you. It is not something you owe others or should be done out of social expectations. Trying to be happy for someone else just does not work; it must be for yourself, or else it cannot be real. Because it must be rooted deep inside you. So please, if you are pursuing happiness, please do so because you yourself made the choice to out of your own desires. I fully endorse pushing yourself to explore ways to motivate that decision, but come at it in your own time and way.