Is it as simple as that?
When I was in college, I had a crush on someone with a girlfriend. I kept hoping he would come to his senses and start dating me. (He never did.) One night, realizing how much it was getting me down, I just decided to be happy. I wouldn’t let it bother me anymore. And it didn’t.
In The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says something profoudly simple about happiness: choose it. Make happiness a habit. Think about that – some of our habits aren’t actions, they’re emotions. Sometimes our negativity is just a a reflex, not a real assessment of reality.
Many of the sayings about happiness talk about it like a choice. Accentuate the positive. Look on the bright side (not the dark side). Walk on the sunny side of the street. In other words, focus on the good things, and life will be good. Don’t deny the negatives – recognize them – but make the judgment that the combination is still positive.
Peale recommends the mantra: “Things are going nicely. Life is good. I choose happiness.”
Or: “I believe this is going to be a wonderful day. I believe I can successfully handle all problems that will arise today. I feel good physically, mentally, emotionally. It is wonderful to be alive. I am grateful for all that I have had, for all that I now have, and for all that I shall have. Things aren’t going to fall apart.”
But if we focus on the negative, we’re manufacturing our own unhappiness. We’ve started a Sad Factory, and it can take any raw materials and turn them into a Bad Day. We use fancy equipment like pessimism, fear, and worry.
It’s a choice – it may be as simple as that. But it’s not just one choice: it’s many, many choices we make over and over every day, throughout the day, for our whole lives.
Photo by Flickr user The Daring Librarian
This reminds me of something I saw on the tv show American Horror Story, of all places. It shows some nasty characters in Hell after they died, each experiencing their custom-made Hell. In their Hells, they each experience one of the most painful moments of their lives, or some amalgamation of them. Then it starts over and repeats in a loop. I think some of us do this in real life. We replay they negatives over and over.