Are you happy? There seems to be a lot of attention given to this question. There are blogs, books and podcasts on the subject. Writer Gretchen Rubin (http://www.gretchenrubin.com) has made a multi-million dollar career out of how to get to your happy place. There are research projects on why some of us are happy and other people are not so happy. In keeping with the current pursuit of the question of happiness, the “Are you happy?” question was asked of us during the Dynamic Aging course I took recently. We were directed to the University of Pennsylvania’s website on Authentic Happiness (https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu) to take some interesting, fun and mostly short tests to reveal our happiness quotient. The results also included where we rank with others who took the test and happen to live in our particular zip code.
I’ve never thought of myself as being happier than other people. But, my results revealed how I was happier than most, giving way to much thought on my part as to whether this was really true or not. One of the tests, which points to the reason for my specific level of happiness, is the test of optimism, where I rank exceptionally high when it comes to looking ahead to a positive outcome during a negative event. Since some of my most dismal life failures have been the catalyst for my most outstanding successes, hope springs eternal in my mind and spirit. Think Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone With The Wind… “After all, tomorrow is another day” or Little Orphan Annie belting out “tomorrow, tomorrow”. One of my favorite sayings is, “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings” and for good reason. So, an apparent must-have for a happy life is optimism.
If you want to stay optimistic, try surrounding yourself with like minded people. Many years ago, I made the decision that just because someone knocks on my life’s door, it doesn’t mean I have to open it up and let them in. I steer clear of the toxic influences. And, periodically, I have to clean house. If I can’t completely eliminate the influence, then I at least make every effort to minimize time spent with that person. You know the type of person I’m talking about. The one who never smiles let alone laughs. Any sense of humor eludes them because they are too busy focusing on all the negatives in life, including events around the world, over which they have little or no control. While I want to be aware of what’s going on in the world, a steady diet of murder and mayhem can have an adverse effect on attitude and outlook. The spring of eternal hope may be put in jeopardy of drying up. On the other hand, reading an upbeat blog like self-described ‘happiness bully’ Gretchen Rubin’s may actually help you to arrive at your happy place.
All of us experience negative, sad or unpleasant moments in life such as the recent passing of my father-in-law. Losing a loved one can definitely be a depressing experience. However, if you are a generally happy person, going through an unpleasant or negative experience, doesn’t make you a generally unhappy person. It makes you a person who is feeling down about a particular event not your entire life. Although it was sad to see my father-in-law pass, I still have all the other wonderful people in my life, who make me smile and enjoy life. In this example, they provide comfort and solace as do certain activities like working in my garden or writing for this blog. During a tough moment in time, counting your blessings or keeping a gratitude journal can act as a reminder that your glass is really half full instead of half empty. Focusing on all the good things in your life is a great way to prevent yourself from becoming the old sourpuss described in the previous paragraph.
So, the three things I do to promote my happiness are:
Remain optimistic even during adversity;
Surround myself with positive people, information and activities; and
Count my blessings.
While you have to set up an account to access the testing on the University of Pennsylvania Authentic Happiness site and the results are retained for the University’s research, it is well worth it to obtain some insight about your happiness and a few other things like character strengths and optimism. I would love to hear from you, even if you don’t take the tests, about whether you think you are happy or not and/or what you think keeps you in your happy place. Let me know. Are you happy?