Sunday, February 28, 2016

How to be happy.

I've been pondering a lot lately on how we create our own reality. I'm not convinced I have the whole thing down yet, but increasingly I'm coming to believe that what's happening in our heads counts for more than what's happening in our lives when it comes to being happy.

I've often had fleeting thoughts about this, but no real cause to go any further with it. When I lost my job that changed. I naturally enough had the expected crash, but after a few tears and a few hugs I realised that actually I was very lucky to have lots of support and that I needed to just get back out there - even if the confidence was lacking .

A day or so later a rather lovely someone gave me this book.

You are a Badass.
How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life. 

It's the sort of thing I'd walk past in a bookshop, or possibly even smirk at if I caught someone reading it on a train. But as it turned out it was the perfect book given at the perfect time. It preached about positivity, and talked about how by believing something great is going to happen it really can. It also told me how much of a badass I really am.

No smirking at the back please.

If we radiate doom and gloom then that is what the universe will give back to us. If we high five our way through life then all that positivity comes right back into our open hands.

Last week I read this open letter from one young millennial woman to another. One had lost her job and was basically whining about how unfair things were for her (whilst asking the internet for free handouts), and the other was firmly putting her in her place. It was a great lesson in how two people can have two very different views on a similar life problem, and how those views go on to shape their future.

Anyway. Since my own job loss I have been picking up freelance work wherever I can, and getting by while I look for something more permanent. Sometimes I'm flat-out and badassing my way through it all. Sometimes my inbox is devoid of all life forms and the belief wavers. But generally I'd like to think I'm coping pretty well.

Which gets me to thinking... What makes one person able to move through the bad stuff while staying positive when others just can't seem to manage it?

What makes one person generally happy and content and another person miserable in life?
What about those glass half empty people who find it hard to see that their drink isn't yet finished? Should they just pull themselves together, step up and stop complaining?

Or is it much harder for some people to turn their thoughts around? And if so - why? Where they born that way? Is it because of their upbringing? Or is it their own fault that the rainclouds follow them everywhere?

These are the questions that are a little more difficult to answer.

A study carried out in the US in the 70's saw researchers interview State Lottery winners, and compared them with non-winners and with people who had suffered a terrible accident that left them paraplegic or quadriplegic. Each group answered a series of questions aimed at measuring their happiness level.

"The study found that the overall happiness levels of lottery winners spiked when they won, but returned to pre-winning levels after just a few months. In terms of overall happiness, the lottery winners were not significantly happier than the non-winners. The accident victims were slightly less happy, but not by much. The study showed that most people have a set level of happiness and that even after life-changing events, people tend to return to that set point."

Basically it's a bit like retail therapy - it gives you a quick boost but ultimately doesn't make you any happier in the long run. Similarly with the bad stuff - like losing your job - it knocks you sideways for a while but mostly you get back to where you were happiness-wise.

So if that's the case, and outside factors don't really make much of a difference to our happiness, then the thing we really need to work on is the internal stuff - to make our brains create positive outlooks. Depending on where you lie on the happiness scale that could be through meditation, yoga, counselling, running, CBT, the odd self-help book or, if you really must, some inspirational quotes. 

Because I'm pretty sure you really can become a happy badass - if you just train your brain to believe it.

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