I was watching two kids the other day. They met, they fought together for a toy they both wanted, and then shortly, they agreed on a certain amusing dance, which is spinning around themselves and singing an unrecognizable song: “Aaa wuff, aaa wuff, la la, la, la, la, la, la”.
Spinning and singing, they soon started clicking and laughing their hearts out, and kept doing so for a while. I was thinking to myself: If these two children can generate so much happiness out of doing such a simple dance, then happiness shouldn’t be a costly and tough pursuit.
Our perspective on life defines who we are, what our lives are like, and the choices of our lives. If our perspective on Life was judged from the viewpoint that we are unlucky because we don’t have what we need or want at hand, then most of us across history have been miserable. Such way of thinking is an unproductive one. That is because if we constantly feel we are lacking of something or someone, then this is how our brain is going to form our reality. This may result in non-preferable/negative concepts about ourselves, like we are not as rich, slim, beautiful, successful or smart as somebody else. What this does is that it focuses one’s attention outward, i.e. outside us, while aspiring to raise our level (socially, economically, intellectually, etc.). It also shifts our will from concentrating on what action steps that need to be taken, in order to seek a happier status. So as a consequence of comparing ourselves and what we have to others and what they have, our self-esteem, will power and positive thinking abilities become debilitated, and we start feeling frustrated. Similar self-conceptions start forming up, like “I’ll never be as rich/ slim/ smart as that person”!
Such line of thinking convinces the brain that there is no need to do anything to seek improving our status, as there is no hope in doing so in the first place: “It will never happen!” Our brain is a child, as Byron Katie says. Whatever you tell your brain, it will think it’s true, and start sending out messages to the entire body and orchestrating its entire operations accordingly. So be aware who is telling your brain what to think. Is it you or some other resource? Why do you believe it’s true?
Therefore, pessimism, low self-esteem, low will power, lack of energy, poor health, overwhelming fear or sense of insecurity, etc. maybe the result of adopting a negative perspective on life. This also includes thinking that life is not fair, evil is more powerful than good, etc. Our lives taste the way we believe they do. If it’s bitter what we believe in, then this is the constant taste we may feel in our mouths every time we hear something bad happened. This may even lead some of us to feel blocked, and stop moving on in their lives.
However, there have always been people who are more resilient than others, who rise above calamity and harness it for their own benefit, i.e. allow their challenges to turn into lessons to learn from in order to improve their situation. Those people have developed a productive perspective on life. They may have realized at an early stage that life was not about having all that we want and need available. They have not associated happiness and self-actualization with whether or not they had been born with everything served to them on a silver spoon. They have learned that through knowing what they needed, thinking of ways to attain them, making carefully planned actions and maintaining a constant focus on their goals, they achieved their goals.
On the other hand, there have always been people who were born lucky to find their needs and wants within their hands, and they did not have to shed a sweat to get them. However, most of these people realize sooner or later that they had been blessed in the past, and that they had to plan and work in order to continue having what they had, or maintaining their status in the future.
Life is like an ocean with constantly overlapping waves. One have got to focus on what they have in hand and deal with it, and try to not get overwhelmed with the rest of these waves. However, those who were born without means may later do much better in their lives, and be better off than they had ever been. Alternatively, those who were born wealthy may later lose what they always had, and may be faced with two options: To work or to lament their loss forever. This, in turn, shapes the sequence their lives are going to have.
If we can look at these happenings from a non-judgmental view, i.e. without giving a positive or a negative label on them, associating an optimistic or pessimistic meaning with them, we then may realize that it is just one of Life’s numerous lessons: That nothing remains the way it was, and that change is a natural process, which calls for new lessons to be learned. So for example, if a wealthy family loses its sole provider, they may either choose to create an action plan to maintain their wealth, or – which happens rather automatically in many families – live in a state of grief or denial forever, and have a pessimistic view on life, maintaining the unproductive habit of regurgitating memories of their happy past.
It is only wise to think that those who get stuck, they stop moving on in their lives. Instead, they can acknowledge their sorrowful turn of events, be aware of its implications, honor past memories, and create a step-by-step action plan that can alternate an inevitable slope, should they remain blocked. This cannot lead to happiness.
Happiness can be generated out of a change of perspective, a counter narrative to a negative viewpoint. When one maintains a positive view on one’s life, happiness can be a natural consequence. Moreover, this can lead to more success.
Here are some tips on how to overcome hardship and maintaining a positive perspective on life, hence, feeling happier:
– Always consider where and how you are receiving a particular piece of news: This makes a world of difference, as sometimes, once we realize the source of the information, we may then associate that with their purpose/ nature in life. For example, I have learned during my Master’s course in Media that Good News Is Not News, and that news agency are private companies at the end of the day, and they have to make a living out of attracting more audience to them, in order to get more expose on the ads placed in between the news shots. Also, when a particular news agency gains credibility over time, it becomes established in people’s brains as an authoritative resource that dictates reality. Meanwhile, most media experts nowadays describe mainstream news agencies as ‘repeaters’ as opposed to ‘news transmitters’.
– Rationalize news before accepting it: Another valuable lesson I have learned is that if the news we hear isn’t weird or unique enough, then it wouldn’t have been transmitted, i.e. if the news was common and mundane, we would’ve never heard of it. So try to make sure to put information in their proper context inside your brain.
– Have faith in a greater stronger Creator, who is doing the Judging process of all nations: The problem with most thinkers I have met in my life, in my view, is that they tend to place themselves in the terribly tough position of judging life, people, happenings, etc. I once heard a commentator on British TV saying: “Who placed the United States as the World’s Policeman?” addressing Bush Junior’s categorization of who is with the US and who isn’t. By trusting or even contemplating (if you weren’t a believer) that there is a greater aware force in this world that orchestrates everything, you may feel more hopeful that through prayer, you can seek refuge in your Creator/God, in times of fear.
– Spirituality helps generate positive thoughts and energy: So even if one isn’t a believer, by shifting one’s thoughts from negative to positive, one can attract goodness into their lives, as opposed to darkness. Also, spirituality feeds the soul, which in turn helps us feel more secure.
– Exercise gratitude by keeping a daily gratitude journal close to you: By counting our blessings, we may counter negative self-beliefs with positive ones. This in turn can give us a great push forward toward fulfilling our goals, and not resort to despair and frustration, as a result of failure.
– Exercise and sleep well: Often times, negative feelings about oneself or others result from a general feeling of exhaustion, fatigue, busy-ness or sickness. Self-care can restore one’s natural feeling of happiness.
– Consult with your doctor on your general well being: Sometimes, hormone imbalance or thyroid gland dysfunctions can cause us to have a prolonged phase of unhappiness. So make sure to keep this idea in mind.
Happiness comes from within, just like these two kids proved. Happiness shouldn’t cost much, and shouldn’t be hard to achieve. It’s all inside our brain.
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