Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Making the Decision to be Happy

Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll get a lot of flack for this one.  However, before you drag me off to be tarred and feathered as a lunatic, hear me out.  Please keep in mind that I, like you, have plenty of stories -- of pain, of tragedy, of upset, of wounds of all sorts.  I’ve been on and off the Pollyanna wagon my whole life.  We all have those stories.  And they are true!  We all have lots of reasons and evidence as to why we were unhappy, and why we will very likely stay unhappy, if we want to look for trouble.  The fact remains, ‘trouble’ will always show up, in some way.  Life is bumpy and wiggly, not neat and straight.  We have no choice about what goes on around us (although we can certainly influence it), but we do have a choice about how we react to everything, big and small,  that comes our way.

So, isn’t that good news?  You may not be able to change the way things are looking to you outwardly right now, but you can change the inner view.  In June, I heard Lionel Ketchian speak at the Happiness Club in Madison.  (Lionel is the founder of the Happiness Club, a free club with over 80 chapters world wide featuring different monthly speakers.)  Anyhow, hearing him speak seems to have clicked on yet another lightbulb, lighting my way to feeling really great, more of the time, for no particular reason.  
Lionel describes Happiness as a decision that he made.  That’s right, a decision; not something that comes to you from the outside, through people and actions and events.  Now, I thought I really knew that already, but I left that meeting with a new habit:  
Every time something is happening around me that I don’t like, or I don’t feel so great, or I’m brooding about something dumb and pointless and negative, I try to catch myself and say “Oh yeah, I forgot that I’ve decided to be happy no matter what!”  And I reset and refocus.
Does this sound simplistic?  It is.  Is it unrealistic?  No more than anything else.  Does it necessarily change outer circumstances?  No, but meanwhile, I get to feel okay no matter what (and then I find that circumstances ‘shift’ to match my feelings).  So -- the penalty for doing this is -- that I get to feel happy pretty much all the time, except for those ‘reset’ moments?  Hmmm, my price to pay for being happy is... being more happy.  I know, I know, this sounds like a trick.  
Still, think about it.  You can apply this to anything.  Let’s say you hate your job, your boss, your neighbor.  The next time you find yourself reacting, what if you stop and say “Oh yeah, I forgot that I decided to be happy no matter what!”  And you smile a little smile and go on your way.  Let’s say you are dealing with something truly catastrophic -- illness, natural disaster, financial ruin -- does the circumstance really have to dictate how you feel?  What if by doing this regularly, no matter what comes our way, we retrain our basic level of feeling to feeling more or less happy?  And what if by doing this persistently, you were able to eventually affect change outside of yourself, without stressful struggling?  And meanwhile, you got to feel good, no matter what?
OK, string me up if you like.  I am finding this to be more true, every day, and it’s pretty darned exciting.  And certainly, far less tiring.  
Oh -- and I’ll be speaking about all of this stuff at the Happiness Club in Madison, on Wed. Aug. 31st at 7 p.m., at the Madison Public Library.  Please come, it will be fun!!  Admission is free!
Love from In the Hammock (and I’m not coming out),

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