March 22 was the International Day of Happiness sponsored by a positive psychology author and Project Happiness is a non-profit on a mission throughout the year to help people become happier. But what is happy and why do we need movements to help us be happy?
Well, turn on the news. How many people are angry and feel they need to fight for what they believe? How many children are being bullied physically or verbally? How many injustices are happening because an authority turns a blind eye? How many people are being attacked simply for who they are? How many people are frustrated because they feel powerless? How many people are focusing on everything except being happy?
I spoke to a friend the other day who gave me a litany of people and things which wronged her. People were forcing their beliefs on her. She felt her religion was being attacked. She took incidents wholly outside of her realm of influence as direct attacks on her. She was sick and tired of not being heard. But she also looks for these incidents. She belongs to Facebook groups which constantly spew hate and fear. Many of her friends share her beliefs of being under attack. She provokes others into debates which only fuel differences. Consciously or unconsciously she seeks out aggression, hate, fear, and attack. She is living in a war zone of her own creation. And I find it hard to believe that she is happy.
Every day I work with individuals who have been dealt a truly bad hand in life: a child with a mental handicap, a spouse who left the world too soon, natural disasters which took their home and security, financial hardships not of their doing, physical or emotional abuse, or being diagnosed with an untreatable illness. These individuals seem justified to be angry; to go on rants about the injustices of the world. But they don’t. They know true pain and are seeking something better. They want to be happy.
So what makes someone focus on pain versus looking for relief? What makes someone angry versus happy? I believe it comes back to power; our own personal power. When we give up our power to others or circumstances, we are defenseless victims. We curse the sky and look for more reasons we have been wronged. But when we truly accept that we have the power to create our own lives, that no matter what anyone else says or does we control the life we experience, we have the courage to move forward in a positive hopeful, dare I say, happy way.
Does this mean we never get sick? No. Does this mean that we may never be hurt? No. Does this mean we will never be affected by authority or others? No. What it does mean is that we control how we react to anything that this thrown our way. The issue or outcome does not matter. How we react to it does. Remember the old saying “It is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game”? It is not about the results, it is not about the outcome, it is not about the facts, nor is it about the circumstances. Many times these are beyond our control. What does matter, and what we can control, is how we are within the circumstances. We can control how we experience our lives. We can control our attitude. We can control our words and thoughts. We can control negative emotions. We choose how we experience life. And we can choose to be happy.
So as you look around you, how are you choosing to live? Are you focused on ways to make yourself happy? Are you focused on making the best of the situation? Are you focused on feeling calm, confident, contented? Are you focused on an experience which is pleasing to you? Where are you choosing to be less than happy? How can you change your experience of life? How can you create a happier day?