So much sad news, lately. So many shootings, killings, negative words. It is easy to get down about it and stray from my mantra: I choose happiness.
Depending on the scope of what issues you are examining in the world, it is tempting to get caught in the vortex and start, slowly (or quickly, depending on your suction rate), spinning down and down and down into the negative spiral. Something as simple as a friend writing something about their views on a presidential candidate can leave people spinning out of control with ugly, hurt feelings. I stay away from the vortex. I choose happiness.
I read something the other day that talked about happiness being an inside job. We shouldn't expect someone to "make" us happy. Doing so implies that we can't make ourselves happy. What do you believe? Do you think you have the ability to change the way you feel? When I was getting my counseling degree, we were given the task of deciding what our counseling theory would be. Some people chose cognitive theories, ones that focused on how your thinking guided your actions and feelings. Others chose emotional theories, the ones that focused on how we simply need to feel differently in order to make changes in our lives. I chose a behavior theory, remembering how my students with Emotional Disturbances needed to be taught different habits in order to make changes in their worlds. My belief is that if we choose a new behavior, habit or action, we can soon alter the way we feel and think. Many people call it the "fake it 'til you make it" or "act as if". It is not as unrealistic as it might sound. Take, for instance, the research on how smiling can help with depression. Some say the act of smiling can alter the way you feel. Try it. Maybe even try a giggle. Okay, if you need some help with giggling, just google one of those videos of babies laughing. You may find yourself laughing along with them. The laughter doesn't mean there aren't any more tragedies in the world. It doesn't mean you are ignoring the sadness of a cancer diagnosis or a divorce or the death of a dear friend. It simply means you aren't going to let sadness consume you. I choose happiness.
When I was a guidance counselor, students would come to me spouting "He was mean to me" or "She made me mad". I began teaching lessons on personal responsibility---taking responsibility for our part in situations which seem to have been thrust upon us (a bit like early 12-step work, right?). I knew that the kids liked songs, chants, and raps, so I created a poem we could all say to help us remember our personal responsibility.
I always have a choice, no matter what I do.
I make the choice and I can't blame you.
After teaching every class in the school, we began saying this at assemblies. We would say it slowly, we would say it quickly, we would say it like a big fat whale in the ocean (think: Dorie speaking "whale"), we would say it with our best Texas accent. We would shake our hips to it or wave our hands in the air as we said it. The point was: we were all learning how to take responsibility. That has been about 15 years since I began teaching that, and I have people tell me they can still recite it. Why? It's a mantra with which we can live. Why? Because it means we are choosing happiness. Or, at the very least, if we are choosing to pout, we are not blaming it on someone else.
I was talking to a dear friend, recently, who is going through a most difficult time in her life that simply smiling isn't going to "fix" for a while. She gets that. I get that. But we talked about how self-pity, while natural, is a place we will only visit. We don't need to purchase property in the self-pity subdivision. That just sounds too permanent. Instead, we talked about the power of talking through tough times. Tell and re-tell is what I encourage people to do. Tell and re-tell the tough stuff to get the sharpest of the pains out. Then, perhaps, we can begin to replace some of the painful stuff with tiny pieces of joy or gratitude.
Just for today, decide what you want to be and do for the day. I choose happiness. And Funny Animal Videos