Week 2: The happiness choice

You know what’s easy? Complaining. Complaining is really easy. Being negative is really easy.

That’s why we do it so much. Any one of us can make a list of why we wish we had more money, or we don’t like our jobs, or our apartments need to be bigger, or we want our bodies to be different, or our relationships aren’t perfect, or we don’t feel good, or we didn’t have enough time, or somebody ruined our day, or whatever.

You know what’s harder? Being happy.

Actually, no. I take that back. Because being happy isn’t difficult. Being happy, I’ve realized, is just as easy as complaining. I’ve made a few mental adjustments over the past decade or so, and they have made a world of difference in my happiness. Allow me to explain.

First, I check my perspective. When I catch myself complaining about something — the guy who cut me off in traffic or the blueberries I spilled all over the kitchen floor — I stop and realize, if this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I’m having a pretty good day. I even said that the day I got rear-ended. Hey, that’s going to be the worst part of my day. Now I’m going to go enjoy the rest of it.

Second, I learned to identify what I can and cannot control, and I stopped wasting my time and energy on the latter. By definition, that accomplishes nothing (well, except to create stress and unhappiness. It does accomplish that). I’ve learned to assess my complaints as they come up. Can I control them? If the answer is no (say, someone else’s behavior), stop right there. Move on. If the answer is yes (say, my weight), I’ve adopted a rule of “put up or shut up.” It goes like this: This complaint is in my control, so I’ll do something about it, make a change. But if I’m not willing to do so or make a plan to do so, I shut up already. I don’t get to complain about things unless I am doing something to alter them. Just like that, I eliminate all complaints except those that are actionable.

Third, and most importantly, I take one minute each night to be grateful. As I’m in the process of going to sleep, I lie in my bed and think about the good things that were in my day: People I saw, conversations I had, things I experienced, foods I ate, free time that allowed me to relax. Sometimes, it’s as simple as being grateful the sun was shining. I’ve heard of people doing this nightly with their little children, but I think every adult should do it, too. I guarantee you: Even on the worst day, I can come up with something to appreciate.

I put these together and consider them my decision to be happy. It takes a little effort, and it takes checking the complaints as they come out of my mouth, but all this has made me an infinitely happier, more positive and more thankful person. As much as possible, I don’t fuss about small things or things I can’t change. I keep stressors in context of the big picture. I take action or let problems go. I don’t let a day pass without pausing to appreciate the good things I have. And I’ve realized, if you can train your brain to appreciate the positive things, the negative things really do fall away.

Some say the grass is always greener on the other side; I say water your lawn more often.

… However, that’s not to say I don’t still complain sometimes. Because I do. A little healthy venting will never stop being necessary.

Endnotes:

Plans for the week: Not much, as of now. Running, reading, watching football?

Currently reading: Still Alice

Song of the week: Eric Church’s “Before She Does”

Currently watching: Gilmore Girlsseason 5. The Good Wife, latest episodes.

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  1. I’m glad you’re watching GG.

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