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What Makes You Happy?

Play Well The Hand You're Dealt
Play Well The Hand You're Dealt

By now, you know that Lorie Sheffer is Mid Life Celebration’s Sunday Guest Blogger. Here she is again with intriguing insight from her own experience and research:

What makes you happy? I often hear people say that they are looking for someone/ a job/ a home/ a new car to make them happy. In the past few weeks there have been announcements of celebrity divorces as well as that shocker about the Gore’s. Apparently they no longer made one another happy. Because of the loss of my dear friend, who had a very severe hoarding problem, I have been reading as much on the subject of acquisition as I can get my hands on. Several of the books deal not only with pathological hoarding, but also with this country’s seemingly endless need for things bigger and better. It seems no matter how much we have, we always want more. Perhaps this is an effort to acquire enough material possessions so that we finally feel happy and fulfilled. The constant pursuit of happiness brought to you by Visa. If only I can lose ten pounds. If only I get some Botox. If only my kids make the Dean’s list. If only.

Have you ever noticed that there are people in this world who are generally happy in spite of their seemingly bad situations? On the flip side, there are people who appear to have it all, and yet they are miserable? Unless there is some organic reason for this seeming inability to feel happy, why are they not? I have read The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama and several other books on happiness as well as having spoken to a few mental health professionals and a neuropsychologist. The general consensus may surprise you. It seems that happiness is a choice. We CHOOSE to be happy.

While I have never suffered from depression there are times that I, like all of us, am not feeling happy. Grouchy days, bad days, crabby days, call them what you will, we all have them from time to time. That is normal. However, they can become ingrained and the negative thinking can become habitual. We have the power to rewire our brains for good or for bad. It’s called forming a habit. Neuroscientists are studying the brains of Buddhist monks and how, through meditation, they can actually change the way their brains respond to stressful stimuli. It seems we have more control over our emotions than we realize. Try it for just one day and you will be amazed. Choose not to be unhappy with a situation. Every time you are tempted to respond in a negative way, find a more positive way.  Choose to act like you are in a good mood, and you eventually will BE in a good mood.

I am not for one second trying to say that someone who is truly, clinically depressed can think his or her way out of the darkness. For that, they will need professional assistance. With the help of appropriate medication and cognitive behavioral therapy, they can hopefully find relief. What is cogitative behavioral therapy? Rewiring your brain, with the help of a therapist. For the rest of us who have no organic reason to feel unhappy but instead are just Debbie Downers, we really do have the ability to start thinking like a happy person.

The next time you are looking for that special someone who can make you happy, go stand in front of a mirror and take a good long look. Nobody can MAKE you happy. You have to ALLOW yourself to be happy. Choose it. Act it. Pretty soon it will become second nature.