I’ve thought a lot about that in recent weeks. Why? Because there are people in my life – people who are important to me – who are not happy. For a few of them, I can honestly say that there are some serious circumstances that would cause just about anyone to be unhappy. And even moreso, for some it seems that the sitch is on a shit sandwich with crap in between. You know, piles of bad things stacked up. Kind of like a bad situation club sandwich.
There are others whose problems or worries are real, but the people in question give these problems (challenges?) super-life by stressing and overthinking and analyzing them under a microscope.
And then there are the few who find problems that barely exist.
So I wonder. Why am I happy?
I have problems, too. Some big. Some serious. Some small and insignificant. In reality, there is at least one thing every day that could make me nuts. (or more nuts.)
And admittedly, there are days when I can’t get past something and I’m stressed out or overwhelmed or just plain worried. It happens.
But most of the time, I’m happy. In spite of the not so great things. Because of the oh so great things.
Maybe I’m just wired this way. Maybe I really just do see the bright side more often than not. Maybe I really am Little Mary Sunshine.
I don’t feel superior, I feel lucky.
Andrew sent me an article the other day that said MRI scans showed that Matthieu Ricard, 60, a French academic-turned-Buddhist monk, and other long-term meditators – who had completed more than 10,000 hours each – experienced a huge level of “positive emotions” in the left pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is associated with happiness. The right-hand side, which handles negative thoughts, is suppressed. It fascinated me.
And I went looking for more answers. I found this article, The Keys to Happiness, and Why We Don’t Use Them. Author and researcher Gregg Easterbrook is quoted as saying, “It requires some effort to achieve a happy outlook on life, and most people don’t make it.” I don’t know if I buy it.
David Lykken, a research with the Univeristy of Minnesota says that happiness is 50 percent genetic. Most in the field agree that what you do with the other half depends on a person’s will. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
So, if you know me, you know that I’ve now read slews of articles about this subject. I don’t always know when to stop. I am curious. What I’ve learned is that many people agree that being kind, forgiving others, being grateful, taking care of yourself, building and maintaining relationships, and thinking positively lead to happiness. Or at least to more happiness.
And yet, a University of Illinois psychologist’s research shows that most people are slightly to moderately happy, not unhappy. But where are the very happy people? Are there really that few?
That surprises me.
I guess I really am Little Mary Sunshine.