It’s Thursday and time to check in on my Playful Self-Discipline project! This month’s theme is Uncertainty, and last week I wrote about how much I can control the uncertainty in my life. Today I’m writing about how positivity and happiness can help me cope with unexpected hassles.
As you may have guessed from last week’s post, it’s been somewhat of a challenging week or two for me. Claire is teething, the two girls have been fighting with each other, Beatrice had to get four stitches in her chin and my cat destroyed my laptop by peeing on it. None of this stuff is really that serious, all of it will pass eventually and life will continue on. But in the moment? Urg. It’s hard to ride out that wave of frustration that rises up when these kind of things happen.
Unexpected and challenging events are going to happen. There’s nothing you or I or anyone else can do to prevent these random accidents and normal stages of development. What I do have control over (theoretically, at least) is my reaction to them. Through meditation I can strengthen my ability to let feelings pass through before deciding on a course of action. When I manage to do this, it’s great. When I react harshly without even thinking about it, I feel like I’m being dragged around by a big dog on a leash and I don’t feel too happy about that.
Where does positivity and happiness fit into all this? I came across this inspiring post by Rebecca at Home Learning BC, in which she shares a video by Shawn Achor on the effect that happiness has on people’s ability to learn and be successful in business. The results of the studies are quite dramatic, and his take home list of things we can do to increase our baseline level of happiness includes several of my playful self-discipline tasks that I’ve already embarked upon, especially exercise and meditation.
Happiness increases our success in finding solutions and influencing people, and is strongly correlated with longevity and physical health. See Why Good Things Happen to Good People by Stephen Post for more on this effect. Happiness also increases our ability to come up with novel solutions to problems and focus on the good things in our life, instead of dwelling on the hassles and annoyances. Given the fact that hassles and annoyances are going to happen whether we like it or not, it makes sense to increase our ability to ride them out with positive thinking and gratitude for what we do have.
In the last few minutes of the video, Achor says that people who took 3 minutes a day to write down five things they are grateful for experienced an increased mood for the next 24 hours, and for those who journaled their gratitude for 21 days straight the mood effect lasted for six months. I am intrigued by this. So I’m going to try it, every day for three weeks starting today. I’ll let you know how it went in October.
What do you do to help yourself be happy? Do you find that happiness is something that you can choose, or do you wait until it finds you?