≡ Menu

Playful Self-Discipline: Happiness and The Unexpected Hassle

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?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rachael April 16, 2011, 8:13 am

    I don’t bother with trying to be happy. I just try to be awake, fully open to whatever is going on now. But I think I’m just using different words to talk about what you’re talking about here.

    • michelle April 16, 2011, 11:13 pm

      Being aware of what is going on and what I am saying to myself in my head is important, but sometimes if I consciously check on what I’m saying and ask myself if it’s really true I can see that I’m making something worse than it needs to be by believing certain thoughts. If I can 1) notice and 2) check whether those thoughts are helpful and/or true, I have a much better chance of lifting a bad mood. It feels like a 2 part process for me, but I can see how practiced awareness alone could have the same effect.

  • stefanie @very, very fine April 25, 2011, 4:14 pm

    I love this series and I always mean to participate, but I apparently need more self-discipline, playful or otherwise, because I can never get it in gear. I too find that exercise helps my mood immensely, but the weather here bums me out so hard. Now that my kiddo’s walking, I’m hopeful that we can get outside for rain walks and stuff, but most days, packing on a baby just to trudge through a downpour lost out to padding around the house in warm socks. The summer, though, is glorious! I’m eager to hear if journaling helps you; it’s been suggested to me and I’ve considered it but it always seemed a little… hokey.

    • michelle April 27, 2011, 3:49 pm

      Ah, don’t feel bad about not participating! I haven’t actually put up a linky the past two months – I forgot the first month and decided against it the 2nd. I still love hearing how other people’s experience has been with playfulness and self-discipline in the comments though.

      So far my journaling has been kind of sporadic, but it’s a good practice. When I get into it I find there are lots of things to be grateful for, and even not feeling into it is a useful indicator of how my mood affects my experience.