…Come tell me how you did it. Seriously. Share that stuff.
Actually, less important than the how or even the why is just the sharing part. One of the things that has become abundantly clear with the spread of media and social media is that moods, emotions, and general vibes are contagious. I’m talking bubonic plague levels. Most people reading that will scoff and take the stance of “Airy fairy hippie wants to tell us all to ‘not worry and be happy.’” Nope. That’s not what I’m saying at all, but it is incredibly short-sighted and naïve to believe that we go through life carrying around our emotional baggage all on our own and it never impacts another living being… in our incredibly social culture and ridiculously small and ever-shrinking planet. Think about it.
I just failed a happiness quiz. Like, literally, one of those stupid little click-bait pseudo-personality-test things that tells you which Disney character you are or what animal you were in your past life? Yeah, one of those. This one was telling you what percentage of you is happy. If it were a final grade for any academic class on the planet, my percentage was a failing mark. I really should not have been at all astounded by these results. Seriously, would a truly happy person even take a ridiculous quiz like that. Beyond the consideration of my willingness to test the concept, how much faith would I actually put into quiz that some kid hopped up on orange soda probably put together on those auto quiz generation sites? And… that is a pretty significant question.
In my case, I looked at the results and thought, Can that be right? Am I that miserable? I don’t really feel that unhappy? Then, of course, I took the quiz again. It wasn’t me trying to scam the results. It was more that I wanted to pay more attention to the actual questions and answers. That’s when I started to get uneasy. The problem with the quiz was that the questions looked almost valid. I recognized various entries from mindfulness training and even depression inventories. There were a few that looked like they had been derived from one of those articles about the habits of happy people, but as a whole this particular quiz didn’t feel like bunk.
So, what did I do with that information? Well, I’ll tell you. I waited, and I took it again on a different day. I actually put a note in my planner to this effect. I also took it at a different time of day. Guess what I found… the results were slightly different, but on the whole too close to be a significant difference. Does that mean that an internet social media quiz can accurately judge happiness? Nope. I don’t believe it for a second. In fact, regardless of the results of that quiz, I do not believe that I am technically an unhappy person. I believe that I have a lack of satisfaction with certain aspects of my life and I worry too much about stuff that I cannot impact through my own actions. In short, I am a control freak. (And yes, there are some of you reading this that just said, No kidding.)
What I also found is that there is an awful lot of extraneous and worthless bull-pucky rampantly displayed and forced down our collective throats by the media and by social media on a daily basis. For the most part (minus puppies and kitties), the tone of this monumental tide of information tends to have a negative flavor. That includes giving an inordinate amount of fame and attention to complete asshats What? You thought by posting, reposting and saying look at what these hateful types are doing was a disservice?!? Hate to break it to you, but all attention is good attention for terrorists and extremists. Infamy works for them just as well as adulation…. But I digress. The news reported focuses on horrible behavior of humans against each other and diatribes from various hate (or power) driven entities. People rant and rage at each other for having differing opinions and outlooks… and they blame. While the world of social media has given birth and rise to a more monstrous “me” generation than the 80’s ever thought about, people use their right to free speech to fling abuse and general negativity with excessive abundance at their fellow creatures; and while they exercise their individuality and rights to hold opinions, they also crucify right left and center entire populations of other individuals en mass for holding differing beliefs and opinions than their own. They group all people who look the same or fall into the same race, ethnicity, or culture as if they are identical and could not possibly have individuality within those groups. People who hold similar opinions or political beliefs are suddenly not distinct from one another. Friendships are torpedoed because of the expressed opinions or behaviors of complete strangers, and everything… I mean everything is offensive.
It has been said that 2015-16 is the era of the offended, that no one has a sense of humor anymore, and that people need to learn to ignore and move along. I can agree with that to a certain extent because planned ignoring is the best way to deal with immaturity and acting out. I personally have a strongly developed ability to just scroll on by, unfollow, or block ridiculous or inflammatory crap with which I do not agree, and guess what… I don’t have to waste my energy getting offended by it in the process. On the other hand, I also believe that we’ve somehow lost the art of just having good manners, empathy, and the ability to consider others as individuals with just as much right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as we have. It seems that the whole world is caught in an enormous game of grossout/one-up/yo-mama with a side of “me first!”
And now, I’ve strayed so far from my original topic that I may never find my way back… um… oh, yeah… happiness. Too many people in the world think that happiness is a goal or a destination. William S. Bouroughs said, “Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.” That one works pretty well. Eleanor Roosevelt said it better (in my opinion), “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
That’s the ticket, isn’t it? When we live our own lives and stop worrying about or comparing it to what others are doing, I personally feel that it puts us in a better frame of mind to actually appreciate our present. Too many in this world talk themselves out of happiness or contentment by impatience or envy. We look out at the others around us and fail to see things that may be in our own lives. We look at circumstances and aspects of the world in which we live as if every single element is somehow impacting us personally… often when it has absolutely nothing to do with us at all. In moments of true contentment and peace, rather than just enjoying and being in that moment, we question our right to happiness. We literally talk ourselves out of the moment. We look for reasons to be sad, upset, disgusted, or outraged. Why is that? Is there something programmed within each of us that says that we are not experiencing life as a real event or with purpose unless we can find something to bitch about? Seems like a waste of a good life somehow, but I do it, too. So, I probably need to consider this the next time I’m talking myself out of enjoying a moment.
Something else that I have observed both in person and on social media is the negativity and venting vindictive spleen is not terribly helpful. Sure, the occasional extemporaneous rant can be a great release on pent up rage and swallowed disappointment. Sometimes it can be highly entertaining… but I said occasional. The more frequent or constant that the negativity is spewed forth, the more it begins to feed upon itself and become not so much a catharsis, but a spinning whirlpool of rage, hatred, or depression that sucks the spew-er in to drown in their own horrible mood and soul-sucking negativity. It often result in friends and family avoiding said individual (and/or blocking and hiding newsfeed). Misery may love company, but it tends to run off friends and family and seriously dissuade potential romantic interests.
Everyone has a bad day. To tell the truth, many have a lot of bad days that string together into larger measurements of time. However, the ones that seem to do the best with it aren’t dwelling on the negatives or comparing their own experiences with that of others. They do what I will call their “legitimate suffering” and get on about the business of living their lives. They acknowledge that the bad stuff happens. They let themselves feel the bad, and then they move through it into feeling not so bad and eventually better. Those that have more difficulty moving beyond the negative and get stuck occasionally need help figuring out why they are stuck and figuring out the best way to be unstuck. Sometimes that assistance can be from natural supports like family, friends, or faith. Sometimes it needs something more in the professional line.
The modern society has become very polarized in many ways about the experience of things that are perhaps less than happy. People are expected to “get over it and get on with your life” or be diagnosed and get medicated for it. I am the last person on earth to advise against professional assistance when it is warranted, but in the same line it is also completely normal to feel down, sad, or angry under certain circumstances. People do not perpetually walk around on sunshine with bluebirds and rainbows all the time. Everyone has times when they don’t feel so very chipper. It is also completely natural to have varying timeframes for the normal denouement of such emotions. Not everyone handles events such as grief, pain, loss, or trauma in the same way or within the same time. It is generally up to the individual to determine when “enough is enough.” When the experience of legitimate suffering is impacting the function of life in a significantly negative way, it might be time to seek a little assistance. For some, the energy to seek that assistance has run completely out, and that is where those natural supports can help, too.
And I see that I have once again gotten distracted from my point which was about emotional contagion and how we impact ourselves and others by our very act of sharing. I was actually going for less negative and more about the impact of sharing positive experiences with others. I do not believe that the whole world needs to embrace an overly cheerful, Polyanna-like approach to everything they experience. I personally enjoy sarcasm and the occasional prolific rant when things generally disgust or displease me. However, after years of over-venting, I know that cathartic outlets work because they are a pressure valve of letting things go in a blast and be done. If the process is repeated too often or too long, the exercise loses its potency and the negativity loop feeds on itself just becoming more and more nasty and miserable over time. However, when I share something that makes me feel good or laugh, I feel even better than when I just keep it to myself. When friends do the same in sharing things with me, I like to think that they get the same benefit (and I get to see something else that may make me feel good or laugh). It’s a much more positive cycle. So, that is why I say, if you’re happy and you know it, come tell me about it.