5 Traits of Shiney, Happy People

5 Traits of Shiney, Happy People

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
-Abraham Lincoln

I once had a conversation with a friend of mine who said to me, “With all that you’ve seen and experienced, how is it that you are such a happy person?”  My response, “I choose to be.”  For some people out there, happiness just is.  It’s hard-coded in their DNA.  The sun is always shining for them and if there does happen to be a cloud or two in the sky, it’s most certainly a silver-lined cloud.  And then there is the rest of us… we have to choose happiness each and every day because it just doesn’t come naturally to us.

Like all good habits, there are tricks to help you keep making that daily choice to be happy, and like all good habits, if you keep at it long enough,  you’ll find that what used to feel unnatural now seems a bit more familiar.

1. Don’t Believe Everything You Think
According to medical experts, we have on average 60,000 thoughts per second during every waking hour. Of those 60,000 thoughts, 95% are the same thoughts we had yesterday, and the day before that. What’s worse is that for the average person, the vast majority of those thoughts are negative. Even worse – most of those thoughts simply are not true.

From my own life: In high school, I did Lincoln Douglas Debate. I was good. I won often. However, each time I won I was truly shocked. I just couldn’t understand… if they knew all about me, there would be no way that the judge would vote for me. This was particularly true one time when I was arguing the pro stance on a topic. (For those that have not seen LD debate, topics are decided by the committee at the start of the year. You must come up with a for (pro) and against (con) stance. Before each round, you flip to see which side you will be arguing.) Every time I spoke, the judge frowned. The more I talked the bigger the frown. Twice I stopped talking and almost just went and sat down. After all, it was clear that he did not care for one word I was saying. During my closing speech, he simply put down his pen and crossed his arms. Great, I thought. Why do I even bother? I did not even deserve to be there with all those students who were way better than me.

After the round was over, I waited to collect my critique sheet from the judge. I knew it wasn’t going to be good, so I braced myself. Then I read my sheet. Nothing but praise. While he was there to judge us on our speaking points, style, presentation, etc., he said that going into it, he thought to himself how could a pro argument win for this particular topic? He personally believed in the con side. But he listened to my points, found them to have merit, and what is better is that I spoke with such conviction that he felt compelled to give my argument a chance.

What??? Why the frowning then? Well, perhaps he was struggling with the thought of liking me and allowing my points the time of day, but the point is that it was his issue to deal with, not mine. And there I had been, ready to throw in the towel and had all but convinced myself that I was stupid for having even tried. Don’t believe everything you think because sometimes the thoughts you have are not based on fact.

2. Notice the Happy Things in Your Life No Matter How Small
One evening a Cherokee elder told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside people’s heads. He said, “My son, the battle is between the two ‘wolves’ that live inside us all. One is Unhappiness. It is fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self-pity, resentment, and inferiority. The other is Happiness. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, kindness, generosity, truth and compassion.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Because of our negativity bias (we tend to believe the negative over the positive), we often feed the wrong wolf. We need to even up the score. Make a point of noticing everything good that happens to you: any positive thought you have, anything you see, feel, taste, hear or smell that brings you happiness. This intention activates the reticular activating system (RAS), a group of cells at the base of the brain stem that’s responsible for turning on your memory system and allowing it to bring anything important to your attention. Have you ever bought a new car and then suddenly started noticing the same make of car everywhere? It’s RAS at work. Now you can purposefully use it to be happier.

3. Choose the Happier Thought
The next time you’re faced with a challenging situation that gives rise to negative thoughts and bad feelings, find an equally true thought about the situation that makes you feel better – and lean into it. This doesn’t mean you deny negative feelings – just pay more attention to the positive part of the truth. The classic measure of optimism, seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty, is the perfect example of leaning into the equally true but happier thought.
The next time you are stressed and sitting there thinking negative thoughts about how you cannot get everything done, you don’t deserve to be a mother, you are a lousy wife, etc. STOP. Search your mind for positive thoughts that are equally true – you can ask for help, your friends love you and will understand, your children love you and just want time with you, your husband loves you and probably doesn’t care of the laundry gets folded tonight or not.

4. Tend to Your Relationships
For women, relationships may be even more important than for men. Scientists have found that while both men and women release adrenaline and cortisol when under stress, only women release oxytocin. The more women engage in bonding activities, the more oxytocin they release producing a calming influence and further lowering stress. So the next time you’re upset or feeling stressed, don’t say you don’t have time for friends and family. That is precisely when you need them the most!

The best way to keep relationships happy, healthy, and supportive can be summed up in one word: appreciation. When we demonstrate our appreciation for the support we receive from others, it reinforces that behavior and deepens our connection to them. In turn, it helps them feel more connected to us.

5. Find Passion and Purpose
One day an old woman walked up to a building site where three men were laying bricks. She asked the first man what he was doing. “Can’t you see?” he replied. “I’m laying bricks. This is what I do all day – I just lay bricks.” She then asked the second man what he was doing. He replied, “I’m a bricklayer and I’m doing my work. I take pride in my craft, and I’m happy that what I do here feeds my family.” Walking up to the third man, she could see his eyes were full of joy. When she posed the same question, he replied with great enthusiasm, “Oh, I’m building the most beautiful cathedral in the whole world.”

Like the third bricklayer, a survivor will bring a sense of purpose to any activity. Bringing a sense of passion to mundane activities will boost your happiness, but so will taking time to find your true passions. Think about what activities most absorb you and analyze what it is about those activities that make you happy.

I am not saying that we should deny our feelings and choose to be happy regardless of the circumstances.  As a matter of fact, I have it on good authority that “there’s nothing wrong with bein’ grumpy, if that’s the way you’re feelin’ today.” (Grumpy Bear of The Care Bears).  “As long as you’re not hurtin’ anybody, keep on feelin’ that way.” But I am saying that we can take a stand and choose our daily attitude (and sometimes, the choice has to be made even more often than daily… or maybe that’s just me…) rather than letting others determine what our outlook will or won’t be.

Jessica

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7 Responses to “5 Traits of Shiney, Happy People”
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jessica Benzakein. Jessica Benzakein said: 5 Traits of Shiney, Happy People http://goo.gl/fb/gYMBD […]

  2. Dropped by from 31DBBB.

    Great list post as well as great practical advise.

    Thanks for being part of the group!

    [Reply]

  3. Moria says:

    I absolutely agree!! We make a choice every morning. God gives us the choice between blessing and curse. between life and death and then He gives us the answer! Choose Life, Blessing! You are doing a great job Jessica! I am going to go hug my kids. :)

    [Reply]

  4. Phillip Gibb says:

    very cool
    also from 31DBBB
    also know that there are times when it is easy to be happy and times when it will not be, and know that neither of these times will last forever

    [Reply]

  5. Laura says:

    Jess, I am glad you encouraged me to read this today! It was needed and so very true! I love reading your blogs because they are so encouraging to me!

    [Reply]

  6. Dena Dyer says:

    I so agree with everything you say. Replacing the lies of Satan with God’s truth, cultivating gratitude, and laughing at little things–these help me to stay sane in a crazy world. Thanks for your inspiring post!

    [Reply]

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