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Feeling our way into happiness

I looked out my office window on and off yesterday and felt transported into an ever-changing landscape. For several hours, heavier snow and dropping temps made it feel more and more gloomy or, wait, . . . maybe it really felt intriguing, lovely and mystical, or . . . maybe I was simply watching Mother Nature preparing a great snowy playground for today. Take a moment and think: how did you feel during yesterday's cold and snowy day?

During yesterday's quietness I took some time to read and found myself gravitating toward a book called “Train Your Brain To Get Happy” because, no surprise to most of you, ongoing happiness is a goal of mine. When I arrived at the chapter on feeling our way to happiness, it made me wonder, intentionally, about what I was feeling during yesterday's weather event. “So, self,” I said, “how did you feel about being alone in the house, unable to look out onto a sunny landscape and talking out loud to yourself?”

The chapter starts: “Some people are just born happy – or are they? Are we born with a genetic level of happiness? One that we have no way of changing?” Well, according to the authors, our minds definitely have the power to move our own happiness and joy meters in whatever direction we’d like.

They provided “The I Feel Happy Quiz” for readers to take . . . so of course I did. Now, if you aren’t a quiz taker, this is where you should sign off. But please, don't forget, you and your brain are able to change your feelings. (And, stay tuned, because I plan to write more about that later.)

If you want to see how you might be contributing to your own happiness right now, I’m including a few questions from that quiz. Here we go!

1. You believe that: A. Happiness is a state of mind B. Some people are born with a capacity for happiness C. Some people are doomed by genes to be unhappy D. You are doomed by your genes to be unhappy

2. When it comes to friends: A. You have a wide circle of friends who you see often B. You have a best friend who fulfills your needs for companionship C. You’re too busy to hang out with anyone right now D. What friends?

3. When it comes to love, you: A. Are happily married B. Are a serial monogamist C. Are lonely but looking D. Prefer your cat

4. When you screw up, you: A. Are quick to forgive yourself B. Forgive yourself eventually C. Berate yourself for your failure D. Punish yourself for your failure

5. You get angry: A. Infrequently B. Only when provoked C. Often, but you control it D. Often, and cannot control your outbursts

Let’s tally your answers and what they mean according to the authors:

If you checked mostly As: you recognize the impact your feelings have on your state of happiness and you work to keep those feelings positive. There are still ways you can enhance good feelings and boost your happiness level.

If you checked mostly Bs: you are doing some things to generate good feelings that contribute to your sense of well-being, but there are many more ideas to try.

If you checked mostly Cs: you are allowing feelings of frustration, anger, depression and/or inadequacy to diminish your happiness. You can learn to capitalize on the many opportunities life still has to offer.

If you checked mostly Ds: you are allowing your feelings to stop your potential for happiness. Good News! You can break this cycle of negative emotions and embrace a happier, healthier life.

So, how did you do? If your score makes you happy, I’m happy for you! If it doesn’t, you have choices.

Remember: every new situation is an opportunity to either react in the same ways you always have, or in a different way – one you have intentionally chosen. You are the one person who can create something new for yourself. Check out the book if you’re interested.

And, as always, I wish you grace for your journey forward.


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