Happiness is a State of Mind

COVID-19 has created some unexpected consequences  People are stressed and afraid. The death rate is rising, the economy is fractured, and tempers are flaring. Social distancing has made us feel isolated and alone while sequestering has created tension at home because are confined in a small space with the members of our family on a prolonged basis. and no end in sight. I know I don’t need to belabor this. We are all experiencing it.

Those of us who have lived a comfortable and content in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” are suddenly confronted with problems we may have never faced. How do we deal with all the fear and the general unhappiness all around us?

The Declaration of Independence  states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Notice it says the pursuit of happiness and not happiness itself. Why is that?

I don’t know exactly what our founding fathers were thinking, but they must have realized that each individual is unique and what brings happiness to one person does not necessarily bring happiness to another.  Each is free to pursue happiness but not guaranteed to find it or have it.

How do we pursue happiness while we’re sequestered with the coronavirus?

The pursuit of happiness

Your happiness depends on many things:  what you like, what you know, your lifestyle, your self-esteem, and your attitude, to name a few.

Some people, for instance, are delighted with a gift of $10 while others are insulted by the smallness of the gift. One person relishes being surrounded by friends and family while another wants to be left alone. One enjoys music another enjoys silence. One loves to go shopping and another cannot stand to go to the mall for any reason and do their shopping online. Some respond to a smile with a smile of their own and others regard it with suspicion. Some “crack-up” over a child’s giggle and others are annoyed by it. Some like the heat others love the cold. Some judge everyone and everything and are never pleased with what they see while others like almost everyone they meet. Some can hold on to a grudge forever and others forgive and move on.

A state of mind

So, actually, happiness is a state of mind—your mind —and it is a choice. To some people, it sounds far fetched that you can make a decision about how you feel, but it is a fact. You can choose to be miserable or you can choose to be happy.  If you choose to be happy, you will find things all day long that please you, bring you a smile and give you a feeling of well being.  If you choose to be miserable, everything you experience will annoy you and make you even more disgruntled.

Yes, you can even find happiness in the middle of a pandemic.

Right or happy?

Occasionally I will ask a client the old question, “Would you rather be right or happy?” It’s a great question. Most will quickly answer, “Be happy, of course” but they won’t give up their need to be right all the time (even when they’re wrong) and they won’t give up needing to be in control of everyone and everything. They won’t allow themselves to be happy.

Observe your thinking

Be an observer of your own thinking. Are most of your thoughts about other people and events generally positive or generally negative? Are you in “woe-is-me” mode most of the time or are looking forward to the rest of your day knowing that good things are in store? Do you get up in the morning and say “Good God, it’s morning,”  or do you say, “Good morning, God”?

With time, effort and patience with yourself, you can change your thinking. When you make the choice to change your thinking from negative to positive you will find that things that used to bother you don’t seem quite so intense anymore. You notice the “little things” more and begin to take pleasure in them. You may begin to see the beauty in the uniqueness of others. In fact, you may begin to see the beauty all around you that you never noticed before. You are smiling more. You may even notice that you are singing, whistling, or humming. Those are the telltale signs of happiness.

Even in the pandemic, most of us have something to be grateful for. Think about it. There is still beauty around us and even the air is cleaner. We know how compassionate millions of people are. We know how much we love some of those we used to take for granted.  We are learning things about ourselves that we needed to recognize.

There are still challenges of great magnitude. People are suffering and dying. but you can make a decision.

You can choose to bitch and moan and feel sorry for yourself. Or you can make a decision to make the most of it and be happy for what you still have and still can enjoy.

Yes, happiness is a choice. It is a state of mind and a matter of the heart.

Be well.

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