It’s a great day to be alive!
I recently read an opinion in the Chicago Tribune, where the author complained that it was a terrible year, and then suggested that this coming year could be even worse. As I read the article, I couldn’t help but wonder, what is so bad about the world today?
Many studies have shown that mindset is a very powerful influencer and plays a large part in our happiness or lack thereof. Having gratitude for what we have, allows our minds to feel peace and happiness. Greed and envy destroy our happiness and peace. Continually wanting more, and focusing on what others have or hoping they don’t find success, only fosters feelings of resentment, and displeasure with what we do have.
Treadmills seem synonymous with New Year’s resolutions. No matter how fast we run on a treadmill, we never move further than a few feet, always returning to where we started. Happiness is similar. As human beings, we tend to quickly return to a state of relatively stable happiness even when we experience a significant event in our lives—whether positive or negative. This is referred to as the Hedonic treadmill or adaptation.
In a 1978 study, P. Brickman and D.T. Campbell interviewed 22 lottery winners and 29 paraplegics. Their studies show the lottery winners level of happiness after winning, was roughly the same as it was before they won. Likewise, the paraplegics interviewed, showed either their happiness level had returned to a similar state experienced before their accident, or that the interviewees expected that it would return to a normal state at a future date. Whether negative or positive, people will gradually revert back to a level of happiness, or unhappiness to which they are used to.
In a recent conversation with a friend who had traveled to several countries in the African continent, he commented on how unbelievably poor the people are. He said, “They have nothing! Absolutely nothing at all. They don’t have clothes to wear or food to eat. They don’t have homes.”
After pausing briefly, his voice lowered almost to a whisper and he continued, “But I have never seen a happier people in all the world. They are so joyful, full of love, and full of peace.”
Four years ago, I suffered a tragic accident that left my hand mangled, broken in ten places and my pinky finger almost completely severed. After the initial surgery and treatment, I learned from other doctors that the procedures performed on my hand were completed incorrectly and left my hand with even further damage. As a result, I had to endure four more surgeries over 12 months and engage in nine months of physical therapy. Medical bills and my frustrations seemed to race to see which could grow the fastest.
One evening in a fit of frustration, I lashed out, cursing the inadequate doctor, and voiced how unfair it was that we had to pay so much in medical-care expenses. My wife sat patiently listening, understanding my emotional outbreak. After a few moments of silence, she softly spoke, “Well, you have two options; justifiably, you can choose to be frustrated, to hold ill feelings, and seek recompense. Or, you can be grateful.”
“Grateful? Are you serious,” I said. She continued, “Yes, you can be grateful that we have the means to pay for these medical bills. You can be grateful that you still have a fully functional hand. It’s your choice.”
We all choose how we respond to life. Each of us is in control of our response to any situation. Nobody makes us mad. We allow ourselves to become mad. Nobody makes us happy. We choose to be happy.
Yesterday I lost a call on my mobile phone. I could have been mad, wondering why my service provider dropped the call. Or, I could choose to be amazed at the technology I hold in the palm of my hand. The ability to call anywhere in the world. The ability to access the libraries of the world at a simple touch of my finger.
During peak hours of the day, my internet service is slow, taking much longer times to access desired information. I can express my frustration at a task taking a few minutes longer than normal. I can feel envy toward the neighbor who has better Internet service. Or, I can be grateful to have a computer. I can be grateful for the Internet and the volumes of information available to consume. I can be grateful that I don’t need to visit the local library and navigate the Dewey Decimal System (I just revealed my age) to try and find the desired information.
Sitting in traffic is so frustrating. Other drivers make stupid mistakes. Blinkers aren’t used appropriately. Drivers in the fast lane driving slowly. We all experience this. As a result, I can extend my arm out the window and provide a one-fingered salute, expressed with some choice, well-crafted words. Or, I can be grateful for the use of a vehicle. Grateful I am not traveling by horse and buggy. I can allow others to pass in front of me. I can forgive and forget.
I hate my job…well, really I don’t. But so many people do. A disgruntled employee can find fault in their co-workers. They can hold a grudge toward their supervisor. They can work each day with a negative attitude. Or, they can be grateful they are blessed to earn a paycheck. Grateful they have the chance to make a difference. Grateful they live in a community where educational and employment opportunities abound.
Have you been to the airport lately? What is the deal with those TSA lines? Or what about the inexperienced flyer in front of you in the security line, fumbling with their shoes, belt and bags. Certainly, a heavy sigh of disgust is justified and if eye contact is made, a rolling of the eyes are certainly appropriate. Or, you can be grateful for the opportunity to fly in the air, traveling to places across the country and world in a matter of hours. Grateful airline travel is relatively safe and affordable.
Nuisances are everywhere. In a world where we have so much, it is easy to overlook what we have and focus only on what we wish we had.
Never before has humankind had so much to be grateful. Hedonic adaption skews our views and can affect our happiness…if we choose to let it do so. It is our choice.
Yes, it is a great day to be alive. Life is wonderful. Life is good. Life is grand. Is life difficult? Sure it is. Do we face problems? Of course we do. Is life fair? No, it is not. But each of us has the power within to choose how we react to life. It is our choice to find happiness, joy and peace, or to allow despair, anger, and sadness fill our lives. What is your choice?