“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.
It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”
A few months ago author Gretchen Rubin distributed some tips for folks who had lost their jobs and were stressed by the challenges of an unknown future. It seemed to me that her suggestions have value for all of us when ever we are in a funk and fall into depression. We always have the choice of wallowing in our misery or climbing out of it. Here is what Gretchen has prescribed as a therapeutic anecdote to what is holding us down.
Being out of work is a major happiness challenge, and these days, a lot of people have lost their jobs, or are worried about hanging onto their jobs. So, given this major drain on your happiness, are there steps you can take to feel better at such a time? Even if you don’t think you can feel happy, you might be able to feel happier. Keeping yourself as serene, energetic, and cheerful as possible will make it easier to handle this tough situation.
1. Get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep affects your mood more than you may realize. It makes difficult situations seem harder, drags down your energy, and lowers your immune system. When you’re cut off from your usual schedule, it can be tempting to stay up late, so remind yourself to turn off the light at a reasonable hour. If you’re turning off the light but having trouble sleeping because of all your worries, here are some tips for getting good sleep. Also, people who have trouble sleeping sleep better when they…
2. Get some exercise. Exercise both calms you and energizes you. If you can’t face going to the gym or going for a run, just go for a ten-minute walk outside. The sunlight and the movement will boost your spirits.
3. Stay connected to other people. You may not feel like going out, making plans, showing up, or talking to other people. But prod yourself to make the effort. Seeing other people will give you a boost and will help distract you (see #8). Also, by staying connected to other people, you’re more likely to hear information and to create relationships that might be helpful in the jobs arena.
4. Cultivate an atmosphere of growth in some area of your life. You may feel like you’ve been pushed a giant step backward; that you’re out of control of what’s happening to you. Look for a place where you can move forward and take control. Learn to do something new – a new software program, watercolors. Conquer a device – master your camera, a kitchen gadget. Clean something up – your messy garage, your attic. Create something beautiful – plant a garden, catch up on the photo albums.
5. Help someone else. Your self-esteem may have suffered a blow, so remind yourself of how much you have to give. Teach someone something useful. Make helpful connections for other people. Volunteer your skills. Donate blood. Go through your closets and give away the clothes you don’t need (see #6). If you can’t face doing anything else, you can at least sign up to be an organ donor. It takes one minute, and you have potentially saved the lives of five people. You can feel great about your day if you’ve done that!
6. Clear some clutter. For most people, outer order contributes to inner calm – and clearing clutter seems to have a disproportionately positive effect. Bringing order to a messy coat closet shouldn’t make much of a difference to happiness, but for some reason, it gives a much bigger boost than you might expect. Careful: don’t overwhelm yourself. Pick one small area of the messy kitchen counter, or clean out your fridge, or tackle one corner of your desk. Bringing order to your physical environment will help calm you – and is also a good way to observe #4.
7. Be wary of “treating” yourself. One of the Ten Myths of Happiness is that A "treat" will cheer you up. That cigarette, that extra glass of wine, that new pair of shoes, that extra brownie (or two, or three), that big mess in your kitchen because you don’t want to deal with loading the dishwasher…will these treats really make you feel happy, in the long run? Or will you be happier if you don’t treat yourself?
8. Distract yourself. Find your Area of refuge. Or rent a funny movie, re-read a book you love (I always re-read children’s literature when I’m under stress), call a friend with a good sense of humor, visit a museum, or watch some sports on TV. Let yourself take a break from your worries. When you come back to them, you’ll feel refreshed and with a better sense of perspective.
9. Remind yourself of what you have. You may have lost your job, but think about what’s going right in your life, what you have to feel grateful for. It’s a cliché to say "Count your blessings," but it really does boost happiness.
Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
A friend of mine is a deputy with the sheriff’s department canine (K9) unit. One evening, the deputy was dispatched to the scene of a possible burglary, where he discovered the back door of a building ajar. He let the dog out his patrol car and commanded it to enter and seek.
Jumping from the back seat, the dog headed for the building. After lunging through the doorway, the dog froze and backed out. My friend was puzzled until he investigated further. Then he noticed the sign on the building: "Veterinarian’s Office."
If your wife parks the car, don’t sit there and insist she do it properly.
Walking the rest of the way to the curb is good exercise.
At the Henry Street Hebrew School, Goldblatt, the new teacher, finished the day’s lesson. It was now time for the usual question period.
"Mr. Goldblatt," announced little Joey, "there’s somethin’ I can’t figger out."
"What’s that Joey?" asked Goldblatt.
"Well accordin’ to the Bible, the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, right?"
"An’ the Children of Israel beat up the Philistines, right?"
"An’ the Children of Israel built the Temple, right?"
"Again you’re right."
"An’ the Children of Israel fought the ‘gyptians, an’ the Children of Israel fought the Romans, an’ the Children of Israel wuz always doin’ somethin’ important, right?"
"All that is right, too," agreed Goldblatt. "So what’s your question?"
"What I wanna know is this," demanded Joey. "What wuz all the grown-ups doin"?
In my lifetime, I’ve learned two great truths. Sometimes love just isn’t enough, and sometimes shipping and handling is too much.
An old farmer in Indiana had owned a small farm for several years. He had a large pond in the back, fixed up nice; picnic tables, horseshoe courts, basketball court, etc. The pond was properly shaped and fixed up for swimming when it was built.
One evening the old farmer decided to go down to the pond, as he hadn’t been there for a while, and look it over. As he neared the pond, he heard voices shouting and laughing with glee. As he came closer he saw it was a bunch of young women skinny dipping in his pond.
He made the women aware of his presence and they all went to the deep end of the pond. One of the women shouted to him, "We’re not coming out until you leave!" The old man replied, "I didn’t come down here to watch you ladies swim or make you get out of the pond naked."
"I’m here to feed the alligator."
Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.
Stay well, do good work, and have fun.
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The editor is somewhat senile.
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