Dec 072008

I call it a secret but, honestly, it’s not really a secret. I’m going to talk about the secret to emotional happiness, where you can enjoy a state of…joy for long stretches, often in spite of things that might make many people sad, angry, depressed, etc. Here it is:

1. You can decide that you want to be emotionally happy. You have to be dedicated to this because there are other goals that can interfere with your goal to be happy. Honestly, sometimes it’s not easy to be happy.

2. Emotions can be guided. Many people consider emotions to be something that happens TO them. Others hold beliefs that your emotions are set in stone and are the only authentic part of you, and thus should not be altered. Truth is, you can guide your emotions, if you believe you can and you want to.

3. You may consider emotions to be reactions to situations or things.

4. However, you are never reacting to “reality” itself, but rather what events and things mean to you. We tend to commit the Mind Projection Fallacy and assume that there is something about the event or situation that is anger-inducing, rather than anger being a reaction to our own expectations and meanings. Truth is, there is no anger or anything inducing anger or sadness “out there”. Show me anger or sadness or wonder or any emotion in the world. Point to it. Each emotion has some common causes. For example, anger usually occurs out of fear, broken expectations and/or hurt. Hurt is the most common. There is also anger out of frustration.

5. Among the ways to guide your emotions, recognizing that your emotions are your reactions to the meanings you create out of situations is one of the most powerful.

6. The way I take advantage of this process is by changing what events/situations mean to me, while still remaining accurate and truthful. To do this, I have developed a great deal of awareness of my moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings, etc. I learn quickly that I am not happy and seek ways to become happy.

Example: If I tell someone, “you look fat”, they can take that I am judging them, insulting them, I dislike them and I’m implying they are unworthy of love. If I tell a different person that they look fat, they can accept that without defensiveness and completely ignore me because they have their own opinion about whether they are fat. Or the second person may say, “you are right, I am a little overweight”, because they do not attach negative connotations with the word “fat”. Do you see what I mean? Two different people attribute different meanings to the same exact stimuli (“you look fat”) and react differently. They’re both “right” and “true”, however the second person is likely to be happier than the first, in spite of what the first person might consider an insult.

This mostly takes practice. Make a commitment that you will choose to be happy today, no matter what. Then, pay attention to your emotions. If you start to feel anything other than happiness, ask yourself what you can do to help yourself become happy. If someone is walking or driving really slowly in front of you and you feel yourself getting frustrated, ask yourself why? Your anger or frustration won’t change the world, hell, the only person it’ll affect is you and it’ll just make you not-happy. So…why be angry in the first place?

Well, good luck and be happy!

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