How to be Happy

For those among us who have already gone through puberty, there is an acute awareness that life has the potential to suck at any given moment.  Your team will lose the game.  An opportunity that you were sure had your name on it will come and go without you.  You’ll get dumped and have to endure the shame of changing your Facebook status back to “lonely.”

Being unhappy, actually, is a pretty natural state.  From the richest to the brokest, it seems like there is always a reason to not be content.  Note: for those who would suggest that it all gets easier with financial success, I point you to the words of the great prophet Biggie Smalls who so eloquently said, “Mo money, mo problems.”  True, he was shot and killed not that long afterwards but according the movie, he was a changed man at the end so that makes it all okay.

So given that life mostly sucks always and we’re marching ever onward toward our impending deaths (and probably without having recorded two platinum records) is there even such a thing as happiness?  How can we attain it?  Funny you should ask because I have laid out some of the keys to finding and maintaining your inner happy place.

beavisStop hanging out with losers. Maybe you’ve said this about one of your best friends, “Yeah Reggie’s cool except he’s an asshole.” Or perhaps, “When Sheila isn’t slitting her wrists or burning cats, she’s a really sweet friend.”  If the people in your circle are squares then you can’t expect to be around them and have it not rub off on you.  In life, you are either influencing someone or being influenced by someone.  There are no neutral interactions.  Take some time to evaluate the people you consider friends and make sure that their attitudes and levels of ambition match yours.  Sometimes this may mean that you have to hang out by yourself for a while.  But you know what they say; misery loves company.

real talk.
real talk.

You can’t change the stage of life you’re in, so embrace it and stop being a bitch.  We often confuse our circumstances and our inherent worth.  I don’t like my job so I’m a failure.  I’m single; there must be something wrong with me.  My boyfriend said he’d pay me back when his income tax came in and he didn’t, so now I have to take him on Judge Judy and I can never trust anyone ever again.  Etc.  Etc.  Here’s the thing: NO ONE ELSE CARES!  We can spend our lives focusing on our present situations and letting them determine our mood and how we feel about ourselves in the world.  Or we can spend time working to change our responses to the situations we cannot control.  In short, there is a real choice involved in finding contentment, and the first step is to just shut up.  You may be surprised at how much extra time and breath you have by cutting out the complaining and finding the good in whatever it is that you are doing.

If perception is reality, then this guy is happy (and in need of a tan).
If perception is reality, then this guy is happy (and in need of a tan).

Fake it until you make itLadies, you may be more accustomed to the art of faking it than we are, but the principle remains the same for everyone.  We don’t all need to know how miserable you are.  Project the image of fulfillment/happiness/success/whatever you want and force yourself to live in it.  How would you know you liked that pair of shoes at the store if you didn’t put them on first and take them for a spin around aisle 12?  And even if your new shoes feel a little snug and foreign to you at first, you wear them regularly and break them in.  The same is true with your new attitude.  Smiling genuinely in the face of adversity is a skill, not a birthright.  Practice, practice, practice.

Look at Joan.  True she is a slave to fashion, but if she were a slave to history her show would already be cancelled.
Look at Joan. True she is a slave to fashion, but if she were a slave to history her show would already be cancelled.

Be a slave to neither fashion nor history. So your dad used to wear bell bottom jeans and platforms with goldfish in them and your mom had a jheri curl.  Yes, your grandpa was a raging alcoholic who still calls people “Orientals.”  You can’t pick the family into which you are born, the neighborhood in which you grow up, or the trends that other people decide have relevance.  You can, however, pick your response to them.  You don’t have to do anything because that is the way it was dont in the past.  If that were the case, Jockey would still be making underwear with a black man picking the cotton instead of advertising the itch-free tag.  Find what works for you and do that even if other people disapprove.  As long as you aren’t hurting anyone, do your own thing boo boo.

lucyGo to therapy or at least an open mic.  Let’s face it — after all the efforts toward positivity, you’re going to need a place where you can unwind and curse as much as necessary.  If you can’t afford a shrink, find your local bar/coffee shop/street corner and tell your problems to strangers on stage.  You’ll feel a lot better (even if no one laughs).  The stage, for all its exposure, actually gives a great space to just be oneself.  Once you listen to all the other “comics” you’ll realize how not alone you are.  We all have issues that are easier to swallow with a good punchline.  Turn your pain into material and see if you don’t feel better.

How do you find your happy place?

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