Friday, November 20, 2009
The Non-Extremist's Guide to Happiness
Photo by Rosendahl.
The other day I was on the bus to work; it was a grim, dismal day. Rain in billowing sheets was streaking down the windows, my mind was in a tangle of lightning crackles - and I knew inside that I was enjoying my misery, and it was stupid.
It's funny how sometimes being grumpy feels so great. Why? I suppose it's an ego thing, like we feel entitled to be that way. It can feel soothing to feel so sorry for ourselves. But that negative vibration will just attract more of the same.
Before you think I am getting too new age on you, think of it this way. Why is it that people who complain constantly are never happy? They have an endless array of things to whine about, and it becomes tiresome. Doesn't it? I think complaining is best left for when it's actually WORTHY of a complaint, and that is super rare.
And then there are those other types - the ones who are always happy, who beam with light constantly, and who say life rules. I used to look at these people and think they were phony, or that they were hiding something. And actually, sometimes I think that was the case. But now I can really tell the difference between phony-happy and real-happy, and the REAL happy people are absolute beacons to behold. I LOVE being around them, and they are RARE. I really aspire to be this way.
I don't always succeed, as I am a slave to my ego like most people, but I have learned a hell of a lot over the last 2 years, and the most important thing I've learned is that my attitude is EVERYTHING.
So, back to this day on the bus. I remember feeling like everything was going wrong that day, and that the day would just continue to be shitty. And in actuality, that's usually what happens, because we talk ourselves into it. Bad things we focus on will just lead us to notice more "bad things" and ignore anything good. The fact is there is always bad and good things around us ALL THE TIME, but it's what we choose to focus on that will make the difference.
So I sat there, and I thought to myself... "I don't really want to have a crappy day, it's been crappy enough already and I want to have a good day." It is so hard to pull out of a gloomy mood, but it's possible. It is almost impossible to go from a major low to a major high, though. Luckily I wasn't too far down, I was just irritable. I decided I wanted to cheer up and so opened myself up to that. I didn't really expect such a quick response but as I looked out the window, a car pulled up beside the bus, and this ridiculous yellow lab stuck his head out the window, his mouth open and jowls jiggling, a bit slobbery. The best thing was that he was looking around erratically like everything was confusing and amazing, and it was hilarious.
Animals soften me. I started giggling, and the teenager across from me looked up and followed my gaze, and he started to smile too. I think he was glad to see me giggling because I have a very intense scowl. And thanks to this silly dog, my mood lifted, my vibrations changed, and the rest of my day went well.
I've read a lot of self-help blogs that will write long articles about how being a morning person, and having a routine, can really change your life and make you happy. Fuck that. Not everyone is a morning person, and too much routine can be dull. And I also find that a lot of these blogs are repetitive and say the same things over and over. Well, I'm not going to. I am anti-article. I will only ever write like I would talk to someone or tell a story. If you get some useful insight, or some inspiration, awesome. That is the point of sharing in the first place.
I am a night person. This works for me, and always has. I have tried to be a morning person - I was once, for maybe 2 weeks, but I gradually went back to my natural way - late nights. Why change? It works! Never change what works.
I do find that if I do certain things at the start of my day, it will generally lead to having a great day. In the dark days of the year, especially.
What ingredients equal a great day for you? If you can figure this out and do them all in the first hour of your day, the rest of it will probably flow along the same lines, because you will glow with a natural and genuine happiness.
For me it's this:
+ Waking up without an alarm (rare)
+ Vitamin D (actual sun, or supplements in the dreary Vancouver months)
+ Water with MSM
+ Hugs with my pooch in bed before I get up
+ If I am going to work, leave early so I don't rush
+ Take the time to look as nice as I can
And my secret recipe for an awesome day, especially at work, is to have a Choco-Gorilla shake from my favourite restaurant, Gorilla Food, in downtown Vancouver. Cacao has a lot of fanatics, and a lot of critics. For me, it works wonders. I don't really care if it's not truly raw, and I don't really care if it's a stimulant. So what? I am not an extremist (though some would disagree) and I enjoy what it does.
What it really does for a while is turn me into Beavis.
And because I am so hyper and happy, and I don't get any crash like I used to with my high-sugar diet, I smoothly go from hyper to normal but stay happy. It's awesome!
If I can't have that, I have fruit. Pineapple, berries, or something. I wait as long as I can to eat. Contrary to what most people believe, I think having an empty stomach for the beginning of the day - until you are actually hungry, is beneficial. The less your body has to focus on digestion, the more energy it has to heal anything intrinsically "wrong" going on. This is why fasting (which is what you do overnight, hence "break fast" when you wake up and eat) is so healing. It's your nightly detox. So when you do wake up, it's best to have something very light, and nothing that will weigh you down. A lot of people have heavy breakfasts, but then need something to perk them up, like coffee, or sugar, and then they crash later on, and then need more stimulants. You get the picture.
Oh, and fruit is best by itself. When you eat fruit with other things, especially proteins, the fruit can't digest as quickly. Fruit, on its own, goes through your body FAST. Within a couple of hours, usually. When you eat it with nuts, for example, or after a meal of meat...it will sit in your stomach with that, and ferment. And then you get...GAS. WOO! Fun times. Sometimes I will combine things like nuts and fruit but I always know what's gonna happen when I do....
Anyway I am totally getting away from what I was supposed to be focusing on here, which is attitude.
Attitude is key to being happy and healthy. If you are a complainer, I would challenge you to write down a few of your most pressing problems and try to find things about them that are good. Do you hate your job? Your relationship (or lack of)? Your family? Your body? Force yourself to look at things differently. And you can do this with anything.
I'm going to use a recent example that I am doing. Usually I dread Christmas season, because I see it as a time of unnecessary spending, consumerism, obligations, and obnoxious customers. I always leave everything to the last minute, it's stressful, I never have the money to get people what I would like to give them (if I've even spent time thinking about it).
So instead, this year I have done the opposite (as I have been doing with pretty much everything that causes me stress - I will write about this next time). This time, I have started 6 weeks early. I had a hidden source of money (accrued vacation pay) which I decided to use for gifts. I put a lot of thought into what would really make certain people happy, and how it would make me feel to see them happy. I am more focused on that, than receiving. The opposite of usual. So now I am having a ton of fun with it, and enjoying the process, and looking forward to Christmas for once (for reasons other than "Yay, I will get presents.")
Tonight as I was walking my dog, sloshing around with wet leaves everywhere, mucky wet grass and drizzly rain, I thought, "I hate winter." And so, I changed my thinking. Winter causes me stress, so what can I find to like about it?
+ The air is super crisp
+ Warm snuggles with my dog and my boyfriend
+ High collared, sleek turtlenecks, which can hide love bites
+ Christmas lights
+ Snow (or rain and wet grass) makes my dog go to the bathroom more quickly
+ Doggy sweaters
+ My birthday
+ Seeing family for Christmas
+ Big scarves
+ Warm food on occasion, and hot teas
This is by no means a complete list, but it's 5am and I want to finish this up. My point is, if you try, you can find good about any situation. It doesn't matter how insignificant it seems. There is good and bad things about everything, and everyone. You choose what to focus on. Hell, you might even feel guilty for being happy in certain situations - DON'T. It's YOUR life. Be selfish. If it's not making you happy, don't do it. Please yourself first.
I admit, sometimes the bad will overwhelm the good, and you have every right to remove yourself from a situation because you know you need to do so. You have every right not to like someone, and not associate with them. But in cases where you really have no choice, look for the good, the beauty, and the lessons you can learn from them. After all, it's reality, you might as well get what you can out of it. That's how it is. The only thing that is real is what is happening to you right now. You pick your attitude to what happens next.