Sometimes, life is just plain freakin’ glorious.
Sitting next to a loved one, inhaling deeply the cool air of an autumn night while watching the sun slip soundlessly over the horizon, casting shades of red, orange, yellow in a broad fan across the sky, backlighting the clouds; can it really get better than that?
Sure, I guess it could. But if life consisted of an unending string of moments such as those, why go to Heaven? It’s all right here.
Actually, when you think about it, our lives are probably pretty good more times than they’re not.
I mean, yeah, “stuff” happens; into every life some crap must fall and all that. But, really, unless life has dealt you unending sucker punches, those moments are thankfully scattered.
To that end, I’ve stolen a line from one of my favorite talk show hosts, Thom Hartmann. When a caller gets on the line, they many times robotically ask, “How are you?” Mr. Hartmann’s reply — which I’ve now commandeered — is “I’m great, but I’ll get better.” Try it sometimes. Others find it perplexing. Oft times only hearing “I’ll get better,” they’ll react, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear things aren’t going well.” If they actually pay attention, in many instances, I’ll get a chuckle. Yet, mostly, they just don’t know how to handle it; no one says how great things are. It’s just not done.
So, why do we so often downplay the beauty and exhilaration that is this thing called “Life?”
IMHO, I think we simply forget to seek beauty, instead habitually focusing more on the “ain’t-it-awfuls.” Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly enough “ain’t-it-awfuls” going around that it’s hard to ignore them, I get it – but are they really the main part of our day-to-day? I’m not sure why we focus on the dark and moldy aspects of our journeys on this planet. Maybe we don’t want to seem conceited. Possibly we don’t want our friends to feel bad. I had a girlfriend in college who espoused a theory, “Don’t ever be too happy; because if you are, the Gods get jealous and they’ll come and take it all away.”
I don’t believe in low-self-esteem, petty, thieving deities, but will own up to the truth that I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to turning the bright light of my life down. It’s as if I worry enough about something, I can make it better. Make sense? No. After all, if worry were a cure to what ails, my life would be perfect. (I imagine so would yours.)
In 2017, the Harris poll found that only 33 percent of Americans labeled themselves as “happy.” Strangely (at least to me), that’s up from 31 percent the year before. (For the record, the high-water mark was 2008 with 38 percent.) Apparently, my Facebook friends tend to be more optimistic. I conducted an informal poll and 92% of my “friends” said they were “mostly happy.”
Whatever the numbers, we actually become happier as we get older.
At first blush, one would think that the ever-louder ticking clock of time would seem to cause those of us “at a certain” age to feel less happy; but it turns out, according to a 2010 study, that’s not reality. People in their twenties tend to have a happiness score of about 6.8. After that it declines and it will reach the lowest point at age 46. But from then on, happiness increases leading to a happiness score of about 7 at age 80. This phenomenon is known as the U-bend. (In full disclosure, the study has some detractors.)
So, what makes people happier?
Turns out that there are four main factors:
- Gender (women tend to be happier than men)
- Personality (being an extrovert helps you being happier)
- External circumstances (such as having children in the house, which interestingly enough makes folks less happy)
Aside from the “no-duh” reason for being happy, there are other benefits to maintaining a sunnier disposition.
- Are infectious; they make other people happy
- Are less prone to illness
- Tend to be more productive.
It appears that with the in-your-face realization that life is finite, comes a sense of calm and an acceptance of what really matters.
Those of us who have circled the Sun most often tend to be better at controlling our emotions and therefore argue less. We also live more in the present, and are more accepting of our strengths and weaknesses.
Seeing the positives in life doesn’t mean you’re ruling out the negatives. As a therapist once told me, “Just because you’re listening to rock and roll on your radio doesn’t mean the classical station went off the air. You’re just not focusing on it.”
Set your dial for “happy,” crank up the radio, and sing along.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a THINspirational speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds over 23 years ago, he works with overloaded people and organizations who are looking to improve communication, change bad habits, and reduce stress. He can be reached for consulting, workshops, or presentations at 707.442.6243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will sometimes work in exchange for chocolate.