Happiness Part III: Can Our Thoughts Create Un-Happiness?

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As adults, we’ve become trained as well as training ourselves, into believing that we are responsible for all that happens in our lives and if we are parents, in our children’s or even spouse’s lives.  That means that we often place the burdens of making everyone happy and taking everyone’s happiness, well-being and other needs onto our own shoulders.

We’ve also learned that “bad things” can happen and often do.  We listen to the news every night which is geared towards only the catastrophic, death, war, politics and we are seeing loved ones, friends and others we cared about, dying.  We have lost that innocence that we possessed as children where the world is magical and besides a scraped knee or a fight with a friend (which usually lasts a whole day or two before playing again with one another), we don’t know that the world can be a hard, cold and harsh place.

If you have been reading my series on being happy, in Part II, I talked briefly about children, our childhoods and generally, most of us were fairly happy.  We found wonder and magic in practically everything that we did.  Of course, there are exceptions to that rule in families that were dysfunctional and children were fearful of every day and what it would bring.  On the whole though, as children, most children are happier than adults for some fairly simple reasons, the least of which is that our brains haven’t been trained or formed enough yet to see that life and this world can be a harsh place to be.

I’m not a neuroscientist nor, do I understand the mechanics of the human psyche or brain.  What I do know is that the way that we think is what affects our moods.  We cannot have an emotion, without having a thought.

Let’s take the example of a husband and wife coming home from work.  Both have put in full days so, they agree that making dinner shouldn’t be left up to one or the other but, should be done together.  There’s equal responsibility happening in this case and dinner is put onto the table.  The husband sits down, looking at what he sees and feels is a delicious looking meal to be eaten with his wife.  His feelings are those of joy and happiness.  The wife, on the other hand, sees the same dinner table, same food yet her feelings are anything but happy or joyful.  As a matter of fact, she has a knot in the pit of her stomach.

They are both facing the same table, same home, same meal, both did the work and both will clean up afterwards.  There’s seemingly no difference, is there?  However, there’s a difference in their feelings.  Why?  What is it that makes two people, facing the exact same situation and circumstances, same responsibilities, feel so differently?  And, no…it’s not because men are from Mars.

The difference is their thoughts.

Husband is thinking thoughts like:

  • “Look at my wife.  I’m so lucky to be able to share this dinner with her tonight.”
  • “Aren’t we lucky to have that slow cooker?  That pork roast looks so delicious.”
  • “After dinner, I’m going to stretch out on the couch and watch the ball game.  I’ve been looking forward to that all day.”
  • “This smells so good and I’m really hungry tonight.  I can’t wait to dive into this dinner.”

Wife is thinking these thoughts:

  • “I should have made just a salad.  Look at the calories in this dinner and the potatoes are carbs galore.  I’ve ruined an entire day’s worth of eating healthy.  There goes my diet.”
  • “I really should put away that slow cooker.  It’s too easy to throw in a roast and add quick side dishes.  I’m getting lazy now with cooking. I’ve been lazy with everything lately.  I’m really a bad person and wife! What is wrong with me?”
  • “After dinner, I’m going to have to get onto that treadmill and work out to burn off some of these calories.  Oh, wait, I can’t.  I told Clara that I’d call her to work out the plans for our bridge get together next week.  Why did I think I should play bridge?”
  • “Now, I’ve lost my appetite.”

Two people with extremes in thinking.  That’s the only difference between the shared experience with one feeling joy and happiness and the other, feeling like they’re having a panic attack.

Happiness is a complex emotion and involves many different mechanisms.  Women cannot think like men necessarily as women have hormones and all sorts of brain wirings (again, I’m not a neurologist or scientist) that men don’t.  Women can be thinking 20 thoughts at once while men are really only focusing on the task at hand for the most part.  That’s not to say that men don’t worry or can’t become obsessive over things too but, it’s to say that the thinking patterns in men and women are different therefore, what a man finds as happiness, a woman may not.  A lot of that will have to do with a difference in thinking patterns and thoughts.  We also can’t include people who have a true mental/emotional disorder or brain chemical imbalance in this but, by and large, most who can’t find happiness, are searching for it when much like The Wizard of Oz, the answer was right there all along, under their noses.  Their thinking patterns.

Change a thought and you change the emotion.

It’s this concept that makes a difference.  Children are generally happier because they don’t know enough to be worried, fretful, concerned, upset etc., at least not for long.  An adult has been trained to see the bad first and the good second.  A child will see almost every moment as an opportunity to find something to make them happy while an adult will usually find something in every moment to be concerned about.  That’s trained into us as we grow and our brains mature.  It’s also part of our experiences but, on the whole, adults tend to be far less happy than children because they’ve trained their thinking patterns into those of worry, fear, upset, self-belittling, catastrophes, blocking out most of the positives in life.  Life and other people teach us to think that way as we grow.  Teachers, bosses, peers, co-workers, media and so much more.  Even Facebook can make us feel like we’re losers because everyone else’s lives seem charmed when looking at their personal walls by comparison.  It’s not them who do it to us.  It’s us.  We know that no one’s lives are as perfect, joyful or seemingly wonderful as what is portrayed on Facebook yet, we still take it at face value on a subconscious basis.  Equally, or more one-dimensional, is the news where it’s filled with disasters, death, wars and creates things to fear.

More than anything, we learn as we grow to become “responsible” and we long since have given up on things that used to make us happy.  We can’t find the time any longer for such trivial things.

We have “too much to do and take care of,” we reason within ourselves. “There’s no time for laying back in the grass, relaxing, watching the clouds and I’d break bones if I rolled down a hill now.  Did I put sunscreen on?  I don’t want skin cancer!”

If you doubt what is being said here, take the time for the next day or two to make a list of the thoughts that run through your mind.  Don’t edit them.  Just write them out.  I’m going to be doing the same thing and, we’ll regather to see if we can see patterns, ok?

In the meanwhile, stay tuned for Part IV on being happy.  It’s coming.

 

It’s A Wonderful Life When You’re On Facebook

Does Facebook make you feel as though your life isn't as good as everyone else's?

Does Facebook make you feel as though your life isn’t as good as everyone else’s?

Have you ever felt like your life sucks and everyone else’s is somehow the epitome of perfection while going through your home feeds on Facebook?  Everyone’s lives look happy, rose coloured and feel like it needs a sound track with birds chirping, people skipping and singing.  Your “friends” are all posting photos of perfect children and grandchildren, parties, dinners, vacations, selfies with groups in beautiful places.  Suddenly, your life feels like it’s gone to hell in a hand-basket and you’re wondering what you’re doing wrong because your world now seems small.

Let me assure you of one thing here.  Facebook isn’t reality.

Here’s a few things you should know that should help make you look at Facebook a little differently.

 “Bullshit Artists”

If you’ve ever felt like your life sucks because your Facebook friends all seem to be doing something exciting or, because they seem to have themselves and their lives together, you can stop right there.  Your life is really no different than theirs.  The only thing that differs is that they’ve taken and posted a few more selfies than you have and they’re just better at how they present themselves and their lives.  They’ve learned the art of taking photos of bagels with cream cheese with their cell phones and giving it a grandiose story to go with it.  They’ve bypassed all that’s going wrong in their lives in favour of posting jokes or being inventive in how they’ve phrased their status updates.  They’ve created ways to present ordinary, everyday events and make it seem like they’re part of Dirty Dancing and are having the time of their lives.  In other words, they’ve become “Bullshit Artists” and you haven’t mastered it quite as well.

Avoiding The Negatives In Their Lives 

Not many people go onto Facebook and admit that their lives are filled with crap.  Social media is a venue whereby, people present their lives as though they don’t have a problem in the world.  After all, how many people go onto Facebook to read about everyone else’s problems?  By being selective as to what they post, people can make their lives look happy and themselves, well adjusted.  It’s what they don’t post that tells you the other half or more of their stories.

How many people have you seen whose walls look like they came out of a Normal Rockwell painting but, have talked to them in private or over the phone and know that they’re not at all happy in their lives?  If you haven’t seen that, drop those people a line or two in a private message or via email.  Pick up the phone and call them or, invite them to meet you for coffee one day if you live close enough to one another.  If you’re perceptive enough, you’ll get the gist that their lives just aren’t what they seem on Facebook.  That’s a guarantee because no one is without problems.  They have simply avoided posting the negatives in their lives on Facebook.

Happy Friends And Family 

The ultimate measure of a person’s life would appear to be the smiling faces and sheer numbers of people in a person’s life.  One could be envious of those who seem to have endless family, friends and happy smiles in photos on Facebook.  It could make those who are less family and friend endowed, feel as though they’ve somehow failed in Life because they have few photos to post of themselves with family and friends by comparison.  However, if you were able to listen to the storied behind the multitude of people who seem to grace their lives, you’d also find a plethora of gripes, groans, moans and complaints about those same people who are beaming with teeth showing through those smiles.  You would also find that there’s been tears, fears, worries, headaches and rejections that go along with all of those faces in those photos.  Never judge a relationship by their smiles in photos.  No one’s family is that happy and no friendship comes without issues.  No one goes un-talked about in a negative light.  Nothing is what it seems in those captured moments of what appears like total bliss.

Party On, Dudes

It’s Saturday night and you’re sitting at home, in front of your computer, looking at Facebook while dozens of photos and status updates come through on the Home Feeds of people out, dancing, drinking or seemingly, having fun.  Where’s your fun?  Why are you at home while everyone else seems to be out with others, enjoying themselves?  What are you doing wrong?

Everyone at some point, gets time out of the house to be with others or, you have someone or several people over to your place.  It may not be every weekend and it may not be with large groups of people but, the truth is, you’ve gone out too.  The difference is, these people have an obsession with turning every moment that they’re out, into a photo-op to post to Facebook and you haven’t done that but, they have.  They will grab every opportunity to grab a photo of the people around them and with them.  Some people in their photos, they’ve just met through other people or, they’ve learned to get people into photos by hamming it up and turning it into a joke.  Are their entire evenings like that?  Likely not.

If you’d like to have photos to post to your wall, wait until you’re with at least one other person, at home or out and get “goofy” while snapping pictures of those moments and posting them to Facebook.  Add a caption about what a great visit or time you had to it and post them.  You too, will have instant Party Time that looks great on any Facebook wall.

EXAMPLE Status:

“Emily and I out having a great afternoon”

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Turning Ordinary Everyday Events Into Something News Worthy 

People in Facebookland have also learned how to turn even the most mundane of daily things into something worthy of posting on Facebook.  It fills in a lot of gaps in their lives that would normally be left gaping holes were it not for how they made it look somehow glamorous.

Take this photo for instance.

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Ok, it’s a photo of a pot of pasta or spaghetti sauce.  It’s nothing special.  We all have our favourite recipes or we’re really good at opening a jar and throwing it into a pot to heat up, right?

The above is true but, in Facebookland, it’s no ordinary pot of sauce that you’ve made (store bought or homemade or not…remember, it’s what you omit that makes the story seem interesting).  This is your masterpiece and you’re happy about it.  Try adding that photo to your Facebook wall as a status and add in what was happening or what you were doing or who was around you at the time you were making it.  Talk about something else that you accomplished during the day before you made that sauce or what you’re going to watch on tv after you’ve had it and suddenly…you have a life!

This photo could be posted to your wall with a status update like:

“Yummy!  My freshly made pasta sauce to go with garlic bread for dinner tonight. I’m looking forward to curling up with my favourite pyjamas, a blanket and binge watching Sons of Anarchy on Crave TV tonight.”  

Suddenly, not only do you have something good to eat but, you’re a good cook and have a well planned, cozy evening to look forward to.

It’s all tricks.  It’s all omissions.  It’s all just how you present yourself and your life that makes your life feel, seem and be fuller if that’s what you’re into and want to do.

If not, just realize that no one’s life is as lopsidedly good as what it appears on Facebook.  Everyone has lonely moments, cries, has problems, fights with friends and family, nowhere to go and no one to go with.  You’re not failing at Life anymore than anyone else is nor, is your life worse than anyone else’s for the most part.  You’re ok.  Facebook can simply make it seem like you’re not and cause a lot of depression in people if you’re not of the right frame of mind and seeing it for what it is….non-reality based life.