Monday, February 22nd, 2010

How To Be Happy

Or just wait until you're hereSuck it, Barbara Ehrenreich: Science says that positive thinking can make you happier! "Despite the finding that happiness is partially genetically determined, and despite the finding that life situations have a smaller influence on our happiness than we think they do, we argue that still a large portion of happiness is in our power to change," says UC Riverside psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. The article includes five activities in which you can engage to make yourself more chipper. (There is also, naturally, an iPhone app.) They are mostly on the order of thinking nice thoughts about yourself and others. Fair enough-some of these things very well may work-but I still have doubts. Why? Because I personally know the actual secret to happiness. There are five simple rules, and a bonus caveat. Would you like to hear them? Very well, come closer.

1. Be kind to other people. Ignore those people to whom you cannot be kind. When you are seized with the urge to be rude to or about someone, clear your mind, preferably with a drink.

2. Be content with your own successes, whatever they are. No one is doing "better" than you, even in cases where this seems demonstrably untrue. What do they have that you don't? Money? Healthcare? Famous Golfer-amounts of sex? Focus on whatever you have in your own life-it could be something as simple as a favorite CD, or a bottle of bourbon-and remind yourself that these are tangible things that bring you happiness no matter what.

3. Listen. There is nothing nicer you can do than listen to another person unspool their own sorrows and insecurities and general discontentment with life. Nod frequently, leave plenty of spaces for them to continue, pat them on the shoulder appreciatively when appropriate. If this is particularly difficult to do-and we all know someone it is almost impossible to tolerate in these situations-try to have the conversation over a series of drinks. You will feel better for having been "a sympathetic ear," you will feel better about your own life, and you will feel better because of the drinks.

4. Endure suffering as stoically as possible. Surely you've had one of those dark nights where the idea of a quick plunge off the fire escape seems like an eminently sensible solution. In many cases you are probably right. But it will pass, I promise. And there's a new season of "Party Down" coming soon; do you really want to miss that? Probably best to put a lock on the window, hide the cutlery, and hole up with a nice bottle of something until you start to feel better about things. Or pass out.

5. Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Grab a couple of drinks with them.

It seems like common sense, right? Be nice, be good, be kind, don't be envious, keep things in perspective, remind your loved ones how special they are to you, try to find the best in everyone. Now I personally cannot adhere to any of these rules all the time. Odds are, neither can you. We are human beings, not saints. Most days you will fail at all of these, several times, frequently simultaneously. It's okay. That is the real secret to happiness: Knowing that mostly you are not going to be happy. Once you accept that, you will find yourself surprisingly relaxed. Particularly if you keep a bottle nearby, which is pretty much key to the whole thing. Here endeth the lesson.

34 Comments / Post A Comment

elecampane (#1,877)

Chögyam? Is that you?

dado (#102)

I love the common denominator.

garge (#736)

an iPhone?

Bittersweet (#765)

James Taylor?

KarenUhOh (#19)

This comes in a handy [heh] Palin Palm Size:

1. Kind.
2. Content.
3. Listen.
4. Endure.
5. Shower.

Personally, I would be much happier if everyone showered more.

maebefunke (#154)

How many drinks did it take you to write this, Balk?

rj77 (#210)

At *least* five…

josh_speed (#97)

This is something! And #6 is bookmark this page so that when you're all bent out of shape, you have to come back and re-read and remind yourself.

Yep, same page.

Read Balk.

cherrispryte (#444)

But he can be so sad sometimes!

HiredGoons (#603)

"No one is doing "better" than you, even in cases where this seems demonstrably untrue."

Do… denial seems to be the key here.

Regina Small (#2,468)

The key there might be to accept that there isn't a limited amount of happiness in the world. I think? So it's okay if other people appear to be doing better. Yes?

Multiphasic (#411)

People in Riverside, California who are telling you you could be happier and here's how are either selling you real estate or meth. Sometimes a nice plot where you can cook meth.

Bittersweet (#765)

Assuming that professors at UC Riverside actually live in Riverside is like assuming Balk isn't having a drink right now.

sailor (#396)

Thanks, Balk. I needed that.

Tabish Bhimani (#3,629)

You know, I would generally appreciate the article, but here's the break down of the 5 pointers:

1. drink
2. drink
3. drink
4. drink
5. drink

shaunr (#726)

Tolstoy said that life is mostly a 'tartine de merde' that one is obliged to eat slowly: it's best to quickly wash it down.

josh_speed (#97)

…With a chaser of something stiff…

beatrixkiddo1 (#2,988)

At first, I read #5 as "shower with the people you love." Which could also be a pretty good way to find happiness. Especially after a couple of drinks.

Multiphasic (#411)

Or, in the very worst case scenario, love the people you shower with.

NicFit (#616)

5. should really be like, "Shower with people. A lot."

myfanwy (#1,124)

"And thash how you make a druckin' froodcake."

myfanwy (#1,124)

is how I secretly hoped this post would end.

mathnet (#27)

Could somebody smarter please show me the part where Alex explains that if you're a woman and you want to be happy, you simply need to have a baby?

Bittersweet (#765)

I think that's inferred from #5, when you shower with people you love and don't use birth control.

Diane47 (#2,911)

Ack! Number 5 = Earworm! Thanks a lot!! :(

The fact that you can make yourself happy kind of devalues the whole thing for me.

Mork el Pork (#8,293)

@formerly it takes a lot etc. As long as you're not doing it too often I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I mean obviously the goal is to do it with other people, but showering along can be very satisfying too!

Mork el Pork (#8,293)

@typo *alone*

Yes, but what about us teetotalers?

Just kidding; I know we'll never be happy.

Liz Steinkamp (#3,811)

Loved the part about the bottle and the iphone app! Here's another look at a book on how to be happy, "This Hungry Spirit," by C. Clinton Sidle. It takes the approach that shows how to use our experiences in life as an opportunity for growth.

Pretty sure there's no app for it yet…

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