Happiness frightens some people more than giant spiders. In honor of Halloween, I’ve assembled a list of stories people tell when they try to resist the conversation about Happiness. As you’ll see, while these myths can feel as scary as any monster, in the end they are only as “real” as vampires and zombies.
13 Scary Stories About Happiness, Continued
See the first 6 Stories
7. Fiction: I’m not ready to be happy yet. I’m poor. Unemployed. Sick. I can’t be happy until…I get out of school, get married, get divorced, have kids, the kids move out, I get a promotion, I get a job, I lose weight, etc, etc.
Fact: No matter what your circumstances, you can experience moments of happiness and contentment if (the big IF) you give yourself permission. Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Happier reminds us, “Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable.” Don’t make your happiness conditional based on some future event occurring…what if you never get there? The trick, you see, is to enjoy the journey itself.
8. Fiction: I don’t “do” emotional. It’s not macho. I’m not a touchy-feely person.
Fact: This is the biggest myth of all. You’re human, and as such you are always in some emotional state (even calm and numb are emotions!). Your comfort with emotions may be affected by your gender, cultural and family background, and context (e.g. work or home). When you pay attention to your emotions, you gain more control over them, which helps you grow stronger in your own life and in your relationships.
9. Fiction: My life has been full of suffering. It’s too late for me to be happy.
Fact: Lifelong cigarette smokers who quit soon learn that their body can heal. Just as it’s never too late to quit smoking, it’s never too late to practice living in a positive emotional state. Start small, with a daily gratitude practice to rebuild your emotional muscles. In a short time you’ll be amazed at how much lost ground you can make up.
10. Fiction: I don’t know how (to be happy).
Fact: Of course you do – it’s part of the human software. Even little babies know how to experience quiet contentment, happiness, joy, and curiosity. Still, if you’ve not used that program in awhile, it may be in storage at the back of your brain. Activate it, and the first thing you’ll notice is a suggestion to stand taller, breathe deeply and on purpose, and smile with intention. Fake it… your system will remember the rest.
11. Fiction: It’s disrespectful to be happy when so much unhappiness exists in the world.
Fact: The worldview offered by the media is a hyper-narrow window on the evil, catastrophe, and breakdowns that affect a relatively small percentage of us. Outside of active war zones, the vast majority of people – regardless of circumstances – claim to be happy most of the time. To shift your own worldview, Google “good news” or subscribe to http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/, where the daily headlines will warm your heart.
12. Fiction: I want more from life; if I’m happy, I’ll stop trying.
Fact: Happiness is not an emotion that demands exclusivity. You can be happy (wanting what you have) and simultaneously feel ambition and desire for a better future.
13. Fiction: Smiling hurts my face. Yes, I’ve actually had people say this to me. Could it be true?
Fact: An old urban legend claims that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. While this makes a great story, we don’t know for sure. See http://www.snopes.com/science/smile.asp for a serious analysis of this claim.
What we DO know is that human beings serve as mirrors to each other’s emotions. We return smiles without realizing it, and we automatically downshift our mood when we encounter someone who is sad or upset. Even a baby, shown a picture of a smiling face or a frowning face, will eventually shift mood to match the face.
We also know that we can shift our OWN mood by changing what we wear on our face. So frankly, even if smiling really DOES make your face hurt, try it anyway. I promise that within a few minutes your heart and the rest of your body will feel lighter and your pain will diminish!
The 13 Principles of Happiness can help you overcome some of these scary stories. Check them out at https://theexecutivehappinesscoach.com/happiness/philosophies.cfm, where you can also download a colorful 1-page PDF Poster. Post it on your workplace wall or your fridge at home, and notice how often it comes in handy for coaching yourself or others to Choose Happiness.