Happy no matter what happens: Cultivating hope and a sense of purpose in difficult times

Real change is possible

An important step in becoming happier is recognizing that you have the power to increase your happiness. Research by psychologists and neuroscientists – such as Richard Davidson, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Jeffrey Schwartz and Carol Dweck – shows that they can they change. They are flexible, not fixed.16 This does not mean that you can change your happiness radically and quickly – it is a time consuming process – but small wins, small gains are definitely possible. If you make a small profit, then another and then another for a long time, you end up with big profits.

It’s a bit like being on a flight. When sitting on an airplane, the small screen in the back of the front seat is tuned to a default channel that shows the flight path. You may have your eyes fixed on the plane of the map and it may seem that it is not moving at all. But then you fall asleep (or try to fall asleep for a while) and when you open your eyes, what do you see? The plane on the map has moved! You will reach your destination in a little while! In the same way when
you are trying to conquer happiness, even if the change is slow and initially imperceptible, over time you will make great progress.

It is important to note, however, that no matter how big the changes you make, how much progress you make, you will still face difficulties, difficulties and hardships in your life. The science of happiness is not a panacea. It is not a magical thought, nor will it automatically alleviate all your suffering. What it can do is help you avoid unnecessary suffering.

As we will discuss in more detail in Chapter 5, adversity has two levels of pain. The first is the pain that comes directly from the experience: either you are worried about your finances, or you are upset during an argument with your partner, or there has been some loss. The experience of this first level of misery is inevitable. But the second level comes when we reject the first, or when we deprive ourselves of basic human needs such as exercise, learning and friendship, as well as when we fail to seize the moment and appreciate what we have.

This book, or any other here we are talking about, is unlikely to help you with the first level, but it can certainly help with the second. By the time I finished my postgraduate studies, the economy was beginning to enter a recession. Because part of my PhD was in business school, I was assigned to guide undergraduate students into the maze of their future careers – to show them how to make a resume, how to apply for jobs and prepare for interviews. One day I was asked to talk about the situation in the labor market.

I was raw with my students. “Look, things are not like last year.” Last year, staff recruits gave signing bonuses to new associates. Now the companies are firing employees. “It will be difficult this year,” I added, “and you will have to work hard to find a job.” Then a student raised his hand and said: “Tal, you are the teacher of happiness, you talk to us about optimism, and yet for the last twenty minutes you have been constantly saying pessimistic things. Do you have any optimistic message for us? “

There were a few muffled laughs in the room and then there was complete silence. Honestly, I was embarrassed. At first I was prepared to say that every obstacle is for good, but before I opened my mouth I realized that I did not wholeheartedly believe this saying. It is not always every obstacle for good. So I said, “I’ll think about it and tell you.” A few days later I gave my student an answer: Not everything happens necessarily for good, but it is up to us to make the most of it.

Whether we are talking about a deteriorating economy or a catastrophic pandemic does not mean that what is happening is for the better. People are anxious, struggling, suffering, they may even die. However, whatever the crisis, it happened. We can do nothing about the past, but it is up to us to plan our present and our future.

Allowing ourselves to be human, to exercise regularly, to allow time for recovery, to be polite, to learn from what we are going through, to give our relationships the value they deserve, to be aware, to appreciate little things in life – all these are practices based on facts and it is up to us to choose them, so that we can get something positive out of our situation.

SPIRE control

At the end of each chapter there is an exercise called SPIRE Checking, which will help you evaluate your personal progress. It’s a technique that Maria Sira, Megan McDonagh and I developed. With the SPIRE Test you examine each item, ask yourself a few simple questions about it, evaluate where you are now and evaluate your future performance. Its purpose is to give you a snapshot of the big picture. The following is an overview of the questions asked:

Spiritual well-being: Do you have a sense of meaning and purpose in your work? Do you have a sense of meaning and purpose at home? Are you present? Do you have consciousness?

Physical well-being: How physically active are you? Do you take care of your body? Do you take time to rest and recover? How do you deal with stress?

Mental well-being: Are you learning new things? Do you ask enough questions? Do you deal with deep learning? Do you fail enough?

Social well-being: Do you spend quality time with your family and friends? Are your relationships deep? Take care of your self; Are you generous?


Excerpt from the book “Happy whatever happens” by Klidarithmos publications


Source: Εναλλακτική Δράση by enallaktikidrasi.com.

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