Happiness For Dummies
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Sometimes, terrible things happen. And, your sense of coherence and happiness are either temporarily or permanently disrupted. Most people have a plan for how they want to live their lives and they spend the majority of their time executing that plan. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, life cooperates with your plan, but not always. Common disruptions include such things as:

  • The death of a loved one

  • The loss of a job

  • Divorce

  • Life-changing accidents or illness

  • Bankruptcy

  • War

  • Severe economic losses

  • Natural disasters — floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires

  • Identity theft

  • Winning the lottery

  • Imprisonment

  • Outsourcing of jobs overseas

  • The death of an industry — coal mining, steel mills, farming

  • Having a special-needs child

  • Being forced into early retirement

Life suddenly gets off track and the confidence that was so much a part of your life is shaken. During those times, you’re anything but happy. So how do you get back on track and regain your confidence?

Have a heart-to-heart with a higher power to find happiness

The peace and tranquility that comes from a belief in a power greater than oneself is an antidote to unhappiness and the doubt and uncertainty that accompanies unexpected, unwanted changes in life. The nature of that higher power is not as important as the meaningful social tie you have to that entity.

In order for prayer to work, you need to be honest in your conversation with your higher power. This is not the time to hold back. Admit your fears, your anger, your feeling of vulnerability, and ask for help. Recognize that you’re a human being — no more, no less — and not some invincible, superpower who can handle everything that life throws at you. This is what humility is all about.

Prayer is an act of faith and faith can be a weapon that helps you survive unhappy times. Take a few minutes each day and have a quiet conversation with a higher power. The nature of the prayer doesn’t matter.

Set aside the unanswerable questions of life to be happy

You are, by definition, rational, logical, and thoughtful. Why? Because you’re human, and humans are the only animal on the planet that have the immense brain capacity to interact with the world around them in a questioning manner. Other animals lack the ability to question life; they simply act on instinct.

But the human need to ask questions and have them answered to our satisfaction can also be a problem. Not all questions in life have an answer, and that can leave people at a loss.

What unanswerable questions are you struggling with? If you’ve asked questions for which you still haven’t gotten a satisfactory answer, maybe it’s time to set them aside. By the way, you’ll find that you rarely, if ever, seek answers to questions that have to do with things that are going right in your life. The unanswerable questions only come when our lives get off track.

Happiness means knowing how to begin and end each day

Coherence comes from structure and when that structure — those routine, meaningful activities that make you feel like you’re on top of life — is disturbed, you must slowly but surely replace that structure, not always an easy task.

It takes time to rebuild a life after the loss of a spouse to whom you’ve been happily married for decades. Finding another job that will provide you with as much satisfaction as the one you just lost can take a lot of effort. Daily routines that felt all too natural are now a thing of the past.

New routines are best developed by concentrating on the beginning and end of each day. Let the middle of the day take care of itself. Focus on tasks that meet the three M’s test — that is, something that makes sense, is manageable (within your power to do), and is meaningful. And keep it simple!

Here are some ways you may want to start and end your day:

  • Spending a few minutes in quiet prayer

  • Doing 20 minutes of light exercise

  • Taking your dog for a walk

  • Having breakfast at a restaurant where you’re considered a regular

  • Sending e-mails to close friends and wishing them a pleasant day

  • Spending 15 minutes in meditation

  • Feeding the birds in your yard

  • Having a neighbor over for coffee

  • Having a conversation with someone who cares about you

Start and end your day the same way every day. These routines can be the building blocks for a renewed sense of coherence.

Count your opportunities and blessings

In an effort to achieve a more positive, confident mindset as you go through the day, be aware of all the opportunities life offers you as well as the blessings that come your way.

A Baptist preacher once said, “Folks, there are two kinds of people in this world. The first kind gets up in the morning, gets out of bed, walks across the floor, looks out the window and says ‘Good morning, God.’ The second kind gets up in the morning, gets out of bed, walks across the floor, looks out the window, and says ‘Good God, morning.’”

Same three words, only with entirely different meanings. The first welcomes the opportunities and promises offered by each new day, whereas the latter can only see the problems of the past. If you think about it, just having another day to make something meaningful of your life is, in itself, a blessing.

Opportunities don’t always coming knocking on your door — sometimes you have to create them. Ask yourself what you can do today to create some new opportunity in your life.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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