Ever since I decided to get a grip on my post covid malaise by writing about it, specifically about regaining my happy, it seems like every other Facebook post is about happiness. So weird. Are my electronic devices reading my mind? It’s not the first time. How do they do it?
For instance, there was this one: An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside you.– Unknown.
And this one: If you want to be happy you have to be happy on purpose. When you wake up, you can’t just wait to see what kind of day you’ll have, you have to decide what kind of day you’ll have. – Unknown.
A quote from John Lennon: “When I was five years old my mother told me happiness was the key to life. When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They said I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told then they didn’t understand life.”
That’s my favorite. It’s like I’m seeing happy advice everywhere I look. Recently I binged Ally McBeal and on one episode the character Richard Fish says, “Happiness can be found in one word – denial.”
I kind of get that. I’ve done it. During the G. W. Bush years I decided I’d had enough news and quit watching and reading it. There was so much bad news, none of which I could do anything about. When people discussed politics, mainly to announce how they’d do things, my eyes would glaze over. I spent those years, I joked, on Planet Denial. True story.
And it worked. For eight years. During the next eight years I let some news leak through, and was still able to maintain my happy because the country seemed in good hands. It was a hopeful time. Then dark clouds began to gather.
I believe in being happy. I joke that I’ve built my platform on positivity. I think it’s my nature to be cheerful, to seek out the fun, to be happy. My blood type is B positive. Fact.
But the past five years, most especially, no surprise, the last year and a half, have taken a toll.
I not only keep up with the news now, for thirteen months I was obsessed. As we all were. And damn, it was dire.
But this post is about being happy, in spite of anything, including how my smart phone is able to probe my mind.
I have limited the amount of news I allow myself. That helps. That’s the first step.
Getting the vaccine was a joyful, happy moment of freedom. But, as society eases back into what it once was, as the landscape fills back up with bodies, as masks come off, I’m finding the reemerging to be a challenge. The Covid malaise. Then, one morning as I scrolled through news stories on my phone, I read “Feeling Blah Lately? It’s Called Languishing – And Here’s What You Can Do About It.” It has a name! Languishing is described as feeling low, dissatisfied, and lacking motivation. And I would add, losing your happy. The article gives the usual advice to get enough sleep, to meditate and exercise. Eat well. Take up a hobby. Visit friends.
What if you don’t feel like taking up or revisiting a hobby? What if the idea of socializing doesn’t do it for you? Sometimes I feel like the lock-down didn’t last long enough.
I started thinking about being happy. I believe that nothing and no one can “make” me happy. Or sad or angry or whatever for that matter. I’m a big believer in the power of the mind. It’s worked for me. I had an epiphany many years ago when I was experiencing situational depression, of the brokenhearted variety. I realized I wasn’t someone who would off herself and I sure didn’t want to live like this, all bummed out and weepy. I decided to be happy. It didn’t happen overnight, but that was the beginning. I chose to be happy.
So, in the midst of the languishing, I’m choosing to be happy again.
A note here to say I know depression is not to be taken lightly and anything I say is with respect to that. I cannot imagine what these past months have been like for some people.
Anyone who ever had to give up an addictive bad habit knows to avoid the triggers that induce that addiction. When seeking something like happiness, there are also triggers, to induce the happy. Gratitude is the first for me. Pausing to take a moment to look at all I have to be thankful for soothes me. I’m not just talking about family and friends and pets and things, but the basic necessities. Everyone has something to be grateful for, no matter how seemingly small.
Throughout my life, music and movies have contributed to bringing happiness and joy. They are the second triggers. When I was in high school and feeling low, one late night I chanced upon a 1968 movie called What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? It starred George Peppard and Mary Tyler Moore and a toucan carrying a happy virus that descends upon New York City. Hilarity and songs ensue. I loved it. I felt buoyed. I saw this movie twice more, both at times I needed it. I haven’t seen it for years but never forgot it and it will always have a place in my heart.
Some weeks ago, as I languished, clicking aimlessly through movie listings, I came across Amelie, a 2001 French film about a young woman who discovers a box belonging to a former resident of her apartment. She sets about finding him and returning his childhood memories. She decides if he’s happy to get the box, it will be a sign and she will help others. It’s a lovely film. I don’t know why I put off watching it for so long. It was a delight. I loved it and once again felt that surge of joy.
Then there’s music. Music has helped us be happy since we sang If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. Music is a pretty universal trigger for all kinds of feelings. We have all the music at our fingertips any time. So I can listen to Don’t Worry, Be Happy, follow with Hakuna Mutata, and Pharrell Williams’ Happy. You get it. You have your own list. Lately, as I’m getting back to myself, I’m liking Can’t Stop the Feeling from the Trolls movie and Meghan Trainor’s Better When I’m Dancin’.
So limiting depressing news, finding music and movies that lift the spirit and gratitude can help get the happy back. It also helps if you amuse yourself. I find myself ridiculous. My inner dialogue, the stupid mistakes I make, the way I dance when I’m alone, life in general is fucking hilarious. I also recommend Worry-Free Weekends, which give you license to NOT WORRY. For forty-eight hours, during which you really can’t do that much to solve anything, you can have some fun. Fun is very important to being happy.
Look for signs. They’re out there. I was having a particularly bummer day. As I drove to the store, I pulled up behind a car with the license plate GD HPNS. I thought it either meant God Happens or Good Happens. Either was a nice reminder. Look around. Life is happening. Happy is happening.
I feel better already. Stay tuned.
(P.S. This was written a month or so ago, before the Delta variant appeared. It’s almost as if the whole pandemic is starting all over. Please get the vaccine, We CAN end it, but we all have to help.)