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How To Be Happier No Matter What February 29, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Gratitude, Happiness, Mindfulness.

Our left analytical brain creates most, if not all, of the unhappiness we experience in life. 

It’s not what happens to us that determines our happiness, it’s the “spin” put on it by the thoughts we think.

The “what is” IS.  How we relate to the issue IS the issue.

So, for example, a possible cause for distress would be if X’s house burned down.  X could be grateful (“at least no one was hurt”) or happy (“I’m glad I paid the insurance premium last week”). 

X could collapse into a heap and cry about the loss of stuff.  Or X could shrug and say, “Well, that’s one thousand less things to worry about.” 

Barn’s burnt down ~ now I can see the moon. ~ Masahide (1657-1723)

The same possibilities exist if we lose our job . . . or our spouse leaves us . . . or a loved one dies.

We can resist the “what is” and add to our suffering by the stories we tell ourselves . . . or we can accept and embrace the changes that come our way.

Embrace all with joy . . . anything can be a gift of gold in disguise. 

When something “bad” happens, we do not have to feel “sad.”  We can accept that change is inevitable in life and get on with living life. 

We can choose to look for the silver lining:

“Great.  Now that I’m no longer working there . . . I’ll have the time to find a job more suited to my time and talents.”

“Great.  John hasn’t been happy in our marriage for some time.  I’m glad he’s finally moving on with his life, freeing me to do the same.”

Situations do NOT dictate the response. 

Our responses are conditioned by our habitual way of looking at the world. 

They are learned behavior . . . and can be unlearned. 

If we are attached to X, and lose X, we are socialized to mourn the loss.  But we don’t have to follow socially prescribed behavior. 

We are free to say . . . I am better off without X.  X was slowing me down.  I needed to let go of X to get on with life.   

We need not collapse into a heap at the side of the road every time we stub our toe on a pebble in our path.

We can kick it to the curb and proceed on our way.

We can keep moving forward to see what’s around the next bend in the road.

Aah . . . that’s better!

A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition. ~ William Arthur Ward

Related posts:  When The Going Gets ToughPerception is Reality (Married with Luggage) Hang Ten:  Riding the Waves of DismayYear of the Cat


1. Andra Watkins - February 29, 2012

Ah ha! The development of my left brain by forcing it to major in accounting instead of something wildly creative is what caused my detour into unhappiness in my twenties!!

Seriously, I totally understand this one. I’ve struggled with negativity all my life. It does take some real concentration and resolve to just let things go.

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

We can choose our thoughts at any time . . . no matter what is happening around us. Picture images you’ve seen of people after a natural disaster . . . still in the midst of mayhem.

Some are collapsed into heaps of emotional wreckage, busily bemoaning their fate and WISHING things were different. They are wasting energy trying to change what they cannot change.

They are shaking their fists at the sky . . . hoping the rain will stop falling. (It won’t).

Others are calm and peaceful as they survey the damage. They have realized that JOY is never in things, it is in us (or it is nowhere). They recognize that it is not what happens to us that determines our happiness or unhappiness . . . it’s how we relate to what has happened.

They don’t waste time and energy trying to stop the rain from falling (an impossible task). Instead, they just dance in the rain . . . as and where they are.

2. Judson - February 29, 2012

I like this …

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Here’s to dancing in the rain! 😎

3. Julie - February 29, 2012

Yes, even what we judge to be “bad” often turns out to be “good.”

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Exactly. With hindsight and 20/20 vision, we often see that the “worst things that ever happened to us” are the “best things that could have happened.”

Here’s to ALWAYS looking for the positive “spin” on things!

If this is the LAST DAY of my life . . . I might as well enjoy it. 😉

4. Samyak - February 29, 2012

I guess it boils down to learning to respond and not react to situations… If only we could know how! Thanks nancy. A great read!

PS. I know it’s been a while. Will try to be a regular now on

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Hi Samyak! Nice to “see” you. 😀

When we remain “mindful of the moment,” we are able to take a step back from the edge of the fray to OBSERVE the situation and assess whether and how to respond ~ instead of allowing our ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) to add to our suffering by resisting the “what is.”

We learn to ask, “Can I change this?”
Or, “Will this thought bring me happiness?”

We have the choice to accept the curveballs that life throws at us with grace or add to our hardships by making ourselves miserable with the thoughts we think.

The more we practice . . . the easier it (and life) gets. 😉

5. Life in the Boomer Lane - February 29, 2012

Well said!

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Thanks, Renee. I expect that some of the people who got “up in arms” about your post on “mismatched mates” are those who habitually jump into the fray first . . . rather than taking a step back to assess whether they need do anything at all. 😎

6. Piglet in Portugal - February 29, 2012

Your words are wise, as always!

“Our responses are conditioned by our habitual way of looking at the world.”
Probably depends on whether our glass is half full or half empty!

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Exactly, PiP! Our perception of the glass creates our reality on a moment by moment basis.

If we learn to use our thoughts to re-fill the glass to overflowing (be reminding ourselves of all the “good” in our lives) . . . it’s never empty, or even half empty, again. 😀

7. Carl D'Agostino - February 29, 2012

Have been unable to delude myself with spin. When the house burns down it is not a growth opportunity for me. I may not be able to trick myself into happiness but I’ll remain crotchety stubborn not to let anything crush me. We have to activate our basic survival gene.

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Having a flood in our basement was a HUGE growth opportunity for me . . . as was having a tumor that could not be biopsied prior to surgery . . . as was having to wait 4 months for the surgery . . . as was not knowing for another 4 months whether the tumor was benigh or malignant.

Each of those “opportunities” could have inspired me to rant and rave and rail against fate. Instead, I accepted the “what is” and grew as a result.

It’s always a choice that begins with the “spin” on the stories we tell ourselves.

8. kateshrewsday - February 29, 2012

Silver lining it is, Nancy. It’ll be a challenge 🙂

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

It’s a great way to stretch our imagination, Kate.

With practice, we learn to see possibilities for “good” inherent in the uncertainties we face. We stop grabbing the most negative story which arises in the face of loss and challenge (“what’s the worst that could happen?”) in favor of the most positive SPIN we can put on things (“what’s the BEST that could happen?”).

After all . . . worry is interest paid on a debt we may not owe. 😉

9. sufilight - February 29, 2012

Yes! Suffering is optional.

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Exactly! Your thoughts mirror one of my favorite quotes:
“Hardship is inevitable. Misery is optional.”

Once we realize the truth of that statement, we stop adding to our suffering with the thoughts we think.

Better thoughts -> a better and happier life. 😀

10. souldipper - February 29, 2012

Befriending time is a help for me. It took years to get over the “corporate mask” and allow my feelings to have life. With time as a friend, my brain helps me get REAL about my feelings, but it no longer dictates what I’m supposed to feel.

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Good points, Amy. Having more time helps us to stay in the present moment without worrying about the future or fretting about the past.

Also, I have more patience to wait & allow “the future to unfold” now that I’m not working 60-80 hours a week as an attorney. The luxury of time allows me to embrace the uncertainty . . . and see what possibilities appear on the horizon as one moment unfolds into the next.

11. aawwa - February 29, 2012

A very insightful post! I am currently reading a book called “the brain that changes itself”. I am only a third way into it however I am quite excited by what I am reading. If you are interested, do a search on google – it is by Norman Doidge. I think you may enjoy it.


nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Thanks, Lorraine. I have heard of that book . . . the creation of new healthier pathways to replace outdated, habitual, unhealthy pathways:

We see a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, blind people who learn to see, learning disorders cured, IQs raised, aging brains rejuvenated, stroke patients learning to speak, children with cerebral palsy learning to move with more grace, depression and anxiety disorders successfully treated, and lifelong character traits changed. Using these marvelous stories to probe mysteries of the body, emotion, love, sex, culture, and education, Dr. Doidge has written an immensely moving, inspiring book that will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.



nrhatch - February 29, 2012
12. Patricia - February 29, 2012

Excellent post!

We make our lives what they are by whether we respond or react. And the learned behaviors are tricky because we are usually taught those behaviors by people we love and trust.

For me, someone had to point out my negative learned behaviors/thought patterns as negative. I didn’t know not everyone thought about or reacted to life like I did. It was a life changing conversation.

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Old habits die hard . . . especially if we don’t realize that they are just habits that CAN be broken.

Glad that you had that life-changing conversation ~ when we change our minds . . . we change our life.

13. sonsothunder - February 29, 2012

Yeah, but, my problem with all that is …I was really beginning to enjoy those “Flying” dreams…then “X” left…and the dreams went too…Oh well, guess I can be thankful I never crashed in one of those dreams…

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Yes. Crashing can be very detrimental. Especially if we “crash and burn.” 😉

14. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - February 29, 2012

That’s right. Show that pebble who’s boss!

nrhatch - February 29, 2012

Exactly! I’m “Noko Marie” . . . don’t mess with ME! 😆

15. eof737 - March 1, 2012

Aye, aye! 🙂

nrhatch - March 1, 2012

Oh, captain, my captain . . . 😉

16. Victoria-writes - March 1, 2012

A great message to find that silver linning, not always easy but it’s much better to be positive and that will lead to happiness. Walk to the light at the end of the tunnel!

nrhatch - March 1, 2012

It’s not so much “finding” the silver lining as remembering to look for it. People often allow their imaginations to run wild with worries and complaints and fear and all other manner of negativity. They would do better to imagine a “good outcome” rather than honing in on dark imaginings (worrying, fussing, fuming, crying, whining, moaning, etc.)

It takes the same energy . . . but one adds to suffering, and the other alleviates it. It’s like FREE medication for the mind. So, don’t worry. Be happy. 😎

17. sweetdaysundertheoaks - March 1, 2012

“Better thoughts -> a better and happier life.” Absolutely!

nrhatch - March 1, 2012

You are going to be the Poster Girl, Pix! We were talking about you last night . . . hoping you weren’t negatively impacted by the storms.

sweetdaysundertheoaks - March 1, 2012

No, went thru so fast! 60mph wind, hail and I headed for the basement! CH slept thru it all 😉 Thanks for thinking about us. Talking about me, huh? Enjoy your Florida day!

nrhatch - March 1, 2012

CH sounds like me . . . I once slept through a “small riot” (i.e., a large ruckus) in a hotel room in Fells Point, Baltimore when the bars let out at 2 am.

Despire sirens and yelling and whistles and screaming . . . I slept oblivious to all. BFF stood guard at the window.

Glad all is well! I’m about to head to water aerobics. It’s another award winning day in paradise. 😎

18. Tammy - March 1, 2012

Yes, how to shut that left side up! It’s a great message Nancy and one that I need to continue working towards.

nrhatch - March 1, 2012

It’s a tenacious b*stard ~ constantly trying to pull us out of the NOW to get embroiled in past regrets and future fears.

I am making progress with mindfulness and vigilence. It’s more than worth the effort to reclaim my “peace of mind.” _/!\_

19. Team Oyeniyi - March 2, 2012

Classic example: I could have given up when John’s visa was denied and told myself “I’ll never win against something as mighty as the government.”

Instead, I got angry and told myself “Truth will win in the end and the bastards are not going to beat me.”

🙂 🙂 🙂

nrhatch - March 2, 2012

Yes. Instead of collapsing into a heap when you encounted “a pebble” in your path ~ you kicked it to the curb and proceeded on your way . . . to see what was around the next bend in the road.

20. jelillie - March 2, 2012

Hi Nancy, You are so right here. We Christians quote the Apostle Paul who wrote “God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Ro. 8:28 It is about view point!

nrhatch - March 2, 2012

Although I do not believe in a paternalistic god, I do believe that the Universe conspires with us when we get out of the way.

* God dwells within me . . . as me.
* God is the breath within the breath.

Or as Christians might say:

* Let Go and Let God
* Know God, know peace. No God, no peace.

21. CMSmith - March 4, 2012

I think this is true for many things in life. But I also know we are feeling human beings with valid emotions. I think our emotions deserve our acknowledgment if we hope to be healthy, fully functioning human beings. That may mean that if our house burns down we grieve the loss of a home and items that held sentimental value to us. Then we pick ourselves up and rebuild.

nrhatch - March 4, 2012

But you’re assuming that it is “natural” to feel “a loss” when our attachment to people, places, and things is severed.

I’m suggesting that it is equally “valid” NOT to feel that a loss has occurred ~ we can choose to ACCEPT ALL with Joy and continue on our merry way . . . No Matter What Happens. 😀

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