By Susan "Honey" Good
I wake up happy. It comes naturally. I look forward to facing my day with positivity. My outlook is fueled by optimism. I see my cup as half full.
No, I am not a goody two-shoes. I do, however, consider myself to be one of the lucky ones who has the ability to triumph over my adversities, with a little help from a friend. Who might she be? The ‘happy gene.’ I am thankful to my mother and my father for this happy gene of mine.
I am grateful for the happy gene because it provided me with a running start on living a charmed life. I understand that those of you who don’t have the gene have to work harder to attain happiness. Just remember, dear readers of mine, happiness is within your reach.
I learned about the happiness gene by doing some research. I wanted to discover how much, if any, of my happiness was inherited through my gene pool. I want to share with you my findings, dear readers, so you have a better understanding of yourself and those you love.
Dr. Elaine Fox of The Happiness Experiment showed positive and negative pictures to 100 participants in a study. She used computer based therapy to measure which pictures the participants concentrated on. Before they were shown the pictures, participants had samples of their blood taken to test their DNA in order to determine which version of the five HTTPR gene, which affects the levels of our ‘feel- good’ chemical serotonin, they carried. Dr. Fox's findings verified her theory that some of us are blessed to inherit ‘the happy gene.'
But what if you did not inherit the happy gene? What if you find yourself down more often than up? What might be the answer in seeing your cup as half full? As one of those fortunate to live on the sunny side of the street, I am eager to share my thoughts on how you, too, can live your life with joy and gratitude.
But first a disclaimer: Understand that a person with the happiness gene does not go through life in la-la land. They just have the emotional wherewithal to switch gears into what I identify as ‘positivity mode.’ When their lives are thrown curve balls, they have less trouble turning life's problems from lemons into lemonade.
Here is what they do. Here is what you, too, can learn to do.
The first rule: Learn to control your attitude.
Your attitude determines your level of happiness. We can’t change what happens, but we do have control over our attitudes. Here is an example: I broke my ankle. The surgeon thought a cast would heal the clean break. I wore a cast and then a boot for eight weeks. The bone did not heal 100%, so I then had surgery. Another eight weeks in a cast and boot. Only I had control over my attitude. I went positive. I wore a pink cast. I had a smiley face painted in white over my shocking pink toe nail polish. (Have a look here.) I used a walker instead of a scooter to keep my body physically fit. The key: You can't control life's circumstances but you can control your reaction to them.
The second rule: Practice gratitude.
Gratitude is the art of being thankful. It can be honed just as any skill can be. In the wise words of William Penn, “The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” Make this your mantra.
The third rule: Live in peace with unresolved problems.
Without understanding this final "rule" you can only live happily when everything is perfect and that is... never, dear readers!
When things go wrong, make them right by giving yourself time to be actively upset, frightened or sad. This plan allows you time to figure out how you can live in peace with the unresolved… until… you can put it to rest once and for all.
“There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them.” ~Anthony de Mello