While I was working a cover story in Psychology Today caught my eye when I walked by the magazine display at the library. The story is titled "What Happy People Do Differently." As I read it I was intrigued by the characteristics that were studied.
The second characteristic was to not get caught up in the details of life. One of the main examples was that depressed people notice small and quick facial expressions and work to interpret them and thus interfering with day to day life. As I read this I thought, "oh my gosh, that is totally me." If someone is smiling at me as I am talking and then the smile goes away I take it personally and wonder what I said wrong, how to fix it, and is our friendship over all while the other person is just not smiling because their cheeks got tired.
Third, was about being a good friend and having a good friend in the good times. So much focus is given to being a friend in the hard times but happiness depends more on a friend in the good time.
The characteristic that helped the most was this one. Happy people accept and acknowledge the negative feelings that they have. There are times when they do hide them because it isn't appropriate or they don't feel comfortable with sharing at the moment but they aren't hiding the feelings from themselves. It was such a relief to have an expert remind me that I don't have to feel happy all of the time to be happy.
Last was all about balance. In my weekly support group we all laugh every time someone says balance because we have found that balance truly is a buzz word for life. "If you want to envision a happy person's stance, imagine one foot rooted in the present with mindful appreciation of what one has—and the other foot reaching toward the future for yet-to-be-uncovered sources of meaning." I have talked about and thought about how to balance being content with what I have now but still wanting to reach for more. This is something I am still working on and there are times when one is more important to me than the other.
In the end I think this quote summed up the idea of a happy life the best:
"The good life is best construed as a matrix that includes happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, and psychological flexibility, as well autonomy, mastery, and belonging."
All pictures and quotes from Psychology Today July 2013