People disappoint you. Friends aren’t there when you need them. Family members don’t call. Kids booby trap your toilet with Legos, hide the plunger and then cry so hard over their drowned Jedi cruiser that you fish it out with, yes, your hand. I’m not saying this to guilt trip anyone (okay, maybe my kids… except only one of them can read and he’s not allowed on the Internet unsupervised) because I’ve also been that inattentive friend, that too-busy mom, that toilet-clogging plunger-hiding… oh wait, no. I am and always have been totally responsible with all bodily fluid receptacles.
Today was a long day of fits of nobody-likes-me and I’m-getting-an-ulcer-nerves and a serious I’m-fat-and-hideous attack. (It’s easier to worry about my poochy belly than to worry about my mind going completely blank during my presentation at the University of Northern Iowa on Thursday!) All of which were punctuated by tears and heavy sighs.
Facebook was the catalyst. It didn’t help that today is supposed to be a happy happy joy joy holiday. (How can any holiday ever live up to such hype?) In this day of Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter it’s hard not to feel left out sometimes. (Seriously I never knew there were that many parties going on, much less that many I wasn’t invited to.)
According to a new study from Stanford, I’m not alone in my social media-induced blues. In a piece on Slate.com
perfectly subtitled, “By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad.” researchers explain that “subjects underestimated how many negative experiences (“had a distressing fight,” “felt sad because they missed people”) their peers were having. They also overestimated how much fun (“going out with friends,” “attending parties”) these same peers were having.” The more a student participated in this grass-is-greener game, the more he or she reported feeling lonely, depressed and unhappy. The researchers concluded:
By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles’ heel of human nature. And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.
So now not only am I sad but I’m a cliché of sad! Well that’s depressing.
After pondering on my ability to be so easily explained by science (that’s a gift right?) I concluded that the question isn’t how to avoid people hurting you – that would be impossible – rather the question is how to love them and love yourself in spite of it. The question becomes one of how to choose happiness instead of waiting to be happy.
This concept of happiness being a conscious action rather than a state of being is certainly not of my invention. Remember the Constitution only promises you the right to pursue happiness, not happiness itself! Much smarter and kinder people than me have written elegant and heart-rending treatises on this very subject. A personal favorite: The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
. But my introduction to the pursuit of happiness came from an exceedingly cheerful high school teacher.
Any time someone would ask Mr. C “How are you?” he could never respond with the socially sanctioned “Fine.” No, he had to grab your hand, look you straight in the face and gush, “I’M HAPPY!” Sometimes it was even, “I’M CHEERFUL!” Oh my black-eyeliner decorated, combat-boot wearing, darkly clad hair-in-my-eyes goth self hated that! I’d glare at him and begrudge him his bourgeois happiness. After all, who was he to be so glib when genocides were occurring and children were dying and I had to rewind my Cure tape over and over again to hear Letter to Elise
because while CDs had been invented I certainly couldn’t afford a CD player on my waitress salary? Quelle horreur.
He must have sensed my disapproval, or perhaps he was just used to angsty teens, because one day he said, “Happiness is a choice. Every morning the first thing I do when I wake up is decide to be happy. And then I look for it in everything I do.” When I started to muster a defense he added, “Nobody ever changed the world by sitting around being sad about the state of it.” Even my sad sack self knew that one was true. To add another cliché to my less-original-than-I-thought self, I never forgot that lesson.
Ways I chose happiness today:
1. I taught Gym Buddy Allison to do a one-handed cartwheel. You should have seen us cartwheeling around the basketball court like preschoolers who ate all their valentines on the bus ride home. Then we did handstands, round-offs and even an aerial or two. Turns out I can still do them:)
2. I ate all the sugar-free macaroons I wanted and I enjoyed every single one.
3. I’m going to bed on time. Nothing makes me mopier than being sleep deprived.
Have you ever been bummed out by Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or blogs? How do you choose happiness? Anyone else have to unclog a toilet on Valentine’s day?
*It has been brought to my attention
that it is a blogger faux pas to not tell people when you are using affiliate links. I honestly did not know I was supposed to be doing this! There have been affiliate links in past posts that weren’t marked as such and I’m deeply sorry about that. I promise that I only recommend things that I do truly love. For those of you who don’t know, an affiliate link means I get a small payment (we’re talking cents here) if you buy something through a link I posted. As I work really hard on this blog, I’d appreciate it if you do use my link to buy something I told you about but I also understand that you don’t want to be used for revenue purposes without your knowledge.
Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2011. If you enjoyed this, please check out my new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everythingfor more of my crazy antics and uncomfortable over-shares!