Friday, December 28, 2012



We hear a lot of references to happiness and its synonyms during this time of year, and we are seeing an interesting phenomenon throughout the year and throughout society. Happiness is becoming more relevant. In part this is due to a number of research studies that have shown that people are healthier and live longer and are even more financially successful when they feel happy. 

There was just a study reported on which shows that grumpiness is related in men to a lowering of testosterone levels, so that the term "grumpy old men" is pretty accurate. And grumpy is pretty much the opposite of happy. Twenty years ago, when college students were asked about what their major aspiration was, a large majority said it was to make lots of money. Now, when the same question is asked, the answer is that they want to be happy and make a difference in the world.

More than a few people have asked me how in the world I could have been happy during my  time in prison, how I could smile and write cartoon gags and notes for a humorous prison memoir and future stand-up act in the midst of that depressing environment. I think just asking that question indicates more about the person asking it than me no matter how I answer. It reveals someone who doesn't understand the basic truth about states of mind, moods, and psychological balance and well being. To put it as simply as possible, happiness has nothing to do with one's external reality. It is an inner experience, and as such can transcend even horrible physical environments and situations. We are happy when we choose to be happy no matter what else is going on around us in that outer world. 

Lots of people are struggling with financial anxiety, worried about the debt and deficit and government dysfunction in dealing with the economy. But none of that matters, or has to have anything to do with whether we are happy or unhappy. Unless we choose to make it matter, unless we choose to stay focused outside ourselves on something that may or may not occur. 

If you didn't see or feel or remember at least a dozen things today that made you feel happy, then you are not paying attention to what is really going on, but rather choosing to focus on limited, negative, disappointing, frustrating fantasies about what is going on.

You may not have the same view on this as I do, but I'll guarantee you one thing--if not, my smile as I write this is a lot bigger than yours as you read it.

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