“The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”
Allan K Chalmers
If you were a parent, grandparent, or small child during the 1990s, Sesame Street was probably a large part of your routine. Intentionally or subconsciously, we all sang along, played along, learned along. Sesame Street was a constantly changing show. New faces, new Muppets, new themes- but one segment was guaranteed. At some point, someone would come forward and say “Today’s show is brought to you by the Letter ____.” Bert and Ernie would sing a song about the letter, or it would rise, gigantic, out of a pool filled with children. Regardless of the set-up, the moral was the same; one little letter can change your life. And, as they most often are, Sesame Street was correct. Focusing on, singing about, celebrating the letter “H” can change your life. As Ernie would say, “Think of all the lovely words that start with ‘H.’” Today and everyday are brought to you by happiness, hope, and humor.
Happiness has many definitions. Happiness is one of the “Big Six” emotions, according to many theorists (also, surprise, fear, disgust, anger, and sadness.) To the hedonists, happiness is simply the maximization of positive sensory input. Yet, according to cognitive therapists like Arnold A. Lazarus, happiness results from “making reasonable progress towards the realization of a goal.” Happiness is thought to be physically caused by high concentrations of the neurotransmitter norepinephrince in the brain, also attributed to waves of euphoria. Recent studies also show that one’s coping mechanisms can increase a person’s happiness level, as can feelings of pride and self-efficacy.
Dan Baker, Ph. D., author of What Happy People Know, insists that a major key to happiness is gratitude! This automatically sets the mind on a positive path, ready to acknowledge, receive and attract wonderful things. Bring happiness to your life by focusing on gratitude.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Write down at least five things you are grateful for each day. Repeats are ok, and they don’t have to be grand in scale, (“I’m grateful bananas were on sale today” is perfectly acceptable.)
- Begin the day with thanks. As you rush about your morning routine, repeat a thankful mantra, as simple as “Thanks.” You will be surprised at how many things come to mind to be grateful for that you hadn't thought about before.
- Remind yourself frequently. The Secret’s Mike Dooley recommends keeping a gratitude rock in your pocket. Writing yourself notes and/or setting an alarm also work well.
Although hope was considered a major emotion during Medieval times, the scientific age does not consider it to be so. It does however, fit the five features of emotion determined by social constructivist James Averill: they are difficult to control, affect the way you think or perceive life events, affect behavior, increase persistence even in the face of adversity, and are common universal experiences. Hope is often deeply connected to one’s moral values and appears most in situations where the outcome is uncertain. In fact, Norman Cousins’ book The Biology of Hope speaks to the power of positive emotions in the healing process. Similarly, C.R. Snyder of the University of Kansas found that hopeful students had higher levels of academic success, even after a severe set-back.
Reinvigorate your life by focusing on your goals and dreams in a hopeful way.
- Write your dreams down in full detail. Allow yourself to dream big, or, in other words, write out your very best case scenario.
- Confront your negative talk. If you are convinced your dreams won’t happen, everyone else (and the universe) will agree with you. Sometimes, we are so accustomed to our self-effacing thought patterns that we grow numb to the pain attached – but the negativity still acts against us!
- Reverse negative patterns with healthy affirmations. Reduce your dreams to one easily repeatable sentence. Make sure it is grand enough to have emotion behind it, but not so big that your brain will instantly disregard it. Writing it as something “in progress” is a valuable trick. Repeat your affirmations whenever you think to. Carry them with you on index cards for easy reference.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines humor as, “something that is or is designed to be comical or amusing.” The American Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH) defines therapeutic humor as “Any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life’s situations.” Simply put, humor is a positive mindset coupled with the desire and ability to laugh. It has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, raise self-esteem, and enhance relationships. It also makes life a lot more fun.
Applying humor to your life does not require you to “be funny,” but it does require you to “see funny.” Start finding the laughter in your life today.
- Acknowledge your unique sense of humor. What makes you laugh? How does that differ from other’s preferences? Save and collect clips (paper or video) that make you chuckle. Share them with friends.
- Reframe life situations into funnier points of view. According to Carol Burnett, “Humor is pain plus time.” If it’s going to be funny tomorrow, can you find a way to laugh about it today?
- Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Eat with co-workers who would rather tell a joke than gripe about the boss. Avoid sour-pusses, grouches, and grumblers. Seek out people who understand that a little laughter goes a long way!
And, if all else fails, curl up and watch some Sesame Street. You’re guaranteed a few good life lessons disguised as silly songs. You’ll probably get a few good chuckles in too. Too proud to watch children’s television (even in private)? If nothing else, remember the words of a kind, friendly monster named Grover, “Where there is life, there is hope.” If a Muppet gets it, you have no excuses.
© 2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted as long as the authors are notified and the following information is included:
Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at KathleenPassanisi.com
Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above) who occasionally co-presents with her mother at women’s events. If that does not tell you enough about her, she is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swingset champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.