“But the truth is, my worst nightmares are someone’s present reality. What right do I have to be happy in a busted-up world where people are weeping over graves right this second?” says Jennifer Dukes Lee in The Happiness Dare (23). “I dare you to be happy,” she writes, while acknowledging happiness is one of our most vulnerable emotions because those nightmares can happen in flash.
In such a sad world, you’d think practicing happiness would be the ultimate selfishness. It’s not. In The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, The Dalai Lama says happiness leads us smack dab into compassion. He says, “Not only is it the case that happy people are more willing to help others but, as I generally mention, helping others is the best way to help yourself, the best way to promote your own happiness” (259).
Happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky has said practices behind common sayings like “Try to be more optimistic,” “Don’t dwell on it too much,” and “You’d feel better if you were more appreciative” have been shown to be effective in lifting our mood significantly (88).
Because my pain was so great years ago, I asked myself how do I keep from letting other people’s cruelty from making me cruel? How do I keep from becoming a bitter old woman who drives people away?
My answer in part was to work on happiness practices such as being thankful, not ruminating, walking outdoors, and radical helpfulness. I also blessed my enemy. These practices helped me endure some terrible times, dumping me onto those green pastures and still waters we hear mentioned in Psalm 23.
I’m Katie Andraski, and this is my perspective.
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