Do You Dare to Be Happy? WNIJ

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“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.

If you’d like to order The Happiness Dare, click here. For a free assessment of your happiness style and for more information about Jennifer Dukes Lee click here.

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If you’d like to order The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, click here.

If you’d like to order The How of Happiness, click here.

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  • Hi, Katie,
    Thanks for the ideas, as always. They make me think. Happiness for me is a word that I find hard to place in my palette of emotions. I strive every day to feel content and, of course, the more I am using my energies to try to help people, the more content I become. I had a friend years ago, who said, “Practice being satisfied.” And I do, in fact, have to practice this virtue–simply being satisfied. The long version of the serenity prayer includes the line, “that we may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy in the next with Him.” Reasonably happy. I had another friend who said to me, no matter what complaints or urgencies I brought to him, “Just continue.” So I guess I can place happiness in that way in my life. I have known deep paralyzing despair and, for the first time in my life, at age seventy, I now know what joy is.. I think we have them all. I love Leonard Cohen’s refrain, “It is a cold and a broken hallelujah.” We always get the hallelujahs but chances are they’re cold and broken. Or, quoting again, just yesterday I was watching the television interviews between Stephen Colbert and Vice President Biden, and Colbert said, “What’s the use of being Irish if you don’t know that life is going to break your heart.” Thanks, Katie.

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I taught happiness as subject for composition students for quite a few years. Many of my kids came from the war zone that is Chicago and I wanted them to think about their souls but couldn’t teach Christian books, though once I did pair Immaculate Illibagiza’s Left to Tell with the Dalai Lama (caught hell for it). The How of Happiness was great because it talks about research that shows we can change 40% of our happiness set point by doing various practices. These have been studied just like anti depressants have been studied.

      I like that: Practice being satisfied. And that long version of the serenity prayer. I’m glad you’re finding ways to help people.

  • Sharon Peters says:

    I found this the other day. I just love this book & the 1945 movie.

    people always think that happiness is a far away thing, something complicated and hard to get. yet, little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. those little things make happiness.” 
    ― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
    I quit smoking 13 years ago. Diet pepsi!
    Lately I’ve been trying to stay in the grateful zone. Intention focusing on whatever is good in my life. I keep a gratitude list running file for those moments when the flashbacks come. He never leaves, never forsakes! PEACE!

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you for stopping by. I so agree that it’s the little things. I love my Diet Coke first thing in the morning and Quaker Chocolate Popped rice crisps. I too am trying to stay in the grateful zone and focus on what’s good. Love that idea for the gratitude lists when the flashbacks come. You’re so right that He never does leave us…I have to remember He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

      Sharon, thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

  • Mark says:

    Whenever I hear about “happiness,” Katie, I remember the scene in the movie Tender Mercies wherein the great actor, Robert Duvall, playing a former country-western star who was saved from his drinking by the love of a good woman and who is now grieving over the death of his rebellious daughter who was killed in a car accident tells his dear wife, “I don’t trust happiness. Never have. Never will.”

    The question “why” is asked and also never answered.

    “Happiness” fails to last as it always does . . . but by God’s tender mercies, “joy” arrives in the end.

    • katiewilda says:

      What an interesting perspective on happiness. I think it’s very thoughtful. Happiness is a very vulnerable emotion. People get uneasy when things are going well as Brene Brown says.

      But I also think that happiness can be a practice. There are behaviors that have been shown to increase your happiness by 40% that are as effective as anti depressants. Things like thanksgiving. I almost think of happiness as another word for righteousness. You and Karen might like Jennifer’s book.

      I work at trying to be thankful. And FB has helped me stop ruminating. The How of Happiness, while dry also explains how this works. As always thanks for stopping by.

      • Mark says:

        Katie, I agree with the idea that “good” behaviors and, especially, gratefulness can elevate our moods as effectively and, even, better than anti-depressants. However, I think that there’s a difference between “happiness” and “joy.” Sometimes the two may seem synonymous, but I’m thinking that they aren’t. As a human being, I love “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but something deep within me aspires to “joy!”

        • katiewilda says:

          What do you think the difference is between joy and happiness? As a young woman I remember feeling joy in the midst of sadness but I don’t feel it the same way these days. I’m interested in your take on this…

          • Mark says:

            I’m still pondering the difference between “happiness” and “joy” myself, Katie, but I think that happiness is transitory and susceptible to flaw, but joy is eternal and perfect, being, as it is, a Fruit of the Holy Spirit of God. I used to think that “joy” was soft and fluffy and even girly, but I was wrong . . . joy is tough . . . joy is heroic beyond all measure. It was for the JOY set before Him that Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame, and there’s nothing in all creation more badass than Jesus on the Cross!

          • katiewilda says:

            That’s for darn sure. It also says Jesus was anointed with joy beyond his fellows and in the OT “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” I think you’re right, though I wonder if happiness as Jennifer Dukes Lee uses it can also be equated with righteousness as there some interesting parallels…And Jesus said Happy are the meek in his upside down Sermon on the Mount…

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