Pursuit of Happiness
In Pursuit of Happiness Part 1, I laid out steps to increase our own happiness, such as limiting people or circumstances that cause problems. Of course this isn’t always possible.
So what are some alternative ways to stay happy in difficult circumstances?
Covering your ears and singing really loud? LA LA LA LALALALAlalalalalala
How about self-medicating with an adult beverage?
Sure, just temporary fixes. But we need something practical, easy, and works 100% of the time.
So what is it?
Before we get into the answer, let me tell you a little story about a friend of mine that lived out in “the country”.
It wasn’t really that far out of town. Just far enough to start seeing a nice spread between houses – yards big enough to park an RV and keep horses. This is MUCH different than the standard 10 feet between houses in California’s common tract homes. Most neighborhoods have houses so close to each other that you could easily jump from roof to roof.
My friend Jim loved being away from people. But of course, for every advantage, there are some drawbacks – like security.
What better way to secure your property than to get 3 or 4 big dogs to patrol the perimeter of your yard? That’s perfect when it’s your dogs. But Jim hates dogs, so he had to put up with his neighbor’s unofficial kennel next door.
It sucked for Jim. He didn’t hear his human neighbors – he heard his neighbor’s dogs constantly barking all day and night.
Jim vented to me a few times about his neighbor problems. Apparently, they didn’t or couldn’t hear the dogs because they were chained up closer to Jim’s house than their own.
Talking to the people didn’t do any good.
And talking to the dogs, well, they weren’t the listening type.
One trick Jim learned was to throw a can of rocks towards the dogs. Of course the fence stopped the can before it hit a dog, but the noise was enough to get the dogs attention. It stopped the barking for a little while and allowed Jim to feel a little bit of power in a hopeless situation. But it still sucked.
Being a prisoner to noise, lights, pounding, jack-hammering or anything else that can drive a person nuts is much more difficult to block out than an occasional siren whizzing past your house.
To be honest, I don’t have a fool-proof way to distract “the dog” or yourself in these extreme situations. But here’s a list of things to help.
- Cover the noise with more pleasant sounds, like a rainfall noise maker
- Take a walk outside to get away from the noise – distract yourself with a pleasant stroll through a park or take a moment to examine the flowers growing across the street
- Limit your time spent in that unpleasant environment as much as you can
- Take a moment before going to that place – breathe deep – prepare yourself by calming your heart and reminding yourself that this is only temporary, or it’s not as bad as you make it out to be sometimes. But after a longer time, it does get all the way onto your nerves, so prepare yourself ahead of time.
- If the problem is a barking dog, try this:
Put on your best smile, grab some deli meat from the fridge and go over to the neighbor’s house, knock on the door (softly), introduce yourself to the owner and the dog, give the dog the deli meat and make friends with it.
Did you know that just learning the name of the barking dog is enough sometimes to give you more patience in dealing with it?
There’s even a chance that the neighbor has no idea it’s been bothering you.
A friendly calm, neighborly conversation may be all it takes to solve the issue.
However, if the neighbor is an asshole, dipping the deli meat in anit-freeze will also solve the problem.
Just kidding – hahahehehoho.
- Move. It’s the nuclear option and you may end up trading one bad situation for a worse one.
People can be like dogs sometimes. Barking and barking incessantly for no good reason. Sometimes, there’s no place to go to escape the constant noise.
Noise from neighbors
Noise from kids
Noise from a busy street
Noise from 100 other things around us.
When we find ourselves in a place where we have no control over our surroundings, the last choice we have sometimes is to take control of our mind.
Yes, we can choose how we react to any situation. Blah blah blah.
Easier said than done. I know. So let’s see how we can DO IT.
If you’ve seen more than 25 summers, then you should know enough to no longer BE the annoying neighbor. And by now, you should have experienced a bad neighbor once or twice. So you’ve probably tried various ways to eliminate things that caused you grief.
How successful have you been?
If having a peaceful quiet home is your top priority, then chances are you have drawn some lines in the sand as to where you will and WILL NOT live again. Apartments are notorious for neighbor problems. Just having lots of bodies living in close proximity is enough to turn a nice person bad. Houses with small yards can be almost as bad with yappy dogs and gardening at 7 am on Saturdays.
So you’ve most likely already taken steps instinctively to eliminate causes of grief and disturbances to your peace and quiet. So keep applying what you have already learned, and try to incorporate some new ideas.
Physically limit the time you spend at “the bad place”. Instead of going straight home from work or school, maybe you could catch up on your social media surfing at a park or a Starbucks or meet with friends.
Treat yourself (responsibly), have fun, use 20 minutes to an hour to meditate or visualize your ideal situation.
Put yourself in the best possible mood. If you are in a good mood when you get home, it will be easier to maintain it. If you are dreading going home, chances are you are bringing the cloud with you. And it will be as bad as you fear.
Can you see how this would work mentally as well?
Mentally limit the time you spend in “the bad place”. Instead of mentally dwelling on the worst possible outcome or environment, spend a little bit of time reminiscing about the beach or the mountains or Disneyland. Imagine the salty air on your face, the sand between your toes, Mickey spooning you from behind…wait what?
Use your imagination to put yourself in a better place.
Intentionally lift your mood.
Intentionally cheer yourself up.
All day long.
All the time.
Why not? Are you allergic to feeling good?
Practice practice practice until it comes more natural to you.
You can use this method for just about anything – dealing with environments or people.
Athletes mentally prepare themselves before the big game, or the big match. Concentrating your thoughts and energies on the best possible situation you can imagine is a sure fire way to bring it about.
But if you worry and fear and dread, then how do you expect things to turn out? Good? Well? Positive? Peaceful? Happy?
It’s not even possible. That’s not how we’re wired.
So don’t do that.
Don’t live there – in the bad place – mentally or physically.
People often get into the habit of dwelling on the worst case scenario so much that they are actually living out the whole scene before it ever happens.
IF it ever happens.
It may never happen.
Worrying is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.
~ Glenn Turner
I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.
~ Mark Twain
Stop worrying so much.
Stop being fearful.
Remember those No Fear stickers that were all over the douche-wagons years ago? They had some real value. Make it your motto.
Turn your thinking around so that you are only imagining the BEST POSSIBLE SCENARIO. Sure, you’ll be disappointed once in a while, but you’ll be in such a positive mood, you’ll handle it very well.
Once you get really good at imagining what you want, you’ll start to actually make decisions in your life that’ll bring about those circumstances.
Pursue happiness. Go after it like a prize worth winning. Chase after it everyday. Learn and grow every day. Then use what you learn to help others.