As any of my friends can tell you, I’ve been a right mardy bum recently. Moping around, pessimistic about everything, whining and whinging and quickly turning into a snappy diva.
There are many reasons for me acting like a stroppy teenager, but what about the reasons to be happy?
Countless studies suggest that optimism has health benefits, so that sounds like a good place to start on my quest. Then again, telling a pessimist to “just be optimistic” is akin to telling someone with a broken leg “just don’t have a broken leg”. It’s not easy to change your outlook on life. After a quarter-century of bleak expectations, I often struggle to see the sunny side, even when someone looks me straight in the eye and tells me all about it.
The main example in my life at the moment is my job. Everyone tells me how lucky I am not only to have a job, but a well-paid and graduate-level one at that. I should be grateful I’m not standing in a long queue at the job centre. Well, I am. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t hate 95% of my time at work, or that I don’t resent the minimum 140 hours per month that I have to put in. Of course it’s fantastic that I get paid a salary at the end of every month. But when I spend every week day upset, angry, bored or just plain grumpy, I feel like that salary is just deserved compensation for the misery.
See what I mean? Objectively I see the fantastic aspects of my job; dodging unemployment, getting paid. But those thoughts don’t turn me into an optimist, nor do I get a lovely warm glow inside thinking about them.
The science shows that people making decisions on gut instinct feel happier, in the long-term, than those who carefully weigh up the pros and cons.
I tend to act like this anyway, I think. Initially I start very rationally, researching every possible choice and its varying outcomes. When it comes down to it, though, I listen to my heart rather than my head.
It was this way when choosing a university. I was accepted to two excellent universities, let’s call them University A and University B. I knew that (at the time) University A had a better reputation, and that the traditionalist course was well-respected by academics and employers alike. I also knew that my parents and grandparents would be very happy if I ended up at this prestigious institution.
When I visited each university, though, I knew which one I had to choose. No matter that future employers or my parents would prefer the former, I hated it. I loathed the stuffy atmosphere, found the facilities dilapidated and the people snooty.
University B had a more modern course, fantastic facilities, and felt vibrant and buzzing.
Seven years on, I’m extremely happy with the decision I made. If I’d gone with the pro/con list outcome, I definitely wouldn’t be able to say the same thing.
More reasons to be happy still to come!