Train brain to be happy

Spring is almost here–glorious, beautiful, happy spring.
There are so many reasons to be happy in the spring. Sunny yellow daffodils and forsythia. The nostalgic fragrance of old-fashioned purple lilacs.
Long evenings before dark comes. Open doors and windows. A rainbow after a spring storm.
And most of all the greening of the world. The newness and rebirth of everything around us.
Yes, there are so many reasons to be happy in the spring. Yet my mother, in her later years, said she always felt a little depressed in the spring.
That was not like my mother. She was a do-er, with lots of projects, lots of friends, and an upbeat disposition.
She used to tell her friends, “If you feel down in the dumps, bake some cookies.” That was what she did when she couldn’t sleep or felt sad.
But somehow, spring was different for her. And I understand.
I imagine she remembered working in the sugar bush when her beloved Nick was alive–he gathering the sap from the maple trees and she tending the boiling vats. Then sharing together a dessert of hot syrup on white bread in the boiling shed.
She also probably remembered the beautiful carpet of wildflowers in the woods: adder’s tongues, violets, trilliums, and other northern flowers.
And she always missed her sisters after she was transplanted to tornado alley! That was the worst thing of all—fearing tornadoes during the spring months.
So I understand why she was a little disheartened in the spring. But what a waste of happiness!
In her book “Happy for No Reason,” Marci Shimoff reports that less than 30 percent of people report being deeply happy. Only 30 percent–imagine that!
And on top of that, 40 percent of the people on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans are less happy than the average American.
“Although our lifestyles are better than ever, we’re unhappier than ever. It seems the more gadgets and goods we gather, the worse we feel,” writes Shimoff.
So why aren’t we happy?
The problem, according to Shimoff, is that real happiness is an inside job. It is not related to things or to the seasons. It is not related to career success or to anything else “out there.”
Shimoff, who interviewed 100 “happy people” for her book, says that happy people just have different habits.
She quotes brain researcher Richard Davidson, who says happiness is a skill that needs to be learned. It is no different than learning to play tennis or a musical instrument.
“It is possible to train our brains to be happy,” Davidson adds.
Shimoff suggests some habits to get rid of if you want to be happy–negative thoughts and words, blame, anger, and jealousy.
Instead, make peace with yourself. Incline your mind toward joy. Play the gratitude game. And when difficult things come along, try to be a good problem-solver.
It’s worthwhile to be happy. It’s good for your health. And there’s no better time to be happy than in spring!
So this spring, smile at everyone you meet.
And try to practice what Shimoff suggests: “Free your mind, open your heart, and be happy in the moment.”
Write Marie Snider at thisside60@cox.net

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