Chapter 25: Happiness is a mindset

“Why can things not work out for me for once?”

I chatted to my older sister on the phone the other week. Our sisterly bond is woven from a thick yarn of compassion, which is why we call each other weekly. In the last couple of weeks, life has challenged my sister into battle on multiple fields.

For one, she got dragged into damage charges from a taxi driver whom she had a road accident with. Since she cannot rely on any insurance to take liability, she must pay the expenses out of her own pocket, and we are talking about a five-digit number here. The option to apply for a bank loan to cover this staggering sum is also off the table because my sister is too indebted already due to her reckless years as a student. Beside the money game, my sister has been unlucky in the love lottery. Over half a year ago, she fell for a guy, and let me tell you, she fell hard. However, she did not end up falling into his arms as she had hoped, instead, she plunged deep into despairing heartache. On top of that, my sister is annoyed about the fact that her weight loss is currently stagnating, especially seeing that she is exercising more rigorously than ever before. 

Hearing all this, you can perhaps emphasise with my sister’s frustration about life – the exact reason why she bewailed things would never work out for her. It is very understandable that the current accumulation of unpleasant events makes my sister feel rather unhappy.

In contrast, here is something else to consider – a reverse perspective onto my sister’s life so to speak:

Being confronted with debts as high as a year’s worth of full-time work is not shaken off light-heartedly, and it definitely sucks heavy on one’s mood. Yet, there are still plenty of other considerable achievements, lucky circumstances, and blissful memories that my sister could harvest positivity from, if only she turned her eyes towards them a tiny bit more.

For instance, my sister is in the safe position to have a stable job that pays for her monthly living, which is nothing to be taken for granted. In fact, she is mastering her job so well that her colleagues praise and value her. Additionally, regarding her accident’s expensive aftermath, my sister can count herself quite lucky as she has a dad who would walk to the moon and back in order to pull her out of dire straits. He always tries his best to support his daughters – I am humbly grateful for him. Concerning my sister’s seemingly unsuccessful weight loss, I should also point out that my opinion on this matter is starkly different from hers. While my sister sees an unmoving scale, I have never seen my sister looking any fitter and slimmer in her life.

Nobody’s life is a walk in the park. Everybody carries their own sorrows strapped onto them, both visibly and invisibly. At the same time, life has sewn several small pockets of happiness onto each and everyone of us. Although nobody can outrun disappointment, frustration, bad luck, or loss; we chose how much we let these harbingers of unhappiness affect us, discourage us, and throw us off balance. 

When I called my sister again about two weeks ago, she fell into the same pattern of dissatisfied complaining. She told me about how she started competing in biking against people from all over the country via a mobile app. Since biking turned into my sister’s newest obsession, she appears to do nothing else but breathe and cycle. She trains like an inexhaustible tiger, with an iron will to win the cycling competition on this app. However, despite all her effort, she ‘only’ came second in the end.

“How annoying is that? I happen to be good at something, yet, I am still not good enough to win”, she grouched.

Talking to my sister, I noticed a pattern in her attitude. Pleasing her appears to be a tricky endeavour. No matter how favourable or unfavourable the circumstances in her life, she tends to pick out and concentrate more on the parts that predict misery rather than the ones promising feelings of joy. I wish my sister could replace her mindset as simply as putting on a new pair of glasses because through her partial perspective she generates more gloom for herself than necessary.

Happiness is a mindset. Our perspective acts as the shift that guides whether an experience raises feelings of happiness or unhappiness.

Let me explain this notion further.

Happiness is an emotion, and emotions indicate our subjective state of being. Since emotions originate from biochemical reactions in our brain, it may seem as our body imposes emotions on us through its own autonomous force. However, we manifest the essence of our body and mind. Thus, we are not mere, passive recipients of our body’s command – quite the contrary, we are able to mould our state of being from head to toe, including our emotions.

Which feeling an experience evokes in us depends on our framing of the experience itself. Imagine you were a photographer and life was your model. You would capture life in various scenes, various environments, and various situations. The paramount question is in what light and from what kind of angle would you take these shots?

It would very much depend on the features you intended to highlight and the details you wanted to draw the viewers’ attention to, am I correct?

When it comes to emotionally framing your experiences in life, it is all about the illumination and angle of your perspective too. Your focus of attention sets out which feelings you connect with an experience. By turning your eye towards the unflattering attributes of a situation, sour emotions have it easy to seize you. But if you highlight the beauty in your experience, you will attract merriness and joy to crawl into your heart, shielding you from the attacks of bitterness.

While we may not be able to change all of the circumstances life ends up enwrapping us in, it is our choice how we view them. In this way, we can create and fortify happiness in our everyday life.

Therefore, happiness is a mindset.

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