Friday, 22 June 2012

Handing the Bad Days - We Can't Always be Happy!

When you're feeling down, reading someone's overly happy blog can be more irritating than helpful. I've been told that I'm "too happy". This is for anybody who thinks that, who finds it hard to feel good, or who believes that you need to in a great mood 24/7 to be "happy". 

Of COURSE I have down days. We're all human.  This week, I've been hit hard financially. It felt as if several forces were working together to bring me down, and my first reaction was not to smile and think of a way to solve it. I cried, I swore, and the world seemed to go a few shades darker.

My bad mood suddenly coloured everything. All the positive things that I am so grateful for seemed secondary to not only my woeful life, but the woeful state of the world. Those starving children, corrupt governments and the damage we are carelessly doing to our environment every day suddenly made me feel angrier, more frustrated and hopeless, that they normally do. From day to day, I am aware of these problems and I want to do what I can to help, but the overall picture is “The world is mostly good, with some bad stuff”. In a dark mood, it flips on its head; goodness seems as dim as a candle in a world of darkness.

Eventually, though, I realised what was making me feel so bad. It was that sense of powerlessness that had hit me from the moment I had found money taken from my bank account without permission (apparently, as we had a direct debit established, they could do this). That was something that I hadn’t controlled, and when other people make decisions for us it can seriously affect our mood. When things go wrong and you can’t do anything about it, how does it make you feel?

Imagine you're driving your car. You choose where you turn, and if you hit a road block, you decide where to go instead. Now imagine you're in the passenger seat, accompanied by a really bad driver. They take you down all kinds of horrible twists and turns, drive so fast it's scary, or so slow that it drives you mad. Which would you prefer?

It can be easy to let other people make decisions for you, to let life wash over you and just "go with the flow", but it can have negative consequences. Studies have shown that people who feel more "in control" of their lives are generally happier (source), and the effects of letting life knock you around are clear. I have a friend who sat in the dark for months because her light bulb went out. It might seem obvious, from the outside, that she should get up, go to the shops and change it, but the same mentality takes hold of all of us sometimes.

So what can you do? Well, of course, the first thing I did was to take stock of the situation. I realised that I could call the company, contact by bank and try to claim the money back. When I look at the world in general and feel powerless to stop all the horrible things from happening, I have to realise: I might not be able to heal the world or make those in power more compassionate, but I can do little things to help – volunteer, donate money, raise awareness of issues. What about you?

Next time the dark cloud consumes you and you suddenly “realise” that the world is a terrible place, try to look closely at what caused your mood to drop. Was it a lack of control? Was it the feeling that not everybody in the world likes you? Was it some kind of jealousy, or was your integrity questioned? Whatever it was, look at what you can do about it, and do it. Remaining a backseat driver in your own life is not going to make you feel empowered, or do anything to shift your gloomier thoughts.

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