image of pillow saying 'Always Look on the Bright Side'

Waiting for Red Lights: a Happiness Trick

image of pillow saying 'Always Look on the Bright Side'
Image Credit: N Engineer

I play mind games on myself. It’s quite fun, really, and relatively harmless. Mostly it’s to stave off boredom, but it also helps my happiness level. All by changing my perspective.

First, a disclaimer. This is not meant to dismiss true suffering, to suggest that clinically depressed or anxious individuals should just “suck it up.” On the contrary, this is simply something I use to help remind me to keep things in perspective, to save my emotional strength for situations that really warrant it, instead of letting myself get bogged down by annoyances. I want to be strong for others, and if that means I have to trick myself into being okay, then I’ll do it. And I will never suggest positive spins on someone else’s hardships; that’s obnoxious and rude. And certainly makes nobody happy.

Confirmation bias – that tendency to notice only those facts that support a particular point of view, and ignoring everything that contradicts it.

Case in point: when I’m driving, I swear I get every red light. Every time. Any time of day. Of course that’s not true, but it sure feels like it.

Solution: come up with something to do during the next red light. No, not texting or anything dangerous, but I would notice that my shoelace is loose, and I’d decide to put the car in park and retie it at the next red light. Only, then I’d hit every green until I reached the highway. Or, when I’d get a red, I’d worry I wouldn’t have enough time to tie my laces properly and would be stuck with a completely untied shoe which would bug me the whole drive, so I wouldn’t even try. But did you see what happened there? I worried that the red light wouldn’t last long enough. Now that’s a successful mind trick, if I do say so myself.

Confession: I’m an optimist. Ridiculously so. Yes, bad things happen. But I actively, quite deliberately, find the positive. I choose happiness. When I was on bed rest during two pregnancies, I was given the opportunity to catch up on reading. I learned to knit a finger puppet for my son (I’ve since forgotten how). I tried to learn about personal finances (on a basic level). You know, I used the time to accomplish things I never seemed to have time for otherwise (though as yet, I’ve not managed to finish creating one baby book; my eldest is sixteen). Of course, I knew the time was limited to however long I needed to gestate, and not a long-term ailment.

All those soccer games (three boys = lotta games)? Mandatory down time. Forced relaxation. Time when I cannot be sucked into doing housework or running errands.

Rainy or cold weather? Perfect chili-making weather.

There you have it. My little happiness trick that helps me–to quote Monty Python–“always look on the bright side of life.”

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