I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
~ Maya Angelou
When Oprah interviewed Maya Angelou on her 70th birthday the great poet and author made this wonderful seriously playful comment. We do indeed show our true colours when faced with the minor inconveniences in life and it’s how we deal with the detail that creates the true quality of our over all experience.
When I first met my husband he called around one morning when my washing machine had flooded the flat. There I was, mop in hand and ankle deep in water trying to get my two small children to stop splashing around in it. I was way past trying to make a great impression and I remember thinking, well if he can’t take this at least I’m going to find out now. He might have taken one look and been frightened off forever by the three of us but instead he laughed his head off and made a game of clearing it all up and at that moment I knew he was the right man for me. His great sense of humour and love of life have played a big part in making our long marriage such a success.
Of course our mood can often dictate the way we deal with everyday hassles, so that a wet day can either find us singing in the rain (feeling happy) or moaning under our umbrella (obviously not feeling happy). But to put it all in perspective we might do well to heed the wise words of Billy Connolly who reminds us that: ‘There is no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes.’ So, rather than letting a bad mood lead us into even more irritation and frustration we could just choose to change our attitude to the way we handle difficult unforeseen circumstances.
How fun-filled is your life at the moment? Try the Christmas tree lights test and be honest with your answer. Well, would the tangled strands drive you into a frenzy or would you just take a deep breath and start unravelling them? You will discover a link between the amount of fun in your life and the degree of calm and equanimity that you have at your disposal:
MORE FUN > FEELING OF HAPPINESS > ABILITY TO KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE > FEELING OF CALM AND BEING IN CONTROL
LESS FUN > FEELING OF UNHAPPINESS > UNABLE TO SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE > FEELING OF FRUSTRATION AND LOSS OF CONTROL
It’s not possible to be unhappy and miserable when you are having fun. Enjoyment, laughter and pleasure causes a release of endorphins, those wonderful brain chemicals that fill us with feelings of wellbeing and bonhomie. But when we are low and anxious we are less likely to be looking for fun-filled activities and more likely to be withdrawing into our negative thoughts.
Use it or lose it
It’s easy to think that fun things happen to happy people and miserable things happen to unhappy people. But let’s look at this another way. We know that the mental states of happiness and unhappiness are choices that we make; we can think ourselves happy or sad because happiness is a state of mind and not an external force. And we also know that having more fun increases our capacity for happiness. So, rather than sit in our misery waiting for fun to arrive (highly unlikely!) we could choose to increase the pleasure content of our days and thereby increase our happiness levels. If we don’t keep using our capacity to see the lighter side of life and to enjoy ourselves then we will begin to lose this important ability. As with many things in life, if we don’t use it (our sense of humour) we will lose it!
Have you noticed how some people appear to naturally attract enjoyment and pleasure while others seem almost determined not to have a good time? But glance through the personal ads in any paper or magazine and it will be hard to find a person who isn’t looking for someone with a GSOH. The truth is that we are attracted to people who enjoy life; we love the way their qualities of enthusiasm and humour rub off on us and lift our spirits. And the wet blankets just don’t have the same effect on us do they?
Quick quiz: Are you having enough fun?
Look at the following questions choosing answers A or B or C
1 Would you describe yourself as:
A A pleasure seeker.
B A serious person.
C A bit of both.
2 How much leisure time do you have each week?
A More than 10 hours.
B I don’t have any free time for pure enjoyment
C I grab the odd half hour here and there each day.
3 When did you last have a really good laugh?
B I can’t remember.
C A week or two ago.
4 Which of theses 3 words do you most associate with the concept of fun?
5 When did you last watch one of your favourite comedy shows?
A In the last week.
B I don’t watch comedy shows.
C A week or two ago.
6 Have you heard the one about………….?
A Yes I have and I know a good one too.
B No and my heart sinks at the prospect of having to listen to it.
C I might have but I don’t mind listening to it again.
7 Can you name a favourite friend who can always make you smile.
A Yes, I have a few.
8 When did you last do something just for a laugh?
B I don’t do anything just for the fun of it.
C Some time ago.
9 You catch a stranger’s eye for a moment, do you smile?
B No I don’t smile at strangers.
10 You have been invited to a fancy dress party, how do you feel?
A Delighted, I can’t wait to dress up.
B Unhappy, I will feel ridiculous in fancy dress.
C A bit unsure but the idea will probably grow on me.
If you scored mainly A’s
You are most likely to be: a spontaneous and carefree person. Yes, you are having plenty of fun and are probably very positive. You love enjoying yourself and will do almost anything for a laugh.
Be aware that: your extravert tendencies might overwhelm some people, so remember to remain sensitive to the feelings of others if you think that this is happening; let the quieter ones take the centre of attention occasionally.
Do this: Carry on being your usual friendly self, spread the fun around and help to lighten the mood of others; you are good at this.
If you scored mainly B’s
You are most likely to be rather serious and maybe a bit withdrawn. You are quite shy and possibly struggle to make friends. You take life ultra seriously and don’t like the idea of indulging in any time-wasting activities.
Be aware that: this approach is not good for your emotional health. When we lose our sense of humour we are inclined to become very negative and inward looking.
Do this: Find your sense of humour, it hasn’t left you completely. Go out and do something just for the fun of it and see how this feels. If you want to be happy then you must start to bring more pleasure into your life; you deserve this.
If you scored mainly C’s
You are most likely to be a busy person with a lot of responsibilities. You know how to have fun but time is probably an issue for you. You like leisure activities and wish you could take more time out.
Be aware that: you can only give to others if you remember to nurture yourself. If you are running a fun deficit then you will be resentful and angry and this will eventually lead to all sorts of unhappiness.
Do this: Get your time management issues under control and schedule FUN activities into your diary. Start delegating and asking for help if necessary. Next time you are feeling unhappy recognise that this is because you are not having enough fun; then do something about this right away.
Coaching and confidence boosting at http://www.lyndafield.com
Extracted from the book, Fast Track to Happiness by Lynda Field
Copyright © Lynda Field