Melville, 16 October 2016

Gail Richards

I have a lovely indigenous tree (the name not remembered) outside my bathroom window that produces pretty red flowers in spring – quite tiny – but such a great attractant to a variety of birdlife.  Some visitors are Cape White Eyes, Bul-buls, Sun birds, Yellow Canaries, and lately, mouse birds.   It struck me, watching them one morning whilst preparing my face for work – that mouse birds are such happy little birds.   There they were, hopping round next to one another, chirruping away, investigating the blossoms together – demonstrating togetherness perhaps like ladies at a tea party.   My thoughts went to the character of other birds – for example, Indian Mynahs, which love being one of the crowd and they really do enjoy a good squabble.

This led me to the thought of people, also with their character traits.   We know of those who are always “down in the mouth” – you know – the upside down smile; those who find fault always, with everything, and then the eternal optimists, whom cross people find particularly annoying.

I have been visiting an old couple each week now for about 15 years.   Ronnie – the eternal pessimist – is most concerned that he and his wife are now living off their capital (and I believe, quite healthy investments).   This would concern a lot of people – but I don’t really think that this is too much of a problem as Ronnie is 94 years of age, and his wife, Julia, 96.

He says “Gail, you are a happy person” and yes, I honestly believe that I am.

From the website “Power of Positivity” I came across the following short point publication entitled “20 Secrets Genuinely Happy People Never Told You” and I have added in thoughts of my own.

1. They are not happy all the time

Those who are happy all the time are perhaps not living in the real world, or perhaps on some Schedule 7 drug.    A happy person’s compassionate side will despair about cruelty to animals, people and the earth; abuse by Government leaders on their people whom they should be protecting; lack of courtesy; disregard of one on another.   And, Bad things happen to Good people whether it be loss of job / money / home / loved ones; not getting that hoped-for bursary or promotion.  But the ebullient spirit of the happy person’s belief in themselves and their space and their purpose and their Higher Power will pull them back on track.

2. They have learned to say no

Being at the beck and call of all does not engender a happy environment.   Perhaps if you do this, you are trying to appease people in order to demonstrate that you are a good person (which you are), or that you are asking for love.   There is a difference between being able to help someone when you can, rather than having to do so.   Carrying out everyone’s requests or demands does not mean that they respect you – perhaps they are making use of you instead.   Sometimes these relationships are quite toxic.   Anyway, doing things for people all the time (unless you are a Carer or similar) does not allow those people to grow, or realize their own independence.   Having no time for yourself, your own growth, your quiet time, acknowledging nature’s beauty around you necessitates the essential saying No.

3. They have not led easy lives

Many genuinely happy people have gone through enormous personal struggles.  It may have been a poor upbringing, lack of nurturing, dramatic personal loss, even addictions or other poor choices.  But at some point, genuinely happy people realize that “it is what it is” and came to a HEALTHY conclusion that, as there was nothing that they could do to change the past circumstances, they could make the decision to move on, and build up from there.   And they could have taken many different routes getting there – forgiving themselves, being kind to themselves, educating themselves, getting new focus, finding a belief system or whatever.

4. They know what the bottom is

This follows on from the earlier point.   I had a friend who developed an alcohol issue, was dismissed from his work where he held a really good job and he was really brilliant at it, who lost everything and disappeared from our group.  He was seen a few months later sleeping on a park bench and also begging for change.    He was sent to a relative’s farm in Zambia and it took 15 years before he returned to Durban.   He was not able to return to mainstream industry, but he had enough belief in himself to make contact with us.   And the happy people in our group welcomed him back.

5. They love their flaws

And I add – they acknowledge them and perhaps try to make the best of what they have, or not let the flaws be what they are – rather they are that person who has the flaw, and so what!   Flaws could be physical, or a character trait, or really strange parents for that matter.

There are situations where flaws cause unhappiness :

  • Having flaws and not realizing it or having flaws, knowing them, but denying them instead of embracing them or –
  • Constantly trying to eradicate them or those perceived flaws – where you will find people having copious amounts of plastic surgery.

6. They avoid stress in their lives

We all live in stress one way or the other – that is a given.   Certainly, not having time for yourself, or having the “Disease to Please”, or worrying about your appearance is one sort of stressor, but the general day-to-day stuff like getting the kids off to school on time, dealing with wayward teenagers, battling through traffic – these all contribute to an unhealthy stress level (f we give it credence).   Instead of avoiding stress, perhaps I would rather say that we can manage the stress.    If you are going somewhere – know where you are going, have a map.   The Boy Scout’s motto: “Be Prepared” – now this is good advice.   Keep a diary.   Plan things.  Give yourself enough time.

7. They exercise

Hmm, in my case perhaps not as much as I would like to do.   Scientifically, exercise promotes serotonin production, and this is the ‘happy hormone’.   I personally hate gyms (I do not like other people’s sweat or waiting in queues). However, taking the dogs for an amble or visiting parks is an answer to getting out and about.   I suppose housework can be considered exercise as well – oh dear, not my favourite!.    However, you lucky people who live next to the seaside – how wonderful for a group of friends to walk on the shore’s edge in the late afternoon or early morning with copious amounts for free, wonderful fresh air. Wow !

8. They know that they are enough

They do not have the angst of constantly striving to be more than they are.  This is not to say that happy people just get to a point and stay there.   They are doing things that are good for their self-development and soulds, but it is not a feverish endeavour.    I accept myself for who I am.

9. They don’t judge

When you are judging people, you really do not have time to get to know them or love them.   In any respect, who are you to judge someone else?   You may be one those people who can make up their minds about someone the first time they meet them.   Your intuition may be telling you that there is something to that thought, but you can always reserve opinion until you are sure.   People may be going through a rough patch and not at their best at that time.

10. They know how to refocus

Stuff happens.  Disasters, obstacles, “I never saw it coming”, relationship breakups.    At the time, such sorrow, worry, terror – but again, “it is what it is”, and once the storm settles, and clarity of the situation is sought and found, then the happy person can refocus energies and get on with life.   Life may not be the same as before, but they move on.   Forgive, don’t forget though – learn that lesson, but move on.

11. They have not lost their childlike wonderment

Squealing with delight at the fireworks display, or watching dolphins surf the waves, or following a jumping frog, or watching ants busy at work or spotting a shooting star or seeing a ladybird or being mesmerized by a beautiful butterfly – these are not activities only for children.   To be part of our universe is an incredible gift that we have been given, so make use of this privilege.

12. They deal with their fear head on

They do not allow the ‘what-if’ scenario to be part of their existence.   They do not let fear dictate their behaviour.   They do not worry themselves sick over something that may not happen.   But, as mentioned before, being prepared is a key to being happy.   If you believe that a bad situation is likely to occur, then plan and deal with it.     Fearing something and letting it encompass your thoughts gives it power, and you live that fear, even if it is not tangible.

13. They take risks

Not foolhardy ones – calculated risks.  If you don’t push the boat out, you will not get to the other side i.e. experience life, meet new people, discover new capabilities, reach new heights.   But – calculated risks carry a certain amount of planning.   The same goes for being adventurous – the spur of the moment decision to go to a new restaurant.   Do you order same thing every time you go to a restaurant?  Do you go to restaurants?  Even a once a month treat at the Wimpy?   The same goes for travelling – if you are in a position to travel even to a local area – say Oribi – yes, again a certain amount of planning, what fabulous discoveries await you if you are prepared to take that step.

14. They bear no grudges

This is a waste of valuable you time.   If an injustice has been done to you, demand an apology or put it down to a learning experience, but move on.   It is in the past and you should never carry bad past with you to the future.   We are all moulded by the experiences we have, but we need to use them to ensure they never happen again and to become a better person because of it.  If you lose time on “what ifs”, “how dare they”, “I’ll get them for that” – then you are using your life’s energy on something that was, and not is.     Revenge is never sweet.    Those who cause injustices will need to repair the damage before and through God, not by you.

15. They encourage others

They take the time to uplift others.    It can be a smile, a good word, explaining something that is not understood, a hug, making the needy person feel loved, feel better, wipe their tears, just being there, comforting, laughing, sharing, being compassionate, being empathetic, applying a plaster to a wound.

16. They love to laugh

Observing the world – seeing the amusing side of life, enjoying the funny situations we get into.    The happy people can laugh at themselves.     This is not practical joke laughter, which I think can be very cruel and somewhat silly.   Laughter IS the best medicine,    For example, how my friend Val, her Aunty Cassie and I laughed when Aunty Cassie, then 90, had locked herself out of her flat – this was in Bristol – England some years ago.   Aunty Cassie remembered that her kitchen window was half open – you know those old sash windows we had at school – and we asked the young man in the flat next door to go out of his back door, climb into Aunty Cassie’s kitchen and come and open the front door for us.   This he did and met us at the front door with a smile on his face and let us in.   We thanked him and then let him climb back out of the kitchen window to get into his flat.   Only afterwards did it occur to us that we could have let him out the front door.    That was a HAPPY laughing occasion.

17. They are honest with themselves, first

Genuinely able to say – “I am not very good at that” or “I am sorry, it was my fault”.  Happy people know their limitations.   How often do we tend to take things on knowing that we are not really going to succeed but too afraid or shy to tell others that we are not quite up to speed with the situation or request.     We are not Superman or Wonder Woman – they only exists in the movies.

18. They ask for help

Personally, I had difficulty in asking for help.  I always thought that this was a sign of weakness.   But it is not !   Remember that there is a fine line between asking for help when you are really stuck, and the other side – making use of someone who is kind and capable.

19. They embrace differences

I have an acquaintance who is gay but has not disclosed this to all and sundry – “coming out” is the term I believe. However, he complains that people are rude and cruel when they pass comments about gay people.    Two problems exist here – Firstly, yes, people are biased and they would perhaps have the decency not to be disrespectful to gender choices if they knew that this person in their group had made an alternative decision, and secondly, my acquaintance cannot get rid of the bias he has against mixed couples, and is blatantly vocal about this.   Happy people know that “it is what it is” and lets life get on with it – after all, who are they to judge anyway!

20. They love life

The fabulous exuberance of feeling your heart beat in excitement when seeing your lover, feel your eyes well up with tears when you hear that incredible Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, get that taste at first sip of the cup of tea, coffee, water (how devine is cool water to gulp down when you are really thirsty) hmm, red wine. Incredible sunsets, sunrises. Wonderful cloud formations – Constable would have definitely painted some of them.   The smell of sea water wafting through the air as you sit on near the shore, with the dampness of the ocean kissing your skin.

Please do not tell me that you cannot love life !

Thank You for listening!