People are always telling me not to be such a downer, but I naturally see the negative side of things and tend to expect the worst. Is that really so bad, and isn’t my reaction my own business?
Sure, your reaction is your own business as long as you keep it your own business. But if people are always telling you not to be such a downer, it sounds as if you have a tendency to inflict your negative feelings and expectations on others, which not a lot of people are going to appreciate.
So for the sake of your relationships with your friends and family, try to be conscious of their feelings as well as your own. If you’re troubled by or anxious about something, by all means go ahead and talk it through, but resist the tendency to rain on every parade just because you can.
And aside from whether it’s fair to your friends and family, it’s also worth considering whether your pessimistic orientation is serving you well.
What do we do with all the sadness we all feel since the awful events in Newtown, Connecticut last week? Striving to be happy just doesn’t seem to make sense to me right now.
Thank you for asking this question.
I think what we need to do with our sadness, above all, is to feel it. We have every reason to be sad about what happened – to be broken-hearted, in fact. What happened last Friday was unspeakably awful. Of course we feel awful about it.
When we talk about striving for happiness, we don’t mean that we should seek to feel happy all the time, or that we should close our eyes or our hearts to suffering. What we’re talking about is striving to create good, healthy lives. And those lives include plenty of sadness, grief, and anger. Every real life does, and emotionally healthy people allow themselves to feel the full range of emotions that life brings.
Dear Active Happiness,
I’m a marketing manager at a big consumer electronics company. I’m good at my job, and I like the work. The problem is my boss. Nothing is ever good enough for him. He complains all day long — about his boss, about my colleagues, and about my own work.
He actually gives me good year-end evaluations, but that’s the only day I ever feel like he thinks I’m doing a good job. It’s hard on my self-esteem and it makes work a drag. What can I do?
I have two beautiful, healthy kids — an 8-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. My daughter does really well in school, is easy to be around, and has lots of friends. My 12-year-old son has some special needs and ADHD, and he has always been a very challenging, combative child.
As he gets older, I find myself resenting my friends whose children do well academically and socially, and I am constantly worrying about my son’s future — whether he’ll be able to live independently, have a relationship or any of the other stuff my friends take for granted.
He doesn’t have many friends, though that doesn’t seem to bother him. It’s hard not to compare him to his sister or his peers, and then I feel incredibly guilty for doing so.
I want to stop the cycle of jealousy, sadness and worry so that I can accept and appreciate my child for who he is and what he is capable of. I just don’t know how.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year, but this year I’m dreading it because I’ve gained weight since I saw most of my family last Christmas.
I love my family, but I’m so embarrassed about my weight that I’m tempted to come up with an excuse for not showing up. I need advice.
I have a disproportionate anger response to one of my children who seems to push my buttons. I do not hit or spank her but have a very hard time not yelling at her. I become unglued by her tendency to do things slowly (like getting out of the car) or to just ignore me at times. She is a very sweet and loving child, but has personality traits that I cannot seem to tolerate. Why am unable to find patience or acceptance toward someone I love with all my heart? How can I direct her behavior without becoming unglued?
First of all, give yourself a lot of credit for asking this question. Your ability to observe your own reactions to your daughter and your attempt to find more positive ways to respond to her are signs of both self-awareness and loving parenting.
Every year, my sister and her husband host our extended family for a big party, and every year I dread it. They live in a perfect house, drive new cars, and have always just gotten back from a fabulous vacation. All they talk about is how great their lives are, while we’re struggling just to get by. I have great kids and good friends, but when I’m at my sister’s all I can think about is what she has that I want. What can I do?
My sister’s still mad at me over something that happened almost six months ago.
Our daughters had always invited each other to their birthday parties, even though we live in different towns. It was nice when they were little, but when my daughter was in fifth grade, she asked if she could just invite her friends from school. I said okay, my sister found out, and she’s been mad ever since.
I’ve explained and explained, but she just won’t listen. Why can’t she put this behind her? – AR
I’ve read a lot about how good yoga is supposed to be for you, and I kind of want to give it a try, but I’m looking for healthy exercise, not a new religion. Can I go for just the physical benefits, or should I stick with running and steer clear of the yoga studio?
Dear Active Happiness,
I know I need exercise, so I joined a gym. The problem is that everyone there is already gorgeous and fit. It’s a nice gym, and the classes are good, but being surrounded by all those fit people in workout clothes just makes me feel bad. So I’ve hardly been going, and now I feel even worse for wasting my money. How can I get through an exercise class without feeling like I might as well just give up?