I must be riding the coattails of a larger trend of consciousness. There are no less than 2 decent articles in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on happiness. One is on the long term contagion of happiness and sadness and the other is on the differences in mental make-up of people who describe themselves as basically happy or unhappy.
I get this.
The first article is interesting enough and not in the least bit surprising. There’s a ton of evidence that happiness and sadness are contagious – think laughter or witnessing someone in pain. We all know that there’s usually a short term and immediate effect. This article focuses on the effects of long term exposure to people who are essentially either happy or sad at their core.
The good news is (from what I can remember without re-reading the article right now) that the ‘disease’ of happiness lasts longer and, like people who quit smoking, it’s takes only 5 years to recover from the influences of a sad (or angry, hurtful, etc.) person and regain happiness whereas it takes 10 years to go back to being truly and thoroughly sad after a relationship with a happy person.
The second article identifies a new term. (The link to the article is http://www.jsonline.com/features/advice/99772154.html) I was already familiar with “Internal Locus of Control”. The new term for me is “Happiness Set Point”. It’s a mini aha moment. How cool to learn there’s an official term for something like this. Me and my affinity for words (thanks, Mom) and terms – I find this delightful.
I know people who are very unhappy. Some of them are aware that they are basically unhappy people. Some of them would like to be less unhappy. Sometimes they try. Some are resentful when they aren’t able to drag you down with them. All of us have insidious tricks to get you to be unhappy with us. I know. I used to be a basically unhappy person. (yes, I did just change tense mid-paragraph.) Now, like everyone, I have situational unhappiness but I’m working on it.
A few years after I discovered hope for the first time in my life, I started seeing a really funny therapist named Bongo. Swear. It’s true. It’s on her card. After a few sessions, I remember asking Bongo if it might be possible that my issue was PTSD. She chuckled and pulled out her notes from our first session and showed me where she’d written her initial diagnosis. There it was. PTSD. She’d nailed me right off and had started me down the path of figuring it out myself. She also showed me another term: Dysthymia. It’s basically long-term, chronic malaise. It’s like being eternally sad. Low level sad at all times. Draining. Slow, slow death.
Yeah, I remember that.
I remember, years later, discovering that sadness is not my natural state. That was one of the major life turning points for me – and another story.
I’m sorry if you feel sad most of the time. It sucks. Sucks-sucks-sucks. I can’t tell you that it will ever get better because for some people it never will. Everybody finds their own path. I consider myself extremely lucky on mine.
Apparently though, people like us who are interested in the state of our sadness versus happiness are not alone. There are enough of us out there to generate sufficient interest for 2 articles in this morning’s newspaper.
Susan Scot Fry
Update… I had a great day yesterday. It’s amazing what happens when I remove the requirement to feel sad, burdened and overloaded by the things I choose to do.