As I promised – One truth about happiness per week for four weeks. This is week three. If you are already as happy as you want to be, go read the newspaper or do the crossword puzzle.
And now, moving right along – The third truth, “sometimes you can’t feel better” requires some work on your part. You need to understand how your emotions work to grasp this one. So let’s start at the beginning.
Feelings and emotions are different. Feelings involve our thinking. Emotions don’t. We have little to say about our emotions. We must simply accept them as they come. They originate in the more primitive regions of our brains and nervous systems. They are not right or wrong, they just are.
You can analyze feelings and sometimes come up with reasons. In that way, you have a reasonable chance at changing them. Emotions are not as accessible to you, so you often feel controlled by them.
Emotions are there to protect you. They evolved as a way of giving you a survival advantage. They happen before thinking. In the jungle, so many thousands of years ago, if you stopped to think, you might have gotten eaten. So emotions gave you an edge. When you felt threatened, you ran. You could think about it later, if you survived.
What I’m saying is that they are an automatic reaction to your circumstances. But even though they are automatic, you still need to manage negative emotions properly. Because if you don’t, they could become a mood. Moods are pervasive and long-lasting emotions that take you over and color your view of the world.
You’ve met people who live in a negative mood. They are never happy about anything. A mood develops from an emotion that was probably appropriate at one time but persists beyond its usefulness. As an example, some people have had some bad breaks in life. A negative emotion was appropriate each time they had one. But some people have allowed that emotion to take them over. It is now a mood that says, “I will never get an even break.” Which, an objective observer can see, is not true. There is no universal conspiracy to hold any particular person back. But this person can live in a mood of despair – a mood that affects everything else in his or her life.
You won’t change your moods just by reading this. They take a lot more work. That’s why you need to deal with negative emotions before they become moods. Here’s how: First, remember emotions are natural. You cannot live without them. Secondly remember, they are also transient. They come and go. So the only way to deal with emotions is to experience them and then let them go. If you resist, they will persist. For instance, if something makes you angry, fine, be angry and then move on.
If you don’t, you’ll hang on to that anger and it will eventually cause you a good deal of unhappiness. Now, I’m not saying you should physically act-out angry urges. That will only make things worse. You should simply acknowledge and feel your anger and let it go. It’s a perfectly natural emotion to have. It’s when you start questioning and resisting what you are truly experiencing that you get into trouble.
Emotions are like the surface currents in a flowing river. They take different shapes, but are always there. If you can let the river of your emotions flow naturally, they’ll take care of themselves. To be sure, in some instances, you will be able to and some instances not. This is not important. The important thing is to accept them as natural and transient. Hanging on to them only makes matters worse.
In summary, emotions are like the weather. It comes and goes. Emotions, weather; neither lasts forever. No one is happy or unhappy all the time. So let your emotions be. Experience them or they will persist. If a negative emotion persists long enough, it could become a bad mood. That will color your whole world. And then you might be unhappy for no presently obvious reason.