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How to Be Happy (When There Is No Reason to Be)

Ferris wheel at Disney's California Adventure

Mickey says, “Smile damnit!”

Happiness becomes a problem when you’re expected to be happy all the time. That’s not possible. Even Disneyland, “The Happiest Place on Earth,” isn’t happy all the time. Driving for 20 minutes to find a parking space isn’t happy. Waiting an hour and a half for a ride isn’t happy. Paying $7 for a Diet Coke isn’t happy. Listening to “It’s a Small World” for the 15th time isn’t happy.

Yet, people are happy at Disneyland. Why? And why should you be happy when there is no reason to be?

There are three things that can help you be happy even in the most unpleasant or difficult of circumstances: perspective, patience, and poise.

Perspective

When times are tough, you feel like they’re always going to be tough. You feel that the line you’re stuck in will never end, and you’ll never get to the ride. You then start questioning whether it was a good idea to get into the line in the first place. Will you even enjoy the ride when you get there? And how could you have been so stupid to go to Disneyland on a weekend during summer break? You’re trapped in a downward spiral of negative feelings that goes from getting frustrated with the situation to becoming disgusted with yourself for getting in the situation.

Regaining your perspective breaks this spiral. You realize that the line does end because you can see people getting into the ride. You can choose to replace your frustration with anticipation. You can think about how much you’ll enjoy the ride after how long you had to wait for it. Or you can choose not to wait at all. You can leave the line and do something else (or get a FastPass ticket and come back later).

Perspective reminds you that tough times don’t last forever and that you have choices, even if the only one is choosing to change your attitude.

Patience

Perspective can also help us develop patience. Sometimes, the only solution is to wait. If you’re sick, you have to take your time to recover. You can’t make your body heal any faster. If you need an answer from someone, you have to wait until they respond. Pressing them too hard can cause them to reject your request. The only thing we can do in some situations is to have patience and faith. It’s a lesson I learned from our myrtle tree.

Poise

What if there is no solution and the hard times seem to have no end? That’s when we have to develop poise. We need to take a deep breath and calmly deal with the situation.

Sure, you can be angry and lose your temper. This is a natural reaction to frustration, but it is not a useful one. And losing our self-control often causes more harm than good.

Sometimes, we have to let go of what we want so we can find the best solution under the circumstances. We may discover something much better than what we originally wanted.

There were a number of times in my life when I went through what I thought was a hopeless situation and came out better from the experience. I realize that I wouldn’t have the good things I have in my life today if I didn’t go through those hardships. These experiences give me the perspective, patience, and poise I need to deal with the challenges I’m facing now.

Why You Should Be Happy (When There Is No Reason to Be)

You may say, “That’s fine for you, but what I’m going through is so hard that I can’t deal with it. There is no sign that things will get better no matter how much perspective, patience, and poise I have. Why should I even try to be happy?”

Happiness doesn’t mean that your situation will improve, but it does give you the strength to deal with it. We can choose to be happy even when (and especially when) we have no other choices. It’s our way of telling misfortune to take a hike and that we won’t let it crush us.

There will be situations so painful that we have to mourn or give in to our anger. Even in those moments, we can develop the perspective, patience, and poise to get through them. And in time, we can find happiness again.

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