practical happiness principles, happiness zappers, Pamela Gail Johnson,, Happiness Zappers Are Manageable

Happiness Zappers Can be Managed

Studies show that people who consider themselves mostly happy, and those who consider themselves mostly unhappy, experience a similar number of unpleasant experiences.

So, what’s the difference in how happy and unhappy people rate their happiness? It’s how they react to their happiness zappers. Therefore, our first practical happiness principle is: Happiness Zappers Can be Managed

Possibly, the most important thing that we do every day may be managing our happiness zappers:

  • Unhappiness
  • Stress
  • Chaos
  • Annoyances

Oftentimes, one or more happiness zappers will be part of your day. Since your brain is hardwired to focus more on things that are unhappy or trigger fear than what makes us happy, you have to make an effort to manage your happiness zappers. Otherwise, they manage you.

The first thing to do when that not-so-happy feeling appears is to identify the type of happiness zapper it is:

Unhappiness is created by experiences that you have little or no control over, and probably have long-term consequences like:

  • Serious health issues
  • Loss of a loved one or pet
  • Rifts with family or friends
  • Career changes or displacements
  • Financial hardships
  • Rebuilding after a natural disaster

Unhappiness usually isn’t something that you can quickly fix. It can force you to find a new normal, like learning to live without someone you love, adjusting your budget, or changing your lifestyle to improve your health.

Our quick-fix, selfie-perfect culture doesn’t acknowledge that sometimes it’s normal, natural, and okay to feel sad.

It’s unhealthy to never feel sad because that’s not realistic. However, after your heart processes its initial pain and shock from the situation that created the unhappiness, it makes room for happiness.

Even after your new normal feels normal, a pang of sadness can still pop into your happy space, reminding you of something in your past that’s gone. Just because a wound has healed doesn’t mean you don’t have a scar that painfully flares up from time to time.

When you experience unhappiness, you have to decide if the experience is going to make you better or resentful. You become better when you grow by becoming more empathetic or being inspired to do something to help others. You become resentful when your mind and heart keep reliving the past over and over, therefore stopping you from healing and moving forward with new experiences.  

Stress is created when too many future unknowns occupy your minds, you walk on eggshells around others to keep the peace, or you have too many to do’s. Stress happens for many reasons including:

  • Bad bosses, possible layoffs, or company buyouts at work
  • Communication challenges with family members, neighbors, or friends
  • Airport delays
  • Holiday planning and activities
  • Job hunting
  • Event planning
  • Waiting on health test results
  • Feeling competitive about your happiness or even, unhappiness with others

Stress reduction is as varied as its causes. It can be as complicated as making a decision and taking action to change a situation.

It may be having a Plan B for a situation that you have either no or minimal control over. It may require you to set boundaries by saying no to things – even some things you want to do – because there are only 24 hours in a day.

It also can be as simple as biding your time until the stressful moment naturally ends.

Not all stress is bad for us. Sometimes it’s the catalyst for you to up your own game, like when you do a work presentation, win a tennis match, or manage a chaotic situation.

The physical effects of stress can be managed when you exercise, do yoga, listen to music, or use aromatherapy.  

Chaos shows up unexpectedly. It’s overwhelming, but is usually short-term. Think of situations like:

  • An ER visit by you or someone close to you
  • Your dog getting lost as you’re leaving for work
  • Your teenager invites the soccer team over last minute
  • A neighbor pops over because they need to talk—even though you’ve got a million things to do
  • Your child forgets to tell you about a major school project until the night before it’s due
  • Aftermath of a natural disaster
  • Your boss gives you a big project at the last minute

Chaos temporarily increases your stress, so take a little time to decompress after it’s been contained. You might sleep a little longer, watch a movie, or talk things over with a good friend.  

Annoyances are momentary, yet probably repeatable experiences like:

  • Traffic congestion
  • Someone being late
  • Losing your keys
  • Having a cold
  • Restaurant order being wrong
  • Internet not working
  • Dealing with customer service
  • Favorite sports team losing a game

You have lots of control over if or when these moments zap your happiness. You probably won’t remember these moments a week, much less a year, after they happened. If this is the case, do they deserve to take away even a minute of your current happiness?

The moment you quit focusing on them is probably the moment your happiness returns.    

You cannot predict when most happiness zappers appear. However, you can learn to manage them and how they affect you.

Happiness Zapper management means you allow yourself to recognize and react as needed to them, but you don’t allow them to define you and take away all of your happiness.

Practical happiness allows you to embrace all of your emotions — happy and unhappy ones alike. When you do that, you also experience more happiness.

Managing your happiness zappers is the foundation of a happiness mindset.     

The Four Practical Happiness Principles

  1. Happiness Zappers Zap Everyone
  2. Happiness is Personal
  3. Happiness Changes as We Change
  4. Happiness is Bigger Than You Think


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