We are now six-plus months into 2021. How is life going for you? While I haven't heard anyone report that their life is now "wonderful," virtually every person that I have talked with says that he/she feels better than they did when the year began. If I ask them how they feel, compared to last year, they say, with feeling, that there is no comparison. They agree when I say, "Everything feels better since January 20th."
This is not a large sample which I am reporting, but it is meaningful. The benefits of feeling "happy" have been identified by doctors for years. Among other things, happiness is reported to combat stress, boost the immune system, broaden focus, improve one's ability to problem solve and handle setbacks, protect the heart, and even improve life expectancy. It is much easier for positive people to feel understanding and empathy towards others.
So, with all those benefits, everyone wants to feel happy, right? Well . . .
I expect that we have all known people who can maintain a positive outlook on life, even when things are not going well for them. People who can do that are a revelation — and an inspiration. In my experience, the amount of money or property which a person has is not a predictor of his/her attitude towards life. I have known people who had very little, but they still maintained faith and hope for the future. They were happy for what they did have and were sincerely grateful for every kindness extended to them.
I have also known people who had more than most, but were never pleased or satisfied for very long. These people often felt jealousy or anger when they saw that someone else had more belongings or success than they had. When our thinking is dominated by fears, we are poorly equipped to benefit from the positive things which come along in life.
Education and experience have taught me that, in large part, feeling happy or unhappy is a choice. Things happen, but it is up to us how we respond to those happenings. Responding with equanimity to disappointments and setbacks is not simple or easy, but we can choose determination and fortitude over anger and blaming. Regrettably, we still see letters in the paper, full of anger and blame, from people who voice terrifying fears that we are approaching an end to civilization! So sad.
55-65% of Republicans reportedly still believe that the election was "stolen." 99.5% of COVID deaths in the last six months were of unvaccinated people, but 47% of Republicans say they likely won't get vaccinated. 23% of Republicans believe the most extreme Q'anon conspiracy statements. Is it possible that any of them wake up every morning feeling happy? And why does anyone pay any attention to what that failed ex-President wants to say? How can listening to him make anyone feel good?
I choose to think positively, to take pleasure in the uniqueness of other people and the beauty of the world, and to keep myself open to times when happiness is available. It took great effort to do all this last year, and I was not always fully successful. It is so much easier to do so now. There are reasons for feeling positive everywhere we look.
Kevin Kennedy is a resident of Frederick County.