Today’s question for self-examination is – what’s making you “feel bad”?
My First Splendid Truth about happiness is: to think about your happiness, you must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
Research shows that the absence of “feeling bad” doesn’t mean that you “feel good.” Nevertheless, removing sources of bad feelings will protect your good feelings from being swamped by guilt, anger, remorse, irritation, envy, fear, anxiety, boredom, and all the rest of that awful family.
My own happiness project has been very focused on eliminating sources of feeling bad, because I realized that the thing standing most in the way of my happiness was…ME. I wasn’t living up to the standard I expected from myself.
Some things that I’ve worked to stop doing—not that I’ve succeeded, but I’ve made some progress: gossiping, eating fake food (i.e., “food” that comes in crinkly packages from corner delis), nagging, drinking alcohol (I had to face the fact that drinking the tiniest bit of alcohol makes me incredibly belligerent), losing my temper, staying up too late, not flossing, not doing enough to help other people, leaving my clothes strewn around – well, the list goes on and on.
I really feel happier when I’m not plagued with pricks of bad feelings.
So, without worrying yet about what you’re going to do to relieve these feelings, examine your emotions as you go through your days.
When do you feel angry? What prompts feelings of guilt? When do you feel bored? Are you envious of anyone? Do you feel afraid – of cancer, of terrorists, of identity theft, of losing your job? Etc.
These emotions are unpleasant, but they’re VERY valuable. They’re showing you what you need to change or accept. These feelings are so unpleasant, however, that we often pretend that we aren’t experiencing them, or we try to ignore them. In some situations, this attitude is useful. But for this exercise, really concentrate on your negative moments.
Take envy. We often suppress or deny envious feelings, because envy is such a nasty, ignominious emotion. But envy teaches you something very important about yourself: there’s something you want that you don’t have. So what can you do about that situation?
Before you can fix bad feelings, you have to understand what's sparking them. So spend a week thinking about it.
Next week: some thoughts about how to eliminate these bad feelings.
If you’re starting a happiness project, consider joining the Happiness Project group on Facebook.
If you’re writing your resolutions, you’re welcome to see my chart, to help get you started. Just drop me a note at grubin [at] gretchenrubin [dot com].
Neatorama is a cornucopia of fun, diverting, amusing, provocative posts. This is the kind of site that gets me singing the praises of the Internet, for the sheer crazy amount of information that can be assembled. See if you can spot the picture of the pumpkin pi.
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