Life is so much more complicated when we are grouchy.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Research shows that optimism can be learned just like that recipe for basil-tofu dip that I thought I’d never master.
Happiness and leading a meaningful life is connected. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl introduced Logotherapy, which is based on the idea that the search for meaning in life is the most powerful motivation in human suffering. After witnessing first hand the horrors of Auschwitz, as both inmate and psychiatrist, he understood that when we find meaning in our lives, we can survive the most challenging of experiences.
Frankl often said that, even within the narrow boundaries of the concentration camps, he found only two kinds of men: decent ones and unprincipled ones. Following this line of thinking, Frankl once recommended that the Statue of Liberty on the east coast of the United States be complemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the west coast.
Psychologist Martin Seligman took this concept further and created Positive Psychology, which encourages people to stop focusing on what is wrong and concentrate on what’s right.
In Dr. Seligman’s theory, the “good life” consists of five elements:
1. Positive emotions (pleasure, warmth, comfort)
2. Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity)
3. Relationships (social ties are an extremely reliable indicator of happiness)
4. Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger)
5. Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).
So the next time you are feeling grouchy, take a nap or eat some protein. If neither of those strategies works, then look through the list above and see if your emotional void can be made better by tapping into one of those criteria. Maybe you can call a sick friend (Meaning) or reassess your goals for the next month (Accomplishments) or Facetime with a sibling who lives overseas (Relationships).
Granted, none of our daily stress can be compared to being in a concentration camp, but let’s take the lesson with us as we travel through the ups and downs of our own lives. I often find strength in reminding myself why I am doing what I do. Whether it is at home or at work, dig deep and find the meaning to reboot yourself and help bring a sincere smile to your face.