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Are You Sabotaging Your Happiness?

Aug 17, 2007
In todays world, it often seems unhappiness is all around us. Hatred, terrorism, war, violence, bigotry and job insecurity are part of our everyday lives. Depression affects millions of adults in America each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People everywhere are resorting to prescription medicines, street drugs and alcoholism in order to combat feelings of depression, anxiety, restlessness and stress. However, antidepressants work for only 30 percent of the population and the remaining 70 percent continue to be depressed.

Numerous studies show that living in a democratic society, having family and friends, and rich social circle, material and monetary wealth, and adherence to ones own religion can contribute to only 8 to 15% of total happiness. If that is the case, what is the rest of 90% constituted? Happiness derived from material wealth, monetary gains, a place or a person, is proven to be only short lived.

Here is a simple quiz for you and see how you react to these following daily situations.

1.Your boss has just passed over you for another big promotion. Your first reaction is to:
A)Angrily curse the existence of your boss to any co-worker or copy machine willing to listen.
B)Silently stew in resentment and depression over your personal loss (surely self-chastisement will accomplish something).
C)Shrug it off and continue your work because your career status has no affect your positive life outlook, and maybe you will get the big promotion next time.

2.Your significant other or roommate has left dirty dishes on the kitchen counter. Again, in response, you:
A)Choose a particularly large dish and hit them over the head with it.
B)Ignore the dishes like you normally do and think of ways to poison their food.
C)Realize dirty dishes are not a reason to be angry, and offer to help them clean to get the mess under control.

3.You have just won the lottery. The first thing you do is:
A)Personally call everyone who ever wronged you to rub their noses in it.
B)Spend every penny you have on houses, cars and clothes; anything to fill that gaping void in your life.
C)Invest it all in a savings account because you know carelessly spending vast amounts of wealth will not make you content.

4.You have just reached a significant life goal you have long been working towards. Your reaction is to:
A)Set another goal for yourself, because there is always something out there you would be more satisfied with.
BThrow a party for yourself because congratulations from friends (or, let us be honest, even strangers) will make you happy.
C)Continue doing your best for personal satisfaction because true contentment cannot be found through fulfilling a list of desires.

5.When you get up in the morning after having had a bad day, you feel:
A)Tired and frustrated that you have yet another bad to look forward to.
B)A little pessimistic, but if no one takes the last doughnut in the break room, you know things will look up.
C)Positive; today is a new day, and the past cannot affect your mood.

6.A stranger just cut you off in traffic. Your first impulse is to:
A)Follow them all the way home, shouting obscenities out the window and drawing stares from onlookers.
B)Internally rant to yourself about crazy drivers, letting the incident ruin your entire day.
C)Honk at the offending vehicle and then contentedly continue with your morning commute, unfazed.

7.Your neighbor has decided to have another late night lawn mowing session. Again, In response, you:
A)March across the street in your pajamas and threaten to stuff his cat in the mower if he does not shut it off.
B)Toss and turn until you finally fall asleep and dream of stealing the lawn mower from his garage the next morning; no more mower, no more noise.
C)Decide to rationally communicate with your neighbor about his nocturnal habits. It is an annoying problem, but you have the power to alleviate it.

8.When you get home from a stressful day at work, your first impulse is to:
A)Take out your pent up aggression on the nearest person, animal or object.
B)Hole up in a private area, turning the events of the day over and over in your head.
C)Cast away all thoughts of your workday and appreciates the restful time with your family and friends.

9.When you think about your past decisions you are:
A)Driven to drink.
B)Endlessly astounded by your uncanny ability for poor decision-making.
C)Never regretful, but excited to see what the future may bring.

10.When you think about what you really want in life, your first thought is:
A)I do not even know what I want for lunch today, much less for the rest of my life.
B)I know what others expect of me; do that count?
C)I know what my dreams are, and I am actively pursuing them every day.

If you answered mostly A: Congrats! You are a breeding ground for a perfect storm of high blood pressure, low self-esteem and possible mental breakdown. You let stress; anger and doubt control your life, instead of allowing your mind to control your mood. Learn to cool down, rationalize stressful situations and enjoy life; only you can create your happiness, and it begins with changing your outlook.

If you answered mostly B: You internalize stress, anger, doubt and put too much emotional stock in external factors, such as other people and their actions. A wrong look from a co-worker can send you over the edge, and if your significant other does not comment on your new hairstyle, it could send you spiraling into a depression over your looks. The little annoyances in life are just that; little annoyances that you should not let affect your mood. Learn to check your emotional baggage at the door (or at least stow it completely beneath your seat) and allow yourself the happiness you deserve.

If you have mostly C: You are well on your way to a fully content and happy life; keep up the positive attitude! You know that your happiness lies only in your own mind, not elsewhere in things such as wealth, relationships or any other outside stimulation or reward. You choose to be happy, therefore you are, and no other person or occurrence in life can change that.
About the Author
D V Pasupuleti MD, director of neurology and clinical professor; discusses how brain holds the key to happiness. Find out how your mind can gain control over your emotions at
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