Friday, February 26, 2010

Choose Joy

In the optimist vs. pessimist debate I'm firmly in the optimist camp, much to the annoyance of my "realist" friends (we're perennially obnoxious to them). They typically bring up the point that a gloomy mood cannot be helped by deciding to be happy. Telling them to 'cheer up' or 'turn that frown upside-down' might do more harm than good by instilling false hope that will ultimately be dashed.

I have the tendency to see the bias in such observations (which side is it that assumes from the get-go that their mood is immutable?). Nevertheless, I've decided that they probably have a point. Without some external stimulus to prod you out of your funk, can you really stir up some kind of joy just by thinking? We've all tried it and noted the artificial taste of manufactured emotion.

Hold on, though. I'm not turning in my Junior Ranger of Optimism badge just yet! I still believe you can choose happiness, just in a different way.

I say you can choose to be happy in the same way you can choose to be a doctor. At some point, you decide that's what you want to be. Then, comes the work. Becoming a doctor requires walking down a certain well-defined path, and it may be years before you get your diploma, but with dedicated effort your decision will result in a fully-realized dream.

So, there's a time-delay and an effort-contingency between the decision and the result. There's also the little matter of accreditation, by which I mean that there are literally millions of different voices in the world outlining a path to happiness. Most are well-meaning and effective to some degree, but some are blind alleys and dead ends like the 'doctor' who got his degree from CGNU online e-niversity. The path I use is the gospel path, which gives astonishingly robust results. Read more about it in Alma 32-33. Also, remember to exercise regularly.

Fortunately, rather than waiting over a span of decades for an MD, we can start feeling the fruits of our joy-hunting in a matter of weeks.

This all may sound obvious, but it's something we typically neglect. How often do we let our emotions govern our decisions rather than the other way around?

We may become truly free agents. Whatever path you choose, get moving on it because I guarantee that following no path at all inevitably leads to misery.

Let's get moving, then! Decide now that you want joy and don't let anything stop you!


Teresa Gashler said...

I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, I've had a handful of friends struggling depression that don't completely agree, probably for good reason. I believe that choice still does help them, but there are other things about depression that I just don't understand. Have any insights on that?

hosander said...

very true. good work

Thaddeus said...

Teresa, that's a good point. Clinical depression is a debilitating disorder that should be treated by seeing a legitimate doctor.

In any disorder or disease we all still have the choice to overcome or be overcome. Circumstances may require us to ask for help sometimes.

Andy said...

I just realized that your blog's name is a Mike Doughty reference.

As far as optimism goes, I don't think you have to be cynical in order to be realistic. I'm pretty realistic, but that doesn't mean I have a preference as to how things will go, and sometimes that preference is expressed.

You're a good man, Thad.