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Let Yourself Be Happy

Let Yourself Be Happy

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Let Yourself Be Happy

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5 ore
Jun 23, 2016


Recognize that you make a deliberate decision each time about whether to let yourself feel happy so focus on the reasons to feel that way and decide to enjoy life more without doing more than choosing to do so. Rethink all aspects of your life and surroundings and choose to focus more on those parts that make you happy whether by making you proud or simply lucky since you are not worse off when you could be. You can find many things to be happy about even among stuff otherwise having the opposite effect on you.
There are degrees of happiness but all are good and worth choosing. And there is an important distinction between being unhappy and being not happy. Let go of what doesn’t help you feel happy and learn to be content with the less than perfect but still fully adequate.
You can and should reselect your role models and simplify your goals when your earlier ones don’t work out. Take new looks at your world - your family, friends, work, body, health, and home. Many aspects of those can make you happy if you focus on those parts. Even the mundane but relevant details of your life like your hair, food, and clothes can be sources of happiness if you’ll let them. You make the difference. You don’t need permission from anyone else to do it since you are happy when and only when you decide to feel that way.
Likely your increased happiness will be noted and by your example you can help others be happier more of the time too without preaching about it.

Jun 23, 2016

Informazioni sull'autore

After years of teaching high school and then college biology I retired to write. I am back living in the Philadelphia, PA area where I was born and raised.

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Let Yourself Be Happy - Thomas P. Hanna

Let Yourself Be Happy

By Thomas P. Hanna

Copyright © 2016 by Thomas P. Hanna

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.

Smashwords Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it or it was not purchases for your use only, please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the work of the author.

Cover border image by Welsh architect and designer Owen Jones (1809-1874) via Dover Publications

Table of Contents

Chapter 01: What Do We Mean By Happy?

Chapter 02: You Must Let Yourself Be Happy

Chapter 03: Don't Wait For Others To Make You Happy

Chapter 04: There Are Degrees of Happiness

Chapter 05: You Make Yourself Unhappy

Chapter 06: Why Keep Making Yourself Unhappy?

Chapter 07: You Don't Need Anyone Else's Permission

Chapter 08: Aim High But Adjust For Your Reality

Chapter 09: Second or Third Best Is Often Adequate

Chapter 10: Everything In Moderation

Chapter 11: Let the Joneses Keep Up With Themselves

Chapter 12: Reselect Your Goals and Role Models

Chapter 13: Decide To Do What Makes You Happy

Chapter 14: Let Go of Some Things To Move On

Chapter 15: Don't Be a Total Pollyanna

Chapter 16: Gently Share Your Happiness

Chapter 17: What You Can Do To Make Others Happy

Chapter 18: Spend More Time With Happy People

Chapter 19: Be Happy About the Good You've Done

Chapter 20: Be Happy About the Time You've Had Here

Chapter 21: Be Happy About Simplifying Your Goals

Chapter 22: Be Happy About Your Family

Chapter 23: Be Happy About Your Neighbors

Chapter 24: Be Happy About Your Work

Chapter 25: Be Happy About Your Body

Chapter 26: Be Happy About Your Health

Chapter 27: Be Happy About Your Hair

Chapter 28: Be Happy About Your Home

Chapter 29: Be Happy About Your Food

Chapter 30: Be Happy About Your Clothes

Other Books by the Author at

Chapter 01: What Do We Mean By Happy?

There may be peace without joy, and joy without peace, but the two combined make happiness. John Buchan (1875-1940), English author

The United States Declaration of Independence asserts that we have an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am here to assert that most of the time we are the ones who deny that last element to ourselves.

For many of us To be happy, healthy, and... capsulizes the ideal existence. Happy and healthy are universally agreed to with the third component of the statement being the one that varies most between individuals. Some say wealthy, some say wise, and some say any of a list of other attributes. We all want to be happy and it is harder, although not impossible, to be so without being healthy. And even if we are not happy we recognize that we are better off if we are healthy.

It is relatively easy to define what healthy means even if we must do so in negative terms. I am healthy if I am not sick, in pain, or disabled. That covers a large number of physiological particulars but the majority of us don’t need to know those details to appreciate how lucky we are when we are healthy. It is more complicated to define happiness effectively. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus (2014 revised edition) says happiness is: 1a) a state of well-being or contentment or 1b) a pleasurable satisfaction.

So pleasure, joy, and contentedness are overlapping qualities that dictionaries associate with happiness. I want to emphasize the last of that list as the area to focus on in order to deliberately change how often we let ourselves be happy.

We generally associate pleasure mostly with sensory inputs. In fact that same dictionary defines pleasure as: 1) Desire; Inclination; 2) a state of gratification; 3) a source of delight and joy. So we get pleasure from touches, odors, and visual stimuli. Which means that to increase our pleasures we must disengage from other things in order to increase the number or intensity of our sensory inputs. Get a massage. Put a dish of potpourri in the living room. Eat more cookies. But you cannot conduct most businesses while being kneaded. The phenomenon of nasal fatigue limits how long you can smell something while you remain near it. And cookies contain calories as well as pleasures so they begin to produce weighty undesired effects if an increase in the number consumed is not compensated for by cutting back on other foods or increasing the amount of exercise we do, neither a move guaranteed to directly increase the pleasure level.

Joy is the high point of the happiness experience, the equivalent of the orgasm in the lovemaking process. Fireworks and intense sensations and feelings. But short-lived. These intense experiences are so absorbing that we cannot focus on anything else (and don’t want to be distracted trying to). To increase your joy means concentrating on nothing else. And risking a heart attack or other severe blowout from the intense physiological responses. There are reasons why we cannot sustain some sensations for long and sheer survival is one. Another is that if the super-highs could be made routine they would no longer by super-highs. Relative rarity and fleetingness are part of what makes them highs, not norms.

Contentedness, however, can last a long time. And it allows you to divide your attention enough to handle other important matters without completely letting go of the warmth. Only this quality of happiness can be evoked almost anywhere and any time simply by letting yourself slip into that state of mind. No need for a handy masseuse. No racing heart and raised blood pressure. Just contentedly happy because you opt to feel that way. That is what I’m recommending you work at.

Being told to put on a happy face can be very annoying, especially if you are wallowing deliciously in self-pity. Oddly enough, however, there seems to be a physiological feedback mechanism of some sort involved because it actually works. You learned as an infant that contracting certain patterns of your facial muscles produced a facial expression that people indicated to you was appropriate to show that you were feeling happy. Give mommy a big smile. Come on. There it is! And when you were feeling grumpy you rearranged your facial muscles into patterns that are universally recognized as indicating that attitude. These patterns were apparently programmed into the genes of our species back when primates first started to develop the facial muscles that would allow changes in expression to be used as communication. We learned to recognize the pattern in others and be wary of them at certain times and got enough feedback from others about our own visage to accept that we did that too.

Later we learned to deliberately produce those facial patterns and sometimes to exaggerate them to use as silent communication. Don’t bother me now. What you just did made me unhappy or even angry. Eventually we learned to enjoy watching actors portray the whole range of emotional reactions on demand by way of their expressions and body language.

Research has shown that we actually produce the appropriate facial expression before we experience the emotion rather than after doing so. This strongly suggests that we can deliberately influence our emotions by putting on the appropriate face. The marvel of this neurological wiring is that it seems to be a two-way street. You make the decision to set that face and then you feel the emotion. That in turn reinforces the facial expression. So if you deliberately produce the expression, you start to experience some of the feelings that you associate with the emotion and this means you are halfway to fully feeling the emotion if you will allow yourself to do so.

The effect is not completely automatic. You must still decide to let it sweep over you and you can still short-circuit the reaction by conscious resistance. Otherwise every actor on stage or kid caught with a hand in the cookie jar would be a helpless slave to emotions and unable to also be remembering stage directions or plotting the excuses that should follow or the path to follow in a flight from parental wrath.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that being happy affects the production of the endorphin and encephalin groups of chemicals in the brain. These molecule types are powerful painkillers and seem to improve the functioning of our immune system and may help us fend off infections and avoid problems like some kinds of heart disease. So there are lots of reasons to let yourself be happy.

Depression is a complex phenomenon with various causes and contributing factors. If you see yourself as a failure in some matter that you feel is important, depression is a reasonable as well as a predictable result. If there is no underlying physiological imbalance or deeper psychological root to the condition that requires professional medical help, then a depression instantly dissolves when you get good news that offsets the bad news. So when the major cause of your depression is your perception that you have failed, a change in that perception will terminate the depression.

There are at least three ways to change that perception. The first is to receive the good news that you didn’t fail in the way you thought you had after all. You get the promotion that you had heard was going to another. You find another car of your dreams for sale at a price you can afford. The winner of the race is disqualified even though he made it across the finish line first. You get the idea.

The second way is to displace the perception with other ones of greater importance or that are more pleasant. You let yourself forget about that failure and move on to other things. The perception hasn’t actually changed but it is no longer being noticed.

The third way, and what I am emphasizing in this book, is that you change the perception by shifting your focus from I didn’t win to I can be proud because I ran a good race.

A happy body is free of stress - which we usually define as being inappropriate tension in recognition that some body parts only work because of a degree of controlled tension so real total relaxation is neither possible, desirable, nor survivable. When you are asleep most of the voluntary or skeletal muscles are relaxed but the sphincters that control your bowels stay on duty, some of the smooth muscle in your blood vessels stays contracted to maintain your blood pressure, and your diaphragm continues to move to keep you breathing.

A happy body doesn’t have to be asleep though, it is simply free of non-essential tension. We know from experience that mental stress causes us to unconsciously tense muscles that lead to headaches and sore muscles. Someone kneading your shoulder muscles can often tell when you are worried or otherwise tense without you mentioning it. They can feel it in the rigidity of the muscles even when you are sitting supposedly relaxed. You don’t even have to be in the alpha brain wave pattern much talked about and sought after back in the heyday of Transcendental Meditation. Just laid back with no special problems being allowed to hang over you in a threatening way at the moment.

A happy body doesn’t always accompany a happy mind and it is not a prerequisite for it. You can be straining mightily and be happy precisely because you are participating in an activity which you think is important and perhaps because you see success within reach. It is probably less common for your body to be in a happy relaxed state while your mind is unhappy although being not-happy (a distinction we will emphasize in Chapter 05) would not make as much difference.

Rather literally, happy is as happy thinks. You can be forced to perform specific actions but you cannot be made to enjoy them (even if you may feel it prudent to say you do). You may also be thinking happy thoughts while engaged in dull work that in itself provides no great satisfaction but which can be done with half your attention so you can be elsewhere between your ears.

You may be able to lead another to recognize why he can be happy about life in general or specific past, present, or future actions. You don’t make him happy, you focus his attention on the fact that he can choose to feel that way and point out reasons why he can do so in his own situation. As long as you are not too pushy he is likely to listen and perhaps to profit from your friendly suggestions. Push too hard and resistance is almost inevitable. And resistance means that you have not only not made him happy at this moment but have probably reduced the likelihood that he will be open to admitting to being happy about the points you made as part of his rejection of your pressure. Go easy. You can come back to it again as needed but once you have triggered resistance you are unlikely to succeed and can too easily have the opposite effect.

In standard dictionaries the word blessed means literally causing happiness. So you are blessed when you choose to be happy and happy when you are doing even the most mundane and routine acts well and with a proper attitude or intention.

The common definitions tend to accentuate the causes of our happiness rather than the experience itself. Being happy is an experience, something happening within your mind, not a physical entity that exists outside of you or even (as far as any research has shown) a particular molecule type within you - although various molecule types like some of the neurotransmitter substances that neurons or nerve cells use to stimulate and thus communicate with one another to cause what you experience as thoughts and feelings may be associated with many instances when you feel happy.

It is also helpful to distinguish between philosophical happiness and the down in the streets real life kind. Philosophers tend to be seen as people who live in ivory towers and breathe rarified air. They often come across as thinking themselves most nearly perfect when they have the fewest needs to clutter up their minds with desires, appetites, and passions. In the streets the majority of us are looking for survival first, then some creature comforts, and every so often a bit of excess so we can let down our hair and blow off some steam.

What will make us happy and what we think will do so both evolve as we grow and learn. This involves discovering that there are experiences we had no idea were possible before which we now want and also discovering that some of the things we wished for before don’t provide the satisfaction we expected or no longer seem important. At some stages we become more sophisticated in what we dream of, at other times we simplify and learn to make do.

For many the evolution is from childish excess (I want to rule the whole playground) to more sophisticated excess (I want to make thirty million dollars and be the most talked about CEO in the country by my thirtieth birthday). Then comes more moderate excess (I will be happy to be named a VP of the company by the time I’m fifty). And finally we settle on more personal and realistic goals that depend mostly on us and not decisions of other people (I want to take the two-day mule back trip down into the Grand Canyon and back up).

Especially when young we often have a disconnect between what we want and what we actually think will make us happy. We say we want the moon and the stars but we know we have no chance of getting them and we wouldn’t know what to do with them but it sounds cool (or whatever is the catch phrase of the day) to say it. We still tend to set our markers high at that age but definitely within the range of this planet. There is also often a disconnect between what we think it will take to make us happy and what will actually do so but a lot of that is because we haven’t yet recognized that being happy is within our grasp most of the time if we make the decision to grasp it.

When you are depressed or disappointed your body feels heavy and sluggish, a burden you must haul around. But happiness makes you feel light and warm so you are hardly aware of your body as having any weight or imposing any boundaries or limits on you. You feel that you could fly if you really decided to. The exhilaration of great joy takes your breath away and causes a sense that your heart may jump out of your chest but without a sense of danger or gasping for air. The thoughts that may whirl about in your head at other times seem momentarily quieted and a pleasant stillness that you come to associate with the sense of being happy gently dominates your thoughts and keeps you suspended for a while in that pleasant state.

Worry causes a sensation of pressure in your body, especially in your head; happiness makes you relaxed and pleasantly tingly.

In moments of intense joy we may want to dance and jump about; in lower intensity moments there is often a feeling of stillness that makes much movement seem somehow beside the point or not really what will feel right. Hugs are good when you are happy but jumping up and down quickly runs its course and seems excessive (unless you are in your teens and displaying for your peers).

When you are happy you know that you love the world and you suspect it loves you back. All the petty stuff seems silly, as it should, and you don’t want to be bothered with that. Your main thoughts are likely to devolve from Wow! to How wonderful this is to This is nice as you go from the moment of ecstasy through the intense moments and gently descend into the state you can sustain for a long time.

It is nice to be able to let others know you feel happy, especially if they had a part in establishing the conditions that make it possible. Fortunately we don’t have to describe all the feelings to get the idea across because the others have probably had at least a few experiences of the rush of thoughts and feelings themselves so they know what you are alluding to and know you can’t put it all into words. That is part of the reason that a hug or a squeeze of a hand is often part of the process of communicating this message.

Chapter 02: You Must Let Yourself Be Happy

If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier that they are. Montesquieu (1689-1755), French philosopher

Full happiness is complicated by the fact that it always includes an element of comparison to some ideal and a subsequent choice. We tend to think of ourselves as fully happy only when we perceive ourselves as having or being the ideal. Halfway and adequate are nice but they are not the stuff of full out happiness. Only being or possessing Number One and knowing it will have that effect. We get a scoop of ice cream and we are happy. Then someone else gets three scoops and we are no longer happy even though we still have our scoop and objectively it still has the same good taste as earlier.

When you find yourself feeling unhappy analyze exactly what has brought on that thought. Why have you decided that you are unhappy or less than happy at this particular time? The chances are very good that you will find you have concluded that you have not achieved some goal you were aiming for or that you have focused on some item that you would like to have but don’t and possibly can’t have and that is why you have decided the appropriate response is to be unhappy. My point is that you decided to feel unhappy but in many cases you could just as easily have decided to feel happy.

In fact my major thesis in this book is that we choose whether or not we are going to let ourselves feel happy which means that if we consciously decide to do so we can be happy more of the time.

That might suggest that I am advocating that we walk around muttering a mantra to convince ourselves – I am going to feel happy, I am going to feel happy. Or that we can and should will ourselves into a state of being happy. What I am suggesting though is simply that when we decide that we are content with our day-to-day reality even though it is less than the best or some theoretical ideal we will be happy. Instead of looking at Madison Avenue’s latest offering of titillations for the select few who demand nothing but the best that you have little or no realistic prospect of ever acquiring and feeling bad about that, I suggest that you look around at what you do have and recognize that you are still better off than a lot of folks so you can and should revel in that. Be happy because you are as talented, attractive, and well off as you are.

What does it take to be happy? Ask a dozen people and you will get a dozen different lists of particulars but all will contain the core truth that to be happy you must decide to be so. Most respondents won’t say that they recognize this point immediately if you point it out to them but after they have thought about it they will probably agree. Most everyone has a list of circumstances or experiences that they have decided will put them in the frame of mind to be happy. It is precisely the fact that the particulars are so different from person to person that shows they are not the real source of the happiness. You choosing to tell yourself that you are happy is the essential element.

It’s all in your mind is literally true of happiness. Pleasures are certainly not in any way damaging to the idea of being happy but you need not experience sensory pleasures to be happy. You also need not be wealthy, healthy, or free in any of the conventional ways. You only need to decide that because of your conditions - or in spite of them - you are going to let yourself be happy. If you are determined to do that, virtually nothing can stop you.

I will repeatedly make the point that you need not and generally should not ignore or deny the real and pressing problems and restraints of your life in order to let yourself be happy. You need not say that the bad things aren’t happening or don’t matter. You need not try to pretend that the restrictions on your success don’t exist. You need not ignore the discomfort or other symptoms of any diseases or disabilities you have. You acknowledge all of those and do what you can to make things better but starting right now you decide that you’re not going to concentrate on them so exclusively that you cant focus on the message I am a happy person. You can hold more than one idea in your mind simultaneously so one of them might as well be a happiness thought.

Some will object that I am advocating settling for second or third best and not aspiring any higher which means letting yourself sag to some lowest denominator. You didn’t win the medal so you should stop competing and settle into mediocrity. My actual position is that you have a more complicated task than that because you need not and therefore should not live your life as a series of either-or-decisions. Instead of either you strive for the top slot and make yourself unhappy to keep you motivated or you settle for a lower slot and don’t give a hoot but say you are happy, I am suggesting that you aim high and keep the goal in sight as motivation but that you recognize your efforts as accomplishments and celebrate the tries you made as things to be proud of even if they fell short of the prize-winning category.

Be happy with what you have achieved while still keeping alive the desire to do more or better if you can manage it. This way you get to be happy through the entire effort, not just if you reach the top spot. Considering that in any contest there is only one top winner but a lot of also-rans this makes more sense to me and that is my reason for suggesting it to you.

There are objective criteria and measures and there are more subjective ones. We can’t change the first group but we can manipulate the dickens out of the latter ones. And why not? It is our happiness and maybe even our psychological well being at stake.

Some official group sets the conditions and makes the rules for a sports competition but we set the rules for when we are ready to say we played well. If every person who decided to play any sport was equally likely to play a top-notch game there would be no stars in any sport, only a hoard of competitors.

And realistically if everyone who wanted to take up a tennis racket or dribble a basketball knew she would be publicly jeered or criticized for doing so when she wasn’t highly skilled from the start the playgrounds of the world would be empty. It is because we don’t have unrealistic expectations of the skill levels of the guys organizing the Saturday afternoon touch football game in the park or the high school gang’s once a month Friday night at the bowling alley that we can have fun playing

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