This Season to “be merry”Posted: December 11, 2015
Tis the season to “be merry”, which is something I get to be quite often, since that is my given name. But what does this phrase really mean? To just be happy all the time? Merriam Webster online dictionary offers:
Personally, I’d like to offer two more definitions as food for thought:
- CHOOSING (this is the keyword here) happiness AND focusing on the good,
- CHOOSING to be authentically yourself.
Let me unpack these tweaked offerings, and offer examples of how you may want to apply them.
- CHOOSE happiness and focus on the good.
Happiness is a choice. So is feeling good. Now, I know I’ve said this before as a Science of Happiness Facilitator, life should not be about squashing or eliminating the negative. In fact, one wise guru once said, “In order to know happiness we must first know pain.” Life is full of ups and downs, ebbing and flowing all the time. It is the consistent changing nature of nature.
And recognizing and acknowledging all aspects of life realistically makes for a healthier person. Recognizing that pain and violence are present or even rampant in life, as with the case of the recent mass shootings, or the oppression of souls near and distant, is natural to focus on (as the media does), and it does incite rage and motivation to change laws and behaviors. But solely focusing on the violence and pain can send us into a state where we notice it’s pervasiveness—and that is all we see. Once we have these glasses on, we tend to tune out the good. We are primed for the negative.
This season I encourage you to acknowledge what is happening in the world and your own life, and then take steps to intentionally choose the good. Choose happiness. “Be merry”. Just for a moment.. This moment perhaps. Science shows us the effects of happiness and positive emotion can have great benefits: building our resiliency psychologically, physiologically, socially and spiritually. Drs. Barbara Frederickson and Robert Emmons are two researchers from University of North Carolina and the University of California respectively, whose work supports this claim and worth checking out. They are referenced on BeingMerry.com in the Resources section.
So, is it that easy and a no-brainer to “choose happiness”? No, it’s not, especially when life presents constant and continuous challenges, so many that it’s hard to get a good breath in edgewise. During these hard times, it is important to be reminded of “being merry” and choosing the good. When we dwell on things that are not going our way, we get into a fixed mindset as Dr. Carol Dweck describes, and believe that we cannot really influence our own outcomes. This type of thinking can lead to a downward spiral, sending us further into a dark place. And ironically, we don’t need that extra push as humans already have a tendency to notice the negative – as seen in our negativity bias which may have assisted our ancestors in propelling us forward, but limits us today as we get stuck in the negative stream.
Instead of having a fixed mindset this season, think of adopting a growth mindset, one flavored with mindfulness, that sees events as things that happen, allows them and then realizes each of us can influence how far down we fall, and how we can choose to exert effort to change direction. I challenge you to adopt this mindset this season, and choose “being merry“.
Try this practice: when you see, hear or read the words “be merry” look for, or think of, something good in your environment and choose to focus on it for 3-5 seconds, noting it as you breathe it in. Or if you prefer, imagine a dear one who naturally puts a smile on your face. As you focus on the good thing/dear person, notice what you are feeling. What sensations arise? Warmth, contentment, awe, gratitude or maybe nothing except a slight smile. Whatever arises, let it just be there. And savor for one more moment—an extra 3 breaths. Taking even a small break for a micro moment of positivity will pay off for you in more ways than you can imagine (see Barbara Fredrickson’s work for more information).
2) be merry = choosing to be your authentic self
Every day when I’m “being merry“, I ask myself, “What do I need most right now?” And then I wait and listen for the answer, which tends to come from my intuition. Steve Jobs, one of the most inspiring leaders and inventors we’ve seen in a long time, really speaks to being authentic and following your own voice and heart in the commencement speech he gave to Stanford University graduates in 2005:
“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Try this practice: As you see or hear the words, “be merry”, I encourage you to drop the last 3 letters (“rry”) and say to yourself, “be me.” This holiday season, make choices based on your intuition and authentic self, the one who is honest, knows what you want, and knows you best. Don’t go along with a decision or group think if it feels wrong. Check in with your intuition (or your gut) and have faith and trust in yourself. Follow that voice and know that it will not lead you astray. And finally, adopt that growth mindset to which I referred early, knowing that YOUR efforts (thoughts and actions that you intentionally choose) can make a huge difference in your day, holiday season, and your life in general!
Now that you have two more ways to think about “being merry”, which one resonates most with you most? Feel free to drop me a line/message to let me know how this practice works for you?
And remember, not just for this holiday season, but for the seasons of all holidays…
Stay calm and be merry…
your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it!