Read this, your happiness depends on it


THAT'S MEN:DRIVING OFF to get a computer fixed a couple of months ago (well, to get the guy who “repaired” the computer to fix the repair), a thought struck me while I waited in a traffic jam: my happiness does not depend on this.

Since then, that thought has saved me a great deal of stress. On that day, as I waited for the traffic to move, I was doing all the usual stuff: running a little scene in my mind, for instance, as to how I would deal with the repair guy if he declined to co-operate or if he used technobabble to try to get another €200 out of me.

That was when my mind came up with that phrase: my happiness does not depend on this. I immediately relaxed.

True, I would be annoyed if the forthcoming encounter did not work out the way I wanted it to.

And, also true, I would be pleased if I got my computer sorted out there and then.

But either way, I would have forgotten it all in a couple of weeks’ time. My happiness level would not be permanently changed by whatever was about to happen.

As it turned out, repair guy did make dark utterances about the CPU or something of that ilk maybe needing to be replaced but, possibly because of my total absence of interest in that option, he took a screwdriver, turned a couple of screws and fixed the damn thing for nothing.

What I really gained from all of this was not just a better computer but also the realisation that hardly any of the things I stress myself out about have any permanent effects on my happiness.

Getting to that unimportant meeting dead on time, avoiding that traffic jam, getting an item delivered to me today rather than tomorrow – all these things have an immediate emotional effect but are forgotten quite quickly.

So my happiness doesn’t depend on them – I can relax the uptightness and the anxiety I so easily bring to trivial matters.

In fact, for those of us who don’t have a photographic memory, most of what happens to us today will be forgotten by tomorrow.

That being the case, most of the things that happen to me today will have no permanent effect on my happiness at all.

Certain things would most certainly affect my happiness – things that might happen to my family for instance.

Trouble is, I have assumed too often that almost everything affects my happiness as if almost everything was as important as my family.

This may have something to do with the concept of “anticipated regret” – you know: if I throw out this unread magazine I’ve had for six months, I’ll be sorry; if I don’t bet on this horse and it wins, I’ll be sorry; if I take this risk, I’ll be sorry; if I don’t eat this last profiterole, I’ll be sorry and so on.

Those who are particularly prone to this way of thinking navigate much of their lives by anticipatory regret which is really not a fun way to live.

The antidote to that kind of thinking is the phrase, “My happiness does not depend on this”.

I still try to get what I want and I’m still pleased when it works out.

I am also displeased when things don’t work out the way I want them to.

But knowing that in neither event is my happiness at stake in any profound way, 99 per cent of the time, means I can approach all this more lightly.

Try it out for yourself and see.

Meanwhile, I’m really glad I got stuck in that traffic jam because otherwise I might never have had a thought that has made a difference in my life.

For the same reason, I’m even grateful to repair guy. You know what? One day I might even go and buy that CPU unit off him that I don’t need.

That’s how grateful I am.

Light Mind – Mindfulness for Daily Living,