Choosing Happiness (with Twitter?)
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It’s January and people all over the world are trying to ensure that this year is better than the last. I have already declared that I will endeavor to make 2012 a Fertile Life (thanks Keiko!) by focusing on a different “micro-challenge” each month.
But what of happiness? Isn’t happiness what we really want? Will achieving my goals actually make me happy? The reality is probably not. In and of itself, focusing on nourishment, creativity, balance, connection, movement or exploration for a month at a time will not make me happier. I could probably be happy without working on any of those things; all I would have to do is to choose happiness.
Easier said than done.
Lori of Write Heart Open Mind asked in her recent post, “How do you plan to create happiness in 2012?” She then directs her readers to a BlogHer post with some very good advice on how to do just that. There are five steps involved but the main idea is two pronged: (1) choose happiness and (2) be mindful.
I already endeavor to be mindful. I feel the only place I really accomplish this is at yoga but I do try to return to the present moment when I can. When I open my phone I usually take three deep breathes and then stop and look around, taking in everything without judgement or expectation. This has been a useful practice as I unlock my iPhone about a million times every day.
Choosing happiness, on the other hand, is something I’ve rarely focused on. In fact, I can think of only one prolonged exercise I’ve undertaken that encouraged me to “choose happiness.” And it took place, surprisingly enough, on Twitter.
Have you ever noticed that Twitter can be a hotbed of negativity? There is something about the semi-anonymity and brevity of that specific brand of media that entices people to bitch, moan and vent. Maybe it’s the easy humor of it. Maybe it’s the quick camaraderie of a common inconvenience. Maybe it’s the simple fact that complaining to people in the real world is considered bad form and people need a place to air their grievances to others who will take their side and support them. Twitter is that place for a lot of people.
It was, and frequently is, that place for me. I go on all the time to engage in some humorous shit talking. Self-deprecating tweets like this one are not uncommon in my timeline.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror & think, who the fuck is that middle aged lady & why does she look so tired?!)—
Esperanza Grace (@StumblingGrace) January 07, 2012
A Tweet like that gets a response because lots of people feel that way. And it’s good for a chuckle. And while it’s not necessarily super negative, it’s not oozing positivity either.
In her “planning to create happiness” post, Lori makes an important distinction between choosing something positive and trying to avoid something negative: “Maybe that sounds like I’m splitting hairs, but too often I hear of resolutions that verbalize what people DON’T want, like ‘lose weight’ or ‘stop yelling at the kids.’ As opposed to getting more healthy or speaking more kindly.” I consider that distinction very important indeed. I know that I have always focused on the latter and never the former.
Sometimes I get in a funk. It always starts with my own shit and is only compounded by things like Twitter. When you’re down in the dumps and other people are down in the dumps it’s hard not to revel in the dumpiness of it all.
Then one day, during a low moment, I decided I was going to make a change. In the wee hours of the morning I made a crazy declaration: I was only going to post only positive tweets for one week. And to make sure I wouldn’t just stop tweeting entirely, I vowed to tweet at least ten times a day. In the steamy hot sanctuary of my shower, the Positive Tweet Challenge was born.
Okay, at least 10 positive tweets a day. Tweets of support don't count (though of course are allowed). Let the games begin!—
Esperanza Grace (@StumblingGrace) December 07, 2011
As the week went on I started tweeting things that made me happy. In order to do this, I had to be more aware of the inherent bliss all around me. At first it took some work and I sought out those things that are truly wonderful but are constantly taken for granted.
With more practice, I started noticing more and more things that made me happy. Suddenly every day occurrences that I would have looked past or ignored were jumping out at me as possible subject matter for #PTC tweets.
I even started seeing the good in not-so-great situations and tweeted about that.
By the end of the week I noticed a distinctive buoyancy to life that had previously eluded me. I was constantly aware of my satisfaction with life and was eager to share it with others. Shockingly, not only was a device that at best usually serves as a distraction actually making me more present, it was also changing my outlook on the day to day.
Eventually the week was over. Mi.Vida found out he didn’t get the raise he expected with his promotion. I started to feel down and my #positivetweetchallenge fell by the wayside.
Twitter can be an incredibly influential social media tool. The world witnessed its power during the Iranian revolution and later during the Arab Spring revolutions. It can offer support to a woman who is suffering from infertility or RPL and help her feel less alone. It might even bring her hope. Basically Twitter can be what you want it to be, and me? I want it to be a vehicle that helps me choose happiness.
So this year, I’m going to keep practicing mindfulness AND choose hope. One way I plan to do that is to take the time to notice joy at least five times a day and tweet about it. Hopefully those five tweets will help me conscientiously choose happiness, while also delivering a dose of jubilation to those around me.