Tom Purcell, 5/18/2009 [Archive]

Unhappiness Is What We Need

Unhappiness Is What We Need

By Tom Purcell

The experts have it backward.

I speak of the spate of articles, books and boob-tube psychologists who are advising us on how to be happy during the recession. An article in U.S. News & World Report offers 10 happiness tips.

Tip No. 1: Spend 20 bucks on an experience instead of a material thing. Research shows that people feel better when they do things rather than purchase things. This is because, says one expert, "experiences remind us of the thrill of being alive."

That expert is on to something. Every day that the Obama administration takes over more of our lives, I try to forget my worries by spending 20 bucks experiencing the thrill of bourbon at the local pub.

The experts offer another groundbreaking tip: We must pursue meaningful goals to be happy. One psychologist says doing things for wealth or fame don't cut it. She says positive feelings come from personal growth.

I couldn't agree more. I see no point in trying to attain wealth when insane government spending is going to cause massive tax hikes that will take away much of the wealth that my hard work would have produced.

So, while I'm at the pub trying to forget about spending and taxes, I focus on my personal growth. I talk to people and learn new things, such as Irish jokes I haven't yet heard.

The article also advises us to live in the moment. If you're facing a balloon mortgage payment you are unable to pay, says one expert, you should approach the situation with an open and curious attitude.

You shouldn't make judgments on the dumb behavior that got you into your predicament.

That makes sense. If I was dumb enough to take on a mortgage I couldn't afford -- dumb enough to take on a gimmicky loan that would reset to a much higher amount a few years down the road -- I wouldn't see the point in beating myself up over it.

I'd probably borrow 20 bucks from somebody so I could experience the thrill of being alive at the nearest pub.

Here's an interesting tip: Keep an optimism journal.

The article advises that we write about our dreams and aspirations. My optimism journal has really helped me. I dream of owning a giant machine that prints money. I dream of spending money faster than it can be printed.

But then I know I'll never be president, and so I go to the pub to experience personal growth and the thrill of being alive.

No article on happiness would be complete without this oldie but goodie: Recognize your strengths. During difficult times, focus on finding your inner mettle. Don't let your circumstances dictate your attitude.

Of course, that sounds like a bit of work. It would be a lot easier to borrow 20 bucks and adjust your attitude one bourbon at a time.

The article offers other revealing tips on happiness. We're advised to nurture meaningful relationships -- we should be open to sharing our experiences with others. We need to have a sense of belonging and acceptance to be happy.

(This is easier to achieve than you think. See multiple references to "pub" and "bourbon" above.)

The article also advises us to count our blessings -- look for the silver lining.

It tells us to be kind to others -- kindness makes us happier in the end.

It tells us to exercise -- always good for driving the blues away.

But what it doesn't tell us is this: Unhappiness is what we need.

Recessions have their upside. The unpleasantness forces us to think about our dumb, risky decisions. It forces us to be more thoughtful and careful. It paves the way for lasting happiness.

But nobody wants to hear that. It is easier to be duped by silver-tongued politicians who promise, through massive spending and risky programs, to make our unhappiness go away.

And it is easier for me forget about such worries by experiencing the thrill of being alive at the pub.

© 2009 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email sales@cagle.com. Visit Tom on the web at www.TomPurcell.com or e-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications.



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