In Don’t Forget To Be Happy (just published in French under the title Et n’oubliez pas d’être heureux , Christophe André, gives us, once again, a treasure trove of inspiration and wisdom deeply rooted in the experience of daily life and authentic science.
Christophe is careful not to promise us the moon — the Dalai Lama once said that one of the problems of modern life is that people want the fruit of the path to awakening to be ‟easy, fast and, if possible, cheap.” — but he points a wise finger towards the moon of fulfillment to which many of us aspire.
Until the 1980s, only a few researchers had focused on how to develop the positive aspects of our temperament. Psychological Abstracts’ analysis of the books and articles published on psychology since 1887 finds 136,728 titles referring to anger, anxiety or depression, but only 9,510 referring to joy, satisfaction, or happiness!
Obviously it is important to treat psychological problems that handicap or even paralyze people’s lives. However, as Christophe André explains in his book, happiness is not the mere absence of unhappiness: “Classical psychology mostly attempts to ‘fix’ what is gone wrong in the mind of the patients. But we must also help patients to develop skills that will make them happier.” These are skills that are needed not to just help people feel better. It has been well established that happiness is an excellent tool for preventing the onset of mental illness or its relapse.
Happiness is not simply ‟the silence of suffering,” to quote French novelist Jules Renard. In 1969, the psychologist Norman Bradburn showed that pleasant and unpleasant affects not only represent opposites, but also derive from different mechanisms and should be studied separately. Merely eliminating sadness and anxiety is no automatic guarantee of joy and happiness. The suppression of pain doesn’t necessarily lead to pleasure. It is therefore necessary not only to rid oneself of negative emotions, but also to develop positive ones.
Such a position is in harmony with the Buddhist assertion that it is not enough to just abstain from harming others (the elimination of malice); this abstention must be augmented by a determined effort to help them (the development and implementation of altruism).
According to Barbara Fredrickson of the University of Michigan, one of the founders of positive psychology, positive emotions broaden the array of the thoughts and actions that come to mind, including joy, interest, contentment, and love.
Positive psychology, as represented by a new generation of researchers, aims at studying and enhancing positive emotions and healthy minds that will allow us to become better human beings while gaining greater happiness.
Christophe André emphasizes that we should not underestimate positive psychology by assuming that all it only gives vague advice such as ‟See the bright side of life!” or only encourages people to ‟think positively”. Positive psychology is the study of what works well in a healthy human mind, and it attempts to reinforce the positive emotions that allow us to become better human beings and to get more joy out of life. It can help us to progress from a pathological state to a so-called ‟normal” one, and from a normal state to an optimal one.
According to a number of researchers, developing positive thoughts is an indisputable evolutionary advantage. It helps us to broaden our intellectual and affective universe and to open ourselves to new ideas and new experiences. Unlike depression, which often sends us into a tailspin, positive emotions create an upward spiral ‟by building resilience and influencing and influencing the ways people cope with adversity.”
To help in this way, it is not enough to simply seek some magical moments. We must persevere in understanding the inner conditions of well-being and practice, hour after hour, day after day, a more effective way to deal with our thoughts and emotions. As Christophe André writes, ‟It is a conviction, a science, and a practice.”
I realize that conditions aren’t perfect today for any of this but trust me they will not be tomorrow either.
There will again be things you need to do, tasks at hand, appointments you’ve made, everything filling up the small white block of your calendar assigned to that day, all the worries that will have made sleeping tonight difficult, and the noisy parade of bad news you’ll be scrolling through should you reach the morning.
All the more reason you need to do, in this imperfect day—something that declares you will not be so overwhelmed by all that is not right, that you refrain from living well.
Fill your time with the people and animals who make you feel loved, with moments spent in the places that refresh and inspire you: with creating and making and dreaming the glorious stuff that cannot wait because they can only be born today and by you.
Please put joy on your agenda today.
Don’t make it wait.
Create space for it.
Meet with it.
Work for justice and be outraged when it is denied.
Passionately oppose every bit of inhumanity that you can.
Never grow comfortable with cruelty or brutality.
But amidst the countless appointment reminders, calendar notifications, and sticky note prompts that you have to keep you focused on all that seemingly needs to be done—include one more critical reminder, even if you have to tattoo it on your heart:
Welcome to another day. Don’t forget to be happy.